Wednesday, May 23, 2012

a body update and a neat local event

I confess...I haven't been a very good blogger of late.  Honestly, I'm just a broken record and feel like I can only gripe so much about my health.  I did want to share a new town story though so I'll split out a health update and the amusements of central PA so folks can read what they want.

  • Back Stuff
I feel like I'm pretty much stuck in place.  The control medicine (taken on a schedule vs just as needed) does help in that the pain level is much lower when I stay in bed.  It never goes away, but it is much more bearable thanks to the control routine. I was able to sit up and hang out with friends for a few hours last weekend but it definitely brought pain.  Doing much of anything also leads to a spike in pain the next day, even when staying still.  It doesn't feel fair and it keeps me to the bed the vast majority of the time.  Also, the control meds make me REALLY tired.  I've never been a big napper but I've slept long hours at night and two to four hours at some point during the day. 

I do have an appt tomorrow to try another diagnostic injection.  They had to reschedule me from another date which was annoying BUT I was thrilled when they said it was with the doc who has been gone on maternity leave.  As I've said, I've really had an awful time with the Pain Doc but there aren't really other options nearby outside of this clinic and the only other doctor there had been on leave.  I am hoping the lady pain doc is truly back and not just helping out for the one day for some reason.  It would be hugely helpful to have a doc who isn't a total jerk and who actually makes me feel like I'm listened to and who believes there's hope.

I also need to look into a possible venue for pool-based physical therapy.  I've been doing the exercises the PT in Lancaster gave me but it is hard to tell if they are leading to any hasn't reduced the pain but it may be helping me build back muscle which is important.

  • Riff-Raff Day
I continue to be amused by life in our central PA town.  A while back, MM called the trash folks to ask about disposing of an old grill.  They said we could pay around $30 to have it taken or we could wait till Riff Raff day.  We had not heard of this phenomenon but they said that once a year they'll pick up anything, aside from things with environmental issues like a fridge w/ coolant.  We marked it on our calendar and made plans to put out the grill and a few other bulk items.

Our trash is picked up Monday and they usually ask you to put out your stuff no earlier than 6 PM the prior day.  I had to make a CVS run on Sunday and noticed that people had already started piling up Riff Raff stuff by 2 or 3.  I also spotted a few people stopping at these piles to see what had been left.  As I pulled onto our street, one truck was stopped and the passenger was grabbing a lawn chair from our next-door neighbor's house.  I went in to tell MM to put out our stuff and he said he actually already had and that it was gone within 10 minutes.  We watched as more "hunters" drove by, guessing at what items from our neighbors would go first.  MM put out an old computer monitor...the monitor stayed but they cut off the wire within 15 minutes (MM said for copper or gold fibers).

It was amusing to watch as neighbors helped each other carry unwanted stuff to the curb and as folks drove through town, exploring for found treasure.  It really made me smile.  I love that items were getting left and taken.  I don't know if the pickers planed to keep the items or maybe sell them at a flea market, but either way the items were getting re-used rather than tossed in the dump.  Terrific little local tradition.

There had also been a bunch of yard sales on Saturday in advance of Riff-Raff Day.  MM saw a neighbor putting out a beautiful 1930s typewriter.  It was in a suitcase-style holder and all the keys seem to be in working order.  The neighbor asked for $10, MM insisted on giving him $20.  I spotted a few similar items on E-bay for over $200...although it is also just kind of a cool thing to have for a while.  Our friends also grabbed a small stack of records, including Man in the Mirror and an old-school comedy album.  We all laughed when we realized that kids today probably had never seen either type of item.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reviews: A Hundred Flowers & The Cottage at Glass Beach

I confess...things have been a bit complex around here.  It isn't stuff that is really mine to talk about but I will say that it looks a bit better than first feared.  I'm hoping for, and physically need, a quiet period.

I'd gotten low in my bookstack but thankfully a few more freebies arrived recently.  Clearly this means I need to catch up on my reviews...

