Wednesday, February 27, 2013

etc. etc. etc.

Conversation with a friend:
Friend: But I like him so much.

Me: Yeah but he doesn't want you.

Friend: But we have so much in common.

Me: You have one major incompatibility. As far as I'm concerned, if this ONE THING is not in sync, nothing else matters.

Friend: What?


Friend: But he sometimes ACTS like he wants one.

Me: He flat out told you his intentions. Listen to what the man says. (If you need to read more about this, check out "The unfunny post to women. And I'll talk and you won't listen. But for what it's worth, keep your heart: 3 stacks." Yes, the intended audience is for women but ANYONE who wants someone who's not into them, listen up.)
Never make someone your priority if you're only their option.

Also, don't attach to an outcome. Life is so much easier that way.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On optical migraines

Well, since I'd juuuust been talking about this with someone, AND had two in a row first thing after waking up yesterday (first time ever), I thought I'd post this story that I'd written a while back.


In 2007 I thought I was going to die. This wasn't a brush with death, it was a more like a brush with the thought of death. But you have to understand, I never thought about it before, not really. Not for myself. The only time death crosses my mind is in fear of those I love dying and then I do everything I can to quickly brush it away. It's too painful to think about how ruinous the loss would be, sweeping away my entire life and transforming my innards into a desertscape of despair. I can't bear the thought. So I generally try not to think of death.

But last year I went to the doc for weird optical hallucinations. I learned that they were called "optical migraines" and can occur without any actual headache pain -- they're basically blood vessels in the optical centers of the brain spasming. So doc wanted me to get an MRI of the brain.

I remember getting the message on my cell phone, the doctor's worried tone urging me to call back. And I remember standing in the hallway at work by the windows, where I could have both reception and privacy, feeling calm as I dialed the office. Nothing could be wrong, I am too young. I am healthy.

I remember the confidence dissolving into fear as the doctor elaborated on the possibilities. "It looks like it may be an arteriovenous malformation," he said. "if that's so, you will need surgery to correct it."

Brain surgery? Knives and brain matter should not casually be mentioned in the same sentence. I spent my entire life not running with scissors and now someone may have to bring sharp objects towards my head on purpose? I was not liking this.

The followup test to determine if I really had a problem was scheduled for three weeks later at Johns Hopkins.

Three weeks! It was torture. I had no idea if one month later I'd be gratefully relieved or sitting on an operating table.

If someone told you that you might die in a month, what would you do?

I mean, maybe you wouldn't die. But you might. You have to think about it suddenly. "I have 3 weeks to wrap up my life," you'd ponder. What could it possibly mean and how can you possibly do it?

What if I did have to go under the knife and woke up unable to speak? Move? Suddenly have the intellectual capacity of a 2-yr old? Or need to relearn the English language? Anything can happen when someone is slicing into brain matter and careful reading of the diagnosis and treatment doesn't gloss over this fact.

An arterio-venous malformation is a birth defect where veins and arteries are connected directly together. They shouldn't be -- arteries are high pressure, veins are not. There's too much turbulence, like opposing currents in river rapids. Instead, they should be connected through smaller and smaller vessels that eventually turn to capillaries which are so narrow that red blood cells must travel in single file through them, like a 5 lane highway narrowing down to one lane, traffic slowing until the road opens back up.

Since there is no narrowing, the highly turbulent flow translates to an extremely serious risk for a brain bleed and/or death. High enough that surgery is standard treatment. It's not a "wait and see" situation -- if you are diagnosed with it, likely you will go under the knife immediately because it's better to preemptively deal with the risks in a controlled setting than wait for the emergency of treating a burst vessel in the brain.

For three weeks, I tried to tie up loose ends. And not tell anyone, since why should I worry them if it's nothing? It's tough reigning in the fear and the existential thoughts. But I'm not done, I'd think. I haven't traveled enough, lived enough... written, loved, laughed... not any of it enough.

How could any of it be enough?

For three weeks I lingered in limbo, trying to carry on my normal routine. Trying to talk myself out of my fear. Anyone could die anytime, really. None of us should obsess over it, right?

Ugh, right. Try it.

My story ends happily. Nothing was wrong. I basically have a giant varicose vein in the brain called a venous angioma that can sometimes be mistaken for an AVM. A picture of my brain is going to appear in some medical text illustrative of a classic boring case. It wasn't exactly how I'd hoped to be published someday but I'll take what I can get.

I have always felt especially strongly for people undergoing a medical crisis. I remember writing to a good friend's mom as she battled cancer and I will never forget how grateful she was when people asked how she was feeling. People are afraid of cancer and life-threatening conditions. Afraid of frailty and somber diagnoses, afraid to broach the subjects that a terminal illness brings forth. But really, all most people want is to know they're thought of. In their pain, in their hardship, in their joy. What matters in life is knowing that we are not alone.

