28 January 2011

My world keeps turning

Yesterday, I baked cookies and hauled the daughter down to the office so she could test some more people for her science fair project.

(This does not involve my refrigerator. Thank god. However, it does involve humans. Who are about as tough to corral as cats. This is the last year ever that I have to be involved in science fair.)

And for the final year, hooray, I'll be a judge for the science fair. They offered to get me a wheelchair so I could be there the whole 4 hours.

(I think they were joking. About the wheelchair, anyway.)

I brought the cat home today. Again. He still has a feeding tube. Now I get to feed him a hellish slurry of water and wet cat food. Through the tube. Yay! He'd gotten pretty used to the vet hospital, and was running around like he owned the place (and after what I've paid for him the last three weeks, I think we do own a chunk. This is not to say that the vet hasn't been incredibly kind, fair and caring. He's been all those things and more. We couldn't ask for a better vet. Still, health care is expensive, even for a cat). However, when I got him home, Milton started kneading my chest with the apparent intent of inserting himself inside my body, purring wildly. I think he was pleased to be back. In the last couple of days, his chances of survival have increased significantly, though the feeding tube might be a long affair.

Last night as we were packing up to leave the office, the daughter finally got word that her application has been accepted, and she's been scheduled to audition at the arts high school. One more hurdle.

Birthday parties to plan. Birthday parties to attend. The son has a friend coming over to do a biology project. I've got people roaming through the house all weekend with the daughter's project.




Gardening. Well, I won't be doing that.

And so we go.

Go listen to some good music: "remembrances" from the album ...undone by The Lucy Show.

27 January 2011

...until your heart stops beating

Five discs.


L2 through S1.

Bulging. Torn.

Broken cartilage.

"...severe stenosis of right lateral recess."

"How?" I frowned.

"Consistent with severe impact," the doctor replied. "Heavy lifting."

Of course, there's been no severe impact, and my heavy lifting tends to be emotional rather than physical. In me-speak, this is business as usual. This is living with a broken body.

(Don't feel sorry for me. I don't. This is living with a broken body. Living. You see what I do. I don't stop. Ever.)

"I'm so angry with your insurance company," she said. "I was sure that with such significant neural impact, you had a tumor."

"I was sure that with my family history, I had a tumor," I replied.

I don't have cancer. This is mechanical engineering. This is something I understand. Even if I don't want to, I can deal with this.

I've already been referred to a spinal surgeon. He is very conservative, I'm told. But a significant look passed between my GP and I.

"Yeah," she said.

"What I figured," I told her, shrugging.

And so, I'll go from there.

But come June, body cast, wheelchair, whatever...

Go listen to some good music: "Shellshock" from the album International - The Best of New Order by New Order. It's easier not to fight phantoms. Broken I can cope with. Not happy about it, but I can cope with it. I do not stop.

26 January 2011

I'm not impossible to touch

I test the air for presence. All I feel is absence.

It is very quiet. It's often very quiet here in the morning when I am working. He silently suns himself in the living room, curled into a soft warm ball, bright light sparkling with iridescence on his black patches, his white aglow. When I touch him, he makes a small sound, annoyance or acknowledgement, his black fur hot, the white cool.

This morning, I slept beyond the son's morning ablutions, so exhausted and finally in deep sleep, and the spouse brought me coffee as a reminder that it was nearing the time I needed to take the boy to his bus stop. Usually, there is a small parade into the room, the cat first, sauntering in with the air of a drum major, then coffee and frequently, children bringing up the rear. For reasons I don't understand, the cat must walk to the far side of the bed, and jump on it from there, whereupon he processes across to present himself to me for appropriate accolades and worship. He purrs violently, walking back and forth, the down comforter crunching under his tiny feet. He is actually a very small cat, but he looms enormous.

Although I know that he is not here, I check for him, in his favorite sun spots, and I think I hear his activities throughout the day. I am alert to these things, part of my daily routine, and they are deafening in their absence.

And my daily routine is routine no longer. I am stir-crazy, and in frustration, I have resumed a large chunk of my regular fitness routines, weights and exercise bike and stretching, whatever I can still do.

