Wednesday, December 16, 2009

[Out of the Valley]

I think I'll just run the whole gamut of good news in list form:

The only lousy thing: a sinus infection.  But that, too, shall pass.

I could elaborate more, but I see no need.  Things are good, and I'm about to reclaim my independence. 


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

[New Blog]

I have a quick announcement.

I've started a new blog for a writing experiment that I've begun. I'll certainly continue writing here for updates and rants and the usual stuff for this blog, but at this new site, I'm going to be pre-writing and writing a fictional story. Now, fiction is something I've rarely toyed with up to now, but I feel a little freer to try some new stuff.

I am going to keep it private (both to protect my ideas and to protect my feelings! :) ), so if I know you and you'd like to be a reader/commenter, drop me an email at my personal gmail account. If we know each other, I should be in your address book or on your Facebook friends list, so my address can be found there. If you still don't have my email address from whatever reason, drop me a comment below, and I'll find a way to get it to you. I'll add you to the list and send you the link (you'll have to be signed in the view the page, just FYI).

I'll be posting an update here soon, but I have to get up ridiculously early tomorrow to sub at RSMS (oh, joy), so it'll have to wait for now.

Good night all!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


At the risk of sounding trite and cliché, time sure flies.  Two months ago, I posted with the fabulous announcement of the new puppy (of whom I already have thousands of stories).  Then, before I could update, the end-of-semester madness kicked in.  I had to come up with the rest of the comps questions, grade student portfolios and conference with the students, come up with a rough thesis, and take my comprehensive exams.  Lots of news, no time to post it. 

But I finished comps (I don't know if I passed yet--I won't find out for probably another week or two--eep!) on Saturday, so I'm not trying to read 27 non-fiction books and 30 composition theory articles.  I'm still working hard on my thesis and taking a summer class, but it's a sight less stressful.

This spring, I put in about 30 job applications.  So far, nothing.  Unless something changes in the next two months, I'll be moving home for a year and substituting at Reeds Spring and surrounding schools.  I'll be honest--I'm not entirely looking forward to that, but it will give me time to build up my résumé (try to submit some papers to conferences, for example... maybe try to get a couple things published) and give job applications a little more focus.  Not all bad--but I'm not gonna lie.  I just want to find a full-time teaching job and settle down somewhere.  This whole transitional thing is not so hot. 

Anyway, that's why I've got the no-make-up-wrinkled-clothes-messy-hair-bloodshot-eyes look going on lately.  If anyone wants to submit me to What Not to Wear, I won't be insulted--I'll be grateful. Ha.

As far as my schedule lately, my church friends have undoubtedly noted my absence since April.  It hasn't been completely intentional.  During the semester, the only opportunities I had to go home were on the weekends, and since I've got a dog that apparently thinks I'm another puppy, I definitely need that time to try to convince the little brat that I'm the alpha person, not the puppy-playmate/chew-toy/tug-of-war-rope.  That should be changing, though.  I did end up going home again this weekend, but that was because I'd spent the whole week in Springfield (Sunday night to Saturday afternoon) prepping for my comps, and by the time I got out of comps (in addition to having been up for 26 hours at that point), I realized I needed puppy time very badly.  So I went home.

But that's done.

Here's my schedule for those of you wanting to find me/hang out with me (please note that study-time can always be interrupted):

Sunday mornings: Return to Springfield, go to NuBrew
Sunday afternoons: Study time, thesis writing time, optional hang-out time
Monday during the day: See Sunday afternoons
Monday 6:00-9:00 p.m.: Modern International Poetry (English 680)
Tuesday: See Sunday afternoon
Wednesday during the day: See Sunday afternoon
Wednesday 6:00-9:00 p.m.: M.I.P. (English 680)
Wednesday after class to Sunday morning: back home with the pup (you're free to come visit, though!)

That's the plan, and assuming I passed comps, graduation is July 31 at 1:00.  I hope to see you there.

Now then, back to pup-dates.

