How To Clear Your Schedule in One Easy Step

Maybe “easy” isn’t quite the right word, but now I can boast that I have a leaf guy, a doggie dermatologist, AND a neurosurgeon on speed dial.

spine clinic

I’ve been whining for several months about a pain I’ve been having in my upper back. It started as a knot under my right shoulder blade. I assumed it hung around so long because nobody could reach it — not me or my trainer, chiropractor, or massage therapist. Eventually it moved from there, but still we couldn’t pinpoint exactly, nor treat it effectively.

I wasn’t particularly worried. The pain stabbed me early in the morning, but always let me sleep. Worst pain was when I had to blow my nose. Luckily that only happened once or twice a day. Exercising didn’t hurt, and if I set my timer to remember to move around every hour or so, I was fine. A couple of ibuprofins did the trick to alleviate most of the pain. And I didn’t even need to do that every day.

But clearly, something was wrong, since it was hanging around. I went to my doctor who said it sounded like some nerve damage, maybe a pinched nerve. By then the pain would occasionally shoot around my right side, under my arm. We set up appointments for lab work, an ultrasound to check my gallbladder, and an MRI.

Labs and ultrasound completely normal. My MRI was scheduled for 6pm on Friday, January 6, 2017.

Halfway through the MRI a radiologist and nurse magically appeared and they and the technician started acting differently. Their cryptic “noncommunication” spoke louder than any words.

I got home, knowing something was wrong. Before I left the imaging department, they gave me a CD with the MRI on it. My husband and I plugged it into the laptop. Nothing jumped out at us. No neon-colored blob with flashing arrows and aa-oog-ah horns like I expected based on the technician’s cryptic warning to call my doctor before noon on Monday if I hadn’t heard from anyone.

Within a couple of hours — 9pm on a Friday night — a doctor called. She scared the shit outta me by telling me I had a 2.3cm mass pushing on my spine, “probably a benign meningioma” but it “can’t wait until Monday.”

Ay caramba!

She said she’d talk to the neurosurgeon on call and report back. She called me 30 minutes later, less frantic now. The neuro will call me on Monday to schedule surgery. Because I was walking and talking fine, and not in serious pain, the impressive size of the mass is less worrisome. I could have been growing this thing for years. Apparently, I’m only “urgent” and not “emergent.” Pfft.

I checked my calendar. I have stuff to do In January, not the least of which was going to see the Tony award-winning “Fun Home” at the theatre, something I’ve been looking forward to for two years!

On Monday, January 9, I spoke with the neurosurgeon’s nurse who answered my immediate questions and set up an appointment for Friday 13th (which she assured me was the luckiest day).

She said after that appointment they’d schedule surgery within 2 weeks. We discussed the fact that they’re not worried about delaying like that, so I decided I wouldn’t either.

I felt much more calm after talking to her, finally feeling brave enough to google “spinal meningioma.”

Turns out I’m not such a special snowflake after all. Read this and this.

All week I’ve been back and forth in my head about whether I’ll be able to get to the theatre on Sunday the 15th. (Tomorrow for those of you keeping score.) The doctor who called the night of my MRI told me that I need to call 911 if I have “tingling, weakness, numbness, or loss of bladder/bowel control.” But that last one is kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think?

However, all week long, little by little, like an incoming North Sea tide, I’ve had a creeping numbness spreading over me. I didn’t call 911 — surprise — because I knew I was seeing the neurosurgeon at 1:00 on Friday the 13th. Besides, I’ve been told that’s the luckiest day. It’s not a numbness that renders me paralyzed or anything. More like I’ve had novocaine shots all around my torso down my legs to my toes. To see me walk, you might not know I’m doing it a bit goofy, planting my feet very methodically and a bit wider than normal. But just like an inflamed taste bud on your tongue, it seems like it’s a thousand times worse than it really is.

But I still packed my hospital Go Bag with all the important stuff — books, Kindle, charger, pens and notebook, comfy clothes for when I’m discharged. I was sure when the neurosurgeon saw me and I described my numbness he’d scramble his staff like so many fighter jets and I’d be whisked across the street to the hospital.

But you know what he said?

“Yeah, your spine’s not working so good right now.”

Kinda love him.

He’s calm and very, very patient. He answered all my questions and told me how many of these operations he’s done before. I told him I wished that number was higher. He deadpanned, “I do other stuff too, you know.”

He told me to go to the theatre on Sunday. So I will. And I’ll enjoy every minute.

I’ll spare you all the gory details of the surgery, although I want to remember to ask somebody to take photos for me. Suffice it to say, this tumor is in my upper back, filling the space in my spinal cord between T2 and T3. It’s pushing the nerve way off to the side. He’ll go in, snip it out, then smooth everything back where it goes, all over the course of three hours. Remarkable, eh?

