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When You Have That Not So Fresh Feeling...Blog About It!
July 21, 2002

Having absolutely no idea what particular thoughts I wish to share, I still created this blog - just in case. I might be prone to verbal regurgitation from time to time and would possibly want to share that with the world. Heh. Lucky you.

Be nice. Go buy my book. Make my day.

Or wait. The sequel will be out any day now.

July 22, 2002

The Thing Inside My Head
(eh, this is long...)

Okay... so I had this thing growing in my head. Initially I thought I was in menopause (and relished the idea), but in late March or early April I realized I was drinking an awful lot; it sort of crept up on me, varying degrees of thirst day after day, until I realized one morning that I was sucking down at least 64 ounces of anything cold and fluid I could get my hands on first thing every morning, and I kept drinking in massive quantities all day long. The end result of drinking so much is... well, you know.

What I didn't realize is the.. well, you know... was causing the incredible thirst. Being so thirsty all the time spurred The Spouse Thingy into making me an appointment with our Primary Care Doc here at Travis AFB; he thought I might be diabetic.

The doc agreed with him; this was something that needed to be looked into. He made note of the fact that I was pretty sure I was in the throes of menopause (oh, come on, do I have to spell it out for you?! Something was missing!) and ordered a chitload of blood work to be done. The vampires at the lab surely loved this - they sucked out at least 5 tubes of blood and made me pee in this tiny, tiny cup (ok, a Big Gulp cup is tiny when you're drinking 3 gallons a day.)

My blood sugar came back at 95. Perfectly normal.
My prolactin level, however, came back at 118. Normal is less than 10.
And then there was this merry go round of drinking and peeing.
(“What did you do today?” “Peed.”)

Something was amiss. My doc, being fairly sharp, caught the implications right off the bat. The likely culprit to my problems was a pituitary tumor. He ordered an MRI - and I complied, as much as I didn't want to - and the evidence was right there. Glaring bright white against the black film of the MRI.

I had a tumor.
A brain tumor.
And it was big.

The MRI immediately went to the base hospital's neurosurgeon; she looked and measured, checked my lab values, looked some more, and decided this was an unusual tumor, unusual enough that she didn't want to handle it. She wanted me to see a civilian pituitary specialist. Someone who could look at the MRI and have a better idea what it might be. Someone who wouldn't just be using me for the value of experience. Between her efforts and the efforts of my primary care doc, and numerous inquiries by The Spouse Thingy, I got an appointment - fairly quickly, too - with a civilian specialist.

He took one look at the MRI and was brutally honest. He couldn't tell exactly what it was, either. It appeared to be cystic in nature, but it was not the ordinary pituitary adenoma. The only way to know for sure was to take it out.

Take it out.
Of my BRAIN.
Holy shit.

I did a lot of reading about pituitary tumors while I waited for this appointment; I knew how he would take it out (go in under the upper lip, drill through the sinuses to get to the pituitary gland, yank that sucker out, pack my sinuses, close up, no scar), and I knew that the surgery itself was becoming almost routine. But this was MY brain. My pituitary gland. My tumor.

I was terrified.

In between that visit and the day of surgery, I had every possible ill outcome running through my head. The least of which was the chance that I could come out of this blind - the optic nerve runs far too close to the pituitary for my taste. So do the carotid arteries. More than anything I wanted a feeling of serenity about this, some sign that it would be all right. Some sign that I wasn't seeing things for the last time. Something to tell me I would see my son's face again, see my husband. Something to tell me that my last breath was not going to be drawn on an operating table.

Over the three weeks between seeing the neurosurgeon and the scheduled surgery, people with pituitary tumors seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. They popped up in email, in casual conversations. Invariably, they had the same message. "I have one. I had one. I'm doing fine."

They were comforting, but this was still My Brain Tumor, and inside I was shaking like the proverbial leaf.

Two days before the surgery The Spouse Thingy and I had dinner at the BX Food Court. Normally we don't get the Chinese food there - it's not the greatest - but this night we did. Each dinner came with a fortune cookie; I never eat mine, I always give them to the Spouse Thingy. He shoved it towards me and told me I had to at least open it myself.

He read his; it was typical fortune cookie nonsense. Scratch your palm and blink twice and all life’s richest will come your way.

I read mine: You will live a long and happy life.

I wanted to cry. It felt like the sign I'd been - literally - praying for.

The next day was dedicated to pre-operative appointments: getting a chest x-ray, more blood drawn, an EKG. As part of that appointment merry-go-round I was also given my scheduled surgery time.

First case of the day.
Be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m.

The hospital, UCD Medical Center, is in Sacramento. We live 50 miles away, at Travis AFB, which meant that we’d have to get up by 4 a.m. and be out on the road before 4:30. In the fricking morning!

Did I mention I am not a morning person?

I took my pillow with me and snoozed the ride up there (as opposed to puking up my toenails the entire ride, which is what I was sure I'd be doing). We checked in at 5:30, whereupon they handed me this tiny gown designed to allow me to moon the entire hospital, stuck us in a room where we waited for at least an hour for an OR escort (not as kinky as it sounds). I expected to be hurling large chunks across the room, but didn't.

By this point I think I was resigned to the idea that there was no escape. They had my clothes; where was I going to go with my backside shining like a bright white beacon off the shores of the California coast? They had me. I was doomed.