And so I think about that brush with the thought of death, and about people facing it for real. And I write to some close to me facing the battle. I want to tell them that I'm thinking of them, that they are not lost to me, that their pain is not invisible. I only wish I could share the burden more fully but all I can do is helplessly acknowledge it.

But that's something.

What you see during an optical migraine
(it starts out as a pinpoint that grows larger, eventually
arcing into these jagged shapes that pulse
with flashing light & rainbow colors).
ps. After I wrote this, a lot of people started asking me if there's an association between optical migraines and my situation. There isn't. My MRI finding was incidental, meaning doctors were looking for something else and while in there, noticed this other thing (the venous angioma).

Both AVMs and venous angiomas are present from birth but neither have anything to do with optical migraines. (At least that's current thought, but I did wonder if there could be a slight association for those with AVMs -- not venous angiomas -- located in the optical centers of the brain [the occipital cortex] since the turbulent blood flow can sometimes cause ischemia [or a lessening of blood flow] to surrounding tissue. But I am not a doctor and to date an association has not been proven.)

I did learn a lot about optical migraines though in the process. Recent studies show that there is an increased risk for stroke in people who have them, so if you get optical migraines, don't smoke, don't take birth control pills, DO exercise and eat healthy... in short, don't do anything that
further adds to your risk.

I started getting the optical migraines about two years before getting the MRI I wrote about above. They're disturbing -- it's hard to concentrate when one is occurring because it's such an odd experience. Luckily they only last around 30 minutes. For some people, the optical migraine leads into an actual migraine with crushing head pain but not everyone.

My doctor at Johns Hopkins neurology was Dr. Wityk (pronounced "wee-tek"), he's fantastic. He asked me to draw what I saw during an optical migraine and I drew the above picture. The jagged edges are also pulsating with light and color. He said he'd often ask patients to draw a picture of their optical migraine and if they come up with something that looks like this, they're diagnosed: yes, that is an optical migraine.

You can see more optical migraine art if you do a Google image search for "optical migraine" "ocular migraine" "opthalmic migraine" or "migraine with aura" -- all of those essentially mean the same thing.


So, somehow I had written this and told the entire internet but neglected to tell my mom.

I was talking to her and was all, "haha, yeah, I felt that way too when I had that brain thing!"

She's like, "Um, what 'brain thing'?" -- all concerned and motherly-like.

I go (still not getting it), "Remember? When I was having those weird optical illusions and had to get an MRI and then it showed that weird thing? And they wanted to do more testing?"

She was silent.

"WHAT brain thing? What are you talking about? You never told me about optical illusions or a brain thing."

Me: "Really? I wrote about it on my blog. Huh."

See? You don't really know someone until you read their blog. lol!

Monday, February 25, 2013


She was 99. She died the way we all want to -- at the end of a rich, full, life, ready to go, without pain. And still I felt my face crumble when I placed a single rose on her casket and turned away.

My dad noticed this across the room and came over to hold me wordlessly while I cried.

"I thought you could use a hug," he said, placing his arms protectively around me.

"I could, dad. I could."

RIP, Grandmom.

(Sent from my phone)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Our very own screenplays

Just got back from a wake. Seeing lots of family that I adore. And I'm thinking about how our lives are like one big giant play and how we get attached to the characters; it doesn't even matter if we see them often or even whether or not we even like them. We just want them to be okay.

When I get all petty on my blog and revisit hurts, well, none of that really matters when I think about the brevity of life. So tonight, I offer a silent nod. As much as I hate this shitty Whitney Houston song, you gotta admit the sentiment is quite nice.

"I hope life treats you kind. And I hope you have all you've dreamed of. And I wish you joy and happiness... But above all this, I wish you love."

(Sent from my phone)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Not Mark

So I work with a guy that I always see but never really talk to. For some reason, I had come to understand his name was "Mark."

After about 8 months of greeting him in passing, we have the following conversation:
Me: "Hi Mark!"

Mark: "Why do you always call me Mark?"

Me: "That's not your name??"

Not Mark: "No."

Me: "Why didn't you SAY so?!?" 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Every man for himself.

Spent this past weekend on the road and while trying to merge as a lane was shutting down, I grew annoyed as I watched cars behind me zip around opportunistically, effectively preventing me from inching over. This kind of thing happens at the grocery store too -- I was on line recently when a new register opened and the cashier singsonged, "Next one in line please?" and the lady behind me dove into place before I even blinked.

I'm not SLOW, you know. I'm from the Northeast corridor. I talk fast, move fast and (usually) pay attention. But it's every man for himself, it seems.