Surgery isn’t technically scheduled yet but I suspect it’ll be late next week. I’ll be in the hospital about 4 days, depending on my pain (again, ay caramba!), but no bed rest afterward. Up and at ‘em, with restrictions like no lifting, no exercise other than walking, and such. Follow ups at 3 and 6 weeks.

I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon January 13th and I’m beginning to find the humor in most every part of this situation.

For instance, in the shower this morning I was irked that the water wasn’t getting hot enough and kept nudging it up. Then I remembered. “Oh yeah. I’m numb.”

They gave me some special soap to use before I come for my surgery. Because apparently, my homemade lard-and-dill pickle shower gel suddenly isn’t good enough.

They told me I’d be able to do light housework. I told them they were wrong.

They told me it might take up to three weeks for the anesthesia to clear from my system and that until it does, I might find I get weepy or angry for no reason. I caught my husband’s eye and said, “See? It’s been the anesthesia all these years.”

I’ll be here all week, folks. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

And I got to make one of my favorite stupid jokes. I asked the doctor if I’d be able to play the piano after my surgery. He said of course I could. “Great! Because I couldn’t before.”

He laughed and all was right with the world.

nala1nala2

It’s been suggested that Nala can be my service dog while I recover. But in her befuddlement that I was trying to nap the other day — something she’s never seen before — she literally jumped on the bed and sat on my head.

I’m thinking her talents are better used elsewhere. Not sure where. Just elsewhere.

While this is major surgery — very delicate and very scary — I don’t really have a choice about it. As with all experiences, I’ll blog and write about it because that’s how I process and remember information. I’ll post updates here and on Facebook. I’ll also keep trying to find the humor in my situation. Mainly by encouraging my surgeon to do this …

hahaha

Think he will? What should I tell him to write?

 

 

 

What If My Collarbones Don’t Want To Smile?

In an effort to turn back my aging, creaky clock, I’ve started doing yoga again.

The benefit of being an aging, creaky clock, of course, is that I know myself pretty well by now.

I know I don’t have to taste watermelon any more because “maybe this time I’ll like it.” I won’t. I don’t. You can’t make me, Sam I Am.

I also know I can find people in the world who, for the right amount of money, will come to my house and do everything I find distasteful. I believe they’re called “housecleaners.”

And I know I will never leave the house to exercise. I have gone to gyms, pools, and yoga studios in my carefree youth, but the promise of good health simply cannot overcome my steadfast inertia. It’s like a religion with me.

So I was delighted when a friend of mine waxed poetic about a website called YogaGlo, where you can stream all kinds of yoga practices for every skill level, every time limit, every body part for something like $18/month. You can perform feats of zen-like dexterity on your carpeted bedroom floor where falling out of your Double Eagle or your Firefly pose won’t break your delicate hip or ego.

I’ve been with it for a couple of months now and am truly loving it. I’m becoming more flexible, my back and neck don’t hurt so much, I sleep better, I’m stronger.

And I’m laughing more because the instructors say entertaining things like …

• Expand through the heart as if your collarbones can smile

• You put it into park and you put your coins in the meter and you allow the weight of your body to drop

• Breathe some space into your hips

• You’re letting your muscles peel away from your bones so you can become a puddle on your mat

• Soften your inner groin

• Shift your gaze from the outer world to the inner world

• Soften your eyes

• Melt the crown of your head into the floor

• Move deeper into your human

• Exhale through the outside of your hips

• Bring a whole new level of intelligence to your foot

I don’t know how to do any of that yet, but I’m going to keep trying.

Maybe I’ll ask my foot for help.

What words of wisdom have you heard from your yogi?

 

 

5 Novels I Can’t Live Without

5-novels

When I realized I wrote in a similar manner to Janet Evanovich, I began to study her books to see how she does what she does. And, of course, I’m forever in her debt for introducing me to Ranger.

We read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” in our book club. It touched every emotion I had. Well done, Rachel Joyce.

When our kids were young, we took a long road trip and listened to the audio version of Jennifer Donnelly’s “A Northern Light” in the car. It captivated all five of us, often making us sit in a parking lot at our destination to hear the end of the chapter. When we got home I read it to see how she did what she did. Still not entirely sure.

I have four copies of Zippy. I lend them all the time, but never want to be without one myself. I love Zippy and Haven Kimmel like petunias love sunshine. It’s one of the very few books I’ve lifted to “You Betcha, I’ll Read It Again” status. It does three things to me simultaneously … laugh hysterically, break my heart thus turning me into a little puddle of sobbing Becky, and curse the day the writing bug bit me because I’ll never be Haven Kimmel.

