Thursday, June 28, 2007

We have a winner

I'm pleased to announce that my very dear friend Amy, who lives in Missouri, has named the lions, who live in my back yard. For this, Amy should keep an eye on her mailbox, because very soon she will receive a "rockin lion guitar pick pendant," which I just purchased off Etsy. Etsy is a cool site my friend Robyn turned me on to, and it's full of lovely handmade things. I picked this trinket for Amy because she plays guitar and she named my lions. I TOLD YOU THE PRIZE WOULD BE APPROPRIATE! Do you know how rare a "rockin lion guitar pick pendant is"? You wear that baby proudly, Amy! And thanks for naming my lions.

I'll let Amy tell you her idea in her own words:

"I think you should name your two lions after Gog and Magog, the porcelain dogs on either side of the hearth in the "Anne of Green Gables" series.They always stuck in my mind for some reason, and I thought, "Maybe someday I'll have a Gog and Magog of some sort." Your lions are perfect. (Of course, there is actually some fairly frightening imagery regarding a Gog and Magog in the Bible, but as far as I can tell, no one has really been able to tell what it means!) In case this does not ring a bell, here's the reference from the book (yes, I'm a huge nerd!):"

From "Anne of the Island," chapter 10, "Patty's Place":

The girls rang rather timidly, and were admitted by a grim and ancient handmaiden. The door opened directly into a large living-room, where by a cheery little fire sat two other ladies, both of whom were also grim and ancient. Except that one looked to be about seventy and the other fifty, there seemed little difference between them. Each had amazingly big, light-blue eyes behind steel-rimmed spectacles; each wore a cap and a gray shawl; each was knitting without haste and without rest; each rocked placidly and looked at the girls without speaking; and just behind each sat a large white china dog, with round green spots all over it, a green nose and green ears. Those dogs captured Anne's fancy on the spot; they seemed like the twin guardian deities of Patty's Place.

(The girls agree to rent the house while the ladies go abroad)

"Will you leave the china dogs?" asked Anne timidly.
"Would you like me to?"
"Oh, indeed, yes. They are delightful."
A pleased expression came into Miss Patty's face.
"I think a great deal of those dogs," she said proudly. "They are over a hundred years old, and they have sat on either side of this fireplace ever since my brother Aaron brought them from London fifty years ago."

"I shall leave the dogs where they are, if you will promise to be very careful of them," she said. "Their names are Gog and Magog. Gog looks to the right and Magog to the left."

So named are my lions. Now, a couple of updates on my other mystery, the snail-shell thing in our laundry room. First of all, my husband points out that it is not a snail at all, but rather a "mollusk with a pretentious name," otherwise known as a "chambered nautilus." Does that help? No. But it's good trivia. Also, that photo I posted might make the little panel seem bigger than it really is. It's about the size of my hand, or even smaller. It is very firmly attached to the wall, and that space between the front of the panel and the back isn't very big at all. You can't push anything, swivel anything, or move any part of it. But it's not exactly, you know, cute. So it definitely seems like it has an actual purpose, as opposed to being decorative. What the hell is this thing?!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Also known as "charm"

I suppose a house built way back in 1916 is bound to have developed some unusual features by the time it's nine decades old. Ours has several notable peculiarities. Have a look:


It is kind of hard to see in the photo, but I'll try to explain. So, to get to our bathroom, you walk through this little hallway. Only it's not so much a hall as it is, well, a square. It's a squareway! First you walk through one doorway, and then right in front of you is the bathroom door, and to your left is a door to the second bedroom. So it's a square room, with no windows and no real place to put anything, but it has three doors. It's, like, our very own Winchester Mystery House room!


Leading out to the backyard is a little patio area, and guarding the steps down into the grass are these great lion statues. They are among my very favorite things about this house, which might be weird since they both grimace rather grotesquely. They also raise a paw like they are about to claw out one of your eyeballs. I would like to give names to these big kitties, but I can't think of anything that isn't stupid. If you have a clever idea, I'll send you an appropriate prize!


This one really puzzles me. It's a small piece of wood attached to the wall above the utility sink in the laundry room. There's a little space between the front part of the panel and the back piece, like maybe it is supposed to hold something, but I can't figure out what or how. There's also a picture of a snail on the front. I e-mailed the previous owner to see if she knew what it was, and she replied: "that little wooden snail hanging on the wall? it came with the house. i have no idea what it is. it might be covering something up... perhaps you could give him a name. if it is, and i am not saying it IS, some sort of snail god/totem/protector used to ward off snails, it works like a charm. i have never seen a snail in the house. of course, my dogs could have eaten them and never told me. ew." But seriously, what is this cottonpickin' thing for? If you know, another prize, even more valuable than the first, will be yours!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

King of his castle

Greetings from Casa de Chickenbone! Can you see the joy on this dog's face? In that picture up there, he's sunbathing in front of the garage, one of his new favorite pastimes. His other new hobbies include terrorizing the mailman, trying to catch flies with his tongue, and staring thoughtfully out the big picture window in the living room.

