Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ten Types of Happiness

1) Happiness of being cared for/loved

2) Happiness of caring for/loving

3) Happiness of knowing self

4) Happiness of having self known

5) Happiness of body comfort

6) Happiness of feeling safe

7) Happiness of time on your side

8) Happiness of successful work

9) Happiness of a good environment

10) Happiness of good food

Friday, May 28, 2010

In my dream, I'm a teaching scientist and I live in Philadelphia

Another doctor's appointment today. My TSH levels are higher each test but still "normal". Up to 2.6 now. My symptoms are worse. Body temp never gets above 98.1 F and is usually much closer to 97, sometimes as low as 96.5. Face puffy-puffy, joints achy-achy. I sleep. A lot.

I do think my doctor is finally convinced that a "wait-and-see" approach is no longer appropriate.

"Your thyroid is HUGE, you definitely have a goiter" she tells me.

Today I think I managed to convince her that she has to start actively treating me. Does this mean I get treatment today? No. But I've got a promise that by July, after a few more tests, she will do something. We'll see. I'd say that I won't hold my breath but I might as well hold it a little since the ping-pong ball in my neck, which is pressing on my wind-pipe, saves me so much effort in the breath-holding department.

I am starting to understand how so many people turn to crack-pot "alternative" medicine. I don't mean to suggest that non-western medicine is crap. I'm talking about the modern day medicine hucksters, selling fake "remedies" on late-night TV. The type of advert where it is claimed that scientists have discovered something great for your weight loss, or your sleep problems, or your poop problems but are just "keeping it a secret".

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this but right now, I think I might be the target of those ads. I know that I'm not well. I'm pretty sure I've been sick, and getting sicker, for two years and that it's affecting my work, my relationships, and the rest of my life. (What is there other than work and relationships you ask? Um... laundry and dishes mostly). I'm glad I don't have a TV or I could see ordering some of 2010's latest snake oil. I wish I were kidding.

I live in a sort of permanent fog now. I'm really worried about my job performance. I fantasize about things that used to be routine for me. I live in my head a lot and my fantasy life has always been really rich.

For example: Fantasy Life B.L.T (Before Lumpolina Thyroiditis)

I go to a cafe to read the paper. I have a perfect latte and also strike up a conversation with a stranger. She turns out to be a recruiter for a new biology-environment-human-medicine-space-travel think tank. A week later she calls to see if I can do a little consulting for them. They are really lacking an ECM biologist on their team. It goes well. I keep my job in Philly but moonlight enough to take short trips to exotic places like Taiwan, Cuba and Outer Space. I use those experiences to enhance my teaching and thus win a teaching award. I also use my new found connections to put together the best young investigator grant EVER. In my spare time I write a book about my work as a teaching biology-environmental-human-medicine-space-traveler scientist. It's so informative but also so warm and hilarious that it becomes a best seller. I'm invited to go on the Daily Show. John Stewart loves me and invites me to have dinner with his family. John Cusak (but not jerky) or Fareed Zakaria (but not married) or Sidney Poitier (but not married and from 1968) or David Sedaris (but not gay and less OCD) happens to be in the audience of the show because he's coming to dinner at the Stewart house and he falls in love with me. It becomes a famous romance and we write several books and/or screen plays while I also pursue a successful career in science. I can afford to move my mom, Froggie and her brother to Philly. Plus, through all this I'm 30 lbs thinner and have really great clothes. Plus two Cell papers. Plus a Nature paper. Plus I have some gorgeous babies with John-Fareed-Sidney-David. Plus some other great stuff.

Ha ha! Fun.
However, my fantasy life is very different these days.

For example: Fantasy Life W.L.T (With Lumpolina Thyroidcrapitis)

It's Saturday and I manage to wake up before noon. When I wake up, I feel refreshed from sleeping and my body doesn't hurt too much in my joints for me to move about the apartment. I have a healthy breakfast because I feel good and I'm hungry. Then, I pack up some laundry and take it down to the laundromat to wash while I plan experiments for the week. I finish my laundry, drop it off at my house, and head in to the lab for a few hours. I get all prepped for the coming week and leave feeling on top of my job and excited about research. I walk the 1.5 miles back from work chatting with my mom or A~ on my cell phone. I pick up some fresh groceries on the way home. I make a yummy dinner and then wander out to meet a friend for a glass of wine before calling it an early night. It's fun to have a drink with a friend because my head is clear, I can focus on what they have to tell me and I have something to talk about other than how much I sleep and how frustrated I am with my health care. I'm a teaching/research post-doc and I live in Philadelphia. My clothes aren't that great but at least they are clean. Plus some other great stuff.

