Yesterday my spouse declared that he was in the mood for meat. Upon my inquiry as to the nature of said meat he replied “You know, meat — something fun.” Not being much of a meat eater myself I was taken aback by the knowledge that there is fun meat. If there is fun meat then there must also be unfun meat. Naturally I needed to know more…

So I tried to get my husband to tell me more but he was driving at the time and since he gestures a lot when talking I had to break off the conversation for safety sake. I did manage to interpret a bit and I feel obligated to share these insights with you. Holding one hand face up and moving it up and down like you are weighing something or testing its girth is the universal hand language for pastrami. Pastrami is fun meat. Holding one hand palm down and moving it along an invisible plane is the gesture for sirloin strip steak (like buttah!) adding a flourish at the end and patting oneself on the heart means filet mignon. These are all fun meats. At the next red light I tried to find out more about fun meat. What makes it fun? My husband looked a bit put out that he had to actually explain to someone what fun meat is — after all the entire world must know when they are having fun. Apparently to make it onto the fun meat list a substance either must be brined, pulled, marinated, pounded or must be “gnawable.” So pastrami is fun, pulled pork is fun, steak is fun, veal cutlet is fun. An easy way of determining fun status is by looking at the anticipatory look on the eater’s face. Drooling or smacking lips are definitely signs of fun about to be served.

Way too much meat is not fun. You would think that hamburgers should be fun but when examined closely you will note that hamburger eaters look cross — dealing with buns that are way too big (disproportionate meat to bread ratio) and way too messy. Having to have over three napkins per meal will push anything into the realm of unfun. And burgers require ketchup — my daughter eats at least six ounces of ketchup with each burger and would rather not eat than eat a plain burger. Chicken is way not fun unless it has passed through the KFC processing plant. Chicken looks like a bird and comes with little plastic bags hidden inside. Women who were housewives in the fifties know what these bags are intended for but that knowledge died out with Betty Friedan.

Fun or unfun, meat is losing its place as the world’s preferred dinner food. Replacing it are Trader Joe’s frozen foods — all of which are fun.

The Nursing Home

Sorry to leave you hanging there for a couple of days — I had to rest up before writing about my stint in a nursing home. I think I left off just as I was being offered a diaper. First of all, even the most insensitive of us know that it is impolite to shout out in a loud voice “bring out the rubber sheets” or “do we have any extra large Depends?” So you will not, I hope, feel I am being too fine-haired when I object to opening my dresser drawer to find a Bible and twenty disposable underpants.

Having made it clear to my care-givers that I am in residence because of a pulmonary embolism — not incontinence — they hustled me into my hospital bed. Not being incontinent, I attempted to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. As soon as my foot touched the floor an alarm went off that would raise the dead. My neighbor Leg Wound said “They don’t let you go to the bathroom alone.” In two seconds my care-giver was at my side explaining “If you need to go to the bathroom please use the call button and we will come and accompany you.” Little did I know the literalness with which they interpreted this. Squeezed inside the tiny bathroom, myself, my caregiver and my walker waited for nature to take place. When nothing did my caregiver snorted and turned on the water in the sink. I thought to myself “do they really think I am gonna pee in front of this lady just cause I hear the sound of water?” As it happens I did manage a small stream.

The next day for breakfast I was brought a little box of frosted flakes, an apple, orange juice, a cup of tea, strawberry yogurt, two scrambled eggs and a pint of whole milk. Along with all this bounty was a paper menu so I could select my food for the rest of the day. Since I did not need any more food for the rest of the day I left it blank. Just before lunch a doctor came by and asked in a confrontational voice “Why aren’t you eating?” I was confused and said that I was certainly eating it was just that I was still full from breakfast. The doctor said “Look, you need to eat.” A few minutes later lunch arrived: grill cheese sandwich, sliced tomato, two little containers of ice cream, another pint of milk and a tea. There were also two apples — one with a big bruise on the top and the other with a big bruise on the bottom. I assumed that the idea was to make up one good apple from two bad ones.