First off, this dog is nuts.  Cute, funny, intelligents... and nuts.  Then again, she's a lab-mix, so I think it comes with the territory.  For one thing, she's in love with my hair.  On our back porch, we have a foldable chaise lounger that, over time, has been surrendered to the dog.  If I should lay down on it, if she isn't sound asleep, she can't resist.  If she's in front of me, she'll freeze, lock eyes with me, then fly through the air and land on my torso (hind legs firmly planted on my ovaries), pin me down, and chew on my hair.  If she's behind me, I get no warning.  I just suddenly have a forty-pound dog sitting on my head, chewing on my hands and hair.

Unless she's in the mood to run nonstop, she cannot allow herself to fetch just one item.  She has to challenge herself.  If you throw a ball, for example, she charges after the ball, grabs it, looks around, and finds something else to pick up as well.  Her life's goal is to pick up two tennis balls.  She can already pick up her volleyball. 

Sometimes, she sleeps with her eyes partly open.  It's a little unnerving, actually.

Do you know those old Coppertone commercials with the puppy pulling the little girl's bathing suit bottoms down?  Well, one evening, Sassy got "the rips"--the condition in which she gets so wound up she just has to run with all her might and nip at everything she passes.  It's funny to watch, by the way--her butt tries to move faster than her front, so her hind feet are almost in front of her front feet.  Anyway, as she passed me, I tried to move out of her way, but she leapt into the air and grabbed me by the seat of my leggings, her baby teeth hooking in to the fabric, and, well, I'm glad it was late twilight, because I was definitely left in my shirt and underwear for a brief moment before I could react.  In my yard, mind you.  When I got inside, I found that she'd ripped three large holes in those leggings.  Nice.

She thinks she's a lap dog.  If I'm on the ground and it's not 90 degrees, she'll go find a bone to chew on, bring it over, and curl up in/on my lap.  If I'm in the chair, she tries to climb my legs. 

As much as she picks on me (or maybe because of this), she really misses me when I'm gone.  When I got home Saturday, as I was gathering my belongings out of my backseat, Dad let her off the porch.  All of a sudden, I felt a forty-pound puppy literally hugging me around the waist, licking the back of my arm, tinkling on my leg (if she hasn't emptied her bladder, she's prone to excitement peeing).  Yup... I think she was glad to see me. 

She then promptly jumped in the backseat of the Jeep, despite the boxes in the way, and we couldn't get her out.  She thought it was time to go for a ride.  Dad finally had to go to the other side, corner her, and lift her out of the car.  My theory here is that she's learned that nearly every trip in the car involves stopping somewhere and meeting someone new, which is her life's joy.  In spite of her very assertive insistence in being included in car trips, she's actually a good little traveller... pretty quiet (as opposed to her normal state), willing to travel long distances.  I'm predicting road trips down the line.

Finally, Saturday night, we went over to our friends Jack and Sue's farm, where they have a two full-grown dogs (one of which is okay with the pup (Ladd), the other who thinks pups are a unbearable nuisance (Bob)) and... a new puppy, Patty.  Sassy and Patty are pals.  Patty is the only pup I know that can outplay Sassy.  That night, those two pups played for a solid two hours (I know, I watched them).  At most, they stopped for five minutes (they both decided they needed to curl up next to me for a few minutes... or climb on me for a few minutes--at one point, Sassy hugged my neck from behind and started chewing on my hair and ears)... then it was back to play. 

I think this video's a good note on which to end.  Until next time!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

[I Will Update Soon...]

...I promise.  But until Saturday, my primary focus is my comprehensive exams.  The disadvantage to taking them in the summer is that you only get one shot, and I intend to graduate July 31.  So, hang in there.  I'll be back soon, and I'd appreciate all the prayers you can send my way on this.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

[The New Girl in Town]

Well, first off, the non-puppy-related news:

I finally finished the paper from hell--the Old English paper that plagued my life for four or five months is written and submitted (for better or worse) and behind me.  Whatever grade I get, so-freaking-be-it.  It's done.  Praise God.

Now, my to-do list is manageable:
  • Thesis (nearly all of it, but still, it's my only focus for now)
  • Teaching my two classes
  • Come up with six more comps questions
  • Prep for and take my comprehensive exams (June 13)
  • Summer class
  • Graduation in August
  • Find a teaching job
I can handle this.  I think. 

