Saturday, November 15, 2008


Retired Educator, here. I have been looking at the various drafts hanging about in my Blogger queue, trying to finish some, and strengthen my resolve enough to delete others.

This is one of unfinished status:

in the 1970s, my folks bought a few acres of beautifully wooded land on a man-made lake where they hoped to one day build their "dream house"-- a french provincial of grandes allées kerplunked among the take-off taras, plantation porticos and all, in the then newly incorporated "village" about fifteen or so miles away from my stepmother's home town in north carolina.

don't touch that sentence!

It -- the village -- was a straight shot down highway 70 east, as were, in my young opinion, all good things, chief among which was the beach, were the carolina beaches.

my mom's family was not terribly loving, but they did have a house right on atlantic beach down at morehead city. that made up for a lot of love; i could imagine all the happiness in the world there. those rolling, rolling waves! (still, the beach there ran east to west, which was odd.) my birthday is in the wintertime, and making a roaring driftwood fire in the stone fireplace of the beachhouse was gift plenty. unfortunately, my stepmother and her siblings made the place nothing but a bone of contention upon her parents' death -- or so i have been told.

one summer, a step-cousin and i made stew out of periwinkles.

anyway, that plot of village land off of highway 70 was considered a ritzy location, kind of a country-club environment, but not quite, because the real country club in town had a bunch of uppity blacks buying and renovating the sweet little ranch houses all around its walled perimeter. things were gentrifying, but in the wrong direction for nervous white people.

(i had sex with a guy named sam in the utility building behind the country club pool.)

which is why they were all building dream houses in a fake village off of highway 70 east.

downtown was dying, too, don't you know. ah, but villages don't even have downtowns -- a stroke of brilliance by the founding... villagers; one less thing to worry about. in fact, being nothing beyond a sort of bedroom community, our village lacked any commercial endeavor whatsoever, although a country club of its own did, in fact, spring up. we couldn't afford to be members at both country clubs, so we continued to drive into town to make our obligatory social appearances. i never even saw the inside of the village country club, although i was chased off of its tennis courts with great regularity.

in the dying town downtown, one of rothafel's roxy theatres was closing -- with john wayne still stuck on the deco marquee; you could choose between five or six movies at the mall cineplex. somehow, next door to the roxy, l. d. giddens jewelry lived on (founded in 1859) while everyone else sold out, died out, or ran off.

(i don't believe that rothafel actually built, or even had *anything* to do with, the "rialto" or the "roxy" or whatever the hell that cinema was named. anecdotes and legends, anecdotes and legends.)

anyway, we were among the first homebuilders out there, in the village ("village" in the sense of ye olde towne -- the sort of village dictated by tastefully situated kitsch signage) that was out a piece on highway 70 east, just downwind from a roadside turkey farm, and just a skosh closer to the beach than we'd ever been, thereby securing my childish approbation.

they bought the land, but then we moved to miami for a few years, as people are prone to do. the weird thing was that i only went to the beach twice the whole time we lived in miami, smack-dab on that glitzy ocean -- but once installed at the village, i made regular 4-hour treks to the carolina shore, and a good deal of the fun was getting there. smelling it, already, in kinston, new bern, havelock.

we met our nearest neighbors the first week after our return from miami. they had built a boat ramp all the way from the road down to the lake. we were especially interested because the 25 ft swath had been taken out of -- you guessed it -- our land.

so we didn't exactly start out friendly. i remember, in fact, being sent to sit in the overheated car where all three of us kids proceeded to go slightly nuts. the conversation among the adults was deemed too grown-up for us. they should have heard ours...

our neighbors had, of course, cleared out all the trees and bushes, most especially taking away the rows of english boxwood that my father's father -- still alive at that time -- had propagated from cuttings. from years ago, i remembered the rows of rusting coffee cans with those small deep, deep green glossy leaves peeping over their sides.

there were four of them... neighbors, not boxwoods. the mom (who had a penchant for cosmetic surgery and popping in unannounced), the dad, the young son (about whom we never really knew anything), and the older daughter (roughly my age and into wrecking vehicles and getting new ones in replacement before the week was out).

some sort of uneasy temporary peace had been hammered out.

the dream house was built, larger than originally planned, and over budget. i drove an old but lovely 1963 ford falcon futura convertible back and forth between school in town and my village home.

