Dumped and Stumped

March 30, 2008

My relationship with my daughters has been good for so long now, I’d forgotten how much it hurts when something goes wrong. Last night was a painful reminder. Rebecca came over mid-afternoon to do some laundry. Daniel and I were cleaning the house. By 5:00, I had been on my feet for five hours, and was in a great deal of pain. But, because Rebecca said she was hungry, I offered to take her out for nachos. She said she wanted to finish her laundry and take a shower before we went out.

She wasn’t ready until 8:00 p.m. I was exhausted and hurting, but I hadn’t eaten anything all day (except for a few jellybeans), so I was pretty hungry. Plus, I didn’t want to let her down, so off we went. In the car, Rebecca asked if we could go somewhere else because she is trying to eat more healthfully, and wanted to get a salad instead of nachos.

I wasn’t thrilled with this change in plans because the nachos place is close to home, and I really wanted to wrap the day up as quickly as possible. Also, I was afraid there would be a wait at the restaurant she wanted to go to, since it was a Saturday night. Still, I agreed to go where she wanted.

As I had feared, there was a wait, but it only ended up being about 15 minutes. After we were seated, the waitress took our drink orders, and we were looking over the menu. It was then that Rebecca got a call from her boyfriend with the news that he had gotten out of work earlier than expected. (He’s a restaurant manager, and thought he’d be working until 10:00.)

When Rebecca got off the phone, she said, “Let’s go get him.” I looked at her in disbelief, and pointed out that we had just been seated, and it was now going on 8:30. It would take at least 40 minutes to pick him up and return to the restaurant. Rebecca’ eyes filled with tears and she said, “You don’t understand. I hardly ever get to see him” (because of the hours he works).

Of course, she sees me even less, but I do understand how she feels. She’s young and in love, and wants to be with her boyfriend as much as possible. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is the way she behaved when I told her that we could leave so she could go get him, but I wanted to go home. I was exhausted and in a great deal of pain, and hadn’t even wanted to go out in the first place. I did it for her. So, yes, my feelings were hurt, too.

I said I would tell the waitress something had come up, and we had to leave. Rebecca sulkily said that we should just go ahead and order. She said she didn’t feel right about ditching me. That’s all well and good, but I had lost my appetite, and there was no way I could bear to sit across from her knowing she didn’t want to be there, and was harboring resentment because I didn’t want to extend the evening long enough to go get her boyfriend. By now, I was near tears, myself.

I put money on the table to cover my soda (Rebecca was drinking water) and the tip, and got up to leave. I had to get out of there. Rebecca stayed to tell the waitress that we had to go because of an emergency.

We drove home in complete silence. She was very upset with me. After I waited three hours for her to be ready and then had to force myself to go even though I really didn’t want to. Then I relented when she wanted to switch restaurants. Finally, I had had enough, and wouldn’t agree to an additional change in plans – a change that would cause an increase in my pain and fatigue. How is it right that the blame for this fiasco was being placed at my feet? As Steve Martin used to say, “Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me.”

Right now, I have to get ready to go to a rummage sale at the Jewish Center with my mother.This evening, Daniel and I will be going out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. I hope we have a more pleasant experience than the one I had with Rebecca.

Song of the Day: Song For the Dumped by Ben Folds Five

During my research, I also discovered that Vitamin D helps regulate weight. Maybe the deficiency explains the 6 pounds I’ve managed to gain over the past couple of months…

LA mentioned Monavie. I’m still drinking it because it really helps with my knee pain and fatigue. (However, emotional exhaustion related to dealing with chronic pain is another story.) The problem is that I don’t always remember to drink it twice a day, and, on weekends, it slips my mind entirely. I really need to make sure that I remember to drink the juice routinely.

Chaosdaily asked about Calcium with Vitamin D supplements. I do take them, but, apparently, that’s not enough. And, yes LeAnn, I did have a bone scan a couple of years ago, which showed minimal bone loss. West Coast Diva – I’m taking the supplement in gel tab form. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to go for shots!

