31 July 2016

More Japanese Sweets From Okashi Connection

July marks two years subscribed to Okashi Connection's monthly Japanese box o' deliciousness and a few things have changed since we signed on, so I thought I should talk about it again.

First off, everything that's changed has changed for the better -- the boxes, now boldly colored and clearly branded, look very professional. The snacks seem bigger and better (not that they were ever paltry or unpalatable before) and, instead of logging into the Okashi Connection website for descriptions of items, a handy printed guide is included in each box. Okashi Connection has also added smaller and larger boxes to accommodate different size appetites/households. While these aren't substantial changes, they make the whole experience just that much nicer.


Despite the boxes coming directly from Japan -- eventually via the frequently ungentle hands of the United States Postal Service -- we've never had much of a problem with breakage. Chips, crackers, and other crispy snacks seem to survive their trip surprisingly well. It is the sweets that run into trouble. But, even then, not as much as I'd expect -- in the two years we've been subscribed, we've had only three or four sweets arrive melted and misshapen. Usually, the damage isn't so great we won't gamely try to eat the candy. However, in the case of this month's box, the watermelon gummies were just too tragic-looking to eat.


But everything else -- even the aerated chocolate panda -- is in good kip and looks delicious! Indeed, in some ways the steadily increasing "goodness" of the snacks is becoming a problem. In the beginning, the boxes were easy to split down "his" and "her" lines with The Husband, picky pants that he is, eschewing many snacks. More often now a box contains items we both want to eat and ... sometimes there is shouting and covert snacking (certain parties deny covert snacking, but I don't know what else could have happened to May's Pie No Mi Raspberry Cream Cheese pastries).

29 July 2016

Graphic Novel Round-Up

Quick round-up of trade collections I've read recently:



Ei8ht: Outcast written by Mike Johnson & Rafael Albuquerque & illus. by Rafael Albuquerque (Dark Horse Comics, 2015)
Man who is desperate to save his wife from the ravages of disease agrees to travel across space/time to The Meld, but when he gets there, he doesn't remember anything from before. And then he meets a girl and his memories start coming back. Does he know her? Will he know her? Oh, the timey-wimey of it all. Alas, the protagonist never developed for me -- found him consistently flat and uninteresting -- and much of the story felt like an unimaginative pastiche of science fiction elements. I guess I would best describe Ei8ht as a The Time Machine meets John Carter meets Mad Max mash-up with mad science, an intra-dimensional time-traveling Nazi, and dinosaurs. Looks like the next volume might have a Planet of the Apes vibe, too. Ehhh.

Groot written by Jeff Loveness & illus. by Brian Kesinger (Marvel Comics, 2016)
I know nothing about Groot except what I saw in Guardians of the Galaxy so I did not know what to expect from this trade but ... it is so astonishingly sweet and fun. I actually had tears in my eyes at the end. And all this caused by a hero whose only spoken line is "I am Groot." There's lots of references to other Marvel comics, many of which flew right over my head, but that didn't detract from the story at all! Essentially, a fun all-ages comic with colorful and frequently adorable illustrations and a strong "moral" story about friendship and being true to yourself.

Kaptara, Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien written by Chip Zdarsky & illus. by Kagan Mcleod (Image Comics, 2015
A space ship, on its way to Mars, encounters a strange anomaly which destroys the ship and manages, somehow, to deposit the crew's escape pods on the unknown planet, Kaptara. A planet that is a weird, frequently unfunny mash-up of Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats, and the Smurfs. The characters are largely one-dimensional and Keith, our protagonist, is a whiny git. The illustrative style is fun though, in an 80s-cartoons-on-acid way, and I enjoyed the look of the comic even if the story did nothing for me.

Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch et al (Titan Comics, 2015)
Have been meaning to read Aaronovitch's PC Peter Grant (Rivers of London, etc) series for a few years now, so was happy to grab what I thought was a graphic adaptation ... but it isn't. Body Work slots in between the novels Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer and, I suspect, is most enjoyable if you've read the preceding novels. The story seemed very disjointed and I never developed a "feel" for any of the characters. Also the whole "possessed-car" schtick just seemed silly. Regardless, Body Work showed promise and I will read Rivers of London. One day.

27 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed isn't just for flutterbys -- hummingbirds, bees and other insects also enjoy it.