The OR escort finally arrived; I was put on a gurney and taken up to the recovery room, where The Spouse Thingy introduced me (a re-introduction, actually) to the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist he had hand-picked to knock me out and keep me knocked through the surgery. Nick (said CRNA) carefully explained what he would be doing to me, including all the things I would never remember, and then stuck an IV in my hand. While I lied there, contemplating the dark, dreary recovery room, the neurosurgeon (The Spouse Thingy hand picked him, too) popped in to say hello (and promised, no, I won’t sneeze while I have my fingers in your brain); Nick gave me something through the IV (Versed, I think), and I was off to LaLa Land. I felt all warm and fuzzy... and then nothing.

Next thing I knew I was in the recovery room; someone sitting at my side (recovery room nurse, male, that's all I know) was urging me to breath. Deep breaths. More. That's good. The Spouse Thingy appeared at various points (I should point out that he moonlights at UCDMC and was allowed where family members normally are not); I recall hearing the nurse tell him that I'd been given morphine and my breathing rate was depressed, at 8-10 per minute.

My brain interpreted that as "She stopped breathing."

After about 3 hours (or so I'm told) I was finally taken to my room. I was transferred to a bed (don't ask me how, all I remember is a motor; I don't recall being moved), and while lying there half out of my head (but not in pain), I hear him.

The Yeller.

I couldn't tell exactly where he was on the floor, I could only hear his booming voice echoing through the hallways. HELP ME HELP ME! WHERE'S MY DOCTOR? I WANT TO GO! I was thinking "oh shut the phk up," but all I could do was moan. HELP ME! Gawwwddd.... At some point - it felt like minutes later but could have been hours - a nurse placed these THINGS on my legs. White THINGS with velcro straps. The Spouse Thingy told me they were to massage my legs, and to keep me from developing blood clots.

My intelligent response: "Noooooooooooo."
Later he tells me I'm getting a roommate. "Nooooooooooo."
I whined a lot.

The Spouse Thingy stayed until at least 11:30 that night, making sure that I could reach my water and keeping my pitcher full. He stayed until he was sure that I could get the cup on my own, refill it using the pitcher on the table, and call for a nurse to bring more water when I needed it. The water was critical; the tumor had caused a condition called diabetes incipidus (the short of it - my body didn't make the natural anti-diuretic hormone, causing my kidneys to just let water flow through with no stops; I have a medication for it but they weren't giving it to me so they could see what would happen… at some point what happens was a burst collection bag) and I needed to be able to input as much as I was outputting (all hail the might catheter!) He had gotten nine pitchers of water for me throughout the day; that night I drank six more.

I was more coherent the next day; so was The Yeller. At some he must have been sedated, but I awoke to the familiar strains of LET ME OUT! HELP! Over and over... The Spouse Thingy appeared, followed shortly by the Physical Therapist Lady. They sat me up at the side of the bed, and then helped me stand; I was on my feet for only about a minute, which garnered me praise worthy of an Oscar Nominee (or at least a Gold Star), but it left me with the Headache From Hell.

The nurse said she would get me morphine; by this point I was half out of it and started crying, telling the Spouse Thingy "Noooooooooo... I don't want to stop breathing!" He tried to assure me it would be fine, my breathing rate might slow a little bit, but I kept whining "I don't want to stop breathing."

I was terrified, really.
They gave me the morphine and I was determined to not fall back asleep; I was going to stay awake and BREATHE. Deep breaths. Numerous breaths. I would inhale as if I were trying to suck up the mother of all lines.

Right around lunchtime my son and the Spouse Thingy's parents showed up, finding me sitting up, a bowl of jello in hand - fast asleep. When I did stir, I proclaimed that the jello sucked, then went back to sleep, periodically waking up with a start, forcing myself to breathe.

Nope, I would not let the morphine do me in. I was going to breathe.

(Yes, all right, hindsight tells me that if I was waking up, I was breathing all along, but dammit, I was being proactive! I was breathing!)

Early evening came and the Spouse Thingy said he needed to get home early because The Boy had to work and can't feed the animals. My mature reaction?

"Nooooooo... I don't want to be alone."

So, being the Good Spouse Thingy that he is, he stayed a little longer and talked to my roommate's husband some.

This would be Mumbling Mary. She had disk fusion done, herrington rods inserted to stabilize her spine, and a nerve in her leg worked on. She was in some serious pain. They started her out with a boatload of narcotics, but they were giving her less than what she normally took for the pain. She was four year post-major-car-accident and existed on Percoset and Other Fun Drugs. A pain management team finally stopped by to assess her, doubled what she was getting, and that 2nd day she finally got some rest.

This was a good thing for Mary, but... it totally screwed up her sense of day and night, and left her high as a kite. That third day I was pretty coherent, sitting up, even walked the hall some (and got my nasal packing out - giant tampons they'd shoved into my sinuses), and she slept through most of it, occasionally waking to tell her husband to fix the clock already; she determined that it said 3:30 and she knew it was 8:30 (it was 1 p.m.). Around 9 p.m., just as I was falling asleep, she thought it was daytime. The nurses came in to turn her (an exercise in agony for poor Mumbling Mary) and she wanted to know where her husband was; they tried to explain that it was night time and he'd gone home, but she was sure they were lying. He couldn't have gone home - he didn't fix the clock!

