Tuesday, August 30, 2011

a jaunt through my head on a tuesday morning

I confess...I fear this will be quite disjointed.  I do have a book to review but am leaning towards doing "two-fers" these days since I'm reading faster.  And I have a number of things swirling in my brain but oddly don't feel inclined towards bulletpoints.

Today makes it official.  I haven't really been sure what to call my legal status in the past months but the divorce is truly final today.  It is honestly just a paper milestone since it has long been final in my head and soul.  My mom asked how I was doing and noted it was okay to be a bit sad.  I think I got that all out already though.  I've got a lot of struggle in my life right now, but my relationship with MM is NOT one of those things and I think I needed to see that a paper match didn't mean a life match before I was ready to see MM.  He's awesome and somehow thinks I'm awesome..which is awesome.

The job front, however, still sucks.  I was really upset to lose out on one position.  I even trudged my butt in a week after major surgery (when most people are proud to sit up for 20min straight) for a three hour interview AND prepared a 20min presentation beforehand.  Seriously, I doubt anyone else showed more commitment and I'm pissy that they might have already picked the winner and still had me in...I know there are formalities places go through but it is just cruel to use someone in my state as a place-filler.  I thought I nailed it too, which makes it suck more.

Of course, that does mean I'm home (transition sentence!) and able to greet service folks.  The plumber had been out last week.  Actually, he was here on Tuesday AM and I had the life scared out of me when the house shook just moments after my shower.  Normally, I'd have guessed earthquake but, given the timing, I totally went to "plumbing explosion" instead.  Anyway, plumber needed to return yesterday to re-fix stuff.  About 10min before the appointed time, I actually spotted him in the driveway and started my waddle to the door only to see hm back out and leave.  About 30min later (20min post-appt), I called the guy and got VM but he pulled in a moment later.  He said he'd decided no one was home since there wasn't a car in the driveway so he'd just left.  No knock.  He's been here ONCE.  Betty is getting her annual checkup (i.e. inspection) and there actually IS a garage too.  Seriously, LEAVING b/c a car you saw ONCE isn't there.  Odd customer care.

Of course, I hadn't been speedy to the door.  I do think I'm improving but I can tell as soon as the meds wear off.  My spine has a lot of spasms and tightness through its whole length.  I hadn't really though of it, but when you fix the bottom discs, the whole spine realigns to correct in turn.  Not fun but kinda interesting that my body is largely fixing itself (with the doc's prodding).  I do think the pain is different which may bode well for success.  Less glute and radiating leg pain which makes sense...that was the injury and it wouldn't readjust like the spine.  My belly is still tender but I'm trying to let the incision get oxygen and leave it uncovered.  I'm also Mederma-ing to make it look less Frankensteiny.  I have scars from my laproscopies but those are in the bikini area and teeny.  My belly isn't a very public domain, but I still want to do what I can to reduce scarring for my own sake.

I continue to feel the need to declare loudly that the doc aid it was one of the worst discs he's seen in years.  The guy focuses on spines so sees several a week and only really sees 'em if they are troublesome so that says a lot.  Back pain gets so many raised eyebrows and lots of "oh, my back hurts sometimes" and it is so good to have validation that my pain was REAL and I wasn't just a whiny hypochondriac.  Between endo and back troubles, I've had a lot of experience with pain and none of it "visible".  Validation is invaluable.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I confess...I really only have a couple "moments" in mind as I start this but expect I'll feel inclined to add more...

  • At TGI Fridays for dinner last night, I spotted a toddler walking a bit and gszing at me (Mom was close behind so no worries).  Not sure why, but this kid was FASCINATED by me.  She said "hi" just once but visited several times.  Each time, she walked up (we were in a very small booth...one to a side deal) and placed her hand lightly on my forearm and then just stared up at me for a good minute.  She wouldn't shake hands or say a word.  Mom clearly made sure I was cool with it and said she visits a lot when waiting but she'd never seen her reach out physically to a stranger.  I've had young girls go for the hair, but nothing like this.  Total pool of melty-ness where my heart had been.  After the fact, I have decided she was trying to make me get better.
  • After dinner, we stopped at BK.  They advertised a new soft-serve machine.  My love for McD's cones is well-documented but BK is MUCH closer and I needed to try (verdict: good, but not the same).  We were near home.  To call our town a suburb of State College is overstating the size of both SC and our town, but it gives the concept.  We share a border and I'd refer to SC if asked where I live by non-locals.  An older man stopped us as we were leaving.  MM had his fancy fun car and the guy wanted to chat about it and share his own fast-driving tales.  One involved a drive to Philly.   He presumed we knew the goal of "City Line Drive" (we do but we'e both from out that way.....3.5h or so).  However, before embarking on the tale, he kindly checked: "Do you know where State College is?"  We were nice and said "Yes" (and too baffled to say anythig else) but I'm curious what he'd had said if we said "No."  "Well, see it is about three miles that way and likely where 75% of this town works and plays."
  • In early elementary school (age 7 1/2), Gloria hit NYC.  A benefit of apartment dwelling is one can still visit a friend during a hurricaine and I very vividly recall standing at Michael W.'s window looking out.  We felt so very wise as we remarked people might be confused but should not think the storm was done because it was actually just the eye of the hurricaine.  I have rarely in life felt so incredibly knowledgable.  Though I will admit I still experience moments where I doubt the general public.
  • I have become a huge fan of "Linner".  Why save combo meals for Brunch?  I love a 2:30 main meal with lighter fare in the evening.  Actually, I guess that's pretty European.  Which explains why it is uncommon to find others doing it in the quiet world of Central PA (which I actually LOVE, even if I'm shaking my head a bit today at small town life).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Readin' Machine -- Reviews of Irma Voth (Miriam Toews) and Lost in America (Colby Buzzell)

