Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Being an artist (and a citizen) in and of Detroit

Memorial Day flags at Historic Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit
Other artists and writers I am sure can relate to the feeling of being "stuck." For me, this was a stuck week. Some of it has to do with having lifelong depression (which can be oft-quelled but never shooed from the yard for good), some of it the fits and starts of both long-term and short-term projects and the sometimes huge cycles of not-doing that have to accompany the frenzy of doing in turn. And perhaps some of it has something to do with being in a lurch of life, not knowing where I will be making my living and being more than a little at loose ends with myself at a strange crossroads in middle age. Being stuck. Becoming unstuck. Jolting myself forward from stuckness to renewed creativity. What is your formula? My formula is pretty simple. My formula is to drive around my city on mini-vacations, road trips 15-minutes at a time, location-scouting and eyes-open wonderment of somewhat varying amplitude and oscillation...something like this: 
"Sumafasores" by Gonfer - en wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Today, for the sake of this post, my wandering was blue.

And today found me in one of my favorite spots in the city, inside the gates of Historic Elmwood Cemetery. For me, cemeteries in general are a place of sublime quiet and reflection. I like a cemetery full of mixed-up architecture, more than a little historical intrigue, some shady spots for sitting and thinking, and one that is a good cross-section of the area where they are located. And I always seem to end up there when I need to get grounded, no pun intended.

After a rainstorm this afternoon in which I ran errands, the sun started to come out and I decided to hit the road to see my old friend the cemetery. But, me being me, I was running a little on my own clock (cue Steely Dan's "Time Out of Mind" as the soundtrack here, but ignore the heroin references, kids). And, thus so, I arrived at the front gate at seven minutes til 7. The security guard was getting ready to lock the place down. "You know we close at 7?" "Yes," I answer sheepishly, "I was just hoping to get some photos of the Memorial Day flags on the graves." "Well, OK," he answers, a little begrudgingly, "but I want you out of here by 7." So he let me through the gate for a quick drive. 

Inside, the place is much more vast and circuitous than you could imagine from the road outside. It ranges up and down a few small hills and has some quite nice in-ground mausoleums. But I was on a mission. Flags. Photographs. 7 p.m. And then I found the above photo, right next to the road, festooning the resting place of a WWI veteran and in front of a lovely line of monuments of varying age. It was bright, it was hopeful, it was what I was looking for. The intersection of life and death in a place remaining still where things are moving at a crazed pace all around. Less than a block away, 2,000 bicycle riders from Detroit Slow Roll were filling police-closed streets before riding the heretofore unridden by cyclists en masse track of the Belle Isle Grand Prix which takes place this weekend. It is a huge deal. And, in true oppositional form, two blocks in the other direction is the scene of a recent local tragedy. A young mother was discovered, unthinkably, to have the bodies of two of her own children locked in a freezer chest while refusing to admit they were even missing. Celebration. Tragedy. Bounty. Devastation. Detroit never seems far from having dichotomy in every single situation.

And, letting this wash over me in the quiet of the otherwise empty cemetery, I feel the jolt of rebalance. But within this sphere of thought, I can't help but wonder what is next up for Detroit. There is a huge land-grab going on here by entrepreneurs from L.A., NYC, Berlin, Sao Paulo, "otherwheres." They all want a bite of what artists and musicians have found to be true here in an affordable and very supportive community of hive-minded individuals working our tails off to unblight a vibrant infrastructure and to prolong the history of all arts in a city rich with texture and talent. But living here is something that has to be experienced and "earned" in both street-cred and hard-knocks. It is the secret handshake of the property crime. It is the slitted eyes of we-never-had-working-streetlights-before. It is the familiar fear that the great-grandparents living in that one house on the block might freeze to death if someone doesn't check on them during the next cold snap. You have to live here to get this, to BE this. And to see property snapped up left and right to people who are hoping to build expensive downtown utopias and serve $20 hamburgers to hipsters, well, they haven't gotten the memo yet that, in tattoo terms, if you haven't paid your dues in other ink first you haven't earned that right to ask for a full sleeve. We may very well have bitten off more than the city can digest and this could be a very bumpy couple of decades ahead. 

