Saturday, December 30, 2006

Absolutely, Positively

One day not to long ago, my mother told me that she was entertaining thoughts of going outside and painting polka dots on the mushrooms that were growing on her lawn after several days of rain. I said it would be fun to freak out the neighbors, and she agreed, but I'm not sure that this was her initial intention. Mom's into tole painting and just likes to paint cutesy things on objects of all kinds. But I vowed that if I lived to be old and gray, I would definitely indulge in this kind of eccentricity.

So, when a certain Mermaid known as Charlotte Della Luna posted the Which Historical Lunatic Are You? test, I couldn't resist finding out. I am thrilled with the result!

You are Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America!

LinkI'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!

Since nothing above is linked to the essay about this guy, I've reproduced it below. The fact that his life's story played out in San Francisco only affirms the similarities I perceive between it and New Orleans. Joshua Abraham Norton would have been right at home here. We have the same kind of irreverence and sense of humor in this town. If there's an afterlife, I'll bet the Emperor is holding court
right now with our queen, Ruthie the Duck Lady. (Sad & Tragic Note: Look at what happened to the historic archives of Eccentric New Orleans.

Here's the story of
Joshua Abraham Norton, my American hero:

Born in England sometime in the second decade of the nineteenth century, you carved a notable business career, in South Africa and later San Francisco, until an entry into the rice market wiped out your fortune in 1854. After this, you became quite different. The first sign of this came on September 17, 1859, when you expressed your dissatisfaction with the political situation in America by declaring yourself Norton I, Emperor of the USA. You remained as such, unchallenged, for twenty-one years.

Within a month you had decreed the dissolution of Congress. When this was largely ignored, you summoned all interested parties to discuss the matter in a music hall, and then summoned the army to quell the rebellious leaders in Washington. This did not work. Magnanimously, you decreed (eventually) that Congress could remain for the time being. However, you disbanded both major political parties in 1869, as well as instituting a fine of $25 for using the abominable nickname "Frisco" for your home city.

Your days consisted of parading around your domain - the San Francisco streets - in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulettes. This was set off by a beaver hat and umbrella. You dispensed philosophy and inspected the state of sidewalks and the police with equal aplomb. You were a great ally of the maligned Chinese of the city, and once dispersed a riot by standing between the Chinese and their would-be assailants and reciting the Lord's Prayer quietly, head bowed.

Once arrested, you were swiftly pardoned by the Police Chief with all apologies, after which all policemen were ordered to salute you on the street. Your renown grew. Proprietors of respectable establishments fixed brass plaques to their walls proclaiming your patronage; musical and theatrical performances invariably reserved seats for you and your two dogs. (As an aside, you were a good friend of Mark Twain, who wrote an epitaph for one of your faithful hounds, Bummer.) The Census of 1870 listed your occupation as "Emperor".

The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, upon noticing the slightly dilapidated state of your attire, replaced it at their own expense. You responded graciously by granting a patent of nobility to each member. Your death, collapsing on the street on January 8, 1880, made front page news under the headline "Le Roi est Mort". Aside from what you had on your person, your possessions amounted to a single sovereign, a collection of walking sticks, an old sabre, your correspondence with Queen Victoria and 1,098,235 shares of stock in a worthless gold mine. Your funeral cortege was of 30,000 people and over two miles long.

The burial was marked by a total eclipse of the sun.

Why Isn't the Ambien Working???

It used to work. I could take 5 mg and get whoozy enough to bug out for the night. But most of the time I need 10mg. And I used to be able to take a whole 10mg tablet and be loopy inside of 30 minutes. If you ever saw one of my unedited posts that was written after the Ambien started to kick in, then you know what I mean.

I took a 10 mg tablet over two hours ago and here I am, reading and writing like I drank the water and forgot the pill, (which I did not.) I've noticed that it's been taking longer to take effect, but this is ridiculous. I need to sleep. It's 5:00 AM. Has my neurochemistry become completely whacked out?

I know I'm not wired like the rest of the world. Most of the things that are supposed to put you to sleep, hype me up like crazy. And lots (but not all) of the things that are supposed to hype you up, mellow me out, just not to the point of being sleepy. Most of the time I feel like I could stay awake indefinitely. I haven't known what natural sleepiness feels like for quite a long time now. Ambien has been the one thing I could count on for help in my nearly impossible quest for sleep.