I confess...I'm plowing through the books while in recovery-and-rest mode.

Irma Voth is one of the books I might have picked up on my own but gladly accepted as an advanced copy from Harper.  I was not familiar with the author, although she does have another best-seller under her belt. 

This is the story of a 19 year-old girl who was raised in a Mennonite community in Mexico but whose father disavowed her when she married outside the community.  But, showing his controlling ways, he had her stay in a house he owned and work for the farm, while ignoring her and asking the rest of the family to do the same.  The marriage proves a disaster and her husband has all but disappeared.  Irma becomes involved in a movie being filmed in the community, again incurring wrath from her father, and eventually explores the world a bit further.  She remains close with a younger sister, although they do so in secret b/c their father will not permit them to speak.  I'm not going to go further since the plot isn't fully disclosed in advance.

The writing is in Irma's voice.  It is generally simple prose but Irma shows a spark of natural wit.  She is asked to translate for the movie producer and, without much comment to the reader about the decision, makes up her own lines instead.  She is pretty clear-eyed and generally an honest narrator, her only blindness being taking fault for the failed marriage when it is pretty clearly her husband that failed.  Irma's style makes the book go VERY fast....which I actually usually dislike b/c I like more time with my "new friends" (and b/c of cost issues).  But, despite some heavy topics, it is really a fun style.  The voice makes it different from the run-of-the-mill tale of a young adult rebelling against her strict world.

4 stars.  With a particular appreciation that it never criticizes the Mennonite world Irma comes from...her father's a jerk and the world is isolated, but the community is never painted in a bad light (which I think other stories can do.
I love that reading for Harper let's me explore outside my usual fiction rules.  I don't read a ton of memoirs but was very intrigued by Colby Buzzell's Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey.  The Iraq war vet who had recently lost his mother and had his first child (the former gets a lot more discussion in the text), sets out with the instruction to live a modern-day On The Road.  With a few interruptions, he travels in an old car, focusing on towns tourists tend to skip, back-roads, and less-than-savory motels.  He has a clear interest in the underbelly world...by that, I mean more the very working-class,  simple folks that people often overlook (and who have been hit hard by the economy).  Usually, he mentions but doesn't encounter a heavy-duty criminal element.

This was a quick read.  And I enjoyed it at times.   I usually note I need to find characters interesting, but not necessarily likeable.  Maybe this just doesn't translate for memoirs because not being a fan of the author, who plows through too much liquor and is ignoring the fact that he has a wife and son, really impacts me in this case.  I'd normally feel reticent to say that...I'm guilt-prone and don't want to insult...but I don't think Buzzell would care.  I also think he tends to gloss over the fact that he ISN'T just one of the "trying to make ends meet" types he pals around with...he has a book deal, an existing writing career, and is able to fly away a couple times during the journey (with really no note about how incongruous this is to his "I'm one of them" style). 