I remember a staff exercise during orientation week the summer I worked as a camp counselor. We played a lot of games meant to serve as character lessons. In one (I don't remember the name), a leader called out a number and everyone had to link up in groups. He started with ten.

"TEN!" he shouted and fifty people ran around linking arms until we had 5 neat groups.

"NINE!!" he bellowed next and suddenly we had to break free but this meant that five people would be displaced. Like free radicals, they bounced around, looking for a stray limb to grab but alas, none were to be had and the buzzer sounded its harsh time-out, leaving all five to slink dejectedly off the court. The winners beamed, happily ensconced in their group.

The countdown continued until there was only one person left on the floor. They shone with pride, having made it successfully through every competitive round.

Then the leaders spoke. "Congratulations! You did very well."

Those that withstood the final rounds smiled and held their chests high.

"But did you notice how no one helped anyone else?" They continued. "Not a single person looked around at anyone trying to link up and said 'oh here, join us!' or 'take my spot!'"

I never forgot that lesson. I think of it sometimes, like when driving or standing on line.

Yes, we need to look out for ourselves... but we also need to look out for each other.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

30 Questions to Ask About Your Relationship

These are from

1. Do you completely trust your partner?

2. Do you believe in soul mates, and if so, do you believe you are each other's?

3. When was the last time you said, "I love you?" If it's been a while, why?

4. Are you satisfied with the intimacy you share?

5. How often do you laugh together?

6. Do you feel you have made personal sacrifices for your relationship, and have they been reciprocated?

7. When you think of your partner, do you smile?

8. Do you feel threatened when others find your partner attractive, and why?

9. Do you believe your partner is your biggest advocate?

10. How do you feel about your partner's views on finances?

11. Do you enjoy spending time with your partner's relatives? Friends?

12. Do either of you dredge up resentments in arguments, and why have you struggled to let them go?

13. How do you feel when your partner arrives home after being away?

14. Is your partner your best friend?

15. Is there a secret you are keeping that if your partner knew, you feel you would lose them?

16. Do you feel that your partner accepts you?

17. When did you realize you had fallen in love, and how do you feel when you think about it?

18. Have you seen each other at your best and worst?

19. Would you ever consider having an affair? Why? Why not?

20. Are you excited about your future together?

21. Do you feel your relationship is a true partnership?

22. When was your last romantic outing?

23. Does it bother you if your partner has friends of the opposite sex, and why?

24. Do you accept each other's belief systems?

25. When was the last time you talked about your future together, and were you on the same page?

26. Do you feel as if you can communicate without saying a word?

27. What is your happiest memory of your time together? Your worst? Are there more happy memories than unhappy ones?

28. What is a relationship deal breaker for you, and have you overlooked one in this relationship?

29. How do you feel about the last, in-depth conversation you and your partner had?

30. Do you show your love for each other often, and if not, why?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Her diary vs. his diary



Sunday night I thought he was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a bar to have a drink. I was shopping with my friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment. Conversation wasn't flowing so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk, he agreed but he kept quiet and absent. I asked him what was wrong - he said, "Nothing." I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said it had nothing to do with me and not to worry. On the way home I told him that I loved him, he simply smiled and kept driving. I can't explain his behavior; I don't know why he didn't say, "I love you, too." When we got home I felt as if I had lost him, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there and watched T.V.; he seemed distant and absent. Finally I decided to go to bed. About 10 minutes later he came to bed and to my surprise he responded to my caress and we made love, but I still felt that he was distracted and his thoughts were somewhere else. I decided that I could not take it anymore, so I decided to confront him with the situation but he had fallen asleep. I started crying and cried until I too fell asleep. I don't know what to do. I'm almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster.


Today the Raiders lost, but at least I had sex.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

60 short love stories (sniff!)

Happy Valentine's Day! Today I'm bringing you 60 short love stories of all kinds, like this:
"Today, when I asked my grandfather for some relationship advice, he said, “Honestly, the moment I stopped trying to find the right woman, and started trying to become the right man, your grandmother walked up to me and said, ‘Hello.’”
I think so much of our happiness -- and even caring, to a degree -- is a choice. Choosing to do things that feel good (including laundry, because future you appreciates clean clothes), treating people well and likewise allowing only those who value us in our lives -- all of that is a choice.

Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day. Wishing you some cheer through the blogosphere. :)

"It is better to have loved and lost than to have to do forty pounds of laundry a week." Laurence J. Peter

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate doesn't hurt." Charles Schultz

"There's no metaphysics on earth like chocolates." Fernando Pessoa

"I'm dating a woman now who, evidently, is unaware of it." Garry Shandling

"I wanted to make it really special on Valentine's Day, so I tied my boyfriend up. And for three solid hours I watched whatever I wanted on TV." Tracy Smith

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

re: That show "Millionaire Matchmaker"

My mom: "That show is disgusting. Why do women act like tramps? Even though it was the first date, she brought him to her club and did a pole dance. Her pupik* was hanging out and he looked like he was turned off. It was too much too soon." (*Pupik: Yiddish for bellybutton.)

