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November 30, 2006

I piece by piece replace myself and the steel and circuits will make me whole


I was getting better, but now I'm feeling worse. It's the same thing, and my doctor still thinks it's nothing to "worry" about, while at the same time starting me on a diuretic and an antibiotic, and giving me Percocet for pain.

Because, you see, I am in a lot of pain. (Not at the moment -- Percocet, yay!) But last night, and then again just now: WORST PAIN OF MY LIFE. Who knew kidneys could cause so much pain? I mean, I know kidney stones made Montaigne want to die, and I know that people are always getting sucker-kicked in the kidneys in movies. But dude, seriously: You do not want your kidneys fucked up.

Here's the thing. I have trouble asking for people to take care of me when I'm sick, due to all sorts of stuff too wearisome to go into. But even I can tell that NOW IS THE TIME TO ASK.

I would like to be fussed over, please. Send me funny links to things, call, email, IM me if I'm online. I'm sick, and kind of not-so-secretly-worried that this is seriouser than we hope it will be, and even if it is going to resolve soon, it still sucks HORRIBLY. It's scary to feel this bad.

[NB: I think the above is all in coherent English, but I am *stoned* on Percocet right now.]

Posted by Rose at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

November 29, 2006

Well, I'm fine, I'm alright, it's just me, you should expect it by now

post-infectious glomerulonephritis. Eeeeeek!

Came home from my wonderful Thanksgiving in Boston pissing blood. Freaked out, called doctor, went in. She took a bunch of lab samples and told me we'd know more Real Soon Now. Yesterday (Tuesday) I felt crappy but acceptable. But yesterday night I was having symptoms of high blood pressure (ringing in my ears, dizziness, headache) and she told me to go into the ER. She was very apologetic, and with good reason: I ended up spending the entire night there, twelve full hours.

I'm not writing about this just to whinge, though. A miraculous thing happened last night. I endured the strain of twelve hours in the emergency room with emotional strength and good humor, and it is all because of the meditating. I feel kind of humble, that it's taken me 35 years to learn to actually be smart.

The first half of the night was a fucking disaster. The bureaucracy at the hospital was Kafkaesque when it was working at all. At one point, from 11:55pm to 1:00am, there was a single woman working at the registration desk, shuffling papers, and she never talked to even ONE patient. The room was filling with misery cases: A woman who kept moaning and shaking her legs. A heartbreakingly beautiful, rosy-cheeked, runny-nosed two-year-old, with his daddy and his very pregnant mommy. A homeless guy. An enormous Spanish-speaking family. Oh, and me.

The tension and anger and suffering in that room were oppressive. And I was getting extremely agitated, and started trying to get the registration woman in some sort of trouble. And then I remembered about tonglen, from the Pema Chodron book I read last month. In short: You breathe *in* suffering, you breathe *out* relief. You meditate on trying to relieve the suffering around you, instead of concentrating on your own suffering. I calmed down immediately.

When I got to the registration woman (who reminded us of Roz, from Monsters, Inc.), instead of confronting her angrily, I asked her about her job. I mentioned that it seemed really stressful to have to deal with people in the emergency room all day, each of whom thinks their problem is the most important thing that ever happened. And she softened up and admitted it was really hard, and that people get angry at her all the time. And she explained that the paperwork she'd been doing was for emergency patients who were too sick to come in and do it in person. [NB: The hospital should TELL patients this! More later.]

I ended up in the *actual* emergency room, and had a little break from people while I waited. I meditated some; I got impatient and agitated some. When I was able to come back to tonglen, though, there was a shift, and the rest of the night was a piece of cake. My doctor was frank and lovely and good at explaining himself, apologizing for the long wait and the apparent nonsense. My phlebotomist was a fascinating young man, early 20s, clearly making something of himself by becoming a paramedic. He warmed up to me when I expressed my thanks and amazement at his awesome blood-drawing skillz. ("That's hot, yo," was my exclamation when he tapped the vein on the back of my hand in one try, no tourniquet.) He's just about done with paramedic training, and he'll go out on the ambulances, and he'll do "just about everything the nurses here do, really."

I flagged at one point, in those not-night, not-morning hours. I wandered around looking for a water fountain, feeling sorry for myself. And I came back to the room feeling so lucky and so calm. I have insurance. I have loved ones taking care and eager for news of my condition. I am not rocking a tiny infant at 6am. I am not hooked up to dozens of wires and tubes. I am not a 100-pound homeless man, strung out and shivering. And I'm going to be just fine in a couple of weeks.