It is an easy read and part of me did have fun with it, but I'm stuck at 3 stars for the taste it left behind.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ramble ramble

I confess...I'm bullet-pointing but will warn you that most still have a post-op theme. 
  • Five-and-a-half months till projected recovery is less than six months...every day is one less.
  • I've had HORRID eating habits.  MM goes back to work tomorrow and I'm going back to eating well.  I will NOT deprive myself.  I NEED food to heal, especially protein.  My body may only walk 1m a day, not 9 (and a slow one), but healing burns calories.  The scale is up a bit but not terribly which is proof (and it is in a range I told myself was fine as a post-op spike).
  • Read two more books since my review post last week (Harper ones)...reviews to come.  One more on my to-read shelf and three en route (used via Amazon...all under a buck so shipping still made them a good deal).
  • Shocking discovery a few weeks ago: I totally love beef jerky.  Seriously.  I'd NEVER EVER have imagined that one.  Frankly, it was available the day after a bit too much fun (our last pre-op hurrah) and I NEED food in that state.  But I've had it totally un-hungover and still found it additively good.
  • Still love Pizza Mia for fireballs, cookies, and wraps, but Hofbrau may win for pizza.  Even if they lack a website (and delivery).
  • More in character...I also love Vitamin Water Zero and Lifewater 0.  I know they aren't health food, but they are yummy.  And it is easier on my tummy these days than too many bubbles.
  • We fed the duckies again today.  There are now two gimpy ducks.  I did my part for my duckie-counterparts to ensure they got lots of bread.
  • Waddle, waddle.  The person who has me hooked on this song (well, actually only this line...'cause I kinda waddle), knows who she is.
  • Major thanks to the lady on the back forum ho suggested I might be a bit allergic to the steri-strips.  Removing them (w/ the doc nod...they usually fall off but it had been long enough that it was safe to "help" them) did WONDERS for the itching that I blamed on healing.
  • You meet a lot of people when you wear a brace.  Today, I was asked (politely) if I'd had back surgery and if it worked.  A bit too early to tell but liked being a bit helpful with some info on the experience.
  • Small town love -- We were heading on our walk (short walks are a recovery must for this surgery) and the mail-lady was a few doors away.  She flagged us down b/c she recognized me and needed a signature.  I signed and then she brought it to the door with the rest of the mail.  Loved that she knew me AND went out of her way to make the day a bit easier by saving me a trip to the PO.
  • Looking forward to revisiting Pushing Daisies and exploring Wonderfalls thanks to a lovely friend from girlhood who remains on my list of awesome folks 25 years later.  Been watching my gift-to-myself DVDs of Community season 1.  TV on DVD rocks when your medical state makes committing to a movie a bit hard sometimes.
  • My days are going to feel long w/o my treadmill time (and with MM back to work tomorrow).  I have my walks, but they aren't (and shouldn't be) as long.  Which makes the second bullet-point an extra challenge.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two Reviews, Vastly Different Tales: Room (Emma Donoghue) and The Passage (Justin Cronin)

I confess...I'm not feeling very blog-erly.  I'm just exhausted.  I know this is to be expected, that my prior surgeries where I was up and running the next day, are NOT good reference points and recovery is in months, not days.  But it still sucks.

I do, however want to post two reviews.  Neither is a Harper book, both were Amazon purchases aimed at recovery time...one as a treat I'd wanted to read, the other recommended highly by friends.

  • Room by Emma Donoghue
Room by Emma Donoghue was one of the most talked about books of 2010.  It is told from the point of view of Jack, a five year-old boy who has only known life in the small room where his mother has been held captive for many years.  This is Jack's "normal"...he does have TV and considers things like the ocean to be just television, whereas the Table and Wardrobe (where his mom has him hide when the captor visits at night and Jack counts the bed squeaks) are "real."  It is in the early stages of the book that his mom tries to explain that the world is bigger than she previously allowed him to know.

There's a lot of great craft here.  Jack personifies the objects in the room because they are all he has.  His mother has done an amazing job giving richness to their limited world and he has a great deal of difficulty comprehending the outside world.  The language is very much that of a child and it takes some adjustment to get used to the voice. 

I'd give this 3.5 stars and will round up to 4 for the half-star-phobic rating sites.  I liked it, I just didn't LOVE it.  The characters were well-done.  Jack's mother is an amazing parent but also definitely flawed, which I appreciate.  Jack's view feels on-point.  Without all the hype, I might have been at four stars without the rounding...it's always hard to live up to being so talked about. 
I wouldn't have picked up The Passage on my own.  I'd heard the author last summer and liked that he followed his daughter's request to write about a girl who saved the world, but the zombie-vampire epic didn't turn my head.  But the husband of a close friend, and then the friend herself, urged me to reconsider.  It also seemed like a good fit, frankly, for the timing...I started it in the hospital and finished in the first week or so following major surgery and it seemed like it would be attention-holding but not too "literary" and thus approachable in a less-than-ideal time.

