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Friday, March 30, 2012

"My surgeon is only allowed to say seven sentences to me during an office visit."

That's what I told my physical therapist when she was testing my strength so she could send a report to Surgeon before I saw him on Wednesday. She laughed, "Not a big conversationalist?" "Nope," I said, "and I'm certain if he says more than seven sentences he'll explode all over the place. That's just messy."

My PT said, regardless of the taciturn nature of dear Surgeon, I was to ask him if I was released to begin running on the treadmill and track.

So I went to my appointment, put on the HUGE exam shorts (I seriously believe that "one size fits all" means that all the patients are supposed to wear that pair of shorts at the same time--and there would be plenty of room for everyone), and waited for Surgeon. This is how our visit went:

Surgeon: Lets see, we injected your hip because you developed bursitis. Did that help?
me: Yes, very much.
Surgeon (poking around where he stuck a needle in me six weeks ago): Are you still having pain?
me: Only when you poke my joint like that.
Surgeon: That is not your joint. It's your bursa.
me (rolling my eyes): Only when you poke my bursa like that.
Surgeon: Seriously, Sam, you've had major surgery. You need to know these things.
me: Okay.
Surgeon: You're feeling better?
me: Yes. So much better.
Surgeon: Good. Everything looks like it's healing nicely.
me (wondering how he can possibly know that when the only thing he's done is poke me through my giant exam shorts): My PT told me to ask you if you think I'm ready to start running.
Surgeon: Can you stand on your right leg alone?
me (obediently showing him): Yes.
Surgeon: With no problem or balance checks. Good. You know, of course, that swimming is the best exercise for anyone, but if  you want to run, you can start.
me: Treadmill or track?
Surgeon: Actually, as long as the surface is fairly flat and forgiving (no concrete sidewalks), you can run wherever you want.
me: Good!
Surgeon: Sam, don't push too hard. Start slowly.
me: Surgeon, it's been a year since I've been able to run regularly. If I make a mile the first time, that will be a miracle.
Surgeon: Well, just build up your miles a little at a time. And keep building the muscles--that will keep the bursitis from coming back.
me: I will.
Surgeon: And I'm very glad you're feeling better because I like you very much.
(I laughed--there really is no other response.)
Surgeon: No, really. It makes me happy when you come in. You're very positive and you have a great smile, so I'm glad things are going well for you.
me: Thanks! Me, too.

So there you have it--Surgeon said more than his required seven sentences, and he's very glad I'm getting better.

And yesterday I tried that running thing. I firmly believe that sometime during the past year, the joint fairy swapped out my hip with someone else's because that was not my hip I was using. I've run all my life. It's a natural movement that has always felt effortless. Not this time. It was all about effort. I had opted to use the treadmill just in case something like this happened. By the time thirty minutes had passed, I could barely walk.

So this running thing is going to take a little time.

The good news is that when I had rested for a couple of hours there was no more weakness in the joint and it felt fine. That means I didn't cripple myself. I think that's a very good thing.


I have a rather obnoxious aunt who, when someone we knew had passed away, would interrupt our silent mourning to gleefully chant in her obscenely loud voice, "It comes in threes, you know! It always comes in threes! Wonder who'll be next! Hope it's not you!" Then she would repeat the chant to every person present and  name the possible second or third person based on their relative health or age.

Because this particular aunt has an IQ nowhere near genius level (shocking), she's a fairly easy target when she does things like that. Each time her relentless chant would begin, I would quietly approach her, tap her on the shoulder, and solemnly say, "No. I'm sorry, but I'm certain it always comes in ones." She would stop mid-sentence, think about what I said, then explain the validity of her "comes in threes" theory, adding concrete examples of how the threes had come to friends and relatives in her life.

I would wait until she finished, then add to each of her sets of deceased people one more person who had died within weeks of her third. Calmly, I would wait as she became more and more agitated, searching for reasons why my "fourth" didn't count and as she argued with me I would resume my assertion that the only real answer is that death comes in ones. Of course I won, not because I was right but because I was tenacious. She simply became tired of arguing with me. She would slump away from me muttering, "I still believe it comes in threes. Everyone says so. It comes in threes."

I assume she still does the same thing. Fortunately, I grew up and moved far away from her, leaving her desperately clinging to her "comes in threes" belief. It's probably best. Everyone needs something to believe in strongly, even if such a belief is ghoulishly declaring the death of a third person each time two other deaths occur.

I'm thinking of this today because three people I love have died in the past two days. The first is Carla. She died after an incredibly courageous battle with cancer. She left her husband and two sweet babies behind, not to mention thousands of people, myself included, who love and admire her like crazy.

