Eleanor and the Ridiculous Injury

Tonight in weird injuries, I would like to report that I have badly strained my right forearm from too much writing and typing. It hurts. Today’s post was going to be quite long, but will instead sit half-drafted until I no longer have to do everything left-handed.

I’m not sure how these things happen to me.

Ella and the Way too Windy Bike Ride

It was scarily windy today, the type of windy that sends trashcans flying across the street and makes large branches fall on top of roofs.

Naturally, I decided that this afternoon was the opportune time for a bike ride.

One of the ways that I motivate myself to exercise is to convince myself that I need to be as physically fit as possible so that I can survive disasters by outrunning tsunamis and bears and live by myself in the woods in case I become a character in a dystopian novel. (This same fixation is what leads me to believe that it is also imperative that I become proficient in hunting with a gun or bow and arrow (An idea that my father laughed at when I mentioned it at the dinner table).)

With this in mind, I set out. For the first three miles, I felt fabulous. Sure, it was chillier than I anticipated and I had to do some creative swerving around debris, but I was just whizzing along. I don’t think I’ve ever done this route this quickly before! I thought and continued pedaling with a very smug smile on my face,  I could keep going forever! I am never going to die from a natural disaster now!

So biked further than I usually do, enjoying the crisp air and planning out an imaginary trip to Europe. Maybe I could convince my grandmother to take me, and we could visit her childhood home in Versailles! Scotland might be nice. What about Berlin? I thought.

And then I realized that I should probably turn around. I still need to bring my weight up by at least ten pounds, so my body continues to be fairly weak. Having to constantly stop for breaks on the way home is not my idea of fun. So I did an about face and began to head back.

This is when things got weird.

Now, I bike the same route around three times a week. I know the topography and my average speeds very well. And something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something was definitely wrong.

(Some background: When I sit at a table, I usually angle myself so that my legs are over the side of the chair rather than under the table. It’s a terrible habit, I know, and one that I try to correct, but I naturally gravitate towards sitting this way. So when I’m cruising on my bike, I end up sort of doing the same thing. I obviously can’t ride a bike side-saddle (though if they make a bike like this, I’d be very interested in giving it a go), but I will push my left leg into the body of the bike and shift my weight so that I’m more diagonal.)

After a few more seconds, it became clear that my problem was that I wasn’t sitting the way I normally do for that section of the bike ride. I was still pedaling on a portion of the road that goes downhill. And this wasn’t I-want-to-see-if-I-can-break-the-sound-barrier-on-my-bike-or-at-least-beat-that-car-to-the-mailbox pedaling, I was pedaling in order to remain upright and moving forward. When the road leveled out, it got worse. I had to change gears several times and was wobbling all over the place. The wind was blowing directly in my face and was much stronger than I had thought. All of that extra speed on my way out must have been from having the wind at my back.

The fifth time I had to put my foot down out of fear of toppling over, I just got off my bike and started that awkward and humiliating trudge back to my house, trying not to bruise my legs against the bike (an unsuccessful endeavor). Cold air was working its way up the sleeves of my jacket, and I considered sitting down on the curb and waiting to see if the wind would die down in the way that a rainstorm would. But I persevered and walked about two shin-bumping miles before finally wobbling my way back home where I discovered lawn and leaf bags sitting in the middle of the street and a very large branch in our flower bed.

Then, I got the mail, learned that I didn’t get into one of the colleges I applied to, and started researching the Silk Road just for the heck of it.

The end.

The Hunger Games

On Wednesday at one a.m. Pippa announced that she wanted to see The Hunger Games when it came out at midnight and purchased two tickets.

Unfortunately, I was not the most enthusiastic participant in the excursion, but I went none the less, armed with a book, earplugs, and an expression of distain and superiority that would rival Lady Mary Crawley’s.

I wouldn’t say that I disliked the experience—I ended up running into Leigh and hung out before the movie started—but it wasn’t something I ever would have chosen for myself. I don’t like dystopia. Fantasy to a certain extent is fine. Have fun trying to pry my fingers away from my Harry Potter books or Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but once we get into the fascist-government-controls-everything-we-must-rebel-because-of-love-and-other-good-things type of book, you can almost always find me sneaking out through the back window.

Of course, this is not to insinuate that I look down on dystopian literature as some lesser genre. Dystopia just doesn’t suit my tastes. Some of it is spectacularly written and excellent, but I’m just not a fan of the set-up. It would take a pretty exceptional book to get me past the first few chapters (think Fahrenheit 451).