Right now, B.L.T. fantasies and W.L.T. fantasies feel sort of equally possible for me. I wish my doctor(s) could understand how scary that is for me. It's not good when you are as likely to marry Sidney Poitier from 1968 or a hetro David Sedaris as you are to get your laundry done on a Saturday. Not good at all. Hoping for July.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fashion trends from a true fashionista!

If you've never met me in person, let me just tell you that I am a fashion diva. In the picture of me to the right of the page?

Jeans: Old Navy,
Clogs: Naturalizer
T-shirt: Sears
Sweat Ring around T-shirt: model's own

So, you probably want to think about taking your fashion advice from me. I don't usually post anything other than stories but I saw an ad for this on and I thought I had suddenly popped into an SNL mock ad: Pajama Jeans? No. Yes? Is this the next snuggie? The tag line is "Pajamas you live in. Jeans you sleep in"

The advert showed a woman proudly walking around in her PajamaJeans (TM) (good thing they trademarked that, this is going to be 2010s Chia Pet, I can feel it) while wearing a blazer and a kicky scarf. Then she sheds the blazer and scarf and curls up in bed. It looks like the perfect gift for the women in your life who are prone to alcoholic black-outs.

I also received an e-mail advert from The Gap. I need a few summer things so I popped over to their website and found some lovely T-shirts (would look so nice with PajamaJeans!). They were expensive, sure, but they come with a narrative and that's worth at least an additional $15.

Here is the narrative:

And here are some examples of the execution:

I know that's hard to read so from left to right: 'The suffragist', 'The patriot', 'The flapper'.

Thanks Gap. I appreciate that you are both educating young women about the term suffragist and enforcing the idea that patriots wear ugly American flags on everything, even their boobs. I look forward to your next line of T-shirts designed around even more iconic female roles. I am particularly excited about your upcoming "The Virgin and the Whore".

The 'Whore' will of course feature a T-shirt with circular cut-outs, directly over each breast.

The "Virgin"? Obviously that will be a T-shirt with even bigger circular cut-outs... directly over each breast.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This is what four States of love tastes like

I am a crabby butt-head today. I am tired. I am behind in every aspect of my work (teaching, research, old papers from former lab) because I have been run down. I spent the weekend with guests. Some of this was lovely, but I'm tired now. Did I mention cranky? I feel like I need a week to get caught up. I need a vacation from being unproductive. I am SO behind at work. I had to cancel my doctor's appointment for this Thursday and it made me want to kick rocks. I'm so sick of waiting for something to be done with lumpolina-the-thyroid-disruptah.

DP was one of my guests and she left this morning. Even in my sleepy stupor, I was sorry to see her go. Sorry, but (when I woke up) completely confused as to what made her want to shove all of my toiletries (the ones I use daily and so keep on the counter) into a drawer. D? You reading this? What's up with that? You had to get the toiletries out of your sight on the morning you left town? That drawer was not arranged randomly, by the way. It was one of the only organized areas of my whole apartment. I still love you anyway. We'll always have D'Angelo's. And Yogorino. And 1993. And the lasagna episode. And raspberries. And the naked mud bath. Plus years and years of conversation. We have a lot actually. I do really love you. But next time leave my toiletries alone?