The woman who performed my ultrasound was aunt-ly and kind and talky, and we made friends at 8am. She's Polish, and 50, and loves food. She admired my adventuring in the Polish shops of Kensington, and said she wants to go to New Orleans to eat sometime ("A shame what happened down there, terrible"). I asked if she'd done ultrasounds in Poland, and found out the answer: She had worked for the International Bank in Poland. She came to the US about 21 years ago, speaking three words of English. She worked as a cleaning lady, but "didn't find it satisfying." So she went to school to learn to do this. She doesn't have children, and she was married, but she walked out on him because "it wasn't working." And she advised me that if I have someone who loves me and whom I get along with, I am very lucky. And I have more than my share of those someones.

I have both a diagnosis and a prognosis: I had a strep infection a couple of weeks ago, and the antibodies that my body made to fight it got mixed up and attacked my kidneys. This probably happened because of my longstanding autoimmune issues. It should get totally better over the course of the next few weeks, and I just need to have my doctor keep an eye on my blood pressure. Easy peasy.

My last task before leaving the ER was to try to make the world a better place. I spoke to the Nurse Practitioner in charge of the ER, and he was very receptive. He told me that they are publishing a pamphlet that will be out in a couple of weeks that explains the whole ER process, and that the hope is that it will make everything clearer for people. He also encouraged me to speak to a Patient Representative in person or on the phone, rather than writing in, since the person will have to take a statement from me. And he agreed with my assertion that INFORMATION IS CHEAP, and that keeping patients up-to-date with what's going on is a good way to create goodwill on both sides.

I left the hospital feeling lucky, and in love, and empowered, and mindful. And really fucking exhausted. I could use some sleep, y'know?

Posted by Rose at 05:43 PM | Comments (3)

November 24, 2006

Get me on the boil and reduce me to a simmering wreck with a slow kiss to the back of my neck

Oh, so much laughter, so much cooking, so much love. What a wonderful day yesterday was, start to finish!

Here are notes on dinner, which Debby and I think may be our best Thanksgiving effort EVAR. Subtitled "How you can tell that although we have assimilated, Todd and I were raised in the wilds of south Louisiana."

Snack was lovely paté, brought by new parents Josh and Judy. We'd told them they only needed to bring themselves, but they decided to show that they can still shop with the cleverest of them. V. yummy.

Throughout the day, Debby and I were somehow in seekrit competition to see which of us could suggest the most outrageous use of animal fat in our dinner. I think perhaps each was hoping to shock the other, to push boundaries until the other said No! We cannot do that! But we never reached that point, and the results were astounding.

We started out by frying breakfast sausage in butter, for the cornbread stuffing. Then we saved the butter/porkfat to use to a.) baste the turkey, and b.) sub in for butter in the biscuits. Mmmmm.

Here's our menu:

Heirloom turkey, brined with salt, sugar, and peppercorns, basted in butter and porkfat. Wild success.

Cornbread dressing, included sausage, half-and-half, and a bunch of very usual ingredients. So delicious.

Mashed potatoes and celery root. The celery root adds a bit of sweetness and lightness to the potatoes. Perfection.

Gravy. I minced up the offal (just heart and liver) and added in the bits of meat from the neck, which we'd made stock with (and added in some duck stock Debby just HAPPENED TO HAVE in her freezer). The gravy was thickened with a bit of cornstarch. Best gravy we've ever made. Rich, dark, meaty -- she and I were ready to pack in everything else and just dip biscuits in gravy for dinner.

Biscuits. Buttermilk biscuits from my favorite recipe (which I shall try to remember to transcribe). V. simple. But added in the porkfat to the called-for butter, which made them extra special this time. God, I love biscuits.

Collard greens. Cooked down with bacon, with a bit of homemade Inner Beauty hot sauce added for piquancy. These were bitter green perfection.

Squash. Butternut and acorn squash, baked with butter, mashed with maple syrup and soy sauce. A last minute addition to the menu because Debby was AFRAID THERE WOULDN'T BE ENOUGH FOOD, because she is just that sort of cook. And I love her for it, because if we hadn't made the squash we wouldn't have had the cooing and fussing and moaning that ensued as we ate the squash.

Dessert was pecan pie, made properly by Todd, with cane syrup in addition to dark Karo syrup. I'll dig up his recipe sometime; and also, caramel pumpkin tart, from the current issue of Gourmet, which turned out splendidly. Sort of a deep-dish pumpkin pie. I subbed in Todd's favorite pie crust recipe, as I did not have my own handy, and it was great, and clearly better than the requested one. We also grated fresh ginger in addition to powdered. Mmmm.