25 July 2016

Asparagus & Tomatoes; Or, What Needs Eating Up?

Had a package of campari tomatoes lurking in the vegetable drawer since before my surgery (I don't usually refrigerate tomatoes, but there wasn't time to use them up, so I stuffed them in the fridge to help them "last") and they've gone a bit wrinkly and soft.

My nurse friend Kelly, who stayed with me my first night home, had done a grocery run and, among other things, bought us a bunch of asparagus. Obviously, I wasn't up to cooking at the time and The Husband doesn't really care for asparagus enough to try cooking it ... so it's been hanging out with the tomatoes.

Usually, in a case like this where there are vegetables that need using up, I'd simply toss them with olive oil, garlic, and herbs and roast them until delicious. But. Hot oven + still not very bendy body + wound vac sounded like a risky combination and I decided to use the cooktop, instead.


Sautéed Asparagus & Tomatoes

Serves: 2, generously

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz coarsely chopped red onion
  • ½ lb fresh asparagus, trimmed & cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 campari tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and asparagus and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and very fragrant.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 more minutes or until the tomatoes have gone soft.
  4. Splash with balsamic vinegar and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

22 July 2016

Watchtower


When I first began reading Watchtower, I was a bit disappointed, because it seemed like your standard male-centric fantasy of conquest and revenge, but Lynn very quickly disabused me. Ryke's world-view shifts as his exposure to the world outside Tornor Keep expands and, by the end of the novel, many of the female characters have moved to the forefront of the tale. However, (spoilers, yo) I was a little confused/disturbed by the author's decision to fridge Rhyke's under-represented sister, Becke (seriously, not a person or even a plot device, just window-dressing in the shape of a woman). Her death did nothing to advance the story and it felt kind of like ... I don't know ... she was killed because she (and all the other unnamed Keep women) couldn't measure up against the novel's "strong" female characters? Only women like Sorren, Norres, Maranth were fit to survive and thrive?

Excluding the treatment of the Becke and the other Keep's women, Watchtower was a fairly enjoyable read. It was refreshing how matter-of-factly Lynn wove same-sex relationships, non-binary identities, and non-traditional gender roles into the novel. Perhaps not exactly common in Ryke's world at the beginning of the novel -- he saw romantic relationships between men as a Southern thing -- but he did not seem bothered by it and accepted Sorren and Norres pairing without much surprise once he realizes what was going on.

Sorren and Norres. I'd really like a novel about them. Lynn gave us some of their backstory -- more so than many of the other characters -- but not enough. Surely, "Sorren" and "Norres" were names they chose for themselves, not the names they were given. What was it like for them, leaving Tornor and the north? How did they persuade the green clan they were ghyas and why?

There wasn't a lot of contextual world-building in Watchtower -- plenty of geographic descriptions, for example, but not a lot of explanation as to why things were the way they were. For example, I never quite understood why Col Istor attacked the Keeps. He could, so he did? Surely, that's a bit simplistic? Also, it's one thing to take and hold a Keep, it's another thing entirely to take and hold six of them indefinitely.

Watchtower, 1980 World Fantasy Award winner, is the first book in The Chronicles of Tornor and while out of print, it is still available in some library systems. Don't worry if you can only find Watchtower and not the other two books in the series as the novel neatly wraps up all its principal story lines, so you don't absolutely need to continue.

Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn (Putnam, 1979)

21 July 2016

Improv Challenge: Peaches & Cream


I didn't plan on participating in July's Improv Challenge. Housebound, easily tired, and increasingly irritated by the tether that is my wound vac ... cooking just hasn't been my thing. But I'm getting bored with myself, you see. Boredboredbored. And so I thought "What the heck! I have dried peaches in the pantry, sour cream in the fridge, and nothing else that needs doing. Why not, at least, try? At worst, I exhaust myself, have a little cry, and need a lie down. At best, I am one step closer to convincing myself I am a Well Person now."

Briefly, I considered tarting up a basic scone recipes with peaches, crystallized ginger, and honey cream. But then I came to my senses and remembered I don't particularly like scones. I know, I know. Scones are something all bookish tea drinking Anglophiles should love. And I do love the idea of them. But I've eaten so many bad scones -- dry, bland, chewy, UGH -- that I've learned to avoid them at bakeries and cafes. And, more importantly, I've not had much luck baking them. So.