I presented a paper at a conference for the first time--the GEO Conference at Truman.  Since it was at my alma mater, I got to hang out with old friends, see old professors, and just plain get away from it all!  Plus, Andrea presented the same day as me, so we got to hang out for a few hours on Saturday.  This whole "being away from my friends" thing really isn't my cup of tea.

Weird thing happened Friday-Saturday night.  I woke up at 2 a.m. with major cramping in my abdomen.  At first, I thought, menstrual cramps.  But they were in the wrong place--or rather, places.  As it turns out, I was having charley horse cramps through my entire set of abdominal muscles, and they lasted 45 minutes straight.  At one point, I stumbled down the hall to the bathroom so I wouldn't throw up all over Deana's living room and actually half-passed-out from the pain as I reached the bathroom door.  So not cool.  Charley horse cramps... go figure.

But now, the fun news: the new Sassy.  I posted a picture in the previous entry, so refer to that post for visual aid.  Mom and Dad were supposed to come up here Thursday and take me to the animal shelters here in Springfield.  That was the plan.  Then, at 12:45 this afternoon, my cell phone rings.  It's Mom.  "Guess what I've got."  Knowing her, I knew.  "I found a black lab, heeler mix.  She's already put her paw on me and claimed me.  I'm going to name her Sassy." 

"Mom, that's great, but I was going to give my next dog a different nam--"

"Nope, she's Sassy.  Come here, Sassy girl!  Come to Momma!  [various other baby-talks] She's going to be a big dog. Will that be okay with you?"

"Well, yeah, of course.  Wait--where are you?  Are you in Sprin--"

"Branson animal shelter.  Oh, she's my dog now."

From "no dog ever again" to "maybe after you finish your thesis" to "the weekend after you get back from Kirksville" to today, complete with baby-talk and "Talk to your dog... Say hi to Niki, Sassy!"

So sums up the unpredictability of my mother.  Sometimes, though, like today, I'm okay with that.

[Sassy the Third]

The newest member of the Cox family!  Sassy is a black lab - blue heeler mix.  After I go home Thursday, I'll be sure to fill you in on her personality. :)
More updates to come.  I'm kind of distracted now (not by the dog, but by my thesis... I don't get to meet her until Thursday afternoon).

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

[Learning the Meaning of Grace]

You know quite well by now that I generally don't write the big revelation-style entries, with the possible exception of when I'm going through some kind of spiritual transformation (i.e. changing my prayer life, reading C.S. Lewis, etc.).  The simple reason for this is not that my faith is unimportant to me (quite the opposite, really) or that I'm afraid to offend (if my faith offends you, you're only viewing me two-dimensionally), but because I don't want to say things that have been said over and over and over and over... I'm well aware that, as the author of Ecclesiastes moans, "There is nothing new under the sun!" At least, as far as humanity and its relationship with its Creator. 

But I do want to share some discoveries I've made lately about myself and their resulting revelations about what it means to, in the words of Jars of Clay, "Look beyond the empty cross, forgetting what my life has cost" (Worlds Apart).

As far as you know, I'm the good girl.  I went through the usual teenage emotional muck, but I rarely, if ever, acted on my frustrations or impulses.  I fought with Mom and Dad, I sulked that "no one loves me", I occasionally crushed on a "bad boy"... but I stayed the golden girl.  Now, I don't say any of this to boast--if I'm really honest, probably the main reason I didn't act rebelliously had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't have the opportunities.  Let's face it--I had very little social life, and I rarely got asked out.  What kind of trouble could I have gotten into, really?  All this situational purity merely served to build up this self-image and surface-level piety.  Of course it was easy to believe in Christ.  I'd grown up in church, and I'd been taught early on that "we" were "right" and everyone else was wrong. 

Even in college, I didn't have many opportunities to be "bad."  I hung out with CCF, a group of people who believed as I believed, and the idea of partying did not (and still rarely does) appeal to me.  I actually have something of a phobia of crowds, so it was easy to say no to my neighbors who wanted me to join them at some frat party. 

