Did I Say Thirty Needles?

This post won’t be interesting to most people, but for those who can relate to chronic migraine.. well, as the kids said in 2005*…Holla! The rest of you can stop reading now.

In my last post describing my battle with chronic migraines, I promised an update so here I am updating. I had my first round of Botox for migraines on March 1st and now, after two months, I am about to go in for the second round. My neurologist claims that a second round is routine because some people don’t receive results after just one treatment.

First I should say that I fully appreciate the aesthetic results of the procedure because my forehead looks like it did two mortgages and three jobs ago. It’s great. But when I said “30 needles” what I really meant was “31 smallish injections.” But if you’re like me, you will tell your neurologist that these injections are nothing, and I mean nothing, compared to the average migraine. At times I feel like I could get my hand caught in a drill press and I would say, “…but man, you should feel these headaches…” And if you don’t know what a drill press is you have obviously never been employed in a Midwestern factory like I have, so here is a photo.

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The fact that I’ve gained twenty pounds after starting the pain medication four months ago is unpleasant. Indeed, I am having fewer and less crippling migraines (think only four this month compared to fourteen or more) but it is hard to know if this is the result of the Botox or the medication.The weight gain is most certainly due to the medication and also due to the fact that it has made me so lethargic I choose to eat in front of the television rather than working out. But the question of “would you rather be fat and in less pain or thin(ish) and chronically depressed and in terrible pain?” would result in a resounding “bring on the cookies and Botox, please.”

I guess I will see in a month or so if the second round helps more than the first. In the meantime, tomorrow I will be shopping for larger pants and admiring my big fat smooth forehead in the shop windows.

*http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=holla

Voted Best Drill Press in 2016 https://thoroughlyreviewed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Drill-Press1-300×300.jpg

The Teacher at the End of the Sidewalk

Childhood is difficult, but childhood for a shy child is excruciating. I had a teacher who helped me, though, and I remember her.

My second-grade teacher was wildly enthusiastic, a cheek-pincher, a loud-spoken Greek. I was a seven year old introvert. My family was in the midst of breaking apart and I spent most of my time sitting in my room, reading.

I wavered between looking up to my older brothers and avoiding them because they were angry, too. Because I was ignored, as far as I was concerned their objects were fair game, so I borrowed them without permission and sometimes took them to school to show them off. This is how I ended up as a second-grader with the library’s copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends in my possession. I sat quietly with the large hardback book on my desk, the illustrated children on the cover barely holding onto the end of a crumbling world, hoping someone would help them.

One day my teacher, Mrs. Kolias, asked me to read some of the poems to the class, presumably while she caught up on grading our homework. I remember sitting on a high stool in front of the class with the heavy book in my lap, feeling scared shitless but excited and important at the same time. So I read. My teacher told me to speak up, so I read more loudly.

I read “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” “Sister For Sale,” “Jimmy Jet and His TV Set,” most of the funny ones, but some of the more profound ones too. The class laughed at all of the right moments, and when I was done I felt proud and a bit like a minor classroom celebrity for the afternoon.

Of course I didn’t appreciate my teacher’s intentions back then; I was afraid of teachers and authority figures. Feeling invisible makes you feel ashamed and guilty for no reason.  I know now that she was impressed by the fact that  I was an exceptional reader for a second grader, so she tried to give the girl who would never look an adult in the eye and chewed her nails to the quick encouragement and confidence and pride in herself and her intelligence.

I wish I could write Mrs. Kolias a letter and let her know that I am grateful for her efforts to help me, but she has since passed away. I always think of her, though, when I notice a child who seems lost. I notice them because she noticed me.

“Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS

The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me—

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.”

~Shel Silverstein

 

The $1600 Nap

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a vacation meant leaving everything at home…including migraine headaches. Instead, every vacation in my memory includes at least one debilitating migraine; our family trip to the amusement park where a migraine solicited a nap on a picnic table surrounded by throngs of people, our trip to New York City when a hot day in Central Park ended in an early night in bed, to mention just a few. When I went to Dallas on a business trip, I spent one fun filled evening in the hotel room with a scarf wrapped around my head. I could go into vomit stories, but I’m afraid that might just be too much excitement for one blog, plus the stories are pretty gross and occasionally just talking about it gives me a migraine so I refuse. Today. Anyway, I have gotten to the point where the potential of a migraine almost makes it seem more appealing to just stay home, but I’m not willing to give in to that level of apathy quite yet.

