Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Health Suggestions for McDonald's

I'm reading about a new, healthy menu at McDonald's. But so far, I still haven't seen much about any hot green vegetables. You know, like broccoli, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts. Lettuce is not the world's only green vegetable, and adding a little bit of green pepper doesn't help very much.

Dr. Praeger's ( has shown an ability to make very tasty and quick snacks made from such ingredients. I particularly like their spinach pancakes, and I'm guessing that their spinach "bites" are pretty good, too. Plus, they're easy finger food, so they're just begging to be sold by a fast food company such as McDonald's.

Also, how about some onion rings, and sweet potato fries, too. Sweet potato fries are very tasty, and I had never even tasted them until moving to the Pacific northwest! (Imagine an optional topping of marshmallow creme on them. After all, isn't that how lots of people eat sweet potatoes or yams on Thanksgiving?)

And while you're at it, McDonalds, lay off the excessive salt on your fries. At the McDonald's on Chicago Avenue in Chicago, one could specify normal fries, or one could get them with no salt whatsoever. Is a "happy medium" too much to ask for when it comes to salt on fries? The aforementioned restaurant could kill slugs with those oversalted fries of theirs. Or more accurately, they could kill old folks (like me) suffering from high blood pressure.

By the way, some folks may think that it's strange to list carrots or cauliflower as "green vegetables", but my mother told me that there were basically two categories of vegetables, "green" and "starchy". I'm not sure whether or not that was correct, but it certainly made sense to me. (Potatoes and rice were both considered "starchy", as was corn, or so she said.)

I have nothing against french fries, in moderation, but a constant diet of the same is more than just unhealthy, it's also just plain BORING!

Regarding the seasoning on their green veggies, I recommend Mrs. Dash, not salt. Much tastier.

McDonald's is improving, incrementally, but the pace of the improvements really needs to speed up.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

My Recent Stroke

© Mark Pettigrew

When I was young, in the fall of 1970, my grandfather (who we'd nicknamed Grandman) had a stroke, following a heart attack he'd had earlier that summer. The stroke was what eventually killed him, while he lay in a bed at a nursing home in my home town. He was 65 years old at that time.

The last thing I remember Grandman saying to me after having that stroke was "german chocolate cake". What part of his brain triggered that thought, I don't know, but it comforts me to think that he was probably having a pleasant memory of a dessert he'd once enjoyed eating.

It was my first experience with the death of anyone I loved, and I remember that I couldn't contain my tears when I attended his funeral. In some respects, they were selfish tears. I couldn't imagine life without Grandman. I sensed that life, in many respects, would soon change for me in many ways. I was right about that.

Most of those changes weren't good. Two years later, my parents got divorced, and I suspect that the stress from the loss of my grandfather was one of the factors which led to that divorce, although I can't prove it. Of course, the fact that my father decided to start committing adultery didn't exactly help, either. It's a good thing Grandman never lived to see the betrayal of his daughter and his grandchildren.

I never thought I'd experience a stroke myself, and certainly not at this age of 54 years, but several weeks ago, I woke up with what seemed like a really, really painful leg cramp. I tried to let the cramp work itself out, the way I had done on previous occasions when I had similar (but less severe) leg cramps. It didn't seem to be working this time. I tried to stand up and walk to the bathroom to relieve myself, and I almost collapsed. My right leg, in particular, seemed to have lost a lot of its strength. I managed to make it to the bathroom, but just barely. My balance had been severely affected, and I was lurching around like a drunken man. I'd never gotten drunk in my life.

That day, Everett Barton, with whom I'd been staying in his home in Bellingham, had planned to go with me to a local meeting of the Band of Business Brothers, being held at Cascadia Pizza. I still wanted to attend that meeting, because I hoped (in vain) to receive some encouragement and help in relation to the Artistic Rescue Project (related to my desire to sell digital fine art prints for the purpose of raising funds both for myself and for the victims of the recent devastating tornado in Joplin, MO). So I managed somehow to get dressed, and we went to that meeting together. But Everett could tell just by watching me attempt to walk that I was in a bad way. When I got to that meeting, which was being held on the second floor of the restaurant, I appealed to that group for their prayers. I also told them that I suspected that my difficulty in walking had something to do with high blood pressure. One person made a comment which was somewhat dismissive of my analysis, saying essentially that I shouldn't pretend to be a doctor. That was somewhat unfair to me, I felt, because I had never claimed to be a doctor, or a medical expert of any kind. But what I did know was that my blood pressure had very recently been tested, and I'd been told that it was dangerously high.