All this, rushing through my head full-force, on my 4 minute drive back to the front gate where the security guard waits patiently in his car to let me out of the closed gate at 7:05 and call the place secure for the night. I thank him abundantly for being patient and letting me in at the last minute. "Did you get your pictures?" he asks, smiling. "Yes! It was just such a beautiful evening and I love the late evening sun on the flags. The cemetery is just so beautiful after Memorial Day!" "It sure is! Now, are you sure you got all your pictures?" "Yes. I am all set. You have a great evening. Enjoy this lovely weather!" "You too, young lady, you too. Have a Blessed day!" And with a click of the remote control gate, I am back on the road. The floodgates of art are open, the floodgates of Detroit are open, but the cemetery is all locked down overnight because, in true Detroit form, if you don't lock it up tight, someone will steal your $^%# in a heartbeat. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Being ultra-choosy in a hook-up world

This past week was a weird one. It was the 3-year anniversary of the implosion of my last relationship. No doubts that it was one that needed to implode, but it was still really hurtful nonetheless. What have I been doing since then? I have been getting to know myself again, getting back into old creative habits, and doing the things I love to do with friends I really care for. What have I not been doing? Dating.

Almost a year ago, when I was still in a kind of shock over the abrupt end of what I considered a very serious relationship, a good friend asked me how many dates I had been out on since the breakup. Without a second thought, I said, "Zero," and I was met with a look that was somewhere between complete shock and abject pity. And for the longest time I wondered what would possess someone to react that way. Then I stepped back and started really paying attention to what was going on around me in a way I had not before. There was a whole hell of a lot of completely drunken and casual sex going on all around me. And I really didn't care to join in. Not in the least.

All of my life, I have been "monogamy girl," with no regrets. I made a horrible mistake in my first marriage (other than the first mistake in being 19 and being married) and I have tried not to let history repeat in every way since then. Don't get me wrong by any means. I totally respect my friends with open or polyamorous relationships, nontraditional bonds, sexuality of every shade of the rainbow, but I know better than to think any of those solutions would make me happy. I am a straight girl and I would like to spend my life with a straight dude. I still hold out hope that the right guy is out there for me, one that can be all the flavors of my personal ice cream shop and finds the same in me. As singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco once sang, finding acceptance for all of who you are is difficult and being an unusual woman, I am more than my cover just as Ani is more than her "32 Flavors."

But it is tough to put yourself out there and venture without getting hurt, to risk derision, to lay yourself bare to someone who will most likely like you "if only you could change a little bit." And it is even more terrifying when you have had a relationship in which your every flaw (of which you are perfectly self-aware) is thrown up in your face at every turn. It is a shark tank. And I do not feel comfortable swimming with the sharks. So, 3 years on, I am out in the water in a boat. It is a small boat and I am a little terrified. OK, more than a little terrified but I am here. 

Over the last 7 months, I have dipped my toes over the side of the boat twice. For a hot second I thought I might like one friend-of-a-friend. And I wrote a single note which was instantaneously rebuffed. That's cool. I value honesty more than anything. That isn't to say it didn't spark any self-doubt of my spirit, my self-image, the very core of "being a woman" (of all things), but again, I am not deluded. I know I am getting older and everything that comes with it. And today I have a current crush which is well on the way to not panning out for any number of reasons listed above or not. I am sort of OK with that too. Hey, if I am not what someone wants, why force the issue? Honest girl. Single girl. Monogamy girl. Zero date girl. I am all of those things. 

So let the sharks circle in the hook-up zone, I will never jump overboard. Let the lighthouse blare the siren song of giving up and being alone forever, and I refuse to answer the call and head back to shore. At least the stars in the night sky are pretty from out here in the waves and I have plenty of time to just think and to just be who I am. It is as close to uncomplicated as a person can be in this age of instant sexuality and little gratification, and I, for one, will take it over the other options any time at all.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Personal archaeology and probable paths

This past week I have been digging into my archives, both on paper and online, to unearth poetry I have published out into the greater world. Unfortunately, some of my best work has gone offline with journals either folding or starting over from scratch and I am without screen captures of them as they appeared. Without being overly sentimental, I am trying to catch what I can of what is left out there and do a better job of archiving my work in the future. That is the positive portion of this exercise. There is indeed a future. I have found that writing is a great deal of what I have felt was missing in my life lately and I am making a concerted effort to get back to it while not letting other creative ventures fall away. It will be quite a balancing act, but not one I am unfamiliar with. 

Before I do anything else, here is a capture of the first poetry I was ever actually paid for. Yes, real money, by check. Most poetry journals pay in copies if they are printed and if online, not at all. But then again, the prestige of being selected for some is fairly great when hundreds or thousands of other writers are competing for the same spots. I never did cash that check, and I never did get around to framing it as proof I was doing something I loved for money, but here is the work that got me remuneration. (From Issue 16, Winter 2006 of Ducts at

Second up is a piece from an online magazine I really revered over the years, Eclectica. There are not really words to express the emotions roiling up when I found out they had chosen one of my favorite pieces of work for their October/November 2005 issue. I pulled this screen capture but I somehow wish I had every issue of their journal in print in my own library.