Sasha, I couldn’t find the entry I wrote the last time I had a Vitamin D deficiency, and I don’t remember whether or not the supplements made me feel better, but I do recall that the results of my blood work were much improved after the treatment. (By the way, the novel Sasha mentioned is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. She was kind enough to send the book to me, and I really enjoyed it.)

Carol, I remember when you wrote about your own Vitamin D deficiency. In fact, I thought of you after I got the call from the doctor’s office. And, Michael, I agree that even a partial answer is better then being left totally in the dark.

*Addendum to address recent comments about spending time in the sun: I walk home from work (at 2:00 when there is still plenty of daylight), so I do get quite a bit of sun.

Song of the Day: Shed a Little Light by James Taylor

D is For Duh

March 26, 2008

I received a call from my Primary Care Physician’s office this afternoon with the results of my blood work. It seems that I have a severe Vitamin D deficiency. This is the second time I’ve had that diagnosis. The treatment is 50,000 units of Vitamin D once a week for eight weeks.

I did some digging, and found that “one in four patients who suffer from chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D,” which leads researchers to conclude that “vitamin D deficiency possibly contributed to the patients’ ongoing pain.”

How about that…

Song of the Day: Be My D from Sesame Street

We had a very pleasant Easter dinner, especially when the check arrived. Rebecca’s boyfriend is a manager at the restaurant, and he gave us enough freebies to slash the bill in half. Not a bad deal.

After I post this quickie, I’m going back to bed just because I can. I love days off. With that in mind, I’ll spend the next couple of weeks looking forward to spring break, even though at least a few of those days off will be spent at doctor/dentist offices.

Work has become a real drag. That’s partly because of the tension in the building. Morale is at an all-time low, and I can’t help but be affected by that.

But mostly, it has to do with the increase in physical pain after a day at work. It saps me of all my strength and energy. Weekends have been pretty much lost to recuperating.

I’ve done very little in the way of having fun. It just hurts too much to make the effort. This past weekend was an exception because we had two extra days off. It makes such a difference.

I wish I could retire at 55 (as many people in school systems do), but a recent examination of my retirement benefits made it clear that I can’t afford to do that. After twenty years working for the district, I’d only get $8000 a year. To get double that, I’ll have to stay until I’m 64.  Even then, how am I supposed to live on that?? Sigh.

Song of the Day: When I’m Sixty Four by The Beatles

Losing My Marbles

March 22, 2008

When I got home from work on Thursday, there was a message on my answering machine from the orthopedic surgeon’s office letting me know that they had obtained authorization from my insurance company for the MRI. I immediately called the Imaging Center, and was very happy to hear that I could schedule an appointment for 6:15.

The timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have to take any more time off from work, for one thing. Also, transportation wouldn’t be a problem because Leigh and I would be out running errands, and she could drop me off at the Imaging Center when we were finished.

So, we ran our errands and were on our way to the Imaging Center when I realized that I couldn’t find the script with the doctor’s orders for the MRI. I frantically searched my pockets, purse, and the floor of Leigh’s car, but came up empty handed. All I can figure is that I must have dropped the script when I got out of the car somewhere along the line.

I’ve got so much on my mind, I’m finding it impossible to keep track of everything, and things like this are happening more and more frequently. I know I shouldn’t kick myself when I’m down, but I couldn’t help doing some name-calling and hurling insults in my own direction over this incident.

I called the Imaging Center and explained my dilemma. The appointment was rescheduled for 8:00 Monday morning, and I was advised to contact the orthopedic surgeon’s office to request that a copy of the orders be faxed to the Imaging Center. It was too late to do that on Thursday, so I made the call first thing Friday morning. Much to my dismay, I discovered that the office was closed for Good Friday.

I had to call the Imaging Center again to advise them of the latest development. The 8:00 am appointment for Monday had to be canceled, and I was given an appointment for later in the day. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the orthopedic surgeon’s office will be open on Monday, and I’ll be able to get the orders faxed before my appointment that afternoon. Let’s hope nothing else happens to mess things up. I don’t know if I can handle any additional obstacles.

On a more pleasant note – I had a very nice day off yesterday. It started with an adjustment at the chiropractor’s office. Thanks to my cousin, who offered to give me a ride since she goes for weekly adjustments herself, I will be able to see the chiropractor once a week.

