Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mythcon, Here I Come

Long time no post, I know. It's been a packed week: I'm the scholarships coordinator for our department and our annual awards ceremony was yesterday, so I was busy getting ready for that, and I also had an article deadline. The scholarships have been awarded and the article's in (although I haven't heard from the editor yet, so I don't know if she's accepted it). I still have one more set of classes on Monday, and a final exam the following Monday, but I feel like I can breathe a little easier.

Sabbatical's almost here.

To celebrate my getting through the week, we went out for pizza last night, to the place in town that serves soy cheese on gluten-free crust. It's surprisingly good: not "real" pizza, of course, but as close as I'm going to get, and tasty in its own right. Over dinner, I mentioned that Mythcon's in Albuquerque this year, and Gary said, "You should go." (The article I just sent in will, I hope, appear in the MLA's volume on Approaches to Teaching Tolkien, which is how we got onto Mythcon.)

I've only been to one Mythcon, back when The Necessary Beggar was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award. I didn't win, but I had a wonderful time anyway. Everyone was very friendly. The papers were both accessible and interesting, which is more than I can say of some conferences I've attended. I felt at home there, not least because I didn't have to worry about being bashed for being Christian (Wiscon can get pretty hostile that way). A conference devoted to the work of the Inklings isn't going to bash anybody for being Christian!

The problem is that even if UNR has any travel money left -- doubtful, in the present climate -- I can't get it unless I'm giving an academic paper, and Mythcon's theme this year hasn't inspired me . "You should go anyway," Gary said. "You'll have a good time. You'll see friends."

So I'm going. I got up this morning and made my hotel reservation and plane reservation, and then bought my membership and meal plan. One of the great things about Mythcon is that everyone eats together, so you really get to meet people, and there's none of that seventh-grade-ish "oh man whom I gonna eat lunch with and will that group over there let me in?" thing that tends to happen at Wiscon and other cons, where small groups congregate in the hotel lobby right before mealtimes and unattached folks wander around trolling for invitations. I didn't enjoy seventh grade the first time, and I still don't. Mythcon's much more restful; you just find an empty seat, sit down and start talking to people.

But, yeah: here I go again, spending money right before sabbatical. We have more left over this month than we expected, though, and it will cover the entire Mythcon package.

So in July I'm going to Mythcon, and in August, Worldcon's coming to Reno, and my old friends are coming to my house for dinner. Bwah-hah-ha!

I can't remember the last time I attended two conventions in two months. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever attended two conventions in two months.

Huh. My geek quotient may be lower than I thought!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Happy Easter.

Last night I attended the Great Vigil, which never fails to move me. The transition from darkness to light is beautiful. This is the first Great Vigil I've attended which used a cantor -- a young woman with a lovely voice -- and that added to the power of the service.

One of the things I loved about my old church was how much of the sanctuary had been handmade by parishioners or former clergy; the altar and roodbeam were carved by a former rector, and the stained glass windows were designed by a former parishioner and cut and assembled, under that parishioner's direction, by a group of people in the congregation who met once a week for many months to work on the project. That happened long before I arrived, but I always loved the story.

Many people in my old parish moved to our mini-cathedral downtown. This is a gorgeous building, but to me it's always seemed like an uncomfortable worship space: too formal and too large, not human-sized enough for me. The church I attend now is on a more comfortable scale (larger than my old church, but smaller than the fancy one), but won't win any awards for aesthetics. The walls are cinderblock with glass bricks scattered throughout to let in light; the floor's linoleum. And above the altar hangs -- may I be forgiven for saying this -- one of the most unappealing Christus Rex crucifixes I've ever seen. It's huge, shiny, and looks like ceramic; light emanates from behind it. To me, it's always looked like a particularly hideous nightlight someone bought at a yard sale. (Last night I was sitting next to our bishop's wife, and she giggled when I said that.) One of the advantages of Lent and Holy Week, from my point of view, was that this excrescence was veiled.

At the beginning of last night's service, I couldn't see it at all, because everything was dark. But part of the blaze of light preceding "He Is Risen!" -- the high point of the service -- came when someone flicked the switch to turn on the nightlight. We were in the dark with just candles, and more candles were being lit, but all of a sudden . . . there he was, the Savior, glowing from the wall in all his ceramic glory.

