Nobel Prize? Check.

First the backstory, from my post-pulmonology report last Friday, which some of you have already seen on FB:

 . . .  A pulmonary stress test is actually kinda fun. Until you hit your anaerobic threshold. But then they stop. So, fun.

Why fun? Because you have no clues.  Especially after they take your glasses away.  No real feedback on how hard you are going, so no depressing awareness of how hard you are breathing at pitifully minimal efforts.  And hard exercise does feel good.  Also, they ramp you up fast – just a minute at each level, so it’s over pretty quickly.

. . . Dr. M thinks it’s probably tachycardia of unknown origin, maybe caused by the special kind of hyperthyroid that doesn’t show up on the initial screen for thyroid stuff and for which I have none of the symptoms other than tachycardia. 

He also vaguely mentioned “stress”, which people always feel compelled to mention.  Funny story: A good friend in passing made reference to the “scare” I’d had this spring.  And though I don’t quibble with word choice in casual conversation (because: casual conversation, don’t put deep meaning into offhand comments) . . . I was thinking to myself: I wasn’t scared.  It doesn’t count as a “scare” if you aren’t scared.

To clarify: the prospect of dying is intimidating, because that is well known for its unpleasantness.  And I’m a total whiner about unpleasantness, so long painful illnesses, no thank you.  But actual death — the part that comes after the unpleasant part? Sure, I have a healthy concern for the state of my soul, no presumption there.  But I’m also aware that it’s not like I’m suddenly going to get amazingly holy when I turn 85, either.  Pray for the gift of final perseverance, do your best to report for duty at holiness-school each morning, not much else for it.

But I always find it comical when someone (as was not the case in this comment, I don’t think, it was just a random word, not a deep thought) gives me the emotional pat on the back because surely I’m so anxious about xyz situation, and I’m thinking . . . you get anxious about this stuff, but I don’t.  Weirdly, no one ever reassures me about the things that do make me anxious.

Continuing with the pulmonology update:

 . . . We ruled out weird variant asthma pretty roundly. Lung function better after exercise than before. Hard not to like that. Hereby excused from the evil dreaded methocholine test. Victory.

. . . More or less ruled out structural heart things, because O2 sats never dived, which they will if you have, say, a valve problem that occurs under load.

. . .  So the new experiment is to try a beta-blocker to bring down the heart rate, see if that works and thus allows me to do normal things (like: exercise!), without dropping the BP so low I do abnormal things (like: faint!). As experiments go, I’m good with this one, because prescription = $3.38 at Walgreens. I’d spend a full four bucks on this if it came to it.

Drug in question is propranolol, picked because you can take it selectively (such as before exercise) rather than all the time.  Little pink pill.

So I got home from Mass today, tired tired.  Not super-bad tired, but not perky.  I don’t do perky very much lately.  Took pink pill at noon, ate lunch.  1pm decided it was time to do a test and see if this thing worked.  Spouse asked me how I felt.

“My head feels a little funny, but that could be whatever.”

“What do you mean, it feels funny?”

“Like I want a beer and a coffee.”

“So it could just be Sunday afternoon?”


Took my pulse before I went out, and it was bobbling around in the “normal” zone, 70’s-80’s, which is about as good as it ever gets.  Walked down the street to the track at the school.  Walked a mile and some.

Yeah. A mile and some.

No super fast, but not slow either.  Wasn’t tired.  Not at all.  Not short of breath.  Chatted with a lady about her puppy towards the end of that mile.

Made myself come home so I didn’t give myself some @#$%^& injury from over-doing it.    Back home again by 1:30, so I was in that normal walking-speed range, which I would not normally consider a fitness-y pace by any stretch of the imagination, but I figured for someone who last took a walk in late January, start easy.  HR stayed below 120 the whole time.  Not out of breath.  At all.

–> In contrast, Friday afternoon on the treadmill, after two minutes of walking, one minute at 1.0 mph and one minute at 2.0 mph, my heart rate was at 126 and I was already feeling like I was exerting myself.

So then, sit-ups.

