Monday, August 24, 2009

Ceepy Crawly Things

Every year it seems like we get some plague-like invasion of some sort of multi-legged creature here on Tallyho Lane. One year, it was the Japanese Beetles which rose in a terrifying cloud from the depths of our lawn just in time to eat every expensive shrub in sight. Then we had the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars - again, arriving just in time to eat all the replacement shrubs. And, then there was the year of the Giant Cicada Killer Wasps (if you think I am kidding, Google it!). They didn't eat anything but they scared the hell out of us and tried to excavate our walkway to build dens for their hideous off spring.

Well, this year we have been overcome by slugs, spiders and something that I can only imagine is a huge millipede. There were three humongous (translation - really, really big) spiders dangling from the garage door when I opened it today. I tried to kill them all with ant spray (hey, it was all I could find) - got myself worked into such a killing frenzy that I lost my balance and nearly tipped over. At which point I would have been face to face with a three inch millipede that was making its way speedily across the garage floor. Eeek! These millipede thingies are about as big around as a #2 pencil, up to 3 inches long, and appear to have some sort of hard, segmented shell. Euw.

And, can anyone explain to me how it is possible for a spider to cast a horizontal strand of web across a 10-foot span? Do the little suckers have wings now? Do they hang off a wall and just hurl themselves sideways? Are they immune to gravity?

All this constant looking over my shoulder (and under my feet, and above my head...) is playing havoc with my already iffy balance. Lorenzo, can you please send autumn across the pond so that all these things will die or hibernate or whatever it is that they do?

Meanwhile, I am hiding in the house with a can of bug spray (which, incidentally, has NO effect on the millipede thingies...) If you don't hear from me again, you'll know something got me...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reflections on Faces

I just returned from the ANA symposium a couple of days ago and am feeling very inspired. The event was great - from an educational standpoint and, even more, from a personal standpoint. It was such an amazing experience to be gathered with so many other people who share this rare diagnosis. There were people there who were recently diagnosed and those whose treatments are long done, and those who are "watchfully waiting."

One of my personal goals for the symposium was to learn more about possible treatments for facial palsies/paralysis. I certainly came away with much to think about, from botox to bang-tox to surgery. I have not mentally sorted through all of it yet, but I have been giving a great deal of thought to the whole issue of how much of our self-perception is tied up in how we think we look. So, bear with me while I "think in writing"...

I attended a dinner the first night specifically for people with facial issues. As I looked around the room (there were probably 50 or so people there), there were very few who I would immediately identify as having facial complications. But as I talked to people, I realized that many people really struggle with the fact that they (we) look "different" than they(we) did before. I listened to one woman who was clearly depressed who felt that people stared at her when she was in public. And, yet, when I looked at her, all I saw was the tiniest bit of asymmetry - nothing that I would ever notice if I didn't know what I was looking for.

And that got me to thinking about myself and my own self-perceptions. I know I don't look quite like I did before, but I also know that no one is staring at me in horror and running in fear. In fact, I have concluded that people who don't know what to look for wouldn't know anything is wrong. Like many of the people I met at the symposium, my mouth pulls to one side a little when I talk, and I have a weird dimple on the right side of my chin when I smile, and one corner of my mouth doesn't smile quite as big as the other side, and one eye squints up just a little sometimes. But seriously, have you ever seen Cat Deeley on "So You Think You Can Dance?" That woman is drop dead gorgeous, but when you look at her face - her smile is totally crooked, one side of her nose pulls over, one eye squints a bit ... And I suspect that is just the way God made her. (The fact that she is tall and skinny doesn't hurt, but still ... she's beautiful!)

Hm, it gets you to thinking, doesn't it? And, then I got to thinking about the people who have more serious facial issues and have gone through multiple nerve grafting surgeries to get a small amount of movement - and I have to think "Damn, girl, you've got nothing to whine about." Which is not to say that I won't occasionally feel sorry for myself or miss my "old" face a bit, or that I won't consider options for improvement. But I will also recognize that most people who look at me won't see anything wrong.

