Monday, June 28, 2010

Until We Meet Again

I have met my people, and they are tired.

Last weekend I attended the Immune Deficiency Foundation 2010 Retreat in Rye Brook, New York. It was extremely exciting to meet people who have primary immunodeficiency disease (PID). As I have mentioned, I have CVID, one of nearly 150 diseases in this [dysfunctional] family. I was, well...I think "relieved" is the word, to find out that a lot of the stuff I experience every day is NORMAL. Feeling fatigued, achy and overwhelmed is not uncommon. I felt lucky to benefit from the experience of other women my age who had more years under their belts dealing with this disease.

I also met a celebrity -- the IDF Zebra:

Prior to this weekend, I had met only one person with a PID. He was 4 years old, and I told him that he was now my support group. He promptly went back to playing with his toy truck.

When my mother and I decided to go the IDF Retreat, we didn't know what to expect. By the time it was over we were both thrilled by what we had learned and who we had met.

What I learned:
  1. Stop taking Levaquin immediately.

    I spoke to a doctor following a presentation about antibiotics, and mentioned that I was taking Levaquin for bronchitis and had begun to experience muscle and joint pain. He looked concerned and proceeded to scare the bejeezus out of me by explaining that this side effect could lead to long-term tendonitis and fatal muscle ruptures. I proceeded to go home and sleep for 19 hours on Sunday, another lovely side effect. Needless to say, I'm done with Levaquin for ever, thank you very much.

  2. If I ever feel like treatment is too overwhelming, I need to just suck it up.

    I learned from several parents that their children administered their own treatments. Mind you, these children were 5 and 6 years old. I am at least FOUR TIMES their age (ahem...) so I really have no excuse for whining. If someone who is still expected to throw periodic temper tantrums and demand cookies for breakfast is mature enough to handle weekly subQ infusions, then I should be too.

  3. The Doral Arrowwood Hotel in Rye Brook New York has the most amazing breakfast and lunch buffets.

    At lunch, we spotted mussels in a fresh broth and my mother sprinted over to get us a plate to share. Seriously, it was ridiculous, and I'm going to crash another event there so I can get some more of that buffet action.
I learned a lot more than that -- and will continue to write about it -- but thanks to a Levaquin-induced stupor I can barely keep my eyes open. Sweet dreams, my fellow PID-people.

May we get the rest we need and the cure we deserve!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Red Herrings: A Love Story

Friends, I am in love! And her name is Anna Katherine Green.

Here is a picture of my beloved:

Let me tell you about how we met.

I had just finished reading Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" for my book club, the Manhattan Chapter of the Northeast Regional Book Club Association. (A name I made up when I invited celebrated author Charlie Stella to come speak to us, and it stuck.) I decided I needed a palate cleanser before starting Larsson's second book, and a name popped into my head: Agatha.

Dame Agatha Christie, the grande dame of mystery fiction. Reading her books as a teenager made me fall in love with the genre.

(As a college student I visited The British Museum, where on the tour our guide discussed artifacts from archeological digs at
Arpachiyah, Iraq. She mentioned that the man in charge of the dig was Sir Max Mallowan, and asked if we knew to whom he was married. I raised my hand, and she glanced over and nodded at me.

"Agatha Christie," I said. Her face lit up.

"Archeology buff?" she said.

"No," I replied. "Mystery fan.")

Like an addict discovering temptation, I started to explore other authors from the "Golden Age of Mystery Fiction," a term commonly used to refer to works from 1920s and 1930s. This included Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and G.K. Chesterton. It was chicken soup [laced with arsenic] for the soul.

But when the name "Agatha" popped into my head last week, it had been years since she and I had sat down to tea and crumpets together.
Sure, I watched the Miss Marple mysteries on PBS, but that wasn't the same. Oh, and I rented Hercule Poirot DVDs with David Suchet. And there was the updated Miss Marple series. That was good too.

Still, there had been no actual Christie book in my hands in the longest time.

In search of a bargain, I went to Amazon's Kindle store and looked at the cheapest mysteries they offered. (I am no great fan of the Kindle app for iPhone, which is far inferior to the eReader and Barnes & Noble apps, but they do have some cheap-as-dirt books.) I found a bargain -- for $2.99, an anthology of short stories that appeared to include some Dame A. Well...well...

I plunked down my hard-earned change, downloaded the book, and was shocked to find, instead of the expected 50 stories -- FIFTY BOOKS! FOR $2.99! Once my heart started again, I virtually cracked open a classic Tommy-and-Tuppence mystery (one of Dame A's less-popular crime-fighting duos). And then a second.

When I was done, I perused the table of contents and found Anna Katherine Green. Never heard of her. But I decided to give it a try.

The first thing I noticed was the use of dashes in dates and place names. For example: "Nancy Smith, was going to -----, New York, on September 30, 20--."

This was an immediate throwback to reading "Bartleby the Scrivener," by Herman Melville, published in 1853. Not that Melville was the only writer of that era who employed the privacy dashes, but he was the only writer I read in high school who did. And I only have access to my memory. (For now. I'm sure Apple is working on something.)

I saw those dashes and wondered who this poseur was, pretending to hearken back to an earlier era. As I read on, curiosity soon took hold, and off I went to Wikipedia. What I learned bowled me over:

Anna Katharine Green (November 11, 1846 – April 11, 1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories. (Courtesy of Wikipedia.)

How had we never met?

When I read Agatha, and Dorothy and G.K., I didn't know I would fall in love. I just tore through every word they wrote and didn't appreciate how one can never read a book twice for the first time.

Now that I'm reading Green's
"The Millionaire Baby," I'm taking my sweet time.

(P.S. I'm writing this blog from a secret passage!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strike Me, Spare Me

Last Saturday I celebrated an early Father's Day with my family -- what I called the "'Smith' Family Pre-Father's Day Extravaganza." It consisted of bowling with my parents and brother and a lovely dinner, followed by a showing of "The Blind Side." I should point out that I call all events "The 'Smith' Family [Name of Holiday] Extravaganza." Of course, I'm the only one in my family who does this. I think it makes everything more special. Try it sometime.

(In the future, I'm considering switching it up and using "Celebration" instead of "Extravaganza." Opinions?)

This is me -- in New Jersey, if you couldn't tell -- right after enjoying our delicious meal of Cuban food:

(It looks like I'm posing, but really I'm demonstrating my sense of direction, which I do not have. At all. When I started driving, I repeatedly asked my parents to draw maps to places I had known all my life. My mother, who was born with a compass in her brain, was flummoxed by this. She gave in and started drawing maps for me when my father explained that they had agreed to love me no matter what. Later, when my brother inherited my car, he opened the glove compartment and was buried under dozens of scraps of paper bearing all the places I had driven during the previous four years.)

In any case, my pre-Father's Day "Extravaganza" made me realize something important -- I am very lucky to like my family.

I always find it strange when people tell me they aren't close to their siblings. And they seem to find it equally strange when I say that my brother and I are good friends. My family is no Norman Rockwell painting, but he was painting an ideal that never existed. In real life, all of those scenes would have been captured about five minutes before everybody started arguing.

I know this, because my picture was taken about five minutes (give or take 15 hours) before we all started arguing. However, when we calmed down and apologies were exchanged, we sat down at the dinner table and carved our Thanksgiving turkey.

Wait...I think I'm flashing back to Rockwell's "Freedom From Want":

What I meant to say was, we sat down at the kitchen table and planned a family vacation.

Or as I called it, "The Smith Family Vacation-Planning Extravaganza."