Monday, November 30, 2009

the chosen path

Along with a painful bout of meningitis, I've been suffering from persistent lower abdominal pain (and a variety of other annoying little symptoms I will spare the reader by not describing) this fall. Unfortunately this came at a time when my beloved Dr. Stephanie Scott had abandoned her patients, leaving the world of private practice in San Francisco to join Kaiser Oakland.

Doctorless, I decided to try a friend's doctor. That doctor was not accepting new patients, so that was a no go. Next I decided to find a doctor through recommendations on Yelp. This led to my discovering the top rated doctor on Yelp, who was conveniently located on the very same floor of the very same building where my beloved Dr. Scott had been. However, he was booked up solid, and I ended up getting booked to see his young associate. Yelpers seemed to feel that if you couldn't see the Wonder Doctor, you would be okay seeing his junior sidekick, so I went ahead with the appointment. I showed up early to the appointment, assuming that I would need to detail my checkered medical past on forms before meeting my new doctor for the first time. Instead, the office only cared about my insurance history. They had no interest whatsoever in learning a thing about my health past.

The doctor, a young gay man just out of medical school, seemed unsure of himself in dealing with a middle-aged straight woman. He also had no interest in learning about my medical past and also had no questions for me about anything which might relate to my reproductive system, which happens to be of the yucky female sort. The baby gay doctor decided, after a brief consultation following an extremely long, boring wait on my part, that I most likely had diverticulosis. I researched diverticulosis on my own (Dr. Baby Gay didn't bother to take the time to explain it to me) and learned that it is little irritated pockets in the colon and large intestine. It is believed that these irritated pockets form due to a lack of fiber in a person's diet, and they cause pain and constipation. That diagnosis was asinine. First of all, I don't suffer from constipation, and second of all, as a vegetarian I eat a diet rich in fiber. Diverticulosis is a disease for fast-food grubbing meateaters.

After my unsatisfying encounter with Dr. Baby Gay, I got side-tracked from the abdominal pain by coming down with meningitis. The Sober Husband asked me at one point how my abdominal pain was, and I said it was like how you'd feel if you were in a lot of stomach pain but then got hit on the head by a hammer repeatedly. You'd be distracted by the hammer too much to notice the stomach pain.

While I was recovering from meningitis, I dragged myself over to try out a new gynecologist and see what he had to say about my pain. At least he, whether he were gay or straight, would not be so yucked out by a woman's feminine anatomy as to pretend it didn't exist. This new doctor proved to be immensely condescending (every single thing I said, he had a condescending comeback to), and I disliked him intensely. However, he scheduled me for an ultrasound, and I kept that ultrasound appointment.

After the ultrasound, I got a bill right off the bat, but no one called me to discuss the test results. Dr. Condescension had assured me that he or his nurse would be in touch with me as soon as the results came back. When I never heard from them, I figured that was because the news was that there was no news and nothing showed up on the ultrasound. Indeed Dr. Condescension had disagreed with me (in a condescending matter, natch) when I had brought up the possibility that it was a fibroid tumor which was my problem. He felt that I was being stupid by speculating that, so of course he must have been proven right by the ultrasound. I also thought the ultrasound must have shown nothing interesting because I had been able to leave the ultrasound without a doctor being called in (I learned years ago, when I had an ultrasound which revealed gallstones plugging up my bile duct and a severely diseased gallbladder, that there is an emergency call button in the ultrasound office, so if the tech sees something freakout-worthy, a doctor may be summoned while the patient is still recumbent upon the ultrasound recliner).

I decided that I'd keep gathering doctor recommendations and try out another doctor in December, and I felt fine not doing anything right off as I'd had an ultrasound which must have been normal. Then the phone rang, weeks after that damn ultrasound. Dr. Condescending's nurse shared that I do indeed have a massive fibroid tumor, over three inches wide and three inches tall and about two and a half inches around, and it needs to come out. Dr. Condescension suddenly needed to see me ASAP to discuss my treatment options, but yet, despite the urgency, Dr. Condescension didn't have any time to see me for over a week.

