Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dizzying Wake-up Call

Carolyn J. Rose

On October 27th, the earth tilted and spun.

At least it seemed to from where I was sitting. For the record, that was (thankfully) in the passenger seat as Mike drove down Main Street in Vancouver, Washington.

It took all my will power not to seize his arm when the street in front of us lifted and rippled and the car lurched from side to side. Somehow, while screaming, “Stop the car! Pull over!” I recognized that jerking his arm—and the steering wheel—would make things worse.

By the time he was able to pull into a parking lot—three to five seconds later—the vertigo had passed. I was shaking with jolts of adrenaline and anxiety, but my mind seemed clear.

I raised my hands above my head and asked Mike, “Can I smile with both sides of my mouth? Are both of my eyebrows going up? Is my speech slurred?”

Shook up and frightened, he didn’t seize the opportunity to mess with me, but gave me straight answers. Smile, eyebrows, and speech were normal. So far, so good. I didn’t feel sick to my stomach and when I got out of the car I was able to walk and keep to a straight line. I didn’t have pain in my chest or shortness of breath. Grateful to all the friends who forwarded bulletins listing warning signs and symptoms, I self-diagnosed that I hadn’t suffered a stroke or heart attack.

Mike wanted to take me to the urgent care center a few blocks away but I refused. Going to the doctor meant I was sick and things were out of my control. Going home meant I was in charge—or in denial.

We went home and, after resting for a few minutes, I logged on to the Internet and began entering my symptoms. Not the smartest thing for a person with an active imagination to do. Within an hour I diagnosed myself with heart and artery issues, dehydration, thyroid problems, and a brain tumor.

It was time to relinquish control to someone whose training was many levels above pointing and clicking.

Putting on clean underwear without any rips so my grandmother wouldn’t spend the rest of her afterlife in a state of impacted embarrassment, I went to the urgent care center.

Their diagnosis? Not a stroke. Not a heart attack. Not thyroid issues.

Rocks in my ears.

He’s been gone for nine years, but I can almost hear my father laughing and saying he always knew I had rocks in my head. No one ever accused him of being the sympathetic sort.

Among the many things I didn’t know about the human body is that tiny calcium crystals in the inner ear can fall out of their pouch and into a canal where they roll around and make the brain think the head is moving—in my case, moving like that of the girl in The Exorcist.

Because age is a factor in these “rock slides” and I may have other episodes, I’m armed with coping strategies like closing one eye, getting to the floor or ground as fast as I can, and taking precautions like going downstairs on my butt—not something I want to do in public. I’m also armed with medication to reduce nausea and an exercise/maneuver to try to move the rocks back where they belong.

The condition isn’t serious—at least not anywhere near as serious as the conditions I diagnosed myself with. Those few seconds of vertigo weren’t a near-death experience, but they made me think about THE END and how unexpected and terrifying it might be.

I got up the next morning making all the usual vows—be a kinder person, have more patience, don’t be as snarky and sarcastic, control my temper, and don’t waste time that could be spent writing. No more games of solitaire, no more rearranging the contents of the desk, no more (or at least fewer) trips to the kitchen in search of snacks.

And next time Mike says we should go to the urgent care center, I won’t argue and I won’t stop off at home to check the Internet. To play off an old saying, “She who diagnoses herself has a fool for a patient.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Take it or Leaf It
By Bubba and Max
Bubba: Hey, squirrel brain, warm up your pipes, Dad got something new we’re not supposed to bark at.

Max: Cool! What? A cat? A possum? Another vacuum cleaner?

Bubba: No, but you’re getting warm. It’s a leaf blower.

Max: A whatcher-whooser?

Bubba: A leaf blower. It’s a machine that blows leaves.

Max: He doesn’t need a machine, the wind does that.

Bubba: Yeah, but—

Max: And they go all into the street and over to the neighbor’s yard and then Mom doesn’t have to rake them.

Bubba: Yeah, but—

Max: And when they’re dry they kind of tumble across the lawn and Titan, that new dinky dog across the street barks at them ’cause he’s kind of dumb and he thinks they’re attacking him.

Bubba: Like you’ve never thought you were being attacked by leaves.

Max: Not this week, I haven’t.

Bubba: (consulting the calendar and placing her paw on a date) So 24 hours ago was last week?

Max: Okay, so maybe I barked at one yesterday. But it was scary. It was big and red.