After that, my cousin and I headed for Tarrytown to check out the Flying Fingers Yarn Shop. We had lunch at a really good Portuguese/Brazilian restaurant, and then treated ourselves to a cone of homemade toasted coconut ice cream before heading back home.

This morning, I’m going to breakfast with My Friend, and then we’ll hit Sam’s Club. All in all, it looks like it’s shaping up to be a pretty good weekend. If only this pain would take a hike, I’d be better able to enjoy the things I’ve been forcing myself to do, so as not to become a total recluse…

Happy Easter to those who celebrate the holiday.

Song of the Day: Losing My Mind by Maroon 5

I went back to the Orthopedic Surgeon today to review the results of the EMG and Nerve Conduction Studies. As it turns out, I do have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but it’s a relatively mild case, so, of course, there is – let’s all say it together – no treatment. Just more pain to bear without any relief in sight.

In reference to the god-awful pain in my right shoulder blade, Dr. Bones wants me to have an MRI. (This will be my 12th, I think.) He also mentioned pain management. We’ll re-open that discussion after the MRI.

Dr. Bones remarked that it’s a shame that there isn’t one doctor overseeing “the whole picture.” My primary care physician should be doing that, but:

1. He’s worthless.
2. He doesn’t get involved with Worker’s Comp cases, which means that my lower back problems are a taboo subject.

Anyway, Dr, Bones went on to speculate that, if one doctor was seeing me for all of my medical issues, more effective pain meds might be prescribed. Instead, I am seeing a variety of specialists, each one concentrating on a single area (without doing anything to actually treat any of the problems, I might add).

Not knowing what else to say, he advised me to listen to my body and limit my activities accordingly. He told me to avoid doing things that will exacerbate my pain, and try to get as much rest as possible.

That’s pretty much what I have been doing. Today, however, I followed the doctor’s advice by popping a Vicodin when I got home, and spending the next couple of hours in the kitchen cooking. I prepared three meals – a big pot of tomato sauce, Spanish chicken & rice, and kielbasa and cabbage. (I’ve given up on corned beef.)

Oh well, at least I won’t have to cook when I get home from work for a few days… I’m not going to cook on Easter, either. One holiday a year is more than enough for me.

We’re going to a restaurant, just like we did last year. (By the way, the student referenced in the latter part of that linked entry was sentenced today to 20 years to life in prison.)

I have a feeling this new tradition will continue in future years unless someone else offers to take over the hosting duties. I’m in too much pain to care one way or the other, as long as I don’t have to do it.

Song of the Day: Will It Go Round In Circles by Billy Preston

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

March 15, 2008

This past week, the daily essays from Simple Abundance A Day Book of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, have been about inner beauty, and making peace with our physical appearance. This excerpt from March 10th is from an essay titled, You Are Not Your Appearance, But Does the Rest of the World Know That?

The essay begins with this quote from Jessamyn West: “The tragedy of our time is that we are so eye centered, so appearance besotted.”

Breathnach writes, “Let’s consider those days when you just don’t give a damn or are too exhausted to remember to pick up a brush. Can we find inspiration in dirty jeans, an unwashed face, stringy hair? Can there be incarnational revelations when the skirt is too tight and the pantyhose pulls at your hips?

I hope so. For I know those days, and those days know me.”

Those days know me, too. The last few weekends have found me, for the most part, in slob mode. Some days, I haven’t bothered to shower or get dressed. Or, if I do get dressed, it’s in sweatpants and sweatshirt. Glamour has left the building. It’s all about the comfort, baby.

This passage, in particular, stuck a responsive chord, and is responsible for this entry.

“Unfortunately, our outside packaging counts for far more than it really should. Often, when we don’t live up to the world’s expectations of how we should look or behave, we fall victim to a vicious circle of self-loathing and denial that can be difficult to escape from unscathed.”

Back in the Dairy-x days (circa 2002) I wrote an entry based on “the world’s expectations of how we should look or behave.” For lack of anything better to offer, I’m going to re-post it here.