There are distinct parts to The Passage, itself the first installment of a trilogy (the others haven't been released yet).  In the first section, they establish the background of a military-tied project involving a virus intended to create an immortal super-warrior that goes horribly awry and creates demon-like creatures.  The test subjects are largely criminals on death row but the agent in charge of bringing the subjects to the lab is also sent for a young girl, Amy, with whom he connects deeply.  Amy is infected but has very different results than the others and, after the other virals break free and wreak havoc, she and the agent eventually run off to find safety.  The second section picks up decades later when North America has been overrun with the creatures.  After Amy arrives at the Colony, an encampment of people in a society constructed behind fortified walls, a party makes efforts to explore the world beyond the walls and find hope in a very despondent world.

As many reviewers have said, I found the first section (which is MUCH shorter) to be more compelling that the latter.  This is an epic in many senses, it spans a century and pits man against "beast."  It does, however, get more complex.  Not all of the creatures are truly evil but rather shown to be victims in their own right (albeit victims with blood-lust).  I did find it very compelling...it got tedious at times but generally didn't feel burdensome or unnecessarily long.  I'm falling back on my frequent 3.5 star rating, good but not great and I'm not sure if I will seek out the sequels (maybe if I get them cheap).  I will round up to 4 simply because I think it does what it sets out to do and I want to judge it on those terms.  It was certainly more than I'd have expected and the prodding was worthwhile.

Monday, August 15, 2011

the post-op rundown (LONG)

I confess...I've been playing with the contents of a "real" post-op post in my head.  Which totally means I'll miss something.  I'm going to share this on a health bulletin board with a back forum so it may include details my usual visitors aren't as interested in but that might help a future patient.

I'd been struggling with back pain for years and run through more moderate treatments like epidurals (seriously, not sure mom-hood is in my picture, but I'm not doing that again without getting a cute baby in return) and stints with two physical therapists.  An MRI, a bone scan, and a discogram (not fun but not as scary as Google had me fear) pointed to the L5/S1 disc as the culprit.  This is a pretty common trouble point and takes a LOT of one's body weight.  The initial diagnosis had been an annular tear but that was "upgraded" to degenerative disc disease ("DDD") by my latest doc.  I'd been sent to this guy by Doctor Dad....both are neurosurgeons in the same practice and this guy is pretty much a spine expert.  This meant a 2+ hour commute but definitely meant I got stars by my name both in the office and the hospital (I was on a "spine" ward).

I went in for an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion ("ALIF" for the in-the-know crowd) on Monday 8/8.  I'd had 5 surgeries before but all were on the minor end and none involved a stay at the hospital.  I got more nervous as it approached but the pain also got worse by the day which ensured I wouldn't back out.  MM and my father checked me in (my step-mom joined later) and my mom and step-dad arrived just a bit before they put me under.  I'm terrified of IVs but they did a decent job (and waited till I was under to start a second...though that confused me when I woke up since I wasn't aware it would be there).  MM and Teddy were with me till I was asleep.

The hospital staff get MAJOR props for the fact that Teddy was there when I woke up.  Yes, I'm 33 and wanted my Teddy....he's always good to squeeze when pain hits and just is comforting.  That may have been standard fare since I was clearly terrified before, but I'll admit special treatment when Doctor Dad came to see me in recovery  Usually, guests aren't welcome there but he visited and asked that MM be allowed to come back.  Seriously, MM gets a Best In Show ribbon for the recovery room time.  Due to delays in discharge (they keep spine patients grouped so I needed a room on a specific ward), I was in the recovery room for FIVE HOURS (should be more like one).  MM refused an offered chair till they brought it anyway.  He held my hand and stroked my hair (Dr. Dad was thrown by the request to "pet my head"...that's when he suggested MM would be better).  MM told me he loved me every 15 minutes and told me I'm beautiful, impressive when you have wires everywhere including oxygen and a catheter.  MM never left my side.  I told him he could go (and send a replacement) so he could sit more comfortably and play online or something but he refused.  I imagine we made a sight as I was a bit out of it and he got so tired he was resting on my bed rail.  Although it was NOWHERE near as serious, I was reminded of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting saying the staff knew visiting hours didn't apply to him .

After five hours, the recovery nurse said a room was open.  The Ward folks wanted to wait to give me a nicer one (as they do for any friend or relative) but luckily the recovery nurse stepped in and said they should ask and I took it in a second.  Honestly, I could care less that it wasn't the largest room (like most on the ward, it was private), I just wanted out of recovery.  They wheeled me up (MM followed) and the four parents joined soon after. The rest of that day is fuzzy.

My Mom & stepdad came the next morning (Dad and stepmom waited since they had the post-discharge shift) and stayed all day.  Props for sitting in uncomfortable chairs for hours on end when I was hardly interesting.  While I'm still not a fan for myself, their Kindles definitely helped.  I did have a catheter that was removed on Tuesday (not nearly as terrifying as I imagined).  That did mean ringing an aid every time I needed to move and learning the "log roll" technique for getting in and out of bed (fall to your side, prop up on elbow, drop legs, push to seated).  MM (who stayed till mid-afternoon) showed off his experience at such things (he has ailing parents) with quite the skill at helping me swing my legs to bed.

