Sunday, January 25, 2009

Running on Empty

There are two times when the existence of God is not questioned and all efforts are turned to constant prayer: when a plane is plummeting from the sky and in the final third of a long distance run, particularly when the runner has not trained properly or run in a long time.

Holy hell. I'm training (in the loosest sense of the word) for another marathon in March. I ran a 15.5 mile race yesterday as part of our local running club's Distance Series of training runs. The majority of the people running yesterday's distance are in far better shape than I and have been running much more regularly. This includes the 100-year-old man who lapped me. But more on that later.

Or maybe more on that now. I had several favorite moments yesterday. There were actually two races going on at the same time. Most folks were running the shorter race, 9.3 miles, in preparation for the half marathon in March. Those runners finished while the rest of us continued on for the last 6.2 miles. Those runners left the course and drove off to a local restaurant for celebratory beer and pizza. Favorite moment #1: being passed or "lapped" by people who were on their last stretch of the 15.5 mile race. In order for that to happen, they were SIX MILES ahead of me! Great for the soul. Favorite moment #2: many people took the shorter route off of the military base (the race's location) in order to get to the restaurant. Said route took them all past me as I was STRUGGLING and still had a good five miles to go. Only one guy waved. The rest probably looked away in pain. Favorite moment #3 occurred when the temperature began to plunge and the rain came.

It could have been worse, really. Rain-wise, that is. It was steady and cold but relatively light. And all I can think to myself during those moments is, "There's only one way out." And that's to run and get the hell to the finish line. I don't typically go on auto-pilot when I run and have rarely, if ever, experienced the rumored "Runner's High." I have fleeting moments when everything feels perfect: my body temperature, my breathing, my pace, my legs -- everything feels great. I always think at that moment, "Wow, I could do this forever!" And then about 30 seconds pass and everything goes to sh*t. But I keep on going.

For that, I'm incredibly proud. There were extended moments yesterday when I didn't think I'd have the strength to walk the last few miles, let alone run them. But then a good song would come on or I'd get some sort of internal burst and the feet would start going again. I spent a good 20 minutes looping "When I Grow Up" on my iPod because the beat of that song was literally the only thing keeping me going. I really did leave my body at that moment and turned into some sort of robot. The race course is mountainous for Southeastern Virginia and we had to hit two large hills repeatedly. I barrelled up the penultimate one thanks to that song alone. And multiple times when I had nothing left to give, when I was convinced I was going to collapse from sheer exhaustion, when my stomach was growling because I was completely out of fuel -- I just kept going. I encourage everyone to find something that brings them to that point. I can't explain the sense of accomplishment -- and surprise, really -- when you dig deeper than you've ever dug before and find some way to keep going. Quitting wasn't an option. This is a training run for me. It's just going to get harder as I add on the miles towards 26.2. But it will only get MORE difficult if I don't complete these training runs. They're for me, and the only person I'd cheat by not doing them is me.

I was in agony when it was over. I circled my car while drinking some water because I was afraid if I stopped moving my whole body would seize up. My toes started going and I knew cramping was imminent. Fortunately, my friend Donut gave me a salt pill, so that seemed to help. Getting into the car was a challenge -- who knew sitting could be so difficult? I felt so horrible, I was going to bypass the pizza and beer -- a dire indication of how bad I truly felt.

Fortunately, I started getting bombarded with text messages from my friend Celeste begging me to go to the bar. Now I know I'm somewhat fun to be around, but I'm pretty confident she wanted me to go because she knew I needed it and she wanted to check on me. You can't go through something like that and not hang out with your friends afterwards, swapping war stories. That's a huge part of why we do it too. We're in a club that very few people join. We know we're equally crazy and special. And we can talk about pooping until the cows come home. What a great hobby!

So thanks to the volunteers who hung around in increasingly worse weather so that I could get my training run in. And thanks as always to my running friends who help keep me going and share these experiences with me.

Hmmm, maybe I do experience the Runner's High, just not while actually running. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Between MLK Day, our snowstorm preparedness drill in VA and the Inauguration on Tuesday, and my rediscovered motivation at work, time has a-flown by! I can't believe my CT scan was a week ago and I haven't talked about it yet.

