Category: miracles of science



the tide goes in. the tide goes out.

this morning, i made the trek out to washington radiology. i failed my mammogram on my birthday 6 months ago and, happy birthday to me, ended up with a biopsy. as is my medical custom, i stumped the experts; they didn’t see anything malignant, but they were also puzzled by the quantity of lymphoid tissue in the sample. i told the doctor that perhaps i have a lot of lymphoid tissue because i have all sorts of lymphatic fun thanks to my underlying immune deficiency. i mean, my lymph nodes react when i have an infection, when i drink hot and sour soup, and because the moon might be in the 7th house and jupiter is aligning with mars. you just never know.  so hey, c’mon back in 6 months and we’ll take another looksee under the hood, okay?

like i’d say no?

my mom has lost both breasts to cancer and mercifully, she continues to be a major pain in my ass 30+ years after the fact. but thanks to that little tidbit of medical history, i go ping whenever the subject of family history and breast cancer comes up in a doctor’s office. mom recently underwent the testing to see whether she had the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and tested negative. well, yeah, that’s awesome, and i celebrated, thinking there’s one less thing potentially wrong with me genetically… except i learned, mid-biopsy, that there are loads of other BRCA genes, so there’s always the chance… which then made me want to scream at the doctor who shared that info why on Dog’s Green Earth bother with testing then? except, at that particular moment, the doctor had just cut into me with a very sharp scalpel, and also, there was that little matter of blood literally splattering across my chest, just like in the movies. it was pretty cool, actually, except for the fact that it was my chest and my blood.

maybe next time, i will ask to be put under.

anyway, so back i went today. i was a little perplexed by the fact that i was being charged for a full mammogram (plus the extra $50  for a 3D mammogram, which isn’t covered by insurance but which would probably make a hell of a slideshow at a party.) only one side was getting the excruciating glamour treatment. but the woman behind the desk who seems to repeat the same spiel over and over all day to women of all ages and sizes and races told me nope, no discount for one boob. ah well. you pays yer money and you takes yer choices. when i was finally taken out back and shot, i had a lovely lady who was a wonderful smoosh-o-grammer. after the smoosh, she led me to a room to wait for the doctor.

now, let me tell you about this room. when you are doing your annual mammogram and you have never had any troubles to speak of, they take you back to the closet they stuff you in little changing room where you first got into your little brown gown (open in the front, no deodorant, no lotions, no creams please.) there, you wait for the technician who performed your mammogram to come in, tell you that you passed again, get your clothes on, and make your way up the road to the mosaic district, where you can dine on fine food and shop at neiman marcus last call go home.  the event passes like a tiny bump in your road. but then, there’s the room. there are magazines. there’s a box of tissues. there’s an HD TV against the wall playing a video of the ocean tide coming in and the tide rolling out. it’s a little haven of medical office zen. if there was a giant glass bottle of cucumber spa water in the corner and mani/pedis, it might not be such a horrible place. but it is a horrible place.

it’s the place where women like me go.

it is the holding pen for the women who have failed their mammograms, a sort of  purgatory. it is the place you go when an actual doctor has to talk to you about your results. women like me end up there because we have failed before. women who are new to failure end up there as well. and somehow, that oceanic video is supposed to be a positive, peaceful life buoy. today, though, as i marched into the room, i saw a young woman, probably around 30 or so. at first, all i could see was her blonde hair sprouting out of a head that was bobbing and heaving between her knees.  i bit my lip. clearly, the girl had had some sort of shock, and no amount of azure waves was going to help her.

i walked across the room and grabbed a tissue. i tried to not look at her at first, as i didn’t want to completely intrude,  but merely extended my hand near her arm, gently brushing the tissue against her elbow. i figured if she wanted it, she would take it; if she didn’t, she would ignore me and that would be just fine. you never really know what people want or need at times like these; but i cannot look away from it, either. she picked up her head, gratefully took the tissue, and said thanks  and tried to smile. she wiped her face off, but then a fresh flood came and she put her head down again. reflexively, i started to rub and pat her shoulder, much as i do with my children when they are crying. i don’t generally make a habit of touching total strangers, especially ones who are in terrible pain; but i just didn’t want her to feel alone. i wanted her to know that other people will care about what happens to her, people she knows and loves. if even a total stranger cares, then her loved ones will surely embrace and comfort her, too.

i wanted her to know that maybe something awful was in store for her, but there was also love in her future, too.