I got a lump in my throat, and acquired new and grudging respect for the nightlight.

After the service, I told the rector about this. Looking a bit pained, he said, "That piece was hand-carved by a parishioner. It's wood."

"It's wood? It looks like ceramic!"

"It needs to be stripped and refinished."

"Yes, please. Strip and refinish it so it actually looks like wood. I think that would help a lot."

Whether that ever happens or not, I'm now a lot fonder of the thing than I used to be: not just because of the Easter moment, but because the crucifix was a labor of love by someone who belonged to the church.

I didn't go to church this morning, since the pastel-and-Easter-egg scene always makes me itch. Instead, I pigged out on smoked salmon for breakfast, a special Easter treat, and then went to the hospital. It was a pretty good shift; at least one family was actively glad I was there, and I had nice conversations with several staff members. Also, I've discovered a pastoral rationale for going to Hawai'i: it's actually useful at the hospital. Today I had a patient going into surgery who was in pain and very frightened, but I noticed that her husband was wearing a Kaua'i cap, and we had a lively conversation about their trip to the island that distracted her from her pain for a few minutes, and gave me material for a guided visualization exercise later on, when her pain came back.

Let's hear it for tropical islands.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

My friend John Shorb points out that having Good Friday fall on Earth Day is one of the more sobering combinations he can think of.


The Maundy Thursday service last night was very nice -- especially powerful when it came time to strip the altar -- and I think the homily was well-received. Some responses were warmer than others, but I don't think I fell on my face, and nobody walked out (which happened at least once at St. Stephen's, and was more than a little disconcerting).

After church we watched a wonderful HBO biopic about Temple Grandin. I highly recommend this to anyone who hasn't already seen it.

Tonight I'll be going to a Good Friday service. Tomorrow Gary's going to an opera simulcast in the morning, and then we'll meet for lunch downtown before going to an afternoon chamber-music concert at the university, and then at night I'll be going to the Great Vigil.

I'm not going to church on Sunday. The Great Vigil is my Easter service, and also my favorite service of the year; Easter Sunday services -- which to me tend to highlight the commercialized-kitsch aspects of Easter -- always seem seriously anticlimactic after that glory. So I'll go to the hospital Sunday instead of tomorrow. I like being there on holidays, and I think the staff and patients appreciate having volunteers around then too.

Somewhere in here, I have to get a lot of work done. Wheeeee!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Giving God a Good Name

Here's my Maundy Thursday homily. This is my first time preaching at the new parish -- under this management, anyway; I guest-preached there years ago when they had a different rector -- and I'm nervous, since I don't know the congregation that well yet.

Please wish me luck!


I am the only churchgoer in my family. My midlife conversion -- I was baptized at the age of thirty-nine -- created both astonishment and alarm in the secular humanists who love me. They couldn’t figure out why someone they had always considered intelligent now believed in impossible fairy tales like resurrection. They were embarrassed that I took communion, which they saw as a superstitious ritual. They viewed my faith as a symptom of a possible brain disorder.

My father, a furiously lapsed Catholic since early adolescence, started calling me whenever a tragedy, massacre, or natural disaster showed up on the news. “Where’s your God now, Susan? What kind of loving God would allow this to happen?”

After a while, I worked out an answer. “Dad, God’s where the love is. Look for the people who are helping. Look for the relief efforts, the humanitarian aid, the compassion. That’s where you’ll find God.” I never convinced him. He believed devoutly that people should help each other in crisis, but to him, that kind of help was purely human, not divine.

One Holy Week, only a few years after I started going to church, I flew to Philadelphia for an academic conference. I was staying with my family, and I wanted to attend Holy Week services. My family had planned dinners and outings for my visit, though, and church services did not fit into the schedule. The only service I might be able to get to was Maundy Thursday.

Why do you want to do this?” asked my mother. “It’s Thursday. Who goes to church on a Thursday?”

“It’s Holy Week, Mom. This is the night we wash each other’s feet and remember Jesus’ instructions about the eucharist.”

“You wash each other’s feet?” My mother stared at me while my older sister snickered in the background. “Honey, you took a shower this morning. Your feet are fine.”

