February 2008

(Sister gave me permission to share this story, though she kindly requests that no one ask any embarrassing follow-up questions since, as you’ll see, she’s suffered enough embarrassment.)

So we’re still here, at Mayo, though it looks like we’ll get sprung tomorrow.  Yippee!

Part of the reason we’re still here is that the first tests revealed some Causes For Concern, which led to the ordering of more tests, being performed today.  One of the tests that revealed a Cause For Concern was a test that they call something like “endoscopitosiscopsiousohmygodlongname” but which Sister  calls “a super horrible extra-long colonoscopy, except without sedation.”

For those of you who had not had one yourself (AND are lucky enough never to have had anyone describe their own personal experience with colonoscopy to you in lurid detail thanks so much for sharing that, father-in-law!), Dr. Wikipedia describes colonoscopy as “the endoscopic examination of the large colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the [um, let’s just call it hole in the rear, so I don’t get a lot of hits from google searches of words that rhyme with ‘heinous,’ mmmkay?]

Typically, when one gets a colonoscopy, one gets knocked out so one does not have to feel the aforementioned fiber optic camera on a flexible tube as it passes through your personal regions.  For the particular test Sister needed, however, the typical generous dose of intravenous sedatives was not an option- it slows down your whole system, and this test was trying to measure how fast certain parts of her system react to certain things, so sedation was out.  Thus, she was fully awake for the FIVE HOURS this test took, fully awake as the nurse patted her head and said “honey, I’m staying with you the whole time because this is going to suck,” fully awake when the doctor started debating with the other doctor about whether or not this was, in fact, the “worst colon they’ve ever seen,” fully awake when they injected her with drugs that made her heart rate drop into nearly-dead range to “see how her system reacted”.

All of which paled in comparison to the part where she was fully awake when the x-ray machine they were using BROKE DOWN in the middle of the test so they had to bring in a repair team!  Of 6 people! To fiddle with the machine and try to get it to work while they chatted about what they were doing this weekend!  And then they started chatting about her!  One said “geez, THAT does not look pleasant” when they saw her in her compromised position, butt facing them, all exposed and tube-filled. And they all laughed!  And then (of COURSE– why do people DO this, it’s like a colonoscopy compulsion or something) they started swapping stories of their own colonoscopies, and how unpleasant they were, and how it sucked so bad to have to drink the gallon of gross medicine the night before to clean out your system, and that must have really sucked for a girl as young as Sister to have to do that. There she was, trying not to die of embarrassment, when the doctor clapped his hands briskly, said “okay, guys, our patient is not actually anesthetized here, so she’s, um, awake, so maybe we could wrap this up and clear you all out of here?”

If only she had had her head, not her butt, facing them, so she could have seen the looks on their faces when it dawned on them that she had heard every single word.


I’m working remotely from Minnesota for the rest of this week.  I’m here at the Mayo clinic with my sister, who is getting a series of very unpleasant tests done to determine the characteristics of a very unpleasant set of medical circumstances she has to deal with.

While my sister’s medical circumstances are very unpleasant, it’s imporant to note that they are not life threatening. Many people at Mayo are not so lucky.  I’m sitting here in our hotel room nearly in tears after watching the very little boy who is staying in the room next to us walk back into the hotel from the medical facility across the street, sobbing in pain and fear, coming back from his own series of very unpleasant tests.  It was just heartbreaking.

More sarcasm and snark soon, I promise, but for now it just isn’t flowing.

Yesterday was the 8th (eep- that is a lot) Valentines Day that John and I have had together.  We’re not really big on Valentines Day, but we do have a sort-of imagined relationship anniversary on February 18, so for Valentines Day/Sort-of Imagined Anniversary day, we bought ourselves something totally romantic, like a video game system.

I generally can’t tolerate video games, but I have to say: this wii thing totally rules, and not just because I beat John at tennis the very first time I ever played.  Well, actually, mostly because of that.  I hate how all the other video game systems are so complicated and get so smug about their fancy graphics and their complex series of buttons and their horrible annoying tendency to be totally impossible to figure out until you’ve read 47 pages of instruction manual.  The wii, by contrast, is intuitive and easy, and I handily beat John at tennis without reading a single instruction, even though I have not played any video game since I was dorm champion of the Dr.Mario tournament (original version for 8 bit Nintendo) in 1997.    