Muffins! Glorious, peachy muffins! I've adapted "Naomi's Apricot Nut Muffins" recipe from ApricotKing Orchards to use spelt flour, peaches, ginger, and almonds. I also soaked my peaches in a cup of freshly brewed Salada Green Tea "Immunity" (a blend of green tea, nectarine and peach flavors, spices, and herbs) instead of water, in an attempt to boost the muffins' peachiness. (Feel free to use any peach-flavored tea or just plain ol' hot water).

Peachy Spelt Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup diced dried peaches
  • 1 cup freshly brewed Salada Green Tea Immunity
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups spelt flour [King Arthur Flour]
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup crystallized ginger
  • Sparkling (large grain) sugar, if desired
  • Sliced almonds, if desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the lower middle. Line a 12-count muffin pan with baking cups or grease the bottoms and halfway up the sides of the wells.
  2. Place peaches in a bowl, add hot tea, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain.
  3. Cream together butter, sugar, and sour cream in your stand mixer
  4. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and orange peel in a large bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet, mixing until just until combined. (Careful you don’t over mix as that can result in a tougher muffin). Gently stir in apricots and ginger.
  5. Fill muffin tin or paper cupcake cups. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds.
  6. Bake 18-20 minutes in the 400°F oven (if the almonds get too brown, tent with foil). Muffins are done when the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle-most muffin comes out clean.
  7. Let the muffins cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes, then immediately remove them from the pan. Let cool on a rack for another 15 minutes before eating.


As you can see, none of my muffins domed and a few have sunken centers. They're not under-baked -- the inside of the muffin in soft, fluffy, and moist-but-not-wet -- and my baking soda was new. While I was careful mixing the batter, it is still possible I over-mixed it. Also, in hindsight, I wonder if there wasn't enough leavening used? Perhaps I should have used used a 1:1 baking soda to flour ratio, even thought the original recipe used 1:2?

Anyway, while they're not as pretty as I would have liked, these muffins are still quite yummy. Nutty, just the right amount of sweet, and peachy. Even The Husband has been eating them! I thought for certain spelt would bet a big ol' NOPE from him, but I have been proven wrong. It happens.



20 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Cranesbill & Drumstick Allium

Very pleased with the combination of cranesbill, drumstick allium, and lady's mantle I planted two autumns ago.

19 July 2016

One Month Since I "Lost" My Rectum

It's been a month since my surgery and things are looking good. My most recent visiting nurse, who is some kind of "wound vac" whisperer and trains other nurses on the device, thought I might only need the vac for another week .. although, of course, she couldn't promise anything because it's all up to my body and my surgeon. (Happily, I see my surgeon next week).

I'm sure you probably have no idea what a wound vac is, so let me get all I-cribbed-this-from-the-internet-for-you:

A wound vac is, essentially, a wee vacuum pump that connects to my wounds using a tube and special sealed dressing that looks a lot like extra-sticky cling wrap and black foam insulation. The pump creates a vacuum (obviously) that draws fluid from the wounds, increasing blood flow to the wounds and stimulating healing. Fluids drawn out by the pump dump into a disposable canister snapped on to it. This canister is filled with an absorbent powder that solidify the fluids into a yucky-looking red paste. Happily, the pump and attached canister can be neatly hidden away in a nifty nylon tote so I can pretend that what's happening isn't actually happening.

Negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT). Hooray for science!

Because I'm fancy, my wounds are also packed with a little Tritec Silver dressing -- it looks a bit like white canvas, but is infused with near-magical antimicrobial qualities and helps keep the tissue around the wounds dry while the wounds themselves stay moist (wet wounds heal better/faster).

I have a love-hate relationship with the wound vac. Yes, the vac speeds up healing (by as much as 40%, which is nothing to sneeze at when you're looking at wounds like mine) so that wounds close better and faster, greatly reducing my long-term discomfort and unhappiness. However:

  • Between the vac and my healing rump, there are no truly comfortable sleeping positions
  • Random coffee percolator-like noises quickly stopped being cute
  • Constant, vaguely unpleasant whiff of something from the vac is off-putting
  • Tubing almost as long as I am tall is a major tripping hazard
  • Sensitive skin is sensitive

But. Every time I have a nurse visit they are overwhelmingly positive about my wounds. "So beefy," they say. "So red," they say. "Look how shallow that's gotten since --day," they say. So, I try to be happy about the wound vac. It's doing its job and I just need to hang in there.

