Sunday, December 30, 2007


And What Did I Get For Christmas?

That's right: pneumonia!!

No, I am not kidding.

I believe this has happened often enough now--once for every year of this blog's life--that I can safely make a label of it.

Don't worry. I'm okay. It's just in my right lung, and it was only a smidge of fluid. And that was almost a week ago and I'm already tons better, even after the few twitchy nights that I sat up riding an unearthly wave of prednisone.

Best of all, I've been telling everyone it's only bronchitis. The "p" word has a galvanizing effect around the Magazine Mansion, owing mostly to the fact that the last time I had it (see snazzy new label below) I ended up hospitalized for the first time in my life. Yes, I feel a little guilty for deceiving my lovely and long-suffering wife. But then the other day the Brownie watched me engaged in my thrice-daily ritual of toking up on nebulized albuterol--the crack cocaine of the pneumoniac world--and said, in her most earnest and heart-breaking I'm-not-gonna-like-the-answer voice, "Dad, the last time you had to breathe in that, you had the water in your chest and had to go to the hospital. Are you gonna have to go in again?"

I pulled the mask off my face. "Oh no, honey!" I assured her. "That was a much worse case. This is nothing. I'll be fine. And I'll be staying home."

At this, she relaxed visibly. "Oh good," she said, after the most extravagant exhalation of relief. "Because Mom made us come see you, like, every day."

Hey, whatever I can do to ease their minds.

Of course, this little holiday surprise put rather a damper on the many things I planned to do: blog every day; sort my comics for my semi-annual donation purge; blog every day; write a timely reply to my aunt after receiving such a lovely card and letter from her that it brought tears to my eyes and reminded me--as if I needed reminding--that I am the world's worst nephew. Oh, and there was something else I was going to do. What was it? Oh yes: blog every day.

Well, we do these things one breath at a time. And as soon as I get mine back, I'll start on all of them.

Til then, I hope you had a peaceful and joyous holiday. Thanks to one and all for your good wishes here and via email and know that I look forward to being, in the new year,

From Somewhere on the Masthead


Tuesday, December 18, 2007


In Which We Are Dripping with Love...

And so, after months of making it clear that she's perfectly happy to lie on her back and remain in the arrested state of an 8-week-old, last Saturday, the Éclair caught one look at Thomas' cache of cars and, with no preamble whatsoever, promptly flipped herself over and began crawling to them. We could not have been more astonished if we had come to get her after a nap and found her fluttering around the ceiling fan.


I don't remember Art Lad and the Brownie making such quantum leaps, or keeping them under wraps for as long as the Éclair seems to. After weeks of incoherent hooting and raspberrying, I came through the door from work one night, and she just looked up and said, "Oh, hi, Dada!" Then went back to spraying us with her ample reserves of saliva. I think she's discovered--too early--the disarming value of the shock reveal and the way in which it reduces us to incoherent hooting and raspberrying ourselves.

Speaking of saliva, my, is this girl a slobberchops. She actually has a yeast infection in those sneaky little folds of her neck from all the constant drooling and spitting. We just can't keep her wiped off long enough for the infection to go away. The only one not perplexed and grossed-out by it is Blaze, who sees her as a kind of moist human popsicle that never melts. He cannot pass her sitting in her little activity center without giving her a couple of comprehensively face-covering licks, to the extent that they both now exhibit Pavlovian behavior: Every time she sees the dog, the Éclair automatically squints her eyes shut and gigglingly flinches in anticipation--even though he might be on the other side of the room. For his part, every time Blaze passes her activity center, he starts licking his chops, whether the Éclair is actually sitting in her activity center or not.

This interaction has not gone unnoticed by the Brownie who has, for the most part, been the very model of a great big sister. Except when it comes to her Blazey. She'll watch him sleeping by the foot of the crib, or stationed by the activity center, ready to summon the Bringer of Milk should The Queen Baby express the slightest blat of displeasure, and the Brownie will make a sad face. "I don't think Blazey loves me the best anymore," she has confided in me. "I think he likes the baby better."

"Well," I opined, "She probably IS a little tastier just now, but I think Blaze loves you both."

But the Brownie remained unconvinced and the truth is, I'm not so sure either. Given the pack mentality of a dog, I suspect it's only natural for Blaze to look after the smallest and most helpless of pups in the house, and in that case the Éclair has definitely supplanted the Brownie. Blaze certainly does protect the baby, with perhaps a little more zeal than he does the other kids, if that's possible.

Yesterday, a man came to deliver a piece of furniture--a bedstead for the Brownie. Very nice guy, actually. But Blaze watched him like a hawk the entire time, as he does when any deliverymen enter the house when I'm not around. Then, as the guy was about to leave, he made the mistake of complimenting Her Lovely Self on her gorgeous baby, and stepped towards them, hand outstretched. Blaze freaked out. He lunged to, I don't know, bite the guy or something, but HLS spoke to Blaze in his language, giving him the warning growl that makes him back down immediately. Except not this time.