However, I will do anything to get Pippa reading, so I bit the bullet, and read The Hunger Games. And yes, it was very well paced and Suzanne Collins created interesting characters. Sadly, I couldn’t make myself fall in love with the story. Kids fighting each other to the death is never going to fascinate me. All it makes me want to do is take a class in outdoor survival and shoot guns (I figure both of these skills will also be necessary in case of a zombie invasion, so I should brush up on my campfire starting and marksmanship abilities regardless).

It’s also worth noting that I am not a big fan of movie theatres. They’re always loud, the people on the screen are huge and intimidating, and you’re stuck in your seat for over two hours. I always wear ear-plugs and spend a lot of the experience feeling anxious. Even weirder, I have trouble watching (or reading, for that matter) movies in chronological order. I prefer to get about a third in, then do the last eighth, and then the eighth before that, before returning to where I left off and watching (or reading) the whole thing through. I also have to read or be told a detailed plot description before beginning a tv show or movie. In short, I am not the ideal person to take to the cinema.

However, even though I didn’t care for the story, fell asleep for about half an hour in the middle, and felt rather anxious about not being able to pause or skip forward and backwards, I have to say that the movie was very well done and that I had an okay time. I was impressed with the CGI—the control room for the Games was superb—and Jennifer Lawrence combined the right amount of vulnerability with grit in the role of Katniss. Even better, it stayed very true to the book, and I was absolutely thrilled that Suzanne Collins was both a co-screenwriter and producer. For a adaptation, it was brilliant. I wasn’t bored the way I thought I might be.

Afterwards, Pippa and I walked home through the humidity, and Pippa worried about the safety of being outdoors at close to three a.m. I momentarily sat down in the middle of a normally busy avenue because there weren’t any cars, and I’ve always thought about doing it. And then I crawled in bed and slept for a few hours, dreaming of knife fights.

In other news, I burned my finger with acid yesterday. The skin is all white and rough, and I can’t feel it when I poke it with things. However, just like the time I lost a piece of my scalp, I will not be posting a picture. You’ll just have to believe me that it looks super cool. Well, cool for a chemical burn on an index finger.

In Which Ella is Fatigued

My body is tired. I don’t know why, but it is. I suppose that this is what you call fatigue, that type of exhaustion that doesn’t touch your head or make you feel bleary-eyed and confused.

All I want to do is lie down and rest. You know, do that thing where you close your eyes and slip into that second place that isn’t really sleep or awake, where you can just hang suspended for hours and hours at a time.

And I am a champion rester. I can rest for days, if needed. I can rest even if I’m feeling particularly poorly and my medication had just been changed, leaving me feeling every side effect listed on the bottle and then some other ones that didn’t make the cut.

But I’m feeling okay right now, a little slow, a little avoidant. I’m just fatigued. It’s weird, a bit concerning, but nothing bad, I suppose. I’ll get my energy back soon enough.

Ella, Downton Abbey, and Hospitals

This afternoon, Cecelia and I watched well over seven hours of Downton Abbey, as she finished up viewing the second series, and among the many things that occurred to me as I lay curled on her guest room bed was just how awful it is to be trapped in a hospital when you’re sick.

Now, I’ve never been to war, been shot at (with something more lethal than an airsoft gun), or even been a situation where I’ve had to truly fear being attacked, but I do know what it’s like to spend extended time in hospitals.

I was reminded of February 2010 and being strapped to a gurney and racing to the hospital in an ambulance. It was snowing and the highways hadn’t even been plowed. The part of me that had always wondered what the inside of an ambulance looked like was massively disappointed, and being physically restrained by the straps and blankets was terrifying. I was entirely imprisoned, incapable of doing so much as shifting my weight. Before they loaded the gurney, I couldn’t even shield my eyes from the rapidly falling snowflakes and finally had to close them because the dissolving water stung.

I kept insisting that I could sit up, that I wouldn’t move, and that I would feel so much better if they even loosened the straps a tiny bit. But procedure is procedure, and I spent the next thirty minutes staring at the white metal ceiling while I had my vitals checked for what felt like the fiftieth time. There’s the feeling of being constantly lied to by the doctors and nurses and having information withheld and given to parents or other caregivers because “it would be too much for you to handle.” And the utter helplessness of not being allowed to make any of your own decisions.