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Which leads me to the time I last visited my family doctor, to talk about Prozac. She asked me what I thought was causing my depression, and I told her that, beyond the normal battles of family life (which seem normal to me but I’m beginning to wonder), battling headaches on a daily basis is starting to wear me down. She then told me that she recently met a new doctor in town who specializes in headaches, in fact she “loves talking about headaches. And so I thought of you.” She thought of me, out of the hundreds of patients she sees on a monthly basis.

So I started seeing a headache specialist- a neurologist- two months ago. She prescribed  steroids, beta blockers, and Amitriptyline to counteract the pain I would experience while weaning off my daily doses of Excedrin Migraine. Apparently that stuff will give you liver damage and stroke, if you’re not careful. And believe me, I’m not careful at all when I see a migraine coming. Sometimes, lying in bed with that pain, I imagine methods of relief that include power drills or just sweet, sweet death. In the meantime, though, these new medications are quite enjoyable, and making me into the kind of calm, quiet person you see and wonder if she’s drugged. Except my dreams are crazy and actually pretty fun to think about later during the day when I’m bored.

It’s not only migraines that are a problem, but the daily rebounds headaches I live with because treating a headache before it becomes a migraine is important, although not necessarily effective. When my neurologist asked me how much Excedrin I was taking, I said, “Two a day? Sometimes four, if the first two don’t work.” Actually, once I took six and a volcano began to erupt in my throat and I could feel my kidneys. I don’t actually think it’s normal to feel your kidneys so that was the last time I took six.

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Get in my belly!  Photo cred: fashions-cloud.com

“So,” my doctor asks after some mental math (there is a reason some people are cut out to be doctors), “you’re taking somewhere around twenty per week?”

And I promised myself I would be honest. Plus I don’t think there is a jail for over-the-counter Excedrin abusers. So I said, “Well, if you put it that way…”

The doctor then requested a brain scan and an MRI and told me that she would start working for approval from my insurance company for Botox for Migraines. She said it normally takes about two months for approval.

The person who helped me schedule the MRI asked me three times if I thought I needed sedation during the procedure. After the third time I asked her “Do YOU think I need sedation?” I was starting to feel like I would be missing out on something if I didn’t do it.

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Common, you know you want some sedation. Photo cred: SNL

“Are you claustrophobic?” she asked.

“Not especially,” I asked. “But how long will it take? I do have a hard time laying still for a long time.”

“You should probably be sedated.”

So apparently the MRI clinic left voice mails on my voicemail-deficient phone a couple of days prior to the event, but I didn’t receive them. So, because I drank water just before the appointment,  I was told that they couldn’t intravenously sedate me, but she should give me two Xanax. Which ended up being the exact right amount.Big props went out to my defective phone.

After drugging me, a pleasant woman chatted with me for a while and then put me into a machine. It was an “Open MRI,” which is different than the normal kind and more open, I hear. So open and pleasant, in fact, that I drifted into the most peaceful nap I have taken in ages and when I awoke 45 minutes later, I felt like I had been to a spa. Relaxed and rejuvenated, was I. I began to wonder what actually happened to my brain during that so-called MRI. Whatever it was, the lady told me I did a “great job!” but I’m giving all the credit to Xanax.

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I don’t look like this, but I felt this pampered. Photo credit: Mayfair Hotel and Spa

So over the last few weeks, I have been receiving phone calls from a number I don’t recognize. And due to my deficient cell phone, I have no idea if the calls are trying to warn me of a brain tumor, a stroke, or simply that everything is hunky dory in there. I have this thing against answering the phone (a story for another time) so I’ve decided to wait to talk to my neurologist, because she is a pain-relieving genius and also because the idea of having foreign objects existing inside my head doesn’t scare me like it probably should.