After the meeting ended early in the afternoon, I just barely managed to walk downstairs and out to the car, by holding onto the banister. But the problem clearly wasn't going away, so I asked Everett to take me to Peace Health St. Joseph hospital, which was very close nearby. It took a while for me to check into the hospital, and of course, they had to run a variety of tests. Just as I'd suspected might happen, the emergency room doctor told me that my blood pressure was "through the roof".  Then he told me that they thought I had very likely suffered from a couple of small strokes.

I spent the rest of that weekend in the hospital, from Friday night until Sunday night, while they ran several tests, the most unpleasant of which was my first ever MRI. Two MRIs, actually, the first one of which lasted a half hour, and the second one of which lasted about 45 minutes. I felt like "the man in the iron mask" (for those of you who have seen that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio). They'd asked if I suffered from claustrophobia, and I'd told them that I didn't; but then again, I'd never had an MRI before, and I had no idea what to expect. To spend such a long period of time in a contraption like that, while all kinds of banging noises are being constantly made near one's head, while one's head is encased in what does indeed feel a bit like an iron mask, was a very unpleasant experience. The second time they ran the test was easier, though, even though it took longer, because they gave me a Valium pill beforehand, and it enabled me to relax without experiencing the anxiety I'd felt the first time around. I've heard of people getting addicted to Valium, and I would never want to experience such an addiction, but I have to say, I wouldn't have wanted to go through that second MRI without it.

The tests they ran on my brain in the hospital apparently confirmed that I'd had a couple of small strokes. Later on, when visiting, I learned that the major symptoms I'd personally experienced were listed as significant signifiers of a stroke. I was fortunate that Everett had advised me to seek hospitalization when he did.

In the hospital, they gave me some medications, to try to get my blood pressure under control. The medicine seemed to be helping somewhat, but even when I left the hospital, it was clear that it would probably continue to be a problem for some time to come. I've tried to remember to take my medications every day since then.

I was still feeling weak and very unsteady on my feet on the Sunday when I was released from the hospital, and I was also a bit embarrased on account of having urinated all over my hospital gown earlier (on Saturday night) when I was attempting to use the restroom. (The fact that the tie on the back of the gown wasn't working didn't help matters any, since the gown kept falling down in front of me while I tried to use the toilet.) But I was able to walk around a bit in the hospital halls, while holding onto a cane and also while holding the physical therapist for some support and balance. They characterized my gait using the word "hyperextension", and I felt as if my legs were made out of lead, but at least I did manage to walk a short distance.

A stroke can affect cognitive abilities and speech, among other things, but after I'd had those various things tested repeatedly, it seemed that I'd been relatively fortunate. I was able to speak clearly (with just a little bit of slurring of my words), and to clearly identify various objects, and to follow various verbal commands. (For instance, "Touch the tip of your nose, then touch the tip of my finger.")

Even after getting out of the hospital, I continued for quite some time to struggle with my balance and with strength issues pertaining to my right leg. When I got a cane at the nearby Lion's Club (after struggling for about a week with a more unwieldy support which had kindly been given to me by a man from the Band of Brothers men's group), that cane was a blessing.

As recently as Sunday, however, I still experienced problems. Specifically, I'd gone forward to ask for prayer, and when I tried to use the cane to stand up again, my balance temporarily failed me, and it was only on account of a nearby brother who caught me in time that I didn't fall flat on my face.

Nevertheless, with the help of the cane, I managed to walk over to the Haggen grocery store today and to do some computing here, just as I was doing before having the stroke.

I think that the worst aspect of my stroke, however, has been that it's made me abundantly conscious of my vulnerability, and aware of how short life can be (especially for someone whose parents and grandparents were not especially well known for their longevity). Thankfully, long before my stroke, I'd already accepted Christ as my lord and savior, so I wasn't worried that I wouldn't go to heaven if I died. But what did concern me, and still does, was the thought that I'd die before I had a chance to really achieve my full potential. And that still concerns me, because I've already wasted a lot of time in my life, not because I wanted to do so, but because I had difficulty procuring the material help I needed in order to make the most of my talents.

I still struggle with anger, to be candid, with regard to certain obtuse Christian leaders who seem to be oblivious or indifferent to my need for their help along those lines. That isn't universally true, of course. I've received support and help from other people in positions of Christian leadership. But a lot of people seem to be less interested in getting done things which badly need to be done than in making lame excuses for their unwillingness to do so. Fault finding and nitpicking seem to be the order of the day. Defending myself against unwarranted accusations has exhausted me, and I'm also inclined to suspect that the stress from repeatly being forced to do so played a role in my recent stroke.

Regarding my relationship with God, I know that I can't earn my salvation. But it isn't a matter of trying through my own accomplishments to prove that I'm worthy of salvation. It's a matter of wanting to achieve the satisfaction of a life well-lived, which I define in large part as a life in which I've achieved what I am capable of achieving, not only for my own benefit, but also (potentially) for the benefit of many other people. I've had the pleasure of a few small achievements in my life, but I still feel as if I've also lost out a lot in that regard. Time is running out for me in some respects, and frankly, contemplation of that possibility makes me sad (and more than a little bit depressed) on a pretty frequent basis.

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I find myself wishing that I had not done so. I even find myself thinking that surviving my stroke has been a mixed blessing. If life is going to just be constant reiteration of past failures, I wonder, then what's the point? The salvation I most need, and which I have not yet experienced, is not salvation from hell, but salvation (or rescue, if you will) from a lifetime of mediocrity. Maybe there are people who don't quite understand that, but I hope that some people do understand it, or at the very least, that they will try to do so. Maybe I'm naive, but I continue to believe that even at this stage in my life, I still have a lot of untapped potential.

I therefore need a real breakthrough in my life. I hope that that breakthrough comes soon. Even though I don't feel much confidence in the idea that the leaders of my current church will do much to enable me to experience such a breakthrough, I hope and pray nevertheless that they will do so.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Neglect Is A Type of Abuse

© Mark Pettigrew

When people talk about "child abuse," they're usually thinking about outward and deliberate acts of aggression towards children. One particularly egregious example of child abuse could be found in the book "A Boy Called It" by Dave Pelzer. Among other things, Dave's mother fed dog feces to him and made him eat them.

But just as abusive, in its own way, is the fact that she regularly starved him. Feeding one's child is not optional for a parent. Neglecting one's responsibility towards others can be a form of abuse.

After he had been rescued from the abusive and neglectful "care" of his natural mother, Dave was put into various foster homes. The women who headed those households were not related to Dave by blood, but they were just as responsible for his welfare, because they had accepted that responsibility. If they had similarly chosen at a later time to neglect the responsibility to feed Dave, they would have been just as guilty as his natural parents had been earlier.

Sometimes, one has a responsibility towards another person simply on account of circumstances which have placed that person in one's path. In Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan, the man who had been beaten by robbers and left at the side of the road to die was the responsibility of every passerby who was aware of his predicament. He might not have been a child, but his extreme need made him every person's responsibility nevertheless.

What made the "good Samaritan" different from the other passersby was not that he was any more responsible than they, but that he alone recognized and acted on the responsibility which God had sovereignly given to him. He's considered to be the "hero" of the story, not because he was so heroic, but because the others acted so selfishly and despicably. Compared to them, he was indeed a hero.

Today I read an Associated Press news story about a 36-year-old woman who drowned, in public swimming pool in Fall River Massachussetts, because two lifeguards neglected their responsibilities to respond appropriately when a 9-year-old boy informed them that the woman appeared to be drowning. Saving Marie Joseph was their job, but they neglected their job responsibilities, and the result was that the woman unnecessarily died. Appalling as that fact might be, what makes things even worse is that it took them several days to find her corpse in the "murky" water. Keep in mind that this was a public swimming pool, not the ocean. Why was the water in a public swimming pool "murky" in the first place? And why didn't they search the waters thoroughly as soon as they were made aware (by that 9-year-old boy) that someone might have been drowning?

Unsurprisingly, the young boy who told the lifeguards about the woman's jeopardy has been traumatized. He keeps crying, says his mother, and he thinks he could have saved the woman. There were two victims of those shamefully lazy lifeguards that day. It will probably be a very, very long time before that young boy will trust lifeguards again. My heart goes out to him. What a horrible way to learn just how cruel this life can be.

As this recent news story ought to make clear, people have a right to expect an appropriate and timely response when they make people who are in a position to help aware that they need help or that other members of the human community need help.

This is particularly true when they are reporting those needs to members of the clergy, who in other circumstances often claim to speak on behalf of God.  There are noteworthy exceptions, fortunately, but such people seem to have a pretty bad track record, from what I have seen, when it comes to their recognition of the fact that their jobs come with responsibilities, not just to their own families, but also to all of those in the community who come to them for help.

