Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mind-boggling numbers and surviving Christmas

I woke up to this story on the radio the other morning. And in my early morning groginess, I succumbed to a bit of outrage over it. I usually take a more detached, worldly "yes, the system is fucked up" attitude to the existence of such obscenity, but on that morning, my much more raw 18-year-old-ish-"that is just so fucking wrong" self took over.

What can one do with 67.9 million dollars?

And the tidbit in yesterday morning's Freep: Our country spends about $250 million a day on the war in Iraq, putting the grand total on spending somewhere in the $500 billion range. Again, intellectually, I knew this, but something about another pre-coffee confrontation with such outrageous numbers has left me feeling raw.

Some of it may be that it is happening in this moment -- the moment right before and right after the consumer-fest of Christmas. I'm not going to go looking for estimates of how much we spend on tinsel or such silliness, but I did have to take a moment and check in with myself and how I negotiate this "holiday" which is not holy to me.

The boy child wanted, I mean really wanted, the purple Ninja Turtle (Donatello, I think) and I almost got him one -- just to please him, just to see the momentary joy on his little face. Gack. Pull back. Regroup. If even I, a pretty stingey pre-revelation Grinch can fall prey to the hype... eww...

Anyway, I feel decent about where I eventually landed in terms of the holiday craziness. I let two who shall remain nameless (but you know who you are) hold forth on the Anti-Christmas rants and I chose to walk a middle path. This means I did get a tree -- but only after I had a heart-to-heart with E and she told me she was willing to contribute $10, 2 hours, and 98% of her attention to the acquiring, decorating, deconstructing process (I didn't make her pay, but I was impressed with her offer). I also got the kids a few well-chosen presents. These items were a pleasure to buy (because they were bought with a beer in hand at the Shadow Art Fair) and the kids LOVED them -- a bookmark-making kit and plaid tafetta bubble skirt for E, kid-friendly comic books for O. Then I also rounded up a slew of fresh art and literacy supplies (paper, paints, markers, brushes, notebooks) and we spent Christmas morning happily eating pastachios and painting pictures.

The holiday stuff fest really grew once we got to my folks, but I think even they have finally gotten the message and they were fairly restrained in their purchases for the kids. Other family members and family members of family members piled a few more items on the gift pile, but I am as excited as the kids about the new remote control car and the Sorry game!

As in previous years, however, we picked only little things (some handmade, others acquired from local artisans) for those closest to us and then gave an equivalent amount to an organization that would spread it to others. This year we kept the funds closer to home than in the past and chose Forgotten Harvest for our donation. I'm not sure the kids totally "get it" but at least the tradition will be there as the grow older and see more of the world.

Of course, if I'd had $67.9 million to work with....

Beyond all the stuff, I took the opportunity of Christmas being a "special day" (though why it is special is a bit up in the air -- the kids know it is not because it is the birthday of the saviour, but they would be hard pressed to come up with an acceptable explanation) to step back as a parent. I issued few dictums, I made no comment on their choice to eat treats from their stockings for breakfast, and I did not once mention that their rooms are so incredibly cluttered that the new toys will immediately be swallowed by the old. Today it is back to business -- there are chores to be done (tho why do they still look at me like I am insane when I mention this?) and nutritional food to be eaten. But it was FUN...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Word of the Day: Hoydenish

I'm rolling around in the old etiquette books this morning and came across this term:


Not surprisingly, the author of Etiquette for Americans (1909) was recommending that her readers avoid "hoydenish or romping habits" if they wanted to be treated civilly in public. (p. 199)

What I find interesting about this word is that it is (er, was... Encarta labels it as "dated") gender- and age-specific. To speak of a hoyden was to refer only to a young woman who demonstrated self-absorbed or thoughtless behavior. But that the word was synonymous with "tomboy" suggests that one of the ways that women might be perceived as lacking appropriate self-control or being thoughtless was in not properly performing their gender roles.
Since I aspire to be a "high-spirited, boisterous, or saucy girl," I think I'll reclaim this word that used to be considered an insult. And in the meantime, I'm going to cultivate my hoydenishness now by raiding the cookie tin and finishing off the coffee.... Okay, that's a little timid, but it is only 10:00am. Just you wait!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow Day

Well, now it looks a bit more like misty rain, but an hour ago it was a fine snow coming down. Just enough had landed to coat the grass and suggest the whiteness of winter without the deep drifts, chilling winds, and painfully low temperatures that will come soon enough.