After I got that call, I felt pretty upset, and I felt scared about getting major abdominal surgery. I called my greatly beloved husband of eleven years, the Sober Husband, at his office and blurted out the bad news to him and then shared my fear of surgery. The Sober Husband's words of comfort? He said, "You chose to go down this path" in a voice making it clear that if a person whimsically chooses to go have an ultrasound, she needs to deal with the surgical consequences like an adult.

After this second upsetting call, I took a few moments to calm down. After all, I should have known better than to expect the Sober Husband to be calming and reassuring without advance notice. The man benefits from having my expectations of him spelled out clearly, and so I went off and emailed him, explaining in very few words that my expectations were that (1) he would not question my judgment whatsoever in setting up treatment and would not ever say that I "chose" this unnecessarily and (2) he would take a couple of days off work when, as expected, I have surgery. (I know that there are controversial non-surgical treatments involving massive hormone doses, and I am not willing to choose the hormone path. There is also the option of just living with the fibroid tumor, as it is 99.99% sure not to be malignant, but I'm not willing to do that, either, given my pain and other symptoms. That would be essentially saying that I am willing to go on living as though I were in the second or third trimester of pregnancy with a fetus pressing on my organs and pelvis indefinitely, and that is not a pleasing option).

My plan is to stick with Dr. Condescending long enough to get a referral to a surgeon and a surgery date. Then I will post a scathing review of him on Yelp and never go to his office again. My hope is that I will be able to have surgery over the Christmas holidays, as that will be a convenient time for the Sober Husband to take off from work and be with Iris and Lola and help me out while I convalesce. My fears are that Dr. Condescending will himself want to do the surgery and that I won't be able to schedule it until January, which will be a busy month for the Sober Husband where it will be awkward for him to take time off. But of course, one might say that I chose this path, and therefore it's my own damn fault if I don't get to the end of it before January.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the mafia for beginners

"Did you know Lucy is in the first grade mafia? It's a group of individuals in organized crime who are all in the first grade," narked Iris today. "They go around attacking some people and protecting others. They attack kids that are bigger than them, not littler, and they protect ones that are little."

"Oh, no," demurred organized crime figure Lola. "Sometimes we attack kids that are littler than us."

Friday, November 27, 2009

eh, meh, feh

We had a lovely, quiet Thanksgiving. Yesterday I was happy and relaxed and busy. Today I'm feeling overwhelmed by stress.

This fall I had meningitis, and Lola is having a rough year at school. The Sober Husband created a custom nagging program, which sends me an email every day detailing my credit card and checking spending (upside: reduced spending and heightened ability to live within our means; downside: daily nagging, and also the Sober Husband often reclaims the best laptop to keep rewriting this little piece of software). After months of abdominal pain and a variety of other unappetizing symptoms, I have a diagnosis of a tumor bigger than my fist. On the bright side, it's 99.99% believed to be benign, but on the other hand, I need to have it surgically removed. I really dislike the doctor I've seen for this, but on the other hand, do I want to wait until I can find a doctor I like before dealing with this? The Sober Husband has also been highly stressed this past fall at work.

Iris has been the best off of all of us, but she's been suffering from chronic headaches. An initial attempt at treating her headaches through medication was an odd failure. Her doctor suggested a prescription antihistamine, and Iris and I were eager to try it, but the Sober Husband balked. He insisted upon setting up an experiment where Iris would be randomly medicated or given a placebo. He purchased empty capsules and decanted the contents of Iris's medicine into some of these capsules and filled the others with sugar. Iris was enthused at first at this experiment but soon tired of it. "I wish I could just take my medicine," she confided when her father was safely away at work. However, even with the intermittent taking of her medication, Iris was able to figure out that she was having the downsides (dry mouth, dry throat, sleepiness) without enough improvement in her headaches, and she gave up the meds. Iris has also been troubled by her teeth: several times when an adult tooth has grown in, her baby tooth refused to fall out, and the two teeth became somehow stuck together for several months. We refer to this as "a snaggle", and these snaggleteeth plague poor Iris (but again, Iris has otherwise been on the ascendant. "I have my teachers wrapped around my finger," she confided one day).