Body Language

So, Spice Girl, “Posh,” who up until a year or so ago feigned indignation over rumors of anorexia, finally admitted that she had an eating disorder. Well, no kidding. Did she really expect us to believe she looks this way naturally? And, while we’re at it, Lara Flynn Boyle should ‘fess up, too.

Many celebrities have publicly acknowledged their eating disorders. They include Princess Di, Tracey Gold, Elton John and the Barbi twins. Much is being done to educate people about the dangers of eating disorders, and to emphasize the importance of a healthier acceptance of our bodies, but we still have a long way to go.

Believe it or not, there are websites PROMOTING anorexia. Anorexic Annie thinks she is “grossly obese” at five foot three and one hundred ten pounds. She wants to look like R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe (!!!), and says she knows her life would be better if she “got rid of about thirty pounds and got down to eighty.” My heart breaks for this girl. And for all the other girls/women who want to look like Ichabod Crane.

I don’t get it. On second thought, maybe I do. We are under constant pressure to conform to an impossible image of what is beautiful. The standards we’re trying to live up to are unrealistic, unreasonable and unhealthy. Yet, we continue to starve ourselves.

I’ve been there and done that myself. Extreme dieting landed me in the hospital many years ago. When the doctor brought me the results of my blood work, he compared them to those of an Ethiopian. I was lucky. That was all it took to convince me to pick up my fork and resume eating. However, others are not so fortunate. Many victims of eating disorders suffer reduction of bone density and hair loss. They risk heart failure. Some of them die. (Karen Carpenter.)

I wish I could say that I’ve managed to develop a better body image over the years, but I haven’t. Nevertheless, because of my daughters, I make a real effort to not obsess about weight (aloud, at any rate). They see enough of that sort of thing outside the home.

Too often, I find myself having to perform damage control. At the beginning of last summer, my oldest daughter told me that when people see her in shorts, they comment on the size of her legs, and how they don’t match her slim upper body (poor kid is built like me). To add insult to injury, a friend’s mother is one of those who made an insulting remark.

Apparently, Mrs. Knucklehead was telling her daughter what nice, long legs she has, and then turned to Rebecca and told her that hers are fat. (This from a crackhead with no teeth! Please excuse my momentary lapse in tact. I’m only human.) I felt terrible, but all I could do was try to assure my daughter that she’s beautiful.

Of course, she doesn’t believe me. Because she carries a few extra pounds, she thinks she is unattractive, and that’s scary. It is also scary for me to consider my own hypocrisy. For, in spite of everything I know, and everything I’ve written here, I continue to be dissatisfied with my body. I need to practice what I preach and learn to feel good about myself from the inside. Unfortunately, self-acceptance is as bloody a battle as any I ever had with weight.

Song of the Day: Under Par by Thrice

“It’s my life!
you set the bar too high
your expectations have become my failure”


March 13, 2008

Yesterday was a very bad day. The unpleasantness started with the EMG and Nerve Conduction Studies. That test is gruesome. The technician hit a spot on the front of my neck that made my whole body jerk. But that was nothing compared to when he started digging into a muscle on the back of my neck with a needle. Boy, did that hurt.

I came home with EMG “tattoos” all over my arm (to mark areas for measurement). Here’s an example:

My day went from bad to worse later in the afternoon when I called Dial-A-Ride to make a reservation for transportation to the chiropractor’s office on the 26th. You might remember that, when I called D-A-R on the 7th, I was told that the bus only goes to that area on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. Consequently, I had to cancel and reschedule my appointments.

I mentioned that to the woman who answered my call yesterday, and she told me that I had been given incorrect information. According to her, the bus travels to that area Monday through Friday every week. After taking a few seconds to get over my astonishment, I told the woman that I would call back after contacting my chiropractor to schedule appointments for next week, since I don’t have to wait until the 26th.

I was able to get appointments for 3:00 on Tuesday and Friday, and called Dial-A-Ride back to make the reservations. This time, I spoke to Sandy. (I know her name because I asked her for it.) She told me that the only time I could get a ride on Tuesday would be at 1:00. I could feel my blood pressure rising, but managed to remain calm. Temporarily.

