• Problems With Pain

    Today I wanted to write about our recent adventures in Costa Rica or post pictures of the anatomically correct chalk drawings Drew and Porter decorated our driveway with recently.

    Instead I’m writing about pain– physical pain– as it’s had me in its jaws for the better part of three weeks.

    Longtime readers know that I’ve had two spine surgeries, one for scoliosis and a second to address complications caused by the first.  My spine is fused with a combination of rods, hooks and screws.  Here’s a diagram of a spine.

    The spine is divided into the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions, and each vertebra within a region is given a number.  The green line shows where I am fused, from the fourth thoracic to the fourth lumbar vertebra.  Those of us in the know call this T4 to L4.  The red area shows the vertebrae and discs that are not fused: L4-5 and L5-S1.  Because these two discs handle all the  movement of my upper torso, while the spine is designed to spread all the pressure evenly across the back, my bottom two vertebrae are in bad shape and are the source of most of my back pain.

    Here’s an xray, not mine, that gives you an idea of the hardware inside my body.   I have a few more hooks at the top of my fusion and some big screws at the bottom as a result of the 2004 surgery.
    xray of hook

    During the last thirty years, back pain has been a fact of life for me. It’s been worse at times and better at times, but it always lurks nearby.  I’ve used back braces, pain patches, physical therapists, chiropractors, medications, a muscle stimulator and gin and tonics in my fight against pain. I visited my trusty brace man to fashion a brace to support my belly during my pregnancies and relieve the pressure on my spine, but I still had to take painkillers during pregnancy to make it through some days.

    Generally I’m a rockstar at handling lower back pain.  If your lower back felt the way mine feels on a normal day, you’d be shooting tequila and hollering for your mama.

    Sometimes, however,  there’s pain that no medicine can touch, and that’s what I’ve been fighting most recently.

    It originated near the blue dot on the top diagram, which, coincidentally, is right by the top hook under my right shoulder.

    This upper back pain is a new kind of pain for me, and I haven’t been managing it well.  It radiates up into my neck, down my shoulder, and makes my arm and fingers numb.  The muscles on the left side of my lower back are burning, perhaps because they are compensating for the fact that I’m trying to move my right side as little as possible.

    I hurt when I stand and when I sit, but I hurt the most lying down.  I’m beginning to dread night time.

    Pain affects me physically, but it also gets inside my head.  I’ve been yelling at the boys.  Around 5:30, when it’s really throbbing, I feel like I’m seeing my family through a haze, and I fear that I’m losing my grasp on reality.  I tell Porter to sweep up his cookie crumbs, but impatiently, because I think I’ve already told him once.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Porter says, and he sweeps and then goes outside to write “Porter is cool” in Morse code on the driveway.

    I ask Drew if he’s finished his homework.

    “You already asked me that,” he says.  I don’t remember.

    Dinner is agonizingly slow, but no one else seems to notice.

    “Finn, eat or don’t eat, but let’s get this over with,” I hiss.

    “Honey, I’ll deal with the kitchen.  You go lie down,” Bill says.

    It’s a kind offer, and he means well, but it doesn’t help.  Alone in our room, I cry.  I’m frustrated.  I’ve had a shot in my back and I’m scheduled for an MRI.  My doctor has prescribed a different type of pain pill, but I still can’t sleep.  I wonder if my boys will remember me as a bedridden mom, alternately weeping and shouting orders.

    As the hours stretch on and everyone sleeps but me, my pity party is in full swing.  I cry over the years I’ve spent recuperating from surgeries and liver disease.  I sob about the things I can’t do, like turning cartwheels and somersaults.  When I get good and worked up, I weep about my big feet, my small breasts and the paint peeling in the bathroom.

    I know this season will pass.  Tonight I’ll try not to scream and be impatient with the boys; to keep my hurt hidden until they’re tucked in.

    I’ll try to remember what my mom told me: “My feet might be big, but they sure do hold me up.”

    To be honest, I never was that good at cartwheels, either.


    Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Get Me Out Of Here!


    The theme for this week’s Flashback Friday is OOPS!  Feel free to join in– we’re having a marvelous time digging through old photos and blogging about the past.  Instructions are here.

  • CSI:Birmingham

    Sometimes things happen to you and you contact the proper authorities but they don’t do anything, and that’s when you have to handle the matter yourself.

    Of course, when we woke up last weekend and found our mailbox crushed in a manner that appeared to be more purposeful than accidental, we chalked it up to rowdy teens, hoped someone would step forward, and went ahead and replaced the wooden beam and box.*

    The next day I saw a mailbox down the street destroyed in precisely the same way, and it turns out that a neighbor witnessed the demise of her mailbox and called the police with a description of the vehicle.  (A dark Toyota Tundra type truck with brush guards).  I don’t know what a brush guard is, but apparently that narrows down the list of suspects quite a bit.  I contacted the police as well, and they promised to get back to me, but as of now I’ve not heard from them or the perpetrator.  I’m a bit ticky, as I get the feeling they know exactly who it is.  I’d appreciate an apology and reimbursement for the new mailbox and its installation.

