Sunday, December 21, 2008

In sickness and in health...

It is approaching midnight now, and what a day we've had. It started off average enough; Lizzy getting ready to drive to Orlando for a singing gig and me sitting on the couch watching the news to see if anything big happened overnight. Then when Lizzy was brushing her teeth, right around the time when she usually asks me if I could go down to the car and get her makeup bag (it is always in the car, unless we are in the car, then it is in the house), I heard her scream. It was not a "saw a roach" scream, it was a terrible noise. I ran to the bathroom and found her laying on the floor in between the bathroom and the bedroom writhing in pain with a toothbrush still in her mouth.

You don't realize how much you care about someone until a moment like that. All I could think was that I wished it was me instead of her, that I hated the whole idea of toothbrushing that seemed to have caused this, and worst of all, that I was helpless to help her. It turns out that her back had gone out entirely. It has been threatening to do this for years. It threatens her with a frequency that I would have challenged it to a fight if it was not, in fact, her spine, and it would defeat the purpose of my concern. As she lay there face down, I called an orthopedic surgeon who explained to me what had happened. It was not a herniated disc, one of her vertebrae had slipped off of the one below it at the facet joint. Because I am an idiot, I did the only thing I could to contribute the situation and ran and got her an anatomy textbook to show her where the problem was. Considering the amount of pain she was in, she was very kind about my explanation.

It turns out that the only thing you can do about it in acute situation is take ibuprofen and muscle relaxants. We had neither so I called in a prescription at CVS for the muscle relaxant and picked up both of them. When I showed up at the prescription counter and gave the girl my VISA explaining it was for my wife, she looked at the name and then confusedly at me and said, "You're the doctor, too?" I realized then that I was wearing a T-shirt that looked like I stole it from a homeless person and that my hair looked like Don King's because I'd just woken up. I said yes, and then, looking to excuse me, she said, "You must be a resident." I told her maybe she must be a resident, and then left with the drugs.

I got back and Lizzy was still face down in the bathroom doorway. I gave her some pills and then we laid on the floor together. Six hours later, we were still laying on the floor together. At that point, through 15 minutes of intense effort, and using my back as a ramp to the bed, she was able to get in bed. If she were not light as a feather, I am pretty sure my vertebrae would have been as aligned as the teeth of the homeless man's whose shirt I stole after this maneuver. But she is light as a feather. I then climbed into bed with her and we watched old episodes of The Office until the Northland service came online. Pop is a great preacher. That has nothing to do with this story, but he is.

When 10:00 rolled around, Lizzy was ready to go to bed. The tranquilizers running through her veins finally sedated her enough for her to fall asleep. If not for the grounding effect of horrendous back spasms, they would have been enough allow her hear colors long before that. For the last time of the day, I hooked my arms under her shoulders and pulled her into a more comfortable position. And then she drifted off into oblivion where I am sure she is dreaming of large anatomy book pictures.

And so it was that Lizzy and I spent 12 hours side-by-side on the floor and the bed today. Aside from the agony, I have rarely had a more fulfilling day of marriage than today. Anyone who has been married longer than a week knows how minutiae can crowd out or obscure the vows that you took on your first day as husband and wife. To love and to cherish gets pushed aside by who's turn it is to take out our small-bladdered dog. Honor and obey get hazy when she wants to watch the Food Network and I want to watch Survivorman. But big events cast the small stuff into sharp perspective. When the chips are down, we both fly back to the vows we took and marriage becomes simple again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Last night Joel, husband/ophthalmologist, offered to refract me and give me a new glasses prescription which was very generous of him considering his usual work consists of removing cataracts and transplanting corneas, much more stimulating than the drudgery of, “Which is clearer, one or two? One or two…” As he explained to me, in order for him to get my true refraction, he had to paralyze my “ciliary muscle” (I didn’t know of its existence until last night) to prevent it from accommodating. I have an eye issue that I could bore you with by explaining, or at least by pretending to explain by using words I’ve heard Joel say such as, but not limited to, accommodation, hyperopia, spherical aberration, eye. In the end you’d still realize that I don’t really know what I’m talking about and I’d still be a latent hyperop!

So last night Joel had to put some dilating drops in my eyes. Before allowing this I of course asked the customary, “Will they hurt?” He just smiled really big, hesitated a moment and said, “Um, no, they hurt much less than the other dilating drops.” I think by “other dilating drops,” he meant, “red-hot iron poker.” The burning ensued. I had a good cry. Joel used a numbing drop before the next round of dilating drops. I was appreciative. I realize now why Joel thinks the ol’ putting-dilating-drops-in-someone’s-contact-solution-practical-joke is less funny than I do. It’s more of a mean joke than a practical one. I’d say it’s not very practical at all, wasting dilating drops, contact solution and a perfectly good friend all to celebrate the first day of April. So in the end, Joel had me seeing 20/20 which I had never experienced before. Usually I just cover my right eye to read books and squint to see people’s faces. It was an exhilarating experience for which I am most grateful.