I explained to Sandy that I don’t get out of work until 2:00. She said there was nothing she could do, since reservations are made on a first come first served basis. I remarked it seemed to me that people with medical appointments should have priority over seniors needing a ride home from Kmart. Sandy came back with this derisive response: “We can’t call other people and tell them that we have to cancel their reservation because Stephanie B***** needs a ride. That wouldn’t be fair.”

Fair?? What about the fact that I first called to make these reservations weeks ago, but was given incorrect information that resulted in me having to cancel and reschedule my appointments, not to mention miss treatments? That’s what’s not fair.

I tried to tell Sandy that I would have had better luck with the first come first served policy if I hadn’t been given incorrect information when I called a couple of weeks ago. I made an attempt to point out that it was Dial-A-Ride’s error that caused me to miss out on being one of the elite “first served” group. But she wouldn’t listen to me. She wouldn’t let me speak. Every time I tried to get a word in, she raised her voice and talked over me.

Sandy’s sarcasm and raised voice were inappropriate and unprofessional. I wasn’t suggesting that anyone’s reservations should be canceled to make room for me. I was in pain and frustrated, and feeling helpless. I wanted somebody to help me. Instead, I was treated in an inexcusably rude manner. I will be writing a letter to the General Manager of Dial-A-Ride, and perhaps the County Executive, as well. (The service falls under his jurisdiction.)

After I got off the phone with Sandy, I had to perform the disagreeable task of calling the chiropractor’s office to once again cancel an appointment – one I had just made, no less – because of Dial-A-Ride. I was so shaken by my distasteful conversation with Sandy that I broke down on the phone while trying to explain the situation to the chiropractor’s receptionist. I was overwhelmed.

I still am.

P.S. I received the results of my thyroid ultrasound in the mail today: “Ultrasound of the thyroid showed a small cyst. For this, no treatment is necessary.”

No treatment. What else is new…

Song of the Day: Too Much to Handle by Looptroop

Every month, I submit a report to administration about computer lab usage. With last month’s report, I included a request that my observation be scheduled for this coming Thursday. That’s the day that My Friend’s English 11 classes start coming to the lab to work on their Personal Anthologies – a project that takes the place of a final exam.

I have been heavily involved with this project since its inception. (I even graded them from home last year when I was out on disability – out of boredom, and as a favor to My Friend.) A significant amount of time is spent preparing for the initial visit to the computer lab. I designed a packet on how to create a Works Cited page, and another one advising which online databases to use for each component of the Personal Anthology.

Requirements include a Table of Contents, a novel, two short stories, three poems, four articles (one magazine, one newspaper, one Internet and one Professional Journal), three visuals (one piece of artwork, one cartoon, one graph/chart), song lyrics, a movie and a Works Cited page. Each of the components has to relate to a theme of the student’s choosing.

This project has always been tough, but it is even more difficult now because most of the Internet has been blocked. Students only have access to the online databases and a handful of websites that have been deemed acceptable. Unfortunately, the available resources will not satisfy the requirements for the visuals, lyrics and movies. Students will have to search for those things from home if they have a computer, or go to the public library if they do not.

Anyway, the first computer lab lesson is the one I put my heart and soul into. I hand out the packets, and use an LCD projector to show the students how to search the databases, as well as how to identify the information that is necessary to build a Works Cited page. That is why I wanted to be observed on this particular day. No other Teaching Assistant in the building does anything even remotely similar to this.

Yesterday morning, the Assistant Principal in charge of Teaching Assistants informed me that “it’s not gonna happen.” He went on to explain that he has other observations scheduled for that day, and won’t be able to get to me for a few more weeks. My heart sank. In a few weeks, I won’t be doing anything that showcases my skills the way this lesson does.

It did make me feel good, though, when Mr. AP said that he liked that I showed initiative by contacting him in reference to scheduling my observation instead of waiting for him to get in touch with me. He said it was “proactive.” Still, that’s not going to do me a whole lot of good when it comes down to my actual observation. Sigh.