Today-- the day after Thanksgiving -- is the one day of the year when a person most needs a microwave for warming up leftovers. This is the day my elderly microwave chose to die, shorting out part of the kitchen in its death throes. "It had to take the toaster with it," I said darkly, but the Sober Husband assured me the toaster could be resuscitated. He opened up the microwave, which had some interesting radioactivity warnings inside, but several hours of surgery determined that the microwave was warming up leftovers in heaven or hell and not to be lured back to our earthly kitchen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

don't accept a drink from Lola

Yesterday first grader Lola and I were relaxing on the big bed, Lola watching old Pee Wee's Playhouse episodes and me playing Warcraft. Lola made me look at her, and she gazed at me sternly while speaking in a tiny voice without moving her lips (she may have a future in ventriloquism). In that tiny voice, she issued a series of minor commands, and she looked at me searchingly. After a while, she stopped and confessed. "I was trying to hallucinate you."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

talking points

Around our house, the beaten-down-by-life parents do not stay awake long after the lively, sleep-avoiding children have finally succumbed to slumber. Typically there's a brief period of time where I play a bit of Warcraft on a laptop in bed while the Sober Husband reads a piece of serious non-fiction.

Lately, however, he's been feeling talkative at night. I am not talkative after 10 p.m., having talked plenty to Iris and Lola since picking them up at school. A few nights ago he sank into a state of angst where he was unveiling an epic amount of existential despair related to a work matter, at the very time I was trying to slip into peaceful sleep after having taken a sleeping pill. However, that was the same day I had told him, after an unpleasant morning conversation about money, that I felt the only conversations we ever had were about my spending and our budget. Therefore the Sober Husband went on the offensive over my reluctance to talk at length over his angst, saying that he was bringing up a fresh topic of conversation aside from money and that I should be grateful. (Lest I be cast forever as a Callous, Uncaring Spouse, I should note that this very same work topic had been discussed to death on a nigh-daily basis for about six weeks).

In the morning, fresh from some sleep, I brought up his work issues and talked and talked at them. However, that night, after the children were in bed, once again he was talking, and this time it was about evolutionary biology. Always a serious man, the Sober Husband listens to podcasts of Yale lectures on his way to work, and lately it's a series of evolutionary biology classes. He made me avert my eyes from Warcraft and look at some diagram of the Tree of Life. He began to realize just how ignorant I was (in my defense, I said, "You can't imagine the extent of what is not taught at crappy public schools in rural areas"). He droned on and on about the bacteria found in human excrement ("Stop being scatological," I said) and about how sexual selection is largely mythologized, until, feeling pummeled by heavy scientific words the meaning of which I couldn't understand, until I broke and said, "STOP! It is too late! This is too heavy!"

A resentful silence, and then he said, "I was just talking. This is what's on my mind" and then "You have too many rules for talking."

"You're not talking, you're LECTURING."

We both went to sleep in the ensuing resentful silence, his side of the bed the one devoted to lofty scientific thought, mine the side of the bed with a Janet Evanovich and a C.J. Box novel underneath it.

In the morning I accosted him. "Look at me! I'm rested! I'm caffeinated! Now is when you can talk to me about heavy things!" I had thought about his accusation of "too many rules for talking", and I felt that there was in fact only one rule, which I imparted: "After I go to bed, I'm tired. I want things light. Only light conversation! Like a cute thing Iris did or a cute thing [Employee] did. In the morning, that is when you can get heavy." I drove him to work, and we brainstormed a managerial problem he has all the way to his office.

