Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If you came for the porn but stayed anyway, this one's for you!

Good  morning, Friend.

The pain from the devious trio of CRPS, AVN / ON and SLE ** has been complicated by a summer cold.  Fred is toying with the same summer cold.  He also plays at being in a snit.

You can either pull off a snit or you cannotI'm just sayin'.

Most of my blog traffic comes from searches for "XXX Porn Live Naked Women."

That would be, I suppose, because I once accidentally titled a post:  XXX Porn! Live, Totally Naked Women! XXX Porn!

Anyway, what has been humbling since that accidental entitlement are the number of Folk who decided to hang around Marlinspike Hall after achieving sexual satiety.  Since they didn't get here by virtue of searching for information on odd neurological (CRPS), bone (AVN/ON), or autoimmune disorders (SLE), the many acronyms I toss about must sometimes be confusing.  Also confusing, of course, is trying to figure the layout of The Manor and the latest in La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore's hijinks.  The only cure for that confusion is to read, read, read.

But I will try to clear up the medicalese, and with my usual clarity, too.

CRPS or RSD refers to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.  CRPS is the more accurate term, by far, and is further divided into Type 1 and Type 2.  Wikipedia, excerpted at the end of this post, does a fair enough job synthesizing the utter weirdness by which this disease is characterized.
For what it's worth, if you have CRPS for any real length of time, you will not just exhibit the symptoms of pain, edema, spasms, distorted spatial perception, and changes to skin, bone, nails, and hair -- you will also be certifiably Mental.  Depressed?  Well, of course.  But I mean MENTAL.  You might be so desperate for distraction that you will coopt the work of a dead Belgian cartoonist and author, fashioning your own sad virtual territory from his original brilliance.   You might hurt so badly that you sleep in strict 45-minute discrete segments and are so fatigued that you just don't know how to free The Submarine from the moat's algae overgrowth, much less fathom the intricate rules of animal husbandry necessary to maintain the herd of miniature Jamaican llamas (the Kingston strain).  Some people are so addlepated from allodynia that they take to their sheetless, coverletless beds with their arms and legs held carefully in the air, looking very much like a dead insect lying on its little dead back.  Mental.

I hurt my darling partner's feelings two nights ago when I called him a "G_d-damned, ****-sucking a$$hole" because he caused the air near my legs to move.  He was folding towels roughly 10 feet from my feet at the time.  It just flew out of my mouth before I could stop it.  It's tough to then try and fashion anything remotely like an acceptable apology.  And I can't take it back.  Mental.

If you think that's bad -- well.  Hmm.  I've never shared this before.  Hmm. 

Way back in the beginning of our CRPS saga, before we had ever heard of it, I had just had three major surgeries, one of which was to repair a badly broken ankle.  I was home, but confused by the pain and lack of sleep.  I had been in the hospital for weeks, and that left me squirrelly to begin with.  Two of the three surgeries had been due to what I now know was a Sentinel Event.  Anyway... Fred was a wonderful nurse, as I was restricted to a rented hospital bed. (O! The horror of that mattress!)  From baths to bedpans, he did it all, and without too much complaint.  He could not fathom my continuous complaints of horrible pain, pain that I claimed was getting worse instead of better.  I had plenty of pain medication, and was continually on the verge of unconsciousness from it, so what was I bitching about?  Part of his duties was the removal and application of a splint to my right leg.  It was our initiation into the fashion world of gray plastics with blue Velcro trim.

That splint came to represent a lot of stuff.  It brought unspeakable pain to me, and unspeakable frustration to Fred. 

When you experience a substantial amount of pain, you have been trained by life and nature to look for (and eliminate) its cause.  Our nightly mutual torture ritual, when Fred would align my right lower leg and apply the hard plastic splint, always brought me to tears.  I often screamed.  He, in turn, claimed sometimes that he had not even touched me or that he had only lightly brushed a toenail.  And because life and nature had trained me, I looked for an explanation for this obscene pain. 