she would try to stop crying and pick her head up and smile at me. i smiled back. but then, she would cry again, and her head would once again duck down. i patted her some more til she calmed down. she had just picked her head up when the nurse came in to call her. miss s, the nurse said,  you will need more pictures and then the doctor will see you to talk more. come with me. my new friend miss s picked her head up and looked at me. hang in there was all i could muster. she smiled weakly, and i nodded and smiled back.

my turn came soon. the technician walked me into my little changing cubicle, which i thought was a good sign. after all, i had my biopsy news in the sonogram room, not in the little closets. the doctor came in, told me that the area where the biopsy was done 6 months ago had shrunk, and she didn’t see anything scary. nothing at all. so go on out and treat yourself, she said, smiling. i guess she likes to give good news. when you hit the point where you are sent to the room to talk with the doctor, your talks don’t always go so well, i guess. she’s probably as happy as i am. or close. i whipped off that brown gown and headed out, with big plans to walk around the mosaic district. that was going to be my treat. i walked past the room where i had waited. no one was sitting there. miss s was somewhere else, hopefully getting better news, hopefully sitting in a changing cubicle finding out that she, too, was going to bump into me at a more pleasant place. like say, neiman marcus’s last call. i will always hope so, and i will always wonder about miss s. but all i saw in that room was the ocean video, playing on a never-ending loop in high def.

the tide goes in. the tide goes out.


in memory of my friend syrentha savio.

everything counts

everything counts

in large amounts.

it’s almost a new year for red sea pedestrian types, so why not make a resolution? and hey, you don’t have to be a red sea pedestrian to get on this train, anyway.

i want to feel healthier. i want to feel better. i struggle with my health issues, and i realize that i need to be even stronger and tougher, as things are not getting any easier in life.

so here are my new year’s resolutions, and i hope i keep to the plan:

1) eat cleaner, simpler foods. sure, i can have a cheat meal now and again, but i need to eat better. no one else in this house needs to be following this regime, though it certainly would be beneficial for them. but i need to lay off their cookies and yummy stuff. and if i bite it, i’d better write it down. everything counts (in large amounts.) goal one: one cheat meal/week.

2) work out. i don’t need tiger dad at the gym to guilt me into coming back. and there will be days when i can’t get to the community center gym, so i just need to walk or run or do something else. if i don’t do it right after i take the boy to school, i never do it. so i need to kick my own ass and do something. and i know it’s boring, but some of these workouts must be weight training ones. goal one: as many as 5 days/week.

3) try to be more positive. (i know, i know, this coming from little miss self deprecation.) try to be less snarky. maybe it will rub off on my kids! seriously, this might be key.

anyway, i will try my best to not become pollyanna-ish ( could you see me doing that, anyway? really?) but i may start to chronicle my journey here.

and if anyone else is doing something similar, i could do with the support. feel free to weigh in (ha! i slay myself sometimes) in the comments. tips, workout mix suggestions, hell, anything as long as it is positive, feel free.

good ideas and wishes all count. especially in large amounts.



it’s not just something you use to get yourself stuff… it’s hours of fun, too!

today’s theme is money and how it can provide hours of activities for the whole family! (it is, after all, black friday.) BC started me down this thrilling path by deciding that it would be fun to experience black friday! don’t you want to hit tyson’s corner center at ungodly o’clock? sure. i know i did.

i told her that despite the mall opening at midnight, i would not be triapsing there at that time. we settled on waking up at 5:30am and hitting the mall then. and hit it hard we did. girlfriend, you see, needs new clothes. and there were some specials that would be too hard to pass up. two pairs of jeans, one skirt, two camis, three shirts, and one pair of sweats later, we did quite well. (i also did well on two cashmere sweaters at macy’s which i had been stalking for two months. a crazy sale price plus a coupon made it something i could finally do. (yeah, i use coupons. so what?)) also two pairs of dockers for BS, and the only person who got bupkes on this trip was jools. (not for lack of trying: we hit the gamestop, but it didn’t have a lot of there there for him. at least, notthat was on sale, anyway.)

the ladies at vera bradley were a little cuckoo, i would say. they were pretty clueless and the sale items we wanted weren’t there. ladies, step away from the paisley.

so what’s even more fun with money? looking into a piggy bank that i’ve had since i was in high school and seeing which quarters are now collectibles in jools’ book. and that’s what we did. wow, the boy exclaimed, a quarter from 1968! that’s really old, isn’t it??