The irony (of course there is irony!  In the Alanis Morisette sense, I mean) is that I have been having this ridiculous problem with my neck.  It hurts, a lot, like, all the time.  There have been x-rays, a trip to the doctor, and now twice-weekly physical therapy appointments, wherein my incredibly nice physical therapist bends the shit out of my neck and I try not to whimper. (“Hi, I’m pseudo, and I’ve apparently turned into a 75 year old here to bore you with tales about my neck pain! Remind me to tell you about my bunions later!”)  Because of The Neck, I was unable to really show John what I’ve got, wii tennis-wise.  I like to think that I am lulling him into a false sense of security and when I’m back in full fighting shape he’ll be sorry he ever suggested we get the wii. 

The other problem with The Neck is that we are getting on a plane in like 2 hours to go on a Valentines Day/Sort-of Imagined Anniversary day trip to Oregon, thanks to two free tickets on Southwest we got for being frequent fliers.  I love weekend trips, but the thought of spending 4.5 hours on a plane seat with The Neck is making me feel a little queasy.  I am really regretting my answer to the doctor when she asked if I would like a prescription for Really Good Drugs to help The Neck.  I said “no, I think I’ll stick with physical therapy and maybe yoga.”  I should have said “yespleaseiwantmanymanypills.”  When someone offers you the Really Good Drugs, you should always say yes.  You don’t have to USE them, but it’s nice to know they’re there in case things get worse. 

IN SHORT:  what is the best strategy for managing The Neck on impending long flight: several advil, or reckless abuse of Southwest drink coupons?



I am generally reluctant to carp (publicly) about people’s inefficient use of their time at work, but for the second time this week the secretary who sits outside my office has just gone into the IT guy’s office (he only works part time, in an office in the far back, out of sight from everyone else) to TAKE A NAP.

I know, I know, blogging on lunch hour, glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones, etc., but come ON.

I started taking French in 5th grade in an early-morning enrichment program offered through my elementary school.  If you can believe it, the program didn’t even offer Spanish; it was French or nothing.  That a school program that could only afford to offer one language would choose French instead of Spanish is sort of amazing to me- the world hasn’t changed THAT much in the past 20 years, has it?  If one had been paying attention, couldn’t one have foreseen that Spanish, (a language that is spoken at home by over 28 million people in the US according to the 2000 census) would be the more useful choice?  (To provide some point of comparison, the 2000 census estimates that slightly fewer than 2 million people in the US speak French at home.)

My mother, I think, dreamed of having daughters who grew up studying French the way young ladies in Jane Austen novels grow up studying French (and learning to play the pianoforte, and doing needlework, and taking a turn about the room.)  It seemed romantic to her.  She imagined that one day my sister and I would take trips to Europe and drive around in cheaply-purchased used Volkswagens and meet cute European boys, just like she had done with her best friend upon her graduation from college.  Though I took a mandatory 6-week minicourse in Spanish in middle school, I don’t think I ever really had a choice about what language I would take going forward- I continued with French through high school, and then took some courses in college and studied abroad in Paris as a junior.

Turns out, I kind of have a knack for languages.  I speak much better French than I rightfully should for how little effort I put into my French studies growing up.  When I travel to a francophone country, I slip fairly effortlessly into speaking in French, and feel comfortable communicating with locals.  I can get myself out of scrapes.  (Remind me to tell you the funny story about the time I went off on a shady French guy who was trying hard to persuade me and my friend (both a little drunk) to go home to his apartment to look at his posters.  I didn’t know I knew how to say “holy crap you are such a cliché and even if we did trust you we would not go home with a guy who can’t come up with a better line than that” in French until it was out of my mouth and we were walking away from him.)

Now I’m not knocking French- I LOVED studying in Paris and like visiting France and generally enjoy any culture that can strike over the arduousness of a 35 hour work week and get that excited about cheese- but MAN do I wish I’d taken Spanish. If I had that kind of familiarity in Spanish?  Oh my god it would be AWESOME.

I have long lamented my lack of Spanish skillz,  and my wish for Spanish is in full force again after having spent last week on a team visiting a dual language elementary school.  Most of the students speak Spanish at home, and at least half the day (and substantially more than that in the lower grades) is taught in Spanish. The theory behind the program is that teaching literacy skills in the native language first will actually improve a child’s chances of learning to read effectively in English.  Setting aside for the moment debates about bilingual education (don’t particularly want to dip my toes into that particular cesspool of vitriolic debate in this little blog post) this school was just awesome.  Being there was awesome.  I have a reasonable familiarity with Spanish having taught for a few years in a place where Spanish and not English was the dominant language, and I was pleased as punch to discover that I actually understood most of what was happening, even in those classes that were being taught in Spanish.  (It was also nice to discover that as much as I loved being around the kids- which I really really did- I didn’t find myself wishing to be classroom teacher again.  This is progress, since for the first two years of law school I wished I were back in the classroom on a near-daily basis.  But I digress.) But when a little second grader came up to me and asked me a question in Spanish?  All I could really come up with was “lo ciento, mijo, no hablo español, hablo francés.”