Yes, except for a slowly shrinking mountain of boxes in the dining room, our moving process is over at last. And what did we learn? That even if you pay people to do the heavy lifting for you, packing and moving is still the sucks. Of course, we took some steps to ease the pain.

Now we're home. And I'm not going to lie to you, it's kinda weird. Like, sometimes I bellow Sal's name, and he can't even hear me. Because he's THREE ROOMS AWAY. And there are all these doors to worry about opening and closing and locking. And, like, someone needs to mow that lawn. And the way we lose things in this place! Oh my god! It's like a black hole for car keys and cell phones and little red dogs with curly tails.

But we're adjusting. The first time I called to order pizza and was asked "Is that a house or an apartment?" I shrieked "IT'S A HOUSE!" But a few minutes ago when I had to answer that question again, I barely even chortled.

I'm on vacation this week, which means I don't shower and I drink beer all day. Of course, that combination perfectly matches my new hobbies of teetering on ladders with a screwdriver dangling out of my mouth and killing bugs with my bare hands. I'm not kidding, when you move into a house for the first time, you grow some BALLS. My First Real Home Project is the closet in the master bedroom. (Or maybe I should just call it the closet, seeing as how it's the only one in the house.) So if it's going to be our only closet, it damned well better be a good one, which it surely was not when we moved in. There were three pathetic little white shelves, one rung that was too high for me to actually hang clothes on, and the remnants of at least two older shelving units still jutting out of the walls. I spent Monday digging those old bolts and pieces of cruddy plastic out of the walls, and I spent Tuesday spackling dozens of holes and cracks. Wednesday I painted, and this weekend Sal is going to install a sparkly new shelving system the likes of which this old house has never seen.

And all the while, we celebrate. One of my favorite things about moving into this house is the endless stream of friends and family dropping by for a visit. Having people over to the condo was a pain, because guests had to deal with parking meters, gates and callboxes. Now they ring our doorbell and walk inside. We have had delicious dinners, sweet desserts, and lots of cold beer and champagne toasts on the back patio. The celebration is so delightful nobody even seems to notice I have paint in my hair.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Time to go

After many weeks of wringing my hands, pacing my floors and bracing myself for the last-minute snag that would unravel the dream, it is official: We really and truly have our house.

Sal picked up the keys Thursday afternoon and headed over with Chickenbone for a look. Unfortunately, because I was submerged in finishing a huge project at work, I had to miss the very first turning of the lock and creaking open of the front door. I also missed the dog's first poop, which I'm told occurred on the pavement of the driveway, despite the grass, dirt and woodchips in HIS VERY OWN BACK YARD, the back yard mom and dad were certain he'd love to poop in. Chickenbone, he's so urban.

But I joined the party right after work and spent a good half hour walking through the empty rooms, opening all the cupboards and drawers, flipping light switches on and off. We found a six-pack of Gordon Biersch in the fridge (a little housewarming gift from our real-estate agent) so we cracked open two bottles and sat on our front porch, basking in homeownership until the sun went down. Bliss.

Now comes the last hard part, packing, moving, unpacking. I think we plan to disassemble the home computer tomorrow, and I hope to christ I can limit my time at the office this week, so I might not be doing much in this space for a few days. But that does not mean, teeny little blog audience, that I won't be thinking of you.

"Flagpole Sitta"

We don't have this much fun at my office.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

When you care enough

My lovely friend Beth sent me this link to some truly knee-slapping e-cards. I think you'd enjoy browsing through them.

Today, this one feels appropriate.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

You are very nice people

I really appreciate all the kind wishes, notes, flowers and even your jokes. Because honestly, how can we NOT joke about this, at least a little. Of course, it's easier for me to see it that way, now that my ice-pick-through-the-brain headache is beginning to subside. It has been nearly 24 hours since I had pain in my head, and I am so elated about that I could do cartwheels. But I won't, because I don't want to re-spring my spinal leak. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for reading my blog and for being such warm and funny friends.

Friday, June 1, 2007

My graphic content

I'm afraid I had planned an entirely different topic for this post-Memorial Day weekend update. I had hoped to write about dressing like a pirate Friday for a "Pirates of the Caribbean" party. And going to San Francisco with my husband, where we attended a three-day James Bond film festival at the Castro Theater.

Instead, I am forced to write about diarrhea, blood and vomit. Sometimes mixed together, sometimes not. Proceed if you like, or, you know, just sit this one out. I understand completely.