I was *almost* asleep when The Yeller started back up. He was also throwing things, creating a general atmosphere of unpleasantness and construction zone noise - and I was finally able to determine that he was in the next room. He was screaming for the hospital administrator, calling his nurse 'Nurse Ratchet,' begging to leave, wanting to go home. Go anywhere. Mary, in the meantime, couldn't find her call button, so I pulled the curtain back and asked if she needed help. "Oh no, I just need to find this," and she was moving around so much I was afraid she'd hurt herself, so I buzzed the nurse from my bed.

After that Mary decided I was her Bestest Friend and proceeded to talk. And talk. And talk. The thing was, she wasn't really talking to me, she was carrying on conversations with the voices in her head. Around 4am she turned on her TV, and Wimbledon was playing. She muttered things like "Don't hit that tennis ball. You'll break the vase."

She talked to everyone she knew, allllll night long.
It was too funny to be annoying.

No, what was annoying was the blood they wanted to draw from me, every six hours around the clock. After the first 2 days the veins in my right arm pretty much shut down and because of the IV they couldn't take blood out of my left. My arms had track marks worthy of a junkie, but they were getting no blood. Needle after needle... the blood just would not flow. I was bruised, sore, and still they wanted more blood.

Saturday morning I woke up, felt great, walked the hall without the aid of a walker, talked to an endocrinologist and a few surgical residents, whom all deemed me fit to go home. The ride home totally wiped me out. I got home and went to bed, and for the most part stayed there for a couple more days. The fatigue clung to me for almost a week. So did the swollen face. Initially I looked like I'd gone a round or two with Mike Tyson; after a few days I only looked like a TeleTubby.

Tinky Winky.

I had survived. The surgeon didn't sneeze with his fingers in my brain. I didn't go blind. He got it all. All we could do from that point was to wait for the pathology report, and hope that I wasn't one of the Very Rare People to get pituitary cancer.

I wasn't.

I am one of the Very Rare People to get lymphocytic hypophysitis. Very rare. Extremely rare.

Extremely lucky.

It's a long term that basically means, because I had the tumor removed, I'm cured. It probably won't come back. I won't need further treatments, other than the occasional MRI, just in case.

So, I had this brain thingy.
It's gone now.
But it was proof, after all, that I have a brain.
Life is good.

July 23, 2002

And She Had Fun Fun Fun Til Avis Took The Sebring Away…

I want one.

Not just your average “Oh, that would be nice,” but a full throttled, toddler-in-a-toy-store-temper-tantrum want one.

I’ve wanted one since high school; I caught a glimpse of the visage of perfection, and was hooked. An MG Midget. Total impracticality wrapped up in the bright glittery paint of You Must Own One. It was metallic blue and the top was dirty and torn, but from that moment on, I was hooked. I think I would have done the entire football team to get one.

Well, maybe not. But you get the idea.

Twenty five years later, I still want one. It doesn’t have to be an MG Midget; in all honesty, the day Mazda came out with the Miata my image of the ideal shifted. The Miata looked like pure fun on four wheels, and I coveted it as much – if not more than – the first Midget I had seen.

Real life has a way of intruding on fulfilling your hearts’ desire. Marriage, a kid, pets… the things that make Real Life worth living meant that a convertible was a dream delayed. I could look, and lust, but not have one. And that was okay.

Most of the time, anyway.

In a moment of just in case, meaning for the most part, just in case I came out of surgery blind, or just in case I came out of surgery with Bad News hanging over me, or just in case I, well, up and croaked, I wanted to drive a convertible. More than a few miles, I wanted a couple of days behind the wheel. It didn’t matter what kind of convertible, really. I just wanted to drive one.

Long before we knew I would need surgery, the Spouse Thingy put in for a weeks’ leave; we thought that because of the time off he would need to be there for my recuperation that it would be canceled – and that was fair. His unit is short staffed, and you just can’t expect other people who need surgery to wait just because I want some time with him. He got the leave, though, the week just before I was scheduled to have my upper lip and nose lifted off my face and the nether regions of my brain explored.

My wish was his gift: he rented a Chrysler Sebring for two days. Thumper & The Spouse Thingy were going to ride the roads of California, wind whipping our hair, bugs that should wind up between our teeth splattering on the windshield, the sun burning our all too white skin. We had the car for all of Wednesday and all of Thursday, and had to have it back on Friday.

Renting a Sebring for two days: $200.

The first day we drove up to Sacramento. It was a few days past my father in law’s birthday and we wanted to go up there, take them both out to lunch, and just hang for a little while. Driving on the interstate at 75 mph was *loud,* but there was no way I was putting the top up.

Screw the noise, screw the sunburn – I was driving the perfect car.

We did put the top up partway home… it hit 106 degrees, and even the wind can’t help that much. But once home, where it was cooler, the top went down, and we made up places to go, so that I could drive the convertible again.

The next day we decided to spend a couple of hours at a nearby Indian Casino, someplace The Boy could also go. The casino, Cache Creek, is about 45 minutes away, a perfect distance to take out a ragtop on a sunny day. Now, we understand The Boy is a starving college student, so of course the Spouse Thingy was funding this Expedition into Sin.

We’re Good Parents.
We take our kid gambling.
Hell, I also buy him beer.

Funds for gambling: $200.

We bumbled around on the nickel slots for a little while; they just weren’t Fun Slots, and at 45 nickels a pull, The Spouse Thingy pointed out that it’d be cheaper to play quarter slots at 3 coins a pulls. All Right. We headed over towards quarter slots and found a bank of machines with a frickin’ huge BMW on top. Rack up a Red 7, a White 7, and a Blue 7, in that order, and you can win the BMW or $30,000.