I test my skin for absence. Drawing the fabric of my workout clothes across my leg makes me shudder. The lack of sensation is grotesque. On the exercise bike, I roughly thrust my heel outward against the inward pull it has adopted, ruthlessly jam my foot into a straightened position in the stirrup. Then I pedal, ignoring how hard the right leg has to work to keep up with the left.

For about four days, I was pleased that I had the time to catch up on movies I've missed seeing. Now, I flip through the channels and PPV in a desultory fashion, bored before I've started. Finally, I settle on Before Sunrise, which turns out to be a charming little film about strangers on a train who spend a night together wandering through Vienna. I listen to the song they listen to at the record store, and I think about the word "touch." It is not impossible to touch me, though parts of me are presently dead to the touch. It is not impossible to touch my heart, though at the moment it's retreated to a more impenetrable position.

I watch the film, and much of what happens rings true, some of it with a wistful nostalgia for times and places gone by. I remember the earnestness of being 20-something and wanting desperately to treat relationships in a mature way, so much so that the characters' earnestness almost makes me laugh. I still pretend to maturity; sometimes, I still don't want the sun to rise. I am reluctant to say good-bye, to allow presence to become absence.

I am not impossible to touch.

Go listen to some music: "Come Here" sung by Kate Bloom from the album Before Sunset and Before Sunrise (Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack). I have to admit that I found the song rather awful even if I did like some of the lyrics.

25 January 2011

Strange magic

I've still got magic in my fingertips.

(Or sheer force of will. Call it what you may.)

Some days it takes very little to make me happy.

(It wasn't exactly little. But on the face it, wonderful. Shift from inertia to action. All of my energy has gone to fixing, leaving very little for the extras. My spirit needed fixing, though, and this, of course, did.)

Whatever it takes, I will be well by June. Five months, or slightly less. I probably won't be called upon to jump out of a helicopter.


I may have to be largely still. But I will be there.


Go listen to some good music: "Strange Magic" from the album Face the Music by Electric Light Orchestra.

24 January 2011

Lights and magnets, bolts and wires

"Twenty minutes," said the technician, slapping a pair of headphones on me. "It's loud in there."

"Okay," I replied faintly as the bed slid into the tiny tube.

I'm a glutton for experience. I want to know how things look and feel, what stuff is like. And I mean interesting stuff, not bad stuff, not scary stuff, not mean stuff.

When the son was being born (or not, as was actually the case), when the emergency beacons went off and everyone jumped into action to take me to the operating room, I remember watching the fluorescent lights speed by overhead as the nurses pushed the gurney down the hall, thinking (with, I hate to admit, a slight giggle), "I have to remember this. It's like a movie."

The surgery part I could have lived without. The recovery I really could have lived without.

I don't tend toward claustrophobia. I couldn't possibly get in those little toilet paper tube planes with firecracker engines if I did. But as I went into the MRI machine, I could clearly understand why people freak out. The thing was maybe 18 inches wide and the top was about 3 inches from my nose. My heart rate started to accelerate, and I closed my eyes, taking steady breaths. The tech's voice came in over the headphones, asking if I was ok, and I replied affirmatively. The noise started, and she wasn't kidding: I couldn't even tell what song was playing on the headphones over the din.

Time to go, I thought.

I am good at absenting myself from unpleasant situations, especially if I have to be still. I grab a memory, a song, a story, and start analyzing it. During my father's funeral, I took a song apart in my head, isolating different instruments and measures, and it kept me insulated for that hour in which I really needed calm. So, too, today I pulled up a little memory from last summer, and let it replay, stopping the frames where I wanted, creating discrete images and examining them at my leisure. Eventually, my mind began to wander a little, and I reached the point where discomfort degenerated into boredom. At almost the same time, the bed started to slide back out of its tube.

And I was done.

"This really happened while you were brushing your teeth?" the tech asked me.

"Yup," I replied. "Joys of getting older."

"Well, I hope they find out what's bothering you and can put you back together," she said.

I thanked her, and headed back out to the waiting area.

Part of me is really convinced that what I'm going to hear is that the problem is between my ears. I've made a lot of noise over this, and while I've got a reputation for getting things done, I'm never comfortable with this sort of noisemaking.

I guess I'll know soon enough.