Crabby-butt-dinky-head. It didn't help that I checked my e-mail first thing to find that I was behind on...EVERYTHING. My fault, I know. Still sucked. Then I get an e-mail from a new Philly friend. We e-mail a lot. This is new to me and I can't seem to stop doing it even though we work in close enough proximity that I could easily walk over and say hello in person. Procrastination or novelty, I'm not sure, but it's wearing me (and likely NPF) out. I had e-mailed yesterday to tell him that I was planning on seeing a movie this evening and that the protagonist shared NPF's name. NPF wrote back today to say he didn't think he could make it, but he'll try. This makes me want to cry when I read it. Not because I'm disappointed that he can't come, but because I hadn't really intended to extend an invitation. I was with people all weekend (well, it was all weekend relative to how little company I keep these days) and I just wanted to have the evening to myself to recharge. Plus, I have a huge zit on my chin (again) and nobody should look at me or even in my vicinity until it's gone. I was stuck between wanting to go to the movie alone and not wanting to go alone since there was a perceived invitation and now maybe going alone meant that I was being rejected. Making connections in a new city is exhausting.

C.R.A.B.B.Y. You figure out what the damn initials stand for. I'm too grumpy to do it.

I worked on the computer for the day. Did not get caught up. Exchanged a few crabby texts with NPF. He was polite (not wanting to seem as if rejecting?), I was terse (why are you making me feel rejected when I only want to be alone anyway?). I almost bail on the movie idea but then buy myself a ticket online so I can't skip it and anyway, it was one-night-only.

Crab face, but then....Things Turn Around*. I go, alone, to the movie. I don't feel lonely. I feel relieved that I'm doing something for me. It's a light movie, but sweet. There is a "conversation with the director" afterwards. He's a light director, but sweet. I walk out of the community center, prepared to take a cab as it is after nine and realize....I LIVE IN PHILADELPHIA! The weather is warm, mid-70's at least and the street is just full of people wandering around, chatting, walking dogs, eating frozen yogurt. I'm totally safe to walk home. This is nice. I put my phone on and find that A~ has called me. This is nice too. I wander to a Chinese restaurant near my house and order "Healthy Vegetarian Szechuan Hunan Special General Tso 'Chicken' " (because nothing says "healthy" like deep fried soy-wheat mash soaked in red dye #5 and high fructose corn syrup) and some veggie dumplings. A~ and I chat about the movie while I stand outside the restaurant, waiting for my food. Some feeling starts to seep into's happy, just your garden-variety-contentment version of happy.

I head home with my"chicken" and we continue to chat. At my front door is a package from LC. This is exciting for me because she keeps bees and I am expecting some of her home-harvested Alabama honey. I open the package and find that it's better than anything ever. One mason jar of Alabama honey harvested from LC's backyard, two mini bottles of Maker's Mark bourbon, a card that says "I miss you, we'll have a drink soon" and five cans of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. One of the cans is completely crushed and, although the pop-top is still sealed, the can is empty. This probably explains the soaking wet newsprint lining the box. Still, perfection.

For me that is what four States of love tastes like. It tastes like meddlesome Oregon toiletry rearrangement, peppered with some Pennsylvania self-invoked alone time, soaked in fructose and Washington conversation, then washed down with Alabama honey and Buffalo Rock. I've got women in every corner of the USA watching my back and I'm holding my own too. Behind at work or no, I'm doing okay as a human being.

I know, sometimes my writing can be a bit much. Does it sound too sweet for you? The metaphor a bit tender and mushy? Yes? Well....why don't you go suck a sharp dusty rock? I'll do my happy any damn way I please and that includes both cheesy and happy-crabby. Habby? Cheese-Chappy? Screw you. I'm going to bed.

(but I'm going to bed happy)

*I'm not sure, but I think "Things Turn Around" is the title of an ill-fated work by Chinua Achebe, meant to follow his ground-breaking "Things Fall Apart". Unfortunately, nobody wanted to read it. Mostly it just contained detailed passages of yam crops growing, unadulterated by locusts, and people sitting around chatting about what kinds of non-threatening animals had wandered through the village that day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hello Incident Report, it’s been a while. How sweet of you to drop by (now get out).

Arty-G came into town from Birmingham this evening. He clearly carried a big slice of the old B’ham in his pocket because I met him for a few drinks at his hotel and suddenly my life is once again party-party followed by incident report and, as a bonus round, an altercation with my neighbor. Seriously, for that kind of fun I should be paying only $550 a month for rent and having Buffalo Rock ginger ale whenever I want. I think the additional $500 a month I pay in Philly, plus the ginger ale deprivation should at least come with a party-party-but-no-incident-report lifestyle.