The second is an elderly woman I've known for about 15 years. She had no children. She was a clean freak (as was her husband). They had a carpeted garage. She was a retired school teacher who never took herself very seriously. On the rare occasions when I was not in callings that kept me from attending Relief Society, she was one of the instructors. One week she was teaching and she told us she was very nervous--then said that if we didn't believe her, she would like to point out that she had been unable to decide which earrings to wear that morning. She found two pairs and debated between them for about twenty minutes, then began hurrying so she wouldn't be late for church. When she arrived she discovered she was wearing one earring from each pair. She said she would be teaching the lesson in profile so that we could get the full benefit of the different earrings. Then she giggled with us.

The third is the father of one of my closest high school friends who was also my family physician when growing up. He was a doctor when my father was in high school and still practicing on a limited basis until very recently. I believe his name is legendary throughout the community he served--he even has a street named after him. I'm guessing no one can count the number of babies he delivered. His eldest son passed away earlier this year and his first wife died about 15 years ago.

Death is a part of life. It's natural and someday it will happen to me. But no matter how prepared one might be, death carries with it an unavoidable sting and when you love the person who has died, grieving is inevitable. Today I'm missing those loved ones and wishing for a way to ease the pain of those who were closest to them, and I'm getting a little bit tired of crying.

Also today, I'm praying that the tenet fiercely proclaimed by my aunt is correct. I'm ready for people to live.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The birds believe they must make up for lost time. They sit on my crab apple tree eating the dried fruit and singing loudly. A few smaller ones sit near my window in the rose bushes. I love watching them. Bird noise after 6 a.m. is lovely.

Observing their annual spring ritual, dandelions are slowly taking over my garden. Darrin has only mentioned it once. Perhaps he's learning that I cannot eradicate them until they begin to choke out everything else trying to grow there. I love the bright yellow blooms, and while I understand that each flower will perpetuate thousands of new plants, I still want them. Sometimes when no one is looking, I play with the yellow pollen (Do you like butter?) or curl the stems or taste the bitter leaves and wonder how people can ever enjoy eating dandelion greens.

My grass is not yet green but it will be by Friday. DJ made fun of me for going barefoot on Sunday. I looked at him in surprise, "I always go barefoot." "Not outside," he answered. But he's forgotten. Even in winter I'll walk barefoot to my mailbox. Maybe in 30 years I'll stop doing that.

I made cookies last night. I haven't done that for awhile. I was surprised to find I wanted none of them. Darrin bought me Cadbury Mini Eggs. I didn't want those either. He raised his eyebrows at me and asked if I was sick. No. I'm not sick. I'm not sure why I didn't want them. I'm not sleeping well lately, maybe that's why.

I had a list of projects I wished to work on with Therapist's help. Today the list seems too long, daunting, even unnecessary. I wonder if I really need to fix all the things that are wrong with me--if it's even possible to do so. I wonder if it might be okay if I don't finish what I began seven years years...

I can hardly believe so much time has passed. When I walked into my first therapist's office, I had allowed myself three weeks. I thought there was a plan I could follow that would lead me out of the the despair I was feeling, back into a life of empowerment and calm. I didn't know I would encounter memories and horrifying discoveries and former versions of myself--all waiting to be examined, accepted, and claimed as my own.

I have great respect for every person who has suffered childhood trauma and chooses to continue to live an emotionally healthy life--because it is a choice, and a very difficult one. I am tempted each day to lose myself in the despair that lives at my core. Most days the temptation is fleeting--I'm able to laugh at the impulse, knowing full well that giving in is not going to bring me peace or joy. Other days the temptation seems overwhelming to the point the no logical thought can keep it at bay. On those days I succumb, understanding that I will feel worse later. It doesn't matter. It just seems that what happened to me was so enormously harmful that I have to allow myself to cry, to wish those things had not happened, to imagine who I might be if I had been loved and protected.

Perhaps someday I won't give in anymore. Maybe that's when I'll know I'm healed. At that point, perhaps I can join all the panels and editorial blogs and help sites that have asked me to share my experiences and knowledge about abuse and rape. I can't do it right now. I don't feel I'm able to help anyone as long as I can't seem to manage my own pain successfully. However, if the time comes that I feel I can help, I have a feeling I'll be a very old lady by then and no one will want to listen to me anyway.

I wonder though, if that's how it should be. Regardless of what I've read or been told, my journey has been my own. I've forged my own path, made my own rules, and discovered what works and what does not. Therapist told me, after we had met for about four weeks, "Sam, I think you should tell me what you'd like to work on. I'll make suggestions and you can share the ideas you have about possible strategies. You hate the writing exercises and the textbook "tried and true" methods, so let's do it your way instead."

I have a feeling he thought I'd get tired of doing everything my way and eventually go back to his textbook training and then I'd get better. Probably if I had, my seven years would have condensed into three or even two years. But maybe I'm wrong about that. Therapist has never seemed jaded by my incessant desire to find new ways to cope with problems; in fact, he's been my greatest cheerleader and supporter, pointing out weaknesses and flaws in my ideas and helping me fine tune those into structural strengths. He's quick to point out that my progress is unique but will probably be more lasting than many of his clients. And he's told me working with me is joyful for him because I have a great desire to overcome the things that cause me grief.