Oh Ambien, please don't fail me now!

Monday, December 25, 2006


Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Renard and I first met at some point in the early 1980s when we floated around in the same pool of music, mostly centered around the Neville Brothers. We got to know each other a little better and began to consider each other friends in the latter part of the1980s, but didn't develop a close friendship until early 2001.

On December 26th of 2001, our friendship, which had deepened a lot over the course of the year, became a romance with our first kiss. He had ideas, but I didn't see it coming, not at all. I'm glad I didn't. I didn't have the opportunity to think about it, much less to overthink it.

So, here we are five years later, happier than we've ever been. The road here hasn't always been smoothe, but we've paid attention and learned a lot from each other. Our relationship has developed breadth and depth and we still laugh and play and cut up as much as ever, if not more. (That's the best part.)

And the gift theme for the 5 year anniversary is... wood. No problem with that. (Heh, he, he...)

Virtual Christmas Bowling- S--Wii--t!! *Nintindo Wii is Sweet Indeed!

Granny (my mother) bowls solo on my nephew's Wii while my neice watches. She has a mean hook. Now Mom wants the two of us to go in on one.

See the Grazing Mule Before Us...

December 25, 1972
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
...fa, la, la, la, la, etc.

Merry Christmas to all of you inclined toward celebrating this day or whatever else you may be celebrating at this time of year.

Blast From Christmas Past

Last night I found this piece of paper while putting something in my mother's attic. It was written on Christmas day of 1972. I was 10 years old. I still remember that purple loose leaf paper-- a 1972 classic which I also had in blue, green, yellow and orange.

The first sentence is a quote by Antoine de Saint Exupery. I guess at 10 years old I didn't know about citing sources, but unlike some of my students, I knew that different ideas should be separated into different paragraphs and I spelled most of my words correctly, (without benefit of a spell-checker.)

What Love and Reality Are

Love is not two people looking at each other but two people looking in the same direction. Another vertion [sic] of love is a strong liking of something.

Reality is something true to one's mind or material. I think things in a person's mind could possibly be brought to reality.

On the second half of the page, I begin a chronicle of the holidays with the kin-folk in New Iberia, LA. On Christmas night, I claim to have been hanging out with my older cousin (which I do remember), shooting fireworks, drinking wine, and not going to bed until after 2:30 AM.

After reading it I am left with two thoughts:

Not much has changed. (Pondering the nature of love and reality, drinking wine, not going to bed at a "reasonable" time...)


Where the hell were my parents???

I find myself asking this question a lot when I reflect on my childhood. I can tell you this much: no way in hell will my 10 year old daughter be hanging out with the teenagers, drinking wine and staying up until 2:30 AM. At least not while I live and breathe. I think my mom and dad were over the whole parenting thing by the time I came along (surprise!) almost 12 years after their first two (planned) children. I was always around people a lot older then I was and never fit in with kids my own age.

It's funny to look at Rachel on this day, one month older than I was on Christmas day of 1972, and realize that she is at the same stage of life I was when I wrote the things on this page. In a lot of ways, she's just like me. But she's still got a lot more kid in her than I did at that age. Still, I'm looking forward to her first essay on the nature of love and reality.

Enjoy your day!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Surgery Post Script
The Second Time (Out of Three) I Came Startlingly Close to Death

Happy (belated) Solstice to all of you out there who pay attention to this sort of thing. And thanks to AOF, who I neglected to acknowledge for her happy solstice wishes in my last post. (Sorry!)

Since I dreamed last night that my late father and I were fugitives from extraterrestrial aliens, (admittedly one of the most fascinating nocturnal fantacy-adventures my mind has ever created), I thought I'd feature one of his photos on this post.

As is most often the case, is one's a long one. With me, you may not get frequency from me these days, but you do get a lot in one big bite. I'm still trying to get caught up on reading everyone else's blogs, which is a daunting proposition right now, as many of you have been quite prolific. So, I feel like I'm doing you all a great service by not posting too often.