I slipped a twenty into the slot, and started betting the max. The Boy slipped a twenty into the slot and started playing the max. At some point the Spouse Thingy slipped a twenty in, as well. A Fun Family Activity, for sure.

The Boy lost $90 of our money in less than two hours, and $20 of his own. A nice lesson learned for his first trip (that he’ll admit to, anyway) to a casino.

The Spouse Thingy kept hitting for “Any 7s” and by the time he cashed out he was $200 ahead.

He cashed out after I hit for three Red 7s. I was ready to leave after that. I had to leave – there was no way I was staying in a casino after winning $1250. I may have gone blonde a few times in my life, but, well, you know the cliché.

We left there with over $1400, and headed straight for the bank. There the money sits, waiting for the day when I can buy my own convertible. We went to a movie after that (The Bourne Identity, a decent flick, imo) and then to dinner before take The Boy back to his apartment.

Dinner and a Movie: $75

A great two days, fun behind the wheel of a slick Sebring, time spent with my guys… Priceless, hell, we netted $1200!

And dangit, I want a convertible of my own now more than ever.

The Road Too Often Traveled

It's an event that happens approximately every 3 years. It's an event precipitated by shot nerves, lost tempers, the weeding out of trash and unwanted odds and ends, and hard, heartfelt goodbyes.

Moving Day.

We should be used to it, and in all honesty, by joining the Air Force we knew this would happen. We’d be sent someplace, not dare to put down roots, make friends, get to know the area, and before we know it, it’d be time to go somewhere else. We’ve been doing it for almost 18 years. Some places we’ve enjoyed more than others, but it’s usually difficult to pack up and go, because there’s always someone we’re leaving behind we don’t want to.

This assignment, Travis AFB in California, is different. We’re close to family, close to the area where the Spouse Thingy and I went to high school, where we met. It’s also our second assignment here, and we had hoped it would be our last. The Air Force has other ideas. With less than 3 years to go before he can retire, they decided the Spouse Thingy should see the Midwest one more time, and are sending us to Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio.

Now, we don’t mind this, not really. WPAFB is supposed to be a terrific base and the area nice to live in. It’s much cheaper in Ohio than it is in California, and once the Spouse Thingy retires he can actually make more money there than here. If everything were as it normally is, we’d be looking forward to this move more than other moves.

This move is more difficult, at least for me. It’s more emotional. We have real roots here, more than just my in-laws – whom I love very much and enjoy living close to - who live less than an hour away. We’re making this move with an acute case of Empty Nest Syndrome.

The Boy is not moving with us.

A curious thing happened during those 18 other years; while we were getting on with the details of living, and bouncing from place to place every third year, he was busy growing up. At some point I blinked, and The Boy turned into A Man.

I should have seen it coming; when he was 14 years old he went to work as a busboy and was promoted through the ranks of the restaurant so quickly that when we left he was a cook with the potential to be placed in a supervisory position, and would have if we had stayed there. He took his current job and made himself indispensable; he was pure teenager, but when it came to his work he made responsible, adult decisions. It wasn’t long before he was making those same kinds of decisions in his personal life.

Our goal had always been for him to be an adult by the time he was 18.
That doesn’t mean I was ready for it, even if he was.

The Air Force made their decree: Thou Shalt Move From Thy Favored Place and Goeth Once Again To The Cornfields. The Boy made his: I Am Staying Here.

Really, we expected that. And the Spouse Thingy and I both believe that it is in The Boy’s best interests to remain here, go to school so that he can follow his dream, live his passion, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I look at him and see the man we always wanted him to be, and my heart swells. He made it. He did it, and he did it well. But I’m leaving here without my little boy. I’ll miss those next few milestones, the steps he takes into Real Life.

In my head, I know that’s as it should be.
In my heart I know that’s as it should be.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

At least I have his cat.

July 25, 2002

It's Not An Epidemic

It seems like every time I turn on the TV, there’s another story about a child lost, ripped from the safety of home and family into the horrors inflicted by untoward strangers. Our hearts bleed for these families, whose lives are in shambles and colored by terror, and our souls ache for the child who may be undergoing unspeakable acts of abuse.

The more stories the media presents, the tighter we grip the hands of our small children and the fewer freedoms we allow our older children. The world simply isn’t safe; there are Bad People out there, just waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on the most precious gifts we have.

Are there really more societal rejects out there preying on our children? Or are we just hearing more about it, the media both presenting the facts in hopes of finding these kids, and sensationalizing the stories?

According to Newsweek magazine, the July 29, 2002 issue, the incidence of stranger abduction has remained fairly consistent over the last 10 years.

I think we’re just hearing about it more often, and mostly thanks to the efforts of John Walsh.

That’s just my opinion, though.

Just a little over 19 years ago, The Boy was an almost-victim of kidnapping. Had I been a more timid person, or less alert, it could have been accomplished fact. I stood there, in a public library, the boy in a stroller right next to me, with my attention riveted to a line of books I was considering borrowing.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and it took a moment for my brain to register that the stroller containing my son was the source of distraction. My two month old son was rolling away from me, pushed by a woman I had never seen before.

Now, in any other locality, she could have gotten away with it, had she chosen to run. But this was on the second story (of a building located right next to the police station) and the only ways down were the escalator, and the elevator. And she wasn’t running, she simply pushed the stroller along, as if stealing someone else’s child were an everyday, and perfectly acceptable, occurrence.