I'm 99 percent sure I know where it all went so terribly wrong. It was an evil little burger joint near the theater. We were hungry when we got to SF, and through the window we saw the ground beef cooking over the flames of a carousel grill. Mouthwatering. Sal ordered a cheeseburger, and I had the same, but with mushrooms. It looked like they were cooking up fresh mushrooms, so I was surprised when they tasted like absolute shit. On a burger that, coincidentally, also tasted like shit. I was hungry, so I tried to keep eating it, but it was just so gross. I even told Sal, "These mushrooms, they taste funny." I only ended up eating about half, and if me not polishing off an actual cheeseburger doesn't tell you something was SERIOUSLY wrong with that food, I don't know what will.

But evidently half is all it takes, since an hour later as settled in for the first 007 movie, the shakes set in. I shook so bad my teeth chattered. I don't know that I have ever felt so unreasonably cold. A cold that hurt my very bones. I bought some tea in the lobby and that helped a little, but then I felt cramping and a really uncomfortable backache. Later that night at the hotel, I had the first -- but holy mother of god, by no means the last -- bout of diarrhea. The next two days were a blur of stomach cramps, burning fever, nausea, back and neck aches, and SWEET JESUS THE DIARRHEA. Sunday night I didn't fall asleep until 4:30 in the morning because it just wouldn't stop.

That was also the night I vomited. You see, because the sickness sort of ebbed and flowed, Sal and I enjoyed a brief respite early that evening when I was starting to feel like maybe I had shrugged it all off. The hotel we stayed at had this awesome soul food restaurant, so we had a couple cocktails at the bar there and then feasted on dinner. I had a bowl of gumbo, a piece of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and some jalapeno cornbread with butter. I'm telling you these items now, because you'll see them again later in the story. (HA! Get it?!)

Anyway, as we waited for the check, I started to tank again. My forehead was getting hot, and I was feeling kind of queasy. By the time we got back to our room, the chills were back in full force. I got in my pajamas and under the covers but was still shivering with cold. Sweet Sal gave me his coat to wear, and then he took off his socks and put them over my shaking hands. Does that sound gross? It wasn't. I probably would have put his underwear on my head if I thought it would warm me up at all. I got in bed and shook and shook and shook. I couldn't sleep because my body ached too much. Plus I kept having to get up and go to the bathroom. At around 1:30 I felt a burbling in my tummy and I lunged for the toilet, where I tossed my cookies so violently that it set off a fresh set of stomach cramps, which in turn set off some more diarrhea. (And by the way, the way I am so freely discussing this very personal sort of subject with everyone should tell you JUST HOW MUCH diarrhea I have had in the past six days. Like, the word means nothing to me anymore. Diarrhea. Diarrhea. I have it. I don't care. Diarrhea. See? I am completely at one with diarrhea.)

I felt no better when we got home Monday night. Went to bed early with another fever, and more of these unholy stomach cramps that at this point are so painful they bring tears to my eyes. I get up every hour to have diarrhea. At around 4:30 a.m., I'm on the toilet and the cramps are actually making me dizzy. I see black spots on the bathroom wall. I stand up and when I turn around to flush, I look down and gasped. Blood. BLOOD IN THE TOILET.

The room begins to spin, and I run wailing into the bedroom where I shake Sal awake. I slump down on the floor and bury my face in my hands. "Baby," I sputter. "I need you to go, right now, into THAT BATHROOM, and look in the toilet, and tell me whether that is BLOOD, or GATORADE." You see, in my addled state, I really thought it could just be all the fluids I was using to keep myself hydrated. And the moment I got home that night I started slugging fruit punch Gatorade. And, like, OF COURSE that could come out my ass. I haven't peed in two days because my body has turned into some sort of freaky one-lane funnel! EVERYTHING comes out my ass now! But Sal - who I'm sure never felt more like a husband than the moment his wife demanded he go inspect her poop for blood - agreed with my first assessment. Which panicked me all the more. We considered going to the ER right away, but I was so, so exhausted. We agreed to lay down a little while to see if I could get some sleep. But at 7:30 a.m. I woke up and had the same thing all over again, so we headed to the hospital.