PT made a quick visit with the basic BLT rules on Tues...no bending, lifting, or twisting for many months.  I knew I was in bad shape when this didn't make me want bacon (though I was thrilled to be upgraded to broader liquids and get tomato soup at dinner).  I also got my brace and a visit from the respiratory folks with a breathing "toy" to help build back my lungs. 

Wednesday and Thursday went quicker than one might think.  I didn't sleep much, despite medicinal help...the first night I needed an aide's help even to shift a bit).  My Mom came to the first real PT visit on Wednesday...silly woman probably thought she was done watching me learn to walk and climb steps.  They opted to order a walker to help with my shakiness.  OT (occupational therapy...life skills, not job stuff) went over stuff one never considers like putting on socks, getting in a car, and opening a fridge.  OT seemed never to have gotten my query about avoiding becoming a Sasquatch, though PT helped her suggest Nair (totally failed...darn Italian hair....but a folding chair and trust in knowing I can shave w/o actually seeing my calf did work).  I got stronger and better at my log roll....eventually able to do it myself once I figured out the bed lowering button.

I was discharged around 5 on Thursday and stayed with my Dad and step-mom till mid-Saturday.  Very little has ever been as welcome as the shower when I got there (had to keep the doors open and use my newly acquired sponge-on-a-stick to avoid bending).  Both were helpful nurses and mighty careful of me.  Props to the step-nephews for sharing their "Mimi" time and helping move the stool that served as my table.  I did overdo things Friday simply by sitting too much...my team didn't limit sitting beyond saying to readjust every 30min, but I just underestimated the energy it took and paid for it at night.

MM has the week off and is a patient caretaker, cleaner of spills, and picker-upper of fallen items.  A lot of my pain is at the incision on my belly.  I also have a good deal of spasm-y pain in my back and stiffness all around.  I wear the brace whenever I'm up except for my shower and it will be around for a few months.  I've learned how OFTEN we bend...seriously, I have to go on my toes and pivot at my hips to spit out toothpaste.  I have also learned my years of picking things up with my toes can come in quite handy as long as I bring the foot all the way up to my hand instead of meeting it partway (though bigger things require the "grabby" tool from OT).  I've gotten used to the log roll for bed but need a mental check for a lot of things.  I don't need the walker at home but did take it when we made a store run, partly for the distance but more to alert other people that I need space.   I have a meeting tomorroe and plan to bring it for the same reason....the brace is visible but the walker is more so.  Also, I am struggling already with the food and body demons.  Recovery is SIX MONTHS but I need to remind myself compliance is key to results.

I have a follow-up in a month to check the progress. I was able to avoid a graft so have titanium cages in place of the disc and a protein sponge to encourage the bone to grow. Kinda cool that the surgeon facilitates it but it is really my body that will make the fusion work. The doc, who does multiple disc surgeries a week, said my disc was one of the worst he's seen in YEARS.  This is good on two counts: 1) It is a HUGE amount of validation...both back and endo patients know that people can doubt your pain, the doc was VERY clear it was VERY real and quite bad; 2) It means a great chance that the surgery will be a success since the disc was clearly a culprit and I have good stats (age, size) for recovery. 

Lessons for others facing similar surgery:
  • Tell people, including the nursing and aid staff, how to help you.  No way Teddy would have been there if I hadn't talked about him being a comfort ahead of time.
  • Have them close your room door.  I thought it'd be too dark the first night so had them crack it but there's really never total dark in a hospital room.
  • Compromise with concerned caregivers.  I wanted to shower alone but agreed to an open door and a few check-in shouts. 
  • 5 and 3yo kids are overjoyed to help.  I asked the 3yo to move a stool and then had to let the 5yo re-move it so he could help too :P
  • Tegaderm bandages are easier to pull off than tape (and shower-friendly).  My incision is below the navel so I especially appreciate this at the lower edge where the tape hit "fuzzy" areas.
  • Follow the rules but also know yourself.  My talent at picking things up with my toes make the grabby less essential.  And the struggle to shave was BEYOND worth it in the feeling-human department.
  • Useful things: sponge-on-a-stick (OT gave me one but bought a nicer one), a hospital-like tray table (standing and able to slide under stuff...not the breakfast-in-bed kind), good conditioner, a magazine for the bathroom (TMI, but it took time...), bendy straws, books that are engrossing but not too challenging to read, other books to stack under nightstand essentials to make them reachable

Guest Blogging for Another Blogger Recovering from Surgery -- Relationships & Chronic Pain

I confess....I find so much comfort in finding other blogs from women dealing with issues similar to my own.  I hate that others suffer from chronic illness as well, but there's a comfort in not being alone.  Endo hasn't been at the top of my mental list lately, but it is a condition that can be very lonely.  So, I've enjoyed reading Jamee's thoughts at A New Kind of Normal.  And I'm excited to share a guest post I prepared for her...ironically, she just had surgery herself and had assembled guest posts in advance.