It was not acceptable, not on any reasonable level, of course. She got perhaps five feet before my brain engaged and my body followed suit (being so many years younger, the neurons fired much more quickly back then.) I reached for her shoulder with my right hand, and punched her square in the face with my left.

I can still see the look of total surprise on her face, eyes wide and focused on the fist that was going to connect with her cheek, knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it. I will never forget that look. At the time I think I believed it to be surprise that she had been caught so quickly; later I came to understand that she was surprised, period. She did not expect to be stopped, not ever.

The woman went down in a bloody heap; I snatched my son up and other library patrons came running. The Boy was perfectly all right, but I held him close enough to make him cry, and I stood there and watched her bleed all over the loop-knit carpet of the library floor. There were no sirens to be heard; police were there within two minutes, on foot, sprinting up the escalator.

I explained my version; witnesses explained what they had seen. The woman was taken downstairs on a gurney via the elevator, and I followed a few minutes later, my son now asleep in his stroller, his tiny lips pursed and sucking on an imaginary bottle. We were both taken to the hospital; she went to surgery and I went to x-ray to have my hand examined.

An hour later I was at the police station, hand in a cast, filing a report; my son was treated to his first taste of root beer, dribbled onto his tongue from a straw held by a young police officer. My head was spinning – I had no clue what I was supposed to do, if there was any one I needed to call (other than the Spouse Thingy), how was I going to pay the hospital bill? We were beyond broke in those days, living on $400 a month, paying rent of $275. I had just put a woman in the hospital, her cheek splintered in several places, my own thumb broken.

I was near tears. We couldn’t afford the cast wrapped around my hand. We couldn’t afford surgery on someone else. We couldn’t afford a lawyer. We could barely afford the 10 cent boxes of generic macaroni and cheese we subsisted on.

There would be no medical bill. No lawyers fees. Only a request for patience and understanding. The woman’s husband would pay for everything; the state would bring her up on charges, to which she would plead guilty, and she would spend time not in prison, but in a state mental facility.

The District Attorney wanted to show me why he agreed to those terms, wanted to show me why I should agree to them as well, even though I had no real say in it.

He showed me a photograph of a baby boy, about 3 months old, who could have been my son’s twin. A baby boy who died when he was 4 months old.

A baby boy a mother thought she was bringing home.

My son, The Boy, is 19 years old now. He is strong and healthy, and I hope happy. The woman who tried to take him, who caught a glimpse of him and thought he was her own child and simply was going to take him home, was sentenced to 10 years, but I don’t know how many years she was actually there. I never pursued the matter after that, but I think about her often, wondering if she’s okay now, if her family is okay. I wonder sometimes if she came to grips with her loss, and if she ever had more children. I wonder if she’s healthy, and if she’s happy.

And I hope that she is.

My son’s almost-victim status never made it into the news. I never spoke with a television reporter, and I never saw mention of it in the newspaper. All those years ago kidnappings were kept quiet; let’s not scare the public. Let’s make them feel safe.

Children have always been victims. The difference is, now we know. Now we can work to better protect them. Which is what, I think, John Walsh intended. The more we know, the more power we have to protect our children, so that they can grow up strong and healthy, and if we’re lucky, happy.

This amazes me. A lawyer suing the fast food industry as a whole because some of his clients are obese.

Oh yeah! Make your diet a steady stream of fast food, gain a considerable amount of weight, and blame those you purchase your foods from for the choices you make. Sue them because you decide most days to eat your meals in their establishments.

I am not thin; I haven’t been for many years. Life sucks, you know? You make choices and accept the consequences of those choices; or perhaps I should file suit against Nabisco for making really good chocolate chip cookies. And while I’m at it I suppose I should sue Betty Crocker for having killer blueberry muffin mix, Kraft Foods for making the best macaroni and cheese, and Nestle for selling Butterfinger candy bars. If they hadn’t made those things so well, I would never have eaten them, and I might still be a Stick Person.

I disagree with those who liken addiction to fast food with smoking; I can eat a Big Mac sitting at the table next to you and it doesn’t affect you one bit; I can’t light up a cigarette and expect you to not inhale some of my smoke. The Big Mac is clogging my arteries, raising my cholesterol, packing fat onto my body. I can’t even see a reason comparison to eating fast food and drinking. I can sit in McDonald’s and eat 39 cent hamburgers until I throw up, and the worst it will do is gross you out. If I sit in a bar and drink until I throw up, and then got behind the wheel of a car, I could kill you.

There has to be a limit to the things we blame on others. When we will start accepting that we are responsible for ourselves?

If you want to eat at Wendy’s everyday, go for it. Just don’t be surprised when your pants start to get tight, and don’t blame the kid behind the counter for selling you the Biggie Sized Number One Combo every day.

Let’s do the world a favor, and grow up already.

July 26, 2002

Ooooh Yeah, She Was Ascared

Ever wonder what goes through a person's head when they get Bad News? I found the following on my computer; a day or two after being told there might be something in my head - besides the requisite gray matter - I started a journal of sorts. I must have been extremely dedicated to keeping track of what was happening to me, because there was only the one entry:

15 May, 2002

I should be working on my book, but the truth is, I can’t focus on it at the moment. Every phrase that turns in my mind is colored by one thought: I’m scared.