I decided that Fred was doing something -- on purpose -- to cause it.  Seriously, I did.  I even emailed my brother and a friend, even said as much to my pastor.  Yep -- there I was, trapped in a hospital bed, unable to defend myself against this demonic physical abuse.  I was James Caan and Fred was Kathy Bates.  It's a testament to Fred's character and to my insanity that no one believed me.  Fred didn't know that I'd labelled him an abuser until the day the CRPS was finally "officially" diagnosed, when I broke down in tears.  Tears of relief that there was some external explanation for all that misery that did not involve loved ones trying to kill me...


This blog was birthed from the pain of CRPS but has mostly served as a home for the craziness it induces.  It is hard, I know, for you folks to believe or understand that severe pain can be constant, especially as you've read about opiates and other comfort measures.  Equally difficult, and not just for laypeople, but for most non-specialist health professionals, is to deal with what has become a central nervous system disorder when what "presents" looks so purely orthopedic, or vascular. 

Some people have told me they understand better since seeing this short little art film I made back in May.  A woman with CRPS out in California Land has promoted it as an actual resource to her CRPS support group and to her doctors.  Makes me wish I hadn't been so flippant in making it, but what-the-hey... 

It's important to recognize that this is just how MY hands and feet look (a few months later, and my feet/legs are about the same, but my hands and forearms are much worse).  Some people don't have as many visual clues that something has gone awry with their neurological system, some have more.  Most people have symptoms restricted to one limb.  CRPS can and will "spread," however, which is how I ended up with all four extremities afflicted, as well as the bottom part of my face.  That is how, for example, I am now diagnosed with both CRPS Type 1 and Type 2.  The sites of original injury, my lower right leg and my left forearm/hand, represent Type 2 (causalgia), and have demonstrable nerve injuries (peroneal, tibial, ulnar). The left leg and right arm (plus the gorgeous visage) all represent the concept of "spread" and happened over the years since the original injury.  We like to call the original injury The Noxious Event.  (You have to wrinkle your nose as if smelling the scent of a dozen rotten eggs to give the expression its total oomph.) Umm, yeah, so my areas of "spread" would be CRPS Type 1, or what folks used to misrepresent as RSD, but really it just means that there is no identifiable nerve injury.

Is that clear as mud?!

Most importantly, if YOU have CRPS, don't get all boo-hoo-ey and think that you will end up like me.  Turn into a proactive (but polite) maniac and make sure you are promptly and correctly diagnosed, referred to a neurologist with experience in CRPS who will start treatment straight away.  Just DO IT.  There is an excellent chance, in that initial window of opportunity, for a cure, for a remission -- but you will likely have to take the lead.  So just DO IT.  It's confusing, it's hard, and you will meet your share of idiots along the way -- but do not lose focus.    If I may help you in any way, please don't hesitate to email me or leave a message in the comment area.  The very best place to start, and a place that will remain a great resource for you, is the RSDSA, which I urge you to join, and support.  Good luck and God speed.

And don't ever stop laughing.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain, swelling and changes in the skin. Though treatment is often unsatisfactory, early multimodal therapy can cause dramatic improvement or remission of the syndrome in some patients. The International Association for the Study of Pain has proposed dividing CRPS into two types based on the presence of nerve lesion following the injury.

Type I, formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), Sudeck's atrophy, reflex neurovascular dystrophy (RND) or algoneurodystrophy, does not have demonstrable nerve lesions.
Type II, formerly known as causalgia, has evidence of obvious nerve damage.

The cause of this syndrome is currently unknown. Precipitating factors include injury and surgery, although there are documented cases that have no demonstrable injury to the original site. [...]

