16 October 2013

Affected by the Hearsay Minions

I've been decidedly out of sorts recently, and no, it's not about the headache - I've recovered from that, although I am dreading the bills. Whatever. It's only money.

Partly I'm feeling a generalized existential dread, and partly I'm just annoyed with so many people around me. But my friend Julie (a crafty American who lives in Denmark) posted something on Facebook the other day which seemed like a perfect call to action.

So, in lieu of actual voodoo dolls and actual pins, I'm going to air my grievances, even though it's not the 23rd of December yet.

1) One of the people running for supervisor in my town posted a "oh how wonderful you are" comment on Facebook, that included "Kudos to you and the minions of special people who helped you." I restrained from public comment, but I did send her a private message:

you maybe didn't want to call [the] book fest helpers "minions" - it has a rather negative connotation:
nonn: minion
plural noun: minions
1. a follower or underling of a powerful person, esp. a servile or unimportant one.
synonyms: henchman, flunky, hanger-on, follower, servant, hireling, vassal, stooge, toady, sycophant

She had the courtesy to thank me for the correction. But does no one know what a minion is, because Despicable Me sowed confusion?

2) Tutoring comes up as an issue in our school system all the time. Sometimes it seems like every single kid in town has a tutor, just because their parents are Strivy McStriverpantsers. I totally understand that there are times when a kid needs to be tutored. But I got in the middle of a Facebook discussion (on a private local page) about tutoring / bad teacher / not enough tutors - where a teacher seems to be so bad that every kid in the class has a tutor. And I gently suggested to one of the school board members, who frequents that group, that she relay the conversation to the superintendent and the rest of the school board. Her response?

It is not a best practice for board members to report a conversations that happen on FB. It becomes here say. If there are issues with a teacher, the best course is to discuss it with a counselor at that particular school. If that does not provide an answer than please make an appointment to speak to the principals.

Multiple errors in her few sentences, but "here say"? That sent me over the edge. I made sure to work "hearsay" into the email I sent off to the superintendent, to which I had a thoroughly unsatisfactory response.

3) The almost ten year old has been learning about landforms in social studies - like archipelago and delta and isthmus and peninsula. And part of the work has been to describe the way in which a particular landform affects the people. But she keeps using "effect" when she should be using "affect". And maybe vice versa. And then I found that another of the teachers on the team (her math teacher, who teaches social studies to a different group) had used "effect" incorrectly in her posted homework:

"Social Studies: Finish first 3 landforms: archipelago, delta, plateau (name, picture, definition, and how it effects the people who live near that landform)"

I queried my Facebook friends, and they were about equally divided as to whether or not I should call the teacher on it. I decided against it, partly because technically the teacher who made the mistake isn't my kid's teacher for that subject. But the kid keeps making the same mistake, and got all defensive and said "my teacher didn't say anything" when I tried to talk it through with her. Now, maybe I'm just being a stickler, but this is annoying the hell out of me, so I did send the actual teacher an email today, putting all the onus on the kid and wondering whether fifth grade was just too young to finesse something as delicate as affect vs. effect.


What's annoying you? Air your grievances. It lets you let them go.


06 October 2013

Weather System

It started in my shoulder, crept up through my neck and settled into my head - a dark cloud encompassing two thirds of my grey matter.

I need an ambulance; no sirens please.

A cop and four other men clattered into the house, and bundled me out. The thing about living in a small town with a volunteer ambulance corps? We knew most of them. The father of one of my girl's classmates held my hand as we bumped down the state road that needs repaving. He assured me that the ride would be bumpy even if the road was as smooth as silk.

In retrospect, it seems crazy, going off to the hospital like that. But one minute I was calmly brushing my teeth, and the next I was hyperventilating from the pain, a headache like none I've ever had before. In short order, I had dilaudid, a CT scan of my head, an MRA of my neck, and a spinal tap. Nothing, nothing and nothing, except for some drug induced loopiness.

Please, take a picture of that sign; I'll know you love me if you do.

