Archive for September, 2010

This post is not for the squeamish.  I will be discussing septic tank systems and colons.    However, if you are courageous and continue to read this post, you will be surprised to learn how much they have in common (not my blog and colons – or maybe there is a commonality; rather, septic system inspections and colonoscopies) and how humbling either of these inspections can be.  The one aspect that leans in favor of a colonoscopy is that your lights are knocked out while they’re performing the procedure; not so when you have your septic system inspected; no, during that procedure, you’re wide awake.

When I turned 55 I had my first (and only one to date) colonoscopy.   I can feel all those heads nodding who have walked the halls of the colonoscopy ward.  And I say give yourselves a high five!  The rest of you cowards over 50; yes, cowards, get your behinds in to see your doctor!  You know you’re in for the ride of your life when your pharmacist hands you a gallon jug and three packets of lemon-lime flavored battery acid along with the kind of smile you see at funerals.   Gary was my pharmacist at the time and his parting words were “Good luck, Michaelene.”   “For cryin’ out loud Gary, it’s only battery acid and it’s lemon-lime flavored.  Yum.”

There are a few tricks that I learned from my days when I went through a series of  lower gastrointestinal tests that involved barium, a hose like the kind at the gas station for putting air in your tires, and a balloon; but not the kind of balloon that floats in the air and says Happy Birthday!  But then what do I know, maybe it did say Happy Birthday.  I certainly couldn’t see behind me.  But, I digress.  Oh, heck I’m here…so, anyway, the very young handsome man (and wouldn’t that be my luck) puts the hose in the tank and the barium starts to flow and the air is causing pressure in the cabin and the balloon has everything locked in place.  At this point, the very young handsome man shows me my intestines on a screen.  The very young handsome man is very excited by this miracle of modern medicine.  He’s pointing out how the barium is traveling around my gut while I’m wondering what’s going to happen when the balloon is removed.  “I imagine it’s more exciting to you then it is to me right now,” I say in my most cooperative patient voice.   After a number of turns around the table to really shake up the barium, the tests are complete and I’m set free.  “There’s a bathroom right there,” he says.  Right, I think.  I’ve heard the stories about barium footprints down hallways.  I’ll just wait until I get home, thank you very much.  I was about three feet away from the table when the rumbling started, but I was determined to make it home.  I had been told about the next phase of this exam and I was going home for that phase.  On the way home in my brand new Volvo station wagon with leather seats, the rumbling turned into an all out assault.  Calling upon my situational faith I made a series of promises that I would lead an exemplary life  if I could make it home without damaging my car seats.  Prayer answered.  As I write this I realize the tricks I was going to share with you should be shared one-on-one.  Call or write and I’ll go over them with you at no charge, but do it before your colonoscopy.  You’ll  thank me.

Okay, so now we’re back to colonoscopies vs. septic system inspections.  WARNING!!!!!  A GRAPHIC PHOTO FOLLOWS!  Colon or septic tank?  No, septic tank.  My septic tank to be exact and aren’t I brave to be sharing these personal photos with you?

As I mentioned in my last post (go on, I’ll wait while you go back and read it)…Suzette came out today to inspect my system.  I knew as much about septic systems as I did meat goats until I met Suzette.   I had questions and Suzette had the answers.  As I said earlier, much earlier by my clock, a septic system inspection has many of the same traits of a colonoscopy, minus the prep.  Have I talked to you about the prep for a colonoscopy?  Remember the lemon-lime flavored battery acid I spoke of earlier?  Do you really have any idea how many cups there are in a gallon?  There are 16 cups in a gallon…128 fluid ounces…that’s a lot of battery acid.  I started out as any woman would – optimistically thinking that I might lose a few pounds.  I hadn’t counted on those pounds being my intestinal tract along with my liver and spleen!  Nor had I counted on it working so quickly.  By fluid ounce 115, I was running from the bathroom back to the kitchen where I leaned over the sink  and just poured the goop as close to my mouth as I could get it.  It was a bad I Love Lucy episode and I had no Ethel to hold my hair back.   At that point my optimistic self went down the drain with the rest of the battery acid.  If they couldn’t see what needed to be seen after me drinking 114 ounces, they shouldn’t be there.  So, I was happy when Suzette didn’t hand me a gallon jug upon meeting along with a funeral smile.

