Monthly Archives: December 2003

Joy to the World

I don’t know if I should write about Christmas. I wanted to write about my travels through Kenmore Sq. this morning en route to the ortho doc but even in CVS they’re playing Christmas Carols — oh excuse me, “Holiday carols” so I feel the need to contribute. Working at Harvard, I’ve also become even more aware of the term “Holiday” being politically correct. In such a multicultural environment, one must even be careful to avoid the superstitious “God bless you,” in response to a sneeze. Salud indeed.
I’m going to Florida tomorrow for the Holiday break. Because I work at a University, our office is closed until January 5th, which is brilliant. We still get paid. It makes up for the fact that I make four dollars an hour. Anyway, I’m going to Boca Raton to stay with my parents on the beach. As long as they don’t make me go to church with them on Christmas, it will be a peaceful family Holiday.
My orthopedics doctor is heavy-handed with prescription pad. She staunchly supports the free distribution of controlled substances. After my appointment this morning, I carried my narcotics down to Chinatown and made $2,000 to buy some Holiday presents for my family. Percocet’s pulling twenty bucks a pill this time of year. Must be a painful Holiday season.
Which brings us to the fact that my family doesn’t do presents. My mom reminds me of this after I’ve spent the past month picking out the perfect gifts. Not the typical gift certificates and fuzzy slippers from Bed and Bath — we’re talking registering my dad for a digital photo class in the adult ed center in Boca Raton, an aromatherapy massage and yoga session for my mom who has rheumatoid arthritis, and the perfect selection of goods for my sister and brother-in-law. I did it early, which is unlike me. I thought I’d try to turn around my problem-child image and be a responsible adult this year. At least concerning Christmas. All for naught.
Since it’s basically Free-Form Friday, here are Notes, not necessarily in chronological order, from the Interstate Archive:

  • All babies are cute; it’s a survival mechanism.
  • It is inherently creepy that those two M&M’s serve other M&M’s in a bowl.
  • If you’re going to pay a fat chunk of money for a personalized neon sign, at least perform a quick grammar check.
  • You can tell a lot about a person by the way they order coffee.
  • You never know when you might be in Canada.
  • How can I hate someone with a basset hound calendar in their cube?
  • (On the 96 bus) I just want to give you things, hand them to you across the dirty bus isle, smiles, fruit, a mix of sunny songs for you to listen to all day, you in your little sun-colored get-up, strawberry blond, listening to ndie rock on your chunky head phones — I just want to give you things — a map to my house, a loaf of cranberry walnut bread, a pair of silver shoe laces.
  • Kobie has the bunny inside.

Dr. Wonderful

I’m seriously feeling the love today. Thanks to everyone who sent me well-wishings. Feel free to send baked goods as well.
Okay, so first order of business. I went to the Orthopedics on Monday, and the doc there was a godsend. I wanted to bring her home with me. She spent almost an hour with me, which is unheard of with medics. We went over the MRI and X-rays and she explained it all. I remembered all the terminology. The names of the bones and the parts of the cells. I had a kickass teacher in high school that made me fall in love with Biology, and then Anatomy, and the classes where you get to cut things up with a knife and look at the innards. The information was lodged in my brain and shook loose while examining my own torqued spine.
The verdict is that they want to use surgery as a last resort right now. I wrapped myself around the woman when she delivered that news, kissing her wildly. Looking at the tests, I could see I did some serious damage. The discs between my lower three vertebrae are completely ruptured, squishing the nerve against the bone. Both doctors were amazed that I wasn’t stabbing someone in the eye over the pain, grabbing random people on the bus and shaking the life out of them, hobbling screaming through the streets. I don’t know. When someone doesn’t tell you how bad an injury is, you just deal with it. It’s like placebo effect. Mind over matter.
According to the fine doc, I’m young and they’re betting it will heal in the next six months. They’re going to reassess in three months to see what’s going on. In the meantime there’s lots of walking and swimming and yoga. Which is an excellent plan because I’m going to Florida for two weeks and that’s all I’ll be doing.
I’ve been given extremely powerful drugs for the pain, and the medicine is helping enough that I’m not howling. But it’s still a mind-bending pain. And I’m still lacking feeling in my right leg, which is just plain weird. But this type of thing tends to get easier to endure when someone tells you it’s going to get better, and better in a certain amount of time. I can hold on when I know the end is near. (keep your fingers crossed)
What else was I going to tell you people? Not only do I forget, my lunch break is over and I have to go process something bought and sold, and sell something bought and processed.
Oooh! I know. Go out and buy the following two albums immediately: Los Halos For Ramona, which moves something deep and darkly sweet inside, and Elbow Alseep in the Back, which waltzes underwater. In some ways, this Elbow release reminds me of my Favorite Album of All Time, the Catherine Wheel Like Cats and Dogs. Which you may as well pick up while you’re there.