Blaze stood there quivering for a moment, head bowed under the imperious gaze of my wife, in an absolute lather of indecision. Then, he bolted up the stairs, raced into the Brownie's room and pissed all over her new bed.

When the Brownie got home from school, all of the clean-up work was done, but Her Lovely Self still felt obligated to explain what happened to the Brownie's new bed. My elder daughter has been waiting for this thing for six months and I thought she was going to burst into tears when she found out the dog baptized it before she even got a chance to sleep in it.

Instead, with more than a little glee, she went downstairs and released Blaze from his time-out in his kennel and hugged him fiercely.

"Now I know he loves me!" she cried. Blaze just gave me the knowing look of a dog who has learned the secret of keeping a woman's affection.

Clearly, I've been doing something wrong all these years.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Monday, December 17, 2007


In Which This Too Shall Pass (which is a worse pun than you might think, once you finish reading this)...

What? Mid-December, already?

I know, I know, it's awful isn't it? Before I was chiding myself for maybe publishing one post a week, now it seems like one a month is the norm. I've come a realization about myself and it's this: I only like to post about my life when I have something funny to say, or when I have something awful to say, but something awful that be made to sound funny. And just lately I'm going through something that I'm having a hard time making sound funny.

Her Lovely Self is sick.

I've never written about this on the blog, which is an odd thing, because at this point there are very few depths of my life that have gone unplumbed here, so you'd think I'd have talked about this before. Yet I'm sure this uncharacteristic restraint is out of respect for my wife, who is already mortified enough about the things I write.

The long and short of it is that Her Lovely Self has a rather unlovely and chronic disease whose side effects are so painful and awful that I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemies (with perhaps one exception. No, two). My wife has Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that has plagued her since she was in her early 20s. It's a condition marked by periods of flare-ups and remission, and I have to say that she has been in a flare-up period for months now.

No one's really sure what causes Crohn's, but it's considered an auto-immune disorder, for whatever that's worth. All I know is that when she's in a flare-up, my wife's in a lot of pain and discomfort, dealing with pretty much every unfortunate gastrointestinal side effect you can think of, plus others, such as intestinal obstruction and pernicious anemia, which weakens and fatigue her. Most recently, we've discovered that she has developed as many as three tunneling fistulae. The disease is not just inflammatory but corrosive, you see. During a flare-up, the disease can burrow passageways between different loops of intestine--Her Lovely Self has a fairly large one that effectively bypasses a substantial portion of her small intestine and leaves her prone to all sorts of nasty infections--and sometimes even connect your digestive tract with parts of your body it was never intended to interact with, such as vital organs, nerve clusters and, in the case of my wife, her uterus.

You'd think surgery would be in order, but for some reason, with Crohn's sufferers, surgery has a way of making the disease even worse. Cut out diseased section of bowel and the disease will sprout up, Hydra-like, in adjacent loops, and removing or closing off the fistulae that form has been shown to be terribly successful. A new class of drugs has been approved to deal with inflammation and even some kinds of fistulae, but it's hard-core stuff, delivered by IV every few weeks, and something that you have to stay on more or less forever, or until you suffer an allergic reaction to the stuff, which is all too common, and sometimes even fatal. And even then, the stuff has an efficacy rate somewhere in the 30-percentile range, and even less in terms of healing the deep internal fistulae, such as the big one HLS has high up in her digestive tract.

So even as my wife has had to deal with all manner of painful and undignified problems, she's also been tired and weak, and I think it must said, in a growing and unassailable sense of despair. Soon--not next week or next month, but soon--she'll have to decide whether or not to have surgery to try to ease some of her symptoms or to go on the IV meds. Neither one is appealing to her, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that my wife is the kind of person who likes to feel in control of her life, her health, and over the past several weeks we've been getting a crash course in understanding that there's very little about this disease that she can control. At the urging of friends, she has pursued some alternative therapies and taken heroic measures to alter her diet. We've always tried to eat relatively healthy foods, but in the past few months we've made a more drastic switch to organic foods (processed foods seem to cause much more damage to her compromised digestive tract) and added a variety of supplements to our diet (including omega-3 rich fish oil and all manner of herbal and mineral capsules designed either to heal from within or supplement her body's diminished capacity to absorb nutrition). Still, when your body has gone haywire to the extent that it's building brand-new unauthorized ersatz intestinal tract, winding every which-a-way through your abdomen like a drunk on a bulldozer, it's hard to feel like you have any control. Of anything. At all.

So things have been a little somber and even sometimes actually grim here at the Magazine Mansion, and when life is like that, I just kind of hunker down and reserve my good humor for the people nearby who seem to really need it. If that sounds selfish and neglectful of you, my friends, well, I apologize. But I also expect you to understand.

"What we really need in our lives," my wife said last night, as she was reading organic cookbooks and a sheaf of medical reports about Crohn's research, "is someone who's even more fucked up than we are. That would put my problems into perspective, you know?" And she's right, of course.

But more than that, she's going to get her wish.

Because in 48 hours, my big brother will be here to spend Christmas with us.

Which also means that the long drought of having anything funny to write about should be coming to an abrupt end.

Stay tuned.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

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