Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tis but a scratch

Yesterday I got the results of the MRI I had last week to see if there were any obvious causes for the low frequency hearing loss in my left ear. This kind of hearing loss can be caused by small tumors pressing on the auditory nerve (or whatever that nerve is called) but in my case, there are no tumors. So that’s good but still begs the question of why I have this loss.

My ENT pointed out that I had a small cyst sort of in the middle of my skull, but that the radiologist didn’t think it was alarming. Still, the ENT wanted to take a look. So bam, he squirted numbing stuff up both nostrils and then scoped my nose. It was as yucky as it sounds and not at all what I thought would happen yesterday. He thinks the cyst is left over from having my adenoids removed, probably a bit of scar tissue wrapped around a bit of mucus gland that's slowly grown over time. I didn't know I had it, it doesn't seem to impact me in any way so as far as I'm concerned it can just stay there.

He also pointed out that I had a lot of swelling in one of my sinuses on the left side, and asked me how frequently I got sinus infections. “I’ve never had one in my life,” I replied. Not so, he said, that kind of swelling was indicative of a sinus infection, and probably a pretty bad one. Hmmm.

On the drive home I realized I didn’t really know the symptoms of sinus infections beyond a fever and Technicolor snot—I rarely get a fever and it’s usually associated with a stomach virus, and I never get weird colored snot. So I turned to Dr. Google to find out what the symptoms actually were. I didn’t even click on any links, I didn’t have to:

Of the items on that list, I experience the first four symptoms plus a bad cough at least five or six times a year. In fact, I just went through a fairly bad round of those symptoms last week. I get the sort of face melting headache with extreme pressure, the kind where even my teeth hurt, and a snotted up head that makes loud whistling noises when I blow my nose (when Kent’s around, he will look at me and say “I heard that” after my sinuses whistle), and some dizziness when I move around or shift my position.

What all this means is (a) yes, I do get sinus infections and probably pretty often and more important (b) I need to quit normalizing and not paying attention to what my body is saying. And (Kent will love this) I need to readjust my notion of when I might need to see the doctor. All my life, I've believed that I either need to be actively puking and/or have the runs OR be running a fever of at least 100. Looks like I need to reconsider that framework.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Field tested

And cold weather approved!

Remember this?

I've been wearing it the last five days because baby it's cold outside. Like our high today was 22⁰ F cold. And I've been toasty warm. Take that, winter!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our house today

It's cold here in the Midwest and even though the snow was a bust yesterday, it's been looking and feeling  as though it might snow all weekend long. Here's what our cats do when it's cold and gloomy:

Admit it, you're sleepy now.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Anyone home?

We believe this is our neighbor's cat; certainly it's someone's cat because he's well fed and just doesn't have that feral look. The kitty loves our air conditioner condenser and has been on there before; usually he just lolls around. Yesterday, he was staring inside and if I didn't know better, I'd think he was looking for our kitties. Maybe he was bored or lonely?


Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Berlin Wall

In 1981, while still stationed in West Germany, we traveled to West Berlin to go to my brother’s wedding where he and his wife were both stationed. Because we drove and were military, we went through all three checkpoints: Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. To say it was an odd experience is a complete understatement.

Because the U.S. government did not recognize the East German government as legitimate and held that East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union, no military personnel could go through the civilian checkpoints. We had to go through checkpoints policed by Soviet troops and we required special, more complex paperwork. At the time, I worked for the federal Civil Service in Security, Plans & Operations (SPO) and I drafted those documents for anyone traveling from West Germany through East German to West Berlin. While you could take a special train to West Berlin, it was generally a lot more convenient and faster to drive so that’s what most people did.

The Soviet guards had a real history of being very nit-picky with the security documents—they’d reject them for things like an extra space or comma. And if your documents were rejected, then you needed to get them replaced at a nearby American post. So I was extra nervous about the documents as we approached the checkpoint.

Picture the scene:

We had to clear the American security checkpoint first. Our documents were examined and redone; there was some new protocol that hadn’t yet made it out to the rest of the SPO offices but still I was embarrassed. We were to have a full tank of gas (we did), and then the security officer told us that we would have two hours (I think, maybe three) to get to Berlin. If we got there a certain amount faster, we would get a speeding ticket. If we were over 30 minutes late, they would come looking for us. On no account were we to leave the highway.

Then we drove the short distance to the Soviet checkpoint. It was a late December afternoon so it was already dark. The weather was pretty cold and it had snowed recently. Jordan was just a baby, only nine months old, and he and I stayed in the car (as we were supposed to) while Rick took the paperwork and our IDs to the guard house. While he did that, two Soviet guards armed with rifles patrolled in circles around our car, staring at me the entire time. It seemed to take forever before Rick came back out although I’m sure it was only about five minutes. Then we drove to Berlin.

I was struck by the complete absence of any lights—no houses were lit up, no street lights, not even in the distance, no commercial signs, nothing. Plus the road was not in good shape. The pavement was uneven and there were a lot of potholes. But we made it to Berlin within the prescribed time and then went through Checkpoint Bravo. That was almost anticlimactic after having gone through Checkpoint Alpha.

We did visit East Berlin, which meant we went through Checkpoint Charlie. I don’t recall that that checkpoint was nearly so intimidating. I do recall being struck by how gray everything seemed in East Berlin—the walls, the cars, the people’s clothing and even their faces.

In 1989, I was a freshman at KU and was taking my second or third semester of German from a grad student who was herself German. I remember that she managed to get a TV brought into our class and she cried as we watched the Wall come down.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


How do you wear your hair? Have you always worn your hair in a similar style, or do you see your hair as more of a changeable accessory?

Personally the most I’ve experimented has been with a few perms and with the length. I used to think my hair was awful and wouldn’t do anything, so I’d get a perm in hopes that would help. But my hair is very resistant to perms, and the curl would never take at the nape of my neck, the crown of my head and my bangs. Weird, huh? So that was a partial solution at best, and really mostly awful because it was so hard on my hair and always stripped it of color.

Active duty
And I’ve gone from super short hair, to just below shoulder length. When I was in the Army (active duty), I had long hair and wore it in a bun per regulations. I cut it the day I went into labor with my first child.

Then in college (and in the Army Reserves), I grew it long again and wore it French braided every day. Yes, I braided it every day. Then one day I realized that wearing my hair up like that was essentially like having short hair, so I cut it off again—quite short this time.

I’ve also colored it for years. I got my first silver hair when I was 21 or 22, and was just appalled. So I started coloring it. Then about seven years ago, I grew out the color so I could see what was under the hood. And while I like the color—it’s a lovely silver—it’s not evenly sprinkled throughout which would be really nice. No, it’s like God smooshed a bunch of silver sno-cones on my head. Very blotchy, and not particularly attractive at all. So I’m back to coloring—as an interesting aside, we lived in Boston when I had my stylist color it again. He’d never seen it colored and he matched the color to my non-silver hair. I was shocked at how dark it was but he assured me that was the color.
Not much change

Oddly enough, my hair style today is remarkably similar to how I wore it when I was a little girl. I like this length on me because it’s not so long as to look silly, but it’s long enough to put up in a ponytail or a french braid. And in a way, I keep it this length as a cost savings measure. My hair grows ridiculously fast and to keep a short cut looking good, I would (and have in the past) need to get a haircut every three weeks.

Hairstyle by Alison