I had to go to the hospital the day before my appointment to pick up the contrast dye. I'm not sure what I was expecting, maybe some Paas colored tabs and some vinegar, or a small bottle of a Maaloxy chalky solution of some sort, but I can definitely tell you what I wasn't expecting. These:

This pic doesn't really convey their true size. I probably should have photographed them next to something recognizable to indicate their scale, but there weren't any township water towers nearby...

Good grief! I feel really bad for old people who get any type of instruction from doctors or hospitals. My appointment was for 1:30 pm on Friday. My Doc's receptionist who made the appointment said I couldn't have anything to eat or drink 4 hours before the test. The instruction sheet included with the contrast said that I shouldn't eat 6 hours before the test, but that water was OK the day of. When the hospital called to confirm my appointment, they told me to be there at 1:00 pm for my 1:30 appointment. The instruction sheet said to drink one bottle three hours before the appointment (1 or 1:30??) and to drink the second bottle 45 minutes before the appointment while registering at the hospital. WHAT? The hospital is across the street from where I work and I had planned on parking there and walking over. This would put me chugging the second bottle at work and that seemed all right. But somewhere during the course of the morning, I decided to stay home as long as possible (probably because of the dog...) This then meant that I would be driving 45 minutes before my appointment (15 minutes before I had to be there), if I was timing it with the 1:30 test time. Sure enough, I had to chug that thing just as I was pulling into the hospital complex. I can only imagine what the people driving around me were thinking. It must have looked like I was downing an industrial cleanser of some sort. And just in case this needs to be stated, they didn't taste good. Not good at all. Not horrible, but I wouldn't even enjoy 450 mL of beer in one sitting. They started out tasting like the old St. Joseph's aspirin and ended up tasting like what I imagine Orange-Glo would taste like. Mixed with watery concrete.

So I get there and check in and eventually my name is called along with two other people. I'll fast forward because this is already longer than I anticipated. We got herded through a couple hallways and into another waiting room and it was there that I realized I needed to urinate. This seemed suspicious since I had just gone before I left the house, but sure enough, I could go. I have this weird ability to shift my urine into some undisclosed location in my body. I don't do it consciously, but if I have to go but don't get a chance to, it's not uncommon for the feeling to pass and for HOURS to go by before I have to go again. I always swore I'd be incontinent by 40 as a result. And since that'll be here in a few months, I'm starting to get nervous.

ANYWAY, I was selected pretty quickly by a very large hospital-type person. He took me into another room and put a syringe of something into my right arm. I thought maybe it was the mysterious iodine that I had read about. In retrospect, I guess it was some saline. Prior to stabbing me, he complimented my handwriting and proceeded to tell me that his was horrible because he severed his ulnar nerve as a child. He had a bunch of surgeries, but he had no feeling in his pinky. They rewired his hand and if he touches his pinky finger, his ring finger itches. FANTASTIC. Um, can I get a nurse with fully functioning hands to insert my IV??

He did a good job and I told him so. He then said, "I probably shouldn't tell you this..." and smiled sheepishly. I asked if this was his first IV and he said No, that he had done hundreds in school, etc. BUT he had decided to not get a nursing job right away after school and had taken a year or so off. He just started doing IVs again a week ago and he completely blew the first 4 he tried. Fortunately for me, he found his mojo before my appointment.

He then hustled me into the room with the gigantic metal donut. He told me to lie down and rest my feet on the donut. The table I was lying on lifted and the donut was moved up to my abdomen. For the briefest second I felt like I was part of a magic act. He then hooked me up to some sort of IV pump. "Ah, this must be the iodine, I thought." I was a little concerned because I had heard it burned at the injection site and I was just wondering how it would feel. Whatever was in there was pumped into me and I didn't feel a thing. "Hmm, maybe it's because I'm so cold. Well, that wasn't bad at all..."