Tomorrow I meet with the neurologist again, and I believe we will be talking Botox (if the teeny-tiny possibility of a tumor is ruled out.) The idea of thirty needles poking into my head is so much nicer than the idea of another migraine, so I am looking forward to it. And I would be lying if I said that I don’t have a small hope of an injection or two in the squint wrinkles between my eyes. In fact, if I end up with a smooth forehead, youthful as a fetus, it would be all right by me. Because I deserve it after all I’ve endured.

I’ll keep you updated.

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Looks like a bad freckle make-up job. Photo cred: http://www.sheknows.com

 

 

 

 

Historical Depth and Beauty

Prague Landscape

The beauty of Prague is obvious to anyone from the moment your suitcase hits any one of the cobblestone streets of the town. From the narrow, winding streets filled with quaint shops, the ancient architecture lined with elaborate sculpture everywhere you turn, to the St. Charles Bridge, also lined with breathtaking sculpture and conveniently accompanied with its own soundtrack of talented street musicians, to Old Town Square, St. Wenceslas Square, and finally the majestic Prague Castle, its physical attributes are such that the “visual” observer can quickly become overwhelmed if not taken in in small doses.

In this day of digital photography,  it will be easy to return home with hundreds of photos to sift through, but you won’t mind doing it and you won’t want to erase any of them. This is the enchanting fairytale land which is Prague; it is an undeniable aesthetic delight.

Prague landscape

The beauty of Berlin is less obvious, but is there if you know its history. During a recent study abroad trip, I learned in depth the history of Germany, particularly the history of both World Wars and the Berlin Wall. Many of the physical attributes of the city, like buildings and monuments, are under construction because even now the city is struggling with how to deal with its history.

 Berlin Palace Construction

Berlin has had to grope with the issues of its difficult history, for instance, memorializing the victims of the Holocaust in a sensitive way while also deciding what to do with the sites of the people who persecuted them. There is the issue of the former Berlin Wall which snakes through the town as a grim and very recent reminder of an extremely painful time for many of its citizens. There are also “Stolpersteine,” imbedded in the pavement, a constant reminder of those yanked from their homes during World War II. It is clear that the government is not trying to cover up its history; it is simply trying to deal with it in the most honest and sensitive way possible for everyone involved.

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And yet, despite its ugly history and half-finished terrain, the beauty of Berlin lies in its resilience; a city that has been beaten down by so many brutal eras now stands in construction, rebuilding. Knowing the history of the place, I feel the beauty of Berlin rivals the aesthetic beauty of Prague.

Dave Chapelle Hates Hartford/The Conchords Still Got It

When attending the Funny or Die Oddball Fest in Tinley park last night, the one thing I learned for sure is that Dave Chappelle hates Hartford. In fact, the first two words in his act were just that: “Fuck. Hartford.” With much emphasis. Apparently, two nights before, he had a difficult time with the crowd at the Connecticut show, dealing with unruly, heckling, “drunk white suburbanites” and then choosing to not deal with them at all by sitting down, smoking a cigarette and waiting out his contracted 25 minute time slot.

Too bad for them, too, because the Chicago show was fantastic. I went for Flight of the Conchords, but I swear I laughed more during Chappelle’s act than I did theirs. Chappelle performed in his usual style, talking about his family, race, the lesson he’s learned about giving up (no apologies), and ranting for a while about Hartford (“Now, I don’t WANT North Korea to bomb the U.S…… but if it DOES…I hope the bomb lands on Hartford, Connecticut.”) It’s too bad the folks in Hartford show missed it, but I don’t feel too sorry for them since I’ve despised the entire state since the first time I watched Angela on Who’s the Boss. The place was probably all shoulder pads and puffy yellow hair. I would have walked out, too.

The Conchords were my objective for the night, and they did not disappoint. They opened with a hilariously dated New Zealand tourism video (featuring a woman with a Dorothy Hamil haircut and a guy in a leisure suit) that they claimed was “from this year.” It’s at least a hundred years old, though, because I first remember seeing it when they posted it on their Myspace page.