Go listen to some good music: "The Electric Version" from the album The Electric Version by The New P*rnographers. Okay, I'm kind of curious to see the images, but I'm dreading the inevitable "did you know...?" Yes, as it happens, I do know my body is completely...yeah, that.

22 January 2011

Looking to the sky to save me

I brought the cat home with a feeding tube today.

The son has received his PSAT scores.

The daughter is collecting data for her science fair project (gods, the last one).

The MRI is Monday morning. Hopefully by the end of the week, I will know what is what.

The world rocks on.

Yes, I'm pumping meds and liquid food into the cat through his tube. Years ago, I had a cat with thyroid disease and had to learn how to administer subcutaneous fluids. Not the most pleasant thing, either for the cat or me. The feeding tube is actually slightly less daunting.

One day last week, I stopped by the vet to visit Milton en route home from PT. I was still achy from PT: the therapist yanked on my leg so hard that my lower spine popped alarmingly. We waited for a moment in surprise, she and I, I think both of us hoping that there would be a sudden return of sensation to my leg, but no such luck.

It's just not going to be that easy.

At any rate, the cat was out of his most recent surgery (insertion of feeding tube), and he made a lot of noise when I appeared. We've been trying to encourage him to eat on his own, but no such luck as of yet. I spent an hour and a half with him, hanging half way out of his cage, trying to soothe, trying to cajole. The vet came around eventually, and we discussed Milton's condition.

"What do you do?" the vet asked. "You have a lot of medical knowledge."

I disavowed much knowledge, just a basic grasp of human anatomy and physiology and disease process, and a minor ability to translate that in a rudimentary way to a cat.

(But I know cool words like "tolerances" and "pylorus" and "projectile vomiting" and "bilirubin.")

Milton hasn't eaten yet. He's just not going to be that easy.

And the world rocks on.

Go listen to some good music: "Learn to Fly" from the album There is Nothing Left to Lose by Foo Fighters.

20 January 2011

Hand delivered

Sometimes I forget that the vast majority of you know me not at all. You see what I give you, what I let slip intentionally or by accident. You see the tenor of my days through my eyes; we have no omniscient observer to help you along.

Autobiography is slippery. Don't ever forget that. I always tell the truth here, no embellishment, though I change names to protect the guilty. But don't lose sight of the fact that it's my truth. And while I try to be objective, try to report accurately, search my soul for what is honest, every word is colored by what goes through my head.

Sometimes I forget that the vast majority of those I know in real life have no idea of this alter ego. They see who they believe they know; every fleeting frown, smile, conversation contains another's interpretation of me. I think there are a handful of people who have a pretty good handle on the same person that I think I am. I've seen in their eyes and body language that we are on the same page. I am grateful for this because I can relax the barriers.

Still, the disconnect is vast. And actually really very funny.

Long ago, I did an internship at IBM. It was the first of the jobs I had that was shrouded in secrecy and I signed what became the first of many, many confidentiality agreements. I take these things seriously. I take silence and need to know as a responsibility. My commitment, my word, my integrity is important to me, and I try not to ever tarnish those parts of my rather wobbly halo.

I was very young when I signed that agreement, only 19. And I fretted alot. I didn't want to say anything by accident. I'm not much for self-aggrandisement; I don't think I'm important because I know things others don't. I like knowing things for the sake of knowledge--the universe is a huge, grand puzzle and I like slotting another piece into its rightful spot. I will joyously rootle around in others' brains given the permission and access and time, and I'm happy to share what I know that I'm free to share with anyone around me.

But I worried over the potential slip of the tongue. Suddenly, "so, what did you do today?" felt like a very loaded question. At which point, I learned to carefully lock the door in my head marked "work" when I left the office each day. And this habit persists.

So, you might be amused to know that while you all know most of the gorey details of my current injury, IRL no one beyond my immediate family and a few others have any clue about it. It's been kept out of phone calls and emails, and I managed to mask my debility when we saw the spouse's parents over the weekend.

Silence. Need to know.

Today, I received an email from an old friend, a colleague from some time ago. She is a lovely person, a tiger like me, and we took funny classes together (weaving, for example, with the most amazing-really! Amazing. Flamboyant. Interestingly dressed. Quite talented--man), went to movies, shared books. It was fun to hear from her, and we exchanged a couple of quick messages, talked about lunch and a visit. For one second, I thought to tell her about the blogs, an easy shorthand way to help her catch up. And that thought was immediately quelled, door slammed shut.