This morning, as is my custom in planning my day, I took a look at the old Mac weather widget to see what the temperature outside might be. To my delight it said it was 75 degrees outside in Tampa. That’s Fahrenheit. If it had been Celsius I’d worry I’d died in my sleep! *Bud-ump ching (punch-line drum sound)* But seriously folks, I was shocked to see the extreme drop in temperature from the side-ways eight degrees it was yesterday! Get it? Side-ways eight? Infinity?! I’ll be here all week.

I started planning my activities for the day: 1. Not sweat a lot, 2. Wear a shirt with sleeves, 3. Maybe walk to get the mail instead of drive… and the list went on. I decided to take Roxie (our dog) outside and experience the pleasant weather first-hand.

I leashed up the dog, walked out the door, traveled down two flights of stairs, sped up slightly when passing the apartment of neighbors who may or may not exchange “goods” for money between the hours of 12am and 4am, crossed the threshold of where apartment breezeway ends and sunshine begins and…..

Burning! Tears pouring from my eyes! I was staring down at the grass with my hands over my eyes but felt like I was staring directly into the sun while standing only inches from it. Why is everything so bright?! I frantically yelled “Potty Roxie! Potty!” to get her to finish her out-door business before blindness ensued and I was forced then to use her as a seeing-eye dog which would mean a lifetime of walking into coffee tables and the corners of doorways but honestly, it’s all we can really afford!!!

I crawled back up the stairs and into our apartment, turned out all the lights and am now waiting for night to fall. All I can really infer from that experience is that my eyes are still at least slightly dilated and hopefully my sudden aversion to garlic is merely coincidental. Also, that Mac widget is terribly inaccurate for it must have been at least 85 degrees outside.

As I spend the next couple of hours sympathizing with moles, the animals, which I just learned aren’t cute at all by seeing my first non-cartoon picture of one online, I’ll be thinking of what a wonderful gift sight is and feeling lucky that I am married to someone who can provide that which I’ve always been want of. I am very excited to see clearly. Perhaps I’ll pick up that book that’s been sitting on my nightstand. Perhaps I’ll understand why Joel always calls our dog, “homely.” Perhaps I’ll be able to notice those “No U-turn” signs that always seem to get put up immediately after I’ve made a U-turn. Perhaps I’ll figure out how to end this blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Today I went to our neighborhood YMCA, our Tampa YMCA, much different than the Orlando YMCAs to which I've become accustomed. Orlando YMCAs are brimming with personal flat screens on treadmills and clean pressed towels and of course lots of 40 somethings in color coordinated spandex. That is a status symbol I've come to realize. I was still wearing my finest jade and pearls to establish my upper working class status. I wish I had been educated on the matter before I lost my great grandmother's broach on an elliptical machine.

I just got home from work and found the start of this blog when I opened the computer. I know where she is going with this. At the start of the second paragraph she is going to start talking about how the Tampa YMCA has machines from the 1930's and free weights in large, iron, 3D trapezoid form with handles on the top and marked in white print "100 lbs." She might say how she would expect to see barrel-chested men with handlebar mustaches and white and black horizontally striped singlets lifting the weights up and down over their heads.

Until about a year ago, I would have said all of this was only her own prejudice against the Tampa Y - and baseless. But that was before I saw one of the Y's in Orlando to which she was accustomed. Coming from the Tampa ghettos, I walked into the Dr. Phillip's YMCA and expected to think her descriptions were overblown. But then an employee walked up to me and handed me a steamed towel and said, "I say, dear sir, God's blessings on you in hopes of a capital workout." Then I walked around and worked out on (and this was amazing to me) machines that had upholstery not held together by duct tape. And all the dumbells came in sets of two. Previously, I'd just used weights that were within 10 pounds of each other and switched arms on different sets. It is an amazing place. And I can say that all of prejudice towards my YMCA was well-founded.

Okay, that's my two cents. I'll let her finish her blog now when she opens the computer again.

I'm glad he interrupted there. I was actually losing my train of though. The only thing I would say is it's no longer "your YMCA" and "my YMCA" it's our YMCA. Our YMCA, where the temperature is always a little too warm to be indoors and clean pressed towels are replaced with paper towels from dispensers similar to those found in public restrooms.