Here’s how a septic system is like your colon.  The food goes in, and the food goes out – that’s called waste.  And human waste is the only thing that should go into your septic system (and biodegradable toilet paper).  That waste goes into tank No. 1 (let’s call that the stomach) which is then released into tank No. 2 (pictured above) which is liquid (let’s call that the lower intestine).  This photo is of my septic system D-Box (let’s call that the colon).

The D-Box is extremely important.  If everything is working properly, the fluid you see flowing from the main pipe pours out to the four lines that feed the drain field.  One of the benefits of a D-Box over a colon is you can control how things flow by turning the dials on the outlets (well, Suzette can turn the dials). And those pipes flow out into the drain field.

So, you get the picture of how the two systems are alike.  Now I will cover some of the similarities of the inspection of the septic system with the examination of a colon by colonoscopy.  Like I said, you’re awake and you’re standing with a stranger who has just lifted the lid from a tank full of…crap; there’s no other way to say it.   And this person proceeds to tell you about that crap, just the way your doctor tells you the results of your colonoscopy with some of the same questions.  “Are you taking any medications?  Antibiotics, perhaps?” she asks.  “No.  Why, can you see pills in there?”  “No, but there’s a certain color that antibiotics create.”   I stepped way back from the tank when Suzette broke  the “crust,” with a pole; a device that I’m certain  is similar to the same one doctors use after they’ve knocked your lights out.  See next photo which also appears in an HMO pamphlet entitled 101 Uses for PVC Pipe in the Operating Room

Suzette noted that the tank was rather full for a single user household, and commented that there was no way one person could create this much waste in a little over a year.  As I would if my doctor  questioned me about my dietary fiber intake, I quickly  explained there were quite a few people living on the property at one time before I purchased the house and that seemed to appease her professional curiosity.   Down at the D-Box she noted there was a little bit of “scum” forming around the outlet.  (Remember, D-Box is the colon and scum can be lethal.)  While standing there, I couldn’t help but think of Pete Dexter’s character Spooner in his book by the same name.  At one point in the book Spooner lives on Whidbey Island and talks about having his septic tank inspected.  I thought it was a great piece of fictional storytelling until today.  Spooner and I had something in common.  “Scum?  Is that bad?  Is there something I can do to get rid of the scum?  Is that a problem with the system, or me?”  About the time Suzette entered the “good bacteria vs. bad bacteria” lesson I began feeling light-headed as if I had been given those wonderful pre-surgery drugs for my colonoscopy.

The day of my colonoscopy my good friend Kathryn took me to the out-patient clinic, and picked me up after my “procedure.”   She was very patient and walked as slowly as I did due to my 24 hours of “prep.”  I remember waving goodbye to her and the next thing I knew a very nice nurse was telling me she was going to be the one administering the drugs during my “procedure.”  Pleased to meet you Nurse Night-Night.  And then a very young handsome man rolled my hospital bed into the “procedure” room.  There stood Nurse Night-Night, Very Young Handsome Man; and in walked Doctor No Name Proctologist; and another Very Young Handsome Man (do these guys specialize in this field?).   Nurse Night-Night leaned over and told me she was about to start the drugs.  As the meds ran down the line into my arm, I remember looking around the room and saying “Gee, it looks like there’s going to be a party in here and I won’t be here to enjoy…”  Lights out.  Some time later I came to and Nurse Night-Night was by my side, but the guys were  nowhere to be found.  However, the party photos of my colon were and they were A-okay…like the outcome of my septic tank system.