Bubba: Red?

Max: Well, maybe. It’s fall and it was off the tree, so it musta been red.

Bubba: Or yellow. Or orange. Or brown. But you don’t see colors. You’re a dog.

Max: You sure I’m a dog? Mom says I think I’m the king of the world.

Bubba: (muttering) And one of these days I’m gonna crown you.

Max: Clown? Did you say clown? Want to see me dance in circles? And drool on myself. I’m really good at it.

Bubba: I wish you’d get good at leaving me alone.

Max: Know what else I’m good at?

Bubba: I know it’s not listening or keeping your brain train on the conversational track.

Max: (puts paws over ears while he thinks). Brain. Train. Track. Leaf blower. Yeah! (runs in circles barking) Where is it? Lemmee at it. I’ll bark it right back to the store where they bought it.

Bubba: (waggles paw at him) No, no, no. We’re not supposed to bark at it.

Max: Why not?

Bubba: Dad said so.

Max: Dad? Dad? Dad said so? (falling to the floor in a fit of laughter) He says not to sleep on his feet or on his pillow and I do it all the time. He says to come and I give him that blank stare thing.

Bubba: Something else you're good at.

Max: I practice in the mirror. 

Bubba: Why doesn't that surprise me? So you’re gonna bark at the leaf blower?

Max: You bet. Every time Dad turns it on. (he runs in a tight circle and yips) Just leaf the barking to me. Get it? Leaf? Leave?

Bubba: Yeah. But it’s time for my nap, so pleaf leaf me alone.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Cold #327

Carolyn J. Rose

When I woke up this morning, I had the weighted-down feeling that signals either it’s time to start a diet or I’m coming down with a cold. My head was clogged and my throat was sore, so I went with choice number two.

 By the time I got to the kitchen (estimated distance: 20 feet), the first sneeze rocked me back on my heels and I made a lunge for the box of tissues on top of the refrigerator. (You may think that’s an odd spot but, trust me, not a day passes that I don’t grab for that box after peeling onions, chopping jalapenos, grinding pepper, or running the duster across the blades of the ceiling fan. Okay, I admit, I haven’t done that last bit for months, but it has happened.)

A cup of scalding coffee made my throat feel marginally better and being upright took care of some of the head clog so, still sneezing, I headed for my office to do a little research.

When I was younger, someone told me there were several hundred cold viruses. For years I believed that if I continued to catch colds at an average rate of five a year, there might come a time when I would have caught them all.

Well, that bit of wisdom was WRONG.

At least according to the Internet.

One source cites more than 31,000 different cold viruses. Another contends that those viruses (virusi?) mutate constantly so the count is always changing, always rising.


Here I am, suffering with cold #327 (give or take a dozen or so), and knowing that somewhere out there virus #328 is lurking. It’s not a comforting thought.

But there’s nothing to do except prepare, make sure I have a stockpile of EVERYTHING I NEED TO SURVIVE THE COMMON COLD:

  • Tissues (definitely not the bargain brand—at least not for a cold that lasts more than two days, not if I don’t want a nose like that legendary reindeer)
  • Orange Juice (the high-pulp kind is almost a meal in itself)
  • Ginger Ale (that’s what I got when I was a kid and I’m sticking with it)
  • Cough Drops (preferably cherry flavored)
  • Chocolate (just because I always need chocolate)
  • Thermometer (even if the readout doesn’t go above 98.6, having a thermometer by the side of the bed says, “I’m sick. Honest. Why else would I be taking my temperature?”)
  • Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer (to hold in abeyance in case that readout creeps above 100 or I get the chills or my joints become more inflamed than this season’s political ads)
  • Books (preferably mysteries that hold my attention but don’t require too much concentration and/or deep thinking)
  • Movies (see books)
  • TV Remote (and husband to work the darn thing because our TV set-up is far from simple)
  • Dogs (to snuggle with prior to napping, after napping, or any time in between)
  • Pile of Pillows (a full range from soft to firm because when I’m sick, I get Goldilocks syndrome and it’s hard to find one that’s just right)
  • Soup (with plenty of noodles)
  • Mexican food (drowning in hot sauce)
  • Sympathetic friends (to send “poor baby” e-mails and offer to stop by with more chocolate)

How many colds have you had and what’s on your list of cold-survival must-haves or what do you think is missing from mine? Leave a comment and let me know.