[actually, that is a lie. it was just a regular old ford falcon, and i don't remember its year, although '63 is certainly possible. it was white. why lie? well, i mean, just look at the picture topping this blog entry! isn't that a beautiful piece of car? oh, and the real ford falcon was a hand-me-down from my step mother's mother. she died from complications of alzheimer's, causing my stepmother to take up yoga.]

after the boat ramp/boxwood debacle, our interactions with our neighbors mostly consisted of cordially dodging them, which was hard to do given the mother's dedication to popping through the spindly hedge (that we had to plant because they demolished all the existing trees and shrubbery, especially the rows of boxwood) and following us into the garage when we'd arrive home. she went through a brief period of actually taking our mail out of the mailbox so that she could hand deliver it -- saying that she was afraid someone would drive by and take it before we got home (ye olde "drive-by mail theft").

twice, the father drained the lake.

the whole lake.

the first time, he thought that the dam needed adjustment and rowed over to "fix" it. we think he wasn't happy with the lake level and wanted to somehow make it rise. he insisted on going out on his motorboat despite the rules against it (you know, because of trivial stuff like underwater tree stumps...). the lake mysteriously got lower and lower over a week's time -- eventually he 'fessed up when the community was faced with the steep price of dam diagnostics. it was summer and oh, the fun of mud and insects. no sailing, no fishing, just mud and insects. i skipped out to the beach.

i cannot recall how or why he drained the lake the second time but by then my dad had been voted head of "water management" and so the whole thing got really ugly... as things can when local government becomes involved in private affairs. (actually, almost every head of village household was some sort of elected or appointed official.)

our neighbors put in a swimming pool, which was cool, it was just that we had, thanks to their efforts at the boat ramp, an undesired but unobstructed view of it. that pool made us all think of boxwood. and they didn't tan well, our neighbors.

they also installed a huge trampoline into their backyard wonderland, though it was rarely used.

the mom had her boobs enhanced, her derriere lifted, and anything liposuctioned that could be liposuctioned. she was always shades of black and blue, puffy, and/or wrapped.

the whole family had fine, distinctive noses -- long and thin to the point of looking slightly pinched, with a bump on the ridge. in truth, we often remarked that the parents looked more like siblings.

the mom was the first to have rhinoplasty. we could tell by the honker of a bandage that she went around with, and her racoon halfmoon eyes.

so, as she does from time to time, my stepmother decided to have a lawn party.

my stepmom was the greatest mom in the world. i had so much fun knowing her, learning from her (though, most would argue, not learning quite enough). she could be a hoot, as well as an anchor, a rock. she had been an accomplished ballerina, then a schoolteacher. i came home to find her stirring spaghetti sauce while effortlessly holding her feet and arms in second position or dancing while she vacuumed.

she could be fierce, too. i pretty much skipped my entire sophomore year of high school due to a dire need to play tennis and hang out with my no good friends. i was home one day due to a rotten cold when a truancy officer knocked on the door. he was being pushy, i guess, and blaming her for my abscences. she blasted him to smithereens... i never felt so loved! (not that she didn't jump on my case next, and most severely.)

so... my stepmother decided to have a lawn party the same week that the dad and the daughter next door had their rhinoplasties. but so what! i mean -- what could happen?

so... a garden party, a lawn party, with all the new village neighbors and with our established town friends, too. my mom was in her element -- the charming hostess with the mostest, all beautiful and flitting around, pointing her toes.

so... one too many scotch and sodas, i guess. my mom had already tied a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue -- her great, and only, party trick. she must have felt some pressure to perform.

i was standing nearby when she floated over to a group of her old friends. our new nextdoor neighbors drifted in that same direction, on a collision course. i sensed oncoming disaster.