I check in with the spouse when I come in (not winded, at all, or tired, or anything), and then since I’m restless but determined not to do anything really stupid, I decide I’ll sneak back to the bedroom and do some sit-ups.

[This is my favorite exercise because there are only muscles involved.  So I can do them without injuring things.  All the other exercises involve tendons and nerves and who-knows-what, and I’m constantly on the brink of pulverizing something.  I have good muscles but bad everything else. Sit-ups I can do.  I love sit-ups.]

So all spring the routine goes like this:

  1. Lay down flat on back, wait for pulse to come down to the low eighty’s.
  2. Do a set of ten, or maybe even twenty if I’m feeling crazy.  Be totally winded.
  3. Wait a minute or two for HR to come back down.
  4. Do another set.
  5. Wait another minute.
  6. Another set.

So it takes like 10 or 15 minutes to do 110 sit-ups, because otherwise I’d explode.

Except today: Wonder drug.  I go back there.  Do fifty, pause for ten seconds because: muscle burn.  30 more, another ten-second break, then finish.  Done.  In a few minutes.  Done.  Not tired.  Not winded.  At all.  At all.

Just wow.  That was a good benchmark for better-living-through-chemistry analysis, because unlike going for a walk, I had a really clear idea of how much effort was involved in doing sit-ups because I could actually do them all spring, with the modified approach.

The pre-pill / post-pill difference was kind of like the difference in effort between walking up the side of a mountain with a 60lb pack on your back versus walking down the sidewalk with no pack, except that in reality, if you are fit, walking up the side of a mountain with a 60lb pack on your back is not that hard.  You’d never get anywhere if you had to stop every thirty seconds for a minute break.


So yeah.  Nobel prize for James W. Black, earned.  And a big shiny star for Dr. Maybe.  I’ve got to find out what kind of beer he drinks.  Or scotch?  Scotch.

Update: What is wrong with people?

The answer to, “How’s it going, Jen?” remains, “Pretty well, thanks!”  I resurrected the Nine Annoying Things Novena over at the blorg last week, and the pray-ers did well.  Hence today’s story:

So I go see Dr. Maybe yesterday, and they did the dreaded Six Minute Walk.  And here is the very, very, What is wrong with people? situation: I did almost as well as predicted.

Seriously?  Is this really all they expect out of pleasantly-plump 40-somethings?  You’re kidding me.

You do the walk with a pulse oximeter, which means you can cheat and watch your heart rate.  This is handy if you are the kind of person who knows at about what heart rate the gasping kicks in (see archives below for the secret), and thus you can maximize your distance by walking right at that special speed where you’re coughing a bit and your head feels like you just tossed back two glasses of champagne on an empty stomach, but hey, you aren’t going to faint, and even though death feels like the perfect next step, you can do it for six minutes.  Or at least, you can do it that long if a stern nurse in pink scrubs gives you a face like she’ll spank you if you quit early.

It appears the pulmonologists aren’t big believers in pedestrian transportation.


Anyhow, I like the new guy, whose brain jumps around so much I finally pulled out a notebook and made a list of all the tests and appointments he was rattling off, because I had a feeling one or two might get lost in the shuffle if no one wrote them down, stat.

Ruled out again this morning — for good, this time? — pulmonary embolisms.  Sent away three vials of blood — I’m not sure he’s quite to the point of looking for tropical diseases (I’ve never been to the tropics), but he’s almost there.  More interesting tests coming along soon, looking for weird variants on regular asthma and exercise-induced asthma, and also he’s going to see if he can get my heart rate up high enough (on a treadmill, not with those evil chemicals) that the O2 levels drop, or something else interesting happens that gives us a clue.

We’re having real problems with finding clues.  The trouble we’re having is that I’m dreadfully healthy for someone who’s sucking wind and coughing while ambling at grocery-store pace, minus the cart.


Blorging over the past couple weeks, for those who don’t subscribe:

May 7, 2014 Religion is about Reality – and so is the Black Mass  In which someone in the combox accuses me of “shooting off my mouth”.  What exactly is a blog for, if not that?

