I’m Alive!

For anyone on tenterhooks, wondering how I fared with the whole one percent thing, I’m here to tell you, I clung vailantly to the ninety-nine. The surgery was totally successful, and I’ve had zero complications.

Yesterday, a week and a day post surgery, something amazing happened.

There was a moment when my posture changed. My chest lifted, and my core tightened without conscious effort on my part. My muscle tone returned. My eyes opened soooo wide. The way I walk went from good-enough to something kinda geaceful – more finely controlled. It was like flipping a switch and returning to a state that’s been buried and gone for a long, long time.

When this started, I was out for a walk, and I wanted so badly to sprint all the way home. My feet were dying to run, and I didn’t let them, because it’s too soon. Real exercise is not yet allowed. I told them, “One more week.” So they’re waiting with the impatience of a good dog with a cookie on his nose.

I think what I’m feeling is increased circulation to the cerebellum, which has been starved by the loss of a vertebral artery and probably not getting what it needs through collateral circulation, what with the nearly-gone carotid. Vessels are rerouting and enlarging, and tissue long dormant is waking up.

The only bad part is, I’m feeling kinda euphoric, which has me wide awake at nearly midnight. And I can’t help but think, when the time is right, I might look for a borrowed horse and find out if maybe I might remember how to ride.

 

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One Percent

I am the one percent.

Not the one percent you hear about on the news. The other one percent. The one where a doctor says, “You have a one percent chance of experiencing complications.”

That’s my one percent.

It started with a kidney stone. TMI, yes, but after weeks and weeks of drinking over a gallon of water every day, the darn thing still hadn’t passed. So, my urologist recommended a procedure in which he’d snake a little chomping thing up where the sun don’t shine, and he’d snag that stone and haul it out.

I remember lying on the table. There were masked faces looking down at me. The clock on the wall said 7:55. I remember the surgeon saying he was ready to begin and telling me the procedure would take thirty minutes.

I woke to a sea of angry faces with the clock now a few minutes after twelve, and one livid surgeon shouting, “THERE WAS NO STONE!”

My BP was 75/40 when they shoved me in a chair and wheeled me to the car. There was talk that I was an attention seeker, and they should not encourage me. “Make it uncomfortable for her to be here. Make her think twice before she does this again.” The surgeon even went into the waiting room and yelled at my husband.

Two weeks later, I was back for my follow-up, still in pain, mortified at the prospect of facing this man. They x-rayed me on the way in. “Procedure,” they said, even when I told them there had been no stone.

The surgeon stood in the hallway outside my exam room staring at the x-ray. Staring at his feet. Staring at the x-ray. Finally, my johnny and I walked into the hallway and stood beside him.

He said, “Maybe once every couple years I miss a stone.”

I said, “Am I off the stupid bimbo list?”

“I never thought—”

“Am I OFF the stupid bimbo list?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. What do we do next?”

Next was a repeat of the previous procedure, this time in his office and without sedation. It did not go well, but he did say, “You’re a good patient.”

Later that week, an herb by the name of slippery elm came to my rescue. Easy peasy. I’ll remember this herb if I ever OD on Tums again.

I put the ordeal out of my mind for many years, until my dentist recommended I have four impacted wisdom teeth removed. The oral surgeon recommended doing so under general anesthesia. The surgery took place on a glorious, sunny Friday afternoon.

The moment I woke, I knew something was horribly wrong. My face was HUGE. And numb. I couldn’t feel my tongue. The surgeon had left for the golf course, and the nurse in Recovery looked nervous.

I was sent home with the surgeon’s pager number—call if anything went wrong. On Sunday, when the swelling began to go down, and I got the feeling back in my tongue, I realized my right jaw was hanging. I paged the surgeon and told him my jaw was either dislocated or broken, because, “I can’t close my mouth, and my teeth don’t line up.”

He yelled at me for paging him and told me to call his office in the morning.