Monday, November 16, 2009

more rules about walking

Today as Lola and I walked to school to pick up Iris, Lola was trying to enforce her walking sensibility upon me. She was bothered that I stepped on the yellow lines in the crosswalk, which is very bad luck. With great solicitude, Lola inquired if I had stepped on any dragonflies.

"No. What happens if I step on a dragonfly?"

"If you step on a dragonfly.... If you step on a dragonfly... I don't know!" Lola pondered and then said triumphantly, "If you step on a dragonfly, you will apologize... in hell!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

sharing happy news

The other morning as the Sober Husband was about to leave for work, I shared with him, "I just became an Exalted Champion of Orgrimmar!" [I like to start the day by running some quests on Warcraft, using his vastly superior laptop, while he's driving the girls to school, before he takes that computer away for the day].

He said, voice dripping with sarcasm, "We should go out to celebrate."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today first grader Lola and I were walking hand in hand, and Lola said sternly to me, "Stepping on an acorn is bad luck." (I had been walking carelessly, with disregard for both cracks in the sidewalk and acorns). Lola thought and added, "It is also bad luck to drop a peacock feather. A peacock will appear and peck a hair out of your head! And it will hurt FOREVER!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

an alarming symptom

Last night seven year-old Lola had trouble going to bed because, as her father reported, "her left nostril hurts." Lola corrected that. "It FEELS WEIRD, not hurts. Feels weird." In either event, it was viewed as an excuse to avoid sleep at all costs.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

11 motherfuckin' years

This weekend marks the 11th anniversary of the Sober Husband and I trying marriage out together. We had two marriage ceremonies: we sensed that our minister was flaking on us right at the time of our wedding, so we ran down to City Hall alone on Friday and got a homeless guy to be our witness. On Sunday we went ahead, with my father reading the vows, with the ceremony (not telling anyone we'd satisfied the legalities on Friday, as it would have been strange for the relatives who'd flown in from the East Coast and midwest to see us going through a faux ceremony).

Most of my friends and law clients back then(funny to think that eleven years ago, I mostly hung around with my devoted law clients) were incredulous that I was going to marry again, after an increasingly acrimonious divorce following a ten year relationship. Indeed that incredulity seemed appropriate for a year or two recently, when it looked like we were going to call it quits (and many blog readers were saying, "Just get it over with, for god's sake"). But! My idea of divorce from this Sober Husband (as opposed to the first husband, the Scotch-Drinking Husband) at the darkest days, meant something like selling our house and buying a duplex in Pacifica or Daly City, so we could each have our own separate living quarters and allow the children to swarm back and forth at will. Thankfully after a year of intense marriage counseling and a serious and obvious commitment on both parts, we worked out our differences and didn't have to sell our adorable Edwardian.

I will say honestly that fixing our problems was the biggest, hardest, and most adult thing I've ever done. It would have been much easier and more ego-gratifying on both parts to call this over and move on to separate adventures (with Iris and Lola absorbing the shrapnel). But the miracle has been that, after all that hard work and highly expensive marriage counseling bills, love rekindled in what was, after all, intended by both parties initially to be a meaningless fling betweenst two people who met at Burning Man.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

in the right light, if you squint

In the morning the Sober Husband likes to take the green parrot out of its cage, and the two enjoy some toast together. (Since we acquired the African Grey parrot earlier this year, the two parrots are known by various names. The Sober Husband calls them "the green parrot" and "the gray parrot", I call them "your parrot" and "my parrot", and the children call them "Zoe" and "Pigwidgeon"). His parrot has come to regard this as her divinely ordained birthright and can get quite squawky in the mornings until she is in her proper place, on the Sober Husband's shoulder, picking out the most toothsome toast morsels and throwing inferior bits to the floor with disdain (where my weird little cat, Ray Charles, licks up the crumbs).