I’m considering preparing a list of the things I do that are not in my job description, such as copy editing the school newspaper every month. (That takes a long time, and I often work on it from home.) I also do a fair amount of proofreading for English teachers, especially letters of recommendation for students applying to colleges. This year, I’ve taken on an additional proofreading duty. Teachers are now sending students to me to look over their college essays. I don’t mind doing these things, but it would be nice to get some credit for them

I have a busy morning ahead of me. At 10:00, I’m scheduled for a one hour massage, thanks to the gift certificate I got for Christmas. Then, at 11:30, I have an appointment to have my hair colored and cut. The massage therapist works out of the beauty salon, so I’ll be there for a while.

When I get home, I have to work on our taxes. I used two different online services and came up with two significantly different results. So, I have to painstakingly go over everything to try to find where I might have made an error in entering information.

I was also supposed to go for blood work this morning, but when I checked the hours I saw that the lab doesn’t open until 8:00. I’ve been up since 5, and can’t go that long without coffee. I’m hoping the lab will be open on Good Friday so I can do it then. (There’s no school that day.)

Have a good weekend.

Song of the Day: The Observation by Donovan

Code a la Mode

March 7, 2008

Since Columbine, most (if not all) schools have emergency procedures in place for certain situations. At the school where I work, an administrator makes an announcement that Code blah blah blah is in effect. The announcement is supposed to include a level number to indicate which of three procedures we should follow.

Yesterday morning, Code blah blah blah was announced, but the administrator neglected to mention the level number, so we weren’t sure which procedure to follow. That could have been a costly omission. Fortunately, the situation wasn’t too dangerous.

Apparently, a couple of ninth grade girls went nuts in the hall when they were approached by a member of the security team and asked to present their hall passes. The girls ended up being arrested, and they fought and yelled their way out of the building and into police cars.

Speaking of police cars, quite a few of them showed up as a result of this disturbance. The kids in the computer lab were scared when they heard all the sirens and saw all those police cars pulling up in front of the building. It looked like something serious was going down.

To add to the tension in my room, I was not able to lock the door (which is a requirement of all levels of a lockdown.)

Let me explain. Over two months ago, the librarian gave my keys to her part-time assistant, thinking they were his. When he realized the keys didn’t belong to him, he gave them to the receptionist at the front desk in the main office.

I went to her to retrieve my keys, but she couldn’t remember what she had done with them. I have since spoken to the Principal’s secretary, the Principal herself, and the administrator in charge of Teaching Assistants multiple times. I have put my concerns in writing twice, pointing out the fact that this could be a security risk in the event of a lockdown.

Yesterday, I was proved right. This morning, I sent yet another memo to the Principal and two Assistant Principals, stressing the urgency of the situation, especially in light of yesterday’s lockdown. I made it clear that not being able to lock the door left everyone in the room in a vulnerable position.

This afternoon, the Principal delivered my keys to me. I find it interesting that a real effort to find the keys took place only after I pointed out that students were being placed at risk. Never mind the inconvenience this has caused me since December…

In other news, I went for my first appointment with a chiropractor yesterday afternoon. Dr. Bill practices Network Spinal Analysis, a gentle adjustment of the spine. (None of that cracking business.) My spine was way out of alignment – so much so that my right leg was 1 and ¼ inches shorter than the left. Dr. Bill did an adjustment, and both legs are now the same length.

The doc also said that a lot of my pain originates in my neck. I wasn’t surprised to hear that because an MRI I had a few years ago showed a bulging disc and nerve impingement in the cervical spine.

Anyway, Dr. Bill thinks that he can help me. I’m supposed to see him two or three times a week for a month. Unfortunately, I’ll only be able to see him on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month because those are the only days Dial-A-Ride goes to that area. A cab would cost $11 each way, plus tip. That would be almost $50 if I went twice a week as recommended.

There’s no way I can afford to spend that kind of money on taxi fare. It’s bad enough that my insurance doesn’t cover the visits. But, if the chiropractic care helps relieve my pain, it will be worth the expense. It’s too soon to tell, though. I’m still in a great deal of pain. But at least I have my keys back.

Song of the Day: Crack the Code by 311