Their set list was comprised of (in no particular order): “Jenny,” “Inner City Pressure,” “Song for Epileptic Dogs,” a “Hurt Feelings/Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros” mash up, the classic “Business Time” (“Take off those granny panties. You ain’t no granny TO-NIGHT!”), and some new ones since last U.S. tour: “The Summer of 1352,” “Fuck on the Ceiling,” and a really funny and melodically beautiful song about a father and his son. Unfortunately for the father of the song, the mother left him for a guy named Trevor who is a “new, cooler dad.” There was also lots of really good banter about muffins which made me laugh because I was just talking abut muffins the other day. I think we may be psychically connected, but no big whoop. They made sure the audience knew that “complimentary muffins” are not muffins that tell you nice things about yourself.

Kristen Schall was the first act, and I know this sounds sexist but it grosses me out to hear a woman tell really filthy, body-part specific jokes. It grosses me out when men do it, too, but I feel like we, as women, have a responsibility to uphold a certain standard since we basically do everything else, too. What’s a little more responsibility, right? Anyway, she did this really weird Flashdance dance which I didn’t really get into until Jemaine joined in (who am I kidding- I didn’t really get into it then, either… that’s how I could tell it didn’t quite work.)

Hannibal Burress was funny, but not really my thing-I think he may have talked about vaginas a lot, too, but I could be wrong. I was laughing but possibly only because I didn’t want the kids beside me to think I was uptight and/or relating to and taking the vagina jokes personally. Don’t worry about it, kids.

Demetri Martin was adorable as usual. He was clever and observant and only talked about diarrhea once. Toilet humor is funny in small doses (see?)

The other comedians were funny but we were on the lawn, otherwise known by Demetri as “the poor people section,” and I spent a lot of time adjusting myself so my feet wouldn’t fall asleep and since they weren’t entertaining enough to counteract that, I can’t remember much of what was said. All in all, though, it was worth the trip and I’m glad I went. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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( Not my photo. This was taken by someone who should not have been taking photos.
Not to mention, the lawn was way too far away for pictures and I guess I’m just jealous that this person was this much closer than I was.)

Bad gifts

“But he was good, Will could see that now. Not good as in obedient and uncomplaining; it was more of a mindset kind of good, where you looked at something like a pile of crap presents and recognized that they were given with love and chosen with care, and that was enough.”
– Nick Hornby, “About a Boy”

When I was nine my grandmother gave me the most disappointing gift of my life. She prepped me for weeks before Christmas about it, playing “bigger than a breadbox, smaller than a house” guessing games, conferring loudly about it with my aunt, and making me rigid with anticipation during an already stressful season. I couldn’t imagine what could be so good that people were literally more excited for me than I was.

Christmas, post-lunchtime, I was so anxious I hardly ate anything. We were in my grandma’s basement which, incidentally, used to be a Mexican restaurant and had a mural of a bullfighter and a cactus painted on the wall that scratched your arms when you walked too close. I sat at the table across from the bull. As soon as the dishes were cleared, my cousin handed me a box wrapped in red paper dotted with Christmas trees. There was clearly envy in his eyes. Obviously word had spread.

I tore the wrapping paper off to find a box with a picture of a doll on the front. The doll was a little blonde girl (like me!) holding a smaller doll like a baby. Two dolls! Pretty cool, I thought. Gift of the year? Not really. But maybe it did something…

Oh, it did. Grandma took it out of the box and turned it on. The first thing I noticed was that it was a black doll, which would have been fine except that hair braiding was definitely out due to its short Afro hairdo and I was also going to have a very hard time passing her off as my biological daughter-doll. The second more terrifying aspect was that it was mechanical and when it was switched on, it played music and rocked the baby doll in its stiff little arms while opening and closing its eyes. I hugged my grandma and thanked her, but didn’t take my eyes off that doll.