Garrison Keillor and I go way back. When I was a young’un, my dad would dial up his “Prairie Home Companion” show on the car radio and we’d load into the car for a drive while we listened. If we were lucky, we’d watch a thunderstorm roll toward us, engulf us, then release us while we caught up on the news from the Sidetrack Tap, the Chatterbox Cafe, Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery and Bertha’s Kitty Boutique.

To this day radio static always makes me smile.

What are the five novels you can’t live without?

It’s Happy Blogversary In BeckyLand!

Facebook alerted me that today is the day, eight crazy years ago, that I started this blog.

blog-bday

But then when I went to look at my first post, I see it’s dated September 1st. My memory is like a sieve, but I suspect I loaded a bunch of posts on there just to see what was what and then pulled the trigger a few weeks later.

So then I took a little trip down statistic lane. I rarely check my stats, although they are interesting. I used to be able to see a map of the world with a little flag that popped up anywhere someone clicked on any of my pages. Haven’t done it in years (and can’t find it now), but back in the day, it was fun to see I had visitors from almost every country on the globe.

Except one. I’m looking at you, North Korea.

Of the stats I don’t have to, you know, search for, I see I have 416 posts published right now. I had more but I deleted a bunch when I redid my website the last time.

People don’t talk to me much on the blog, but 1,434 folks stopped by and left a comment.

There’s more spam than seems reasonable, but I have a great Venus flytrap spam blocker so I don’t see those messages, only the number.

The most views I had in one day was on January 30, 2015 when 1,124 people read Dear Frontier Airlines. It still gives me a thrill when people share what I’ve written with their Facebook and Twitter friends. Pingbacks are near and dear to my heart.

Over the years I’ve had 38,807 unique visitors to BeckyLand.

In the last week, the top searches that led people to my blog were: “pinky toe broken”, “shemar 2014”, “bravo zulu quotes”, and “scrabble equipment.”

I’m still amazed that my post about my silly pinky toe gets an average of 100 hits every month. I’d like to know the percentage of people who also thought they broke their toe vs those with simple foot fetishes.

Here are the All-Time Top Searches leading folks to my blog …

all-time-top-search-terms

Do you sense a theme??

At any rate, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of my nonsense as much as I like posting it.

Now let’s have some blogversary cake!

My First Paid Gig

payThis was the very first piece of writing I ever got paid for. It was the first thing I ever submitted.  Fifty bucks that might as well have been fifty thousand. That’s how good it felt. The editor told me she bought it because I made her laugh and I made her think. High praise, indeed.

Since I’m guessing you didn’t subscribe to The Prairie Times at the turn of the century, here it is in all its glory.

Controlling an Uncontrollable World

I have control issues.

I have some weight issues too, but I’ll get to them in a minute.

You know how the jelly sometimes drips on the outside of the jar which makes your hand all sticky when, yet again, you have to put it away after the kids eat lunch? I hate that.

And how the refrigerator ends up being home to a gazillion little plastic containers of leftovers in various states of decay? I hate that too.

And how you go to the grocery store and some prepubescent man-cub (who, I’ll wager, has never bought groceries for a family of five) carefully arranges your bread at the bottom of the bag and then proceeds to load it up with four jars of spaghetti sauce, a two-pound bag of carrots, and a half-gallon of ice cream? Again, hate that.

And loud, obnoxious cell phone users talking about their latest run-in with their child’s soccer coach/teacher/pediatrician while shopping for cereal . . . don’t get me started.

So, you see it’s true. I have serious control issues and an obvious preoccupation with groceries, which leads me to tell you that I am trying to lose ten pounds.

In the greater scheme of cosmic events, it isn’t much of a crisis; the world certainly has bigger problems to attend to. But I turned forty recently and without any warning — POOF — gray hair, a map of the canals of Venice in blue veins on my legs, and an extra ten pounds.

I can’t control much of that, but I can control what I eat and how much I exercise. Theoretically anyway.

Therefore, of the three, the ten measly pounds seems like the problem to tackle. What’s the big deal, anyway? It’s only the size of a bag of flour. A really big bag of flour, but still.

I’ll count calories. I’ll exercise. Piece of cake. (Even my cliches are food-related. Do you see my cross to bear?)

In a perfect world, broccoli would taste as good as cheesecake and watching television would create negative calories.

But I live in an imperfect world.

Broccoli, while having many good qualities, does not taste as good as cheesecake. Watching TV with reckless abandon for so many years has helped to create this innertube around my mid-section. On the plus side, however, I can sing the theme songs in their entirety to both “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Addams Family,” including finger snaps.

