Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Humans are Bizarre

I haven't written in a bit because I've been lying down and feeling horrible a good percentage of the time. I'm on day 7 of a wicked dose of two antibiotics plus Prilosec and yesterday was my first day I felt no pain all day. Today I feel crappy again, great. I have such a distrust that anyone knows what they're talking about. Do I really have an ulcer? I've been to work with people with ulcers who were not rendered immobile. Bodies are bizarre.

So on that topic, since I had to be in the Longwood Medical area in Boston this morning for a derm appointment, I walked back behind the big granite/marble grandeur of Harvard Medical School to Shattuck Street and into the library on the end there. I'd heard that on the 5th floor there was an anatomical museum. I figured I could pay over $20 to see the Bodies exhibit at the Museum of Science, or I could check this out for free. There I went.

Around the atrium of the 5th floor are glass cases. It's small by museum standards, but fairly intense. There are anatomical models of things used by doctors. There are a number of skulls or parts of deformed people, sometimes with a drawing of the subject. Typically they were operated on and then died of infection. Just over a century ago we didn't know as much about keeping things sterile and we had not so much anesthesia. (Though opiates, alcohol, cannabis, mandrake, and more had been used throughout history, and nitrous oxide is a 18thc invention, ether and its like came later.) Abitrary fact for you: Oliver Wendell Holmes, the writer of the poem "Old Ironsides" which helped preserve the US Constitution coined the term Anesthesia and also invented things like stethescopes.

Anyway in the cases were minute fetal skeletons from various ages, deformities, two truly disturbing skeletons of conjoined twins, on in which the spine ended up in a torso and head both directions, the skulls of a number of famous cases include Phineas Gage, and a lot of truly frightening surgical, midwivery, and autopsy tools.

No photos were allowed, which you're probably happy about.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

I am Not Going to Die Today

So I went back to the hospital again today to see the doctor standing in for my doctor. Weeks ago, before my doc went on vacay I asked her "Do you think this could be giardia? I mean I've drank lake water, rolled my kayak in lakes, etc." "I doubt it," she said. Today I saw her stand-in. "Do you think this could be giardia?" he asked me. Argh.

Down to the labs I went where first a spunky woman in an excellent mohawk missed my vein, then bruised me taking four vials of blood. She also brought up the tv show House, which is just not allowed when a person is sick in the hospital. Then her boss had no idea what the code meant for needing several stool samples or why that would be. I explained it to her, because lucky me, I've had this done before. (Ask Me About Salmonella!) She nodded and thanked me and said she would have really screwed that up if I hadn't told her. How comforting. But we all knew I know how to give people shit, right?

Then I was off to radiology where I drank two containers of barium shake crap. It didn't taste nearly as bad as I expected but labeling them as "smoothies" is really a stretch. I sent glenn off to eat real food in the cafeteria while I let the shake boil my already tormented guts into a frenzy. I then hoola hooped with the CAT scan and was off to get stuck in traffic because between our house and the hospital is this funny little attraction called Fenway Park. The game was just starting.

I got home and relaxed for about half an hour before I got a call from someone at the hospital. Apparently there was a "lab accident" with my blood. They "tried to recover it but the techs wouldn't take it." (were they scraping it off the floor?) If I could come back in they'd let me park for free. I came back in. Mohawk girl looked stupid in her mohawk this time. I got her to confide in me what happened and she sounded like she was lying. She put four tubes in the Pneumatic tube but only three arrived. Now her boss has gotten her in trouble officially. While I waited for the parking sticker, her boss said "whose urine is this?" and the girl lied again. She then put the vial of my blood, that she told me she was going to hand deliver, into the pneumatic tube. I waited ten minutes for the parking sticker, then the parking lot attendant was gone and parking was free anyway.

I left and was just about clear to go around the proper rotary exit to make my way past the streams of people coming from the just ended game at Fenway and the cops did one of their brilliant traffic control moves. They put cones across that exit taking me away from the area and toward Cambridge and instead routed me down Brookline Ave., which if you're not familiar with Boston, is the street Fenway is on: traffic ground zero. I finally managed to turn around so I could take my turn and one hour and a half later was home. I mentioned that barium shakes bubble your guts right?