Here's a link to my guest post on Relationships & Chronic Pain. 

And here's a mental wish for a quick recovery for Jamee and for the surgery to be a rousing success.  She's a total fighter who manages to keep a great spirit despite having a nasty battle with endo that even a hysterectomy failed to solve.  And she's got an adorable little girl :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quick Post-Op

I confess...I can't really write much yet but wanted to note I was discharged yesterday (late afternoon Thurs).  The doc said my disc was very much trashed which makes it clearer that it was the pain source and very likely the surgery will help.  I can get around the house without my walker but need it is I leave.  Getting in and out of bed is tough and requires a log-roll technique b/c I'm not allowed to arch.  The main rules are summed as no BLT....bending, lifting, and twisting.  Seriously, you have no clue how often you do those things.  The brace isn't fun and I need to wear it if I'm out of bed for more than 10-20min, but it does help remind me of the rules.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I confess....I'm scared.  I believe in the docs and trust they will do well, but I'm still scared....

  • I'm scared of the IV because I've often been hard to start.
  • I'm scared of gaining weight.
  • I'm scared my body won't do it's job and heal.  It is supposed to grow bone over the insert and I'm scared it won't do it right because it has so often betrayed me.
  • I'm scared of being so reliant on others, even though I have such a great support team.
  • I'm scared of being bored and sad and frustrated.
  • I'm scared of those emotions leading to comfort eating above and beyond what might be considered a "treat" for myself.
  • I'm scared of dealing with the forced rest.
  • I'm scare of gaining weight (yes, I said that twice...if I were honest, it would be 2/3 of the bullet-points.
  • I'm scared of having trouble with little things...some people have talked about difficulty, ummmm...well...wiping.  I am NOT asking for help on that one (though did by wet nap style Charmin).
  • I'm scared of losing the biceps and triceps and all the other muscles that I worked so hard for and that are such a source of self-validation.
  • I'm scared of scaring off or abusing MM.  He's given me NO reason for this and he is SUCH a good support system, but I'm still scared of taking too much from him.
  • I'm scared of forgetting my titanium ID card and getting difficulty at the airport or elsewhere.  I believe in good screening and think people complain too much about the TSA.  It is unlikely I'll set of alarms, and they give me a note in case, but it still is in my head.
  • I'm scared of pain.  Both the short-term and the possibility of it not helping.
  • I'm scared of gaining weight (come on, y'all know me and can't be surprised).
Truth, it would be wrong and off if I wasn't scared.  But I don't usually get anxious (likewise, I don't get overly worked up in positive suspense either)...I take the days as they come, which has its pluses and minuses. 

Check-in is in 16h.  Putting on my brave face.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Good Muslim by Tahima Anam -- Partisan but Solid Tale of a Young Nation, Family, and Religion

I confess....I hurried to finish this one to get the review up before my absence.

When I selected The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam as an advance read from my lovely Harper friends, I didn't realize that it was the second book in a series of three about a Bangladeshi family.  It may have been a different read had I read the prior novel, but I didn't feel disadvantaged by that and TGM can stand fine on its own.  I think I've steered clear of my love for 3.5 stars for a while, but this novel calls me back to it and I'm quite torn on rounding for the half-star phobic sites.  I've decided to go up to 4 stars, but it is with a bit of hesitation.

There are two time periods addressed in TGW, the mid/late-70s immediately following the revolution that gave Bangladesh its independence and the mid-80s when it is ruled by an unnamed Dictator whom many feel went back on the principles for which they'd fought.  I'll admit to very little knowledge of this history.  The protagonist is a female doctor who was part of the revolutionary fight and, in the latter time frame, is returning home after having spent a number of years as a rural ob/gyn.  She had left in large part due to differences that arose when her brother made a very strong turn towards religion that alienated her and she returns upon his wife's death.  The family also includes their mother and the brother's son, a child who has received very little attention and with whom the doctor quickly bonds.

