Thursday, June 2, 2011

Post-surgical pajamas.

Finally, FINALLY, I got the surgery.

The good news is, they found endo. I really, truly, officially have endometriosis. I am not a slacker, a whiner, or a hypochondriac. I have a disease. (I can cope with having a disease. I can’t cope with the sneaking worries about being any or all of the above.)

The better news is, they were able to remove a lot. Given what my symptoms are, they weren’t sure that would be a possibility. So once I recover from surgery, I may be feeling a lot better, at least for a while. Or maybe I won’t. That’s fine. I’m just happy to know what’s going on.

The not-so-great news is that I don’t have a great relationship with my doctor. I have an I Have No Choice relationship with my doctor, because my husband’s coverage is an HMO plan. So there’s not much I can do about the fact that, for instance, I’m feeling condescended to. I have nowhere to send a letter like the following.

Dear Doctor: If what you mean is that most patients feel too groggy after surgery to be able to understand what the doctor is telling them, say so. Don’t say, “You’ll be so out of it that first day that you won’t understand or remember anything I’m telling you, so I’ll tell your husband and then I’ll call you the next day.” Please ask the nurses in the recovery room how groggy and out of it I was. They kicked me out early for being a big pain in the ass, something I’ll never stop being proud of. Because as soon as I reached consciousness, which wasn’t that long after the surgery, I started asking questions. “Did they find anything? Did they take it out?” Those poor women, who didn’t have the specific information I desperately wanted, kept trying to tell me that everything went fine, just fine, and could I please relax and stop sitting up like that before I hurt myself. They actually had to call a head nurse over to give me a stern talking-to about how stressing myself like this might — I am not kidding — make me get cancer.

Sadly, this failed to impress me. I didn’t settle down until they finally found my poor husband, who’d been told that I wouldn’t be up and around for at least another hour or so, and brought him in to tell me what had happened and shut me up, already. (Not that they said this, but some things you just know. And I don’t blame them at all. No one’s getting paid enough to put up with me when I’m in an I Must Know mood.) As soon as I saw husband, I lunged up (endangering my IV and stitches, thank you) and shouted, “I’m over here! What happened?” So much for groggy.

As for not understanding or remembering: I remember everything he told me. I remember the fierce joy I felt on learning that I’d been right about having endo, and then I’d been right again to opt for surgery since removing endo is a very good thing. I remember that one of the nurses who helped me get up has three children (she looks young for it) and is going to take a vacation in Carlsbad this summer. I remember that my post-surgery snack was a cranberry juice box and crackers that tasted horribly bland because, as I saw when I read the label, they were sodium-free. Heck, I remember stuff that happened in the operating room. I remember being surprised to see a doctor I’d met once before. And I remember asking him if I’d forget everything that happened even before the anesthesia hit, and he explained that I would and why. I reality-checked all this with someone who’d been there, and it all really happened. I also remember being helped onto the operating table, and being annoyed and embarrassed that my left boob flashed the crowd. I remember wondering why on earth female patients couldn’t wear some kind of loose undershirt under that surgical gown — light enough to be moved around for whatever’s necessary, big enough to cover modesty. If I had a rack worth showing, I might not mind giving her some air. I’m 43. I’ve always been small. I breastfed for more than two years. I prefer to stay what my grandmother called decently covered.

Anyway, Doctor L.: I know this was one of many such surgeries for you, but it was my first. It would have been nice if you called when you promised, because I really wanted to talk to you. Yes, you called my cell phone, which is listed on my forms as an emergency contact number because I only keep it for, you know, emergencies. I never even heard it ring. We kept the landline free all day for you — the landline that’s listed on my forms as my primary phone number. The day after my surgery happened to be a Friday. By the time we figured out what had happened, you were gone, and no other doctor was around to answer any of my questions. So I had to wait until Monday to get the whole story.

(I have a whole other letter I’d like to write to the people who run the Kaiser Permanente hotline. What a worthless piece of tripe. And we’re PAYING for it. It would be a lot cheaper and more honest if they’d set up a recording telling callers to please visit their nearest KP emergency room. That’s all they ever say, anyway. I’ve called three times since we’ve been with Kaiser, just hoping to get some basic information, and they’re afraid to give me any because their number 1 priority is covering their adorable Kaiser Ass. All they EVER say is that I should go to the emergency room. Which is what they said when I asked if, given the kind of surgery I just had, was it safe for me to take a bath. Apparently, this was such a scary concept that they were afraid even to say no. But it was a perfectly good idea, in their opinion, for me to haul my sore, bruised, swollen, stitched, incisioned sorry ass out of bed, arrange for childcare for my 13-year-old, walk down the stairs to my car, and wait around at the emergency room — where I’m sure that with an urgent question like that, I’d jump right to the head of the line. I swear, I’ve started a list of questions that I want to call the Kaiser hotline with, just to see if I can get them to budge from their emergency-room party line. “Hi, I’m tired, but I’m having trouble falling asleep. I’ve heard chamomile tea can help. I’m perfectly healthy and have no medical issues. Is the chamomile tea they sell at the grocery store safe to try, do you think?” “Hi, I got a paper cut. It’s so small it isn’t even bleeding, but I can see it’s there. Barely. When I look really, really closely. Actually, I had to use a magnifying glass. Should I wash it, apply a small quantity of topical disinfectant, and cover it with a bandage?”)