My lessons in asking for help are really not the ones I was hoping to learn. And yet... there is good news. The phone just rang. My doctor literally said to me "You are not going to die. Today." My CAT scan looked perfectly normal. My white blood cells are kicking ass, my body shows no inflammation. However. . . you knew there was a however after all those weeks of pain...that pesky bacteria H. Pylori has made shop in my guts. This is what is responsible for uclers, particularly duodenal ulcers. Two kinds of antibiotics and more Prilosec for a couple of weeks for me. Even better, one of the antibiotics is the same one they'd prescribe if I turn out to have giardia, which they don't know yet, because I still have to give Mohawk girl more shit.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Endlessly Ill

My abdominal pain came back in full force Friday. I got told to take Prylosec this weekend to see if it helps, like as though it is an ulcer. I've been out of comission for three days. I spent most of yesterday curled up with a heating pad. Even typing is hard because I'm very stiff, very tired, and my right hand and arm have a numb-tingly feeling in them. My stomach feels slightly better. The rest of me feels like I'm in hell anyway.

Please someone cure me soon.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Movie Report

I have seen too many movies in the last month to even keep them all straight. That's what happens when you end up having to "take it easy" but can't concentrate enough to read. Worth mentioning:

Little Miss Sunshine: totally funny. Go see it. This is one of my favorite movies of the last few months.

A Scanner Darkly: Cool rotoscoping for a few minutes of it, then it gets a bit old. Not the best adaptation. Don't bother.

The Matador: Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnin. It's fun, it's a different role for PB and it's very silly.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: Tommy Lee Jones' movie. It's slow but captivating because it's heavy while somehow balanced with the funny things we are as humans. Captures the heat, the reverse revenge concept, and some interesting characters. Memorable use of antifreeze.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party: This is a fun movie with good performances but why does everyone keep saying it's so hilarious? It's not like a super laugh riot at all, but it is in good fun and is a good concert film.

The Devil Wears Prada: You already know how amazing Meryl Streep is and she'll still blow you away. This is a simple but still entertaining flick.

Pirates 2: I do love Monsieur Depp. I did have a fun time at this movie (which I saw free, thanks to my credit card company), but some of the fish faces were a little too cartoony. But not Davy Jones. His tentacles are excellent.

Clerks 2: Only if you have ever laughed (or known real life versions) at Jay and Silent Bob or Clerks I. I did. It's stupid. And it's funny. Sometimes I need that.

Ten Things I Hate About You-- I watched this Again. A teen movie I contend is one of the most fun adaptations of Shakespeare I've seen. (Taming of the Shrew)

My Neighbor Totoro -- I saw the English dubbed version for the first time in an art house (I'd watched it subtitled previously) and it gave it slightly different nuances. It was fun to see with a lot of other laughing people. But where were the kids? Not a kid to be seen at a 7pm showing.

Bringing up Baby -- Somehow I've never seen this one. Hepburn is so nutty in it, it's very fun.

I watched a number of oldies. I hadn't realized how much James Van Der Beek (Dawson) looks like Errol Flynn.



A friend wants to see what I've been making...

Since I know five couples getting married in the next month I have been making wedding rings. Oddly wedding rings are sometimes the most simple rings. And somehow simple rings can manage to find their own challenges. Especially when you're a rookie. Anyway, here's a couple that are in the works.

That's 14k yellow gold, a simple flat band with a matte finish. This ring had to be resized (hammered wider) as the size the client thought he was didn't match his finger. This is not unusual when you don't size someone yourself. So it required a bit more work to even it out, but it's nearly done.

This one is my first cast piece. Things come out of the mold with a big connector leg (a sprue) on them which has to be removed. This was a little tricky on this one to keep the symmetry, particularly as I was working on it while ill. It is 14k white gold.

Oh and in case you've never seen the groovy rings (designs by C. Ploof that I made while working for him) I made for glenn and I, here they are (I love these rings):

Mine is damascus steel and 18k, glenn's is the one with the rolled wavy edges -- his is forged meteorite with 18k.

Other than that I've been still trying to get the exact etching I'm looking for on some bracelets:

And I work for another jeweler a couple of days a week on her designs. My work that is at Penumbra Gallery in Gloucester is doing okay. I sold another three things the other day. That will be be my deposit for my new studio space. :) Of course when I was in the ER last week wondering if I was dying I thought "I should have written a novel." This should be my gravestone: Too many interests in an unreliable sack of skin.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My friend sent me to these pictures of an albatross that a colleague of hers found on the beach. It had landed or washed ashore in California and looked to have died quite recently. This is interesting not only because something like 19 of the 21 kinds of albatross are nearly extinct, or because it has an 88" wingspan, but because it wears a leg band...from Japan!

Once we had albatross in the Atlantic but they think that a round of global warming submerged their major colonies many years ago. Did you know that that saying about having an albatross around your neck is from the same poem as "Water, water, everywhere/Nor any drop to drink?" It's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." (Coleridge) Most people know that water line but not that it's from a fairly creepy 18th century poem.