Josh and Judy also brought us ginger ice cream and pumpkin ice cream, from the local dairy in their town. Again, we'd have made do without this, but how could we refuse to let them contribute, even though their beautiful infant is only TWO WEEKS OLD. The ice cream really made the dessert course -- they were perfect with the pies.

Oh we were full. Stuporous. Sat around reading a Taschen book of atrocious and wonderful ads from the 70s, which continually made us ask, "Magazines thought that was okay to run? Good lord!"

And we laughed and we laughed all day, about nothing and everything, and it was a perfect day. One of many in my future, I am certain.

Posted by Rose at 08:56 AM | Comments (4)

November 23, 2006

So sign me up, if you're offering another dance

It's Thanksgiving, and as I have a lot to be thankful for right now, I thought I'd get on that.

Attentive folks might have noticed that the tenor of my posts has changed significantly over the last couple of months, and it's true: I'm happy!

This morning I had a lovely omen: I woke up, rested and content, and saw my husband sleeping and was filled with love. I watched him sleep for a couple minutes, then reached over to check my clock, just as my alarm was about to go off. [Alarm on holiday due to need to COOK COOK COOK.] I win!

The nature of my happiness goes much deeper than that, though. Here's how I see it: For the last several years, I have been standing on one side of an enormous chasm, thinking that things would be better on the other side. Every so often I gear up and toss myself across, without quite enough momentum to make it, and down I tumble onto the rocks. With great effort I crawl back to my starting point, wait awhile, then get to looking at the chasm thinking, "Huh. I think it'd be better OVER THERE."

This time I finally worked up enough speed and force and will to make it all the way over! I am on the other side, and I am here to tell you: THE GRASS IS GREENER.

The thing that's so different is that instead of fixing the proximal problem, then sitting around waiting for a new problem, which has been my MO for oh-so-long, I've finally fixed the main thing that's been wrong, my inability to actually appreciate how much there is about my life that is truly wonderful.

So I'm thankful for the meta thing, but here's what I'm thankful for right now in particular:

My health. I know that'll sound a bit nuts, as I've been having some problems, but really, on the whole, I am very healthy. And someday I'll be less healthy than I am now. And right now, I can do yoga and walk in the park and travel and get around town and have sex and basically do everything I want to do with my body, with only very minor limitations. Yay!

My work. I love copyediting, and I love that I get to do it for pay. I also love doing it for special friends and good causes, and there's been some of that this year, too, and that makes me feel really good.

My city. Every time I think I couldn't possibly love NYC more, I discover something new about it that I adore completely. I am home.

My friends. Brilliant, talented, compassionate, funny -- they stand by me through ridiculous trials with good grace, they celebrate my happiness with pure joy -- I have the best friends in the world.

My lovers. Polyamory has been quite an adventure, but I have learned really important stuff even from the relationships that seem to have not worked out. Furthermore, right now all my poly is INSANELY POSITIVE poly, and I am deliriously happy. And everyone likes everyone and there's this whole networked chosen family radical community thing going on and OMG I'm making the life I want to live. Yes I am.

My husband. The most important person in my life, the hub of my universe, my companion and friend and lover and entertainment committee chairman: I have chosen wisely.

Yes, truly, I am in love with the world. Filled with bliss. That's tempered with understanding how I got here, of course, but that makes it all the more precious.

Posted by Rose at 12:02 AM | Comments (4)

November 15, 2006

When I was an itty-bitty baby my mama would rock me in my cradle

So, as promised, more noodling about my mom.

A few years ago I had a flash of insight that started me along the path to better understanding and forgiving my mom for my childhood. I think I was about 31, and having some health problems of my own, and I suddenly realized that at 31, my mom had kidney stones. Now if you get kidney stones, it still surely sucks, but they blast them out with sound waves and give you some dietary advice and you go on your way. When my mom got them, it was 1976. Hers were far-advanced, and stuck in her kidneys themselves. She had two operations, each of which left an enormous bisecting scar around her middle. She was in hospital for weeks at a time, recuperating. She was only 31, barely spoke English, had a five-year-old daughter and an intermittently employed husband, and lived in a trailer. This was not her beautiful life, the one she thought she was signing up for when the handsome American fell madly in love with her.