    In the interim, however, Porter and I used the occasion to film CSI:Birmingham, which is obviously a takeoff on CSI:Miami.  It’s about 3.5 minutes long (not 12, like the screen says– apparently I have a long tail on the end of the movie that I can’t delete!)

    and sums up the case pretty well, except for the Lego.

    Enjoy, and I’ll keep you posted on the investigation:

    CSI:Birmingham– Mailbox Mayhem from anneglamore on Vimeo.
    *I replaced the box quickly because I was expecting two pounds of worms to be shipped to me via the Postal Service, and our mail lady dislikes us. I was sure she wouldn’t get out of her truck and walk the worms to our porch; she’d just return them. I need those worms because I’m starting a vermicomposting project, which promises to be great fun as well as extremely bloggable.

    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Looks Like I Won

  • Who Are You?

    We’re trying to take a family pictureAgain.

    I’ll let you visit this site your ownself and find out what your name would be if you were one of Sarah Palin’s kids.  I just want you to be warned, however, that my husband would be Gripper Palin.  That’s a handful!

    But wait– meet my three lovely boys, Fowl, Stinger and Churn.  And that’s me, Yukon.  Let me know what your name is in the comments– they’re sure to be a hoot.
    I’m totally covering Churn’s face in an attempt to remove Fowl’s hat.
    Who are you?  I hope you aren’t one of those moms who thinks the worst of boys and yells at them for no reason.  That happened to Churn the other day and he’s still recovering.  You can read about it here.

    Fortunately, we’ve all recovered from the nastiness on the playground and we’re laughing again.

    Dude! We’ve been taking these pictures on the beach every year since 1998. Here’s our 2004 attempt. Drew and Porter were about to be six and Finn was nine and a half. It’s a sad commentary that we were better behaved back then than we were this past August.


    I have no explanation for the atrocious mom hair other than maybe the stress of wrestling three boys into collared shirts affected my judgment when it came to my own looks.

  • We Talked Too Much


    There’s no polite way to say it. Porter, one of my nine-year-olds, talks too damn much. He narrates his actions as if I’m blind and can’t see what he’s doing. “I’m going to make an omelet with ham and eggs,” he’ll say, pulling the eggs and butter out of the refrigerator. “First I’ll mix up the eggs and scramble them,” he’ll continue, as he cracks the eggs into a bowl. “Now I’m waiting for the cheese to melt a little. Is it melted? It looks kind of oozy…”

    I’ve learned to ignore most of the running commentary. But Porter’s also exceptionally curious, and his questions would drive even the most enthusiastic teacher to the brink of insanity.

    “What would happen if the sky fell? What Mom?”

    “The sky isn’t going to fall, Porter,” I’ll say tiredly.

    “But what if it did? Just say it did? Would you feel it hit your head? If you looked up, would you see blue? Would the clouds fall, too? Would we be able to see straight into heaven?”

    It had been a hot and dreary day. I’d been juggling Finn’s baseball schedule and trying to mark Drew’s clothes for camp. In between, Porter had followed me around, asking, “How many seeds do you think fit in Feather’s bird feeder at one time? Why do we have grandparents? What would happen if we didn’t? Who invented summer camp?”

    By dinner I was spent. I could feel the symptoms of PMS creeping up on me like a cagey leopard. Across the table I saw Finn wielding his fork with surgical skill to extract the onions from the Bowties With Peas & Prosciutto I had prepared.

    “Dude, just eat it all in one bite,” I snapped.

    “I can’t eat onions,” he whined. “They’re like, really nasty.”

    “They’re not nasty,” Porter said, stuffing a quarter of an onion into his mouth and chewing. “They’re actually quite delicious. What makes onions so delicious, Mom? And why can’t you eat the skin? Why do they make you cry when you cut them? What if everything tasted like onions—do you think Finn would starve?”

    I slid my chair back abruptly and stood up. “I can’t take it anymore,” I said. “The questions, the criticism of my food, it’s all too much.” I looked at Bill. “Honey, y’all take care of this kitchen. I’m going to bed to read.”

    I had barely taken a step when Porter asked, “What are you going to read? Can I read with you? If I bring a book, will you read to me?”

    I was shaking. I got in his face and yelled, “Porter, if you want to continue to live in this house, The Questions Have Got To Stop.”

    Then I got in bed and wept, over my picky eater, over my nutty schedule, over my cruel remark.

    A while later Porter tiptoed in my room and handed me a piece of paper. It contained one last question:


    It was nice to be forgiven.


    Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: The Dirtiest Camper