No such luck. The night started out pretty tame. I have only seen one other B’hamian since moving to Philly so I was pretty excited when I found out that Arty-G was coming up for a short work trip. I’ve been tired, tired, tired, lately and today I found out that while my thyroid is not cancerous, it may be infected from the biopsy and I have to start a course of antibiotics.

Let me pause for a second to say again that the result of my biopsy was BENIGN. I found this out officially on Monday. Now I smile, you can too if you want! Now I frown, and launch back into the rest of my story.

So…I wasn’t feeling well but I managed to slump through the rest of my day. I was looking forward to Arty-G but also a little worried that I would be too wiped to be any fun. He was late finishing dinner and so I was already in his hotel lobby bar (At the Ritz baby! Arty-G does it in style) when he came in. Oh! The happiness of, and on, his sweet face! On my face a big grin as well, reflecting the happy happiness of being known, not new, and loved (or as he would say lurrrved). We chat. We gossip. We eat stinky cheese and honey. We tell the bartender to make us a “Ben Franklin Slamma”, or a “Liberty Bell”, or a “Philadelphia Freedom” or an “Elton John”. We think we’re hilarious because none of these drinks exist on the menu (or anywhere for that matter) and the bartender gives us something that tastes a lot like pez candy, if pez was made with red bull. It costs us a lot of money to be that silly, since we are at the Ritz. I introduce Arty-G to Philly’s local gin, Bluecoat. He takes me up to his suite on the 29th floor to split a split of champagne (Ritz Champagne, Arty-G…naturally) where we can see teeny, far away Philadelphia under a big fat moon.

Yes. A Pez Franklin Slamma (whatever that was made of) followed by Gin followed by champagne. Only with Arty-G. I left the Ritz knowing that I will regret being out late, drinking any alcohol at all and drinking that alcohol in particular. But I also left feeling relaxed and happy to have seen a familiar face and even better, to have been a familiar face.

When the cab dropped me off at home I walked up to my front door and immediately called my mom. My leasing company recently rehabbed our front door and while it now looks amazing, it doesn’t really close. Unusually, both the inner and outer doors to my building were wide open and, as it was past midnight, I felt funny about going in alone. I should also add that to get to my door on the second floor I would have to walk by not one, but two empty apartments, both with open doors. Crreeepy, so I called my mom to ‘walk me to my door’.

I used to do this all the time with mom or B when I was coming home late from work in Birmingham. They would be quiet until I said, “I’m safe!” and then we would chat for a bit. In Birmingham, this was necessitated in part because I had a scary, antagonistic, relationship with my scary, antagonizing (likely drug-addicted, definitely crazy-ass-mean) downstairs neighbor. In Philly, however, I have no such relationships…until tonight.

I made it past the cavernous apartments, gave mom the “I’m safe!”, and we chatted about my evening. She was so happy that I had seen a friend that I didn’t even get scolded for drinking when I’m already sick. “I know I’m going to pay for this tomorrow” I tell her, “but it was really worth it anyway”. On that cheerful note, I said my goodnights and curled up to sleep the (not very restorative) sleep of the over imbibed.

About three hours later I woke up when I heard the downstairs door open and close. I was about to head back into la-la-land when I realized that someone was walking up and down the stairwell. Not up the stairwell, up and down the stairwell. On the third trip up I can hear men’s voices and then oddly, the third floor hall window opening. I got up and quietly went to my door. I could hear duct tape being pulled from a roll? The window closing? I looked out my peephole and saw a man coming back down the stairs while another man was just coming up the stairwell. It didn’t feel right, or it looked funny. I don’t know why I kept looking out the peephole except that mostly I knew if I walked back from my door, the floor would creak.

The two men stopped on the landing in front of my door. They conferred quietly for a moment and then the downstairs guy turned toward my door. He was looking right at me but didn’t realize it. He turned back to the upstairs guy and gestured to my door. I couldn’t make out his face, but I saw upstairs guy shake his head “no” just a little. Then downstairs guy turned back to my door and turned the handle.