I’m scared, bordering terror, because of a gigantic “maybe” that’s wrapped around my life right now. There’s nothing I can do about it, yet it consumes me. I don’t know if it’s the uncertainty of what might be that frightens me the most, or if it’s knowing that what might be probably is, and I have no idea what will be done about it, or if it means that I’m staring down the end of the tunnel, searching for a light I hope to not see, and praying that if I am staring down that tunnel, that someone is waiting for me on the other side, that I haven’t screwed my life up too badly to have a chance at that.

Crisis of Faith is something I think I understand. At the most fundamental time when I need that faith, when I should put my trust in God and what He feels is right for me, I’m too scared to face that. I’m not ready for this to be over. And what comes after terrifies just as much as what might be.

The worst I expected was to get a diagnosis of diabetes. I could handle that; make the lifestyle changes necessary: exercise, eat right, lose weight, do anything and everything to avoid becoming insulin dependent. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear that there’s a strong possibility that I have something growing inside my head, something potentially insidious wrapped around a tiny piece of my brain that I rarely give thought to. Who spends any portion of their day contemplating their pituitary?

I’m stuck in that zone of not knowing if the tumor is even there, and worrying about what will happen if it is. What if it’s huge? What will they do? Surgery? Mike does the anesthesia for surgical cases on a near daily basis, but the idea that I might have to lay cold on a gurney while someone puts me to sleep and someone else cuts open my brain to pull this thing out through my nose fills me with apprehension and dread. What if they sneeze and cut my optic nerves? Or a major artery?

And if it can’t be treated, if it’s a rare pituitary adenoma that is actually malignant; how long will I have? Months? Weeks? Days?

Three months ago my mother was diagnosed with NonHodgkin’s Lymphoma. Surely she knew with just the name of the cancer that had invaded her body that there was a reasonable chance that she would die. She also knew there was a reasonable chance that she would be cured. Today, while I received the news that I might have this tumor in my head, she received the news that most of the cancer gone. Her odds have improved drastically.

I can’t tell her, not until I know for sure what I’m facing. I have no idea what hearing that her youngest child has a brain tumor will do to her own recovery. Yet I also don’t know if withholding this is a mistake. What if something happens to me too soon, before anyone has the chance to tell her? She needs time to prepare, just as we needed time to adjust the possibilities of her own diagnosis.

But the bigger thing in front of me right now is fear. It’s the not knowing, and the knowing of the possibilities.
I am terrified of dying.
I’m terrified of hell.

I look back on that, and realize that if the overwhelming sense of relief is removed, not much has changed. I'm still terrified of dying. I'm still terrified of hell.

July 27, 2002

Lessons From A Furball

Dusty was 13 years old, and had severe heart, lung, kidney, and liver problems. She took several drugs three times each day, and only hid under the bed when the thought of yet another pill was overwhelming. Most of the time she was quiet; when she felt good, she was alert, and spent a good deal of time sitting on top of a box near the bedroom window, staring outside, feeling the breeze through the screen, as she soaked in every detail that she could. With each day that passed it was increasingly obvious that she understood, on some level, that not all was right in her little world, and that she had to take it all in while she could, before her heart gave out.

During one of her last visits with an internal medicine specialist, she stood silently on the exam table, staring out the window with a quiet dignity that was almost eerie. She ignored the conversation behind her, although she certainly knew it was about her. She was living in the moment, enjoying the world on the other side of the glass. In years past she would have become excited and agitated if she were to see a bird close by through a window, but that day she watched with quiet interest as the birds pecked at flowers and stared back at her through the pane of glass. Her breathing, which of late had been more than double what it should have been, eased and she took very calm, even breaths; lost in the moment, the things which robbed her of her health were of less importance than the joy of simply being alive.

In her youth Dusty was very territorial; she would defend what she knew to be hers with the speed and dexterity enjoyed mainly by the young. How intense her defense depended greatly on the importance of what was at stake: her food, her water, her favorite spot to sleep were at the very top of her list. Her territory, the boundaries of what she knew to be her world, always came behind immediate needs. Birds outside the windows, stray animals, even the postman were concern enough to illicit a response, but rarely enough to trigger a defensive reaction. She'd become excited, and vocal, but rarely physical. As long as she felt safe, she'd remain alert but not terribly reactive; if any of those intrusions ventured into the safety of her world--coming through the front door--she would react with immediate defensive strategies, depending on the size of the threat. Sometimes that meant the baring of claws and teeth, sometimes that meant hiding under the bed.

As she aged and became ill, however, the importance of defending certain things lessened. Her zone of personal comfort expanded considerably in size; things that would have sent her scurrying to a safe spot under the bed before merely piqued her curiosity. If one entered her world through the front door she no longer felt pressed to hide, but rather pressed to investigate; you could touch her things, and even touch her, but she wouldn't become agitated or defensive unless she felt that the living things in her life were potentially in trouble. She would protect the family dog. She would step between The Boy and the cable TV repairman. But her food and water became something to be shared, not hoarded. Any spot could be a comfortable spot to sleep, when sleep was even possible. She would even allow others to watch the world through her window with her, to see what there was to see, and to feel the breeze blowing through the screen.

It became obvious that the things that were once important enough to risk physical injury to protect no longer seemed so valuable to Dusty. As she reached the twilight of her life, she understood something that many people never learn: the things we hold dear to us are sometimes just things, and not always worth the physical effort required to keep them. One way or another, there will be more food, more water, another nice spot to curl up and sleep, or another window from which the world can be observed.
In the human world, Dusty wouldn't have fought some neandrethal for her wallet, she would have surrendered her car to the moron demanding it. She knew that the years we have here are too few to bother with worrying too much about the things that can be replaced. She seemed to sense that life is worth defending and treasuring. Dusty wanted to see it all, as much as she could, and she fought for her own life as much as any person would fight against an assailant they cannot see and do not understand.