The next day, he quickly ushered me through his waiting room, looked at my mouth, and said, “The jaw may be cracked and dropping a bit. If that bothers you, you can come back Friday, and I’ll put hooks on it to help it line up better.”

I went to my PCP. He sent me to the ER for x-rays. My mandible was in two pieces.

At the hospital, a nurse got in my husband’s face and said, “DID YOU DO THIS?”

He replied, “Do I LOOK like an oral surgeon?” Made me laugh. Jim can always make me laugh.

A very nice and very competent oral surgeon repaired my broken jaw with plates and screws. Thanks to the nerve damage, I was in screaming pain for 18 months. My chin and lower teeth are numb to this day, and my lower lip is marginally crooked.

Why am I revisiting these experiences today?

Three weeks ago, I had a very small stroke. Turns out, I have one vertebral artery completely blocked and one carotid artery 90% blocked. Tomorrow, I have surgery to open up that carotid. I have about a 1.5% chance of complications.

Buckle up.

Beside the Big Pool

It’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve changed the tagline, because we’ve moved. Now, we live next to the Big Pool.

That’s what my sister called the pond when we were small.

Last fall, my husband and I sold our house in New Hampshire, and we moved in with my elderly father. He’d lost his wife to cancer, and, while he was able to look after himself, he was lonely and sad.

So, we left our home, gave away nearly everything we owned, and we moved into a little bedroom with one small closet.

And this…IMG_4960

The pond.

I spent my childhood on this pond. We didn’t live here, but my mom piled kids and dogs into the old station wagon, and we drove through the woods to a tiny cabin–one room with a wood stove and a sink with a hand pump. How we loved that pump, my sister and I vying for a turn to bring water up from the pond and let it run into the makeshift sink.

Then we swam. Pandy, the golden retriever, tried to rescue us by grabbing onto our hair and dragging us toward shore. Tripper, the dalmation, was willing to hunt frogs in the shallows, but swimming wasn’t her thing.

We played on a wooden raft, one with near-zero flotation, so it rested an inch beneath the water’s surface. It reared from the deep when we all stood in one spot, then crashed beneath the waves when we ran as one to the opposite edge.

My husband and I moved here last fall. October was glorious. I swam every day, well into November, when the water turned cold but still suckered me into one more dive. When finally the water froze solid, I shoveled a skating path around the pond’s perimeter. Two miles. And we skated, even though the ice was rough, and we fell quite a bit.

When the ice melted, and the storms came, and trees fell all around us, I paddled to the center of the pond and took pictures of the devastation. My favorite sugar maple uprooted itself and crashed into the water. No syrup this year. But I buried its root ball, and I water it every day, and I hope it might find a way to survive.IMG_4538

Spring came slowly, but it finally arrived. One day in late April, while I was away, taking my sister for cancer treatment, my dad called 911. When I got home, there was a police car at the top of the driveway, and I knew.

I parked behind it and ran.

EMTs were there, rolling my dad from the house to the ambulance. He spent three days in the ICU. Then, he left us.

So, every morning, I walk down to the Big Pool, and I dive in. The waters close over my head and rush past my skin, seeming to blow right through me. My sadness lifts, and the years wash away. I’m nine years old, holding my big sister’s hand, making the raft rear up like a dolfin, and forever vying for my turn at the pump.

Falling

I know this brief New England heatwave has been uncomfortable (understatement) for a lot of people.
But dayam, it turned the crisp September pond into bathtub August, and it gave a few lucky people a chance to relive the summer that wasn’t. My neighbor and I spent more time in the water in one week of fall than we did in July and August combined.
All good things end. I swam last night at midnight beneath a DreamWorks moon, just as the wind picked up and began sweeping the humidity away. I stood on the dock with arms outspread and let that wind flow across my skin, wishing I could bottle up the moment and trot it out in December. Or January. Or March.
I slept with the sound of acorns slamming onto our metal roof and pelting my dad’s new car.
This morning, I walked 3 miles rather than diving immediately into the pond. There were hardly any gnats bouncing off my lips, a sure sign of fall. It’s strange how so many leaves seem to be falling without first changing color.
The water will be a bit cooler every day now, until it gets to where I can’t make myself step off the dock. Until then, I’ll swim the magical waters and close my eyes and make memories.
IMG_3684

Midnight Marauders

We here in the boonies know enough to put our bird feeders away for the summer, because bears will lay waste to them. But a few of us set them out by day and take them in at night, which works well as long as we actually follow the plan and bring them in at night.
 