The past two years, though, have been a real struggle.  I won't say that I ever doubted my faith... I think perhaps I might have doubted some of the basic tenets, but I've experienced too much in my spiritual life to doubt that He did what He said He did.  (Incidentally, asking questions and confessing doubt is healthy... blindly accepting what you've been told can be dangerous.  Make your faith your own and it'll become more real than ever before) What I did come to do is to doubt whether or not it was worth the struggle do the right things.  In the interest of complete honesty, I was weary of purity.  When I went to Hawaii and went to a club with an old classmate and received attention from some of the guys there, I sincerely wanted to chuck it all and do the things I knew I would regret.  Had my parents not been waiting for me at the hotel and had I not had this friend who has known me since eighth grade, I might have acted on that impulse.  I was ashamed, but well, hormones can be pretty powerful--let's face it. 

Since then, I've made a lot of compromises.  You don't have to date or anything like that to surrender your purity (yes, I realize what an overused word that is, but its meaning hasn't changed); purity is a state of the heart and mind.  I won't share details for the simple reason that I'm just not comfortable with it, but suffice it to say that addictions have vastly controlled my life for a good amount of time. 

Today, I've not overcome these addictions--not completely, anyway--but I'm moving in the right direction.  While I wish very much not to have these sins and temptations plaguing my day-to-day life, I don't think I really regret the fact that they have shaken my world.  I know that could be taken the wrong way--I'm definitely not saying that it's good to sin or that everyone should go out and destroy their entire moral compasses.  Definitely not.  I hate that I struggle with these things.  I regret allowing this sin to take hold of my heart and life.  But the flip side of this is that I now understand, to a much greater degree anyway, the necessity of grace. 

Humanity is really screwed up.  The very best of us has the potential to, with one choice, become the worst of us (and vice versa, I might add).  We're seriously screwed up.  I know I am.  Having this sin in my life has really shoved a wedge between me and God in a way that has never happened in my life.  I justified my actions.  I reasoned away the conviction of the Spirit.  I stopped praying--which is a first in my life.  The guilt plagued me so much that I couldn't bear to come to that holy place.  For the first time, I understood the hopeless condition of humanity.  We're sinners.  Outside of grace, we're consumed.  Sometimes it's subtle--judging the broken, holding on to a grudge--while other times it's overt--promiscuity, violence, etc.  Big or small, we're all on the same level: seriously messed up. 

I've recently renewed my walk with Christ and have discovered the real freedom that comes in being completely broken and honest before Him.  It hurts, badly, but it's freeing.  I think, for me, it was necessary to go through this period of wretchedness in order to truly grasp the weight of His grace.  My life is not my own because He gave His all on my behalf when I really don't deserve it.  That's the key, and I don't believe I understood it before.  Yes, I got it intellectually, but now I get it. 

I really understand in a new way that nothing I do is sufficient--it really is by His grace and mercy that I have any hope whatsoever.  That, my friends, is simulaneously the most freeing and most binding truth I know. 

"Worlds Apart" by Jars of Clay:

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart

Thursday, February 26, 2009

[A Day in the Life...]

I know, I know... I'm a total slacker.  I haven't updated in something like a month.  What can I say?  For getting next to nothing accomplished, I've been crazy busy lately.

In recent Niki News:

  • I got the small envelope from OSU... apparently, once you get to this level, having a 4.0 does not set you apart from the masses.  You're one of them because you're one of many.  Oh, well.  I'm really not that broken-hearted.  I'm honestly burned out and ready to focus on teaching for awhile.
  • I dyed my hair yesterday... I'm trying out the two-toned look that's so hip right now (on that note, is "hip" still respectably cool of a word to say?).  Here's a shot of how it turned out:

  • Next time, I hope the contrast is a little stronger... Subtlety is fine and all, but I was going for something slightly more, shall we say, hipster, but still respectable enough to pass "professional career lady" standards.  Yes, I'm a nerd... deal.

  • I'm getting really fond of black coffee.  I never thought I'd see the day.  It's good, though... cheaper than soda or adding creamer and syrup.