You'll also be happy to know you can sing that poem to the tune of Gilligan's Island:

Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung...

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip...

I am full of useless information.



In September I will at last have studio space! The search went from newly renovated artist spaces to several mixed use buildings to a cooperative house-like space, to maybe a first floor room in an apartment and ended in a gritty but functional industrial space inhabited mainly by woodworkers (a lot of North Bennet St. School alum). I'm sharing a 525 sq. foot space with two other metalsmiths (for less money than a 288 sq. ft space was going to cost in the newly renovated artists bldg!).

It's got a level cement floor and most of the top of one wall is glass bricks with a couple of small windows to the outside (with security wire fencing and all). We'll need to run a big dehumidifier as it is concrete and brick and ancient. It is an end unit and is ten feet or so from the outside door so we can do various noxious things outside, which is unusual for urban artist spaces.

The three of us will likely hold a studio-warming holiday sale in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile this means I will move my studio out of our space that is meant to be a livingroom, we will have room for actual seating and not only can we have people over, but they won't have to fear their kids (or our cats) getting into my sharp and toxic stuff.

If you have any old appliances that work but you don't use that could be useful in the space, let me know: dehumidifiers, A/C, tiny fridge, microwave, etc.

Exciting! And scary.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Two Years Married

Today is the first day in well over a week that I've lived my life normally without cutting things short and retreating to the couch to lie as still as possible while my guts rebelled. Everything feels wonderful compared to the ridiculously painful and highly frightening last week though. I believe I now know what TEN feels like on the pain scale. Try not to rupture an ovarian cyst. Ever. Stabbing yourself with a knife is a better option pain-wise.

I made good use of my immobility last week when I could actually function. Most impressive is that I taught my executive assistant tiger to come to his name. Really. Not only that, but when I say "Where's Moki?" He meows in response and then come running from wherever he is. (Luna was again, too busy for this important milestone.) While he did once bring me heavy neoprene kayaking boots up three stories (both boots, one at a time), I have yet to get him to fetch slippers.

Today is our second wedding anniversary. My inlaws were in town yesterday evening shuttling my sister-in-law around and took us out to an impromptu meal near her apt. at Marinos in Cambridge to celebrate. This is a restaurant that makes a big deal out of using produce from its own farm, however the menu looked full of non-local produce.

Our waiter appeared to be new or "possibly dim" as my mother-in-law suggested. He took my inlaws' substitution order without checking if it could be made. Half an hour later he told them it could not and we started all over again. After we'd been there over an hour we finally got our above average-tasting food. I ate an appetizer -- sort of a bland antipasto -- for dinner. It included some tasty sage and rosemary marinated mushrooms that were unusual. Glenn had squash ravioli that were pretty yummy. My normally laid back father-in-law had steam coming out of his ears from the wait and had a harsh word with the manager who coughed up only some free desserts in return. Lame.

Tonight, however, I was feeling well enough again to go out, YAY! And the two of us had an anniversary date. I made reservations this afternoon, once we were sure I could handle it, at OM, a trendy new resto in Harvard Sq. that was participating in Boston's Restaurant Week. We sauntered into the loungey waterfall wall and buddha statue decor and cozied up in a half moon shaped table. We ordered a prix fixe meal off the resto week menu that was delish. We ate Okinawa Sweet Ravioli, which were stuffed with a paste made from Okinawa yams. It was almost like red bean paste, sweet and delicious. They were also very pretty. Then glenn had a few big sea scallops with chanterelles and peas and little pickled red onions and bits of Chinese sausage and I had a sliced Moroccan-spiced duck breast with a tiny bisteeva in its own super mini cast iron skillet. Dessert was a wee piece of mango cheesecake for glenn and a vanilla creme brulee for me.

Over dinner we giggled and discussed Marriage Wisdom. G's sister had asked us if on our anniversary we had any such wisdom for her and her impending marriage. We were too tired to think at the time. Tonight we thought of a few of the values and rules we conduct our marriage by and laughed and wondered if they would help anyone else. One of the better serious rules we have is one I learned many years ago and have blown enough times throughout my years of relationships to know its worth: Do not argue after 10pm. I could tell you more, but really isn't that one enough to work on for awhile?

After our upscale dining experience we walked down the street to a hipster teen wear shop and bought each other stupidly funny underwear (I believe a dolphin with a little cap on is in my future, and glenn is Big in Japan) as glenn claimed that Two Years was the Cotton Anniversary. (The importance of Play rated very highly on our marriage wisdom list. . . .)