Taking advantage of the mild temps and fuzzy percipitation, the ancient dog and I went for a slow ramble around the block. What a pleasant wobble.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Not what I expected...

So my hip seems to be healing up rather well -- it is swollen and a bit more sore today, but not approaching the pain level I had during the bad old days of my bum hip acting up on me. What has surprised and, in all honesty, freaked me out is that I am still feeling a bit disoriented and a bit overwhelmed at times. I am not sick. My incisions are scabbed over. The pain is really more like discomfort and a bit of weakness than real "pain." So why do I feel so at odds with the outside world? A trip out to lunch one day and a drug store run today left me feeling like a slow-moving sloth in a cheetah world. It is 9:30pm and I am hunkered down in bed with book, computer, and knitting. In my logical brain, I'm assuming that these are the lingering effects of anesthesia and perhaps the pain meds (though I haven't had any of those in almost 24 hours). Whatever its source, I'd like for it to go away now.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Happy Hipster

The surgery went fine. Obviously no telling if it fixed the problem long term, but I'm pleased with how the procedure and immediate after-effects went.

We got to the hospital at 6:00am. I put on my stunning light blue plaid gown (mmmm.... plaid, my favorite) and then was assimilated by the borg (blood pressure cuff that would automatically check me every ten minutes or so), finger pulse ox thingy, heart rate monitor (which had six sticky patches stuck to my shoulders, chest and ribs), and the oh-so-fun poke in the back of the hand (otherwise known as an IV). The latter being put in was the most painful bit of the whole day -- nurse told me that but I was reserving judgement on that one! She was right, however. The nurse had me mark the hip to be operated on, the intern marked my ankle of the correct leg, and the surgeon's mark is in the picture. They definitely were careful to get the correct hip!

I was very pleased with the "team" in charge of knocking me out. There were three of them and they took my earlier bad experiences seriously and gave me some brilliant medicine before the surgery to keep the woogies/pukies at bay and promised more if that didn't do the trick. But it did. Big kisses to Dr. Woodcock and his crew!

I remember the operating room and getting on the tiny table that was designed to put my leg in traction, but then I drifted off. I awoke in recovery with no pain and my stomach calm. Yay! Decent doses of pain appeared at the incisions when I moved, but if I so much as exhaled sharply, I was given pain meds. Nap, drink, answer questions on pain. Repeat two more times. Somewhere in there I became aware of Dr. Schultz (surgeon) talking to me. Here's what I caught: the tear was long and significant and there was also some significant inflammation (he said, "that was an angry hip"), all of which they addressed -- and with only a need for 3 incisions!

Then I got to move to the next curtained area where W could join me. They prescribed some pain meds (like vicodin but without so much acetaminophen), unhooked me from the mothership and let me get dressed. I got up to do this and realized that, as the surgeon was saying to the nurses, I didn't need crutches! The PA had me thinking I was going to have 1 to 2 weeks of crutches, but that does not seem necessary. I won't be turning on a dime or tackling much in the way of stairs just yet, but I can walk fine on the hip -- the pain meds are a different story :)

W wheeled me out of the hospital to the van and had me home by 2:00pm for soup, crackers, and a good long nap. I got to visit with the kiddos (who were unimpressed with walking abilities, btw -- they probably wanted the crutches) and my folks before they all left me to nap more and do this bit of narco-blogging.

Thanks to all for the expressions of love and support. Those offers of help are also greatly appreciated and have been filed away for future use, if necessary.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Who am I without the pain?