I ate the ice cream (to save the wasted money of sending back melted ice cream) but sent back the rest of the food uneaten. A half an hour later the Chef himself arrived at my bedside wringing his hands. “Don’t you like the food? Is there anything special you would enjoy?” I explained that I had been in the nursing home for two meals and already had gained four pounds. “Well, let’s write down what you like and I will make sure you get it” the Chef suggested. We wrote down Breakfast: cereal or eggs or English muffin, milk, coffee, fruit. Pleased with our efforts I took a nap. My nurse woke me for dinner and brought in cereal, eggs, an English muffin, milk, coffee, a banana, and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Linshaolin vs Megaclot

Last January I began to feel fatigued and I dragged myself around until it got to the point where I could not walk up a flight of stairs without resting for half an hour (which meant I spent an awful lot of time like Christopher Robin…half way up and half way down the stairs. Thankfully my husband took notice when I began feeding him ramen noodles still in the wrapper. He insisted I see my doctor or at least my shrink. I opted for the doctor who looked at me and said “get thee to an emergency room”. We drove to the ER where I was triaged to the front of the line and was guerneated, CT scanned, blood let, and everything else they do there to help diagnose.

Out in the hall was an unfortunate young lady who had given herself alcohol poisoning by drinking too much. She was curled up in the fetal position with her head hanging over the side of her guerney. Mostly she was very quiet but once in awhile she would vomit and then moan for a bit. I was glad I was me.

Several doctors came by to ask me questions and I could hear them discussing my case from the center of the ER war zone. “Holy geeze I have never…” “What a mama!” “How is it she is not dead?” Finally the chief resident came to see me. “Well Linshaolin” we now know what is wrong with you…you have a massive saddle pulmonary embolism. It is covering both the arteries to your lungs.” You also have deep vein thrombosis in both your legs. He then drew me a picture of a blood clot that looked a lot like Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Time watch. He asked if I had any questions and I asked “Will I recover?” to which he laughed in such a way that I knew immediately that I should be getting my affairs in order.

Meanwhile a nurse came by with the longest hypodermic needle I have ever seen and asked “Have you ever used one of these before?” Then with no more ado she grabbed some of my belly fat and rammed the needle into it. After I quit screaming she informed me that I was going to be in charge of giving myself shots twice a day until told otherwise. She put on a video for me to watch demonstrating the fine art of injecting oneself. It had only gotten as far as the grabbing of belly fat when an orderly came in to wheel me to the Intensive Care Unit. I was in Intensive Care for five days.

I loved Intensive Care. My nurse was really fun and played with me by putting me in this sling device very similar to the one used in Jurassic Park to lower the cow into the velociraptor’s cage. I would say “I have to go to the bathroom” and she would hoist me up. It took about ten minutes to get fully hoisted. Since I needed to pee about every twenty minutes she began leaving me suspended after about three hoists. I was not allowed water (only ice chips) since I was heading for surgery. In addition to the injections I also had a vena cava filter surgically implanted in my veins. This filter looked like a tiny umbrella, designed to capture blood clots as they attempt to break free and kill me. Apart from being hoisted and injecting myself until I was covered in bruises, I slept.

Some time during sleep I was whisked away by ambulance to a nursing center. No one had told me that I was going to be whisked away and I had no idea where I was. The nice ambulance attendants assured me that they had all the correct documents and that I was going to like “the home.” Now very anxious, I was greeted by an administrator and a nurse and was transferred to a hospital bed in a room designed for two inmates. A lady with a leg wound was to be my roommate. The nurse, positively beaming, asked in a loud voice “Do you need a diaper?”

Dark matter

Most of us know that space consists, in a large part, of dark matter (except for the Milky Way which consists mostly of milk chocolate matter). Scientists have pondered long and hard over what dark matter actually is — it can only be inferred by its effects on other things. There is consensus that there is dark matter because it explains away a lot of discrepancies in scientific calculations. So much better to say “the dark matter did it” than “oops, my bad” (in fact, I have never heard a scientist admit an error in calculations). But I stray from the topic:

When we gaze into space at night, we see twinkling stars, the glow of planets, the man on the moon, and also a lot of darkness. That darkness is “dark matter.” Well, you may ask, where does it go in the daylight? This sounds on the face of it to be a good question, but in fact it is a stupid question. When you are in a darkened room and you turn on the lights it is no longer dark is it? Did the darkness just somehow disappear? No, dumbhead, you just can’t see it because it is no longer dark — we have shifted the parameters of the experiment and now we see illuminated matter!

