Microsoft Word

I just need to vent.

First, I took the day off from work today. Why? Because I have a 10,000 word team essay to wrap up. Boy, it will be nice to one day use my vacation time for…vacation.

As I edit the parts of my teammates—and I actually have an excellent team for this class—I am once again amazed that people can have business careers and be at the end of their undergrad degrees and still not know the ins and outs of MS Office products. It boggles the mind!

I have seen people enter manual line breaks to add an extra space between lines instead of changing the paragraph setting to double spacing! I have seen people tapping their space bar five times to indent a paragraph rather than setting a tab! What kills me is the references page: does no one know how to use a hanging indent? SERIOUSLY!? Trust me, MS Word can be your friend.

This is stuff I learned in middle school. Maybe I was just geeky and had nothing better to do with my time, but still! I will have you know that I placed in FBLA competition for word processing in 11th grade! Third in state! I take this stuff pretty seriously! (By the way, I have not achieved a major accomplishment since getting my little plaque and pin in 1998. The glory days…)

And I’ve Been Doing So Well!

This year, I have decided to stop rebelling against the advice of doctors and have modified my activities to keep the Gods of Pain mollified. As such, I have been able to keep myself comfortable on the less potent, non-narcotic drug over the past several months. It’s been great! I don’t know if any of you have had to use a scheduled narcotic on a regular basis, but it makes the tummy unhappy after only a few days. Then it’s a lesser of two evils thing: deal with the pain, or spend the night kneeling on the bathroom floor? I usually choose the first and supplement with adult beverages to take the edge off. It’s truly amazing that I’ve managed to get an A in every class throughout my undergrad program considering I’ve been decently buzzed while writing many of my papers.

This was all until I stopped trying to pretend that there is nothing wrong with me. I have now accepted that just because I can’t do what everybody else does, I am not a failure. I think of myself a decade ago, and I don’t think I would have cared about physical activity at all. I would have been happy to play the victim, so I should be grateful that my idea of self worth and reliability has improved that much during my 20s!

Unfortunately, having relatively controllable pain this year has made me forget about all of the things that set off the beast. Nick entered a fun run yesterday, and I went along to watch. I would rather run in private without the fanfare which I find nerve-wracking and stressful (plus, the tee shirts from this particular race are extremely ugly), so I did not participate myself. But I did find myself standing for over two hours.

Standing for more than 30 minutes is a big no-no in my world, because it puts pressure on my already over-emphasized lumbar curve. Our modern world makes this one an easy thing to avoid. I forget about it—until it’s too late, that is.

The folks at the pain clinic have suggested a surgery that may or may not help those silly facet joints, but I am not the fence about having it done. They use radio frequency waves to burn away the nerves surrounding the fussy facets, which they would also like to do with the SI joints eventually, but they will only do one side at a time (as Nick would say, I’m just really “mucked” up). I have been warned that the recovery is awful because all of the surrounding nerves go a little haywire. The burned nerves regrow in six months to a year, and the fresh nerves may be pain free or they may be nastier than they were to begin with.

Part of me thinks that I have to try because the improvement to my (and by association, Nick’s) quality of life would be immeasurable if it worked. But I am afraid of the worst case scenario: the discomfort being worse than it was to begin with. At least right now, I tolerate things relatively well (with the aforementioned adult beverages). I’ll consider making a decision next year, perhaps.

I have decided that it’s just this weekend that I need to avoid! It was this weekend four years ago that I got that first MRI, spent a night in the emergency room to get a CT scan, and got an open-ended ticket to visit UW Hospital. It was this weekend in 2008 that I confronted the fact that the pain didn’t go away like it was supposed to, and my surgeon ordered a follow up MRI…a battle between HMOs ensued, but really I just needed someone (from any ol’ HMO) to tell me that I wasn’t going to die any time soon because that’s what I feared the most. And, it was this weekend last year that I screwed my back up so royally that I spent all of August with a TENS unit strapped to my waist, whimpering when I had to take it off to shower. I wish electricity and water played nicer together!