May 6, 2014 It’s Not Friendship if it Can’t Withstand Disagreement Because I have the coolest friends.  Yes I do.

May 5, 2014 What I Write, Why I Write, How I Write . . . #mywritingprocess  This is the truth, but I’m going to reveal more details at CWG later this month.

May 5, 2014 Tell Me About Your Favorite Homeschooling Conference  Listen, if you know about a good homeschooling conference, go over the link in this post and leave a comment.  I can’t believe no one did this, even after I bumped the CMom post to two different conference-hosts that I knew about.  Sheesh.

May 5, 2014 Inside the Glamorous World of Religion Blogging – Parody for the 5th Blorgiversary, featuring a video of me making everyone else seem as glamorous as Jen Fulwiler.

May 3, 2014 Guns in Church: The Divide Boils Down to Subsidiarity – I don’t much write about gun stuff.  But when the Archbishop of Gunlandia does something to tick off all his redneck parishioners, someone has to get out some catechism quotes, right?  FYI – post includes a link to my A/C article where I say there, concisely, what I’ve said here, verbosely: This is a topic on which Catholics of good will can disagree, and catechists need to leave their agendas at home.

May 2, 2014 Pomp without Vanity: A True Story from a Parish Photo Directory – My kid is as cool as Fr. Longenecker, and much, much prettier.

May 1, 2014 Fun Stuff: Beautification Claws From the Case Files of DragonEye, PI – Free short story. Catholic dragon.

May 1, 2014 Tried and True Ways to Eliminate People With Disabilities #BADD2014 – Review of what I blogged for BADD here last year.  Because it’s still true.  Quit trying to kill the people who bother you.

April 30, 2014 Something Fun: Armored Combat League World Championship May 1 – 3 – Because I have the coolest friends.  Have I mentioned that?

April 30, 2014 Just Say No to Needy Busybodies

April 29, 2014 Heart Rate Training for Fitness in Chronic Illness – This is actually a useful post.  It’s how I managed to nearly pass the 6-minute walk, despite being seriously seriously not well.  And if I’d taken the walk two days earlier, I would’ve aced it out of sheer racing-preparation common sense.

April 29, 2014 Mid-Easter Evangelization: Time for an Egg Hunt! – Link to my column at NE, which got picked up as a reprint by at least one parish bulletin.  I can die happy now.  I have succeeded as a Catholic writer.

April 28, 2014 Trusting God When Life Isn’t Easy – Link to Pauline Media’s brand new, free, digital magazine.  I wrote one of the articles in it.

April 28, 2014 Midlands Homeschool Convention – Last Day for Discounted Registration – Your one and only chance to see me speak in 2014.  Turn out.  It’s going to be cool.

April 28, 2014 Classroom Management for Catechists – Spanish Edition for Fall 2014 – I do a happy dance.

April 26, 2014 Why is Obedience a Virtue?

April 25, 2014 Real Life Prayer Gardening  A picture of the dog who keeps my prayer life going.  And my garden.

April 24, 2014 A Deadly Faith – Gospel Reflection – I had forgotten all about writing this, but then I read it, and it was really good.  Surprisingly good.  Follow this to get the link to the CMom piece, and yes pastors, you may run it as a reprint in your bulletin next time Holy Week comes around.  Or whenever.

April 23, 2014 Divine Mercy Sunday – What’s it all about??  – Relevant every day at 3pm.  Or other times you have 7 minutes to spare and your prayer life needs a little something.

Click to read my blog at Patheos

Up-ish Again. Yay!

Spent about a week feeling way, way worse.  As in: Light-headed verging on headache-y if a sat upright.  At all.  So I watched movies, because writing flat on your back is not so fun.  Interestingly (disturbingly?) the one thing I didn’t do was pray any better.  But SuperHusband & I did do some contingency pre-planning, and discuss funeral music, because, well, we’re picky about music.  Last night I pointed him to the Dies Irae, and he was alarmed no one had ever played it in church before. Makes you feel cheated.  I’ve never heard it myself, I just look at in the hymnal and know that I love it.