So, what did we learn?  The food goes in and the food goes out.  You are what you eat and both your septic system inspector and your proctologist will know if you’ve been eating Twinkies or taking antibiotics.  And remember to call me before your next colonoscopy and I’ll share my tricks with you.  You’ll be happy you did.


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When in doubt, it’s probably a good idea to consult with a professional about how you promote your business; unless, of course, you’re selling dingleberries.

While Nate was here for the big bash in August, we decided we needed a touch of county fair atmosphere, and this little sign above made our trip down to Langley worth the ride.  Why bother trying to make stuff up when there are folks out there doing the work for me.  Needless to say, Nate and I decided against sampling the chocolate covered berries being served up at this kiosk.  However, Nate was hankerin’ for some county fair food and finally settled on BBQ’d brisket.  He was into his third bite or so when we heard the announcement that eight year old Stevie from Salt Lake City, Utah, was about to ride a buckin’ steer.  A kid sized rodeo!   There is a certain kinship that I share with Nate that I relish: our dark side.  I can’t speak for my favorite of all my children, but when our eyes locked and we both headed in the direction of the voice I’ m pretty sure Nate was hoping  what I was hoping: the chance to experience a young cowboy have his 30 seconds of fame riding a miniature bull and the possibility it could go wrong.  We should have known better.  As you can see, there was no miniature bull waiting to gore a yougin’, just one of those mechanical bulls that go round and round. 

Sissy stuff, we say, so we were off to the next venue: log rolling.   The bleachers were full so it must be a great event, right?  Not so much.  First of all we noticed there were heating pipes coming up from the water so it was probably a spa like 99 degree temp under those logs.   What’s up with that?  We wanted to see someone take the plunge into icy water with the potential for a smidge of  hypothermia.   We drove 28 miles.

So, what’s going on over at the chain saw cutting competition?  Oh, chain saw cutting competition was closed down.  But it gave me an idea:  winter is just around the corner; Scott gave me a chain saw and I’d have until next year to practice my carving techniques.

We decided it was time for more county fair food.  What to have…what to have…  Ice cream, a good source of calcium.  Whoa!  Nate and I both put the brakes on the ice cream idea when we saw that it was being run by the Republicans of Island County.  I say keep your politics away from my ice cream, buddy.

Since it appeared we weren’t going to see any mishap in the aforementioned areas for me to write about here in the blog, we decided to check out the agricultural and livestock displays.  I admit I know nothing about goats, especially the ones that wear tennis balls on their horns, but Meat Goat was a type of goat I had never heard of before.  Nate had to explain to me that a “meat goat” was not a type of goat, but what the goat was bred for.  I had to put my hands in my pockets so I wouldn’t open the pen and yell “Run, Meat Goat, run!”

Cooking categories should be a safe bet so we headed over to check out the blue ribbon winners.    First, let’s start with cakes.   I’m not sure what cake this category was in (I would guess 60’s LSD flashback), but it was a blue ribbon winner.   Who knows, it was the last day of the fair and it’s always damp up here in the great Pacific Northwest so it might have started out as an angel food cake.  There were jams and jellies, cookies, vegetable characters, but the next category is the one that intrigued me: canned meats and fish.  I feel the photo speaks for itself, but since it’s my blog I have to say these blue ribbon winners frightened me, running more in the vein of  high school lab experiments or leftover specimens after a lab experiment gone terribly wrong.  My bigger concern was whether any of the jars’ contents were related to the meat goats in the barn next door.

Oh, look at the time.  I’ve gotta run…Suzette is coming over to inspect my septic system and I have a lot of questions for her; and, yes, of course I’m going to share it all with you. Your Septic System Inspection vs. Your Colonoscopy – Which Is More Embarrassing? will be posted in the near future.  Until then, remember: you are what you eat and in the end (yours or your septic tank) someone is going to see what that’s been.  Although I must say, I wouldn’t mind seeing some of that Republican ice cream floating in my septic tank!