  • I've been accepted to present at the Truman Graduate English Organization's conference in April, so CCF reunion time!  I know most people are gone by now, but there's still a pretty notable number of my friends hanging around K-Vegas. 

  • I'm getting stronger all the time... it's more subtle now, but I really notice it on days like this when I'm holding conferences and, in spite of sitting in one spot most of the day, my back doesn't loathe me as much as it did three weeks ago, during the previous round of conferences.  Boo-yah!

  • I've been on a music binge lately and have discovered a number of awesome rock and metal groups.  Right now, I've got Red, Flyleaf, and Fireflight on repeat on my Zune.  I love the way they combine the hard guitar sounds and occasional screams with some amazing melodic sections.  It's like they satisfy two extremes within me. 

  • You know how I've been reading Relevant Magazine for nearly six years (since the second issue)?  Well, on their website, they've started a community that's a little like Facebook.  You should check it out.  You should check out the podcast, too... particularly the one that was posted on 2.9.09... though I may be a little biased.  Curious?  Then check it out.  Go.  You can come back in an hour and read the rest of this.
Out of curiosity, I think it's time for a roll call.  Are you a reader?  Gimme a shout-out.  I'm just wondering if I have any kind of audience besides the three people I already am aware of. :)  Yes, I get absurd when I post late at night.  But you should know that about me by now. 

Over and out.

Intense Niki:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

[Conference Day]

It's conference week one, so I'm planted at the Coffee Ethic today and Thursday pretty much during all my waking hours.  Thank goodness it's a coffee shop... caffeine! 

It'll be Singles' Awareness Day in a mere 11 days, so I better start hunting down my Happy S.A.D. t-shirt for the occasion.  What is my Happy S.A.D. shirt?  Well, here it is in all its glory:

My name is Niki, and I've made patheticness into a fine art. :-D 
I wonder if I still have my rhinestone lips belt...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

[Black Magic More]

Written: 11 December 2008

Black Magic More

Tonight, I have reached a new milestone. I bought myself three sexy “jumbo” mugs for my coffee—the sort that generally holds cups of soup more often than cups of coffee. Very bohemian coffee-shopesque. I poured myself a cup of coffee and, just as I was about to douse the small amount of coffee with about a pound of Splenda, creamer, and coffee syrup, I paused. When was the last time I tried coffee—just plain coffee? Come to think of it, it’s been almost exactly four years since I have been brave enough to try the bitter blackness.

I made myself a promise at a very early age. If ever I tried a dish or a drink and did not enjoy it, I would try it again in a year. This vow has served me well over the years. While I still cannot reconcile my fickle taste buds to anything spicy, this decision has taught me to enjoy such succulent dishes as potato salad and very crispy fried chicken. Healthy, no, but it does make picnics a bit more fulfilling. I guess this is just my otherwise shy adventurous side making itself known.

So, I heated up the coffee. I sipped, wincing, expecting to gag as I had in the hotel lobby four years ago, and...

I liked it!

Now, granted, I still believe I will continue to strongly prefer a java-chip frappuccino pretty much any day over a good but bitter cup of coffee. All the same, a whole new world of caffeinated glory has opened itself up to me.

The journey of caffeine indulgence from Pepsi to black coffee has been long and, well, fun. I cannot remember a day of my life in which I have not craved caffeine. One of my first words, according to my parents, pertained to caffeine. Using a toddler’s sense of reasoning, I tried to figure out how to get more Pepsi. I liked Pepsi. Pepsi tingled my mouth. Pepsi made me happy. Following that good old toddler logic, I observed that whenever Mom offered me Pepsi, she always asked, “Do you want some more?” The wheels began to turn. I began to conclude that what I was hearing was actually, “Do you want some More?” More had to be the name of this magical cup of miracles.

“I want Mowee.” Forget milk. Forget water. Forget juice. I just want some More.

That’s right… not even two years old, and already an addict. My future was now set in stone. Give me all your More and no one will get hurt.