So whichever one of us dies first, the other one gets to hear good funeral music live, and the early-departer gets the remote version.  (Or, if we’re bad . . . let’s not think about that.  I know there’s suffering in purgatory, but our Lord wouldn’t stoop so low as to open The Gather and . . . we’re not talking about that now.  I’m going with those lines about pleading for mercy.)

So my kids have this weird notion that the way one faces serious illness is to give your spouse dating advice and watch movies all day.

And then I started feeling better again.  I won’t say I feel *normal* sitting upright, but at least I feel normal enough that I keep doing it, because: More interesting.

And definitely not feeling all funeral-planny this week, so that’s good.

Follow-up appt with cardiologist next week, in which we figure out where I should go next.


I started back writing stuff, and if you don’t subscribe to the blorg, you can periodically check the archives and click on the interesting stuff.  I’m trying to use titles that more or less tell you what the post is about.  Here you go, I think this is all the interesting bits since last I posted here:

  • March 28, 2014 Students Angry at Catholic School for Teaching Catholic Faith – UPDATED  News item out of Charlotte, NC, w/ prayer request for you to pray for Bishop Jugis, and also I rant a little.
  • March 28, 2014 Do the Ends Justify the Means? Blog catechism class, because some of my readers were unclear on how double-effect and don’t-do-evil-that-good-may-come-of-it work.  Also, now my all time favorite intro to theology book can be purchased on Amazon — that is, there were six copies, used, when earlier I wrote.  They might all be sold now.
  • March 27, 2014 How Can the Spirtually Flabby Be Helped? Link to my New Evangelizers column.  I was irritated by the people who say, “Lent is So Easy! Quit Whining!”, so I wrote about how they could quite whining about the whiners (me), and make themselves useful around their parish.
  • March 27, 2014 How’s that Religious Freedom Thing Working Out These Days? The Constitution.  I’m partial to it.  Blame my upbringing.  Interesting weird arguments going on in the combox.  Someone brought Rastafarians into it, as people will.
  • March 26, 2014 What Makes a Catholic Book Catholic?  Link to my column at the CWG.  Because the day before I said I really really liked Funeral Kings (movie), and I do like it, and you should be briefly scandalized by that that assertion, but I have reasons.  But no, it’s not Catholic  — at least, not the kind of Catholic that gets a CWG Seal of Approval.
  • March 25, 2014 St. Dismas Day, and a Movie to go with: Funeral Kings  More f-bombs in that movie than I think I have ever heard anywhere anytime, and that’s saying something.  And yet weirdly, it’s a good movie, in it’s way.
  • March 23, 2014 On Evangelization: Even People Like You are Missionary Material  Reprint from a few years ago, column from Amazing Catechists that coincided with the day’s Gospel, which was the Samaritan woman at the well.  You may remember it’s the one where we see how she evangelized despite herself.
  • March 21, 2014 Radio Silence = Please Pray  See.  I was sick.  Sick-Er.  Proof.


That’s all I know.  Some real life friends and I were thinking we ought to pick a reputable Servant of God (a “venerable”) who’s angling for a promotion to be our next invoked-saint.  Any suggestions?  Favorites?

psst . . . Jen . . . quit mixin’ up your holy-people terms.  “Servant of God” is the step before “Venerable.”  See more here, Thank You, Wikipedia!

Entrust Your Vexations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Larry D. reminds us that it might be time to freshen up our prayers for the vexing illness.  If you’re ready to move on to Novena #3, join us in praying for the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Why yes, I did pick it because, you know, heart cath, Immaculate Heart . . . Catholics are punny that way.  Also, because, for various reasons that aren’t really anyone’s business, we’re sticking with the Blessed Mother on this.  And look, today is the First Saturday! Coincidence? I think not.

The rules: As always, no scrupling. You can pick your favorite devotion to the Immaculate Heart, or you can do the Very Little Way variation, and just offer up your own vexation on behalf of your prayer intention.