And I could go on. And on and on. Ask my husband.

You’re probably thinking, assuming you haven’t already fallen from your chair from in extremis ennui, that I seem to have a healthy grasp on the situation and that I’m really no different from you. After all, we all have things in our lives we want to control.

But I’m guessing you’ve never demanded ice tea in your special Batman glass with a pre-determined number of ice cubes. Nor have you painstakingly demonstrated to your indifferent children the exact right way to vacuum the floor. And I’ll wager that you haven’t alphabetized your spice rack, your book shelves, AND your coupons.

Knowing this about me, you can now imagine what it’s like in the morning at my kitchen table while I read the newspaper.
Fires!
Drought!
Dirty politicians!
Teenagers rampaging through schools with guns!
Religious zealots!
Pedophile monsters plucking children from their homes!

I can’t control any of this.

Some mornings I give new meaning to the term ‘apoplectic.’ I have an opinion about all of it, and I’m always willing to share.

I want to control these things I read about. It would be so simple if everyone would just ask me first. I’d be happy to tell them how to solve each and every problem they encounter. I really don’t think it would take too much effort; after all, I don’t want much.

I want people to be smart and kind to one another. I want people to be honest. I want children, elders and pets to be loved and cherished simply because they exist. I want there to be fewer people using drugs and more people using deodorant. I want fewer people in jail and more people in school.

I want drivers to enter an intersection only when they can complete their turn. I want medicine to be affordable for everyone. I want scientists to figure out how to make cheeseburgers and brownies health food — after they cure cancer and the common cold, that is. I want medical providers to know everything and never make mistakes.

I want weather forecasters to be impeccably accurate at all times. I want underwear models to look like me and the rest of the women who inhabit the real world. I want teachers paid more and athletes paid less.

I want schools to be places where young people challenge themselves and learn from their mistakes. I want everyone to learn to read when they’re five and continue to do so voraciously for the rest of their lives.

I want teenagers to smooch and hold hands at the movies and let that tide ‘em over for awhile. I want everyone to have a mind-altering college experience without drugs. I want an end to babies being born to alcoholic and drug-addicted women. I want boys to know there is a difference between being macho and being a man.

I want people to cry when they’re sad and laugh when they’re happy. I want people to slow down — in their cars and in their lives. I want people to quit saying “I forgot” as an absolute defense, whether it relates to the toilet seat or their infant left in a sweltering car.

It may sound contradictory to tell you that I want people to accept different points of view since it must seem like I’m one of those dames who thinks she’s always right. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m probably not always perfectly, in every instance, exactly right every single time.

I am, however, a dogmatic and opinionated dame, and you won’t believe this either, but I really don’t care when people disagree with me. Quite the contrary. I want people to be as passionate about their opinions as I am. I want people to be able to articulate why they believe something. I want people to tell me I’m wrong and to show me the proof. But if they won’t or can’t, then I don’t care what they think.

I come by this character trait quite honestly. I grew up in a large family and we ate dinner together every night. On the rare occasion that anything interesting ever happened to one of us, we would begin to chat about that. But then, when the conversation lulled, usually after about thirty seconds, my father would make some sort of proclamation.

It might be simple like, “Women should never be allowed to drive.”
Or “When a child gets to age thirteen, he should be sent away until he’s thirty.”
Or “Two-years-olds paint better than Jackson Pollock.”
Or “Mighty Mouse could never beat Superman in a fair fight.”

Straightforward, direct statements.

Or they might be more complicated like, “If it weren’t for those Bleeding Heart Liberals, the family farm would have survived.”
Or “As a direct result of Daylight Savings Time, crime has increased 68%.”
Or “Gideon v. Wainwright is a much more important court decision than Miranda v. Arizona.”

Huh?

You had to have a certain amount of basic knowledge of current events to jump into the fray. But that’s exactly what we were expected to do.

The point of the exercise, unknown to me at the time, was to get us to form and articulate an opinion about the topic du jour, regardless of how absurd or whimsical. I was an adult before I realized my dad never believed any of the weird statements he made. Well, except the one about women drivers.

While people tend to adore my father, I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that they seem a bit leery of me. Imagine. I’ve learned to form opinions, I can certainly argue my point of view, and now I just want everything the way I want it. I want to be able to control as many things as possible, yet know which can’t be controlled. Is that so unreasonable?

For instance, I can’t control wildfires, but I don’t have to cook my hot dogs over an open grill.

I can’t end the drought, but I can xeriscape my yard.

I can’t force politicians to be honest, but I can investigate as thoroughly as possible the candidate I vote for.