For a good ten years or so, the only caffeine I acknowledged came in a blue (Pepsi) or red (Coca-Cola) can. Yes, I had heard of other sodas—even tried Dr. Pepper, but I just found myself wondering what idiot gave Mr. Pepper a doctorate. Then, my sense of culinary adventure began to kick in. I tried again. Dr. Pepper began to appeal to my taste buds. Sprite and 7Up made me smile, but their lack of caffeine put me to sleep and failed to capture my undying devotion. I even discovered the motherlode: a soda that came in my favorite color—pink! Vess put out a crème soda that, even if the flavor had made me gag, I would have loved for looking like a soda Barbie would drink. My world began to grow some more.

In high school, I tried a cup of coffee for the first time. Sitting at a table with my family at the Lennon Sisters breakfast show, I took a sip.

I nearly sprayed my Uncle Chuck, who sat across the table from me chuckling (pardon the pun) at the look on my face. Sugar did nothing but make the bitter taste turn medicinal-flavored. The waitress returned.

“May I have a Pepsi instead?” She smothered a laugh and brought me my familiar comfort.

For a long time, I couldn’t even stand even a trace of coffee taste in anything. One day, Mom brought home a gallon of chocolate mocha ice cream. When I heard chocolate, I grabbed the biggest bowl in the house. “Me please!” I smiled as the scoops multiplied. I took a bite. I wrinkled my nose. “Um, Dad, do you want this?” He rolled his eyes and took the bowl. It was empty before I’d even returned to the kitchen.

In 2002, I moved into Missouri Hall at Truman State University, and I stocked my refrigerator with my new caffeinated love: Diet Mountain Dew. My soda took up almost as much room as my truckload of storage boxes. My roommate Tracy raised an eyebrow but said nothing. I smiled sheepishly.

A couple months into the semester, I found myself freezing. I had no idea that 300 miles could make such a difference as far as climate, but trust me when I say that Kirksville was a whole different playing field. My room, receiving no sunlight and—unbeknownst to me until the end of the semester—having windows that were cracked open at the top, did nothing to help warm me up at the end of the day. I could sit on the damned radiator and my bum would still be blue. I needed something that was hot and that would keep me awake. Hot cocoa, though fabulous in flavor, failed the latter test.

Then, in the dining hall, I spied the cappuccino machine. I hesitated. I stepped closer. I hesitated again. I reached for a cup, and filled it up. With great trepidation, I sipped.

I promptly grabbed two more cups and filled them up. I had found my new love. I wanted, in a word, More. But More was no longer Pepsi. More had taken on a much broader base. More was black magic—caffeine, in almost any form.

Two more years passed. I tried all the frou-frou drinks from Starbucks and Jazzman’s in the student union. I loved them all. Still, I dared not sip it straight. The smell of coffee was—and always had been—heaven to me, but the taste simply did not match the magnificent roasted fragrance. Then, I went on a cruise with my parents. On the drive down to Mobile, Alabama, we stopped in a hotel for the night. I needed caffeine after the madness of that drive, and I needed it ASAP.

In the hall, I froze in my tracks.

The soda machine was empty!

I gaped in horror. My mind could not grasp the madness of this reality. No soda? I stumbled aimlessly back in what I thought was the direction of our room, paying little mind to which direction I walked. I found myself in the lobby. Caffeine? Could there be some caffeine in here somewhere?

There it was. But it was in coffee form! Desperate, I grabbed a foam cup and filled it up, making sure to grab as many packets of sugar as I could carry. I walked it back to my room (it was still too hot to drink), and waited. Finally, it cooled enough for me to try. Ugh! Okay, let’s try the sugar. Well, that helped. I can at least drink it, even if I can’t enjoy it.

I was making progress. I knew then that I was growing accustomed to the taste. I couldn’t drink it black yet, and I knew that I would still be the one to “have a little coffee in my creamer” for a while yet, but there was hope. Someday, I might yet be able to walk into a diner and order a cup of coffee—and just drink it.

Then—tonight. It’s term paper season in graduate school, and each semester gets a little more stressful, and I get less and less sleep as the stress increases. I need More—and more of it! Tonight, I tasted black magic—straight—and Someday has finally arrived. I finally taste what I smell—roasted goodness, not bitterness. I am officially a product of my culture. I’m so proud. Should I be? Is this even something to take joy in? Probably not. But black magic has a seductive side that I never saw coming until it had taken me, heart and soul, and the transformation is complete, and all I want is More.