Most, but not all, of my medical supplies. I knew
the Muir Glen crate would come in handy again one day...

18 July 2016

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is one of those rather lovely, whimsical reads that leaves you feeling better about the world than when you began it while, happily, managing not to be overly sentimental or trope-heavy. It's the kind of heartwarming book I can easily talk about with my older "gentle reads" loving coworkers and could see giving my mother for Christmas. (Which is not to say The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is unrelentingly sunny and optimistic -- there is real sadness and grief in this book, but it is dealt with deftly and realistically, leaving the book all the better for it).


On the one-year anniversary of his wife's death, Arthur Pepper clears out her wardrobe. In the process, he finds a rather posh gold charm bracelet tucked away in a pair of boots. Arthur has never seen this piece of jewelry before, thinks it doesn't look like anything she would have worn, and begins to wonder about it having been so hidden away. Of course wondering leads to worrying -- what kind of life did his wife have that he didn't know about? -- and Arthur, with a gentle shove or two from the universe, finds himself on a journey to discover the meaning behind each charm. This journey will take him from a tiger's den to Paris and home again, while strengthening his own relationships with the living ... and the dead.

If you enjoyed Fredrik Backman's books (A Man Called Ove, etc) or Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, I really think you'll enjoy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (Mira, 2016)

17 July 2016

Cheer Up Love


First read about Susan Calman's Cheer Up Love in Sarah Millican's no bullshit women's magazine Standard Issue (if you're not reading it, you should be) and it sounded brilliant. As there was no way I was going to wait for the American edition to come out in October (love of god, international publishing complex, get it together), I clicked over to Book Depository and had a copy in my hot little hands the following week. Hooray.

And Cheer Up Love was so very good. Uplifting. Poignant. Bittersweet. Heartwarming. Silly. Serious. So comfortingly honest about anxiety and depression. Also, there's bingo and Marlene Dietrich. If you're not familiar with Calman, she's an ex-corporate lawyer turned comedian who's appeared on a bunch of BBC Radio and Channel 4 shows. I know her best from bootleg episodes of British comedy quiz shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, QI, and Would I Lie to You? where she adds a certain je ne sais quoi. 41, petite, Glaswegian, funny as hell, with excellent dress sense (Marlene Dietrich, natch) and two disinterested cats ... she's the kind of woman I'd love to be friends with. Yes, so maybe I have a little crush? It's perfectly understandable if you read the book.

Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate by Susan Calman (Two Roads, 2016))

15 July 2016

Asparagus & Tomato Scrambled Eggs With Goat Cheese

Woke up this morning and thought "That's it! I'm cooking today!" Perhaps not the most well thought out decision I've made in my life, but I haven't cooked in three weeks and am at the point in healing where I feel antsy all the time. I want to be doing things, but my body is not quite up to snuff. It's very "Sure, you want to lean against the kitchen counter and chop things? Can do. You want to reach up into cupboards? Bend down into drawers? I will fucking cut you."

Happily, I've learned that if I grab everything I might possibly need in one bend or reach, it's not too uncomfortable. For example, bending down to the crisper drawer for a handful of asparagus and tomatoes, then slowly straightening up whilst snagging three eggs, the smallest carton of milk, and the goat cheese was pretty okay. (My lifting limit is 5 pounds and I don't think I violated that, but I certainly didn't weigh everything to find out!)




Asparagus & Tomato Scrambled Eggs With Goat Cheese

Serves: 1, generously

Ingredients

  • Splash of olive oil
  • 6 slender stalks asparagus, trimmed and chopped fine
  • ½ half small red onion, chopped fine
  • 3 large eggs
  • Splash of 2% milk
  • 3 campari tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Palmful of crumbled fresh goat cheese
  • Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Pour a little olive oil into your skillet and heat over medium. Add asparagus and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent.
  2. Whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over asparagus mixture and cook slowly, gently stirring, until eggs are almost set (still a little wet looking).
  3. Gently stir in diced tomatoes and goat cheese. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Plate.
Overall, I'm quite proud of this dish. The creamy scrambled eggs combine well with the tangy goat cheese, mellow onions, and spring-bright asparagus while the tomatoes add a touch of sweet (but gentle) acidity. For an "earthier" version, I might add sliced mushrooms or replace the fresh tomatoes with dried. Regardless, it's definitely something to make again.