I apologize for calling you a dumbhead. It is just that Linshaolin has to put up with a lot of stupid questions and sometimes loses her patience… Dark matter does not emit light (or anything else for that matter). If you bounce a ball against it you will not see the ball return to you in your lifetime. Is dark matter so far away? Well, yes and no. It is both near and far. We have evidence of its nearness: do you have any unexplained bruises? Have you ever woken up with what feels like a hangover? These are evidence that you have bumped into dark matter.

Recently I have come to realize that the forces of dark matter have been at work in my refrigerator. On Thursday I bought a Pepperidge Farm chocolate cake with confetti icing. I served us each a modest piece (in keeping with our new slenderized bodies) and put the remainder of the cake in the fridge. The next day I opened the box to get a piece of cake but found that it was now filled with dark matter and not cake. I was dumbfounded but on introspection I came to realize that dark matter must require the consumption of calories to exist — the dark matter had consumed the cake. This explains so very many things!

Fritz Zwicky needs to be mentioned here (primarily because I love to say his name — repeat Fritz Zwicky three times!) He discovered dark matter way back in the 1930s. He worked at an astronomy laboratory and postulated that dark matter must exist because otherwise all his work would have to be chucked out. His theories have been confirmed by random but prevalent disappearances of food from staff cafeteria refrigerators everywhere.

Hurricane Irene causes run on gummi bears

Despite the fact that I have severe tendonitis in my ankle I waited in line at Walgreen’s for fifteen minutes to buy my hurricane supply of gummi bears. The line was insane — filled with people like myself who were sure that the End of Days was soon to be upon us and that those of us who were either not card-carrying members of  the Tea Party or were insufficiently stocked up on life necessities would not live through it.

Impending natural phenomena of the storm kind bring out a tension in most of us which is manifest by hoarding. Normal prudence is replaced by a skin-crawling need to buy bottled  water and canned peas even if one has never ingested either previously. My dear spouse, when instructed to “pick up something to drink”, came home with ninety-six bottles of water that had been purified not once but three times. I am quite sure we will be able to taste the difference. The Foodmaster’s shelves were bare of tinned food by last Friday. Even Nero Kitty was taken into consideration and has been supplied with a social security check’s worth of Science Diet (Tubby Kitty Care).

We have three flashlights, candles, batteries, a radio, a manual can opener, charged up cell phones, Kindles, and iPODs. Our gutters are cleared and the family of chipmunks that live in the garage’s foundation have been evacuated to a shelter. The trees are pruned. The car has been parked out of harm’s way.

Now we wait. .. The radio is saying that the hurricane has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm for New England…

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Having shaved my head, I have a new empathy towards men who are losing their hair. I do not look good bald. But it would not be so bad if it were not for the halo of scar tisssue that sits atop my head — refusing to regrow hair. I shaved my head to even out the surface after my recent brain surgery during which the surgeon had a field day clearing the landscape so that he could work unobstructed. Apparently, the idea of neatly parting my hair and pinning it out of the way was outside of his comfort zone.

But back to the empathy. I used to wonder why men made such a fuss about losing their hair and did really stupid things like comb-overs or really expensive things like weaves. I mean, with hunks like Patrick Stewart and Bruce Willis around giving baldness a good name, why the fuss?

Well, you have to start out looking like Patrick Stewart or Bruce Willis. If you take your average forty-nine year old male and rip most of his hair off you get a poor result — there are any number of factors that contribute to a bad look. One of them is jowels. Even the slightest bit of flesh hanging off the neck looks like a set of king-sized sheets flapping in the wind when there is no hair to obscure the motion. Until I lost my hair I had no idea that my genetic propensity toward jowels was so strong. If I turn suddenly I slap myself silly.