Yesterday, I hung the feeder in the center of my fenced garden. Last night, I forgot to bring it in.
 
Around midnight, there was a crash. Then there was another crash. Of course I immediately remembered the bird feeder and flew out of bed, down the stairs, grabbed a flashlight, out the door in my birthday suit (plus muck boots, of course)… at which point I sorta crept past the cars in the driveway and shined my weak little beam onto the garden, where I could just make out the bird feeder swinging back and forth.
 
Then I saw three sets of eyes looking at me – one atop the shed, one atop the side of the pipe building that surrounds my garden, and one atop the bird feeder.
 
Okay. Not bear.
 
So I walked up to the garden, finally getting close enough to see the masked faces and disappointed eyes. Two of the raccoons left immediately. The third sat in the watermelon vines trying to look invisible.
 
I said, “I think you should leave now.”
 
He got up and walked slowly down the edge of the raised beds, climbed up the box wire, and was gone.
 
I took the feeder down and shoved it in the kitchen. It’ll go back out this morning, and, God willing, I’ll remember to take it in tonight.

My Brain—Where is my Brain?

My brain is going.

I was supposed to make rolls and cookies for my book club’s party and cookie swap yesterday at noon. I meant to do this on Sunday since I had a dentist appointment yesterday, but I completely forgot.

So, I head out the door at 7:30 and go to the dentist, thinking I’ll be a slacker and pick up rolls at the supermarket (sacrilege!) and maybe even buy cookies (Noooooo!).

Instead, I completely space the party until I’m home, thinking I have hours until my first massage, and yay! Maybe I’ll write. Sit down at the computer for about 12 seconds, long enough to read a message about the party…

SHIT!!!!!

It’s after 10. I don’t exactly live near any grocery stores. So I start making bread, fully aware that 90 minutes (allowing travel time to the party) ain’t gonna cut it. There’s no butter. Okay – walnut oil, then. I double the yeast, turn the sauna up to 120, shove in the bread, and pray it rises QUICKLY.

While the bread rises, I make beef and eggplant Parmesan, because a side dish is always welcome. My kitchen looks like a bomb went off – frying splatter (from the eggplant) and flour dust and mixing bowls with bread remnants and tomato sauce and eggs and millet and more eggs all over the place. Walnuts crunch under my feet. I manage to get it mostly cleaned while the rolls rise for the second time.

Cookies?

I have about a quarter cup of brown sugar, no butter, no shortening – just oils, flour, Halloween candy, one mini-box of raisins, a spoonful of chunky peanut butter … I could toss something together. But I decide not to. I don’t want to swap cookies. I’ll eat them. Eating cookies will mean having to buy new pants before Christmas.

I don’t have a good baking dish for rolls, so I pile them up in a deep souffle dish monkey-bread style, first rolling them in walnut oil and brown sugar and walnuts and wishing I had butter. This, of course, means that they take forever to bake. I keep stabbing them with a skewer and yelling, “BAKE, damn you!” They ignore me for a long time.

In the end, I was 14 minutes late to the party. The rolls were awesome. 🙂

The Day we Bombed New Ipswich (Part Two)

Part One is available here in this incredibly hard-to-see light blue link: Part One

I want to thank everyone who read and shared and commented on Part One of this pipeline series.

Just when I begin to think that most of New Hampshire has been taken in by Kinder Morgan’s propaganda machine, thousands of citizens let me know they are smarter than that. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Kinder Morgan on radio ads and television ads and payments to community leaders, augmented by the rhetoric spouted by our bought-and-paid-for elected officials, have not fooled everyone.