the dad and daughter sported pretty broad, but fleshcolored, bandaids on their noses, and the mom looked like she had fought 10 rounds, leading with her chin. the son wasn't there -- he was probably in the swimming pool, watching the action from there through the wide gaps in the hedge.

with a great big smile, my mom decided to introduce our annoying neighbors to her old friends --
saying, in words whose effect we were never able to undo,

"i'd like you to meet mr. and mrs. hose nose..."

without ever explaining why, my folks sold their dream home in 1990 and moved to the research triangle park area to live in what amounts to a condo. sure, it's fancy and she has it looking like something straight out of architectural digest, but it's no village french provincial and they've no idea who their neighbors are.

still,they cannot seem to break away from the pull of highway 70 east, which runs west all the way to arizona.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pastiche or Another Pot, Pourri

So it turns out that hydrogen peroxide is not all that mysterious, also not all that great for disinfection. My personal wound care maven -- I like to call her Brandi, because that's her name -- made big Os with her mouth and little tiny gasps when I told her that I had been cleaning my nasty foot ulcer (sorry) with a half hydrogen peroxide, half water concoction. I felt like it was working hard, bubbling, bubbling, bubbling!

Were Brandi French, she might well have said, "Non, non, non, et non!"
But she was not. Far from it!

She explained the secret workings of peroxide, most importantly: The Fizz, the incredible foaming action that puts Scrubbing Bubbles to profound shame. We have the super abundant enzyme catalase to thank for the decomposition of the stuff into water and oxygen gas.
That's 2H2O2 --> 2H2O + O2 to you!

So who knew that I would then become fascinated with catalase itself?
Catalase is extremely efficient and nearly ubiquitous. I'm going out on a limb, crazed woman that I am, to posit that there is a common etymology to catalase and catalysis:

Greek katalusis, κατάλυσις dissolution, from katalein, to dissolve, loosen down, disintegrate, to demolish, specially to halt for the night: kata-, intensive pref.; see cata- + lein, λύω to loosen; derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *leu- (English: forlorn, loosen, lose, loss, losel, lost; Greek: luein; Latin: lues, solvere; Norse: ljosta, lauss

Isn't it fantastic fodder? "[T]o demolish, specially to halt for the night"? What the hell does that mean? Seriously, I plan to meditate upon this distinction; Given catalase, alone, Vonnegut could write a short novel.

(I miss Vonnegut. Very briefly, in the 1970s, I was a planetary citizen*. What happened? Well, I had to renew my passport, and the dream died. So it goes.)

Umm. Has anyone seen my train of thought? Choo. Choo?

Ah, yes. What a wonder that the scrubbing bubbles of hydrogen peroxide are of pure oxygen, that a single molecule of catalase can breakdown millions of hydrogen peroxide molecules! So efficient! Yes, those *are* exclamation points!

No matter what I plan to write about, my topic almost always becomes words.

To that end, I have decided to challenge myself, to exercise the little grey cells that shiver with orgasmic delight over verbiage -- be it grandiloquent**, be it essential to knowing how to put on a sweater, be it formulaic, like "I'm sorry for your loss." I am spiffing up the languages that hang out in my head -- a daily review of Latin, French, and Spanish. In order to have an honest chance at establishing this as routine, my goals are unusually modest: perhaps an hour and a half per day, or -- more likely -- 20 minutes per language. I know that I ought to work on Turkish but that would be too... hard. There are six noun cases. Shoot, I probably ought to give up on the Latin, as well. Do you see how quickly I decerebrate? (Language and Communication, Learning and Memory -- bye-bye!)

Oh, the pot is definitely pourri.

Current bedtime reading material? In Cold Blood, Capote. It's been sitting on the bookshelf for so long that I took pity. Nothing like mass murder in the middle of the night. A tour de force of narration and research, it achieves something considerably more (and other) than true crime designation. I have another nonfiction book going and feel the need to crack open a third tome, something wonderfully imaginative and easy.

No Wound Care Center visit this week! Why? Because I refuse to go! Yes, I called and cancelled. However, the next trip is scheduled for Monday, not the usual Wednesday, so the time between visits won't be too long. Most importantly, I would not have done this were my foot not suddenly healing so well. Seriously -- in the last four days, even I can see that it is healing at a phenomenal rate. There is not so much slough***, not so much drainage, and, as Brandi says, as only Brandi can: "We like red!"