So, the end of July/beginning of August is just a tenuous time in the life of my low back. I am sitting here doing homework while Nick is out paddling. I need to stay relatively “with it” because I need to pick him up once he reaches the end and take him back to his vehicle. My old buddy the TENS unit is keeping me company, and I am hoping that if I keep doing the exercises from physical therapy over and over again, this will pass quickly.

I was scouring the almighty Internet to find a visual aid for excessive lumbar lordosis for you, and I came across this link. This link says that in some cultures, this is considered an attractive trait—hah! You just ask Nick how attractive it is seeing your significant other stuff ice packs down her pants! The real thing will have to do (below). What, doesn’t everybody have an X-Ray of their back sitting around the house?

I no longer consider it a compliment when someone makes a comment about my posture—it’s not me, it’s my spine! Genetic malformation that hampers my independence! Sexxxxxy!

Back in my day…

Had to share, because I felt my advancing age the other day.

I have a Blackberry. I love it in an ungodly way that no one should love an inanimate object. I never thought I would enjoy a smart phone, never thought I would use a data plan, just never thought…

Then I had a moment, shortly after getting my phone wherein someone questioned one of those useless little facts I kept in my head. Instead of spending an afternoon arguing my case, probably becoming more inebriated and less convincing as the minutes ticked by, I pulled out my phone and looked it up. Dude, it was super sweet.

The Blackberry came with a one gigabyte micro SD card. A gig is a lot of space, right? I remember when I bought my first laptop, lovingly known as the brick, back in 2000. I paid $3,500 for a computer with a six gig hard drive, knowing that no one could ever possibly use six whole gigabytes in their lifetime. Then I discovered Napster (which at the time was still legal).

So, the standards for storage have changed over the years, needless to say. I remember one of my digital cameras from 2005, another brickish device (particularly for being a point-and-shoot). For a really nice just-because gift, Miles bought me a ONE GIGABYTE COMPACT FLASH CARD…holy moly! That sucker was over $100! I remember a conversation with a support rep from Kodak wherein he strongly disapproved of such a large storage card because!-because!-because what if the data became corrupted!? Think of all you’d lose! You stupid camera user! I remember thinking, “Yeah, whatever. Just tell me what’s wrong with my camera.”

Now we’re in an age where a gig comes standard with your phone, and the card is like an eighth the size of a compact flash card. Well, my gig filled up fast with pictures, applications, and music files. I needed an upgrade. I scoured the Internet and found an eight gig micro SD card for like seven dollars. SEVEN DOLLARS. EIGHT GIGABYTES. Madness I say, Madness! With shipping included, I had another seven gigs to play with for like thirteen bucks.

It’s mind boggling, really. I also notice that I call flash/thumb drives JumpDrives, because that’s how I was first exposed to them (I splurged and purchased the 256 mb back in the day!). People look at me like I’m talking gibberish. I’m getting old. I’m not cool anymore…luckily, I don’t think that I ever was, so it’s not a big loss.

Rhythm & Booms 2010

Saturday was the annual Rhythm and Booms event at Warner Park. This is a fireworks show set to music, and I remember watching it as a kid from my family’s property, sitting in the back of the minivan with the radio blaring. Aunt Debbie and Brenda would come over too, and we loved it. I remember one year, Brenda popped a paper grocery bag full of popcorn for us to eat, and I exclaimed, “Look, Mom! REAL popcorn!” I remember Brenda looking at me with a quizzical brow, as if to say, “Well what other kind of popcorn is there?” Microwaveable, of course. Charlie and I didn’t get out much. Watching the bag of popcorn dance in the microwave was exciting stuff.

I even made an effort to watch the show just days after I moved back to Wisconsin in 2005. Even so, I had never actually gone to Warner Park to see the show live. Until Nick. It was important to him to show me Rhythm and Booms live in 2006. We have gone together every year since, and I have come to look forward to a day sprawled on a blanket beneath the sun, spending the afternoon reading, and playing epic rounds of Yahtzee. We don’t often take the time in our busy lives to slow down and just relax.

