Can Rectal Thermometers Cause Brain Damage?


By this stage of my writing career, I thought that I would be cranking out bestsellers every year and movies based on them would star Meryl Streep or George Clooney.  I dreamed of being famous. I dreamed of respected articles that made a difference. Or at least getting my independently published novel, A Distinct and Separate Feeling, sold by now. (my attempt to explain the separatist movement in Quebec via an adult contemporary romance. 250 pages, some with some damned good loved scenes if I say so myself. $12.00 includes shipping in the US. Barter considered as well.  If you’re interested, leave me contact info in the comments section and I’ll give you further instructions.) (I can sign it, too!)

However, reality played out somewhat differently. The assignments I’ve received have been varied and very interesting, certainly. I’ve written about tractor racing, bake-offs, consignment shops, journaling, dream interpretation, and how to make your own bread among other things.

I have also written web content for a medical supply house. Not for the faint of heart, but varied enough to keep my attention and service oriented enough to placate my altruistic streak. I have written about stethoscopes, some really fun equipment for special needs kids, and the defibrillator units kept handy in public places such as train stations. I had a great editor who was and is funny, gentle, and supportive when giving feed back. No matter how many times the litany of service gets chanted–“this will help someone, this will help someone”–there just are assignments that will bring a writer to his or her knees.

Like rectal thermometers.

Yes. Rectal thermometers. I had an assignment where I had to describe what differentiated them from oral thermometers (taste wasn’t mentioned); discuss the circumstances that mandate taking a patient’s temperature via the backdoor; advantages of digital readout and mercury filled; and metal or plastic-coated comfort tip.

I researched the material in on-line nursing journals. I looked at the manufactures’ websites. I assembled the material into a good solid article, reread it, then emailed it to my editor.

When I hit the “send” button, I swear to everything I hold sacred that something snapped in my brain. I felt something break.  You may have seen cartoons where a length of elastic or a rubber band has been stretched to its limit, breaks, and snaps back, forming a snagged and snarled ball. That’s what it was like.

I ended up leaving the job shortly afterwards. I truly enjoyed working with the editor. I really loved the other writers. But the brain damage from the piece on rectal thermometers took a long time to overcome. It took months before I could string together a coherent sentence of any quality.

Somehow, after reading, and reading a lot, and journaling and blogging a lot, the ability to write and write well came back. We’ll see how this gets applied.

It’s another example of how everything turns out all right in the end.

Strange Days, Indeed


image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

In the smaller, personal word, I laid a bird to rest this morning. A thunk reverberated through the dinette and family room. He laid on the back step with glassy unfocused eyes staring at the sky. I think he might have been an immature cardinal based on the coloring, still mostly white but with bright orange-red feathers sprouting through.  With the help of a plastic bag, I transported the remains to the northeast corner of the property, then gently laid him on the ground. “May you rest and may you fly free,” I said. May it be so.

Now we wait the long wait for the vets’ office to return the second call. Oakley was a little restless last night. He finally found a cool spot near the fan and dozed off, or so I thought. By some act of grace, Hubby was up early. Oakley wasn’t snoring in front of the fan. Hubby went downstairs to find Oakley panting and pacing by the back door. Hubby woke me up so I could take him out. Out we were in the nick of time. It was bad enough that Oakley  is staying home from day care today. I called the vets’ for an antidiarrheal and an antibiotic used in extreme scenarios. The former is ready. Somehow, the request for the latter didn’t get filled.

Before that, Hubby had to wake me up at 1:30 this morning. Whatever I was dreaming about caused me to yell in my sleep. He gently woke me up. Usually, that’s the end of the story. But my brain took off on me. I never really went back to sleep. That was the second night in a row.

The not-so-personal world has ratcheted up the nuttiness to new levels

I struggle not to attach meaning to the deceased bird, the bad dreams, the upset tummy, or the incoming full moon. But after the last few days of news, I wonder. Tensions between law enforcement and minorities simmer as they did back in 1967-68 as I remember. We had Dallas, near St. Louis, St. Paul in the last week. The national conventions lie just ahead. Demonstrations will be held, I’m sure. May they be peaceful on all sides.

Another round of potentially severe storms hovers on the horizon for this afternoon. I took Oakley out about an hour ago. Hot sun plus mugginess plus a cool breeze indicates instability. We watch and wait.

Hopefully, the storms through the power of the water and the energy generated will provide a cleansing for the world. Or at least our little corner of it.

The Ren Faire Survival Guide


“La Primivera” by Sandro Botticceli, c. 1482

There’s a little art. Now for a musical interlude: Douce Dame Jolie performed by Owain Phyfe. Oh, what the heck…how about another one? How about Helas Madame? I deeply regret not seeing him live before his passage a few years ago. Helas, indeed.