Far too often, their focus, when people come to them for help, seems to be on finding excuses for neglecting the needs of needy people. Instead of being assured that one's needs will be met in time, regardless of what is necessary in order to make that happen, one is likely to be told that one didn't ask for help in "the right way". One's desperate (and possibly demanding) tone of voice, one's allegedly bad timing, one's "unsubmissive attitude" or any number of other alleged faults are likely to be cited as reasons why one cannot receive the help one needs. Why such so-called leaders think they have a right to demand submission from others, when they have not earned that right by serving people in need, is a mystery to me. True authority comes from a lifetime of humble service, not from one's job title.

People shouldn't have to be perfect in every respect to be able to expect that they'll receive the help they need, when they need it. There is no acceptable excuse for unmet needs in the "Body of Christ". Not in one of the most prosperous nations in the world, at any rate.

The mother of the boy who cried out in vain for help says that the lifeguards who ignored her son need to be fired. I think she's being charitable. I think that they need to be fired and then imprisoned. A woman died on account of their incompetence, for crying out loud.

In all fairness to them, though, it would seem that the failure is not theirs alone. The fact that the woman's corpse wasn't even seen when the pool was initially inspected by pool inspectors, on account of the fact that the water was so murky, suggests that the incompetence was widespread. Long before those lifeguards neglected their job responsibilities, there were people who neglected their seemingly insignificant but nevertheless real responsibilities to keep the pool clean. The time to clean the pool is not when there's a corpse lying at the bottom of the pool.

Why did the customers just accept the murkiness of the waters, instead of complaining until the pool was cleaned? Had they been so intimidated into silence, by people who'd ignored their prior complaints, that they didn't think that there was any point in complaining? Or were those customers' standards so low that they thought that the murkiness of the water was normal and acceptable?

Problems of that nature are rarely the faults of just one or two individuals. They tend to be system-wide issues. To extend the metaphor to the church once again, problems within churches tend to be widespread.

One can talk all one likes about how a church should be a true "community," but talk, as they say, is cheap. Both church leaders and ordinary members of local church communities need to regularly and conscientiously reach out to members of their churches, and even to casual visitors, so that they are aware of the struggles their alleged friends are going through, and so that those issues are addressed.

Neglectful Christian leaders are a disgrace, just as surely as they would be if they'd committed sexual abuse, or if they'd absconded with the money in the church's bank account.

The real problem is that we have allowed our leaders to operate with impunity, for far too long, in a subservient climate where such leaders are not held accountable for how they treat people.

In our churches, we need to start expecting, yes, even demanding "clean waters", instead of settling for less than what we really need. Contrary to what was recently suggested to me by a young man who was about to be hired as a new pastor at my church, there is nothing wrong with having high expections of our leaders.

As Jesus said in the book of Luke, "To whom much is given, much will be required."

Friday, July 01, 2011

Password Problems with Blogger and Google

I've been using as my blogging service for a very, very long time. But used to actually be owned by the folks who created this service. No more.

Google recently acquired Blogger, which would be fine with me (and maybe even nice in some respects), except for the fact that I've had all kinds of problems with this account, subsequent to the Google takeover. It doesn't help any that it's next to impossible to get technical support from a real human being in relation to Google.

When I try to log into the account associated with the original blog and other Blogger blogs I created back in the days before the Google acquisition of Blogger, I frequently find that it won't recognize the password which, to my knowledge and best recollection, is still associated with that Blogger acount. So it forces me to reset the password to something new. Thank goodness it still sends the password reset link to the original Hotmail account under which the original blog was created (and under which I had created a number of additional blogs, prior to the Google acquisition of Blogger). But I've had to do this on a number of occasions. After a while, it's hard to keep track of what the latest password change has been (partly because this is not by any means the only password I have to remember), and I'm forced to change the password once again. What a pain in the behind!

Here's the bottom line: I believe that I know what my current password is, for this particular set of blogs, but who knows? I could revisit the site tomorrow, and try to log in, only to discover that I'm once again locked out of my own blogs. I can't count on being able to sign in again in order to edit an old post or create a new blog under this particular account. Hopefully, that won't happen, but if you visit this particular blog and find that I haven't entered a new blog post in quite some time here, don't be particularly surprised.

I'm just glad that the old posts still seem to be here and that they haven't been deleted. But in order to create a new blog post which has new and updated information (such as my current address, as of 7/1/2011, in Bellingham, WA), you may need to visit a more current blog of mine, created under a more current account (or, if necessary, under a new account created with another blogging service altogether).

Just for the record, in case that happens, my current address as of 7/1/2011 is:

Mark Pettigrew
2826 Undine
Bellingham, WA 98226