So I’m not bitter or anything. Okay, I am, a little. Because, as I said, I don’t have a good relationship with my doctor. And the post-surgical course of treatment she’s recommending doesn’t seem like a good fit for me. I’m researching like mad, and I have the feeling that what she wants me to do is too radical. Quite literally a cure that’s worse than the disease. What she’s recommending works for a lot of people who have textbook endometriosis. But I don’t have a lot of the typical symptoms of endo, and I can’t help feeling that she’s using a cookie-cutter mentality: this is what people with endo should do after they have surgery. Period.

Except that endo is a disease that manifests itself in drastically different ways from woman to woman. There is no single course of treatment that works for everyone. And by “works,” we’re talking about hitting the symptoms. There’s not even a clear consensus that the usual course of treatment will in fact slow down or stop the growth of endometrial implants. There’s some perfectly respectable skepticism on that front.

And one thing I can be certain of is that while I may not benefit from any of the medication my doctor wants me to take, I will undoubtedly suffer at least some of the side effects. If nausea is a possibility, I’m barfy. If mood swings and/or depression are an option, my body replies in the affirmative and requests a double. And all of those are on the list.

So maybe I don’t go on any long-term medication. Maybe the devil I know is better than the devil I don’t — especially now that I really do know what this demon is I’m carrying around. (I even have pictures. Really. Those stitches are from them sticking a camera down my belly button. I’d like to see if I can get wallet-size prints.) Maybe I’m happy just to know for sure what’s going on, and I rough it. Now that I have painkillers that work on the worst pain — painkillers I can drive after taking, even — I’m not so frightened any more. Maybe I start taking the kind of awesome, amazing care of myself that I did when I was pregnant: lots of exercise, lots of really good food, plenty of sleep, sunshine in the right doses.

My doctor will be furious. But this is the woman who, on hearing that I would need to thoroughly research a drug she recommended before agreeing to an injection (that’s scary to me, because it’s not like you can stop taking it if you change your mind), told me that I should check out the web site of the company that manufactures the drug. Best-case scenario, this woman has no idea what’s wrong with that picture. Worst-case, she knows how utterly wrongheaded this is, but doesn’t care; she just wants to make her Pharma-sponsors happy. Either her grasp of science is right up a tree, or my real needs are not high up on her list of priorities. Either way? I’m figuring this out on my own.

For now, I’m going to take one of the post-surgery painkillers she prescribed (and immediately started making me feel guilty about needing, since apparently I’m Rush Limbaugh just waiting to happen). I’m going to take a bath, since I finally found out that this non-medical pain relief is, in fact, allowed. I’m going to slip on some of the soft new pajamas I ordered just before I got this operation, since I’m still too swollen to fit into actual clothing. I’m going to try to relax, though it doesn’t come naturally. I’m going to try not to whine too much about not being able to go for a run, or even a decent walk. If I’m too muzzy to read, I’m going to listen to comedy albums and play computer solitaire, which I can do in bed (though not in the bath).

And when the post-surgical crankiness hits critical mass, I’m going to remind myself what a relief it is to finally know what’s going on. It’s a little thing, but it’s everything.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Back issues, back in business

We’re bringing back issues back. You can now purchase any individual copy at cover price, or grab a bundle of any four you like for $20. Here’s a link to the purchase page of the mag:

And thanks for being so cool.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't know how to say it, so I'll just say it.

This is either the last issue, period, or it's the last issue for quite a while.

Just blame all the usual culprits: health, time, money.

Even if all other things were equal, I'd need at least to take a break right now. I finally get to schedule that surgery, and not feel extra pressure in terms of how long I feel lousy afterwards.

But the fact is, I'm giving all the time I have and some I don't to the magazine. I enjoy it, but I don't love it enough to give it every minute of my energy. And it doesn't make enough money to be one of those jobs that you may not adore but you keep doing to pay the bills.

I'm also a lousy businessperson, which doesn't help.

I owe some reviews that didn't make it into this issue. I'll either put out another issue at some point, or post them on this blog.
I'll be keeping the magazine's site up, to keep my options open. And I'll continue posting matters of interest to secular homeschoolers on the Facebook page.

I guess that's it.

And thank you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Issue #13, finally!

The new issue, at last!

I want to try to give you the closest thing possible to leafing through it, so here are some details as to the articles — and there are a few you can read for free, right there on the magazine’s site.

First is a lovely article by Laura Grace Weldon, author of Free Range Learning — a book full of treasures, no matter where you are on your homeschooling journey — and a terrific blogger. I know you already have too much to read, but please check her out:

Laurette Lynn has an article as well: “We don’t homeschool,” which is all about the power of words and labels in our lives. (I was moved and inspired by it to write a companion article, “In the Beginning was the Word.”) Laurette is the host of Unplugged Mom Radio — check it out right here:

We know we’re doing the right thing in homeschooling, but it’s wonderful to hear from the new generation of homeschoolers. R. Brent Cochran, homeschool graduate and Harvard scholar, contributed an article on teaching our children about classical music. He offers a succinct and lively history of the subject, as well as offering some terrific tips on how and why to teach it.