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I had set out to post Nate’s and my adventure down to the Island County Fair tonight, but a much bigger issue is looming large here in Coupeville.

If you read My Very Own Boat People and They Say It’s Your Birthday posts, you’ll know that I was given a boat by Dan Bond to use as a planter; mind you, a very well-worn, sitting upside down in his yard for a decade, rat nest filled, black spider with a head the size of a cantaloupe who had just been waiting for the right moment to scare the beejesus out of me boat.

Well, move over double dip recession, take a back seat gas prices; call in 20/20 and O’Reilly (I’m sure he can spin me into the anti-Christ over this) because my boat planter became the hot topic of conversation at coffee Monday morning.   I’ll be the first to admit I know nothing, nothing about boats or their apparent value.  I’ve white watered the Rogue, rivers in Yellowstone and Glacier and California, but I don’t have the stomach for seafaring vessels; especially when they’re at sea.  I spent many hours on a vessel one day that had sailed out of San Francisco to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday.  While everyone feasted on smoked salmon and champagne, I spent all my time staring at the horizon in situational faith prayer.

I was feeling pretty chipper on Monday morning.  I had spent an hour on my recumbent bike; logged my 12 miles and was ready to start my day with a happy-go-lucky smile on my mug.  But when I went down to Local Grown to sit with my guys before working for Deb down at the shops; oh, I’ll digress for a moment.  I’m becoming the Jane Goodall of shoppers.  It’s my new anthropological hobby.  This week I’m studying the habits of the Spider Monkey Shopper; the ones who come in and within a matter of minutes whip through stacks of t-shirts, then swing over to the scarves that you’ve just folded to perfection, use their manicured opposable thumbs to rifle through the jewelry and leave the entire store in monkey-like disarray and buy NOTHING.   To date, the only thing they haven’t done is fling poo (but I haven’t gotten to the chimps yet).  In my upcoming book How I Survive The Retail Jungle – Twelve Meditations to Avoid Monkey Business Madness I will categorize customers using the various primate communities and their habits.  So, anyway, I’m not a boat aficionado.  (Careful, sharp left turns without warning!)

What a pleasure it was Monday morning to see Bev, Lew, Ralph and Steve at coffee.  Living in the woods one should always be on high alert for bended branches, scat and anything out-of-place; signs of potential hazards, foreign intrusions.  I should have been suspect when I noticed a stranger (to me) at the table.    I’m still so gobsmacked by the events (almost two days later) that I don’t even remember how the conversation regarding the boat started up again.  What I do remember is the man who suggested that this whole boat in the back yard would be a good idea, the man who helped put this scenario together; that man who shall be named WEB folded like a cheap card table when I turned to him for back up, and only after hearing the words “should be flogged,  keelhauled” from the stranger.  Those boating terms, I recognized.  What I also recognized was not one of my guys disputed his sentence; rather, took to sipping their coffee and looking around the coffee shop.   I’ll admit in my panic, I gave everybody up to save myself  – Dan and WEB for suggesting it in the first place; Ed for drilling the holes; DZ and Jay who planted the boat with beautiful flowers.  And I feel a tad bad about that, but the debate back and forth was akin to the sequestered scene from Twelve Angry Men.  Someone had to defend me, so  I pointed out that when you really looked at the circumstantial facts, I was innocent.  If the glove doesn’t fit you can’t convict kind of thinking, I know.   And to top it all off, I’ve never heard old buddy Lew wax so poetic as he described the boat…talking about its lines, and shape with such ardor I thought he was talking about a woman.   I was peddling as fast as I could to back out of being flogged and keelhauled (which sounds a lot like a third date). And then it happened, the thing that saved me – Lew giving me credit for at least not digging a hole and burying half the boat and that’s when my tree dragging, debris burning buddy, Ralph, piped up and said “that’s what I would have done and then I would have filled it with water.”   Situational faith prayer answered.  Amen.

But if anyone out there has a boat…

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