We spend so many hours of our lives learning to fight, to defend ourselves and the people around us; we work hard at making ourselves stronger so that if the time ever comes, we have the advantage and can emerge victorious. Intentionally or not, we also train to defend the things we own: don't take my wallet, don't take my purse, don't take my car or my watch or my designer sneakers. Don't touch my stuff, or I'll have to hurt you.

Think of all the hours you've put in considering, even in fantasy mode, defensive strategy and technique. What you would do if someone tried to take something material that you own. Did you create this plan or envision various scenarios so that you could protect your stuff? Is any of that stuff worth dying over? How many people are injured or killed every year because they were confronted by someone who wanted the things that they had, and refused to just give it up, but felt pressed to fight for it? Fighting for stuff.

Is it worth it?

Dusty died after 14 months of dealing with a heart 5 times its normal size, lungs constantly filled with fluid, and kidneys scarred from the medications she had to take. It was amazing, really, that lived so long. Every day was a new chance to see the world, to look for what really matters. She showed her family in very subtle ways, that living is a gift to not be taken so lightly, and that the stuff that used to seem important really isn't anything more than nice decorations on the lawn--someone can take those, and you'd miss them for a short time, but in the end, you get over it.

What you don't get over is the ability to live with dignity, and that is what is worth fighting for.

July 28, 2002

Well, Obviously, I'm A Loser...

The wonders of the Internet. You meet people with whom you think you may have common interests, some you know you wouldn’t go five feet near, and some that are just fun to talk to, but in real life you wouldn’t hang out together or anything. And that’s cool. I’ve met some really terrific people online, including a few I’ll be lifelong friends with. A couple of them we’ve taken vacations with. One of them I knew back in junior high and reconnected with on the Old Prodigy Classic Online Service about 8 years ago.

Some people fool you. I spent a couple of years talking off and on with one person; while I didn’t think this was a person I’d hang out with IRL, it was someone I thought I knew. Our kids are roughly the same age; mine is 19 and hers is 17. We had a casual conversation in IMs, when it turned to her son’s Life Plans.

Her : Can you believe it? He wants to throw everything away!
Me: Uh… how so?
Her: He wants to be an actor!
Me: And this is a bad thing?
Her: Of course it is!
Her: Look, we didn’t push his ass to get the grades he needed to get into a good school so he could throw it away on some stupid fantasy.
Me: How is it stupid?
Her: He’ll STARVE!
Me: Or he’ll be so good that he works steadily. Or he’ll become famous. And rich.
Her: That’s just bullshit. Normal people don’t become actors.
Me: Really now.
Her: Can you tell me WHAT IS HE THINKING?
Me: That he wants to be an actor?
Her: It’s just not realistic. Maybe he’s gay.
Me: LOL what??? Are you serious?
Her: Well that would explain it.
Me: What does being gay have to do with being an actor?
Her: Well most of them are, the good ones anyway. Maybe this is his way of telling us.
Me: So it’s ok if he’s gay, just not if he’s an actor?
Her: No, of course not. But if he’s gay we can take him to someone and get him straightened out.
Me: There’s a cure for being gay?
Her: You hear about it all the time. These gay guys get together and pray, and most of them turn straight again.
Me: So… actors should get together and pray, and turn them into normal people again?
Her: Oh stop it. How would you feel if your son wanted to be an actor?
Me: Actually, he does.
Her: He does not. You’re just saying that.
Me: No, he does. He’s a theater arts major and has every intention of being an actor. No, he’s not gay.
Her: Don’t be so sure.
Me: :::shrug::: So what if he was?
Her: You don’t care that he wants to throw everything away and be an actor? Doesn’t he have potential?
Me: Tons of it. And he has the potential to be a really great actor.
Her: I don’t believe this
Me: I suppose it could be worse.
Her: HOW?
Me: He could want to be a writer
Her: Oh my god I would never put up with that! Who would want to let other people read their stupid little fantasies?
Me: [insert name], what is it that I do?
Her: What does that have to do with anything?
Me: What do I do? Professionally.
Her: But that doesn’t count. Your husband has a real job. Our boys need real jobs!
Me: So, first off, what I do isn’t a “real” job? And secondly, because our children happen to be male they can’t do what they want with their lives?
Her: They have to be responsible.
Me: So… if I were male and wanted to be a writer, it would be irresponsible?
Her: Of course it would be.
Me: I’ll be sure to pass that along to Stephen King.

You can imagine how the rest of the conversation went, I’m sure… but the gist (on her end, anyway) of it was that our kids are not able to understand what they need to be successful in life, and that actors and writers are both gay and stupid, mostly because they don’t have Real Jobs. She is determined that her son will study something “worthy” and get over this acting “nonsense.” And I am a Very Bad Parent because I support my son’s desire to follow his heart. And I am a Very Bad Example because I spend my days sitting here, tapping out childish little fantasies on my computer, an embarrassment to the world of Thinking People (hmmmm… I wonder now, do newspaper writers fall into the same chasm of stupidity? Textbook writers? Biographers? Does she not read at all?)