Before I even left the table I had decided that her new home would be my mom’s bedroom closet. Occasionally, one of my brothers would put her on my dresser so that when I flipped on my bedroom light switch at night, she would be staring at me from across the room. My mom claimed that once it turned on by itself and she was going to throw it away but she was afraid my grandma would find out. I would have been afraid it would have reappeared on my dresser, covered in trash, blinking at me hatefully.

The thing is, I never let on. My grandma went to her grave believing that I loved that gift, just as she should have. Because she meant well, and sometimes loving people means lying about things, even if it’s terrifying and blinking at you and rocking a dead-looking baby doll.

“I could see my mother going in Spaulding’s and asking the salesman a million dopey questions. And here I was getting the ax again. It made me feel pretty sad. She bought me the wrong kind of skates–I wanted racing and she bought hockey–but it made me sad anyway. Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.”
-J.D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye”

It didn’t look at all like this:

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Road Trip, Day 3

About a year ago, I was gently prodded by my friend Shari to visit her on the East Coast: “I’m still a little bitter you don’t live on my street… Can this be the year I get to meet you in person?… If you come visit, and I ever get the chance to meet Michael C Hall, I promise to willingly hand him over to you.” (I made that last one up. No sane woman would ever say that.) Not that took much prodding, since I’ve been dying to meet Shari for years anyway. I also knew that Shari regularly hangs out with Stefanie (whom* I also know from the interwebs) and I have been itching to meet her for years as well. Two birds, yo!

The NYC portion of the trip was fantastic and awesome and I’m so glad we went (to) there, but the trip was actually originated by a little seed planted some time ago by Shari. We decided to meet at Stefanie’s house in Pennsylvania, so I asked her for some hotel recommendations. She told me about a hotel not far from her house with a great diner and a sign outside that says “It’s the Coconut Pie!” Unfortunately, said Stefanie, whenever she goes, they are always out of coconut pie. I told her I would demand a refund of my room if there was no coconut pie. She said she would have my back and act as my Coconut Pie Wingman. It was all the encouragement I needed.

After driving directly from a New Jersey White Castle (my husband’s entire lunch was shaped like O’s-chicken rings and onion rings- exactly what you might see in an elementary school cafeteria) and was ready for a confrontation. I stormed into the diner (this part is slightly exaggerated for the sake of your entertainment) and, banging my fist on the bar, demanded a coconut pie. To my surprise, they had coconut pie but could only sell it by the piece because their pie plates were not for sale and in order to sell me a pie in its entirety, they would have to have had more notice so they could have baked it in a disposable pie plate. Huh. It’s hard to dispute such sound logic. So instead, I left with six pieces of pie carefully stacked (shoved) into two styrofoam containers.

By the time we got to Stefanie’s, it looked a little like coconut pudding, but it was the best they could do on short notice (plus, the people were really nice and one of the ladies told me about her pet parrot so in all it was quite a pleasant experience. I would do it again.) Speaking of getting to Stefanie’s… it was amazing. I hugged her for real and hugged Shari for real and met Stefanie’s adorable children and husband (who I knew from photos and somehow expected them to recognize me too, because, you know, two-year-olds regularly check their mom’s Facebook accounts.) We spent a lovely afternoon in the yard, drinking wine, eating cucumber sandwiches and talking about hilarious events that brought us to become friends in the first place. Then we spent a lovely dinner, eating kebabs and doing the same thing. We were the happiest girls you’ve ever seen with a kebab. Then we ate lemon cake and coconut pie while the kids ran around being adorable and the cat eyed us carefully in case we were crazy people (we are.) Then we left because there was a storm coming and we were all exhausted and Dexter was about to come on.

On the way back to the hotel, I told my husband how grateful I felt to have such a great group of friends and how nice it was to see that they are just as awesome in person as they are online and wouldn’t it be great if you could just condense all of your favorite people into a 5 mile radius of where you live so you could just pop in and see them whenever you want or whenever you need to laugh. Unfortunately, that will probably have to wait for the retirement home we’ve talked about, which will be the raddest retirement home ever. And they better have coconut pie because if they don’t, I will be prepared.

*correct usage of whom? Whom knows? Whom cares?

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Reading, PA is sexy, and so is this.

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