So anyway, Bristol Ren Faire opened yesterday. Finally, after the interminable wait between Labor Day of last year and the weekend after July 4 this year. Finally. We went. I woke up at 5 AM with HUZZAH! as the first consciously formed word in my mind. I refrained from speaking it out loud since Hubby, geeked as he was to go still slept as did Oakley.  Oakley was geeked about sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s, but he didn’t stir until about 5:45. I kind of drifted back and forth until 5:46. We let Hubby sleep as we went about our usual morning routine. I dropped Oakley off at Ms. Lanette’s, then Hubby and I were off.

We go at least once, sometimes twice, and maybe this year we can get up there three times, schedules and sleepover camp openings permitting. It is our happy place, and we have a few tricks to make it so. Bristol is our home faire, but you might be able to apply these to yours, too:

  • Get tickets in advance if possible through the web or through a local agent. We usually buy them at Walgreen’s, but their terminal wasn’t working.
  • Sign up for the newsletter. You’ll be able to plan your visits around theme weekends and special deals for subscribers. Even if you can’t get to an agent selling tickets at a discount, you can still get a good deal with the coupons.
  • Indulge in preferred parking. At BRF, $5 will get you pretty close to the gate and most spaces are at the top of the hill.  Last year a severe thunderstorm caused flooding in lower-lying areas.
  • Before you go, check stage schedules so you’ll know what to see and when. Performances run half an hour and are repeated throughout the day. The venues are scattered though out the village. We find best to watch a show, then walk and shop for a half-hour. If you walk with purpose, you can cover the length of the Faire in about ten minutes. If you have to dodge people, get distracted by the books or art or pretty scents and sparkly things in the shops, it will take longer. They distribute maps and hard copy schedules at the gate, but it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of advance planning.
  • Follow basic health and safety precautions: wear sensible shoes; use sunscreen; and STAY HYDRATED. Even with the beautiful old oaks and maples gracefully shading most of the Faire and the lake effect breezes, you are still there in summer. Most days are 80+. Drink. They allow patrons to bring in one empty water bottle per person.  There are at least two drinking fountains where you can fill them. And there are two buildings with flush privies ( Ren speak for toilets).
  • Expect the unexpected. It’s part of the fun. It’s part of living in the village for the day. You might chat with the mayor, watch pirate queen Grace O’Malley and her crew break into a sword fight with those who dare cross them. You might be accosted by gypsy dancers as Hubby was one year. You might have your hand kissed by le dauphin as happened to me on year. Enjoy it.
  • Try a new craft or attend a talk on some aspect of art and culture. Queen’s College has short classes on needlework, music, and other skills from back in the day.
  • Have a plan for dinner when you go home. We either go to our favorite Indian restaurant–close to the tollway–or grab Chinese takeout.
  • Don’t watch TV when you get home. It will harsh your mellow in the worst way. Read, watch a movie or better yet, “The Tudors.” The world will be there tomorrow.

I rejoined the mundane world with yoga and a cup of coffee before I went to pick up Oakley this morning. I stayed away from the news, from anything except classical music on the radio and a chapter in the book I purchased yesterday.

That will sustain me until our next trip, hopefully soon.


The End of Eras


Photo by Brian Hanna via


Garrison Keillor hosted his last “Prairie Home Companion”  yesterday. Of course I listened. Just as I have for the majority of Saturday evenings since–OK, you caught me–I was in junior high. There will be “best of” rebroadcasts, I’m sure, as NPR has done with “Car Talk.” It won’t be quite the same, but I’m sure that my fellow fans will still be able to count on two hours of respite from the lunacy that is the world these days.

Another end came up in my news feed yesterday, too, one much closer to home. The mom (no pop) shop where I’ve bought some of Oakley’s supplies since his first week home was sold.

The bittersweetness was mitigated by knowing that both transitions are likely for the best.  Garrison’s leaving the show in the capable hands of Chris Thile, a mandolin player I look forward to getting to know better. He is cut from the same cloth as Garrison, and will do well as he puts his stamp on the show. The new owner of the pet supply store is a local chain that has the same values and commitment to providing customers with high quality products made in the US as the mom does. They’re keeping all the staff, so that’s a good thing.

Both changes are for the better. Garrison is 73. In one of the many articles covering his retirement he quietly mentioned some health concerns as well as a desire to get back to writing. Under its new ownership, the store can expand and serve more people and pets now.

I still spent a lot of time sighing yesterday. Sighing for the passage of time. I took Orion to the mom store the last couple of years of his life, followed by a then-scrawny semi-feral Oakley.  Wondering how I arrived at the age I am now even though I still feel twenty most days. Sighing for yet another round of changes and letting go. Not exactly painful, not earth shattering, but just change.

Yet, there is consistency. Both Garrison and the mom ensured that the high-quality entertainment and pet supplies continue. We’ve been left in good hands by both. It will play out for the best and highest, I’m sure. In a mass produced world, it’s good to see the unique continue.