Big Nurse started to leave the room and told me to follow the instrument's instructions. The donut spun and I was told to inhale and hold my breath. Exhale. Wait for a while... Inhale/hold/exhale. I'm not sure how many times this happened. Still, not bad at all. Gosh, I imagine it will be done soon.

Big Nurse comes back in and says, "OK, I'm going to inject the iodine now." Ah. He told me -- and thank god he did -- "it's going to come over you like a big whoosh and you're going to feel like you wet your pants, but you didn't." Since my urine had decided to stick around and not go off to wherever it goes, I was very thankful for this heads-up. Big Nurse left and then another nurse came in. She was the one who actually got the iodine going.

Oh my good gracious.

I didn't think I was going to make it. I have really low blood pressure and have been passing out off and on since I was about six or seven years old. I'm pretty adept at it and if I can feel it coming on, I can usually take steps to prevent it from happening. Holy hell. This hotness came into my veins and I could feel the damn thing as it travelled through my vascular system. It hit my heart and I thought it was going to stop. My left eye started getting funky and my brain started to feel the way it does when I'm about to pass out. I don't think I've ever had an anxiety attack, but I imagine this is how it feels. My heart rebounded by beating rapidly and I started sucking wind to try to calm everything down. And just then WHOOOOOOSH down it all went to my lower extremities and damned if it didn't feel like I just wet my pants. I'm taking long deep breaths to get some oxygen and slow down my heart. I'm just starting to consider the possibility that I might live when the damn machine says, "Inhale. HOLD." Crap! I need to breathe!! I'm not sure how many times I had to do it because I was focusing on how I felt and damage control, but there was a second or two there when I felt like I should probably tell someone that I was going to pass out cold. Didn't want them coming back into the room and discovering my limp body. And I maintain that there was a VERY GOOD chance that I would have actually wet my pants if I had passed out.

When the female nurse returned, I told her it was touch-and-go there for a moment. She thanked me for not passing out, we chatted for a little bit, and she offered me a Customer Satisfaction Survey. She said they had just started them, but that they had forgotten to hand them out all day. She then proceeded to give me a card and wrote five other phone numbers at which they could be reached if I had any problems. I wrote down her name and Big Nurse's and was on my way. Which reminds me, I need to send in my questionnaire! They both took great care of me. How were they to know they had a medical freak on the table?

No Mom, I haven't called for the results yet. I forgot! :)

{Overheard while writing this blog: "I was with my friend Salma and she woke me up 3 minutes before it was announced." Penelope Cruz talking about her Oscar nomination. I'm just sayin'......}

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do Over!

On this monumental day of hope and unity, all I can think is, "Man, my friends are idiots!"

Now, now, hear me out. Maybe it's me. First and foremost, the purpose of writing is to communicate an idea. It should be done clearly and concisely, for if the idea is not conveyed, the writer has failed.

Or her friends have sh*tty reading comprehension!

People, the point of "Name My Growth" was to DIAGNOSE my growth! And no, it's not lupus. It's never lupus. Now, I take some responsibility for the confusion because I did entitle the blog, "Name My Growth," but that sounded far zippier to me than, "Diagnose My Growth."

However, I did say in the very first paragraph that this was not a naming rights battle and the example I gave was from my friend Anne who had dibs on my growth being my heretofore dormant absorbed twin. "Absorbed twin complete with teeth and hair" is not a name and should not have led you to offer up "Tina Fey," "Alec Baldwin," or "Ralph." None of you actually suggested "Ralph," but that's what I would name my growth if I was actually naming it.

In addition to naming and not diagnosing, two of you yahoos started talking to each other and one posted a link to a completely unrelated site! Just what in the hell is going on out there??

So let's try again, shall we? That's if any of you are still speaking to me. Put on your little House hats and let's see what you can come up with. Please review the earlier blog for my extensive list of symptoms and give it your best shot!

And no, I do not have a stick up my...ask me no more questions, I'll tell you no more lies, the boys and girls are kissing in the D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K dark dark dark!