My beloved secular humanists decided that we should all go to the theater that evening instead. Ironically, we wound up seeing a community-theater production of Jesus Christ, Superstar, which worked just fine. My family enjoyed the music and I got my Holy Week story, although I didn’t get my feet washed that year.

Every Maundy Thursday since then, I’ve remembered this incident. This year, it struck me that had I been able to drag my family to church that night -- not that I would have tried, since I respect their freedom of irreligion -- they might have discovered that Maundy Thursday actually offered nothing to offend or alarm them.

This evening’s liturgy highlights three instructions, three legacies Jesus leaves his disciples. He tells them to let him wash their feet: indeed, he insists on doing so. He commands them to love one another as he has loved them -- by washing each other’s feet, among other things -- and he asks them to honor his memory with a special meal.

Accepting help from others, performing loving service, and remembering those we love when we break bread need not be faith-based activities. Even secular humanists can wrap their heads around these ideas.

Of course, the symbolic elements of the Eucharist -- the “this is my body, this is my blood” part -- can make people squirm even if they love Jesus. Earlier in the Gospel of John, we learn that some of Jesus’ disciples literally couldn’t swallow this “hard saying,” and left. But when you think about it, the Eucharist is really the act of taking something that has been broken, something we cherish that has seemingly been destroyed, and turning it into a gift.

I believe that this desire to redeem tragedy is universal. It’s why people become organ donors. It’s why bereaved families establish scholarship funds and ask for donations to favorite charities. It’s why survivors of crime and cancer and catastrophe start support groups for others going through the same thing. All of us, Christian or not, try to answer the question, “How can I make my pain mean something? How can I turn my tragedy into something good for someone else?”

As Christians, we believe that the ultimate answer to that question is the Resurrection. God turned the agony of His Son, the wrenching grief of Jesus’ disciples and friends and family, into the ultimate joy: the miracle and glory of the Risen Christ, the assurance that death has no dominion, the promise that the grave is not the end of Jesus’ story, or ours.

But that’s Easter. Today’s Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow’s Good Friday, the most painful day in the Christian calendar, the day when the disciples surely must have demanded, of themselves and each other, “How could a loving God let this happen? Where is our loving God now?” The Resurrection hasn’t happened yet. Jesus has told them it will happen, but I’m not sure any of them could have actually believed that until they saw it: until they saw him, risen.

And I think Jesus knew that. I think that’s why, on Maundy Thursday, he gave them instructions they could keep even when they were in pain. He doesn’t say, “You must have perfect faith that I will rise from the grave.” He doesn’t command them to banish doubt or fear. Instead, he gives them work they can do even in the middle of doubt and fear. Accept loving service. Give loving service. Find ways to transform brokenness into blessing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, but all of us live through Good Fridays noted on no church calendar. We live through the deaths of those we love, through the loss of jobs and homes and parishes, through the agonies of illness both chronic and acute. We watch as our world is shattered by war, earthquake, and economic collapse. Every day, our newspapers and televisions bring us precious little Good News, and unending sagas of violence and atrocity.

We know the end of the story. We believe in Easter. But sometimes Easter’s a long time coming, and we find ourselves in darkness, in the kind of doubt and fear the disciples must have felt during that first Good Friday. What are we supposed to do now? How can we salvage anything good from all this horror? What kind of loving God would have let this happen?

At these times, Maundy Thursday reminds us that it’s okay to doubt, okay to question, okay to have moments when we don’t even believe. Unwavering, unshakeable faith is not what our loving God demands of us. What our loving God demands of us is the kind of loving service that even secular humanists can believe in.

For several years at St. Stephen’s, I helped out with Family Promise, the housing ministry for homeless families. I believe many people here at St. Paul’s have been involved with Family Promise, too. Although my parents didn’t share or understand my religious beliefs, they thoroughly approved of this project. To my amazement, I once heard my father tell some friends, “I never thought I’d say this, but Susan’s church gives God a good name.”

In our darkest hours, our personal Good Fridays, let us try to remember that Easter always comes, and to have faith. But if we find that impossible, let us be content with the tasks Jesus gave us before his resurrection. Let us love each other as Christ loved us: caring for our neighbors, God’s beloved children, in ways that give God a good name.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

But That's Why I Love Him

Have I mentioned that my husband's a little strange, although no stranger than I am? We're strange in different ways, though. He, for instance, is fascinated by bad weather, and actively looks forward to rough days at sea. I enjoy a bit of rolling just so I know I'm on a boat, but I don't want to go through anything too dramatic.