Oh, no… I’m out!

Please, sir, may I have some More?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

[So... How am I?]

I know, I know... it sure took me long enough.  Why wait so long to update, especially after such a crazy surgery?  Well, a lot happened, and there were a good number of unanswered questions.  

Disclaimer: some details about my recovery and current state of health may contain TMI (too much information) for some readers.  If you are a reader who is opposed to knowing about a patient's digestive troubles, proceed with discretion.  I will be quite blunt.

First off, as I mentioned in my previous blog, the surgery went perfectly.  No breathing tube issues (a definite first for me!), no excessive blood loss, and no complications.  Celebrate! 

The recovery, on the other hand, has been significantly less... smooth. 

One issue that came up is that, inevitably, some nerves had to be cut.  The surgery involved tying off, draining, and removing a large sac of excess spinal fluid, and while thankfully this took place at the very base of my spine, some areas of my body were affected.  Namely, my bladder and colon (particular the sphincter). 

The first problem arose with my bladder.  I mentioned in my previous post that I would soon be going home--I did go home. The day after Christmas.  It was great.  But I was still on a catheter, and unbeknownst to us, I had contracted a UTI (urinary tract infection).  The next day, I woke with a vicious headache and severe vomiting--10 hours of vomiting, to be exact.  By evening, my parents had realized what I knew the moment I'd woken up--it was time to go back to the hospital.  Never had I been so glad to be back in a hospital room.  No, wait, that would be a lie--I've had two other surgeries where I had to go back and was glad to receive expert care again.  Still, it's a top three experience.  Hello anti-nausea and painkillers!

I had a rough few days as we realized that my bladder wasn't going to work on its own.  I did finally manage to empty my bladder by straining very hard--something that has been the case ever since--so I got the catheter out.  But that wasn't the end of my troubles. In addition to my colon being in shock from not having this big mass pressing on it, my sphincter no longer works (we're still hoping time will heal this).  As a result, I'm now on a steady diet of Metamucil, stool softener, and laxatives to try to keep things moving as they should.  While the main part of my colon is now doing the job, the last leg of the journey often needs... help.  For awhile after getting home again (on New Year's Eve--the last day on my parents' insurance!), I had to rely on Mom (who's experienced caring for another individual with nerve damage) to, well, pull crap out of me--literally. 

The problems persist.  The good news now is that I don't have to call my mom for help with the, shall we say, crappy problems.  I've learned how to handle it myself.  But I still have no feeling in my bladder, it's still a strain to pee, and I have to keep a constant supply of latex gloves and vaseline on hand to make sure I don't get backed up and sick again. 

It's official--the last shred of my dignity have gone.  Ha.

I'm trying to watch my diet now, trying to pick foods that are high in fiber.  While this does further complicate life (have you seen fresh food prices lately?), it's been good.  I'm down from 143 pounds to 126.  Another ten pounds, and I'll be where I should be for my body type.  My energy, in spite of the aches and the whole energy-rebuilding thing, is better.  My migraines are much fewer--though I've had a few heachaches due to the surgery and caffeine withdrawal.  I'm on a few new medications (to encourage my bladder to regain normal usage) that do cause some drowsiness, so I'm working on scheduling them so that I'm not affected by them during the day.  My emotions are less spastic, my face is clearer, and I'm not dealing with the constant lightheadedness I had been for a year or two.

Now that I'm past the worst of the recovery, I can say that the good outweighs the bad.  I'm hoping, hoping, hoping to regain normalcy soon with the issues, but even if I don't, these are things that I can learn to live with.  All in all (and all downsides considered), the surgery has been a success.

It would just be nice if I could live without some of the loss of dignity. :)

I hope this answers all the "How are you feeling?" questions.  Sorry it's taken me awhile--I just didn't want to repeat myself too much. 

My next goal: graduate in May!  Trust me--it's gonna be a challenge.