The pathophysiology of CRPS is not fully understood. “Physiological wind-up” and central nervous system (CNS) sensitization, are key neurologic processes that appear to be involved in the induction and maintenance of CRPS. There is compelling evidence that the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor has significant involvement in the CNS sensitization process. It is also hypothesized that elevated CNS glutamate levels promote "physiological wind-up" and CNS sensitization. In addition, there is experimental evidence that demonstrates NMDA receptors in peripheral nerves. Because immunological functions can modulate CNS physiology, it has also been hypothesized that a variety of immune processes may contribute to the initial development and maintenance of peripheral and central sensitization. Furthermore, trauma related cytokine release, exaggerated neurogenic inflammation, sympathetic afferent coupling, adrenoreceptor pathology, glial cell activation, cortical reorganisation, and oxidative damage (e.g. by free radicals) are all concepts that have been implicated in the pathophysiology of CRPS.

The symptoms of CRPS usually manifest near the site of an injury, which is usually minor. The most common symptoms overall are burning and electrical sensations, described to be like "shooting pain." The patient may also experience muscle spasms, local swelling, abnormally increased sweating, changes in skin temperature (usually hot but sometimes cold) and color (bright red or a reddish violet), softening and thinning of bones, joint tenderness or stiffness, and/or restricted or painful movement.

The pain of CRPS is continuous and may be heightened by emotional or physical stress. Moving or touching the limb is often intolerable. The symptoms of CRPS vary in severity and duration. There are three variants of CRPS, previously thought of as stages. It is now believed that patients with CRPS do not progress through these stages sequentially. These stages may not be time-constrained, and could possibly event-related, such as ground-level falls or re-injuries in previous areas. It is important to remember that often the parasympathetic nervous system is involved with CRPS, and a part (subset) of the parasympathetic system is the autonomic (think automatic, like blood pressure regulation or breathing or sweating) nervous system can go haywire and cause a wide variety of odd complaints that are not mental in origin. Be sure and investigate autonomic dysfunction or disorder if you think you may have one of the often distinct varieties of CRPS. Rather than a progression of CRPS from bad to worse, it is now thought, instead, patients are likely to have one of the three following types of disease progression:

1.Stage one is characterized by severe, burning pain at the site of the injury. Muscle spasm, joint stiffness, restricted mobility, rapid hair and nail growth, and vasospasm. The vasospasm is that which causes the changes in the color and temperature of the skin.
2.Stage two is characterized by more intense pain. Swelling spreads, hair growth diminishes, nails become cracked, brittle, grooved, and spotty, osteoporosis becomes severe and diffuse, joints thicken, and muscles atrophy.
3.Stage three is characterized by irreversible changes in the skin and bones, while the pain becomes unyielding and may involve the entire limb. There is marked muscle atrophy, severely limited mobility of the affected area, and flexor tendon contractions (contractions of the muscles and tendons that flex the joints). Occasionally the limb is displaced from its normal position, and marked bone softening and thinning is more dispersed.

* AVN / ON = avascular necrosis, osteonecrosis
** SLE = Systemic lupus erythematosus

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Someone tried to attack Rupert!

In case it interests you, our friends at Media Matters for America are live blogging the Murdochs' (all in the family) testimony before Parliament. 


Sure it's on television but the television makes me batty.  It sucks my brains out through my eyes.  Plus, while they can cut the video feed, bloggers will blog on!  You know, in case something... untoward were to happen.

News Corp. Watch:
Someone tried to attack Rupert! Wendi interepted

News Corp. Watch:
Hearing in recess for 10 minutes.

News Corp. Watch:
Looks like Wendi took a swing at the attacker.

News Corp. Watch:
It's worth noting that this hearing was supposed to last one hour, but we're now heading close to 2.5 hours.

News Corp. Watch:
Reports are that the attacker threw a glass of water, or possibly white paint at Rupert Murdoch.

News Corp. Watch:
Update: It may have actually been a paper plate with foam. The attacker only came into the room moments before throwing it.

News Corp. Watch:
The attacker is now in handcuffs on the floor.

News Corp. Watch:
The foam can now be seen on the attackers face on the MSNBC feed.

News Corp. Watch:
Wendi fell on the floor after hitting the attacker.