During my workout experience (generally 3 weeks on, 2 months off) I have become much more well acquainted with weight machines than with free weights. I've always found them more convenient. They require less "know-how" as there is only one exercise that can be done per machine and they prevent me from having to go over to the "free weight area" where college-age males stand in front of mirrors and lift up their shirts to see if those sit-ups they did minutes prior have kicked in yet. I don't know why lifting your shirt up in the gym is an acceptable practice. It's like all social etiquette is thrown out of the window. Nobody ever says anything like, "That makes me uncomfortable," but I guess if spandex is socially acceptable, most practices are.

I've had to denounce my devotion to weight machines here in Tampa as they are not up-kept. I always find as I use them that one leg is higher than the other or one arm extends further than the other, or I find myself playing a rousing game of "find that smell" on the leg extension machine. "Is it me? Is it that guy? Oh, no, it's just the handle grips that lots of people touch. Phew. That's a relief." Once I realized my left leg was becoming far superior in strength to my right I figure I should switch to something more unvarying. Free weights. It was time to rub elbows with frat boys and high school seniors hoping to replace acne with biceps before college.

Joel was nice enough to coach me on some exercises that worked certain muscle groups because he knew if I ventured into this new chapter in my exercising chronicles alone, I would do something like drastically increase my neck girth while doing an exercise that I think works my obliques. There is always an added strain to any relationship when the husband begins coaching the wife in her workouts. With every additional helpful exercise he taught me, my brain would go further into "he thinks I'm fat" land. He'd say things like "this is another really great butt exercise," and I'd say things like "So, two exercises aren't enough?" And, he'd say, "Well, no that's enough, but, well I thought I'd just teach you all of the ones I know," and I'd say "Why do you think I need to know all the ones you know?"

"I just thought I'd teach you all of them so you can do them on your own."
"Do you wish I was thinner?"
"No, you are very thin. Too thin."
"No, I want you to tell me the truth. (I don't actually, I just want his lies to sound very truthful.) Do you think I've gained weight?"
"No, of course not." Silence. "Do you just maybe want to go do the weight machines?"
"No, this is good. I just wish you didn't think I was fat. That's all..."

It continued on like that for a couple minutes until I realized there was no winning for either of us through this line of questioning. Entrapment does not a happy husband make. I think maybe I was hoping the conversation to end with him saying, "You're super skinny. Let's blow this popsicle stand and get a McFlurry." I wish most conversations ended that way.

As time passes since my first experience with our Tampa YMCA, I wish I could say it's growing on me. I tell myself it's a great place until I get there and remember that instead of air conditioning, they just have a giant who lifts up the corner of the roof and breaths very open mouthed into the facility. As I continue to push myself to go, (one to two days every other week or so) there are two things in which I find solace. One, I have definitely observed that instead of spending money on attaching televisions to Stair Masters they are using their means to pour into the community which is a beautiful thing to see. Two, I am married to a man who can treat staph if ever necessary.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Married Life

It is 7:30 in the Hunter house and Lizzy in our music room practicing arias. It was just a second bedroom that I thought should become our den with some animal heads on the wall and maybe a battered leather sitting chair. But then we bought an electric piano and Lizzy started her nightly practice. Now it is a music room. I would say, proportionately speaking, it is more of an opera room than anything else. We should have bought a harpsichord instead of a piano. An 18th century European man with a powdered wig and white stockings would feel very comfortable at our house in the evenings. To be fair though, we do have a few animal mounts in the porch closet and I am allowed to go look at them at my leisure.

On the whole, we have adjusted to married life very well. We've finally entered into a little bit of an established routine, which I think classifies our existence now officially as "married life." For the first several months we were newlyweds and still classified as "one person joined by God and constantly mystified by any objection to the other's previous habits." There were the kinks to be worked out over toilet seats, weekend trips, loud snoring (my soft palette is as unyielding as Neville Chamberlain), coffee strength, and dog rearing. But any good journey has obstacles to overcome. And we are far enough in now that I'm able to see that's where a lot of the fun is. Without learning the compromises of marriage, I might never have invented my toilet seat compromise device, which elevates the seat to exactly 45 degrees at all times.

And now we are enjoying the fruits of a smooth functioning married life. My friends and her friends have now become simply our friends. When I have a bad day at work, she is cheery for me and when she can't master an especially challenging musical piece, I will sing it for her to show her how gifted she is. As I meet the doctors that I will work with in a refractive surgery fellowship, she (thanks to years talking with opera donators) is inevitably well-acquainted with their hobbies of opera, European travel, vineyards, dressage, and monocle wearing. Together we are more than the sum of our parts.

She's done singing now. We're going to watch Jeopardy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Of Keys and Cars

Anybody who knows me well, knows of my terrible luck with automobiles. Come to think of it, I have terrible luck with birds as well. Blue jays, not as friendly as they look. And Mr. Blue bird on my shoulder would never be "satisfactch'll." He would be there to hurt me because birds are very angry creatures with small brains and creepy stares. If you've every been walking across a busy street in broad daylight and had a bird sweep down from his domicile to attack your naturally curly hair, you'd be with me on this.