This afternoon I go for my post-op visit and I expect that my surgeon will yank the surgical tape off of this incision. Surgical tape closures are apparently the new thing. The sutures (stitches) are on the inside and they'll eventually dissolve. I don't think that's happened yet because I can feel a hard line below the skin that feels like it could easily be a stitched wound closure. I'd have put up a picture of the taped incision, but it may have grossed some of you out. I was badly bruised and it was pretty ugly under the bandage, but if you really like seeing stuff like that or are just insatiably curious and inquisitive (as I am), let me know and I'll send you a link or a JPG. Anyway, I get the impression that this severe bruising thing is not the norm. I'll tell you why in a minute.

Rather than general anesthesia, I had a MAC surgery. (Perfect for me, huh?) From the linked article: "The purpose of a MAC is to provide the patient with anxiety relief, amnesia, pain relief, comfort, and safety during the procedure. Like general anesthesia, MAC uses sedatives and other agents, but the dosage is low enough that patients, remain responsive and breathe without assistance. " I like this idea much better than general anesthesia. But if I had any awareness or responsiveness, the amnesia thing took care of it. However, there is one thing I do remember, and that was hearing the surgeon telling the residents, "we have to achieve hemostasis," and something to the effect of "we still have bleeding here," and something about clamps and directions to "get that one right there." Then, zippo. No other memories.

When I woke up in the recovery room I was told that hey couldn't get me to stop bleeding during and after the surgery and that I may have a bleeding disorder. I was advised to have my primary care doctor check it out.

It's not the first time this kind of thing has come up. I frequently find bruises in weird places that would not have been subjected to some kind of trauma. They just pop up spontaneously. In fact, I've watched it happen in different spots over the period of an hour or so without any kind of concurrent injury. And then there was the more serious bleeding episode.

It happened two weeks after Rachel, my second child, was born. I had been on the sofa nursing her and when she was finished, I stood up and almost instantly found myself standing in an enormous pool of blood. I knew all too well that I was hemorrhaging because I had heard the story countless times of how my mother almost died from a post-partum hemorrhage after my sister, her second child, was born --two weeks after she was born, just like me. Turns out that my grandmother had the same experience after the birth of her second child.

According to a source cited in this article from Contemporary OB/GYN, "massive uncontrolled hemorrhage after childbirth is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death in the United States and one of the most common causes of maternal death."

This is one of three times I've come ridiculously close to dying, but the other two times, I'd narrowly dodged the bullet. This time was different. I was hit by the bullet. I just didn't die.

Since I knew the seriousness of what was happening, I called my mother, then 911, and was quickly delivered to the hospital ER via ambulance. My mother was a nervous wreck. I told her that this was not going to be a replay of what happened to her because we understood what was going on and didn't wait to get to a hospital, where I would get good care and they wouldn't let the worst happen.

The on-call physician from my OB-GYN's practice was a snippy young woman with some kind of serious chip on her shoulder. She walked into the ER exam room as I was again nursing the cranky newborn Rachel. Upon taking in the scene, she said in a very snide and sarcastic tone, "I hate to break up your little mother-daughter bonding moment, but I'd like to have dinner with my family at least once this week." I bit my tongue but in my head told in just as snide a tone that perhaps, as an OB-GYN, she shouldn't expect to be able to do that when it was her turn to take call. So, I gave the baby to my mother and told Dr. Snippy* that I was bleeding a lot. She dismissed it as hyperbole. I told her to look at the blood-soaked clothes and towel in the bag and noted that the rather large pool of blood in my house that was cleaned up with a different towel. She told me that towels disperse the blood and make it look like it's more than it is. Her disregard of the seriousness of the hemorrhage worried me, but clearly, I had no influence on her opinion.

Dr. Snippy's solution to the problem was to have me admitted and to give me a shot of pitocin so the uterus would contract and stop the bleeding. I was also given an injection of an agent that promotes the production of red blood cells. This is a normal first-course of action. Dr. Snippy wrote her orders and left, but the pitocin didn't work. I continued to hemorrhage and the nurses who monitored me were becoming quite concerned. They called the doctor to update her and she ordered another drug. I was told that I would not be able to nurse Rachel for two hours after this second drug was administered and that I should pump some breast milk before I received it. Nursing causes the release of pitocin and maybe if my uterus contracted more, it would help stop the bleeding.