There is nothing exceptional here, nothing earth shatteringly important, nothing that I am really hiding. A few people with whom I'm very comfortable have the URL. Truthfully, I consider myself pretty boring (and after rereading the last couple of months...dear god...full of complaint! That has to stop.), but there is a lot of process here. It is the process that I'm frequently unwilling to share.

Except here.

Go listen to some good music: "remembrances" from the album ...undone by The Lucy Show. I started this this morning, and then got a call from the vet that wasn't good, and the day devolved into chaos. And suddenly I'm just exhausted. I think I ended up where I was intending to go. I may rethink that tomorrow, of course.

19 January 2011

Idiot prayer

I never actually thought I'd be happy to have a medical procedure scheduled. But the insurance company finally approved the MRI, which means that I, the doctor, and therapists will know what the heck is wrong with me. We've all worked out the disc part, but is it bulging? Herniated? Ruptured? How many are involved? Do I have a tumor on my spinal column?

All it took was falling over in the physical therapy clinic. If I'd known, I could have engineered that sooner.

(Actually, I couldn't have. That's the scary part. I don't know when the muscles are going to just stop working.)

And while I don't want bad news (bad news is surgery, worse news is a growth of some sort. Best news would be it will heal on its own, but reality? Probably not.), I can't continue like this. It's not getting better, it's getting worse. This morning at the grocery, I realized I'd lost track of my lower leg. YAY!

My greatest fear? That after all this carrying on, they'll do the MRI and say, uh...there's nothing wrong with you. Really, I worry about that.

Because I am an idiot.

Go listen to some good music: "Idiot Prayer" from the album Signify by Porcupine Tree. For those of you keeping track: the cat is back at the vet with a slight fever, which is bad, but they tricked him into eating, which is good. For those of you really keeping track, this is all I know: surgery would put me out of commission for at least two months. But a friend assured me that she was able to jump out of a helicopter almost two months to the day after hers. So there you go, even though I don't actually know anything yet.

18 January 2011

...my life is just a mess...

The cat came home yesterday, full of stitches and staples and bad attitude.

He won't eat. He goes back to the vet tomorrow if he doesn't start. I didn't sleep most of last night worrying about what he was up to, starting at every rustle I heard.

(I've nursed lots of humans through surgery. They at least can be reasoned with. They can tell me what the problem is. I've even nursed cats and dogs through surgery, but things like knee surgery, not surgery on their guts. Gah.)

Still Milton showed marvelous alacrity this morning--after fighting me on the antibiotics I had to administer--by jumping to the top of an 8-ft. bookcase and trying to hide from me. There I was, with a usable leg and a half, teetering again on the top of a step ladder, trying to retrieve him at 6:15 am.

I finally cried...oh, I don't know...about 1 this afternoon. Not sadness, not pain. Just rage and frustration. It's not just the cat, it's my back, my inability to do much of anything physical, the constant grind of the kids' schools. No sooner do I dig out of one crisis, do whatever is necessary to get the kids through one more project, book one more trip for the spouse for work, than I'm right back in it.

It's like quicksand. The harder I fight to keep my head above the surface, the further behind I am.

I never agreed to live my entire life in crisis mode, and I don't know how to make this stop. All I know is that I'm not alone.

And that's cold comfort.

Go listen to some good music: "Just Another Nervous Wreck" from the album Breakfast in America by Supertramp. You know, I'm really pretty tired of being the angriest woman in the world. It wasn't too long ago that I looked forward to my days with pleasure. Of course, my drug of choice is exercise, and withdrawal is a bitch.

15 January 2011

The waiting is the hardest part

I am waiting for the phone to ring.

Milton is in surgery. He deteriorated again over night, vomited blood in the morning. I called the vet, stifling panic. He reported that the bloodwork came back perfect; the cat couldn't be in any better health where his blood panel was concerned.

So x-rays. An obstruction, seemingly, in his little goatish gut. Driving back home, we laughed a little about what they were likely to find: his toenails, I suggested, embedded in wads of fur with some Christmas tree needles and a fragment of purloined french fry for good measure.