Brandi and I have been thrown together now a good half dozen times. Bless her everloving sterile fields. I have gone off on her several times, and -- just like the inappropriate dressing down that I delivered the other day to an Unsuspecting Innocent online -- I've given up on the notion of apology. She, and the doctor overseeing her work, an Infectious Disease specialist, have both attempted to reinvent the wheel and I just have no patience for it. So when I was six, I stubbed my left big toe... how, why, dear mental midgets, does that come to matter? I am not sure why an ID doctor is involved, anyway -- we are dealing with an ulcer that is the result of injury (someone dropped a laptop on it). Granted, the fact that this particular foot has been highly compromised by CRPS/RSD and avascular necrosis lends it a certain cachet... (This is my stock photo of the right foot -- the ulcer is smack dab in the middle of the top of it. You *really* don't want to see it...)

Anyway, there are now distinct patches of sexy red and bright perky pink -- versus the weeks of depressing white and tan. Beige? Eggshell. We are using an enzyme on it -- Santyl -- that is supposed to chow down on "the bad cells" and invigorate the rest. What seems to have helped is the elimination of zinc oxide on the surrounding skin, in favor of AllKare, a skin barrier. Or it is just a huge coincidence!

Note: I cannot, for the life of me, remember why I have tape on my foot -- around the toes. That is an area that has been repeatedly injured but I don't see a bandage of any sort. Hmm. Oh, and the intense *purpleness* of my feet is not done justice. This must have been a warm weather photo, because winter mode for my limbs is shrunken, way-way-way purple, and unbelievably cold (well, to be honest, they are always unbelievably cold, just more adverbally unbelievable in the winter months). Warm weather mode involves more red than purple and correlates to HUGEness. All weather involves severe pain. Hélas. {inverted palm to forehead, deep soulfull sigh}

Yesterday was important to me. I had an appointment with my internist, my primary care doctor. He is terrific and performs the crucial task of keeping me oriented to what is happening with my health, and getting all the specialists coordinated and relatively on task. That makes me sound rather stupid, but I wouldn't argue the fact these days.

Why? Because I simply cannot wrap my mind around the various things that may soon be happening.

Should there be an interested reader who has somehow managed to elude these details, this is, in short, my situation: Due to avascular necrosis, I have had a number of orthopedic surgeries that have left me close to bionic. Late last year, I began having daily fevers with sweats, fatigue, and a rotten attitude -- for garnish. Because I take a fair amount of steroids (therapy for Addison's, SLE, and some of the weirdness of CRPS/RSD), my bloodwork wasn't taken at face value. That is, even if my white count was high, that was attributed to the effect of steroids. However, as I became more and more snappish, and more and more febrile, the presence of infection couldn't be denied. Thus began the search for answers. A gallium scan pointed the way to my right shoulder prosthesis -- and that seemed appropriate since pain in that area was steadily increasing. Finally, this August, my orthopedic surgeon went in and found four big pockets of pus (sorry!). He had to remove the prosthesis -- things must have been kind of iffy at that point, because they took me to the ICU and then back to surgery a few days later to finish up. I was trying to be positive, forward-thinking, optimistic before this surgeon who always couches his statements this way: "If and when I operate to give you another prosthesis..." I completed six weeks of i.v. antibiotics at home -- four infusions a day.

The reason my mood shifted toward the blue horizon? Severe pain has steadily established itself in my LEFT shoulder. For weeks, I have been kidding myself that it was just Overuse Syndrome, since my right arm is useless and the left has been doing double duty. However, it has become clear that the infection either was never eradicated to begin with, or has recurred.

That boggles the mind, at least mine; My mind is, indeed, well boggled.

How can it be that six weeks of antibiotics did not eradicate The Beasties? They tell me that it only takes one stubborn microbe, and that since an abscess is the likely form The Beasties have taken, the antibiotics may not have been able to access the Little Boogers.