He's gearing up for the November cruise by watching videos of cruise ships in storms. His current favorite is this little gem. (The music's a disco version of the theme song from Titanic; how fitting!)

I gather that everyone on that cruise got 20% off their next one. No wonder! Geez!

Sweetie, you can go on that cruise. I'll take the calm boat, thank you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ride on, Horsemen

My editor once commented -- and I think I've quoted this here before -- that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are always riding through some neighborhood, but we only notice it when they're in ours. Well, they've been hanging out at and around UNR for a while now, and they need to move along.

In the last two weeks, two members of my department have lost beloved family members (a daughter, a sister) who should have had decades more in front of them. Both of these were sudden freak medical catastrophes. Two of my students have parents just diagnosed with scary conditions; one of those students was already dealing with personal medical issues.

You already know about Glick.

To be fair, this isn't just happening at UNR. A friend of mine who's an English professor at a small school in Michigan reports that one colleague just died in childbirth and another's been newly diagnosed with a brain tumor. Those events happened within a week.

A lot of these horrors involve brains: tumors, aneurysms, strokes. One of the ER docs I know says that he's seen a lot more brain tumors lately. I wonder if anyone knows why. Cell phones? Environmental toxins? Too much computer time?

Horsemen: Shoo. Vamoose. Get out of here. You aren't welcome. We aren't the droids you're looking for. Skedaddle. Go somewhere else, but leave everybody there alone. Take up golf. Learn to meditate. Get another job. Get a better hobby. Get lives of your own so you can stop grabbing other people's. Take a break. Take a hike. Take a bow right off this stage.

Prudence Wins Out. Barely.

So this morning I got e-mail from an old college friend: one of my TAs from freshman year, if you can believe it. We're still in touch all these years later! He's in Switzerland now but had seen the news story about Glick, and sent me a note, and I mentioned the Hawai'i cruise, and he mentioned that he has a timeshare in Kona, and said he has a few extra weeks he can't use.

We've been wanting to go to Kona.

We could have gotten this place for a ridiculously small amount: less per week than one usually pays per night in Hawai'i.

We were all set to do it. But then I started looking at airfare, and came back to my senses. The available weeks are only about three months before our cruise; it just doesn't make fiscal sense to take two expensive vacations on low pay, even if one of them's an unbelievable steal once you get there. The airfare's the real deal-breaker, but we'd also have to rent a car and buy groceries (mondo expensive in Hawai'i), and would probably want to eat out and do other stuff that costs money.

So, reluctantly, after a flurry of e-mails when I thought I was taking him up on this very generous offer, I very reluctantly told him that we'd decided we just can't this time, but that he should please (please!) keep us in mind if the same thing happens next year.


Sometimes it sucks being a grownup.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Carpe Diem

I woke up this morning to a shaken e-mail from the head of the faculty senate, announcing that UNR President Milt Glick died of a massive stroke last night. Gary and I had seen him and his wife the night before at a concert. He looked great.

The mind reels. I can't help but wonder what role the state budget crisis played in this. The guy's been under incomprehensible pressure. Our bodies feel these things.

My immediate response -- surprise, surprise -- was to book a cruise in November for Gary's sixtieth birthday. It's a fourteen-day circle Hawaii trip, again on Holland America (on the same boat as our other two cruises, in fact; someday we'll get off the Oosterdam!). This goes well beyond decadent into financially irresponsible, but as I told Gary, "Life is short, and you only turn sixty once." And this cruise has been near the top of our wishlist.

We love Hawaii; we've already been to three of the four ports on the itinerary, but that means that we'll be able to make excellent use of our time without paying for shore excursions. I'm already looking forward to snorkeling again in our favorite spot in Waikiki, and then eating at one of our favorite Thai restaurants.

Gary cried when he found out. I asked if he was mad at me, but he's not: we have the money, after all. As he said, it's not like we'll be living in a refrigerator carton because of this.

I called my sister and said, "I just did something completely financially irresponsible."

"You booked a cruise," she said, without missing a beat.

What, me, predictable?