My parrot is a more flexible, easy-going bird and spends a lot of time out of her cage. The other morning I had her out at breakfast time as well, and we both sat, feeding our parrots, while having a cup of coffee and looking through the paper. "I like this," I said. "It's so nice, we have our parrots out at the same time."

The Sober Husband looked at me like I was an idiot. He thinks one parrot is enough to deal with at any time, given their strong personalities and his parrot's predilection for violence, and having two out at the same time is begging for trouble and bloodshed. "Why? Why do you feel that way?"

"Because it looks like we're sharing a common interest. Imagine, if someone came in here that didn't know us. They'd look over and say, 'Aww, they both love their parrots. Look at them, with their parrots. They're so lucky they found each other.'"

The Sober Husband let this conversational fancy die a natural death.

Monday, November 02, 2009

for the reader known as Keith (and any other WoW players)

I started a character on your server, but I haven't run across anyone from that fabled, funny guild yet. Leave a message with your character names, please!

Indeed, all Warcraft playing readers are enthusiastically encouraged to leave a comment with their server and toon names here for networking. (I'm usually playing "Hassenpfeffr", 80 paladin, and "Hassy", 70 rogue, on Doomhammer these days, both blood elves, but I also share Chlonnaa, a level 80 Draenei mage, on Drenden with Lola). Just be braced for running into Iris and Lola on Azeroth....

precious moments

Today when I picked up Lola from first grade, she was carrying a work labeled "The Master of Evil Year 1999 Age 8." "You are just about the most interesting person I know," I said to her. She smiled and said, "To me, you are completely average." Ouch!

Later I returned to meet Iris uber Alles at fourth grade dismissal. Iris ran eagerly toward me, arms extended, and ran right past me to embrace her third grade assistant teacher, hugging her passionately. "Oh, Chamblino!" she said. I stood there like a lump. This teacher tried to urge Iris to show attention to her own mother. "You saw me all day, what about your mother?" Iris hugged her harder.

It's these special moments where the children show their love and affection which make all the sacrifices and hard work of a stay-at-home mother so worthwhile.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

raging at me, in my kitchen

On Friday the Sober Husband and I hosted our first children's slumber party (we've had the odd child stay over here and there, but it was our first time being outnumbered in our own home in the wee hours of the night by visiting children). As the guests arrived, I was in the kitchen, assembling a salad which resembled a haunted forest: broccoli trees, little ghosts made of hard-boiled eggs with eyes made of tiny pieces of black olives, trailing bits of spaghetti dyed green with food coloring, etc... I invited a mother dropping off her child to join me in the kitchen for a glass of sparkling wine while I concentrated on putting my little steamed broccoli trees into bases made of potato to get them to stand up in the forest.

We chatted and sipped sparkling wine as I crafted my haunted salad, and it was pleasant, until the visiting mother's mind turned to money. She began by complaining that her family had a great deal of difficulty paying the tuition for our children's private school. Her voice got louder and shakier as she announced that within a few years, they would probably have to change schools as a result. Then she began to rant about families with a stay-at-home mother who get financial aid from our school. Spit flew from her lips as she loudly raved on and on. "How can they think they don't have to work? It drives me crazy, how they can accept that money and not go to a job. The rest of us are working so hard, and it's JUST WRONG."

After what seemed like an eternity of angry, loud ranting, a silence fell over the kitchen. The angry mother picked up her flute of sparkling wine and took a long swig. We both knew this was a personal attack. I am a stay-at-home mother, and our family receives a modest discount on our tuition.

There were a lot of things I could have said -- things like "your family takes several expensive vacations a year, and we rarely leave the city limits" and "believe me, the school imputes an income to both parents regardless of whether they are employed for pay or not" and (my personal favorite) "fuck you", but I stayed silent and concentrated on cutting up tiny slivers of black olives for the eyes in my hard-boiled egg ghosts. The angry mother drained her glass and left.