There are a thematic number of threads running through here.  There is the question of the revolution's success given the turn from initially liked leader to a dictator.  There is the issue of religion and fanaticism, including the impact it has when it is put ahead of family and other matters.  There is also a strong element of gender dynamics as the woman doctor relates stories of her patients, the suffering of women during and after the war as a result of rape being used as a weapon, and the doctor's own uncertainty about marriage and her career.  The author does a solid job pulling all this off, although it does feel pretty slanted and pointed.

The prose is pleasant and deep without being overpowering.  My hesitancy is in large part due to the fact that it feels overtly partisan.  Ironically, I don't necessarily disagree with the positions advanced but I do prefer authors who lead you to your own answers rather than pretty much wave them in front of you.  It is a good read, 3.5 stars is a solid rating in my world and is positive (I'm tough...when I was part of judging for admission to a journal in law school, they apparently noted that and would round an entry up if it was borderline and I was part of the panel).  I'd read the other books if they appeared on my table and maybe if I saw a stellar deal on them, but I also can't see myself seeking them out. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

yeah, yeah...more surgery rambles

I confess...it's all I can think about.  Okay, that's not true...I think 95% about surgery-related stuff  (anterior lumbar interbody fusion....aka spinal fusion...at L5/S1, set for early on Mon 8/8) and 5% about trying a Nutter Butter Blizzard.  The insurance stuff is dealt with so my only other task is to avoid catching a cold.  I managed to show up for a pre-op appointment for my first laproscopy with waking pneumonia...really this takes talent, folks...I actually didn't feel as awful as one would think but it meant the surgery had to be postponed.  I need this surgery, more each day, and I can't live like this.  Bring on the Vitamin C (don't know if it works, might as well try!).

I'm trying to get in what I can before I'm sidelined.  We had a very fun evening last Saturday, the type my 33 year old body can only handle a couple times a year.  Paid for it on Sunday, but it was a TON of fun and let us expand our friendship with one couple and meet some new folks too (and the bartender said she'll totally push "The Cheryl"..see the first bullet-point here).  I tried to clean the shower on Sunday and was reminded that I haven't been able to do much of that stuff in months but I was stubborn since I'll definitely be unable to do it soon.  I've also pushed through decent workouts and will hit the gym today for lower body, back, and core...delaying the muscle loss as long as possible.  I'll miss my cute "baby biceps."  I also need to bring the gym owner my "doctor's note" to pause my membership.  It's ironic, in junior high or high school, I'd have PAID for a note excusing me from gym for three to four MONTHS.  Now, it sorta made me cry

I've been working on preparing for recovery.  I have books stacked up, both my Harper review copies and some other purchases.  I also got a notification today that my DVD of Community Season One is en route.  I caught on to the show this year and love it, though do prefer the more organic episodes to some of those aimed at parodying certain film styles.  MM likes it too which is good.  I'll spend 2-3 days in the hospital and then be at my dad's for a bit to delay the car ride (sitting is really hard after a fusion...like 20min at a time hard...luckily the car seats recline well).  MM will take me home Fri or Sat and is taking the next week off (I didn't ask him too, he's just that awesome).  I told him I get the bedroom TV for silly stuff and he gets the living room, but he likes Community too so it is doubly good.  I also bought those ridiculous wet wipes for grownups...TMI but I read they can be a godsend.

The harder part is the mental prep.  I've talked a lot about the intricacies of chronic pain.  People ask how I can stand to work out when I'm hurting, from the endo and, in recent years, the back.  It is pretty simple, if I waited till I was pain-free then I'd really never workout.  I like sweets too much for that....well, I like sweets AND fitting in my jeans  In the past, playing through pain was the RIGHT choice.  It is ultimately good to be at a healthy weight.  The endo could be worse with extra fat leading to more estrogen and the back would not be helped at all by excess weight).  The back docs have okayed my workouts and even encouraged the strength end (which, I'll admit, I dread but I love the results) as a first-round fight.  Once I get going, I often do feel better (gotta love endorphins) although I do get rebound pain that can be pretty bad later, esp from the endo.

Recovery is another ball game.  It is NOT good to push, especially early.  I need to learn to listen to my body and take it easy.  Walking is good.  One team member said he'd usually say unlimited walking but he knew not to do that with me.  A few 10min slow walks on even turf are good, nine miles (even slow as I've been forced to by the back) are not.  The fusion process involves encouraging my bones to grow around the insert, with the help of a protein.  Someone pointed out it isn't unlike getting a fracture to heal and that they cast the break for a reason.  Failure to behave might make it a total failure. 