I'm still fascinated by that sign. My knowledge of Spanish extends to my (inadequate) ability to read ads on the NYC subway. Why is there only one Spanish word? Vocera = Spokeswoman. Said spokeswoman, the MRI tech, was all alone in the MRI suite. She was as fascinating as the sign: a pale, golden-tressed pre-Raphaelite maiden, consorting with her chirping whirring clanking dæmon.

Sometime in the middle of the night, there was a commotion in the ER: a stabbing victim. They packed him off to another hospital, the county hospital that's equipped for that kind of trauma.

Eventually they sent me home with a script for Fioricet, and instructions to follow up with a neurologist. As the Filipino transporter wheeled me out to the sidewalk, she spoke to the three men waiting in the lobby. He's not here, they sent him to the other hospital, he's not here. No one had told the friends, the ones who brought him in by car, that the stabbing victim had been moved down county. They got up and shuffled off; I went home and went to bed.

I spent most of Monday asleep, having gotten no sleep in the ER. At some point during the day, I emailed the office.

Hi. I believe I've been run over by a truck. But I'm not dead, so there's that. I think maybe you should look into choreographing to the noise of the MRI machine. It wouldn't be for kids though. Too hard to count.

And I found my jewelry on my bedside table.

I dimly recall taking off my jewelry before the MRI but I didn't know that the nurse had handed my husband a little ziploc specimen bag for storage.

I did feel well enough well enough to take a short walk in the late afternoon, and to eat dinner, before heading back to bed at about seven.

Oh my god the pain. I burst into tears at the breakfast table and went back to bed, in too much agony to even drink the coffee with the caffeine that might have, should have, helped. My husband called the neurologist and, happily, got me an appointment shortly after lunch. The neurologist called it a spinal headache, pressure gradiant, and sent me back to the ER, because the pain management doctor had gone home sick.

I emailed a few people.
In the department of things I really didn't want to be doing on a Tuesday afternoon I am back in the ER waiting for the on call anesthesiologist to come and give me a blood patch because I have a spinal headache from the lumbar puncture I had the other day.

I did the worst crossword puzzle I've ever seen.

Clue: full of elms
Answer: ELMY 
Clue: telephone
Answer: TEL

Yes, it wasn't the New York Times.

Two liters of saline (along with dilaudid and toradol) helped enormously; I was able to walk out of the hospital with the spinal headache about 80% abated - and without having the blood patch.

It didn't last. By breakfast, the vertically induced headache was back. But the pain management doctor could see me at 2:00, for a blood patch. A blood patch is bizarre. On the one hand, it seems positively medieval - on the order of leeches and blood letting. On the other hand, miracles of modern technology. An x-ray guided needle is placed in the spine, near where the spinal tap went in. Then, and only then, fresh blood is drawn from a vein in my hand and immediately injected into the spine. A half hour later? The blood clots and seals the hole where the cerebrospinal fluid has been leaking. Magic.

I emailed the office again.
I am home and the blood patch seems to have worked. I am a little loopy and my back is sore but, barring any unpleasantness, I expect to be in the office tomorrow.

It has been a long week.

02 October 2013

The Jungle Books

It's funny, synchronicity. You decide to read a book, and then another falls in your lap, and they're both about the jungle.

If it hadn't been for Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, which I loved, I'd never have heard of the anti-malaria drug Lariam, the side effects of which are a recurring thread through out the book. So I wouldn't have been so fascinated by an op-ed piece in the Times about Lariam, which appeared right after I'd finished the book. And if I hadn't first read State of Wonder, set largely on the Amazon in Brazil, would Ingrid Betancourt's Even Silence Has an End - set in the Colombian jungle - been as interesting? Actually, it's kind of long-winded, and not a little tedious, so much so that I almost ditched it halfway through. I was this close to leaving it in the laundry room/swap shack at our Cape Cod vacation rental, but instead I took it home and finished it. And frankly, I was really moved by the end, even almost a little weepy when Betancourt finally gets rescued from the FARC. More than six years in captivity? Emerging from that largely intact, physically and mentally, is a feat.

But still. What's the likelihood of reading two books about the jungle just coincidentally?

And who was the father of Dr. Swenson's baby anyway?