I find it funny that regardless of what we do together, we always end up with a series of shots that look like this:

The park became crowded as the sun mellowed. The family in front of us gave me and Nick glow sticks. Nick tried to be all cavalier and politely decline. You go on and keep your glow sticks, ma’am. We can manage. But only, midway, he turned to me with a childlike grin and turned back to the woman and thanked her, reaching eagerly for the new toy. Really, when doesn’t a glow stick make everything like ten times better?

The show starts with the National Anthem, and red fireworks illuminate the sky at “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” and I can’t help myself. I get choked up every time. During the day, Nick shared with me that Men’s Health ranked Madison, WI as the tenth most patriotic city in the country. Go Madisonians! Appreciate your soldiers!

After the anthem concludes, the sound of F-16s pierce the night air as they fly overhead.

It was a really nice day, and we made excellent time getting home. Thanks to Nick’s suggestion, I was cozy in my sweatshirt and pants while I watched the fireworks, though I am sure I looked like Nanook of the North to all the teens in their sad little string bikinis and so not-there shorts…but who was more comfortable? I think I’ve made my point. More pictures below (including a poodle that caught Nick’s attention…probably because it was wrapped in glow sticks).


Do you ever have those experiences where the beauty of the moment overtakes you?

In ways, I suppose that I have been blessed to experience losing a loved one at an age where I could both understand what was happening and appreciate the limits of mortality. I have also had time to think of my own life and the ugly possibilities that my own health may hold. I have come to a level of acceptance with uncertainty, but my experiences have me feeling a very wide range of emotions. I try not to take anything for granted, but sometimes I wonder if my strong emotions are actually going to be the end of me.

I seem to be hit with these moments a lot lately. My mother taught me from an early age to appreciate my own life, the stories that everyone plays out, and the richness of our surroundings. I think that many of these reminders, often accompanied by tears, are the result of getting ready for our wedding.

I have a friend at work who also lost her mother to Cancer. She read somewhere that when you dream of a lost loved one, it’s really them just stopping by for a visit. I remember after my first big surgery in 2006, I had a surreal experience one night. I had bad night sweats as a result of the infection and fever, and I would often wake miserable and uncomfortable in the dead of the night.

One of those long nights, I awoke for a different reason—it was so bright. Yet, when I opened my eyes, the room was pitch black. The moon was not even out. Nick was sleeping quietly by my side; it was just me and the dark stillness. I closed my eyes again, and the lights nearly blinded me. I opened my eyes quickly…darkness again. My heart racing, I tried to comprehend what was happening. I was afraid.

I decided to be brave and close my eyes again. Maybe I was going crazy, or maybe there was something else wrong with me, but my curiosity was beginning to build. The light was still there, behind my eyelids. I turned my head into my pillow and noticed that my cheek was wet with tears that I did not know I had cried. And then I heard her voice, Mom’s voice, singing the song she sang to me as a child:

Where are you going my little one, little one?
Where are you going my baby my own?
Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door.

And I knew then that your loved ones never leave you completely.
I had a similar experience two weeks ago when I bought my wedding dress. I was thrilled with the experience and excited that all of the planning was nearly complete, but that night the melancholy hit.

That night, I found the brilliant light again when I closed my eyes. I can’t believe that she has been gone four and a half years and I can still remember her voice so clearly. I feared at first that I would forget everything, that I would not be able to preserve the memory of her. There’s a lesson in that: the heart can hold on indefinitely.

I walk outside and the gentle July breeze plays with my hair. The sun warms my skin as I breathe in the scent of honeysuckle. The birds chatter amongst themselves in a conversation of song, and I close my eyes. The light is there. I love this time of year, when everything is so alive and at its prime. Our world is beautiful in spite of the hardships we face. Enjoy today and appreciate its splendor. You’ll find it’s difficult to stay down in the midst of such joy.