Speaking of music: My own experiences as an adult student of classical violin led to an article whose title pretty much says it all: “The Best Teacher is a Student.”

And speaking of music studies: My experiences in the waiting room of our local music school led to a sympathetic look at what a tough job those school parents have, in “I Could Never Do That!”

Apparently they were having a sale on exclamation points, because next is “Just Say No!” The husband of a friend of mine was a bit iffy on the idea of homeschooling their daughters — until a stranger took it upon herself to explain to him why he shouldn’t do so.

Did you hear the bad news about homeschooling in Spain? The good news is it may not be as dire as you think. Many thanks to the homeschoolers who answered my many questions on the subject for “Homeschooling: Illegal in Spain?”

Michelle Copher, who has perfect timing without even knowing it, sent SHM “Four Principles to Make Learning Last” right when we needed it. She and her sister blog at Layers of Learning:

Recently, a new mom in my local homeschooling group inspired me to write an article about homeschooling with allergies. Many, many thanks for those who answered my questions in patient, painstaking detail for one of this issue’s free-to-read articles:

We are tremendously luck to have the debut article by Valentina Rose, who contributed the beautifully written “I Walk Alone: A Homeschooler in China.”

What started out as a review of one book turned into an overview of homeschoolers in young-reader fiction. Please check out another free-to-read essay right here:

And, available only online — a letter to Gordon Korman, the author of Schooled, by a couple of young homeschoolers, and his reply.

Then we have product reviews, contributions by young writers for the Home Scholars section, and a “Money Matters” article about the trials and tribulations of making our own bread (two recipes included).

Please enjoy — and spread the word!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

CNN buys into homeschooling stereotypes in child abduction case, blames victims

I’m in the middle of an article about homeschooling stereotypes in literature and how they reinforce the assumptions people make about homeschoolers and homeschooling, so this really hit home for me.

A friend of mine just emailed me with the transcript of yesterday’s Nancy Grace CNN segment. A twelve-year-old girl was kidnapped in Lilburn, Georgia, in one of the “it was broad daylight and she was only alone for a minute” worst-case scenarios that terrify us all. As if that weren’t gut-churning enough, Grace had the following conversation on the air with Dr. Caryn Stark, self-described media psychologist. Here’s what Stark had to say about the girl who was abducted by a woman who apparently coaxed her into a van:

“She’s homeschooled, which means that she isn’t that sophisticated. And I hear that she met with this woman possibly the week before. Maybe she seemed friendly to her and exciting, because she is not exposed to that many people.”

Nancy Grace’s response?

“You know, that’s a good point.”

What makes this leap of non-logic that much more egregious is the fact that the girl is described in the same transcript as helping out with the family flower business. Not exactly an isolated pursuit.

So the family is already in agony about the kidnapping of their twelve-year-old daughter, and now they’re being told that they’re partly to blame. Because, you know, school kids never get abducted.

Lovely. Thanks so much.

I want to stress that this is not about homeschoolers getting in a tizzy every time someone looks at us wrong. This is about fighting the spread of damaging misinformation. This is about stomping out a stereotype that hurts us.

Here’s the full transcript on CNN’s site:

Here’s Nancy Grace’s site, if you want to let her know that actually, that wasn’t a good point at all:

Here’s Caryn Stark’s site, if you’d like to give her a gentle hint about the fact that homeschoolers don’t fit her stereotypes — oh, and that it really isn’t very nice to play “blame the victim,” especially in the middle of an emergency:

And if you’d like to call Caryn, I didn’t have to dig to find her phone number — she lists it on her site. It’s (212) 410-5880.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

News from Sweden

A friend on the front line just sent me an update on homeschooling in Sweden:

Homeschooling is a hard legal battle in some of the Swedish municipalities. The Uppsala municipality is Sweden's fourth largest, has about 200 000 inhabitants and two(!) homeschooling families. Both families have fought a legal battle for nearly three years trying to get permission to homeschool. Technically they are homeschooling "illegally" and the families are threatened with fines in the area of USD 10,000-35,000.

The local Uppsala newspaper is getting interested and after a recent court decision they interviewed one of the families and wrote two articles. These articles are now translated to English on the HSLDA home page. They give a flavor of how homeschooling is discussed locally in Sweden.

The two articles translated to English:
Continued Battle for Homeschooling <>
The School Law is Clear <>

The original articles in Swedish:
Fortsatt strid om hemundervisning <>
Skollagen tydlig enligt kommunen <>

Jonas Himmelstrand
President of The Swedish Association for Home Education - Rohus

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homeschooler Main Characters

Does anyone know any young-reader novels in which the main character is homeschooled? They don’t have to be good — in fact, it would be helpful for the purposes of the review I’m writing if I had some examples of novels in which the homeschooled character fits one of the stereotypes (i.e. Christian or hippie/granola parents who are keeping their child from the “real” world). Of course, it would also be nice to hear about fiction that handles homeschooling well. Just toss me whatever you’ve got.