I have fevers again -- but at least the debilitating sweat attacks are much fewer this go 'round. The hike in my white count was, once again, pooh-poohed as being steroid-induced. My left shoulder hurts like hell, in that familiar way, and I finally confessed yesterday that the right shoulder is back in its deep-down, throes-of-throbbing pain ways.

Next week, I revisit the Infectious Disease Dude and his PA Dudette, with whom I have the better relationship (of trust). And a few hours later, I revisit the Orthopedic Surgeon. A red letter day, if ever there was one.

And so, I will hear then all the things that I was told yesterday, yet cannot comprehend.

Like losing my remaining shoulder, and never being given another prosthesis for either side.

Like the possibility that these Beasties have seeded other areas, created other abscesses. Both hips have hardware, as does my right elbow and right foot.

Just a few days before the first surgery this past August, I had an echo done to see if my aortic valve was in good shape -- at one time, I had quite a few battles with heart failure, then cardiomyopathy, and since I have a congenital bicuspid aortic valve with insufficiency, to boot, I condescend to see a cardiologist every few years. Cough. Okay, so I am supposed to have a yearly echo but have failed to do so for a good while -- 6 years. Anyway, here is the kicker: There where the aorta attaches to the heart, the aortic arch, the vessel has dilated. Gotten kinda large. Approaching the benchmark size of 5 cm. Holding steady at 4.76 cm. (Hmmm. Maybe it was 4.86? I cannot remember. Go brain!)

My attitude has been imminently logical. I have enough nonsense going on, and don't need to have any more trouble. Hence, no annual echos, no cardiology appointments.

I asked yesterday whether I should be worried about getting the aortic aneurysm addressed, and my doctor said, "Not now. You have too much other stuff on your plate." Okie-dokie then!

Is that how I am going to die? From a ruptured aneurysm? What will that be like, I wonder. Sudden. No time to -- what? Say something? Do something? Weep? Laugh? Stand on my head? What are the odds that will I live to share the experience of a ruptured aneurysm, just another war story? I want time for dying.

Ah, terrific. Panic is setting in. Time to return to the Putrid Pots, the Pots Pourris, this Pastiche.

This; Here.

*"Vonnegut's father once complained that there were no bad guys in his books, and Vonnegut attributed his largely blame-free world view to having studied 1940s anthropology, with its total relativism and deliberate lack of value judgments, as well as its sense of human cultures and religions as arbitrary artifacts and 'Rube Goldberg inventions.' He received a less friendly complaint while speaking at the Library of Congress in the early 1970s, when a man stood up during his speech and asked 'What right have you, as a leader of America's young people, to make those people so cynical and pessimistic?' Vonnegut had no ready reply, so left the stage. He later commented: 'The beliefs I have to defend are so soft and complicated, actually, and, when vivisected, turn into bowls of undifferentiated mush. I am a pacifist, I am an anarchist, I am a planetary citizen, and so on.'"

**Allow me to shamelessly plug the Grandiloquent Dictionary! What a lovely idea.

***"The term for the viscous yellow layer which often covers the wound and is strongly adherent to it. Its presence can be related to the end of the inflammatory stage of healing when dead cells have accumulated in the exudate."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why? 為什麼?

At a pretty popular website community-place-thingy, I wrote a meanspirited message to someone that I don't know at all.

Why? 為什麼?

I am resisting the impulse to further insult her with an equally public apology. If I could contact her by email, that might be worth doing.

Right? 那是否是正確的?

Everything I said, I meant, wholeheartedly and without reservation; None of it needed to be said; Really, it was a shitty thing to say.

I'm doing it again, aren't I?

Seek help, Retired Educator. Or cut off your apparently excessive means of communication. Isn't it enough that you have an awesome bloogggggg? For shame, Retired Educator, for shame.

Is it possible that these same fingertips posted a Kewt-Kitty youtube vid this morning? Then they turned and became Palabra Weaponry! And, apparently, these trembling hands, these self-same high-fivers, are now gonna make a mockery of your exhibition of remorse!

{*hysterical laughter*}

Sleeping Kitten