So driving... I've definitely had my share of accidents. And when I'm in an accident, I'm never rear-ended by an apologetic driver with the courtesy to say, "Are you okay?" or "I'm so sorry." I'm always hit by a person I've completely inconvenienced by the fact that my car was at a dead stop in I-4 traffic or in a, lets say, Target parking lot. The person who hits me say's things like, "So how long's this gonna take?" or "I don't have time for this. I have to pick up my kid." Word of advice: Never trust a person driving with a compact disc flag hanging from their rear-view mirror. Ever. I don't care if it's a Brazilian flag, a German flag, or even an American flag. If you are hit by an automobile sporting one of these, get every bit of information you can. Even draw a sketch of the person who hit you. If you aren't good at drawing, take a mental photograph or even one with your cell phone. Which ever is more convenient. This person will surely yell at you a lot for making them pull over after hitting you then try to flee the scene to pick up their child at "daycare."

I could go on all day with stories of my misadventures in driving. What I've noticed as of late is that my car luck has somehow spread to my husband. Apparently my virulent strain of driving misfortune is highly contagious. I try to wash my hands often, but ten months of living together has turned our apartment into driving malady petri-dish. It started off as an innocent loss of keys. Joel's keys went first. To this day he swears I threw them away to which, I say: Yes, I probably did. He did have an extra set which was helpful but those were lost about three weeks ago. We had a spare key made but unfortunately the manufacturers of Hyundai decided that having a key alone isn't sufficient enough to prove you are not in fact stealing the car. You also need the remote. The very expensive Hyundai remote. If you unlock the door with the key and open the door, the alarm goes off. Then, if you insert the key into the ignition you cannot turn it until the alarm goes off for two minutes. That is how long it takes for the car to be convinced you are not a thief. You can then turn the key to start the engine. Apparently if you are willing to sit through two minutes of very high-pitched, high-decibel sirens, you must have innocent intentions. I say cars have faulty logic. To avoid all the rigmarole, and keep peace with our neighbors, Joel simply leaves his car unlocked. We would be worried about it being stolen but there isn't much in that car to invite a thief. He doesn't own woofers, as the young kids call them although I suppose a robber greedy for eye drops and empty soda bottles might very well hit the jackpot with Joel's car.

Two weeks ago, Joel graduated from simply losing keys to the inevitable, getting rear-ended on the highway. Of course despite his innocence in the accident, he still managed to receive a ticket for not having proof of insurance in his car. Police officers in our county don't mess around. They also don't want people to like them very much as I've learned.

So Joel's car is totaled and we are now on the hunt for a replacement automobile. To me there isn't much more nerve racking than shopping for cars. Let's just hope we don't get a lemon. Or a tangelo for that matter. I don't really care for citrus. Except grapefruit, I like those very much. To look on the bright side, it could be worse. We could be shopping for a parakeet or weaver-bird or some other winged creature. For in the wise words of Gilbert K. Chesterton:

“A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels.”

Monday, July 7, 2008


We've been married for over 10 months now (Lizzy and I, not you and I). To give you an idea of how long that is, if I was bald on our wedding day, my hair would now be over five inches long! In that time we've gone through a honeymoon phase, scrabble phase, ordering out phase, working out phase, metaphase, and prophase. Mitosis jokes! It's going to be a good year.

It was Lizzy who said to me the other night, "Handsome hero king," (she always calls me that) "why don't we start a blog?" And I did what all married guys do and said, "Yeah! That sounds great!" before I thought about it for even a femtosecond. But now that I've had time to think about it, I've gone from not sure about it to thinking it is a great idea. It is a marriage builder, and it is perfect for us, since we hate ropes courses.

So far we've only had one and a half fights over our new blog and none of them ended in a duel. I wanted to start a married blog so that I could take credit for Joel's science jokes. He insisted on labeling each blurb with "Joel:" or "Lizzy:" (see above) so I will have to think of my own. What did one Bunsen burner say to the other Bunsen burner?.............I've got nothing. Joel would surely have had a punch line for that. (Joel: "I've got gas!")

What I'm really saying in all this is welcome to our blog. Please come in and make yourself at home. Kick off your boots and lean back in the best seat by the fire while Roxie lies contentedly at your feet (Roxie is our dog, for those supposing we procreated. Also for all those supposing we have a neighbor named Roxie, thus being made uncomfortable by the former statement.) Actually, we do have a neighbor named Rocksie but as you can see, she spells her name with a cks. I made that part up. Joel is funnier than me. Mitochondria.