13 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Honeybees & Allium

Happy honeybees love drumstick allium even more than I do!

12 July 2016

Under the Paw


Earlier this week, when I awoke from yet another post-op nightmare, all sweat-soaked and heart pounding in the wee hours of the morning, I knew the only remedy was a hearty dose of The Bear, Ralph, and company.

I'd read Tom Cox's 2013 The Good, the Bad, and the Furry a little over a year ago and loved it so much I ordered his Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man and Talk to the Tail: Adventures in Cat Ownership and Beyond from Book Depository. And then I kept putting off reading them. Not because I suddenly found I was sick of cat stories (is such a thing possible when you home four cats?) but because I'd enjoyed The Good, the Bad, and the Furry so much that I wanted to save the others up for when I most needed a funny-but-sometimes-poignant-and-always-gentle read.

Under the Paw is an engaging memoir of the author's life with cats -- from the cats of his childhood to the seven cats of the Upside Down House. Cox has thrown in a fair bit about his parents, work, and love life to balance out the pure catcentricness of the story, but the cats are still very much the meat of it. If you're already a Cat Person, you're going to want to read Under the Paw. If you're not a Cat Person ... go read one of Cox's golf books (how about Nice Jumper?) and come back and tell me about it.

As with The Good, the Bad, and the Furry, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud funny bits and a pleasing lack of mawkishness. Cox's cats aren't romanticized Disney-esque cuddlykins, but proper cats who pee in inconsiderate locations and leave bits of prey around. They are cats I feel I know ... most likely because I see some of my own cats' behaviors in them.

My only complaint is the same complaint I had with The Good, the Bad, and the Furry -- reading would have been improved by the inclusion of large (preferably, color) photos of the cats. Edie Mullins' illustrations are charming and I especially enjoyed the one of Ralph hissing at the swan, but a book about cats (imho) needs lots of pictures of those cats.

Talk To The Tail by Tom Cox (Simon & Schuster UK, 2011)

10 July 2016

Bad Dreams; Or, Opiates Fuck Me Up

Pain control continues to be the name of the game, although I'm slowly reducing dosage -- it astonishes me how much I've improved in a week (she says, now certain she's jinxed herself) -- and mostly need it at night. Problem is, I'm pretty sure the opiates I've been prescribed are doing bad things to my subconscious brain (which is still reeling from the very real things that have happened in my pelvis) and I've had some rather terrifying ohmygodnevergonnasleepagain nightmares.

Which I'm going to share "the best" with you, so you can tell me how absurd they are in the clear light of day. Also, because it kind-of amuses me how my subconscious is a just big ol' plagiarist -- can't even come up with an original story of its own and cribs from all the novels, stories, and films I've consumed over the years:

  • I'm lying, cut open, on a cold metal table in a dimly lit room and a grey shrouded figure is knitting a garment out of my small intestine. I can hear a constant dripping in the background.

  • My laser rifle was undercharged and now I'm lying on the cold, metal, blood-stained deck of a troop carrier while an alien chews through my torso and something whimpers in the distance.

  • I'm a teen living with bunch of others at an institution that exists to, essentially, harvest our organs and other bits to extend the lives of wealthy adults. My best friend has a chronic nosebleed. We make no attempt to flee and I watch everyone around me slowly lose themselves. I am aware of having lost so much of myself, already, that I probably won't survive another harvest.

Mostly, though, I keep waking up drenched in sweat, heart hammering in my throat, consumed with a desperate sense of wrongness.

08 July 2016

Raising Steam

I ... delayed ... reading Terry Pratchett's Snuff and Raising Steam, because I'd not enjoyed Unseen Academicals as much as I'd anticipated and felt I couldn't brook further disappointment. Pratchett was -- along with McKinley and McKillip -- my childhood gateway into fantasy literature and I maintain a serious soft spot for his works. But when it came time to stuff my Kindle with hospital reads, I found I craved the comfort of Pratchett and was willing to take the risk. After all, while the quality of Unseen Academicals had disappointed me, it still checked most my boxes for enjoyable humorous fantasy.