Thank you and good luck. Oh, and I really do enjoy and appreciate your comments, so keep 'em coming! ;)

Friday, January 16, 2009


I can see I'm going to do really well if I ever attempt writing for profit and am subject to an editor. In the past, I used to send things in to our lab director for a 'weekly activity report' that was issued to the other labs and on occasion, she would edit what I had written. It drove me crazy. I choose my words carefully, I craft my sentences, I try to get specific ideas across in a particular manner at a particular time. So you can imagine I might take any changes to my work -- especially ones I was unaware of until the report was disseminated -- personally.

That being said, if someone is mentioned in my blog and doesn't want to be, I have to honor their request to change it. Unfortunately, this latest example completely removes the basis for my "Love Actually" blog and changes the whole damn thing. But I'm going to try to salvage it in some manner. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Name My Growth!

No, this isn't a naming rights battle, nor am I admitting any kind of intersex issue... BUT we are featuring a first here at Cranial Vault -- a contest! Yes, yes, it's terribly exciting. I'm unsure as to the prize or how I will send it to the winner (if he or she is unknown to me) but fortunately I have a team of lawyers who have promised to protect me if I'm unable to fulfill any promises I haven't made on this site.


Herewith, my symptoms or lack thereof:

Two docs have pressed on the lower right quadrant of my belly two months apart and caused a sharp pain that elicited a Youch! from me.

That's it.

No other symptoms. No pain when no one's a-pressin'. I actually went to the first Doc (a Doc-in-a-Box) for an unrelated issue and was just as surprised as she when I yelped.

I finally got in to see my Doc two days ago and she's stumped. She posited that perhaps it was gas, to which I responded, "For TWO MONTHS??" She mulled over the possibility of appendix, and gall bladder, and kidneys, but seemed to strike through each one. Appendix still seems to be the front runner even though there are no other symptoms of appendicitis. She also mentioned some stray lymph node that sometimes causes problems, but she really didn't want to let the gas thing go. She asked if I'm gassy and I responded truthfully, "No, I'm not, but I come from very flatulent people."

Once again, You're welcome, Mom!

So, what say you? Any ideas? I'm having a CT scan tomorrow and hopefully that will shed some light on the situation. It sounded like nothing more than a quick trip into a scanner until they informed me I had to pick up my contrast dye. Even that didn't seem so bad until I picked up two 450-mL bottles of the stuff. And then read the paperwork explaining that I'd also be having an iodine injection. Then my friend Don explained that it will burn for a little bit. This gets better and better by the second! This thing isn't even bothering me, so what the hell??!

My friend Anne has dibs on my absorbed twin, complete with teeth and hair, but all other possibilities are available. So please, Name My Growth!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Love Actually

I had hoped to discuss something a little sillier tonight -- perhaps a story about how the fire alarm went off at the YMCA while I was in the communal shower earlier today -- but something's been pokin' at me, pokin' at me, pokin' at me for a while now and I'd like to throw it out there...

But first, what made the topic poke at me today was the following song that I love and heard very early this morning:

Melinda was mine
'til the time
That I found her
Holding Jim
Loving him

Then Sue came along
Loved me strong
That's what I thought
Me and Sue
But that died too

Don't know that I will
But until I can find me
A girl who'll stay
And won't play games behind me
I'll be what I am
A solitary man
Solitary man

I've had it to here
Bein' where
Love's a small word
Part-time thing
Paper ring

I know it's been done
Having one
Girl who'll love me
Right or wrong
Weak or strong

Don't know that I will
But until I can find me
The girl who'll stay
And won't play games behind me
I'll be what I am
A solitary man
Solitary man

Besides the obvious, that I'll be staying a Solitary Woman, I'm not sure where to start.

[Editor's note: the original awesome setup for the rest of this blog has been removed to avoid a libel suit. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Here's a new, crappy segue to the rest of the blog.

Well hell, I can't really think of anything right now. Just know that it would be a bridge between the song and a discussion of relationships.]

The reality is, I believe in marriage/relationships/commitments with all my being. I think it's part of the reason I have such a difficult time with the lesbian community. I'm not interested in this dating square dancing thing they have going in which everyone settles down for a while, moves in together, and then some unseen signal is issued by the Home Office and everyone swaps. Hey, look at her, she's better than you! Shift. Months go by, years go by, lives intertwine. Home Office throws up a bat signal and...Hey, look at her, she's better than you! Shift.