Those Brits.  Such cut-ups.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kate's MRI [with update]

Holly McRae's daughter Kate has an MRI scheduled for Tuesday.  Tomorrow.

Kate has what her mother once described as a "very malignant, aggressive brain tumor called a supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor or sPNET."   She's undergone every treatment available.  Her parents and doctors have culled through protocols, and they know they are navigating uncharted waters now that there are new tumor spots.

Still, first grade is just around the corner, and life goes on adding sweet to the bitter.

Theirs is a Christ-centered home and family -- Holly's husband, Aaron, is a pastor and she is clearly faith-driven.  They believe that God can and will cure their daughter.

Every MRI has become critically important, sometimes for all that the scan does not show as much as for what it illuminates.  Holly and Aaron have always been wonderfully explicit in their requests for prayers -- a characteristic of real believers.  (I've been advised many times that God can handle my own pitiful minutiae --from disintegrating thumbnails to an overflowing appreciation for the awesome GirlPower of the FIFA World Cup finalists...)

I've learned that God is tapping me on the shoulder every time one of these real believer types stands in my path and refuses to get out of the way.  (They're incorrigible.)  I would translate that annoying tap::tap::tap into words but this is a G-rated blog, so just imagine God mildly cursing.  I don't mean plagues in Old Testament Egypt or Eve's subjugation, although I suspect that while God has authored a good many such curses, there is no intent to stifle the human response to fight, argue, and revolt.  Indeed, sometimes the divine hand fans those flames. 

Oh, hush.  Yes, I had another "D'oh" moment and didn't delete it. 

Here is the beginning of Holly McRae's latest journal entry over at Caring Bridge.  If you are new to Kate's story, you'll find the two years of journaling insightful, challenging, and -- definitely -- inspiring.  You will pray for Kate, her parents, her brother Will and her sister Olivia;  You will come to care, and very much.

In the post prior to this one, Holly wrote:
We have many prayer requests. Many. So tonight I will name a few pressing ones.
~that the original tumor area on the MRI will show NO change (this is hugely important)
~that the two new tumors would be gone on the upcoming MRI
~that Kate's abdominal pain would subside as she has been barely eating
~that her energy would increase in the next few weeks, so she would be able to start first grade
~that God would miraculously touch Kate's body, eradicate the cancer, heal the damaged areas of her brain, protect her vital structures that are at risk and preserve her vivacious spirit.

Whether you are a seasoned Prayer Warrior, or, like me, a clueless recruit in Intercessionary Boot Camp, that should keep you busy.

MRI on Tuesday....

We always tend to get reflective right before a major MRI. I clean and do my usual organizing. I wonder if it comes from the fact that the day Kate was initially diagnosed I left things in chaos at home. Bowls of cereal half eaten, laundry everywhere, we just dropped everything to go for the CT scan. I didn't step foot in our house again for almost 2 months. Now I always feel the impending desire to have everything in order, just in case we wouldn't come home. I truly don't believe that will be the case, but wonder if experience has dictated these new instincts in me.

The other day we were driving somewhere, it was probably 130 degrees out (slight exaggeration, but only slight) and the kids were giggling about something in the back. I quietly asked Aaron if he could imagine life without the impending thoughts of cancer, without the constant thought if Kate would be with us the following year, without death being a very real and talked about topic. Some are healthy changes. Healthy changes amidst a very gruesome disease. And yet we are still mourning other life changes. Bittersweet. Only occasionally do I let myself even wonder what life would have been like. What sweet Kate's life would be like had cancer never come knocking. I can't let myself stay there. It did happen, and life is different. It will always be different now. I just pray different will become sweeter over the days ahead. Less of the bitter, more of the sweet.