Thank you everyone, and yes, I’m praying for your intentions through all this, so please feel free to post them in the combox.*


*Note: What I tend to do is link a particular nuisance to a particular intention. So for example, ever since my first pregnancy, vomiting is forever linked to a prayer for those struggling with infertility and/or chemotherapy.  Which means that by posting your intention you run the risk that I’ll be remembering you every time something particularly weird or gross happens.  But seriously, be not afraid.  There are worse things.  At least I’m remembering you, right?

Hey, and Pray for the Pee Dee Council of Catholic Women’s Retreat!

You praying types (that’s all of you, right?), mission for today and tomorrow:

Today: Please pray for Deacon F., who’s going to be giving the retreat in my stead.  Pray that God will give him wisdom and courage as he prepares, and that he will put together the retreat these ladies need, regardless of how that matches up with the notes and stuff I sent him.

Tomorrow: Please pray for those attending the retreat, that God will use this retreat to draw them closer to Him, and to help them to live more and more the way God is calling them.  Please pray specifically that those who need to come will be able to come, and that our Lord will use this as a stepping stone in the evangelization of the SC coast.


Time for a New Novena: What’s Vexing You?

The Nine Annoying Things novena has been very successful, but we need to take it up a notch.  TEE was normal (for me – nothing there that should be causing my problems, I’m told), and we’re waiting to hear back on the labs measuring arterial blood gases.  Follow-up appointment is on the 26th, so that gives you a perfect nine days of vexation between now and then. 

Because this situation is more and more vexing by the moment.

Which means we need to invoke: Mary Untier of Knots.  (Warning: If you click the link, it plays music.  Turn your volume down first.  I just went with the first link I found.  Sorry guys. St. Google could help you find a different link if you aren’t already familiar with this particular devotion.)

Advanced pray-ers, have at with rosaries and chaplets and everything else in your arsenal.  Junior team, here’s how the Nine Vexations work:

  • Identify something vexing. An unsolvable problem.  A thorny situation.  Anything that’s too big for you.
  • Invoke the help of Mary Untier of Knots for your cause, and offer up your vexation for mine.  She’s Mary. She can help more than one person at a time.
  • Repeat nine times.  If your life is vexatious, you might have nine different vexations.  If your life is particularly tranquil, you might just have to pray nine times over for someone else’s vexation.  Any kind of mathematical arrangement is fine, and in any case it isn’t a math quiz.
  • Just like the Nine Annoying Things, you’re allowed to offer up your vexations retroactively.  We don’t do scrupling around this castle.

Thanks everyone!  I haven’t dropped dead and I’m still sane, mostly, so we know your prayers are being heard.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Ruled out pulmonary embolisms — none of those.  That’s always nice.  Echo looked . . . okay.  As in, nothing there, on the face of it, that ought to be causing anything this dramatic.  TEE on Monday to confirm that.

Summary of conversation with cardiologist:

Dr: “Well, it looks like you’re fine then . . .”

US: “Not Fine!”

Dr.: “Stable, anyway . . .”

US: “Um, no, not exactly . . .”

Dr.: “Well, I don’t see anything that could be causing this . . .”

US: “So there’s nothing else that could be causing these symptoms?”

Dr.:”Well, nothing common.”

US: “Something rare?”

Dr.: “Oh, I’m sure.  Lots of rare things.”


So Monday we test his knowledge of rare things.


(BTW: I like this guy.  I asked for dogged, and he seemed willing to be that.)

About what you’re praying for.

There are a bazillion ways to tackle the business of intercession. A few:

The complete abandonment to the will of God angle. Sooner or later everyone has to break down and go this route, unless you’re just naturally martyr-y.  So I’m immensely grateful for those of you who’ve been praying for me in this regard, because it’s one thing to be working at it, and it’s another to succeed.  With your assistance, I’m doing pretty well in the CAWOG department.

Peace & Joy. People use the word “serenity” sometimes, and that’s not far off the mark, but P&J can be a tad louder, a little more rambunctious.  The soul is like that still lake at sunset, yes, but I say the heart ought to be more like water-skiing on that still lake at sunset.