"He's got a bezoar," I told the son. "We should ask the vet to save it, so I can sell it on eBay. 'Magickal Feline Bezoar.'"

And we laughed a little more.

Whistling in the dark.


The vet called.

"He did great," he boomed over the phone. "He's looking at me right now while I'm talking to you. He's on painkillers and he's comfortable."

"I'm sure you're his new best friend," I observed drily.

The cat won't appreciate it, but I am grateful for this man's kindness, his willingness to describe the process at length, and answer my questions, his promise to check on Milton tomorrow, though the clinic is closed.

Of course, my mind still spins off in unwanted directions: infection, the potential for a tear in his intestine, recurrence.

I try to think instead of how he curls, kitten-like, soft and relaxed, in the sun, or the warm weight of his sleeping body stretched along my legs, or the clean smell of his fur, or his tiny surprised sneezes.

Go listen to some good music: "The Waiting" from the album Hard Promises by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. My family was none too pleased to discover me at 6 am this morning, atop a stepladder, hauling the cat off the top of the 8-ft bookcases...

14 January 2011

Heartache for everyone

The cat was ill yesterday. Milton has been remarkably healthy for his near 10 years, so I tend to go on high alert when he shows any signs of odd behavior.

Of course, I always seem to be on high alert.

I was able to get him into the vet this morning before I had to go back to physical therapy. I explained his symptoms and the vet listened sympathetically, but could find nothing overtly wrong with him: temperature was normal, ears and eyes were clear. I mentioned the blood panel first; it's been awhile since he had one and since he's getting older, I figured it might be worthwhile. The vet looked surprised (a client suggesting she should spend money!), but agreed that was the next course of action he'd suggest.

When I got Milton home, I gave him a bit more food, and he had a long and satisfying bath, then got up into the kitchen window to howl reprovingly at Olivier, his nemesis, who was up to some cat antics across the street. All pretty normal behavior, so I felt a bit better about his situation. I headed off to PT, where I was again poked and prodded, and then when the therapist asked me to stand up, I stood for a moment and then collapsed.

Completely. Unexpectedly. With no warning.

Fortunately, I was standing between two tables, and the therapist was prodding my hips to see how well aligned they were, so when I suddenly pitched to the right, she caught me at the waist and I was able to grab a table as I fell.

"What was that?" she asked, shaken.

"I think my leg buckled," I replied, equally shaken, and not entirely certain what had happened. Since this started, the muscles in my leg have refused to support me on a few occasions when I was going up or down stairs or a slope, but I haven't just dropped while standing still.

I got home after that excitement, and made myself lunch, and proceeded with my afternoon. The cat seemed pretty normal.

But tonight, he began to act as if he were ill again. He refused his dinner and is hiding right now. I've racked my brains today over what could be bothering him. I can't think of any poisons with which he might have come into contact. There've been no changes in food.

The vet has promised to call me tomorrow with his blood results.

The therapist has promised to send a report to my doctor.

I just want my cat to be better. I've imagined every possible terrible disease that could be plaguing him but I can't imagine my world without him, especially not now.

My own fate seems pretty well sealed after what happened today.

Go listen to some good music: "Heartache for Everyone" from the album All That We Let In by Indigo Girls. As I finished this, Milton appeared, bouncing, to finish his dinner. I am confused. And tired. And a bit disheartened. But seeing him eat up the food in his bowl made me feel a little better. Sleep and then a new beginning.

13 January 2011


I count.

I count my steps. At 7, nerves are on fire, muscles shatter against bone. I stagger onward to 20, stop with gratitude, stretch the ankle all directions, breathe again as the flames ease and the muscles give way. I straighten my shoulders and begin again. 1...2...3...

I count.

I count the number of times I push the button at the stoplight. Half the time I am unaware that I am counting. It's nonsensical and I stop in surprise as I whisper "...12," then find myself continuing onward to 20. There is no point in pushing the walk button 20 times. I know this. It's an exercise in benign aggression.

I count.

I count beats and breaths. This sends me across the floor, in and out of the wings, predicates how long I hold a leg in the air, the number of times I leap or spin or turn. I count in silence, holding perfectly still, waiting for the light to go out.