anyway, we found a bicentennial quarter, a coin from greece (also 1968!), a shekel, and all sorts of stuff… including some pretty gnarly-looking pennies. which leads us to fun with money part three: let’s learn about oxidation! i found a little piece called chemistry fun with pennies and mixed up a little vinegar-salt mixture. the boy threw in a bunch of pennies, a quarter, and a dime for good measure. we’re still waiting to see what happens, though the pennies seem to be improving…marginally.

in other news, my fingers have this awful vinegar/old metal smell. i guess i officially smell like money.

big empty

big empty

wow. inboxes can get pretty full.

i don’t often open my gmail account. everything gets forwarded to various places and all is well. but tonight, morbid curiosity had me fire up the old gmail to see what was happening… and what was happening was over 40,000 emails, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. well, not really kissing but merely clogging up my li’l corner of cyberspace.

::insert guilt here::

so i started thinking of the major offenders, to which i have subscribed and never cleared out… places like groupon, for example.  search, delete, search, delete, etc. it gets pretty boringly addictive. can i make it below 39,ooo? can i make it below 38,000?

after about 30 minutes, i am only just about 35,000. how the hell did i get this many emails?

i live in fear for when i finally confront my facebook emails. that may require an intervention.

so see you when i come up for air. maybe when i hit 30,000.

science fiction/double feature

science fiction/double feature

sometimes the truth is more wonderful than fiction.

every year, our elementary school has a movie night. the kids all huddle on the cafeteria floor on blankets and in sleeping bags to watch what is usually a pixar movie. this year, we gathered to watch rio. the boy has had a tough week at school; it’s hard being different and the kids seem to get less empathetic and increasingly nasty. and yet, the boy wanted to go. i hope i see M there, he said to me as we hopped into the mommobile.

sure enough, we did see M. M, you should know, is a wonderful little girl who has been in jools’ class since kindergarten, though this year, they are sadly separated. since kindergarten, when they vowed they would marry when they were grownups, the two have been tight friends. somehow, waching them together is like watching an old married couple; he is always doing goofy things and telling jokes to make her smile, and she pinches him when he is misbehaving.  M has a wonderful, warm heart. i genuinely adore her.

last year, the boys started teasing jools. julian and M, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes jools in the baby carriage. and so on. mom, he told me, how do i tell M that i like her but she’s not my girlfriend?

i don’t know, i replied. do you still like her?

of course i do, he had replied.

well then, be friends. don’t worry about what everyone says. be nice to her and she should be nice back.

so tonight, jools sat on M’s sleeping bag with M and her sister. M’s dad bought a big box of Nerds and they all shared them. M’s sister kept taking the weird lollipop jools had, which was part lolly and part flashlight, and lighting it up throughout the movie. M got up a bunch of times to find her friends, jools told me, but she always comes back. (that’s okay, mom, julian reassured me.)

so tonight at bedtime, i asked the boy how his evening was.

you know mom, he replied, M is probably my best friend. she is the one person who is always nice to me and comes back to me.

i smiled. we all need that person who comes back. no matter what.

getting better

getting better

some days, we need to see miracles. i found this: an article with an audio/video from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, telling everyone she’s getting stronger. it’s very powerful. and since i’m feeling a bit down today, i don’t really have a lot to contribute to the blogoverse, so the least i think i could do was share something positive.

if i figure out how to get the video in here, i will. but in the meantime, you will find it in the article.

blood makes noise

blood makes noise

that noise would be ouch!

today’s post brought to you by the letter b for benadryl. sometimes, i think benadryl is what stands between me and oblivion.  i took some last night and i’m pretty sure i’ll have a better today for it.

yesterday, i had my monthly infusion of IVIg. (for those of you unfamiliar with why i do this, this is how it all started and this is pretty much my situation.  yes, i’m still having more fun with common variable immunodeficiency than humans ought to be allowed, though i am in better health than a lot of people who have it.  the new nurse was very nice, but for reasons i don’t understand, she didn’t run my line with the pump. it took several tries to get a vein working for me (in my hand, which i hate); and it wouldn’t run very fast. after a time, the line blew.

to make a long story short, i was stuck 13 times yesterday, a new record, including two times in each hand and three times by a doctor. this doctor was the first one who actually didn’t do a bad job, though if ever you are in a situation where the doctor wants to try to put in your infusion, you should generally run fast in the other direction.  unless your doctor was recently in residency, he/she hasn’t put in an IV probably in decades. (yeah, you don’t have to thank me.)