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gulf Hagas

Last weekend I finally made it to Gulf Hagas, a wonderful gorge in Maine that I've meant to visit for years. My hubby and friend joined me and we drove up into the area past the Katahdin Ironworks checkpoint to the spot I reserved months ago. It was excellent car camping – we seemed to be nearly a quarter mile away from the closest site and were quite wildernessy and situated just above a roaring river.

We had some rain just before we set camp and just after we cooked dinner, so it worked out beautifully. The rest of our trip had picture perfect weather and starry skies.

The next day we hiked into the gulf, first crossing a small river and then striding through The Hermitage, a Nature Conservancy preserve of King's Pines and along the Pleasant River where there were more camp sites. Eventually we hooked up with the Gulf Rim trail, a wonderful side trail off the Appalachian Trail.

Here at Gulf Hagas (which locals seemed to say as "Haygus"), the Pleasant River drops and the rock cliffs rise about 400 feet. As a result, the rim trail is a rocky, rooted, mossy place overlooking steep drops and visiting multiple waterfalls.

One of the bigger falls here is Screw Auger Falls. There is actually a more well known set of falls with the same name in Grafton Notch. This one is about 30 feet of serious rushing water landing in a deep rock bowl. I wanted to swim in all of the falls but was a bit over tired and battling some abdominal pain. But on the way back I asked my friend to peer pressure me into it and he started ripping off his clothes and mercilessly goading me. It worked, see the splash?

It was an unbelievable thrill with the excitement of the rushing water. Many of the other falls had good pools or fun eddies to play in, but this one was the big rush. I'll definitely return.

If you go, you can call the Katahdin Ironworks Checkpoint and reserve sites. Some were along the river, some along falls, and some required crossing the river with your gear. It was only mildly buggy in early August, fires were permitted (bringing some wood is a good idea if you're driving to your site), and there were clean outhouses. No man made running water is available. The trail is not steep but is very rocky and can be extremely slippery.

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It took me many, many years to learn how to ask for help. I trust very few people, and am self-reliant to a fault. So this month when I found myself in extreme pain day after day and I went to get medical help, it was more challenging than I expected. I have a doctor. I have insurance. I have a flexible schedule. I picked up the phone.

There were the multiple times I was disconnected or transferred incorrectly on the phone at key moments of extreme pain. There were the times I called while the office was out to lunch. There was the getting a message to the doctor while she was in the middle of seeing other patients. There was the getting the message to the doctor while she was in the middle of seeing other patients and was the only doctor in the entire department in that day.

There was the tests they scheduled at 6:30am and explained that the room really didn't warm up until about 11:00am. There was the extreme pain and fever that required a trip to the ER that lasted from 5:30pm to 2:30am. There were six vials of blood tested, two hospital arm bracelets, and six different people who poked my stomach and asked how that felt. (Oh lovely. Do it again. I think that might be an 9, not a 7 on the pain scale. Let's do it again to be sure.)

What did I learn?

If you are in pain, you must ask and ask and ask and insist and be totally reasonable at all times even when you are frustrated. If you hear a part of you scream"No one is going to help me!!" kick its ass.

If you are an online research junkie, you must remember at all times that interpreting medical systems is something that requires many years of school and professional practice. If your pulse begins to quicken while reading too much medical jargon, go watch television or something equally lobotomizing.

Let your partner and your friends be supportive. They want to be. And it helps you. Get over it.

No one reads. Be prepared with a symptomatic soliloquy you can deliver over and over. And over and over.

Doctors do like to look at test results and charts and they can obtain test results from partner hospitals in a flash.

People are patient with you if you explain that you think you might be panicking a little instead of throwing a fit.

Hospitals have cozy heated blankets if you are cold and you tell them.

Just because your friends or loved ones have died does not mean you are about to die.

Some hospitals still use pneumatic tube systems.

There is nothing you can do to speed up your ER visit besides worsening your condition or arriving in an ambulance.

Sometimes ER nurses and doctors are just as attractive and attentive as TV ER doctors.

No matter how successful you are at asking for help, if it turns out you have a ruptured ovarian cyst, it will hurt like a motherfucker for weeks. ("So basically a bubble bursting can cause this much pain for that long?!" I asked my doctor who started laughing. "A bubble!? Well, consider an aneurysm," she said. She has a point.)


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tough Weekend

While I recover from my tough weekend of napping by waterfalls, be sure to check out this amazing art island in Japan.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Signs of Summer