A nurse brought the breast pump and left me to do my thing, but just as I got started, I began to feel nauseous, lightheaded, clammy and began breathing rapidly --all the early signs of shock, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. I knew I was in trouble and hit the call button. Two nurses bolted in and began working to stabilize my condition. There was barely enough blood left for my vital organs so my body reacted by cutting off the blood flow to my limbs. This was incredibly painful as the oxygen-starved muscles in my hands and feet went into spasm and contracted into what felt like contorted lobster claws. My head felt like it was disappearing into the pillow and the nurses voices began to fade. The last thing I remember hearing was a nurse announcing that my blood pressure had fallen to 50/30.

My poor mother was in the room holding Rachel and watching this horror unfold. And when I say horror, you have to remember that she was lucky, very lucky to have survived the same ordeal by the skin of her teeth and was terrified that I would not be so lucky. Thanks to the nurses' quick administration of fluid resuscitation, I didn't end up like a lot of women who suffer post-partum hemorrhage -- a CDC mortality statistic. I was revived and stable, but still feeling loopy when they wheeled me into surgery. After a D&C, the bleeding was under control and Dr. Snippy transformed into a sickeningly sweet version of her former self. Gee whiz, I had given them quite a scare! (No kidding, lady. I tried to tell you that I was bleeding to death. So did the nurses.)

The next big question was what caused the hemorrhage in the first place. None of the placenta or amniotic sac had been retained and it appeared that my uterus was able to contract, which would normally stop any bleeding. This was the first time I heard mention of the possibility of a blood disorder. It was particularly notable that it had occurred in three generations, but strange that it occurred only after the birth of the second child. (Both my mother and grandmother fearfully went on to birth a third without incident.) I never gave the mysterious blood disorder idea another thought, since I never had a reason to. It's been more than 10 years and, other than the weird bruises, there's been no reason to be concerned. But now I'm told that I'd better look into it.

I mentioned the bruising thing to my primary care doctor a couple of years ago and he did some clotting factor tests which were normal. I'm not worried, but I think it might be good to know if I have to watch out for some oddball bleeding problems in some unforeseen situation in the future.

So there you have it: my most serious brush with death. One of the reasons for this blog was to document some of my life stories for posterity (=my children). The other two were situations where there was a margin of milliseconds between me and an event which would have, without question, annihilated me. I could tell both those stories pretty quickly, but this post is long enough already.

*Dr. Snippy still practices in New Orleans and though I chose not to publish her name here, I have no problem telling anyone who asks via e-mail.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Celebrating the End with a
Temporary Chemical Lobotomy
It's STILL Not Over

CoPayment to Primary Care Physician: $15
C0Payment to General Surgeon: $25
CoPayment to Hospital: $100
Spending a couple of hours soaked in the mind-numbing drugs of surgical sleep, bereft of thought or dream or any memory of the aggravations of this semester, particularly the end of it:

This has been the semester from hell.

And now it seems like it will never end.

And because I haven't suffered enough, I'm having a yard sale tomorrow, just the kind of pain-in-the-ass thing you want to do after a hellish semester that was topped off by a litle surgery. I mustn't have felt like I was loving myself enough, huh?

So, I'd hoped to tell the whole story here, tonight but it's already after 4:00AM, and after 3 hours, the Ambien is sorta kicking in, just a little. (What's with that??) There has been so, so much going on that I haven't had a chance to post about. It's been pretty tough getting time to do anything blog-related (reading or posting) in these last few months. Sigh.

Oh, yes. I said surgery up there, and I really shouldn't leave you without some explanation. I had a funky lump poking out of the middle of my chest, right under the bottom of the bra-line. The docs decided it was either an abdominal hernia or a lipoma (just a plain old fatty tumor). Lucky for me, it was the latter, which means a faster, easier recovery. So, I decided to end my happy semester with exactly what I needed-- short-term amnesia; the temporary chemical lobotomy; anesthetic bliss. However short it was, and however painful after, it was worth it. And after I was released, I slept non-stop for almost two straight days without anyone bothering me. Now that's really priceless!

I'll tell the rest of the story in the next post. If this reads all wonky, it just means the Ambien is working better than I thought right now.

Hey! If you know where my house is and you're in the neighborhood, stop by and visit! I'll be out there from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM. with all kinds of stuff from here, there and everywhere. If you're driving in either direction on Carrollton near Cohn, you'll see couple of the funkiest Yard Sale signs ever sitting out there on the neutral ground, you'll know your nearby.

More to come! Love to you all!