eight hours later, i was finally finished, though not without the nurse using heparin to flush out my line four times because it stopped. it was a miserable day. i felt like crap. and gues what — i broke out in hives on my hips and legs.

time for two things: 1) a call to my BTD, who told me to take more motrin next time and that it was likely just a reaction to the Ig, and 2) time to hit the benadryl.

feeling better today, but have the usual dull headache happening. i should be grateful – i get the medicine, i do pretty well, and life is pretty good.

but yesterday left me wishing someone could make everything  all better. for keeps.

look sharp

look sharp

so it has been a thrilling day.

i’m still fighting some upper respiratory thing, finally with some ceftin since it’s the next antibiotic in my rolling list of meds. i’m feeling stellar, and that alone, makes it a great day. then, i knew it was trouble when i heard my cell phone play “darlington county” — that’s my ringtone for our public schools. seems i had to pick the boy up from school because he was whacked in the tooth on the playground by a metal piece of playground equipment that another boy was bouncing on… then, he threw up, so i took him home. after an initial rest period, he seems okay, so i’m just going with the no-concussion track for the day. hope i’m right.

and then, BC comes home from school and tells me that i have to read some pages in her science book so that she can then discuss with me exactly what she/i read and then i need to sign and attest that we talked about the lesson. why teachers think parents want to relive their own respective heydays of middle school, i will never understand. anyway. today’s lesson: basic cellular biology; the idea of spontaneous generation and how it was debunked through experiments by pasteur and redi; the concepts of uni/multicellular thingies, what’s in cells; and growth, development, and reproduction. on the latter topic, BC explains that in general, you need two entities to reproduce; you don’t spontaneously just show up out of nowhere. the girl then scratched her head and thought for a second.

you know, mom, there goes the whole idea of adam and eve.

exactly right, i replied.

so i guess the day wasn’t a complete wash 🙂

silver threads among the gold

silver threads among the gold

getting old. i guess it’s better than the alternative.

for those of you who don’t know me in real life, i am, in short, a spaz. i have fallen off amtrak trains, been pushed down a metro escalator (during rush hour!), fractured my ankle while participating in a boot camp class, and destroyed my left knee while taking a leap at the ice rink (and realized that i don’t bounce the way i did when i was, er, slightly younger. like the year before, when i turned 21.) i loved being active while growing up, and yet it is no wonder that at my age, my parents grimace audibly every time i mention my interest in trying some new strenuous pursuit. this winter, when we took the kids to learn to ski, i was cautioned by basically EVERYONE related to me that i was not, repeat, NOT to take skiing lessons. even BTD, a medical professional who spends plenty of time telling people the benefits of exercise, told me to cease and desist. i really, REALLY wanted to ski, too.

but alas. i did not.

last year, after several months of PT for my ankle, i went walking with my friend. only, too bad for me: i tripped over a tree root and re-injured the aforementioned ankle. (hints from heloise’s evil sister: when you hear a snap coming from your ankle, it isn’t a good thing. ever.) so welcome to more months of PT until early this year, when i was determined to try the couch to 5k program, a program i have started and never finished about 5 times now.

see, my attempts at the couch to 5k program resemble a certain someone’s attempts to build a castle:

i would be the couch to 5k person who continually sinks into the swamp, possibly after burning down, and maybe even after getting run over once or twice.

anyway, i attempted running back in march. oh, it was an unseasonably warm day, and i loved running up and down the hills in our impossibly semi-mountainous part of the people’s republic. i felt so great afterwards, and the accomplishment made me beam. but the next day? my right knee, ever-jealous of the reconstruction that happened to her left counterpart, mutineed. no bending for you, lady! going down stairs was particularly murderous. and so i knew something was rotten and phoned up the guy who fixed the left knee.

his office never called me back.

so, in a fit of annoyance, i called another orthopedic group, which fit me in promptly…for the end of may. it’s a good thing it wasn’t some sort of emergency; but i figured that if it still bothered me in two months’ time, then it would likely be worth the trip. and today was the day.