I remembered/realized all that, and I was filled with so much compassion for her. My heart nearly broke, thinking about how hard her life turned out to be, after she'd thought it was All Going To Be Okay. I gave the rest of my childhood more thought, and really felt how hard it had all been, my dad reclusive and odd, the penny-pinching, me being strange and bookish. And the endless health problems. On top of which, she was clearly manic-depressive. So she'd freak out, get anxious and twitchy and irritable, and clean the house top to bottom, yell at me and Daddy, and then collapse in a pile of tears, begging our forgiveness. And that was all *before* she was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, or incapacitated by endometriosis.

Feeling that compassion for my mother softened me a lot, and made it easier to bear my disappointment at how our relationship has gone. But part of me resented this. Part of me felt like, "I am making this huge effort to understand my mother, and she is doing nothing of the sort! She isn't trying at all! Fuck this!" I felt superior, and I felt hurt, and it was all kind of shitty.

I started seeing a new therapist this fall, and one of the first things that came up was my discussion with her of my changing feelings toward my mother. I explained that I used to be barely able to stand my mom, that she upset me so badly I couldn't contemplate her, but that this had shifted, because I now understand how hard her life was when I was growing up, and I forgive her. Barbara looked at me levelly, and asked, "So how was it for you?" I said it was uncomfortable, unpleasant. She looked at me with a whole universe of sadness, and said, "I hardly think a five-year-old would use the words 'unpleasant' or 'uncomfortable'. How was it for you, growing up around her?"

And I lost it.

I started sobbing, and I told her how terrified of my mother I'd been. How she would shout, and I wouldn't ever know what I'd done wrong, because I always tried *so hard* to do everything right. How my teachers were always full of praise for me, and I often wished I could just live at school. How I decided she was unreliable, and not-to-be-trusted, and how I'd try as best I could to avoid her. And the whole time I cried.

Barbara explained that until I can confront my own sadness around all that, it's never going to get better. That learning how to *not run away* from that sadness, my ur-sadness, really, is one of the big keys to making sure that I never have to go through all the crap, the depressions and anxieties and insecurities and mood troubles and fear, ever again.

She also explained that it wasn't fair, that little children deserve to have mothers they can run *to*, not *from*, and that my anger and resentment at my mom are a natural reaction. My intellectual forgiveness, my understanding of *why* she acted as she did, is a good start, but I also have to forgive myself for having hated her and being afraid of her.

It has turned out that the one session was a sort of emotional tipping point, that it shifted my whole understanding of my relationship with my mom. I've been doing a lot of work with sitting with my difficult emotions, and it's all been incredibly productive. I'm not running away anymore. And the talks I had with my mom last week are one result.

Posted by Rose at 11:13 AM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2006

This house is full of, full of, full of fight!

[x-posted from LJ, for maximal coverage -- comment wherever you like]

Well, I've had some unsettling news today. I had a bad pap smear a couple of months ago, and then followed that up with a colposcopy last week, which is a biopsy procedure. I've got high-grade cervical dysplasia, and will be having an in-office surgical procedure (LEEP) the first week of January.

I can see that my future includes becoming a vocal advocate of HPV vaccination for young'uns. If we're willing to vaccinate kids to keep them from getting fucking CHICKEN POX, why aren't we vaccinating them to keep them from getting cervical cancer, or having scary surgical procedures? Because it involves sex.

Gah, sometimes I hate my country. But I am going to change the world, yes I am, oh yes.

(I should make clear that I feel *really lucky* right now. I have clever, kind doctors involved in my care, who are totally cool with me being a pervert (we discussed what my sex dos and don'ts for January include), and I have really decent insurance, and this "dysplasia" is ten years off from being cancer. It's serious, but it's going to be okay.)

Posted by Rose at 07:20 PM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2006

Mama thinks she spoilt me rotten

Had a great talk with my mom this morning. That's not the most surprising thing in the world for most folks, I suppose, but we're talking about My Mom here, not the Platonic Ideal of Mom.

It's particularly surprising because she was Crazy Bugfuck Furious with me just a few days ago. But we sorted it out.

Okay, now that I've made it all dramatic, I'll tell the story properly. As my most faithful or newly obsessed readers will no doubt remember, my mom was dreadfully sick last year. She's been much better, but never quite what a healthy person would call well, in the year since. The last couple of months she's been suffering from urinary tract infections, and her doctor's been putting her on various antibiotics to combat this. However, none of them really worked, and he finally told her that if she had another positive urine specimen, he'd have to hospitalize her for a few days to try a regimen of IV antibiotics. We talked that day, and she said that if she didn't call back that night, she was in the hospital.

Well, I *intended* to call her in the hospital. I swear I did. But every time I thought about her (and I thought about her a lot those few days) it was first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and even with a one-hour time difference it was still too late to call. She wasn't in for *very* long, three or four days, and I'd just that morning had another round of "Oh crap, I really ought to give Mama a call," when that afternoon I saw her on my caller ID. I picked it up and gave her a cheery, "Hey! Mama! You're home!"