This is an expensive little addiction I've developed, but it's better for my health than other addictions. And at least now, having booked our next cruise, I can stop obsessively searching the cruise websites, which will give me more time to do more useful things.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thanks, Mom

Since Monday was the anniversary of Mom's death and Saturday is the anniversary of her funeral, I've been pretty weepy this week. I've certainly been thinking about her a lot.

Mom loved to help me (and later, Gary and me) buy major household items, or just buy them for us. Over the years, she was the generous source of at least two beds, an air conditioner, at least one refrigerator, a beautiful set of dining room chairs, a rocking chair, a bench for our hallway, and countless smaller things: knick-knacks and decorations, including a number of gorgeous needlepoint pieces she made herself. She'd grown up during the Depression, although her family was much better off than most. When I was a child, she struggled financially as a divorced woman raising two daughters (essentially without help from my father, whose alcoholism, for many years, kept him from being a good provider either for himself or anyone else). I never knew a time when she wasn't acutely aware of money, but she also loved spending it on nice things for herself and for us. Most parents love helping out their kids, but I think my parents, because of their family and personal histories, especially treasured that role. (My father never stopped drinking entirely, but he became quite a bit more stable -- and infinitely more financially responsible -- in the last twenty years of his life, and he was thrilled when Gary and I moved into our house. He flew out to help us, drove the moving van, bought us a fancy drill, and worked twelve hours a day fixing things around the new place.)

We didn't inherit a gigantic amount of money from my mother, but it's been enough to pay for a new roof and the new deck. Our tax refund this year -- which came indirectly from her, since we deliberately over-withheld on the inheritance -- paid for the new elliptical.

Today we got the final check from the estate, our share of the amount the attorney had been holding back in case any unexpected bills came in. "Hey, this will pay for two-thirds of the new awning," Gary said.

"Mom's still helping out," I told him. And of course I got weepy again, and even weepier when I called my sister to tell her we'd gotten the check.

My father loved sitting on our old deck, although it was so rickety that I cringed whenever I saw him inching across it. He would have adored the new one. So would Mom, and I know she'd be delighted that she helped us buy the awning for it.

Spring Flowers

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not Much to Report . . .

. . . but I'm posting anyway.

So far I've used the elliptical half an hour a day; two of those days, I've also done half an hour of laps in the pool. More would probably be better, but this is more than I was doing before we got the elliptical. Baby steps. I've decided that the most important thing is to make sure that I enjoy each workout, even if I'm not breaking any Olympic records, so I'll keep doing it. I'm having fun listening to music on my BlackBerry while I work the machine.

Mom died a year ago today. I'm sad.

In the past week or so I've written two new CHR columns and my Maundy Thursday homily; I'm fairly happy about all of that, but would be happier were I getting any fiction written.

The baby sweater continues. I'm now working on the first sleeve. This is a top-down project, which means you leave stitches on waste yarn for the shoulders of the sleeves and pick up stitches for the underarm. My first two sleeve attempts were disasters, because when I picked up the number of stitches specified in the pattern, I had huge holes. I increased the number of pick-up stitches and now have something that looks halfway plausible, I think. Whether this item will fit a human child when it's finished is anyone's guess.

Next week, the guy who built our deck last summer will make some minor repairs, and also pressure-wash and seal it for the summer. Today Gary met with the guy who's constructing and installing our 17'x13' retractable awning; that should be done in ten to twenty days. Of course, the minute everything's finished and we put the deck furniture out, we'll have a blizzard. (It snowed here on May 22 last year.)

We're going to try to pretend that our deck is the deck of a cruise ship. We're both in major jonesing-for-another-cruise mode, which isn't very practical given the financial realities of sabbatical (or of life in Nevada right now). But I still find myself obsessively searching Vacations to Go, and Holland America keeps sending us glossy brochures -- cruise porn -- which doesn't help.

That's my dull life right now, but there are worse things than dull.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Meet Elsie Elliptical!

We welcomed our latest gadget today; she actually arrived half an hour early. I promptly hopped on and worked out for half an hour, burning 222 calories and going 1.7 miles, although I was only on the first resistance level (I have to be careful with that because of my knees). Later, Gary did a half hour too, going five miles an hour at level five and burning 300 calories.