Here’s some advice, kiddos. No matter what your parents think… Find whatever makes your heart sing. If your heart doesn’t sing, everything else is just noise.

Creatures Under The Bed

I’m really looking forward to getting to Ohio, living back in the Midwest, where there are four real seasons and winter is not two of them. There are real autumn colors and summer days don’t get that hot. It sounds like a terrific place to live.

That said, I hate moving.

We do it just about every three years and you’d think we’d be used to it, but damn, there’s real work involved in getting ready for people to come into your house and poke through our things, wrapping everything in paper and packing it all in boxes. It doesn’t matter how often you go through your stuff and weed out what you don’t want; there’s always crap to get rid of.

The Boy cleared out his room almost two moths ago… today we dang near filled it back up with things pulled out from under the bed. Dust covered, cobweb-sticky things we evidently don’t need. We’d forgotten about most of it.

A Torso Track. What the hell? I remember ordering it, I even remember using it once or twice, but I had no idea I still owned it.

A Packard Bell computer. Stop laughing. It was a speed demon when we bought it, a 486SX with a processor that went at about 33 MgHz. It had, hmmm, 12 megs of RAM that we upgraded to a whopping 36. At some point we stuck in a 75 MgHz overdrive processor. I think that’s when it died. No one has used it in 7 or 8 years. Don’t ask me why we still have it.

A plastic box with old manuscripts. I’m afraid to peek inside; I know whatever they are, they were written about 12 years ago and are so bad I’ll want to burn them. Better to leave them alone and pretend there’s a Potential Pulitzer Prize inside. Like my very own Cracker Jack Box.

A pair of mens’ tighty whiteys. What the fu-? I don’t wear white mens’ undies. The Spouse Thingy doesn’t. I don’t think The Boy does. Who the hell put them under my bed?

Enough dust bunnies to knit another dog, if I were so inclined. No wonder I can’t stop sneezing.

From where I’m sitting now, I can see both closet doors. I know the shelves are loaded with the crap that wouldn’t fit under the bed. None of it has been touched since we moved in. At some point, probably tomorrow, I’m not going have to suck it up and open the doors and go through it.

Something could be alive in there by now.

If you don’t hear from me in a few days, it was nice knowing you.

I’m sure I’d make a tasty snack for whatever it is…

July 29, 2002

Happy Birthday, Wil

Not too long ago, maybe in January, I followed a link posted on a usenet newsgroup to Wil Wheaton’s website. The person who posted the link said the site was “pretty cool” and all the more impressive because Wil, unlike most celebrities, maintains his own site. Having watched Wil the entire time he was on Star Trek: Next Generation, I followed the link, thinking I’d find the typical star-site… you know – pictures, bio, a list of stuff he was currently working on.

Man, was I wrong.

Wil Wheaton Dot Net is an entirely unique place. He writes his own weblog, without the help of some celebeditor, and waxes hysterically and poetically on life, love, being a parent, being human. Most of all, he proves that he’s human, just like the rest of us.

Nowhere else on the web will you get to read the adventures of SpongeBob Vega$pants. Nor will you get as good an idea for what a working actor goes through, and what he feels. I don’t think you’ll laugh as much as you will reading the archives of his posts, or be as touched by how much he cares for his family anywhere else online. And nowhere else online will you get the type of community he has created, friends helping friends, entertaining each other, laughing so hard and wanting so much for each other.

I gotta give props to the man, and big sloppy thank you for putting so much effort into what could have been just another celebrity website.

He turns 30 years old today.
Happy Freaking Birthday, Unca Willie.

July 30, 2002

Excuses, excuses, excuses...

I’m tired.

Not like physically tired, not even mentally or emotionally tired. Just… tired. It’s not depression, just a realization that I’m tired of being in pain, I’m tired of never knowing how I’ll feel from one day to the next, and I’m especially tired of being so out of shape. I want to look like this and this again. I want to be thin again, and I especially want to be fit again.

Maybe it’s Wil Wheaton’s fault. He hit 30 yesterday and I started thinking about how great 30 was for me. That was pre-fibromyalgia, I had endurance, I was active, I felt good all the time; what’s funny is that I really thought I was overweight back then. I think I was about 150 pounds, but looking at those pictures, most of it was muscle. I had fat calves. I know I had fat calves. But dangit, I felt great and looked a whole lot better then.

The last few years haven’t been terribly kind to my body; being whacked with FMS put me back a few steps, and since then I’ve had fits and starts at getting back into an exercise program. I’ll get going on something, do it for a couple months, and then something happens and I stop… pain flares, a semester ends and I’m not working out in a class, more pain flares, a brain tumor…

I know, intellectually, that I’ve had legitimate reasons for backing off on exercise, but I’m also using those reasons as excuses. I’ve got to quit doing that.

Sure, yes, working out hurts. But I also know I’m capable of working past the pain, of getting through it. I’ve done it before; I can do it again. The tumor was a hell of a scare; I’ve got to get into shape, I’ve got to give myself the chance to be as healthy as I can, in spite of anything else going on in my body. The extra weight I’m carrying now isn’t helping anything.

It’s probably why I’m so tired.

So. We’re going to move to Ohio next week, find a place to live, and then I’m getting back to the issue of getting into shape, and staying there. I think I’ll start a second blog, someplace I can publicly chronicle my workout efforts, someplace friends can keep on my ass about sticking to it. Someplace I’ll be accountable for what I do.

Besides, I’m going to get that convertible at some point, and I want to look good driving it. ;)


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