I'd be in denial for a while (poet!!).  I kept saying I was "good at surgery" since I've had five.  I've realize this is a LOT bigger deal than those.  It is pretty major stuff.  I'm working on the mental prep (including "allowing" myself a bit of room on the scale and promising myself I'll be able to get back on track when I'm all fixed).  I know it will be long and hard.  As a girl, my mom often quoted a road sign she'd seen about a construction zone: "Temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement."  That's my mantra.  Well, that ad my usual channelling of Dory: "Just keep swimming!" (just using "recovering" as the focus instead of pushing through a w/o).

And I'm totally getting a Nutter Butter Blizzard this weekend.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

insurance panic

(UPDATE:  It is okay...the call was about a heavy co-pay but I knew about that)

I confess...this is a total vent.  MM isn't home yet and the parents already got emails.  I'm scared and so I'm writing. 

I got a VM from my insurance company asking me to call ASAP (my cell indicator failed to light up so I returned the 11AM call around 4:30).  I'm terrified there's a problem.  I'm on my ex's insurance...MA law provides for continued coverage at spousal rates which is lovely since COBRA costs are crazy and I'm still job-less.  X is a professor and technically a state employee so the insurance is good BUT focused on MA and becoming more so by the day.  I do know I may have to deal with an 80/20 coverage split for being out-of-state.  That SUCKS but I'll figure it out.  It would cost more to get a new doc and start again (though I'd have my films), both in medical costs and for travel. 

Honestly, I truly need this surgery.  I get worse by the day and truly feel disabled by the pain.  I have such a limited store of energy and have to think through every little task.  Dropping a sock makes my heart stop for a moment (luckily, I've always had quite talented feet and can often grab things with my toes...for whatever reason it doesn't hurt to bring it up to me that way if it is light).  When MM gets home, he bends over the back of the couch to give me a kiss and I can't always tilt back enough to meet him.  The grocery run is much more of a true chore. 

I've done it right.  I fought through the pain but went to a doctor when it became clear it was more than just soreness.  I sought out the right specialists.  I tried epidural shots, despite my terror of needles.  I spent months in PT in Boston building muscle (some lost during the pain, some neglected) and trying to gain flexibility (I'm never gonna be bendy).  I kept it up on my own but sought more PT when I was going further dowhill and that time worked on building my core.  After stopping PT, I kept up a solid mix of the two routines and I'm strong despite the fact that it is hard to lift when yoy hurt and are low energy.  I've gone through tests, including the scary discogram. 

Surgery is what's left.  It is scary.  I trust the docs but I am nervous about the long and slow recovery.  I need it.  I'm not living a full life (and neither is MM, though he's been wonderful through this all). 

Maybe the insurance folks just need to check an address.  But it's going to be a long wait of staring at the phone.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin -- Worth the Work

I confess...I've debated for a while whether or not to include ALL my book reviews here.  I always post the Harper ones here since that's part of the whole free book deal, but usually only post the rest at Goodreads and on Amazon.  I haven't come to a real conclusion but am going to share this one because some folks expressed curiosity when I started the read and, more honestly, because I'm really trying to spend at least a bit of time focusing on something other than the upcoming challenge.

When I picked up Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin, I knew I was in for an emotionally challenging read.  The book is a mother's reflections on raising a son who became the perpetrator of a school shooing in the late 90s (he is annoyed by the fact that the Columbine kids got more media).  It is presented as a series of letters to her husband who never quite saw why she was concerned that Kevin was never quite normal from infancy.  She readily admits that she was not the best mother and she, and the reader, is left wondering about the nature/nurture divide.

As I said, I knew it would be a challenging topic.  I was unprepared for the challenging prose.  I can see how it fits the narrator, it is a bit pretentious and wordy and the mother is definitely the type who would write in such a manner.  It made it a real struggle to read the book at first and it took about 100 pages for me to adjust, a period during which I was wondering if I'd gotten into a book I would regret starting. 

In the end, however, I am glad I stuck it out.  Even noting the initial struggle, the book easily gets four stars (of five) from me.  I like that the narrator doesn't ask for forgiveness or ignore her own faults.  She also openly addresses whether she is giving herself too much "credit" for the creation of Kevin.  The author never really falls on either the nature or nurture side, which I appreciate since I'm pretty sure the "answer" lies someplace in the middle.  If you've read more or my rambly reviews, you know I'm a reader who focuses on characters over plot and Kevin and his mother are very well-drawn and nuanced.  The father feels less so, but that may be appropriate since he is portrayed as caught up in an image of fatherhood that ignores the reality that is his son. 

The book is certainly dark, but I also didn't find it as bad as it might have been.  There's certainly an aura of evil, but (for those concerned) it didn't feel like the stuff that would cause sleepless nights.  It is a study in character and darkness providing lots of fodder for thought.  It isn't an easy read, either in style or substance, but I found it worth the work.