I count.

I count the number of repetitions per side of each exercise. Right now, I tire quickly, and 12 leg lifts seem to take an eternity. I think of Gabrielle Giffords lying in her hospital bed, struggling to open her eyes, and I roll over to the other side and begin again. I roll onto my stomach, push myself up on my elbows, and count the seconds with the stop watch until two minutes has passed. If I count, I discount the pain.

I count the number of seconds that I hold each stretch, along with repetitions of the exercise and every breath I take to ensure that I am breathing. In pain, it is so easy to stop breathing, to hold the breath while willing the eternity of discomfort to end so that one can take another. I count, and at three, my leg refuses to respond. My brain sends signal after furious signal to it, but it lies dead, unyielding, deaf to my brain's appeal, twitching and spasming of its volition.

I count the muscles quivering under my yoga pants. The therapist clucks and digs her fingers into my thigh, trying to quiet its involuntary motion. I will myself relax as the every other muscle in my body responds to my dead leg by locking up.

I count.

Go listen to some good music: "Marathon" from the album Power Windows by Rush. Back in 2002, when I tore up all the soft tissue in my ankle, "Marathon" and "Mission" were the two songs I listened to over and over again as I dragged myself around the neighborhood, learning how to walk correctly again, counting each step, adding a few more steps every day. The words helped me to find the strength to keep moving. I've never forgotten those long mornings, and in some ways it feels like a cruel joke to be back here again. But I remember, and I made it through that time, and every other time before and after. Somehow I'll make it through this time, too.

10 January 2011

I am your child

The son flew into LAX on Saturday night, returning from his community service sojourn to New Orleans, where he cleaned up estuaries, painted houses, cleaned up a charter school. We were waiting for him at United baggage claim.

Somehow, we missed his arrival down the stairs and escalators--the area was mobbed--and it wasn't until I saw some of his classmates that I realized he must have snuck past me.

I walked over to the baggage carousel where he and one of his teachers were waiting. He saw me quite suddenly, and he hurried over to me, arms outstretched, grabbing me in a huge, hard hug.

When did he get so strong?

"Mommy!" he squeaked, his face buried in my shoulder, even though he had to stoop to do so. It was done jokingly, but the quiet, "You have no idea how good it is to be home," was anything but jest.

"Hi, kid," I said, hugging him back.

My child.

Go listen to some music: "I am Your Child" from the album Barry Manilow I by Barry Manilow. I just saw this song listed under funeral songs. Yikes!

09 January 2011


This whole pill thing really goes against the grain. I don't take medicine! Worse, all the pills have to be taken with food. Which, you know could be great, except the steroid dose pack is making me sick to my stomach. So, eat much? Blargh.

(And it's funny, I just had a pear and some Stilton. Nom, right? Actually, right. But I ate the pear and the cheese because it's time for bedtime and meds, and I finished the pear and the cheese and went about my business, and suddenly my brain kicked in and yelled, "IDIOT. You ate so you could take the pills. So, TAKE THE PILLS!" Oh, yeah, pills. And now, I have to write fast before the narcotics kick in. And there are still lunches to be made...)

Anyway, I've had trouble eating since this whole fiasco began. There's something about the blowtorch effect of nerve pain that sort of dulls one's appetite. Which is something of a cosmic shrug in my book. I weigh what I'm supposed to, so I'm not looking to lose weight but a few missing pounds won't hurt me, either. What's really difficult is that it's making it tough to plan and cook meals. I have no real enthusiasm for that task at the moment, so last week, there was spaghetti, then sandwiches, then a ham and turkey pie made with leftovers, and macaroni and cheese. This week is looking like--well, whatever it was looking like just scuttled straight out of my brain. You see what I'm facing here?

Didn't I say I have to make lunches?

Anyway, this is making my life exceedingly boring. I can't exercise (yeah, half hour of light weights today, anyway. I mean, honestly), I don't want to eat, I can't sit for long...I've taken the opportunity to catch up on movies (An Education, Italian for Beginners, Greenberg. I swear I've written all this already...and did I mention that I'm finally seeing all the commercials my family is always talking about. Slam Chop, or whatever it's called. Medicare scams R Us. Take this little pill. If you took that little pill and have experienced death, call us for a free legal consultation. I mean, really?)