I resisted this question when it was first asked of me, but with surgery looming, it has crept back into my thoughts. The premise is that the pain has gone on long enough, been persistent enough, that it is not just something I live with, but has become a part of who I am. Honestly, I don't know. Here are the bits I do know. The bits that I would hopefully forget if there weren't a blog to read about them in years from now...

I first recognized the pain as something more than a passing thing in June of 2003 -- 4 1/2 years ago. We were camping at Waterloo and the walk to the beach became torturous, so I sat a lot, something I would learn later only made things worse.

The pain has three parts that crop up individually and in different combinations. The first pain to appear was in the front, right at the crease between leg and groin. It felt like the tendons in this area would not "hold" when I walked -- like my hip was about to give way -- and this area is almost always tender. The weakness I feel in the hip seems to come from here. The next to appear was in the piriformas muscle -- the big one that goes over the back of my hip. It ties itself up in to a big painful knot that is hard to stretch at all. The third is a pain on the outer hip. This is the least troublesome of the trio, though it has had its moments.

Over the course of the four+ years, I have seen the flexibility and strength on my right side decrease markedly, I have become increasingly unable to walk or stand for long periods of time (esp. on concrete), I cannot sit on overly soft couches or overly hard chairs for more than a few minutes, I cannot sleep on my side (often being on the left with my right hip in the air hurts too), I cannot sleep for more than a few hours, I cannot step up more than about a foot on the right, I cannot drive for more than about two hours without suffering for days after.

I am still active -- I lift, yoga, skate, dance, and bike. These make me strong so that helps keep the hip in check in the big picture, but they also, all except for the bike, cause me pain short-term pain. The bike has, in many ways, saved my sanity of late -- it is what has allowed me to be out in world... moving, active, and without pain. I don't know why I don't hurt on the bike, but I don't. When I can't walk and I can't sit anymore, I've been able to pedal... and a 35 mile ride does a lot to counter the depressing pyschological effects of the limitations noted above.

Some periods have been worse than others. The summer of 2005 was particularly bad after travel had me sitting way too much and off my regular exercise schedule. Somewhere in 2006 I had another bad period that I finally admitted to when I realized that I could not walk to/from E's school (3 1/2 blocks) without bumping the pain level up two notches. Not being one who is always comfortable with her own limitations, I found I could meet E's desire for a mommy escort by riding my bike -- but every time I get on the bike to take her to school, I am aware that I can't walk that far on concrete any more.

I don't sleep well either. If only I could sleep... maybe I could deal. But 3am would often find me wandering the house with a cloud of doom hanging over my head, hurting. I finally learned not to use this time to talk with spouse or send e-mails...

The docs have never been very helpful. During a physical one year, when the doc asked me how my general health was and I told her about the grayness the hip had brought to my life, she told me I could make a separate appointment to talk about that! Needless to say, I have never felt well tended by my primary care physicians who could not even manage to decently medicate for the pain. Specialists did little better -- they would bend and twist me and look puzzled at the disconnect between my flexibility (high) and pain levels (also high). The surgeon was better. He was cautious -- did more x-rays and MRIs which revealed a labral cartilage tear -- ordered extra (painful!) tests to see if that was the cause of my pain and he offered a solution (surgery, not surprisingly) . But even he would not help me manage the pain between seeing me in the Spring of 2007 and now, when I am actually having the surgery.

The real kicker with the pain is not its intensity, per se, but that it is always there. I haven't been below a 2 (out of 1o) on the pain scale for years and I'm often running at a 4 or a 6, but when it goes on at those higher levels for days on end, it can really wear me down. Those who have seen me lose it over the pain are usually seeing the stress of on-going pain more than a momentary pang (though I have those too). Those who live with me can attest that the pain creeps up on me and steals my good humor once I've had a bad run of more than a day or two of elevated pain levels. By this summer, I was taking handfuls of ibuprofen (1000mg) to dull the pain just a bit -- enough to function and sleep.

