Category Archives: Me Being a Softie

A year ago

This story begins like several others from my early 20s:

A year ago last night, I was hanging from a light post in front of Wrigley Field.

Alas, instead of a Bud Light-induced fit of euphoria where I exclaimed my love for late-night bars that serve taquitos, or a similarly-caused clinging to make the world stop spinning, I gripped the post while grabbing my neck and screaming.

It was 11 p.m. on a Monday, and no one was in front of The Friendly Confines to lend assistance.

I had just spent the evening with a friend, parked on the couch, cheering for those on Intervention to relapse, and eating order-in Lou Malnattis. Discomfort crawled around my neck all night, and I remember touching the hardening spot for the past few hours, wondering what that unfamiliar twinge could be.

I don’t remember getting home that night, but I somehow I did. I parked myself on what I deemed the ‘death couch’ (I vastly prefer the couch to my bed while sick), applied a hot compress that failed its purpose the minute it was no longer hot enough to distract me from the pain, and tried to rest and prep for what I was sure my lymph node indicating that I was about to have a hellaciously sore throat.

The next morning, hand-to-neck and tear-streaked, I made my way to the minor emergency clinic for a walk-in appointment. The doctor there prodded my sore spot, exclaimed, “You either have mono or AIDs,” and walked out to grab a mono test and his prescription pad. As a long-time blood donor, his latter proclamation didn’t scare me — though it did clue me into what sort of medical professional I was seeing. (That being, one with an exceptionally shitty bedside manner.) As for mono, I shrugged, thought, “Man, that would suck,” and waited in that cold room for the pharmacy scripts.

I picked up my antibiotics and liquid pain relief from CVS, then headed back to the death couch.

Things get a little hazy at this point due to the pain which was proving the hydrocodone suspension to be ineffective. Fingering at the hump, I realized it exceeded the size of my entire extended hand.

Now, I’m not one to overreact to illness. But having a hump in one’s neck is cause for concern. I called my insurance company-deemed GP, urgently requested an appointment RIGHT NOW, and was in the office as soon as I put on pants and crossed the street to the offices.

I again got another prodding as I sobbed through the pain, then she held my face and asked, “Do you have $20? I want you immediately in a taxi to Northwestern’s ER. I’ll call to let them know you’re on your way.”

You know how a child scrapes a knee and you immediately start into the, “Oh wow. I’m soooo glad you’re okay,” routine to distract him or her from having a meltdown to what is probably temporary pain? Well, no one was there to tell me I was going to be okay, the doctor was urgent in her insistence that I get over there pronto, and this hump in my neck had been throbbing for two days now.

I entered the ER in such sobs that another patient’s mom sat next to me, handed me tissues, and kept me upright until my name was called.

The ER physicians were prepped by my doctor already, inserted an IV into my hand, pushed Dilaudid, and then started asking questions to see what the problem could be. With the fast-acting morphine providing relief, I could once again speak English, relay the issue, tolerate the doctor and three interns touching my sore spot, and not overreact when they took me in for an MRI ‘just to be sure’.

I napped, got another shot of the miracle pain relief, and waited for the doctor and his young followers to come back and tell me whatever it was that they were going to tell me.

“Ms. Keena, you’ve got a clean bill of health. Here are some better pain meds, keep a hot compress on it, and it should go away in a few days.”

Some people pray for this sort of thing. However, when in pain like that, I’d rather be told that I’ve got a Siamese twin growing from my neck that I’ll have to raise as my own child than hear that all’s clear, there’s no known cause, and that I need to sit and wait it out.

I took my improved pain script, again planted myself on the death couch, and settled in for the night. I awoke the next day to massive pain and a phone call from one of the interns from the day before, “Do you have $20 for a taxi?”

I stumbled myself to the ER again, and checked into the front desk, where the man’s ears perked at my name, and my doctor from yesterday was immediately summoned to usher me in.

My thoughts: I AM SO SCREWED.

I put on the flimsy gown, accepted another IV, had the Dilaudid pushed again, and then took the news. Upon hearing the doctor’s proclamation that, wow, he’d never gotten to see a case of this, I made the executive decision to not Google the disease I was just told. I passed the news along to my brother and one trusted friend to let them guide me to what was going on yet let me not stress about things unnecessarily.

Smartest. Decision. Ever.

Before the first dose of Dilaudid wore off, I found myself settled into a hospital room that would be my home for the next two weeks.

My room was a steady stream of teams of doctors, and as word spread, the few friends that I let know what was going on. With frequent check-ins from the graven Infectious Disease team, I kept that list of friends pretty small. Unlike the butt rock incident in the following January (which was shared with everyone due to my perceived notion that I wasn’t actually in harm of dying), I didn’t want that impending cloud of doom out there, spreading and growing.

Two weeks in the hospital. A bit of slicing to my neck. A month at home with an IV and a self-administered sacks of drugs. Weeks of therapy to regain mobility on my entire upper left side. Months of pills that gave my tongue a mossy coat and my mouth a metallic taste.

A year later, things are mostly good. I have a scar that’s pretty boss, though it’s fading into my neck’s crease as more time goes on. Checking my blind spot while driving takes more than the split second it used to. I can lift my arm over my head now, but the muscles in that area are sometimes angry at the things I do. My physical fitness feels like it’s at about 90%, which frustrates me but reminds me of the gravity of what happened last September (and then of January’s butt rock events).

It’s hard to look back and think ‘what might have been’ thoughts about my own mortality over the past year, but I can boil it all down to a single statement:

TL;DR: I am hard to kill.


Something is stirring

A Facebook friend posted a photo of his girlfriend wiping a tear as she saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. It got me questioning what moves me.

I’m not a very emotional person in a traditional sense: Music and art rarely evoke any response. I don’t extol the depth and wonders of my appreciation for nature. I love my family and friends, but I don’t wax poetically about my feelings for them.

But then I remembered one time that I came across something that unexpectedly and strongly stirred and emotional response:

Seeing the Hoover Damn.

No lie. I think about it, and it makes me tear up. I look at that massive structure that holds back millions of gallons of water and pounds of pressure, allows cars to cross over safely, and generates clean energy, and think,

“Damn, humans made that. We’re fucking amazing.”

The woman with amazing hair turns 30

When your high school has only 600 kids, you know everyone and his or her business.

My circles involved sports, whereas hers were in the arts. Both thankfully avoiding any drama of the typical teenaged lack-of-a-developed-frontal-cortex variety, we had no animosity, yet we had no overlap either.

Years beyond high school, Tom Anderson came up with the far inferior, pre-Facebook social networking site. Being click-happy, Jamie and I became connected through the site. Witticisms were shared, and photos commented on. All in all, Jamie turned out well. Among the messages of strange men making indecent suggestions, Jamie sent a message announcing that she was moving to Chicago — my home city at the time.

Unlike another high school acquaintance whose friendship was attempted and promptly rejected when she too made her move 1200 miles north of our sleepy little town, I had no hesitation with welcoming Jamie to my fair city.

It took a little while before we finally met up, but Margarita Tuesday was launched. Our first outing brought us TeJays, Officer Tony, nefarious iPod catalogs, a pink bear with boxing gloves, and construction workers from the Trump Tower. Despite ridiculous schedules, we were fast friends from there.

I have seen Jamie through bad dates, compensated her last break-up with badass theater tickers, and subsequently been welcomed into her (nearly marital!) domestic life with the oh-so-awesome Rodney.

In turn, she’s seen me through dates with various panty-sniffers, cheered me on when I recognized it was time for me to move, welcomed me back excitedly when I returned, and — in an act I so appreciate and will forever remember — took me into her home, fed me ice cream and tacos, and all-around helped take care of me when Very Bad Things happened.

She’s kind, funny, and loyal. She’s got a combo of social smarts and sass that puts any leading lady to shame. She wears eye shadow better than anyone ever has.

I’m so happy to call her my friend, even if I’m jealous of her amazing rack and mermaid-like hair.

Happy 30th birthday, Jamie. You are certainly loved!

An angry foot, pretty shoes, and a good cause

This isn’t exactly new news, but my blog slacktitude has resulted in no mention of my foot being broken.

Now before you, “ZOMG, WTF,” on me, please note that my foot’s bones aren’t technically snapped into chunks of jigsaw. It’s more along the lines of being asked why you bought a new laptop and having to fess up that your illegal downloads done broke your ‘puter.

Except instead of bit torrents, I went kickboxing.

Now that I’m settled into a different city (also not mentioned in previous posts, but with an explanation in a later post), a friend here convinced me to attend a super-fun for-real kickboxing class. She was absolutely right in her assessment of my love for kicking and hitting things. After the events of last August, beating things for stress relief is high on my list of LIKEs.

The instructor strapped some gloves on me, encouraged me to wail on the heavy bag, alternating kicks and punches galore. Jeebus did it feel great! Whack! Whack! Whack! Thud.

When you land a kick to the heavy bag incorrectly, sadly, you’re gonna limp outta there.

I know what a stress fracture is, how to diagnose it, and ultimately how to heal it. What I didn’t account for is that I’m a colossal retard. In the upcoming weeks, I didn’t exactly baby my foot. I got caught up in trail running, hiking, and, ya know, wearing four-inch heels everywhere I go.

My fourth metatarsal was mostly cooperating. But then one day my big toe starting hurting. I mostly ignored it, babied it when necessary, and just went about my business. And then it screamed, “No more, beyotch!” to which I promptly sought medical attention from someone armed with more than a happy clicking finger for Google.

A doctor? Sheesh, no! I called my brother! To which I described my pain, made a joke about turf toe, and then was told to take my gimpy ass to a proper medical professional.

My handling of my crippling knee pain of 2006 cured me of my fear of doctors. That doctor read my chart then asked what was wrong. I told him the science-y name for my condition, he poked my knee and agreed, then took the x-rays that I couldn’t take myself, thereby forcing insurance to pay for my physical therapy assessment and treatment.

See thesaurus: useful, nonjudgmental, decidedly un-scary.

This time, though, I didn’t know what the frig was wrong with my little piggy. Whether it’s the fear of the unknown or not being on control of my situation or whatever other deep-rooted issue I know dang well that I have, I was not looking forward to this doctor visit. However, my desire to not be in so much pain that I wanted to hang myself by the day’s end overrode said psych issues.

The doctor took a history, didn’t judge my not seeking medical attention when I said I had two previous stress fractures, and then took a looksie at my feet. She bent, and I whimpered. She poked, and I made a velociraptor shriek. When the prodding stopped, she told me that I was one of the unfortunate folks with early onset arthritis. Oh, and my stress fracture was angry at me for being a neglectful asshole.

So, into the boot I went. Which, if I do say so myself, is quite sexy:

You know you’re jealous!

The past five weeks have lead to an enormous feeling of frumptitude. Maybe you’re comfortable wearing casual sneakers everywhere you go. But to me, not wearing heels makes me feel *so* not pretty. I can wear a plain ol’ black t-shirt and a pair of jeans, but sliding into a pair of heels makes a trip to Walmart a teeny bit less of a chore.

Yesterday I had another follow-up foot doctor appointment, where she made mini casts of my feet for some stupidly expensive orthotic inserts that will somehow keep my arthritis in check and avoid later amputation (or whatever it is that doctors do for this sort of thing). She went over the list of things I will likely never be able to do (mountain biking, spin classes, weighted squats, lunges — le sigh), and then was like, “Oh. Get used to ugly shoes. Or, ya know, I’ll have to cut that toe off.”

I did another velocirator shriek — only this was from fear of my short legs always looking fat, not from her pressing my bones.

I went home and looked in my closet, admiring all the pretty, pretty shoes I’ve accumulated in my years of being a pretty, pretty princess.

The pink slingbacks with the rhinestones that my niece picked out for me. The royal purple pumps. The cheetah-print slingbacks. The red satin pumps with the black piping and lace. The intricate woven design of my black wedges. The woven brown wedges. The badass silver slingbacks. The low black boots. The low brown boots. The brand new knee-high black stiletto boots. The nearly-new knee-high brown boots. The hooker-iffic black patent leather pumps that I’ve never even gotten to wear. And oh the collection of black sling-back heels with a 4-inch heel that I wear almost-daily.

What’s left?

A pair of running shoes (that I can’t use for another 6 weeks or so). A pair of trail running shoes (repeat the previous note). And two pair of flip-flops.

This does not make for a pretty, pretty princess.

Knowing that I’d have to suck it up and quit being such a brat about it, I wondered what to do with my shoes. There isn’t exactly a market for used shoes on eBay unless they’re really, really dirty. (Foot fetish people pay good money for used shoes, I kid you not!) I could always drag a bag down to Goodwill, but that seems too impersonal for something I love. None of my friends have midget feet to fit into my shoes, so there’s no paying it forward there.

Earlier today I was dorking around on Facebook when I noticed that a friend became a fan of Project Cinderella. I’m a big fan of girls feeling pretty without having to spend a gazillion dollars right before they head off to college. A quick Google search later, and I now know where to drop off my really awesome shoes for an equally awesome cause.

This is the proper home for my shoes.

U-Haul ruminations

All of my Chicago furniture arrived in Houston last night.

Yes, the stuff from my downtown Chicago condo that’s been in storage since I rented out my place last March.

No one ever plans to have items in storage for six month, of course. Originally, my stuff was to join the boy’s as his stuff came from Chicago to Austin. Everything would go to his house in the northern burbs, and my stuff would be pulled out and hauled to my centrally-located apartment.

However, when the moving truck arrived at his place, my stuff was no where to be found. Through a miscommunication, my storage unit never linked with his account, and was therefore never flagged to be moved. So there my stuff sat, and we scratched our heads a bit with what to do.

After some family concerns took him back to Chicago (and I was to follow later), the issue was now a non-issue. Upon my arrival, we’d pick through my stuff in storage, decide what we wanted to keep for our home, and then deal with everything from there.

As this part of the story wraps up, we all know that part never happened. With all of my stuff housed in a storage unit in Chicago, I hopped a flight back to Houston.

Days later, my stuff arrived via a U-Haul — pulled by my new SUV, and driven by a very helpful friend. And that’s where this entry begins.

Miracle of all miracles, everything made it in one piece and without a scratch. The U-Haul was the exact right size for all of the contents, everything packed Tetris-style. Moving everything out of the covered trailer wasn’t too hard with my friend lending a hand, and my sister’s kids holding the door open whenever we approached the house.

Well, there were no issues until we came to my dresser.

This tall dresser was packed with kitchen utensils, framed photos, and blankets — nothing that sounds heavy. But being four feet tall, apparently forks, spoons, and fleeces add up in weight. One by one, I unloaded the drawers into empty boxes, when sadness hit.

This isn’t how I was supposed to be going through my stuff.

Do we like this flatware more or less than the ones we have? [Commence a faux-serious domestic discussion on why we loathe the others’ choice, ultimately going with whatever I choose.]

Just how many purses do you have?! Ahem, how many blue button-up shirts do YOU have?

Look! A book of erotic fiction. *snicker* Want me to read to you while you unload photos of my grandma?

On and on and on. Instead, I unloaded everything in a dark U-Haul in crappy ol’ New Caney, Texas while smears of eyeliner formed beneath my eyes.

Indeed, this isn’t how I was supposed to be going through my stuff.

My life in Austin

7:30. Wake up. For those of you who know me in real life, this is a shock. I’m notoriously anti-mornings. But here I am, pulling myself out of bed, throwing on my workout clothes, brushing my teeth, washing my face, tossing a little caffeine in my gullet, and heading out the door.

7:45. Lift weights. My gym is so frustratingly crowded at all other times that this is the only chance I can get in there and do what I want to do without fighting for space. When it comes to gym-time, I’m in and out, thankyouverymuch. I walk in the door, hit a treadmill for five minutes to get my juices flowing, lift like crazy, walk on the ‘mill for five minutes to keep the juices flowing to my now-pumped muscles, and leave while peeling my shirt off and laying a protective towel on my car’s seat to block the sweat.

8:30. Get ready for the day. I hustle home, throw a protein shake and a fast-burning carb down the hatch, rinse the gym grime off my skin, put on my bikini, and then…

9:00. Work. I manage things. I do things. I help others manage and do things.

10:00. Eat breakfast. Much like how my day is a routine, this meal never differs: four egg whites, two whole eggs, a toasted English muffin (the low cal, high fiber version), and a carb (either fat-free yogurt or a piece of fruit). I scarf this down while checking my daily haunts: Hotmail, Facebook, F My Life, Texts from Last Night, MSN, MyYahoo!, and the Chicago Tribune.

10:15. Work more. Yeah. All of that Internetting and eating doesn’t take long. I don’t dawdle.

11:30. Lounge outside. I grab whatever book or magazine I’m currently working through, and I head to my sun-lit patio. I unhook my top, soak up the rays, and make some vitamin D while not thinking about work, working out, or carb-to-protein ratios.

12:30. Rinse off, then work more. Blah blah blah.

Later. Eat lunch. Like breakfast, this doesn’t differ either: four ounces of turkey, one Flatbread (the low-carb, high fiber version), and a small can of V8. You might wonder how I can stand eating the same thing everyday. The simple answer is that not having to think about these meals outweighs the desire to eat something different. I know this tastes good and meets my nutritional goals, and that’s enough for me.

5:00. Stop working. Run my errands. Go for a walk. Read. Do some more Internetting. Clean my house. Talk with a friend as she’s driving home from work. Whatever happens, happens.

7:15. Head out for a run. The temperature is usually under 100 at this point, so I slather on a ton of sunscreen, don a sports bra and a small pair of shorts, and drive to the Town Lake path or just wander campus. I’m doing a decent job of following an online marathon training program, so I usually do whatever the program tells me to do that day. I don’t listen to music. I just go. And go and go and go. Despite living a life with much solitude, this is my quiet time to ignore the 106 things that are constantly on my mind.

Later. Refuel and shower. I toss back a Slim-fast shake up, and maybe a little Gatorade too. Both of these are in my stomach by time I walk the 50 feet to the shower. I’ve already rinsed off twice today, but this is the one where I break out the soap with the scrub in it, the no-nonsense shampoo, and more than 45 seconds of hot water.

Later. Eat dinner. Sometimes this involves other people, but most of the time it doesn’t. This is pretty much the only meal of the day that changes. But even then, there’s not much variance: lean meat and carbs that only come from vegetables.

Later. Finish out my evening. Log my workouts. Chat with friends on IM. Call my family. Read some more. Again, whatever happens, happens. I check my work email to see if there’s anything the India team needs from me before they start their workday. Then I brush my teeth, wash my face, and head to bed at a respectable hour.

In sum, I live a much simpler life these days. It’s quieter, slower, and more introspective. I won’t go so far to say that it’s better than when I lived in Chicago; it’s just different. I’ve always gone through phases of extreme extraversion and intense introversion. Right now my end of the spectrum is obvious. Sometimes I do get lonely and long for my previous life, but overall this is a nice reprieve.

My favorite clothes don’t get worn. My face rarely sees makeup. I walk slower and talk less. Sunscreen is a necessity.

In the not-too-distant future I’d like to find a balance between where I was and where I am, but for now I’ll revel in the simplicity and comfort of having a routine that encourages healthy living, quiet thoughts, and heading in new directions as they come my way.


Both parents are here tonight and sleeping, and my brother’s dog is in the kitchen (thankfully no longer itching after getting six different salves at the vet yesterday). I’m in the middle of cleaning out one of the bedrooms right now, and something from earlier was floating through my brain.

Everyone was over earlier today, so the driveway was looking like a used car lot. Harley, CLK, big Ford truck, Camry, Civic, GrandAm. There was so many cars, my sister and I pulled in sideways with our cars’ noses partially in the yard. After my sister left and I loaded up the GrandAm with stuff for transporting the smelly dog back to my brother tomorrow, my dad and I crossed paths at the front door. I asked where he was headed with the Civic’s keys, and he said he was going to turn the car around since my mom doesn’t like backing out of the driveway.

It kinda struck me that he took this small action out of consideration for her. Would she even notice that he moved the car around? Probably not, since I was the last one to drive it. He wasn’t doing it for recognition or appreciation or any greatest-husband-ever awards, though. It was just something he saw that could make her morning a little easier.

My parents haven’t always been this nice to each other. There were years, actually, where they housed out-right disdain for the other. But in the past several years, something switched, and they started enjoying each other’s company. My two months here have given me an opportunity to know their relationship in a whole other way than I’ve ever seen it before. The more I think about it now, the more I see how each of them considers the other in little ways here and there. And really, isn’t that kinda what it’s all about?