Nice try.

She was so mad at me, oh man. She was doing her full-on impersonation of a stereotypical Jewish mother, which I always find comical in her wild idiolect/accent. "It's okay. I'm fine. I don't care. I know you're busy and you don't have time for your old mother. I could've been dead in there. But it's okay." Sigh.

However, what I chose to do this time was very different from what I've done in the past. Instead of arguing with her about how really I don't suck ass as a daughter and why does she have to be such a martyr and honestly, she could have called me -- instead, I said, "Wow, you sound really upset." So she tried again to guilt-trip me, and I said, "You really wanted me to call, and I didn't, and I hurt your feelings -- I'm really sorry." So she tried again. And I answered again. "You feel like I don't care about you, and I wasn't thinking about you, and that's really painful."

And she gave up. And she told me how she felt terrified and alone in the hospital, and how much she'd have liked to hear my voice, and that we're all each other has left now, and she'd been scared and sad. And I told her how sorry I was that I'd made her feel that way, because I'd been thinking about her lots, but she just had no way of knowing if I didn't call. And she laughed and said, "No, honey, I can't read your mind." And then she started telling me about the endless party that her hospital stay had been (because of her work with the Mexican immigrant community in Gonzales, she is actually never at a loss for hordes of loving friends and chosen family and toddling cherubs). Flowers, food, children, her pastor, too many people for the hospital room and the nurses complained.

But what she wanted was me, and I let her down, and so even in the midst of plenty, she felt totally abandoned and alone. I feel like a heel, but I also feel like we've had a breakthrough. Because I acknowledged how she felt, she gave up on just being explosively angry, and talked about her feelings -- something she's historically been really super bad at. And I'll do better next time.

Gee, I wonder where I get my emotional pathology from?


This morning, I gave her a call because it was my dad's birthday. He'd have been seventy-six today. She was sad, but appropriately so, not a basket case. And so I told her something I've never mentioned to her, because she and I had grieved for Daddy so differently. I told her that sometimes in my dreams I hang out with Daddy, and we chat and drink coffee and just shoot the shit, and I always wake up from those dreams really happy. (Honestly, that happiness is both profound *and* a little bittersweet, but my mom's not one for emotional nuance, so I left that out.) She loved hearing that, and went on about how those we lose are never really gone, and I found myself not-irritated with her, because even though we have thoroughly different beliefs about what happens after you die, I'd just said myself that I feel my dad's presence continuing in my life despite his death. So I kept my big trap shut and let her talk, and it was nice. Familial.

Maybe she and I will work this whole being-related thing out before one us dies. That would be *so* cool.

Posted by Rose at 10:24 PM | Comments (5)

November 10, 2006

When will we ever learn?

Been having some seriously good times lately. Buddhism kicks ass, yo.

I have approximately eleventy-seven blog entries queued up in my head, but alls you're getting right now is a little thinking I was doing a couple of days ago.

I've got some gorgeous morning glories a couple of blocks away around the corner from my house. Last year I meant to harvest seeds from them to try to grow them in my yard, but forgot. I've been taking their portraits all summer and fall, just go look at my Flickr sets.

This year I've been waiting and waiting to harvest seeds, and reminding myself to look for them. But months have gone by and no seeds! Finally I realized that the plants don't actually set seeds until the fall, when the flowers stop coming so prolifically. Something, I dunno, scientific/botanical about how many hours of light and all that sort of thing.

What this means, though, is that while I have been enjoying the current flowers, I've been so looking forward to growing my own, next year, that I haven't been paying attention to the reality of this year's batch. One black mark against me. But I feel I am making up for that with my new observation: The present crop of morning glories has to die in order for the seeds to set for future plants. You can't get to the future without letting the present die, is what I'm saying.

What was that? Buddhist teachings about death and impermanence? In the flower garden around the way? I think this means the dharma is wherever you look for it.

I would fuss about how I'm getting so philosophical and shit, since I find it mildly embarrassing, but it's unbelievably wonderful! Everything feels so joyous and calm.

Me=happy Rose. More soon.

Posted by Rose at 12:50 AM | Comments (1)

November 07, 2006

Shake them titties when you vote, bitch

Vote! Vote vote vote!

More later -- a marathon report (watching it was great!) and some photos and blah blah blah -- but the most important thing possible is that we should all Vote the Fuckers Out!

Posted by Rose at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)