My greatest fear about Friday is that the surgery won't really fix it. The surgery may go beautifully, but I may still have pain. My close people have been hugely cheery, optimistic, supportive, but I remain unconvinced (but open. Really!). I do not know who I will be without the pain, but this has gone on long enough that I am willing to find out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Me loves the jargon

In an uncharacteristic moment of follow-thru, E and I went to the Ypsi Recreation Commission meeting on Thursday. I got to see how plans for Riverside and Frog Island parks were shaping up after the design charettes earlier this month and she got to indulge her current love of civics/social studies by seeing local government "in action" (that phrase might be a bit strong for what we actually saw -- they didn't even have a quorum...).

The Riverside plan is further along, with big-ish changes to the North and South ends of the park (such as removal of the northern parking lot that is almost never open anyway), so that the middle remains more natural and festival friendly. Many details remain to be worked out on the Frog Island plan, but for those nervous soccer players who might read this, it seems it will remain the place for organized sports (and possibly even get some lights for night games!).

Missing from the plans, however, were bathrooms. I know, many of you are sick of hearing from me about public space and bathrooms, but really, I can't think of any other structures that these parks could use more. What interested me is that no one on the commission seemed at all concerned about this. The landscape architect's inclusion of a shelter for porta-potties seemed to suit them just fine. I waited until the bitter end to say anything -- thinking someone, anyone on the commission is going to ask about this... but they didn't, so I did. Yes, yes, I know the likely back story here (confirmed in secret e-mails with an Ypsi city planner): bathrooms in such public places are hard to keep clean, safe, and in good repair. Frankly, I don't care. There are lots of examples, from lots of other cities that can guide us in this noble cause. We are bright people. We can figure this out.

The other piece of the plans that bummed me out was the lack of bike racks (yet another topic some of you have grown tired of...). The parks will link up with the Border2Border trail, they are the site of festivals, community gardens and sporting events, they are close to the two major shopping/dining areas in town... one should be able to lock a bike easily near every entrance!

Okay, so what did I love? I loved the (potential) location of the new pavilion (south end of Riverside), ideas for kids' playspace that were more than the primary-colored structures we find in every other park, the new seating to be built into the hill on both sides of Frog Island's field, the sledding hill, the Riverside overlook, and all the lovely jargon that goes along with these kinds of improvements: daylighting storm pipes, bioswales, visual access, drop structures, detention elements.... mmmmm.... I think I need a towel.

Better than my take on any of this, however, are the notes that 8 year old E took:

"There are seven recreation commissioners here at City Hall. My mom and I are the only audience. It is 7:55 and we are discussing what to change in Riverside Park. We still have to discuss Frog Island and the agenda says we have until 8:00. The man who I think is the main commissioner is Murph (Richard Murphy). The man who is talking is Chris Mueller. Oops! It's 8:01 and he hasn't even started on Frog Island! It's 8:02 (two minutes after finishing time) he's just started on Frog Island. The map we have for Frog Island is pretty lame. I thought the other one was very detailed. It's almost like what I think Mrs. Barrett would call excellent writing. It's 8:08 and mom is asking me if I'm TIRED! I usually stay up until 8:45. As I said it's boring. I listened to the first one but this one is tooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo boooooooooooooooooriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. Ok. I'll try to listen... Toooooooooooooooooooo bbbbbbbbbbbbbboooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggg ttttttttooooooooooooo llllllllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssssssssstttttttttttttttttttteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, do not let me die!"

Okay, so maybe I didn't do much to nurture her budding interest in government by taking her after all. BTW, she did not die and was home in bed by 9:00pm.

If'n you want to see what's happening with all this. The Rec Com is meeting again on Dec. 13 at 7pm in City Hall to see the next round of plans. Go. They'd be thrilled to see you. And remember.... don't forget to ask why there are plans to build a stage behind Riverside Arts Center but no plans for building permanent bathrooms!