Can I really blame him for looking at me like I was an alien?

How sketchy would it be, exactly, to look for a Spanish language speaking partner on craigslist?  Anyone out there want to teach me Spanish, perhaps?  Any other suggestions of how I might improve my Spanish without shelling out hundreds of dollars to a language school?  Because seriously, to do the kind of work I want to do with my law degree, Spanish can only help.  Francés? Not so much.

I will spare you a long, drawn-out, American Idol style results show featuring musical guests and false suspense, and will cut to the chase- the promised photos from the great outfit vote of aught-eight:

I read all of your comments and tabulated votes. (I disqualified Donna after clicking through to her website from her comment and discovering she is clearly partisan- though I would encourage all of you to check it out because really?  Such websites exist?  Who knew?)  A slim majority of you encouraged me to get new shoes (which, let’s face it, I kind of wanted to do anyway,) and I found a really great pair of shoes that I was happy to buy, and so I went with Mango’s dark tights suggestion.  I had seen it in magazines too on the Hollywood starlets, and suspected I (not being a Hollywood starlet by any stretch) could not pull it off.  But then I tried on my dress again and saw how short it was in real life and was glad for the extra coverage black tights provided, so I went with it.  Turns out it was a wise choice- it was cold, so I was warmer, plus the average age at this party turned out to be about 20 years old, so dressing young and hip made me feel a little less awkward about being a decade older than everyone else at the party.

Well, that and gin.  Gin makes everything better.

Okay team, I have a serious task for you. I am bewildered. I need your advice.

I have a rather fancy party to go to on Saturday. As in, tomorrow. (This is exciting, and also a little ridiculous. My sister, who is also attending, commented yesterday that this is “threatening to turn into as much of a production as the prom,” and she is totally right. I mean, I can’t believe that Jim is insisting on bringing that tramp Jenny, when everyone knows that she’s just going to get falling down drunk and someone is going to end up spending part of the evening holding her hair back.)

Ahem. Anyway, this party is “black tie encouraged,” whatever the hell that means. As best I can tell, this means they would like to make it “black tie,” but realize that many of the people attending are unlikely to own a tux, so are willing to let you in with a nice suit rather than make you hit up After Hours for a rental.

I found this cute dress on super sale and was all psyched to wear it (it is not so blurry in real life):

I own one pair of fancy party shoes. They look like this:

I will alert you to the following key facts:

  1. This dress is short (but I totally have the legs to pull it off. Love sack dresses- hide bubble gut, show off oddly skinny bird legs! Finally, a style made for me!)
  2. These shoes are open-toed
  3. The weather in Chicago currently looks something like this:
  4. The color of my legs is currently something like this:
  5. My sister and mother both insist that wearing a short dress without pantyhose to a black tie event is “too casual,” and I will “stick out like a sore thumb.”
  6. Wearing pantyhose with open-toed shoes is, in my humble opinion a HORRIBLE THING NEVER TO BE DONE EVER EW EW EW.
  7. I went Payless to try find a cute pair of closed-toed fancy shoes that would enable me to wear pantyhose and came up short.
  8. Self tanner has long terrified me after a very bad oompa loompa experience with self tanner in high school.



Your options are:

A. Wear the cute new dress and the shoes I already own, say “eff that” to my sisterly/motherly advice on whether I will be too casual, skip the pantyhose and slap some self tanner on those legs to prevent snow blindness in the other party guests who happen to see my legs. (If you choose this option, you should also recommend a good self tanner, if you know one. See item 8, supra.)

B. Wear the cute new dress and spring for new closed-toed shoes so I can wear stockings, accepting the fact that the new shoes will inevitably cost more than $15 because Payless has failed me.

C. Return the cute new dress to the store and instead wear the only long dress I already own, which is several years old, doesn’t fit all that well, and is a decidedly spring-y shade of mint green, but which I can easily wear with open-toed shoes without risk of appearing too casual since my dress would be long, not short, and no one would be scandalized by the sight of bare legs at an almost-black-tie event.

D. Wear the cute new dress with the shoes I already own and with sandalfoot pantyhose, which my mother insists you can “hardly see” with open-toed shoes. (Hint: this is the WRONG ANSWER.)

    You can leave your vote in the comments. I will do whatever the majority of you tell me to do. I will take pictures to prove it. I will be forever in your debt.