I know I said something about lunches. Best quit while I'm ahead...

Heh. I'm back. I wandered off to finish the final formatting, somehow got involved in reading old posts, forgot what I was doing...

Right. Lunches.

Go listen to some good music: "Pills" from the album 20th Century Masters - Millenium Collection: The Best of the New York Dolls by The New York Dolls. And, yay! The nausea has started up right on schedule!

08 January 2011

Wild world

We took the daughter to a high school open house today; we are finalizing applications and this is the place she really hopes to attend next year. It was informative and felt sort of adventurous, and I think the daughter is both excited and terrified at the prospect.

Everything seems to be happening today, a strange confluence of events and collisions: a party, a photography show I wanted to see, the son returning from NOLA, a Pentathlon scrimmage that conflicted with the high school open house.

We finally got home this afternoon, and I collapsed on the sofa with the daughter. Uncharacteristically, I flipped on the TV.

A face from my childhood on CNN. He is now, and has been for some years, Pima County sheriff. He and his family were friends of our family for many years; three of his daughters were at high school with me. We had sleepovers and barbecues. When I grew up there, Tucson was a small place. I knew the mayor, most of the police department, various city officials. I had dinner several times with the man who not long afterward would become a U.S. senator; his daughter and I were taking a babysitting class together. No one blinked at any of this, or even really thought twice about it. Everyone knew everyone else. It was a very small pond.

After blinking, and saying to the daughter, "Wow, I know him," what he was saying sunk in.

What a terrible day for Tucson. The human race loses again.

Go listen to some good music: "Wild World" from the album Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens. If you've read here long, you're aware that I'm not affiliated with any political party, and that I find party politics largely reprehensible. This country is deeply mired in trouble and has more problems than solutions. What happened today is not the answer to any problem, setting aside the question of the gunman's agenda and mental health.

07 January 2011

It's alright...

Without going into too much detail, this has not been a great couple of days. Okay, not a great couple of weeks.


Nevermind. Really, I'm so grateful to those of you who've kept me close whether you knew what I've been going through or not; you've lifted my spirits immeasurably: Mrs. D, who told my daughter her mother is "awesome" and she wished there were 30 or so more of me around (I laughed. No one has ever wanted more of me.); C. who just told me she'd really missed me passing books on to her; Dr. T, DJC, and the spouse who went to bat for me in a major way today, whether we're successful or not; D. who is appreciative of whatever I send her, even if it's some bizarre grain she's never heard of; AT who is more worried about me than I am; Mrs. K. and Dr. W who gracefully took care of an issue that was preying on my mind; everyone who entertains me, whether you know I'm listening, watching and reading, or not.

I keep very much to myself, particularly at times like this, and I believe that goodwill comes from others because they are kind people. It never really occurs to me that sometimes that goodwill is really very personal. Thank you, you darlings who populate my world, for being there in so many capacities.

Go listen to some good music: "Here Comes the Sun" from the album Abbey Road by the Beatles. Really awful day with some really awful news (and a little good news), but I've got some really awesome people.

04 January 2011

Second guessing

An MRI has been scheduled. I've been given enough prednisone to...well, I've been given alot. And stuff to knock me out at night. Between the peculiarly searing sense of nerves on fire, and the nightmares that have accompanied the brief descents into a doze, I've not slept much since this started.

(I swear this isn't going to become the ill health blog. I haven't got time for that anyway. I haven't got time for what's happening to me.)

The doctor lets her dog hang in the office, a sweet, well-behaved pooch, and she came up to me to check me out. It's been awhile since I visited the office, but she came over to say hello, and then she wandered off to visit with some others who were waiting, and then she came back to me, a frown furrowing her broad face. She lowered her head and gently butted me in the knee, then nuzzled the area that is numb, resting her head against me with a sigh. I rubbed her shoulder and told her she was a perceptive pup. Milton, too, has climbed on me, mewing in distress, circling me and trying to settle in on me. I can't sit still long enough for him, though. I know I stink of stress and pain. My blood pressure is through the roof, so much so that the nurse--who always teases me about being dead because I have no discernible temperature, heart beat or blood pressure--murmured in astonishment.