Ordinarily, I try to read Discworld books in order and I knew Snuff came between Unseen Academicals and Raising Steam, but it currently isn't available for immediate download from OverDrive via my library so I made do with Raising Steam, knowing full well I might have missed out on important story-lines and world-building by skipping Snuff. And I hope I'm right -- that some of my dissatisfaction with Raising Steam lies in reading the books out of order. That, if I'd read Snuff first, Raising Steam might have seemed more robust and "sensible."

Reading Raising Steam was a strange experience. Like visiting a place I once knew well, but have been away from for too long. All the characters I remembered were there, but they seemed different -- abridged, shorthand versions of themselves with little or no character development (and where was Carrot in all this talk of dwarves?). But then, I'm not so sure Raising Steam was intended to be about its characters so much as about its ideas -- technological progress, (sub)urban expansion, gender, fundamentalism, etc. If that's the case, then there were also too many ideas in play, because the story frequently felt disjointed and choppy -- dragging here, rocketing along there, too much speechifying everywhere. (Seriously, too many conversations felt larded with Portent or overladen with moralizing).

Maybe there was just too much of muchness in Raising Steam? Many might-have-been-interesting characters or events -- like the girl who knew every language on the Disc, the interspecies love affair of Crackle and Dopey, or the goblin underground -- went undeveloped. Indeed, the whole goblins-love-trains-and-are-building-their-own-underground really felt as if it is should have been a Significant Plot Point -- especially with the Patrician's push to get the special express train to Uberwald as quickly as possible and all, but it isn't. It's just a storyline that fizzles out.

Did enjoy some of the in-jokes -- Edith Nesmith, The Railway Children, and The Fat Controller especially, but Georgina Bradshaw as reference to Bradshaw's Guide (and, maybe, all those lady Victorian travel writers?) was also a nice touch -- but mostly I felt some of the humor was flying over my head.

tl;dr:

  • Did I enjoy it more than Unseen Academicals? No.
  • Do I regret reading it? No.
  • Am I anxious to hurry up and read Snuff? No.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. Random House, 2014. Kindle AZW file.

06 July 2016

Getting Comfy; Or, Things I Bought To Make Recovery More Bearable

I have a very confused attitude toward shopping. Maybe it's remnants of Yankee thrift mixed with shreds of Catholic guilt, but I'm either agonizing over every purchase or throwing my hands in the air like I don't care and buying all the things. So I'll spend weeks researching refrigerators, trying to pick the "best" model, and then not buy the fridge because ours isn't actually dead yet, but then I'll throw around cash all willy-nilly on random spice blends from Penzeys.

However, it was clear there were going to be things I needed to buy in order to be comfortable at home post-op. As they weren't books -- if given full reign my spendthrift bookish ways could easily gut our savings -- I felt their purchase was "allowed." And, thank god, I didn't talk myself out of purchasing any of them, because they've turned out to be worth every penny:

  • Nightgowns -- Having a wound vac continuously attached to my pelvis means that anything with a waistband is pretty much an impossibility at the moment. While I'm currently only leaving the house for medical appointments -- at which point I pair one of my three pull-on sleeveless summer dresses with a cardigan and go -- I have a visiting nurse three times a week and face the increasing threat of actual social callers. So I bought three of these cap-sleeved cotton/poly blend nightgowns from Amazon and they are exactly as soft, comfortable, pretty, and modest as I'd hoped they'd be. I'm not particularly modest about my person, but I am all about clothes as a kind of armor and, when I slip one of these gowns on over my head and tie the belt of my robe, I feel properly girded against the world. It's ridiculous, but there it is.



  • Body pillow -- Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult to find a position in bed where both wound sites are comfy. While I looked at a lot of body pillows, I'm happy I bought the curvy Leachco Snoogle Mini Compact Side Sleeper as it's just the right size for a queen-size bed sleeping two adults. Also, as I'm quite short, I feel a larger Snoogle would just engulf me and be that much more difficult to manipulate. The curvy shape makes it easy to shape around my tender spots, giving them adequate support. Mostly, I'm sleeping with it shaped as a big "O" under my hips, but I expect it to be very handy with side-sleeping whenever I get rid of the vac. I'm slightly concerned the washable cover is going to be a bitch to get back on, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.