I was one of those difficult and also easy patients. It took six nurses and my father to hold me down when they wanted blood and I wouldn’t let anyone touch me without being told exactly what they were going to do and massive amounts of persuasion, but I chatted and was pleasant otherwise. I was skilled at being charming around adults and authority figures before, and it certainly came in handy then. Being liked by the nurses and doctors means extra yogurt for breakfast and longer showers, which when you’re spending days without seeing the outdoors, feel like extravagances.

And in some ways, it gets worse once the initial emergencies are over and most of the healing is done, when you’re stuck in a bed knowing that you’ll be trapped there for ages as you get dragged through a dull and depressing schedule for days on end. Sure, they’ll be people to talk to and ping-pong tables (Who knew that those existed and were popular during WWI?), but you can’t do anything that matters. You’re in a holding cell, watching the endlessly revolving door of nurses and doctors switching shifts and other patients leaving and arriving. You find yourself more than ever wishing that you were one of the number of the people rushing about and looking tired and over-worked.

Later, you sometimes wake up in a panic, thinking that you’re still there, trapped in a tiny bed, with nurses watching your every move. But it was just a dream–there’s no one hovering over you with a blood-pressure cuff or thermometer. You don’t have to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten whenever someone so much as pokes their head in the door. There aren’t kitchy murals painted everywhere and the awful knowledge that someone might have died in the very bed you’re sleeping in right now. You can get up and move without worrying about setting off a million alarms and decide to eat collard greens for breakfast while sitting on the kitchen floor.

No matter how you’re hurt, being in a hospital is nasty business, and when I look at the men staring into space or begging for a sheet of paper and a pen, I feel a very weird sort of kinship. Perhaps that’s odd and perhaps I’m just a little too tired after two days of very little sleep and listening to lots of screaming in the house, but I feel it just the same.

In Which Ella Is Weak at the Knees

I was standing on the stairs this afternoon, looking at a photograph of my grand-mémé from 1905 when I suddenly felt like my knees had become very weak. And I’m not talking about that I’m-overcome-by-emotion idiomatic sense of the phrase–my knees truly felt weak, almost as if they were going to bend at any second and force me to land very hard on the ground butt first.

Now, I’m not unaccustomed to this feeling, so I wasn’t too alarmed. I just sat down and looked at myself in the mirror at the bottom of the stairs and grimaced because I know what this knees feeling means.

I’ve lost weight.

To be fair, this isn’t let’s-count-my-ribs-without-using-an-x-ray weight loss. I don’t look the way I did when I was sixteen, but I am feeling fatigued and weak.

I short, I could use to gain close to ten pounds.

I’d propose turning this into one of my big regiments where I track my every move and turn it into a spreadsheet, but we all know what happens to people like me when you bring numbers into the mix–I panic.

So here’s to counting grams of protein, reintroducing dessert into my daily diet, and eating more dried fruit and nuts than any good rabbit should.

Glasses-One, Ella-Zero

Remember that time when I added a funny “scientific” bio to my About Ella page? And remember that time I said that the more I refuse to wear glasses, the worse my eyesight is going to get?

Well, it’s true, and I don’t need an official eye exam to tell me that my eyesight has been getting much worse.

I have to make the print bigger when I’m on the computer, and I have trouble reading without everything going out of focus. Sometimes, I just close my right eye and let the left one do all the work. I may lose all perception of depth, but I can actually see more clearly, even if it comes at the risk of hurting my eyes further. Then, there’s the issue of navigating and wondering what exactly a sign says until I’m too close to make the turn.

And it’s slightly petrifying not to be able to see the world as clearly as I’d like. I want to know that I’m not missing any details, that I’ll be able to notice all of the veins in a leaf or slight discoloration on my white bookshelves, not to mention simple text. I like being able to see the fibers on a sheet of paper and the way that the ink always manages to slightly bleed. I like being able to read the names of the books in my room while I’m lying on my bed, trying to fall asleep. And I’m loosing all of that, not dramatically thank God, but I’m certainly at the point where I really can’t get on without wearing my glasses.

I’d love to kick and scream and act the way that a tired toddler would over my frustration. “This isn’t fair!” I’d yell, “Can’t you see that glasses make me look terrible and that they get smudged so easily? I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!” But that would be ridiculous and too over the top, even for me.

So I’ll just suck it up and wear the darn things. There are far, far worse things in life to happen, and it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out how to stop sending them flying off of my face at least once a day.