I've already done my homework: both of the surgeons we know, the one who operated on the son and the one who took care of the spouse, do spinal surgery. I am prepared for this, what I consider the worst. Our lady of the ultimate disambiguation, our lady of NO, already realizes there may not be a way out of this.

I'm not excited about the MRI. Looking at my insides seems like voodoo, strange magic. And I worry over what might show up along with the gush of intervertebral goo. Tumors? Irregularities? The surgeon who longed to take apart my head rhapsodized over how far out of normal my skeleton is, drew rhombuses and parallelograms illustrating where I should be.

To me, it just looked like a skull, a neck, delicate tracery of clavicle.

I always tell my loved ones: don't anticipate, don't second guess, don't borrow trouble. I tell them not to do precisely what I am doing now. But I am looking at the long term, everything that starts soon, requires my attention, my participation.

And all I can do is wait.

Go listen to some good music: "Second Guessing" from the album Reckoning by REM. Don't worry, really; other than the pain and weakness, I'm doing pretty well. Poor AT called me last night so distressed, while I was laughing at the sheer stupidity of this situation. Of course, she said the same thing that everyone else is saying: if anyone is going to bulldoze her way to healing, it's going to me. Ye gods, what do I do to give you people these ideas?

02 January 2011

Trying to repair it any way you can

The son and I have packed his suitcase; tomorrow, he leaves for New Orleans to spend a week helping to build houses. I am a veteran when it comes to packing, even for these school trips.

But how I dislike sending them off.

The last time I was in New Orleans, I was pregnant with the boy. It was deep summer, and morning sickness hit me there for the first time. All I really remember of that trip--besides trying to ask coherent questions of a database vendor--was the stifling heat and humidity, and the smell--of horse, of highly-spiced food, of car exhaust, of river water. Everything made me sick. Including talking to the database vendors. Richard Simmons, bouncy in his tiny shorts and tank top, was on my early morning flight back to Los Angeles, and I remember sitting there in the near empty waiting area, blearily staring at him speaking angrily to the person who was with him. The whole week was a nauseous nightmare, and I've never been able to convince myself to return, though earlier visits were lovely, and I have pleasant memories of sitting in Cafe du Monde with beignets and coffee.

And though I dread spending the week worrying about him, which I will, which I always do, I am glad, at least, that he will be doing something useful. His school's version of community service is often along the lines of "donate $5 to send a soccer ball to a child in the Middle East." While I've no doubt there are children in the Middle East who might benefit from a soccer ball, I'd rather his service be somewhat more hands on, somewhat more tangible, and I'd rather that he help the disadvantaged in his own country, who it seems we are so willing to forget exist. The spouse and I both had work related to the disaster that was Katrina, and so much of the devastation was unimaginable, unmeasurable. None of us can fix that mess alone, but we've all put our back up against it in different ways.

But I worry about him going. I worry so much about him going.

And while he is gone, I will have a challenging week of my own. Decisions. Finding the right man with a sledgehammer to remove that bathroom. Helping the daughter finalize her high school application, even while she has to start the final run at the science fair.

And me. The reassuring noises about rest and healing. But I walked two miles today, and could barely manage that. Exercise, I am told, is a great healer of this problem. What is not reassuring is that I already exercise 6 days a week. I'm fretful with pain, fussed over numbness and muscle weakness, furious over what I can't accomplish on my own. I am told that 90% of all cases resolve without surgery, but I'm always in the 10% that lands on the operating table.

(This is a ploy. If I make enough noise about it, it's going to heal without surgery, right? To make me look like a silly hypchondriac. Trust me, I'll take it on the chin as a silly hypochondriac if it keeps me off the table.)

I have too much happening this year to be sidelined by another injury. Not that in the end I let much stop me.


Go listen to some good music: "X&Y" from the album X&Y by Coldplay. As I finished writing, I thought about what LS said last week...about how I would stop at nothing to do what I wanted and needed to do, whatever the cost. And I felt it was a little meanspirited, but she is right. And today, when I came back from walking, the spouse was relieved, pointedly noting that there is, of course, no way to stop me. "Yeah," I sighed, "I know. I'm stupid." "Not stupid," he replied, "just very stubborn." But without that determination, where would I be?