Kate's hair is starting to grow back some. It's interesting so far. Darker in spots. Thicker in others. We still can't tell if it will all come back yet. I get nervous for her some days. The thought of potentially having some permanent hair loss at the tender age of 7. It would be just one more battle to face. I love however that Kate rarely cares, of course she is sure her hair will come back at some point. And of course there is the occasional day that someone stares too long, or turns around to take a second glance, causing her to rethink letting others see beneath her hat. And then of course the fierce mother instinct comes out and my eyes say a million words to them that my mouth cannot. And yet, the other day she offhandedly said she wants to work on being more brave. Where she can take off her hat more readily in public around people she doesn't know. And I tell her she is incredibly brave already. She is forgiving of peoples unashamed stares and rarely complains about not having hair, when most are never thankful for the simple fact that they do have hair. I love that she has a new found confidence in the face of a physically altering illness. That speaks volumes. She is crazy beautiful anyways. [READ THE REST HERE]
That's for sure.

TUESDAY UPDATE:  Holly writes (and Aaron tweets) --
"We have very few details at this time but simply heard there has been 'no change' since last scan! Everything is stable! We praise God for this and are incredibly thankful for every single prayer offered on Kate's behalf."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A YEAR AGO TODAY: One Roseville Rozane Morning Glory Vase, Shattered

On this date last year, the denizens * of Marlinspike Hall played host to a not-so-dashing duo of home invaders. Whether mere thieves or professional hitmen on the run from Interpol and the Orange County Sherriff's Department, their identity and true purpose remain a mystery.

The Castafiore thinks she knows. They were after her, of course.
But she doesn't know, not really.

The Manor incident was the second home invasion to which I've been witness. There was no theft, just substantial breakage (of things, of confidence). The first time around, some odd 20 years ago, there was theft, but not of my stuff, just of Fred's stuff, as my sole valuable was too large to load into a pillowcase. Fred lost several Leicas, most of his Nikons, and a mountain bike -- a handy getaway vehicle. My pen and ink triptych entitled "Quand Salomé danse" in a specially commissioned antique gilt frame? Not taken.  Not damaged.

Go figure!

Anyway -- I will be on high alert later today, especially when Fred tootles off to congregate with the Militant Lesbian Existential Feminists, just in case those Break-In Bozo Bastards are anniversary freaks. The Indentured Domestic Staff has the day off. They've been working very hard in preparation for the opening of ManorFest next weekend. La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore has two performances of Faust, one a matinee, so she will not be in residence either. It looks like it's me and the Feline Remnant against the Sentimental Evildoers.

* And mavens, don't forget the mavens!


Just minutes before Universal Worship Time, somewhere around 10:56 AM, without even the benefit of fortifying coffee, poor Fred scratched off down the unpaved country road, late for Sunday morning services with the Militant Existential Lesbian Feminists.

Scratching off in a Honda is an accomplishment, you know!

That left me all alone in Marlinspike Hall -- except for a Slumbering Castafiore. La Bonne et Belle Bianca is worn to a frazzle with all the rehearsing and costume fittings involved in the new mounting of Gounod's Faust. [All I know is that the new set designs approximate some sort of New Wave, 1980s nod to Miami Vice.]

It is Manor Tradition that domestics have [the daylight hours of] every third Sunday off, barring the presence of The Captain, of any of the Haddock Clan, which dictates full staffing at all times -- and usually, we have to bolster the blue-blood-to-hireling ratio by employing local temps. Fortunately, there is a robust Domestics 'R Us franchise a few towns over, in East Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs).

Anyway, I was essentially alone. Just me, the Manor Petting Zoo denizens, a small herd of Miniature Buffalo -- and the Three Felines.

Of course, being inside manor walls, with the drawbridge up, it seemed like it was just me and the cats.


I had just decided to begin the intricate process of settling down up in the Computer Turret * for some juicy DM-action with an internet buddy when the loud sound of glass breaking destroyed Sunday's silence.