I won a copy of this book via Goodreads.  The story is set in Japan in 1957 and 1958.  It focuses on a family where the father has been taken away by government authorities.  We see the son grapple with not understanding where his father has gone, the wife try to continue with life while missing he beloved husband, and the missing husband's father consider his own role in the family history.  There is also a teen girl who has fled her own family and finds her way into the focal household just as she is about to give birth.   Several journeys take place as the boy heals after falling from an old, storied tree, the mother continues her work as a holistic healer, the teen confronts motherhood, and the grandfather seeks out his missing adult son.  In the background, the government is quelling thought that goes against official beliefs and forcing "re-education" on those who fell for a deceptive program that pretended to invite the expression of different ideals.

I enjoy books that have a historical element but aren't entirely about history.  I like books that focus on specific characters facing timeless issues while also revealing a bit about that moment in history.  I think the author does a good job at creating this sort of context.  However, I ultimately found the novel disappointing.  I don't need a book to wrap the ending in a big bow, but I didn't care for the way she ended the characters' stories.  I felt the characters were interesting but could have been developed a bit more.  Enjoyable, but not a stand-out for me.  3.5 stars, rounded down where forced to pick "full star" rating since it left me wanting something more. 

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from the folks at Harper.  It takes what feels like an all-too-familiar event as its starting place with Nora fleeing the Boston area as the scandal of her politician husband's affair becomes public knowledge.  Nora takes her two daughters to the small Maine island where she lived until age five when her father moved her away after her mother mysteriously disappeared.  Nora finds guidance from an aunt (the missing mother's sister) whom she hasn't seen since she left the island.  The older of the two children, eleven year old Ella, is very angry at the world and takes it out on Nora.  Flowing through the novel are questions about what happened to Nora's mother and some mysterious male characters.

I wanted to enjoy this as a simple, "beachy" read but struggled to stay involved.  Some of the characters were interesting, but there were too many unrelated bits of drama thrown in.  Overall, very little of the emotion felt real to me.  There's a current of magic that felt very unsatisfying.  Many issues, especially surrounding the magical elements, go unresolved but, to be frank, I wasn't invested enough to really care. 

There are also a number of points at which the prose felt jumbled....not sure if they'll be resolved in the final copy but I haven't seen this extent of issues in other advance editions and some feel more like stylistic choices rather than grammar issues that could be easily resolved by editing.  Three stars, saved from 2.5 because I enjoyed the aunt's character.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Are you okay?

I confess....I've spent a lot of time over the years pondering the complexities of invisible illnesses.  It is hard when you look healthy from the outside but are suffering inside, a situation that I've faced due to both endometriosis and back problems.  Recently, however, I've found myself struggling to answer a question that arises when a chronic health issue does produce visible results.

As I've mentioned here, I've spent the better part of the past few months in bed due to the severity of my back issues.  In an evaluation last week, a new physical therapist said that my body is functioning at the expected level for an 80 year-old woman.  I pushed myself through an outing this weekend...I'm glad I went but it was a huge challenge physically and I couldn't always hide the struggle.  It was the first time I was that obviously struggling in public aside from when I had a walker or brace post-op (which was sort of its own explanation). Some people knew upfront that I was dealing with severe back problems but others simply noticed a grimace, a struggle to stand, or simply that I was moving slowly and hobbling on the way to the restroom. 

The overt manifestations led to several people asking "Are you okay?"  I appreciate the question, one that is obviously motivated by concern, but I have trouble knowing how to respond.  The answer is really "No" but there's a definite difference between a chronic issue and a more immediate injury.  It isn't a situation where the asker can really do much to help.  I don't need them to run for a first-aid kit or get someone to come assist me.  There are times when I can answer more someone seated at my table seeing me sit very carefully...but other times are just short someone holding a door when I was moving slowly down a brick pathway towards the bathrooms.  I wanted to tell the person not to worry about holding the door (I feel bad making them wait three times as long as they expected to when they grabbed the door!) and not to really worry about me.  But I can't really say that "Yes, I'm fine" when my movement proves that a lie.

Sometimes I say "No, but it's my normal" but that feels a bit snide and flippant.  "No, but it's chronic" just leaves them confused.  "No, but there's nothing I need" feels rude.  I want people to know that I DO appreciate the concern but I also know that not every moment calls for a longer medical history.   

What do other people with chronic issues that manifest with visible struggles say?  If you don't have chronic issues yourself, what answer would be the right amount of information and honest but not rude?