I have even contemplated doing a a “bang” that starts at least seven inches back — kind of a back to front comb-over to disguise the ridge of scars. No hairs seem to want to grow in that space. I am visualizing Martina Hingis’s forehead — add three more inches to it and you will have a good picture of my current look.

Until recently I have been wearing a knit cap when I go out in public but I take it off in the car since it is itchy. When I am stopped at lights I can feel the neigboring drivers stares. The curiosity — is that a man or a woman? If that is a woman, what the heck happened to her? Poor soul. .. well, after a week or so of having an intensely itchy head I decided to bare all (excuse the pun) and go topless. So far only small children stare at me. Others keep their eyes marvelously unfocussed (or perhaps I should say over-focussed). I was ordering my latte at Panera and the young man at the counter kept a laser-sharp focus on my eyebrows — even as I handed him my money. I could have given him monopoly money and he would have put it in the cash drawer, so focused was he on not noticing my head.

Actually, I am kind of getting to like having no hair. It makes quick work of the shower and really cuts down on shampoo.  Maybe I will keep the new look and start a trend. On the other hand, if it did not catch on for Demi Moore, maybe I should try a different look.

My Deep Brain Stimulation: Part III

For the first two parts please scroll through March 2011.

Halleljula! Today I had the newly implanted devices turned on and had my first pass at tweaking the settings, To cut to the finish: my results were complete elimination of the painful dystonia (twisting and spasming of my right foot and leg), 50 % improvement in the tremor on my right side (my worst side) and about 75% improvement on my left side. These results are without medication! I enjoyed my first latte without a straw and did not spill a drop. I literally cried with joy!

The tweaking to find just the right settings will take another few visits. After  1 1/2 hours of this visit I had to stop because of exhaustion. I was beginning to get headachy and nauseous. The procedure is: I was not allowed to have any of my Parkinson’s medication after 9:30 the night before. I arrived at my neurologist’s office in the hospital at 9:30 AM with my wonderful husband and was met by the doctor who as going to do the testing (the same doctor who tested me originally to determine whether I would be a good candidate for the DBS surgery). She took us into an examination room and explained what she was going to do. Each of the two electrodes in my brain has four nodes (0, 1,2,3), each of which can have multiple setting for voltage and frequency. She would test each node to see what was best and I was to report any unusual sensations.  Then she did an exam and videotaped me (seated and at rest and also walking). Then she draped the magnet, which would be used to turn on and program the device, around my neck and placed over the battery on my left side. The battery on the left side controls the electrode which is in the left side of the brain which in turn controls the right side of my body (my most affected side). My husband had been expecting to go into a room full of machinery and to have me studded with electrodes so he was a bit surprised. But I was not (having done a ton of reading).

After entering a bunch of data she said she was going to turn on the equipment. I must say I was quite disappointed when nothing happened. She upped the voltage — I felt a lot of tingling in my face. And so it went on with me getting ever increasing electric tingling at times. Once it was so severe that the right side of my face twisted into a horrible lop-sided grin and I could not speak. We quickly backed out of that setting. Eventually we found a setting which got much of the desired result with no side effects. We then moved to the left side.

We did a new scoring of my symptoms which had reduced from 41 to 20 without medication.

The continual barrage of side effects was getting to me — I was very tired so we called it a day once we found reasonable settings and I was allowed to take my meds. I was advised that I might experience increased dyskenesia (involuntary movements) and if so I should reduce my medications. I was asked to wait in the waiting room for 1/2 hour and then I was to be reexamined.

After my 1/2 hour wait I was seen, examined, and videotaped by the same doctor and by my regular neurologist. We all agreed that the day had been a success. I was thrilled that the very painful cramping I always experienced was completely gone and mt tremor was greatly reduced.

We made arrangements for another programming meeting in a month and I left a very happy person. My limbs felt so free and loose that I did not know what to do with them! I had arm swing! As the afternoon progressed I took a nap (actually crashed onto the bed and slept like a stone for over an hour). My dyskenesia did increase a bit but not enough to be bothersome.

I am eagerly testing my new body and am thrilled with the result!