We don't have windows in the traditional sense, of course. Not glass, is what I mean. No glazier in his right mind would undertake to install panes of actual glass in any of our Fresh Air Access Modules. We did try, once, putting in a dual-paned insulated unit in one of the more regular-sized FAAMs in the Spinet Chamber -- 78-3/5″ wide and 121-1/2″ tall (never mind the depth -- we had to put in a sash and frame assembly to somewhat normalize the process -- that was tricky, let me tell you!) Darned if we didn't spend all our time trying to keep our one and only window defogged enough to see out. You would think the Spinet Collection, which includes three attributed to Hieronymus de Zentis, himself, would show signs of harm from all the moisture but oddly enough, these 370-year-old, poor-man, stripped-down harpsichords have held up better than the finer instruments in the Haddock Clan's holdings. They're a big hit during ManorFest!

You are probably wayyyyy ahead of me in this narrative. I guess that I tend to ramble, inchoate, à la H. P. Lovecraft, under duress.

It was not mere glass that broke, unfortunately, but rather a Roseville vase -- from the (Rozane) Morning Glory Collection. There are hundreds of such things that decorate The Manor, but I was particularly fond of this relatively unknown American Cousin.

Yes, we had an intruder, a particularly young and clumsy one, possibly still in training (I imagine there is some sort of apprenticeship for these sorts of métiers). He managed to traipse across the property unheeded, swim the moat (we found his carefully rolled and stored wet suit), and stroll through an entire wing of Marlinspike Hall before meeting another soul, and then, only because he knocked over that beautiful vase from Ohio.

Listen to the names of all the Roseville lines from the same period of production -- 1930 to 1939; It's pure poetry, buckeye, conker, ohioan:

Baneda, Blackberry, Bleeding
Heart, Cherry Blossom, Clemana, Crystal

Green, Dawn!

Earlam, Falline, Ferella,
Fuchsia, Iris, Ivory Two,
Ixia, Jonquil, Laurel.

Luffa, Moderne, Monticello,
Morning Glory,

Orian, Peony, Pinecone,

and Primrose.

Russco, Sunflower, Teasel, Thorn
Apple, Topeo, Tourmaline...

Velmoss and Velmoss Two:


I used this chant to calm myself, once our intrepid, young (and clumsy) intruder had fled.

Once I tracked down a fully-charged phone, I called the local version of 911. In Europe, the emergency phone number is often 112. Here, in our very unique area of Tête de Hergé, it often suffices to call up Tante Louise -- who is a story in and of herself. I gave a good description of the guy, proud of myself for having noticed his missing left pinky and the tattoo of a wall-eyed parrot on his right forearm. Still, I was frustrated at my inability to estimate height -- something definitely compromised by the vantage point of a wheelchair.

I also reached Fred, via The Church Lady, The Mousse, the only Straight Female in the Militant Existential Lesbian Feminist Congregation, managing to stifle a snide remark when she LOUDLY whispered, "Fred, oh yes, Retired Educator, he's right here... next to me..."

Having made the necessary calls, I went about the business of making sure La Bonne et Belle Bianca and The Felines were all safe and sound. The Castafiore cursed at me in French and Italian, not comprehending my protestations of an intruder in The Manor, and the cats all gamely meowed.

I found no further signs of damage, and noticing nothing missing, I started to relax. But as I headed into the closest kitchen to start some coffee brewing, the unmistakeable dulcet tones of someone banging on an exterior door rang out. Rang out, insistently.

Unless they were camped out down the road at the Cistercian's place -- our equivalent, I guess, of cops at a donut shop -- there's no way that could have been the police, thought I.

There's no such thing as a peephole when you are dealing with massive medieval doors, especially when they are made of bronze and cast as single units -- not just bronze panels decorated and secured to a flimsy wooden frame, no! Scholars generally divide the History of Medieval Bronze Doors into those made in Constantinople and those made in Italy. Symeon of Syria is presumed to be the maker of the doors in question, as he is famous for adding inlays of silver to his decorated story-panels depicting Lives of the Saints.

These were some heavy, dense doors, is what I am trying to say. I did my best to decipher the muffled responses to my shouted queries, but it was hopeless. Thinking that maybe some Festival Hounds were under the impression that we were open for ManorFest, I heaved open the doors.