Governor Maggie Hassan, who uses the word NIMBY to marginalize and silence the citizens she’s sworn to serve, has shown herself to be the ultimate NIMBY. She’s happy to welcome the NED pipeline into other people’s backyards (not hers, of course) as long as she builds alliances with those who will fund her future political aspirations.

Thing is, the New Ipswich compressor station has a huge backyard. The pollution vented from this piece of real estate will travel a hundred miles with the prevailing winds.

Maybe more.

It will be in everyone’s backyards.

In Governor Hassan’s latest attempt to appease the public, she asks for “meaningful access for people” by providing more scoping meetings. These are meetings between citizens and FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that FERC is not funded by our tax dollars and does not work for us. It is funded by the fees it charges the entities it “regulates.” Therefore, in this instance, FERC works for Kinder Morgan.

FERC’s mandate is to “assist the applicant through the process,” and they’ve never met a pipeline they don’t like.

It is important to understand that We the People are not part of FERC’s mandate.

FERC2

So, below is a bit of footage of a FERC representative, filmed at the close of a scoping meeting. He sat through hours of public comment outlining environmental concerns. Sadly, he failed to hear any of it.

So, thank you, Governor Hassan, for providing “meaningful access” to more lip service while you sit on your hands and do nothing.

Meanwhile, Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen pat our heads and tell us they will FIGHT for TRANSPARENCY! It’s an intelligent-sounding word, being as it has four syllables and all. But what it means is this:

Our elected officials refuse to stand up for our rights. They will not fight for that which is just and fair. They will not bite the hand that will someday slip them PAC money if they play nicely today.

What they will do is use the latest feel-good buzzword that sounds smart and informed, but means nothing. They will make sure we have an opportunity to speak and not be listened to.

Transparency means that we will have our eyes wide open when Kinder Morgan comes to rape us.

Already, affected homeowners are being told by their insurance companies that their coverage may be dropped. They’re being told by their mortgage lenders that their mortgage may be due in full the day that pipeline appears in their backyards.

Darn NIMBY’s, complaining about nothing.

They’re just poor sports.

Right, Maggie?

Kelly?

Jeanne?

Bueller?

Do you wonder why we’re having an explosion of pipelines sprouting up all over the USA? It’s because energy providers are in a rush to extract every last puff of natural gas from the earth, damning the consequences—destabilizing our earth’s crust, increasing carcinogens and other disease-producing particles in our air, speeding up global climate change, poisoning our groundwater, devaluing affected properties . . . the list goes on.

This is because they have to hurry. There’s not much time left to cash in on this bonanza before the world realizes we have outgrown the need for fossil fuels. We have the technology to move forward with clean energy TODAY.

What we lack is infrastructure.

So why are we paying for more fossil fuel infrastructure? Remember the part where we are paying for this pipeline? Even though it is not for us? Just so Kinder Morgan can make billions, increasing the price of this natural gas by bringing it through New Hampshire to the world market?

Wouldn’t you rather see your hard-earned dollars spent on an infrastructure that benefits New Hampshire? That brings clean and sustainable energy to our homes and businesses now? Doesn’t that make more sense than having our money taken from us and used to build an export pipeline that raises our fuel prices and pollutes our land and sickens our people and depletes our national reserves?

If so, then write to your governor and your senator and your state rep. You too should experience the teeth-grinding thrill of receiving a form letter response that addresses none of your concerns. It’s eye-opening, to say the least.

It’s similar to this:

Dear Governor Hassan, I am writing to ask your help in preventing a profound ecologic and financial hardship that is about to forever change our state, and has far-reaching ramifications for the future health and safety of the entire globe.

And she answers with, “I like tennis, too!”

The state of New Hampshire IS New Ipswich’s backyard. This issue adversely affects us all. This is New Hampshire’s fight. This is the world’s fight. Do not remain silent in the face of government-sanctioned profound injustice.

Put up your dukes.

Live free or die.