We both love this piece of equipment (a Horizon EX-59, if anyone's curious). It's incredibly smooth, solid and quiet, especially for the price. I'm really delighted with how much Gary likes it: he's the Exercise King in the family -- avid hiker, former bike racer and marathon runner, the guy I can never work out with because I'm always eating his dust -- but he'd never even heard of ellipticals until I mentioned the fact that I enjoy the ones at my gym. He finds treadmills and stationary bikes boring and too limited, but he loves Elsie. So I feel like I actually taught something in the fitness arena, which is definitely a first. And this gizmo works both for my modest needs and his more intense ones: perfect!

The cats are somewhat less smitten. Figgy has sniffed cautiously at the thing and then wandered off, seeming calm enough. Bali raced in a frenzy through the house when Elsie arrived, finally got up the courage to sniff around her, and then zoomed off again in absolute terror (we aren't sure what sparked that, since we were watching at the time and nothing had happened; the machine was just sitting there). Poor baby! We'll just have to be extra nice to him until he calms down.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Home Improvements

Well, I'm still a little headachy and a little nauseous, but -- after a very slow and discombobulated day -- I managed to swim for half an hour this evening. Since I hadn't exercised since Saturday (skipping my Sunday workout may have been one of the causes of the Tuesday migraine), I feel as if I'm now getting back on track.

And just in time, since our new elliptical arrives tomorrow! Yay! I'm so looking forward to being able to work out at home without having to gather all my gym gear (although I'll still use the pool at the gym). Gary's looking forward to being able to work out at home when bad weather prevents hiking. We're both curious about how the cats will respond to the new intruder; I foresee initial alarm, especially when the thing's moving, but I'm sure they'll adjust.

On Monday, the guy who built our deck is coming over to fix a loose post. We're going to find out how much he'd charge to do the annual pressure washing and resealing.

Our shade canopy collapsed in a rainstorm last autumn and was wrecked beyond repair, so we're going to invest in a large custom retractable awning (with a manual crank, not one of the motorized ones, which brings the price down at least a little bit). This is a large chunk of change, but it's also a big improvement to our living space. We spend a lot of time out on the deck in warm weather -- I effectively move my office out there for at least part of the day, and we like to entertain there too -- and adequate shade's essential. (This is the driest, sunniest state in the country, and we're also at altitude, so UV protection is a real issue.)

The awning plus the elliptical add up to a lot of money when I'm about to a) have my pay cut and b) go onto two-thirds of the lower salary because of the sabbatical. But since I'm staying home during the sabbatical, home needs to be as pleasant and workable as we can make it, and I think these two items will really help.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Souvenir from Yesterday

Here's the most dramatic botched-IV bruise. This puppy's two and a half inches long. Luckily, it's much less painful than it looks.

Note: Posting a photo of the bruise was Gary's idea, so complain to him if you find it distasteful!

I still have a bit of a headache, and very sore muscles from the GI excitement and the uncomfortable urgent-care table, but I managed to muddle through work today. I just hope I can finally shake the headache tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Whatta Week (and it's only Tuesday!)

Yesterday UNR announced a new list of possible budget cuts, including the elimination of the Philosophy Department. The mood at work is not good. My personal mood isn't stellar right now either. Monday will be a year since Mom died, so I've been very aware of the events that led up to that.

Maybe it wasn't too surprising, then, that today I woke up with a migraine. I haven't had one of those for years. I did what I usually do: have a bland breakfast, take Tylenol, drink some coffee, and hope it doesn't all come back up.

It came back up. It kept coming back up. The tiny sips of water I took to try to rehydrate came up too. All in all, we had four very unpleasant episodes of Coming Back Up, between which I lay in bed, literally moaning in pain. This was very unusual. Usually stuff comes back up once, I take a nap, and when I wake up I feel all better. Not today.

So I made other arrangements for the class I was supposed to teach today, covering for a colleague who's on bereavement leave after a very tragic loss (have I mentioned that the mood at work isn't good?), and -- after a phone call to a nurse hotline, which advised me to be seen within four hours, and to my primary-care doc, who couldn't get me in today -- arranged for a friend to drive me to a local Urgent Care. The Urgent Care I usually go to is moderately far away, so I was pleased to discover that my medical group has one much closer, right across the street from the assisted-living place where Dad used to live. (It's a measure of how whacked-out I was by the migraine that at first I didn't even recognize the name of the street.)