  • Egg crate -- Also, unsurprisingly, sitting is currently not The Most Fun Ever. This 4-inch thick Egg Crate Wheelchair Cushion fits my favorite armchair perfectly. It also works well on dining room chairs, car seats, and regular don't-be-too-comfortable-while-you-wait waiting room chairs. Without it, I would essentially be trapped in bed because there'd be no other comfortable place for me. (Yes, I could medicate myself into oblivion and then sit anywhere I darn well liked, but that's not really a tenable long-term solution). Now I can sit in my armchair and pretend I am an actual Well Person watching Netflix and writing blog posts.


(I fully expect the egg crate will transition into a fabulous cat bed when I no longer need it. The Snoogle, I am less certain of ... but I'm sure the cats will let me know).

04 July 2016

Meanwhile, In My Pelvis

Surgery went long. Mind you, the first hour was pretty much just sedation and manipulation -- no slicing and dicing -- but I was still in the operating room for 5+ hours. Turns out the cosmetic surgeon wasn't needed to put in a mesh sling or whatever, because the available muscles were sound and usable. However, a gynecologic surgeon did scrub in to remove the Godzilla-sized uterine fibroids that were blocking access to the bits my colorectal surgeon needed to get at. Everyone knew I had fibroids, but no-one had realized how ridiculously big (we're talking grapefruit, people) they were and the original plan had been, I kid you not, to simply shove them out of the way.

I guess I should be like "Waaaay! Two procedures for the inconvenience of one!" but, instead, I felt weirdly violated when I finally came out from the gentle confusion that is that aftermath of anesthesia and understood what I'd probably already been told several times (I know medical professionals repeatedly popped into my room in ICU after the surgery, describing what they'd done, but they'd might as well have been a French-language sock puppet show for all I comprehended ... although, when asked at the time, I'd say I understood everything). It didn't help that I had ureteral stents and a foley catheter. I couldn't tell bladder discomfort from uterine from abdominal. All I knew is that everything in my pelvic cavity felt foreign. Not quite part of me.


Eventually, of course, the stents and foley went away. Gradually, I began to be able to differentiate my remaining pelvic bits from each other. I was on the mend. I'd probably go home soon. Except ... I developed a near-constant low-grade fever. And there was redness around a few staples. Staples which were removed to reveal the pus of infection. Blood work also revealed a bladder infection -- my very first and not recommended -- which probably explained the blood in my urine. Although maybe that was irritation from the stents. Who knew? Some days, I felt like a mad scientist's experiment.

And being sent for more scans and tests to make sure there wasn't "a mass" or equally scary sounding shizzle somewhere in my pelvis causing the fever (because, sure, the infection was responding to the antibiotics but the fever was not) didn't help a whit. I started taking Xanax, because I could not get control of my anxiety. I also finally mastered the language of the pain scale and stopped being #VeryBritishProblems about asking for Oxy so I was, at least, finally comfortable and (marginally) less worried about everything.


And, let me tell you, pain management is the name of the game. There's no point in trying to stick it out -- surgical pain is not like dropping a book on your naked toeses or burning your arm on the stove -- as it isn't going to go away with any speed on its own. And there's definitely no point in worrying about seeming like a junkie to the nurses/nurse technicians or inconveniencing them with your "unimportant" needs like drugs and help to the bathroom. If they're not helping you, they're helping someone else ... so, fuck it, it might as well be you. (Which doesn't mean be an asshole about it, either -- remember to use polite words like "please" and "thank you." Definitely say "excuse me" and "I'm so sorry" when you elbow your nurse technician in the breasts trying to get out of bed after a particularly confusing fever dream).

Tl;dr it's a lot easier to pee (and think and sleep) when you're not in pain.

Anyway, twelve days after I entered the hospital, I was finally discharged with a handful of scripts to make me comfy at home and continue to clear up whatever infection I might be harboring. (While the infection around the staples has cleared, the source of my persistent low-grade fever remains a mystery). Thankfully, my friend Kelly the RN slept over the first night ... just in case anything went pear-shaped. Which it did not.

So, I'm home now. It's ... good. There are cats. And cups of tea. And The Husband. All the best medicines, really.