As always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Is Mysteriously Exhausted

This past spring, I was a champion sleeper thanks to some medication I had to take for around four months. I could sleep standing up in the shower, waiting for the bus, at my desk, at lunch, and in the car, not to mention sofas and my bed. I would walk around in a lethargic stupor, just waiting to crash. And the evenings were often a race against the clock to get things done before I passed out as early as eight.

Now, in the nature of illnesses, I got better and the need for the medication passed, but for the past few days, I’ve been acting almost as if I’m on it again. Saturday, I fell asleep at six thirty in the evening; I couldn’t even remain awake until the end of the Super Bowl yesterday; and tonight it’s only nine thirty, and my eyes are already drooping shut. It’s terribly frustrating, and I don’t why I’ve been doing it.

To put it simply, I do not like sleep. If it weren’t a medical necessity, I wouldn’t do it. Just think of those tantalizing nighttime hours when you could get all sorts of work done! I could write for more than ten hours a day, and still have time for a full day of teaching and chores. The possibilities are endless! But my sight is now going fuzzy at the edges and my mind feels sluggish, so I should probably abandon my fantasies of sleeplessness and curl up under the covers.


On Walking Pneumonia, Failed Eighth Grade Presentations on Afghanistan, and my Addiction to Cough Drops

As I wrote in In Which Ella Gets a Fever for the First Time in Two Years and In Which Ella Sounds Like a Seventy-Year-Old Man With Emphysema, I am sick. Whoopee.

I am still talking in a very husky voice, which unfortunately, does not sound alluring in the least, but my cough has gotten much worse. It makes my whole body shake, and I am reminded once again that it actually *is* possible to break ribs from coughing too hard. The cough sounds rather croup-y and rumbly and not at all like your standard, I’m-unwell cough. I have a history with walking pneumonia*, and everything that has happened so far matches up perfectly to the disease. Only this time, I’m planning on getting it treated before three months go by and it really bad.

Let me explain.

In eighth grade, I thought that what I had was just a weird virus that left a lingering cough. But the cough kept getting worse and worse, and my voice, hoarser and hoarser. It got to the point where people in other classrooms were getting distracted by incessant coughing. The day before my mother finally decided that it was serious and I needed a trip to the doctor, I had to give a twenty-minute long presentation.

We had read Suzanne Fisher Staples’ Underneath the Persimmon Tree and had been assigned a project of our choosing on Afghanistan. I decided that just like the characters in the book had, I was going to wear my brand new shalwar kameez and matching scarf that my dad had brought back from India a month earlier, and teach a lesson about Afghani culture. I had made a poster with maps and pictures carefully cut out of National Geographic, but when it came time for me to present, everything fell apart. I was coughing up a storm, making it near impossible for me to get a word in edgewise, and when I could form one, it came out as a very pathetic wheeze.

But despite the fact that my teacher kept offering for me to sit down and do it another day, I soldiered on until I got through all of it. I don’t think anyone, let alone me, heard anything I said, but they all very kindly listened as I enthusiastically pointed at the poster and hacked up a lung. Because I had also turned in a script with the poster, I miraculously got an A, and was still that I was fine when I got hauled into the doctor’s office that afternoon.

But I am not going to be so stupid this time. If the past five years have taught me anything, it’s to stick up for yourself and for your body. If you think that there is something going wrong, there probably is, and doctors work for you and not you for them. It’s okay to have a false alarm or catch something still in its infancy. They actually don’t like when a patient comes in with a sickness that could have been cured over a week ago.

So if this cough sticks around tomorrow, I’m headed to the doctor’s office posthaste on Monday.

Also, I have been very, very, very well behaved and not used being sick as an excuse to eat copious amounts of cough drops. When I was around ten, I would go through more than a pack every week, even when I wasn’t experiencing coughing or a sore throat. I was a regular cough drop connoisseur, and the Riccola sugar-free lemon ones were by far my favorite. However, it was when I ate an entire pack in one day, that my mom put her foot down, and I had to quit. Just like caffeine**, I’m proud to say that I haven’t had any in years, no matter how great the temptation.

*I spelled that right on the first try. Do not feel obligated to have a federal holiday in my honor for recognition of this stupendous achievement.

**Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did drink a Coke on my seventeenth birthday and a Diet Dr Pepper (They recently got rid of the period in dr. for some strange reason.) when I was sixteen, all within the same three month period, but that’s been it for many, many years. I swear.

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.