Yesterday I decided that Tolkien Boy could use a measure of the abundant sunshine I enjoy every day, so I sent it his way. It didn't arrive until afternoon and the cost of allowing him that sunshine meant that I enjoyed a cloudy day filled with wind gusts up to 65 mph. It was rather nasty. I'm hoping TB used up a large amount of that sunshine because today I'm keeping it here. He might share it with me but I'm not sending it away again. I need it, too.

I've been watching the sun rise as I write this morning. I love seeing the pale colors glow warmer and more golden. Now there is a rim of pastel orange ringing the entire horizon. It will last a few moments more and then fade into the blue, cloudless sky.

Yesterday was difficult. Today I'm feeling the aftermath of that. In a few minutes I will go to the gym, run on the elliptical, and be grateful that I can do that. Tomorrow I see my surgeon. I've been instructed by my physical therapists to ask him if I'm allowed to begin running on the track and treadmill. I hope he says yes, but if he doesn't I'll keep working on the things that will give me strength and allow me to heal, and soon he'll say I can run again.

If I've learned one thing in the past seven years, it's this: No matter how much I want to, or I wish I could, or even when it seems so much easier or better than what I'm doing--I don't give up.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's not that I'm picky--I'm just a purist.

As I've worked in the public schools and taught classes in higher education, I've been baffled by the fact that the average person does not know how, or simply does not choose, to use good grammar. I've graded numerous papers in which I've explained that slang terms are to be used sparingly and only under special circumstances, there is no place for profanity in a professional paper, it's a good idea to choose one narrative mode and stick with it throughout the paper, and subject-verb agreement is a necessary component. It always surprises me that I'm explaining these things to college level students (sometimes grad students, but those are usually not native English speakers, so I grant them a great deal of leeway).

Then I stumble onto things that cause me to say, "Ah-hah!"

For instance, this article which was not in the Huffington Post itself, but reprinted in a related Huffpost blog:

Allergy Season Myths Debunked

Posted: 03/19/2012 8:42 am
By Hanna Brooks Olsen for
This year's relatively warm winter led to a mild flu season that was the latest in over two decades. Which was nice, because it meant fewer people were sick overall. But now, those same mild months may mean a perfect storm of sniffling and sneezing, because they could lead to an early onset of allergy season, creating an overlap between the two. Yup, that runny nose may not be due to a late-blooming flu, but rather, prematurely high pollen counts. It's time to brush up on your seasonal allergy knowledge to make sure you can separate myths from facts.
Just as flu myths and wive's tales prevail during the chilly months, when the first crocuses begin to bud, so, too, do the fallacies surrounding allergy season. Seemingly-sensible pieces of advice (like eating local honey) get passed between friends, old assumptions (like that flowers cause irritation) get repeated and, as a result, people suffer through watery eyes and sniffly noses, waiting for relief that probably won't come.
Flip through this gallery to see some of the most commonly-held allergy myths, and why they're simply not true. Good luck this season!

Yellow problem:  Dear writer, this is called a fragment. The preceding period is unnecessary as is the comma following "nice."

Orange problem:  This is not a horrible mistake and people do it all the time (myself included), but it's not a great idea to begin a sentence with a conjunction. Once again, please note the unnecessary commas.

Green problem:  Really? "Yup"? Also, I ask you again to check your comma usage.

Turquoise problem:  Because "wive" is not a word, one cannot make it plural. However, "wives" is a word and "wives'" would be its possessive. This is something you should have learned a very long time ago before you considered yourself a writer. Again (this is becoming annoying), excessive comma usage.

Blue problem:  Please explain to me why you have hyphenated the first two words. They stand alone and are perfectly understandable (and correct) without the hyphen. However, congratulations on your correct comma usage at the end of this clause.

Lavender problem:  My dear old high school English/Lit teacher would roll over in her grave (I assume she's dead only because she was ancient when she taught me many years ago and I believe she is immortal only in the sense that her legacy of critical examination seems to be continuing right now in my blog). There is never an excuse for using such an awkward senseless word set ("like that...") when "for example" is the clear choice for your meaning, unless you're seven years old. I suppose such a mistake is forgivable for a precocious child writing Canadian blog posts for Huffington.

Purple problem:  Please learn how to use commas properly--I'm begging now.

I suppose if this is considered professional writing and people read it daily, there's no mystery as to why my students can't write. I also can't whine too loudly because I never proof my own blog posts and there are undoubtedly a very large number of mistakes here. However, my blog is not endorsed by any widely read publication, it's written for my personal use and published for those who are selectively interested in my life, and I'm guessing there are fewer mistakes in a dozen of my posts than there are in the above news article.

And now I will retire my soap box for a season. Thank you.