28 February 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things: R is for Rest

Rest.  Something most people take for granted.  You lay your tired ol' bones down at night, you sleep, it’s as simple as that.  But for me, it’s not, and it never has been, as long as I can remember.  No matter how exhausted I am, I’m going to lie there for a half hour, maybe longer, unable to simply shut off my brain and go to sleep.  And I guarantee that I’ll wake up at least twice a night, at least by 4 am, often unable to go back to sleep, sometimes sleep surfing all night long.

I’ve tried so many different things.  I’ve eliminated caffeine after noon.  I tried eliminating it altogether, but couldn’t function and got headaches.  Now I limit myself to one or two servings in the morning, never after lunchtime.  I tried Ambien, but it gives me serious memory issues.  I’ll forget entire conversations that take place after taking the stuff.  Not that I talk that much to begin with, but I’ll forget not just what we talked about, but forget that the entire conversation took place at all.  I’ve tried melatonin, currently up to 60mg a night.  The only effect seems to be that I’m groggy when I wake up in the middle of the night.

I even went for a sleep study a couple of years ago.  I got myself hooked up to all kinds of wires and “slept” on camera.  The results?  The first time, I “slept” for 8 minutes.  That’s 8 minutes out of 8 ½ hours.  Although I didn’t lie “awake” all night, I only got down into REM sleep for 8 minutes all night long.  My oxygen levels dropped as low as 70%.  I snored.  Not bad, but enough to restrict my airway.  So they prescribed a CPAP machine; a 50 pound muzzle that blows hurricane force winds up your nose all night. I used it for about 3 months.  The results?  I stayed “asleep” for about 2 hours then tossed and turned the rest of the night, REMming for maybe 3 hours total, never longer than an hour and a half at a time.  I put the thing on its lowest setting, adjusted the straps as loose as I could and still get a good seal around my nose and mouth.  It’s loud.  It’s obnoxious. It’s uncomfortable.  It would keep my wife awake, and there’s no sense in both of us being awake all night. And it made no appreciable difference in my sleep patterns.  I still sleep off and on, and only about half of the night.

So what do I do?  The answer at this point seems to be: live with it.  Sleep poorly.  Fight to stay awake during the day and stare at the ceiling from 10PM til midnight.  The only thing I haven’t tried yet is a “hard reset” of my body clock.  Basically, you deprive yourself of sleep, sleeping one hour a night for a week, following a strict regimen of bedtimes to try to force your body onto a set schedule.  IF you survive, you should be so absolutely exhausted that your body will surrender and sleep at whatever time it’s allowed to.  If you don’t have a heart attack first.  Or a stroke.  Studies show these are the consequences.
Such wonderful choices.  And what happens the first time I don’t keep that boffo new schedule?  Am I back to square one?  Did I go through all that pain and agony for nothing?  At this point, the status quo looks like the least undesirable option.  At least I can stay awake to write my………

21 February 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things: Q is for Quiet

Although I was born the third of a three children, I grew up as an only child by adoption.  Also being socially awkward, I didn’t have a huge number of friends as a child or an adult, and as a result, spent my share of time relatively alone.  The only time I like loud noise is in the truck on a sunny day with “Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring blaring, or Saturday nights at the dirt track in Lebanon.  Chaos can get overwhelming quickly.

I value times of quiet and peace.  Unfortunately, for me, silence does not exist.  I suffer from tinnitus, commonly known as ringing in the ears, largely due to those Saturday nights at the dirt track without ear plugs and the aforementioned 80’s music.  If I list closely, I can hear three distinctly different tones; high, middle, and one in between.  If I could get a bass tone going, I could have a quartet.
I can generally ignore it, but it’s never not there.  If I think about it, I can hear it even above normal conversation.  It’s not so bad that it interferes with life, usually, but I’ve already noticed a marked drop off in my hearing.  It makes it difficult to pick up conversation if there’s a lot of background noise.  I find myself looking right at someone, watching their mouth move but having no idea what they’re saying. 

The worst part is, despite the advertised “miracle cures,” there’s really nothing that can be done about it.  If you concentrate on hearing it, it’ll drive you insane.  The only consistent relief to be found is to drown it out with background noise.  My preference is rainfall rather than pure white noise.  A fan works pretty good, too.  But for the most part, you just have to live with it and try not to think about it.  

14 February 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things: P is for Polk County

Polk County  (named in honor of 11th president James Polk) was founded in 1845 by the Oregon Provisional Legislature,  the precursor to the Oregon Territory.  It occupies the west bank of the WillametteRiver at Salem and stretches westward into the Coastal Range, and is home to Laurel Mountain, the 4th highest peak in the CR and the wettest place in Oregon.

Politically, it is a counterbalance, leaning slightly Republican like much of Eastern Oregon across the fulcrum of the heavily blue I-5 corridor from Eugene to Portland.  The current population is a little over 75,000 and has shown population growth in every census taken since 1860. It is overwhelmingly white (89%), and married (57%).   It is predominantly rural and agricultural, with a median income of just over $42,000.  Just .42% of its area is water, and it is strongly delineated between east and west, the eastern half of the roughly square 744 sq. mile county being mostly river-delta farmland, while the western half is heavily forested foothills of the CR.  The county seat is Dallas (named for Polk's VP George Dallas), formerly known as Cynthian (or Cynthia Ann), a settlement along Rickreall Creek

It is host to the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge and a portion of the Siuslaw National Forest.  It is home to 29 places on the NationalHistoric Register, including the former site of Fort Yamhill, an antebellum military outpost boasting Civil War generals Phil Sheridan, Joseph Hooker, and Joseph Wheeler among its roll call.  The original blockhouse can still be seen in the town square of Dayton.  

05 February 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things: O us for Oregon

I moved to Oregon from Tennessee in July of 2007.  I settled in Salem because that’s where I found a job, but I quickly discovered there was a lot more to commend the state than its capital, which the rest of the state treats like a red-headed stepchild.

By far, my favorite Oregon native is my wonderful wife, who I met in April of last year.  I can’t imagine life without her and it was worth everything I went through in my life to get where I am today.  That Oregon City native stole my heart and I’ll never get it back (not that I want to)!  She’s the perfect fit for me!

When Southerners think of Oregon, we usually think of trees and mountains, not noticing that two-thirds of the state is high desert.  The farthest east I’ve been so far, though, is Sisters, and then only for a few hours, so my Oregon experience is green.  I love Salem’s geographic symmetry, poised right on top of the 45th parallel, a full 10 degrees north of my native West Tennessee.  This means longer days in the summer, but longer nights in the winter.  Along with its proximity to the Pacific, it means a more temperate climate, and the Coastal Range breaks up most of the storms that roll in off the Pacific.  No tornados and low humidity make it a welcome change from the muggy South, where a severe thunderstorm is an every-afternoon possibility from March through November (although I do miss sleeping through a good thunderstorm).  White sandy beaches and waist deep snow are less than two hours away in either direction, and my Love and I spent a recent Sunday afternoon strolling along the beach in sunny 50+ degree weather, despite not leaving the house until noon and having to be back by seven.  We revisited the site of our August wedding, watched the waves crash on massive, coral and mussel-covered rocks, wrote our initials in the sand, and sat by a log with a good book for a few relaxing minutes.