WHAM! I hit the front door so they would know that I knew and RAN to my living room for my cell phone. The men yelled something through my front door but there was no f#@$ing way that I was getting close enough to that door to find out what it was. The police were there in five minutes or less. I watched for them out the front window and saw three cars race past my building. Flashbacks of standing on my porch in Birmingham after calling to report a break-in, watching police cars drive repeatedly past my house for an hour before they found the location.

But the Philly cops come back around quickly and I don’t have to wait long until they are in the building. I could hear them talking in firm voices to someone downstairs and when they came upstairs I called out through my front door. The officer who came to my door was in his 40’s, had a thick Philly accent and I felt instantly reassured. I told him what happened and he asked me to come downstairs.

“Why?” I ask.

“I’d like for you to take a look at somebody for me please” he says.

I knew this already. I could hear a man complaining loudly downstairs and I didn’t want to confront whoever it was. I walked down behind the officer to see…Yes! It’s upstairs guy #1! I hadn’t really made out his face but same bald head, same black jacket. Relief! And then…





My downstairs neighbor.

He’s shaved off his head of thick hair since the first (and only) time that I met him. He’s handcuffed, being held by a second officer, and he’s pissed.

“Man, I live here!” he says.

“He lives here.” I say.

“You’ve got me handcuffed in my own home!”

The last comment was directed at me and I opened my mouth to apologize but here’s what came out instead:

“What the F@$ck did you think I was going to do? What did you think was going to happen when two grown-ass men start messing with my door in the middle of the night when I live alone? If it were your mother what would you tell her? You’d tell her to call! If it were your sister, what would you tell her? You’d tell her to call! If it were your grandmother, what would you tell her? You’d tell her to f@%ing call!”

The fright, and late hour (4:30 am) had turned me into The Great Reverend Doctor, complete with the booming volume. At that moment, I was every single one of my black aunties rolled into one, halleluiah and amen.

He’s still handcuffed, listening to me and politely nodding in agreement. He looks contrite. I ruin my sermon by finishing with:

“Jesus! I’m sorry to inconvenience you.”

I went back upstairs with the first officer. He and the other cop had waited patiently while I stood on the stairs and yelled at my neighbor so I apologized to him as well. He stood in my hallway, politely ignored the pile of laundry on my bedroom floor, and told me that there was nothing to apologize for, that it was the middle of the night, I was clearly sound asleep and that he would have wanted his daughter to do the same thing. He took my name, birth date and phone number for the incident report, wished me a good night, and left.

Meanwhile, I could hear that my neighbor was still talking to the cop downstairs. I heard the officer say that they wouldn’t do anything about one call but not to get called about again. I retreated to my living room and this computer.

It’s 6:30 in the morning now. I’m not sure that I’ll get back to sleep. I hate the thought of living in another situation where I don’t feel safe because of my neighbor. Or where I feel bad for having antagonized a neighbor.

Here’s the thing. It was embarrassing, yes. But a few things are still bothering me. Why didn’t my other neighbors wonder about all the yelling in the hallway? What was he doing with the third floor hall window at 3 AM when he lives on the ground floor? Where did his friend go? What were they talking about on the second floor landing? What did that bartender put in the Ben Franklin Slamma that made it taste so much like pez?

But mostly what I’m wondering is…why were they trying to open my front door?

Monday, April 19, 2010

You can play from the rough with your regulation thyroid

I want to write something happy and really funny here. I want to write something happy and funny but I’m a little stuck in that realm known as pro-fess-shee-unal-ism.
Here’s the problem: A while back I threw all these stories into a book for my mom via an online site. I made the reference public so that a family friend could order one too (yes, I did tell her it was also available for FREE online). Helpfully, Google picked up the reference and NOW when my name is Googled, the book shows up…with a link to this otherwise semi-anonymous site. It is my fault and a stupid mistake. I’ve tried and tried to erase the reference, but it won’t go away.

So here’s me, moved on to Philadelphia and a Postdoctoral Fellow (can I just say that I can never figure out if post doc is one word or two? Anyone?). Having survived graduate school with most of my organs in tact I now find myself facing the semi-real, although still unlikely, possibility of future employment in some sort of scientific/academic field. Even more troubling, I am currently supported by a fantastic teaching and research training grant.