A lot of the aftermath of acoustic neuroma surgery is invisible to the outside world - deafness, equilibrium issues, numbness, blurry vision, fatigue. Which doesn't make any of those things less real - it just makes it harder for other people to understand.

And as my beautiful friend Kay would say - "When life gives you lemons, squeeze it in someone's eye and haul ass!"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Week From Hell

Why is is that the week leading up to any vacation is sheer hell? I've been busting my butt trying to get a HUGE project done before leave this Friday. On top of that, my hormones (cover your ears) have chosen this week to mount an attack on the host body (that'd be me). And, not to be outdone, my face has decided to be more difficult than usual (complete with droopy eye) and my balance ... well, what can you ever say about that?

I'm off to see my doctor this afternoon to see about a temporary fix for the hormonal rages; meanwhile, have started going out for a very brisk walk in the woods every day. We have some wonderful wooded parkland near us, with lots of trails and meadows. Today, I threw in a little mid-walk yoga - picture this ... tree lined pasture, lake in the distance, flock of wild geese rustling about in the tree line, peace, quiet, serenity, me doing a perfect sun-salute, getting ready for a near-perfect warrior pose. When - VRROOMM. A friggin' lawn mower/tractor lurches into my pristine moment!!! Great. Impossible to execute a flawless downward dog while sticking a finger in one ear to block the zillion decibel noise. Hrmph. Little did the guy driving the thing now how close to death he actually was - imagine engaging a middle-aged, hormone crazed woman out in the wild with no witnesses. Lucky bastard.

Friday, whether the work is done or not, we are boarding Continential Airlines and heading to the Windy City! Flurries of emails have been flying back and forth amonst the ANers whilst we decide what to wear, where to meet, what to see, etc. And I am trying to see if Willie and I can squeeze in a dinner at Frontera Grill - one of the all-time world class restaurants. Rick Bayless is one of the great American chefs and his food is sheer joy.

Well, back to work...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Attempts to Poison Tallyho Lane

Some things have nothing to do with brain tumors and yet are funny (and potentially life threatening...)

Yesterday I decided to take my bread-making prowess to a new level by making Pumpernickel bread. As an aside, did you know that there is no such seed, nut or flour called pumpernickel? What makes it pumpernickel is unsweetened bakers chocolate (powder). Hm.

Okay, so back to the story... I use the bread machine to make the dough, then remove it and let it rise twice, first as a glob and the second time shaped into a nice loaf or baguette. Loaf in this case. Things were progressing nicely, and the loaf was at the perfect level of "rise" to pop into the oven. Donning oven mitts, I slid the loaf in to the hot oven then headed upstairs to do something. About 5 minutes later, I started to smell something really awful. And, by awful, I mean horrendous.

I ran downstairs and whipped open the oven door. Of course, I had just put gel drops in my right eye, so I really couldn't see a damned thing. But, there DID appear to be a glob of something right on the lower edge of the oven bottom. It was bluish in color. At first I thought it might be one of those soap-impregnated blue steel wool pads (except that I don't have any of those and even if I did, how the hell would it have gotten into the oven. ) By now the smell was so toxic that I snatched the bread out of the oven, half baked.

On closer examination, I saw that the bluish blob had a dark center. Aha! It was the remnants of a blue kitchen magnet that I hung the oven mitt on! Apparently, when I donned the mitt, I didn't realize that the magnet thingy was dangling from it and apparently it dropped into the oven (which of course I didn't hear, being deaf on the oven-side of my head!)

I won't go into the details of how I chipped the gunky mess off the oven. However, I will tell you that the taste of melting plastic had totally permeated the bread so I had to throw it out and start all over again. Ugh.

As we speak, I am letting the oven run through its self-cleaning cycle. It smells awful. I am sure I am killing brain cells. If you are in NJ and you are reading this, you should probably leave the state!