There stood Intrepid Young Intruder, even more dirty, sweaty, and panicked-looking than the last time I saw him. Next to him was an older man, neat as a pin and grinning a leering grin my way. "Is Hassan home, Decrepit Lady in a Wheelchair, whose neck I could snap, like *that*?" he asked.

Okay, all he really said was: Is. Hassan. Home. Lady.
All the while, Intrepid Young Intruder was on the verge of Spontaneous Combustion, his four digit-hand crossed over his body, gripping his inked arm so tightly his four fingers blanched white.

"The Police are on the way," was the only thing I could think to say. And I said it as I was swinging those damned doors closed, as my heart occupied my throat, as my life flashed before my eyes, and as annoying worry about the well-being of the Somnolent Diva and the Manor animals asserted itself in my forebrain.

What I would have given for a normal house window to peer out of...

And... how could it be that Leering Old Guy was bone dry and cool as a cucumber if the drawbridge was up? (and the submarine disabled! I forgot about the submarine.)

I kept yelling optimistic yells about the police, the cops, the fuzz -- and how I thought I heard 'em coming, how I had 'em on the phone, how amazingly prompt they always were to the inhabitants of Marlinspike Hall.

I might have implied, at one point, that the Haddocks *owned* the police.

Fred made it to my side in under 20 minutes. He saw no sign of the pair, though he did find Tools of the Burglar Trade and an empty knapsack near where Intrepid Young Intruder had stashed his wetsuit.

There was a hammer by Symeon of Syria's bronze doors.

The Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs) Metro Police? Sixty-seven minutes. After two phone calls. Sixty-seven minutes.

It took us hours to find Our Little Idiot, Dobby -- he finally issued a small squeak that led us to a cherry wardrobe in a rarely-used bedroom off of Bianca's Suite in the West Wing. He had carefully pried the door open, using the floral frieze molding for good paw grip.

It's almost evening, now, and his pupils are still shot wide in terror, poor thing.

So that has been my Strange Sunday, and really I was doing quite well, having made a police report, and served tea to The Detective. I listened, shaking my head, trying to laugh, as Fred swore that I must assent to having a gun. I calmed a hysterical Castafiore who is now convinced that the two men were obviously after *her* and that she had only barely eluded their grasp.

Yes, I was doing quite well.

Until The Detective licked his lips, casually crossed his legs, and said:

"So... why do you think they came back, hmm?"

*We get more questions about The Computer Turret than about any other architectural feature of the architectural conundrum that is The Manor:

The only way in or out, up or down, the pesky turret is via a thick rope ladder, dyed caution yellow, that extends down (but mostly sideways) out to the Manor Stables -- a remarkable outbuilding that is an alarming replica, as we pointed out in our last post, of the Knoppenburg Manor Stables. The proper term today is "agricultural building." You won't catch me calling it a barn if there are any prying ears about. Of course, the last outsider who dropped by was The Technician Overlord of Our Telecommunications Bundle, which he so wisely decided was best centered in the Hobby Room at the top of the Turret Tower. We had concocted a cover story about the rope bridge ("It's more a bridge than a ladder," Fred just said), which consists of the baldfaced lie that we are a new off season venue for those Cirque du Soleil performers who are fresh out of rehab. So the hefty diameter of that hemp monster, see, is easily explained away as necessary gear for these poor, troubled acrobats.

I'm usually not subject to such heights of embarrassment (heights, and, lately, riches) but I just don't want anyone to think that I have to zig zag my way from one Manor Wing to another, make it to the Grand Ballroom, out the entrance, patterned after Brunelleschi's bronze baptistery doors, over the drawbridge (Provided it is down! Men!), across the moat, down the lane, over the hedge, into the damned agricultural outbuilding, up the custom wheelchair ramp into the hayloft, and then, lickety-split, go hand-over-fist on the rope bridge for a good half mile... all just to get my email.