How can it be both ‘troubling’ and ‘fantastic’ you ask? Well the folks who run this grant have provided me with a really awesome set-up: three years of support, lots of money for meetings and supplies, rigorous teacher training and free hoagies about once a month when we have an organizational meeting. So obviously that’s the ‘fantastic’ part. The hoagies are especially fantastic because the veggie hoagies on the platter are essentially raw broccoli and lettuce sandwiches which is both icky and genius. I think about those sandwiches a lot, but I digress.

Anyway, the ‘troubling’ part? They are pretty serious about this program and would probably prefer that I not undermine their efforts by discussing a time when I might or might not have had to suppress my gag reflex while cheerfully encouraging students to dissect cats with gangrenous livers. NOT. That did NOT happen, but if it had, what a great story that would have made for this sad, neglected blog.

So that’s where this stands. Me, stuck with the choice: entertain the two people who stop by here once every two months (yeah, I get a count on the hits) or retain the ability to make almost enough money to pay for a one bedroom apartment and health care in any major city. It’s a tough choice and I do love entertaining you but also, I really need the health care.
Which brings me to another point. The damn lump in my thyroid is now the size of a ping-pong ball. I’m not exaggerating, I put the largest diameter of the thing into Google and I got all these hits about the size of a regulation ping-pong ball. I’m glad it’s not bigger than a ‘regulation’ ball because that would just make me feel so rouge. Still, I’m a little scared and a little overwhelmed. I am not worried about cancer, that’s basically been ruled out although another biopsy will be done this week. Even if the biopsy comes back malignant the survival rate for most thyroid cancer 20 years out is something reassuring like 95%. Nope, I’m scared that I’ll have to wait another six months while this stupid lump gets bigger and then just be put off again:

“Come see me in six months.”

“I’m not too worried. Come see me in six months.”

“I tell you what, let’s check in on this again in six months? Sound good?”
No, it doesn’t sound good. It sounds stupid. Every time they check, the damn thing is bigger and bigger. This last ultrasound it was almost 50% bigger than it was a year ago. I feel it always now and it’s starting to make me feel strangely self-conscious about how I look. This is particularly crazy of me because I’m pretty sure that from a distance my ass (which is slightly larger than a golf ball) is more noticeable than a lump in my neck. But I USE my ass for sitting and the bigger it gets, the nicer it is to sit. The lump, on the other hand, seems to only serve the purpose of making me feel claustrophobic when I wear turtlenecks or drink too fast.
I also believe that Lumpolina (yeah, that’s what I’m calling it as of right now, Lumpolina. I named it. Gross!) is wreaking havoc on my energy levels. I sleep all the time. I’m not exaggerating that either. I average 12 hours a night. That means that sometimes I only sleep 10 hours but other nights/days I sleep more like 15. This was happening to me in Birmingham too but everyone, including me, just assumed that I was depressed or lazy and trying to avoid finishing my Ph.D. Well I’m nearly as happy as a clam here in Philly…a sleepy, tired, washed-out, moderately happy clam, and now I really believe I can say that something just isn’t working. I am also gaining weight at a steady clip, which is weird since I’m too busy sleeping to eat. It must be Lumpolina’s way of compensating for me. Like maybe if my ass gets to be big enough, no one will notice whether I retain “regulation” standards for ping-pong or have to move on to golf-neck. Just 0.26 cm more to reach that goal. Come see me in another six months.
So that’s the update. I’m good. I have a lump in my neck. There was absolutely no gangrenous cat dissection (but can you imagine if there was? No, don’t try. It would have been a terrible smell, had it happened.). I like it here but I’m struggling with growing up. I want to tell you all about it but can’t in case they decide to listen in and don’t like what they hear. Is that what we get for moving on and moving up? More secrets? Maybe that’s why I waited so long to get going. I must have known.
Oh, and I miss you. Yeah. You. Just know that I’m here. Even though I would like to; I just can’t tell you all about it any more, or at least not about the cats, because that didn’t happen anyway. I swear.