Of course, this isn't exclusive to the sisters of Sappho. You straights do one hell of a job as well. But you like to complicate the issue with children and financial dependence. Does anyone stand by commitment anymore? And if you are truly, irredeemably miserable with your partner, is it better to stay with them because you're committed? Well that doesn't sound right. But when do you stop looking? When do you focus your attention on your union and stop looking (or noticing) someone who might make a better mate (which may or may not be true...)?

I don't know what the answer is... Heck, I'm not even sure what the question is!

But just for the record, I believe in love. I believe in 'Til Death Do Us Part. And I know it's somewhat naive, but I keep hoping. And I keep getting disappointed when people fail each other, but I keep hoping. And I wonder, has it always been an illusion? If women had been financially independent in my grandparents' time and beyond, would marriages have lasted as long? And now that women can walk away, is it really better?

Well, you can see how this can poke at a person, can'tcha?

And finally, another song that kicked me in the teeth the first time I heard it. It's syrupy, I know, but I am too. Don't tell anyone. ;)

Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good ol' days.
Sometimes it feels like
This world's gone crazy.
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday,
Where the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy.

Did lovers really fall in love to stay?
Stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept,
Not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Tell me 'bout the good ol' days.

Grandpa, everything is changing fast.
We call it progress,
But I just don't know.
And Grandpa, let's wander back into the past,
And paint me a picture of long ago.

Did lovers really fall in love to stay?
Stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept,
Not just something they would say and then forget?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Tell me 'bout the good ol' days.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rip Van Winkle

Well Helloooooooo!! YAWN. Streeeeeetch. How are we all doing?! Now THAT was one hell of a nap! And looky-here: it's twenty-oh-nine! How 'bout that!

Now, where was I?

Right. Blogging every day during the month of December. Hmmm. I seemed to be doing pretty well. Looks like I managed to post something -- of varying quality -- for every day in December, up. until. what's this? Looks like my last entry was on December 17th. December 17th. What is it about that date? Let's see... It's my mother's birthday! Well, that wouldn't have made me stop writing. It's the day my bff's sister's second baby was born. Nope, still no reason to stop writing...

Oh, wait a minute, I remember. There's wasn't anything out of the ordinary about the 17th, but I did attend a work Happy Hour on the 18th. And does anyone know what happened on the 18th? Anyone? Gloria??

You know what happened on the 18th, folks? Someone you know had a lot of wine. And someone (whom you also know and may be one and the same) did not go home when everyone else did -- no, no, she enthusiastically scurried off to another establishment with someone... Now who was it? Gloria, do you remember?

No matter. You know what does matter? I got home Thursday evening the 18th, FOUR MINUTES INTO FRIDAY THE 19TH!!! I missed the deadline for blogging on the 18th by FOUR MINUTES!

And then crapped out for the next -- how many has it been? -- three, four weeks.

And clearly didn't gain any talent or good stories along the way! I can't believe you're still reading this dreck! Shame on you.

That 'no good stories' line was a bit of a white lie. Or a premonition. I've actually gathered up a couple stories these last few weeks, though the 'goodness' of them may be questionable. We'll see how they turn out if I ever write them. They include rats, a half naked runaway child, a domestic assault on a major interstate highway, and the man who planted my ginormous pine trees thirty years ago.

So stay with me, people! We'll get through this together. And hopefully, just hopefully, the universe will smile upon me and put me in touch with someone who thinks I can actually make a living doing this! 'Cause those steps at the Golden Globes were looking pretty attractive the other night and -- EGADS! -- I'm not getting any younger. So it may be time to urinate or get off the urine collection and disposal apparatus.

To be continued...

Side note: would any of you have suspected it would take no less than 20 searches and fifty different word combinations for me to get to "Rip Van Winkle"?? I could not think of his name but after searching and searching and searching, I was thisclose to thinking I had made up the whole story! And just then the answer appeared. Whew. Keeping the senility at bay one more day, yessiree!