Come Back

I haven’t written anything substantial here in weeks. That’s mainly because I’ve run out of witty or sarcastic methods of describing the excruciating pain I’ve endured for the past month. I no longer find anything entertaining about seeing doctor upon doctor, being poked and prodded and having MRI’s, x-rays, and various other procedures to help the white coats decide when the surgery is going to be.The pain in my back and leg has been getting worse on a daily basis, to the point where I can barely sit.
What they labeled as “mechanical back trauma” in September has grown steadily into a mind-numbing frenzy of nerve pain that is constantly burning me from lower back to calf. I lost feeling in my right leg Wednesday, rendering it basically useless. This advanced me significantly on the wait list for an MRI, which took place that afternoon.
The results of the MRI showed two slipped and herniated discs and a shattered vertebrae with shards lodged directly in my sciatic, the nerve that runs from hip to toe. Yay.
The nerves in your hand are there to tell you to move your hand from a hot stove. You put your hand on the hot stove and instantly the searing pain encourages you to remove it. But what if you couldn’t remove it? What if the hot stove was connected to your hand and your brain just kept telling you to take it off by making that nerve scream constantly? Hefty doses of narcotics are not even taking the edge off at this point.
I must say the commute and general limping about has been harrowing with the three feet of snow we’ve received in the past week, during which I had to clear off my car with a dirt shovel lest it be towed. That’s one thing about having a car in this city — you have to get one of those collapsible and pocket-sized models. And after living in New England for twenty-seven years, you’d think I’d own a snow shovel.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. The last thing I need is another surgery right now. I feel like one thing after another is smashing me in the face every time I get back on my feet. Heh. Literally.I’m going to the orthopedic shortly. I’m hoping they can at least find something to numb the pain a little until they put me under the knife. Wish me luck.

Comfort Food

Brace yourself, kids. I just had a Holiday void of irony and I intend to tell you about it without sarcasm.

They must’ve slipped something in my drink at the dinner table.

Before I begin, however, I must tell you about a particularly delicious stroke of genius I had last night, culminating in a sugar-coma grin and a horribly distended abdomen. Pillsbury, in all their holiday glory, has begun offering Gingerbread cookie dough in one of those prefab refrigerated tubes that make 50’s housewives roll over in their graves. In a related story, Edy’s has released a special edition flavor of their disgustingly decadent ice cream: Eggnog. The cookies, when placed on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees, bake in 7 minutes (gingerbread man shapes optional). This is just enough time to get out the bowls and heat up the ice cream scoop. Sprinkle a little nutmeg and cinnamon on top of the combination and serve. I don’t have to verbalize the magic of warm gooey cookie underneath a trollop of frozen dairy goodness. I was a goddess last night at the Chaos Cottage.

And I thought Oregon Chai Nog had cinched the holiday treats category.

So Thanksgiving, right?

I guess I have Pilgrim issues. I just don’t buy the whole “We give you maize and hides, you give us Smallpox” celebratory vibe. But to salvage Thanksgiving from my cynical snarling, I’ve decided to mindfully be thankful on that day for all the blessings in my life.

I am, in general, consciously grateful and actively aware of the gifts in my life, be they people or circumstances, but I put in extra effort on Thanksgiving. The list of gratitude began when I was awakened from my bed by Mags, who was hand-delivering a ration of codeine sufficient to allow me to sit up and stand.

The stress of NaNoWriMo, the violent racking cough I’ve nursed for the past three weeks, and twelve copies of a 500 page proposal for the National Science Foundation had left my faithful sciatica in quite a frenzy. Wednesday night my back was in spasms and causing me such pain that I couldn’t sit, stand, or lay down comfortably, and I was unfortunately out of medication for the injury. But Mags saved the day.

The codeine was enough to make me aware of the pain but not a slave to it. But I still couldn’t go to the Thanksgiving Day Cambridge high school football game as expected, nor could I cram into my car and make it to Brett and Cindy’s, my planned dinner destination.

By the afternoon however, the depression and self-sorriness of being laid-out alone outshined the pain of being upright so I left. I roasted a butternut squash and mashed it with clove and ginger into an ivory Belgian cast iron casserole with oak leaves painted on it that I had inherited from my grandmother and was saving for occasions such as this.

Brett and Cindy have just moved to a new house, and it was the first time I’ve been there. But there was no adjustment period — I instinctively hung up my coat, got some wet kisses from the dog, delivered a plush Gund Pooh to their daughter, and made myself comfortable snapping beans in the kitchen. Then I realized that their house, wherever it is, feels like home the second you walk through the door.

This is my first Thanksgiving without my family. My parents moved to Florida in September. We used to have giant Thanksgivings at their house — a twelve- hour affair — and we started cooking at nine o’clock in the morning. The parade played in the sunroom, and later the football game. We’d stop peeling potatoes to watch every once in a while, but mostly the sound of it was festive enough. Ever year, my aunt got drunk and sat in the potted plants, my sister burned the bread while gabbing on the phone, my father harassed the cat with the turkey neck, and I snuck up to my room to smoke cigarettes out the window. Then I played old showtunes on the piano and everyone sang.

The holidays weren’t always Hallmark-cheery, but they were predictable and therefore comforting just the same. Even when I was in my Sulking Vegetarian Wearing All Black and You Don’t Understand Me phase (ages 13-26), I looked forward to Thanksgiving. But damned if I’d let you know that.

Last weekend I was watching a video I found of Thanksgiving, 1993. We had a giant whiteboard on the wall in the kitchen and I was busy with the magic markers. My dad was videotaping me drawing an extensive Thanksgiving scene, using mostly red marker, with a turkey being held at gunpoint screaming, “EAT ME!”

I’m so glad I’ve matured.

When Cindy asked me in September if I’d like to come to her small family gathering for Thanksgiving, I cried. I just sat there, tears streaming down my face. Her invitation moved me. I can’t really explain why. Or maybe I can. Maybe it was something about realizing I was a grown up — that I was making my own plans for a major holiday without consulting my parents. Maybe it was realizing that Boston was now truly my home — after months of feeling like my home had been yanked out from under me when my parents sold the house I grew up in. Realizing that in this place, I now had the freedom to build my own little family. Or be adopted by a new one.

If you’re going to be adopted, I highly recommend lobbying for custody under a family that has an adorable two-year-old, a big friendly dog, and a mom who makes a mean apple pie.

And nutmeg for all.