The ER nurse handed me a clipboard where I wrote down my symptoms. Diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, fever, sore back and neck. Before she even leads me out of the waiting room, she asks me to touch my chin to my chest. "Does that hurt?" Yeah, that hurts. I'm whisked to a special room where someone slaps a big red sign on the door. And the doctor rushes in wearing a mask. He tells me that because I have neck pain, they are worried I have spinal meningitis, and that he wants to do a lumbar puncture to rule it out. But then he goes on and on about how it's a risky procedure, invasive and painful, and it's up to me whether I want the test. I can't even believe we are having this conversation. We begin to quiz him on what, besides the neck pain, could indicate meningitis. And I keep bringing up the food poisoning. He waves that off. "The food poisoning, that is just a story. I deal with facts. The fact is that your neck hurts and we are concerned about meningitis." I'm like, "But didn't you see about the blood? The blood in my stool? Does THAT go with spinal meningitis?" No, he says. And then he goes on to suggest that I perhaps was just so incredibly unlucky that I ate the bad mushroom burger AT THE EXACT SAME TIME I caught myself a case of spinal meningitis. And then he told us a story about a boy who got spinal meningitis, and two days later, that boy died. This doctor, he's not so good at the bedside manner.

We agonize about it -- under the impatient glare of the doctor's eyes above his stupid mask -- for about a minute and a half and reluctantly decide to do it. After all, when I asked "Well, what if we DON'T do the test, then what?" the doctor's response was, "Well, I guess you could go home and come back when you get sicker!" He stalks off and I collapse in tears. All I wanted was for someone to fix my cramps and diarrhea, and his solution is to jam a giant needle into my spine? Why not jab my eyeballs while you're at it, doc?

The next hour is a whirl of masked medical people testing my blood and hooking me up to an IV and various other monitors. Then they wheel me away for a CT scan of my head, and when I'm done they put me in a different room. The Puncture Room. A nice man comes in and says he's going to be my coach, and they ask Sal to leave. Then Dr. Mean and his assistant had me scoot to the edge of the gurney and curl myself over into a C, so that my spine jutted out. As they are positioning me, I'm bawling and considering all the various ways this could go wrong. (For instance, what if I accidentally have diarrhea RIGHT WHEN THE NEEDLE PIERCES MY SPINE?!? And then I'll be covered in crap AND paralyzed forever!) My coach asks me if I want to hold his hand. Based on the way he rubbed his palm when the procedure was over, I'm wondering if he regretted that kind offer. But I was honestly so glad for him. He was so much nicer than the main doctor, and he kept patting me on the shoulder and telling me what a good job I was doing. So this Bud's for you, Mr. Lumbar Puncture Assistant Guy.

After it was over, I had to lay down flat on my back for an hour. They injected my IV with some morphine, which helped quite a bit. Then the door bursts open and the doctor says "Good news! You don't have meningitis!"

You don't say.

Then he says all sorts of wonderful things, like "Want to go home? Want some cramp medicine and then you can go home?" Um, yeah! All swell ideas! But then he comes over and starts pushing around on my belly. He frowns. Does it hurt here? Yes. How about here? Yes. And here? Doc, I have had almost nonstop stomach cramps for three days. I think my muscles hurt. But no, now the doctor is afraid it's appendicitis. He would like me to have a CT scan just to be sure. So back I go to X-ray, where they send me into the big white doughnut again. This time they did a dye contrast, so they shot some stuff into my IV that made my body feel like it filled up with warm water. And there was a weird metallic taste in my mouth. After the test, the X-ray tech pushes my gurney into the hallway and says "Someone'll be right here to get you." So I lay there and wait. And wait. And wait. Several people pass, but nobody even looks over at me. Nearly 15 minutes pass and I'm starting to get impatient. But I'm also high as a kite. So for a gag, I pulled the sheet up all the way over my head for awhile.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before someone rushed out to push me back to my room. About an hour later, the doctor comes in and chirps about how I don't have appendicitis. Then he goes, "But wow ... your colon! It's REEEEALLY inflamed! So I guess that goes along with your food poisoning story!" I tried to shoot him my best laser-beam death glare but I'm afraid I was too weak to do any damage. So I put my real clothes back on and went home.

I wish I could say the story ends there. But about an hour after I left the ER, an excruciating headache knocked me flat and it basically hasn't gone away. And that was four days ago. Yesterday I finally went to my real doctor, and he said he believes I'm leaking spinal fluid. (He said this after noting, with surprise, that I have three holes in my back instead of just one.) The cure for this, believe it or not, is to do ANOTHER LUMBAR PUNCTURE. Only instead of taking out some fluid, they would inject a little bit of my own blood to form a "patch" over the leak. You can probably imagine what I thought of this plan. So instead he gave me some lovely vicodin, and we're going to cross our fingers and hope my spinal hole heals itself over the weekend.

I will leave you with a little memento my husband grabbed that morning in the emergency room. While trying to cheer me up with jokes (like when I returned from the CT scan of my belly, asking me if the results showed that I "was fat" and "needed gastric bypass") he also thought it would be high comedy to snap a cell phone picture of me in my weakened condition. It is only now that I can admit he could have been right: