medicine bags

In which I paid complete strangers to cut my husband’s neck

Yesterday was Operation Day. Not fun.

M was recently diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism. Per the Mayo Clinic:

Hyperparathyroidism is an excess of parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream due to overactivity of one or more of the body’s four parathyroid glands. These oval, grain-of-rice-sized glands are located in your neck. The parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone, which helps maintain an appropriate balance of calcium in the bloodstream and in tissues that depend on calcium for proper functioning.

According to the docs, this problem occurred because one of M’s grain-of-rice-sized glands had an adenoma (noncancerous tumor) on it. Best course of action? Surgical removal. So early yesterday morning, we drove more than an hour north to Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, the only teaching hospital in New Hampshire.

As far as hospital experiences go, this one was pretty good. The place was immaculate and quiet. Most of the doctors and nurses were both competent and caring (one was more competent and cocky). And the waiting room staff kept me updated on the surgery’s progress (via beeper).

M was a real trooper, though. Over the course of several hours, he was poked, prodded, drugged, anesthetized and then cut open and stitched back up. He’s home now and in bed recuperating, but it looks like someone took a garrote to his neck.

As for me, I held up my end of the “in sickness and in health” vows. I maintained my composure during the drive, admission, the pre-op tests and procedure — but lost my cool when I visited M in recovery. Just seeing the man I love hooked up to a bunch of machines measuring his vital signs and completely out of it from the anesthesia made me burst into tears. I guess I was so focused on the surgery that I never really allowed myself to consider the aftermath. Thankfully, the moment passed quickly and I was able to resume my wifely duties of hand holding and ice chip feeding.

While I’m thrilled the operation was a success and we were well cared for, I’d like to avoid going to another hospital any time soon.

Or, ever.

Photo by Nuiiko. Used with permission.

Orange flowers from yard

A short-term attempt at positivity

“Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Francesca Reigler

In an effort to be more positive, I added this item to my “Year of Firsts” list: Avoid saying anything negative for a whole day.

Generally I’m not a negative person. I revel in the daily joys and fly high whenever fate throws grand moments my way. When difficulties occur, I do my level best to weather them, though not always as gracefully as I would like.

I’m also trained to be an unbiased observer, taking in details and conversations and actions without judging the environs or participants involved. It is only later, after the event is over and after the story is written that I really take the time to process what happened. In the past, I would lose myself in the dark of a movie theater and decompress while praying to the gods of cinema, or wander the stacks of a used book store or library, searching for answers and adventure. Now, I generally turn to my animals for a few moments of affection, and to M for feedback, insight and consolation.

Despite my nature, training and coping mechanisms, completing this “first” was no easy task. For on the night I decided to launch the experiment, so many people and events tried my patience. When these moments irked me to the point of exasperation, I remembered the goal and bit my tongue. In my head, however, I was engaging in a full-on Yosemite Sam tantrum.

So what did I learn about myself at the end of the night? Two things:

A) No matter how much you try to control things, the world will occasionally throw a wrench in your plans, anger you to the point of white hot fury and leave you disappointed. How you deal with these situations is what matters (and what others will remember).

2) I must make time every day to count my blessings. Even just for 60 seconds. Doing so helps keep me centered and focused.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts, the bane of my existence

I try my best to eat seasonally. With spring still making its debut, I’m forced to dive once more into the cellar of hearty winter vegetables. I can make potatoes a dozen different ways. I’ve turned broccoli into stir-fry, soup and a side. Carrots and celery have appeared in just about every iteration, from smoothie to mire-poix. And I seem to use onions, shallots and/or garlic in nearly every entree. But the one veg that continues to mock me is the wee brussels sprout.

Every time I spy this mini-cabbage, I give it a glare. Yes, it’s a hardy veg that’s an excellent source of vitamin A, C and K, beta carotene, folic acid, iron, magnesium and fiber. Yet no matter what I tried, it always tasted vile. And I’ve really really tried to make it palatable. I’ve roasted, fried, stewed, boiled, baked and pickled, and still the foul taste and sulfuric smell made me curse this humble sprout.

Until now. This is the only way I like to eat it:

Brussels Sprout Hash

3 slices of bacon, chopped
10 small brussels sprouts, core removed and leaves shredded
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. hazelnuts, chopped

Place bacon in a cold frying pan, and turn heat to medium. Fry the bacon until crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan and allow the bits to drain on paper towels. Leave the bacon fat in pan.

Toss brussels spouts in the delicious bacon fat. Stir in sugar. Fry veg over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned and crispy.

Stir bacon bits back into the sprouts and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with hazelnuts.

Serves 2.

I serve this dish as a side with eggs (for breakfast) or steak (for dinner). If you try it, let me know what you think.

(Photo by Vaughan Willis. Used with permission.)

Friday questions

Just the facts, ma’am

It’s Friday. Time for some fascinating factoids about the world:

* Vermont has more libraries per capita than any other U.S. state. (NPR)

* In 1790, Philadelphia became the capital of the United States. (The History Channel)

* The moon can get up 260 degrees Fahrenheit and down to minus-280 degrees Fahrenheit. (The Weather Channel)

* When Johnny Cash played his first-ever prison concert in 1958, the show helped set Merle Haggard, then a 20-year-old San Quentin inmate, on the path toward becoming a country music legend. (The History Channel)

* The USDA’s first nutrition guidelines go all the way back to 1894. These essentially were: moderation in everything, eat a variety of nutrition-rich foods, watch your portion size and avoid eating too much fat. (Today I Found Out)

Typewriter Keys

What kind of day are you having?

In honor of this Tumblr, which I recently discovered, I’m going to share my own, slightly less profane “Of The Day” list. Enjoy:

Tip of the day: Our future depends on libraries

Person of the day: Meet the author of the new book “American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning”

Educate yourself: Starting this week

Mind-blowing book of the day: Really fascinating

Useful item of the day: I want this, but can’t afford it

Website of the day: How much will it snow?

Awesomest video of the day: How to make an emergency candle out of butter

Sweetest picture of the day: Fedorable