I'm not sure I'll be going back there, though.

Here's the procedure I'm used to: you walk in, you're checked in right away, you're seen by a triage nurse within a few minutes, and then you're sent out to wait more minutes or hours, depending on what else is going on. At this place, I didn't even get checked in for half an hour. There appeared to be no triage nurse. Half an hour after I was checked in, I felt cruddy enough to actually lie down across two seats in the waiting room, at which point my friend Linda went up to the desk and said, "My friend really feels awful. When will she be seen?"

Well, after that they took me immediately back to a room, let me lie down, gave me a blanket, cooed over me, and dimmed the lights. A medical assistant took my vitals, which were fine, and then a Nurse Practitioner came in, asked me what was going on, and gave me the most thorough physical I've had in years. She actually touched my body! My primary-care doc never does that anymore. She decided that I could use some IV rehydration, which was exactly why I'd gone in.

Then the fun started. The medical assistant tried to start an IV in my right arm and blew the vein. This was a slow, bizarre process: she had to go in and out of the room about fifty times to collect the supplies even to start the thing, and then she kept anxiously peering at various bits of paraphernalia, and I kept anxiously peering at her long, painted fingernails, which, for hygiene reasons, would never be allowed in the hospital where I volunteer. After she'd placed the IV, she had another staff member come in and inspect her work. The two of them peered, poked, prodded, bit their lips while staring up at the IV bag, which wasn't dripping properly, ascertained from me that the IV site was indeed burning, and decided to pull the IV and start again.

Medical assistant #2 decided to start the new IV in my right hand. (Both of them had assured me cheerfully that I had nice fat veins.) This was an inordinately painful process that didn't work out any better than the first one had, so they pulled that, too.

Then the Nurse Practitioner showed up. All three of them examined my left arm, making helpful comments like, "These are nasty veins." I commented that the downside of Urgent Care is that they probably don't have to start many IVs and therefore aren't adept at it. The Nurse Practitioner told me that they start lots of IVs! Two or three a day! (I thought, but didn't say, lady, where I usually hang out, that would be two or three a minute.) The NP decided that she was going to attempt the IV in the left arm; she'd been an ICU nurse before she became an NP, she told me, and was very good at IVs.

She got the needle in fine, but then she couldn't get the IV tube attached to it. "This is a new kind," she said. "I don't know how this works." Oh, terrific. She finally, with a lot of painful twisting of the needle, got the tube connected. Everyone recommenced staring anxiously at the IV bag, which once again refused to drip properly, and I complained about burning at this IV site too, so IV #3 was a bust. (I now have very colorful bruises on both arms, especially the left one.)

"We're not going to poke you again," the NP said soothingly, as MA #1 brought me a warm blanket. (I'd told her that they needed blanket warmers like the ER has; she put my blanket in a microwave to warm it up for me, which was very sweet.) "We're just going to give you a GI cocktail and a lot of water to drink and see if you keep it down."

I kept it down. My head still hurt like nobody's business -- probably, at this point, because I'd had nothing to eat all day and it was almost dinnertime -- so the NP decided to give me a shot of Toradol. She was very patient with the questions I fired at her after researching the drug on my BlackBerry. About half an hour after the injection -- three and a half hours after getting to the Urgent Care place -- I was finally feeling a bit better, and they let me leave.

I don't believe there was a doctor in the building. I only saw four staff members: NP, the two MAs, and a young woman whose role I never determined, but who looked about twelve. They were all very sweet; they all apologized copiously for the blown veins, praised me for my sense of humor through the ordeal, and told me repeatedly that they hope I feel better.

I still don't think I'll be going back there.

I'm now, as per NP's orders, pushing diluted Gatorade. If I can't get a certain amount of that down by 9 PM, or if I start vomiting again, I'm to go to an Emergency Room, where the staff will presumably be better at starting IVs. I don't think I'll need to go to the ER, although I'm not sure I'll be going to work tomorrow.

I'm going to bed early, that's for sure.

On the bright side:

My friend Inez can come to WorldCon after all!

An acquaintance from college called last night, and we had a long and pleasant chat.

I've actually started knitting my first sweater! It's for a baby, but it's still a sweater!