after some x-rays, poking, prodding, and slight conversation with a doctor who looks to be about my age, i have what is called (in klingon, apparently) excessive lateral patellar compression syndrome. not to be confused with either the china syndrome or the pepsi syndrome, apparently. my patella (also known in some parts as a kneecap) doesn’t want to stay in it’s groove. (it is busy finding its groove elsewhere, like stella.) i have some try-it-at-home exercises to do that may help strengthen some of the muscles. and if that doesn’t work, they’ll gladly make me do some…PT. (not again! not three years in a row!!) i could get a shot, but that’s not really a long-term solution.

but apparently, this is also the start of arthritis in my knee. and eventually, i will have surgery in this knee’s future.  and the very best part: the doctor telling me that perhaps i ought to stop doing the things that cause this.

read: no more couch to 5k program for you, grasshopper.

someone pass me the geritol, please.



yeah. i’m that mom.

today was the big day in second grade. parents were invited in to see the two-part museums the children had created for american studies and science. part one involved native american tribes. each class contributed two docents to discuss their particular exhibit. i was thrilled to witness jools and his little girlfriend rose perform as docents, discussing all sorts of native american things. (not as thrilled as jools was. he often isn’t selected for these sorts of things, and as he was this time, he was jumping out of his skin. he couldn’t wait to do his bit. which, i would add, he did knowledgeably and marvelously, unbiased mom that i am.) we all moved around to each class’s native american exhibit, listening to their classes’ docents discuss all things powhatan.  it was really a creative and well-done idea, and i send many kudos to the teachers and kids who worked very hard to put it all together. a lot of learning clearly took place!

part two of the exhibits involved their biome unit.  (i don’t remember anything about biomes when i was a kid. we just talked about nature.) the kids learned about three different biomes: the desert, the deciduous forest, and the grassland. each child was to make a diorama depicting an animal from one of  those three selected biomes. they also needed to write about the animal, it’s interdependent relationships,  and interesting facts. there were quite a few bison, many cheetahs, lots of slithering snakes, all probably selected from the big list o’ animals distributed at the start of the project. did we pick one of those aforementioned animals?

of course not.

when we sat down to discuss the selection of the animal, we went to a website recommended by the teacher as a great resource on animals. from there, i’m not sure where we went, but we stumbled on an animal which, the minute i read its name, i knew would be the one the boy would select. ohmygawd how COOL, the boy exclaimed when i showed him a picture of this little, nonpredatory, ant-eating aussie lizard. it was settled. our animal would be: the thorny devil.

now i could tell you loads and loads about this adorable little dude, but a picture (or video) is probably way less verbose and far more informative than i’ll ever be.

anyway, we read together in books and on the web about this little creature. as he has a tough time writing neatly, the boy typed a sentence a day about this lumpy lizard until we had critical mass.  we also discussed how to make the diorama. i reminded mr. man that i passed the second grade; so while i’d be glad to talk about the project and help him get what he needed, for the most part, he was on his own. he painted the inside of a girl scouts thin mint box blue and pasted cotton balls for clouds. we put down a mass quantity of glue on the bottom and poured sand (from our old sandbox sand bag) on it. he made a shrub out of green tissue paper from an old gift. the husband bought the boy some clay, and he fashioned a lizard as best as he could out of several colors. and then, he stuck toothpicks all over the lizard to show it’s spikes.

so today in class, after the native american museum part of the program, we entered the kids’ classrooms, whereupon everyone stood up and talked about their animal. the boy did a fine job mentioning that the devil gets water by both absorbing it through it’s tummy as well as by drinking the rain gathered in the little valleys created by the spiky skin on his back. well done, little man. he was so very, very proud.

and i was, too.

so then, we all walked around the classroom, admiring everyone’s work. i noticed plenty of ready-made plastic animals stuck into boxes. some dioramas were really quite realistic — one boy put actual cacti into his to show it was the desert. (i’m too much of a slacker to have gone there. bully for him.) and i stopped for a moment, standing by the boy’s diorama, when i overheard two boys talking as they peered into jools’ work. look, one boy said, laughing as he looked at jools’ interpretation of the thorny devil. he stuck TOOTHPICKS into his lizard. that looks dumb.

and i couldn’t help myself. i know i’m supposed to behave. i know i’m supposed to be an adult. and i know i would say something sharp to my son if i heard him making fun of someone else’s hard work. and, as part of the global village which it takes to raise children, i spoke up.

you know, i said, giving my sternest parental look, it’s really hard to make those spikes. you shouldn’t make fun of something if you haven’t tried it.

the boys looked at me, surprised, then sheepish. and fled.

natural instinct is a hard thing to fight.

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Cape Town, South Africa