(If you’ve never water-skied on a glassy lake, try it next time you get the chance.  Unforgettable, if you’ve got any sense whatsoever.)

Those of you who’ve been praying for P&J, keep at it.  My kids are so well behaved this week it’s just silly.  But not Stepford-behaved.  We’re talking happy and beautiful and alive.  It’s been a very, very good week.

Asking for Stuff. The Complete Abandonnement to the W.O.G. folks and the Peace & Joy folks have pride of place in Christian spirituality, but Askers make the world go round.  You just can’t be eaten by lions and get much done at the same time.  So if you’re an asker, it’ll please you to be specific.  And here’s how you should be specific on my behalf:

Please pray for an accurate diagnosis today.

When I tossed this request out to a few folks nine days ago, it was more of a wish list item.  Serious situation, needs to be rectified ASAP, and the No Diagnosis Circle of Hell is not a fun place to be.  (Medical professionals: Take care of your souls, or you’ll spend eternity in unbearable physical torment, while being told the whole time, “Maybe you just need to relax.”)

Like the plot to any good story, a week later the stakes are raised. Over the past week it’s gone from “let someone else take care of the house,” to getting winded and coughing and exhausted from sitting at the dinner table.  I mean, dinner’s great.  Best dinners we’ve had an ages – no kids complaining about the food, everyone shows up, very few episodes of revolting, stomach-churning juvenile humor.  There’s even very good beer to be had along with.

And maybe dinners’s so good because it’s brief. But brief it has to be.

So.  An accurate diagnosis.  Because if things proceed apace, assume that no diagnosis is a fatal diagnosis.

–> Which would mean all you Askers would have to upgrade to P&J, and then after that, upgrade again to CAWOG.  Is that what you want to do? Really?

No you don’t.  Nine annoying things.  Hop on it.

The Nine Annoying Things Novena

So last week when I was just sorta worrisomely sick, my GP scheduled an echo for tomorrow, the 14th.  Thank you snow and ice, I’m glad we’ve still got that on the calendar, because all attempts to move it up have been thwarted.

Which means you, dear readers, have a chance to get on the Annoying Things Novena that some of my friends started 8 days ago.  The nice thing about this particular novena is that you can do it at the last minute, because what good is a spirituality that has no room for procrastinators?

How the Annoying Things Novena works:  When something annoying happens, you offer it up for your intention.  (Such as: my annoying thing.)

The nine-day version is perfect for people who plan ahead, and who can count on at least one annoyance a day.  But look, there’s another version for you who haven’t yet gotten in on the fun: Between now and midday tomorrow, I bet nine annoying things happen to most of y’all. They don’t even have to be very very annoying.  You’re allowed to count things that would be annoying to lesser men, but no longer bother you, spiritually advanced as you are.  Or just used to it.

Super bonus: If nine annoying things don’t happen in time, you take that as your sign that our Lord wants you to extend the novena just a little bit longer.

Additional reasons this is a great novena:

  • If you forget to offer up your annoyance at the time it happens, you can just offer it up later, when you remember.
  • If you fail miserably at enduring your annoyance graciously, you just toss in the sorry state of your temperament as a supplemental annoyance.  (But it doesn’t count as two. Your sorry self is just part of that one-annoying-thing package.)

Final Note: It is not necessary to wrack up additional annoyances.  There have been reports of people participating in this novena promptly having a Very Bad Day.  Do not do this.  Just have a regular day.


Far be it from me to discourage you from praying additional prayers, but this is one that’s particularly suited to the overwhelmed and already-prayed-out circles in which I tend to travel.  Thank you very much to everyone who’s been praying, and thank you to those of you joining in now.

Y’all are the best.

Thank you pray-ers, because I am totally rockin’ on getting the last bits of stuff ready for this retreat.  It is going to be so cool I can’t believe it’s coming out of my hands. Sheesh.

That’s all.  Carry on.

If you want to spend a day thinking about your life, here you go: Retreat Flyer 2014