Me: "Well, that rapper said, men want a lady in the street but a wild one in the bedroom... but not within the first 5 minutes of meeting!" 
 I cannot believe I had this conversation with MY MOM. She cracks me up.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A letter to my valentine that I won't send

A letter to my sweetie that I won't give because he might die of embarrassment and I think he hates when I gush:

Hi. Thank you for always taking my bag even when you hurt your shoulder and it was sore. You overlooked your own well-being to be a mensch for me. Yes, I noticed, I always notice. You're so selfless. Thank you for always walking me out to my car even when it's frigid and totally more comfortable for you to stay in your nice apartment and eat breakfast.

Thank you for getting out of bed to be up with me even when you could sleep late and snooze all cozy under the covers. You don't have to adopt my schedule but you still rose with me and kept me company. My favorite part is still curling up together before beginning the morning.

Thank you for kissing me in the elevator sometimes. Did you know that my heart skips a beat when you lean in towards me unexpectedly like that? Don't stop surprising me. I love it.

I appreciate that you don't multitask when we are together. And I love that you take your time with me, it relaxes me. You are easygoing and that makes your company really enjoyable. Oh, and thank you for supporting stuff I like even if it's stuff you hate.

Thank you for appreciating when I cook, it makes you a joy to experiment new dishes on. I want to make you healthy, tasty cookies for Valentine's Day (if I can pull that off!).

Thank you for not being reactive, especially in recent hard times. It makes opening up easier. Especially because there is a lot that isn't easy for me to share.

Thank you for trusting me too. And for being honest with me and not misleading me. And for making laugh. I like when you play me music.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

6 questions to ask to see if your relationship is in trouble

(I found this on the internet somewhere, copied it, saved it, and now I forget where it came from so I can't credit it.)

Six questions to ask yourself about your relationship and signs it may be heading for trouble:

  1. Do you find it difficult to ask for what you want in your relationship? Do you keep your needs to yourself?
  2. Do you avoid discussing issues in your relationship? Do you fear that initiating a conversation will only make it worse?
  3. When you are having a problem, does your partner refuse to talk about it? Do you feel shut out or dismissed?
  4. Do you find yourself guessing what your partner thinks/feels?
  5. Do you feel attacked/criticized when you're not getting along? Does your partner respond in a way that puts you on the defensive?
  6. Do you feel unsuccessful at comforting your partner when he/she is upset? Do you "give up" because you don't know what to do?
This is a good measure for evaluating how comfortable you feel being yourself and expressing yourself.

I also think it's important to know how you feel inside when you're together and also have just left their company. What's the drive home like? Do you feel energized? Rejuvenated? Fulfilled? Drained? Tired? Are you looking forward to seeing them again? When you think of spending time with them, does it feel good? How you feel reveals much.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I wrote this a few years ago.
Me: good morning!

Hair: nnngghh.

Me: Rise and shine!

Hair: SHINE?? Did you say "shine"?? Are you HIGH? bwahahaha!!

Me: seriously. We need to get up.

Hair: you're kidding. Waking us up at 5 am to embark on a 4 hour drive? But we haven't had our beauty sleep!

Me: yeah, yeah. Suck it up. I don't have time to listen to you whine, we've got to go.

Hair: Good luck with that:

I sometimes idly wonder what it would be like to have awesome hair the way someone might noncommittally ponder the lifestyle of a billionaire: not like it's ever going to happen so no use in entertaining any serious thoughts about the matter.

Most of the time, Hair and I do not speak; we go by the unspoken rule that *it* will resemble sickly medusa's snakes and *I* will benefit by feeling so hideous I won't ever pay much attention to outward appearance and thus concentrate only on inner growth. It's worked so far, but even this morning was a new low. The storm that knocked out power for two days effectively rendering electric styling apparati useless has made the strands grumpy and prone to rise in revolt.

Tune in next week to "as the strand frizzes!" to see the drama unfold, or tell me your best hair-care tip below. Maybe I can crowdsource some sense into these follicles.


So, I was on the way to a baby shower, about to see folks I hadn't laid eyes on in some time and I desperately wanted to look at least a LITTLE presentable. Was grappling with how, when I suddenly realized... I was in *NJ*. Of COURSE I could pretend my overnight bag was a purse and slip into some public restroom with a set of curlers:

You know how in Doom/Quake you can roll over a first aid kit and get like 10% health? I just got 10% less hideous. Ready for baby shower.