I can’t identify teenagers who are going to go shoot up a school, but I can make sure my own kids have a bucketful of self-control.

I can’t keep terrorists from exacting their brand of retribution, but I can live and preach tolerance.

I can’t brand every pedophile with a scarlet letter, but I can keep a watchful eye on my neighborhood.

Maybe it’s like that old adage “think globally, act locally.” If I can keep a firm grasp on the issues in my little world, maybe that’s enough. After all, you have to eat your elephant one bite at a time, right? (Again with the food!)

So ten pounds . . . big whoop, as the kids say.

Who knows? After I control these ten pounds, maybe I’ll try to tackle bigger issues in my life. Crooked politicians? Crime? Low SAT scores? The lack of a really good delicatessen in my neighborhood?

Maybe this will be harder than it seems.

What was the sweetest money you ever earned?

Newspaper Stories You Might Have Missed 9/19/16

  • Five years in a row of record tourism revenue makes the Colorado business community happy, but not the locals who have to mitigate the impact of all those people. I think we should change our state motto to whatever is Latin for “Stay Home and Just Send Money”
  • In a related note, the CO Tourism Board will not be actively promoting marijuana because, shh, it’s still a federal crime. The Board will continue to remind people they can’t smoke in public and to paaaassss the dutchie on the left hand side.
  • Tommy Chong and Marky Mark both wanted pardons from Barack Obama for their youthful crimes. Marky Mark dropped his request, but I don’t think Tommy Chong will get his. Have you seen “Up In Smoke”? Some things simply can’t be forgiven.
  • Exorcist Reverend Gabriele Amorth died at age 91. He served as the official exorcist of the Rome diocese since 1986 after facing “true demonic possession” 100 times. The editorial board here in BeckyLand wonders if he simply rode in a Roman taxi 100 times.
  • The FAA is registering 2,000 drones per day. Time for everyone to step up their crop circle shenanigans.
  • So many of us are binge-watching Netflix while we eat that TV trays are making a comeback. Get your set of four burlwood or mahogany trays for only $685 so you can eat your bowl of cereal and watch reruns of Star Trek in style.

Let’s Play ‘Lazy Or Efficient’

• I put on my workout clothes at 8:00 a.m. so I don’t have to change for my 6:00 p.m. workout

• I line my pans with foil before cooking anything in the oven

• I refrain from lining my pans with foil before cooking anything in the microwave

• I cancel the remaining 18 seconds on the microwave because I can’t do anything in 18 seconds but I’m tired of standing there. Plus, it’s probably hot enough for something you reheat in the microwave.

18-1

• I use my camera phone selfie-style to see what’s stuck in my teeth instead of walking ten steps to a mirror

These are just a few of the things I’ve done in the past few days. So, what do you think? Lazy … or efficient?

Newspaper Stories You Might Have Missed 9/13/16

• As part of their settlement in the food poisoning case with Chipotle, one client asked for “Free Burrito” coupons. I suspect their attorney donated his 33% to a worthy cause.

• The first Pizza ATM was installed by its French manufacturer at Xavier University in Cincinnati. For $8-$10 you use a touchscreen to choose a pizza, it’s heated, dropped into a cardboard box and ejected through a slot. Finally. French food for the masses.

• The “Five Second Rule” was found to be five seconds too long.

• Shanti, the 41-year-old elephant at the National Zoo, received size-20EEEEEEEEEEEE custom made Teva sandals to help with her arthritis and foot problems. They’re like rubber bird baths without the pedestal. She also has some custom boots made from the spray-on lining used for truckbeds. They have red soles, Christian Louboutin-style. Like most reasonable women, she likes the more casual sandals better.

shoes

• July’s marijuana sales hit an all-time high. Even better than, you know, April’s.

• Left Hand Brewing is recalling Milk Stout Nitro because, despite it’s fully-disclosed name, it’s too fizzy when ‘hard poured.’ I guess I’ll just keep mine to drizzle over my cereal.

• Olive Garden is offering 10x the number of Pasta Passes as last year. The pass costs $100 and lets you eat as much pasta as you want for seven weeks. The time limit makes sense because they realize you’ll be in a carb coma and won’t be able to roll in until next year.

• Dennis the Menace had to sit in the corner. Again.

• 3,000 people participated in Philadelphia’s 8th annual Naked Bike Ride. Some wore undies, some wore body paint, some just wore a smile. All had to be treated for cooties.

• On this date in 1959, Elvis met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu and a tiny crack appeared in the Universe.

• A bigger crack appeared when we learned a fertility doctor used his own sperm more than fifty times instead of the donated sperm. At least 8 people are now searching for just the right Father’s Day card.