As for the other work that is missing either temporarily or permanently from journals such as Horse Less Review, Pettycoat Relaxer, and nthposition, I will find the hard copies somewhere and keep fingers crossed I had not edited them them at publication. But life is a road map and the best miles are yet to be routed. And in light of that, I am unveiling new work I have been sitting on for a few days. I can never just throw something right out there until it feels right and this one finally does. Hope it resonates a bit with you.

On Lightning Ridge

On Lightning Ridge, the people wore gingham
  honestly with no pretense or airs
The bright checkers flitted in and out
  of sunlight patches, butterflies
in hand sewn folds, as if they would
  light on the ground and slowly sip from
drops of errant lemonade.

On certain days, when the air was
  camphor blue, the checks lay lazy
on beeswaxed floors, dust motes
  whirling to the keening of doves
daydreams put to music on forgotten
  phonographs as lovers caressed the
yesterdays away.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My life as a "Hamster Brain"

Years ago I realized that I had a set of personality traits that made me who I am. They didn't necessarily make me unique from anyone else, but they made me operate under a certain set of rules and parameters that I have since both lovingly and disparagingly termed, "Hamster Brain." Within this post I will disgorge those traits and try to put them in as much of a concise description as possible to hopefully shed some insight into how my creative process works and why it makes me act like a tiny overly furry and somewhat caged mammal. And, believe me, it is both an amazing amount of fun and a crazy drive back to the cosmic pet store to turn myself in for either cash back or an even trade for an animal more suited to a life among humans. This, dear readers, is the life within the cerebral cortex of Mesocricetus auratus, the common Hamster Brain.

First of all, why did I even begin to call myself a Hamster Brain? It all goes back to college when a close friend of mine began calling me out on a series of both stunning feats of klutziness and outrageous forgetfulness of the most mundane tasks. I would become so hyperfocused on studying, writing, doing art, researching, taking photos, watching movies, that I would forget to eat, forget to sleep, and forget to pay the rent or utilities. You have seen the hamster in the cage, running wildly on the wheel for extraordinary stretches of time until finally it crawls over to the water bottle and drinks for ages, never seeming to slake the thirst? That is hamstering. It is forgetting biology and going on pure instinct. Only for me personally, my instinct is to stuff things into my brain instead of stuffing food into my cheeks. When I read a book, I read "a book," a whole book, barely putting it down for long enough to use the restroom or get a glass of water (and forget about eating an actual meal). When I edit photos, I am inside the program for hours at a time until my eyes are red and irritated and my fingers are clawed from holding the mouse and typing. And when I am working on new art projects? I dive in to research like I am hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. I don't stop until I have a full plan developed with contingencies for all steps along the way and ideas of where to procure every supply and how, precisely, the finished project should look barring design changes. It is all a stuffing-the-cheeks behavior that makes multi-tasking (though possible) improbable. And have you ever interrupted a hamster on the wheel? Well, it goes spinning out of control and lands in a fluffy and confused pile across the cage. You got it. Do Not Disturb when I am in the zone.

The very worst of it is trying to plan things that are off the beaten path, even if I desperately like them, want to try them, or need to do them (yes, overdue bills, I am giving you the stink-eye). I am a tiny mammal of habit. I don't necessarily do things in pattern, but I definitely have a territorial stomping ground, what I call the four corners of the cage. If I am not sleeping, eating, bathing and toileting, or creating the most grand of shredded structures known to hamsterkind, it has a tendency to fall of the radar. Have I planned to go see a favorite band or to a new gallery? Not on the stomping ground path. Was I supposed to call you at 3 p.m. on Tuesday? If the phone did not appear in the middle of my food dish, I probably forgot, didn't I? Am I supposed to meet you across town at that new restaurant I wanted to try as well? I am probably circling the block trying to reconfigure my path because how to actually get there is not computing and I might be freaking out a little. I say with all sincerity that I do not mean to blow off personal obligation and that my friends and family mean the absolute world to me, but that I am stuck here in this cage, doing my hamstery things as I have done every day of my life, and sometimes you need to rattle the lid, tap on the glass, or throw me a mini carrot to get my attention. I mean well, but Hamster Brain is an entropic zen state of mind. The more I concentrate, the less the out-of-the-ordinary gets in and sticks to my schedule.

As an adult, I have developed a web of coping mechanisms to deal with being Hamster Brained. If I can pay a bill automatically, I do. I send myself a multitude of reminders, alarms, alerts, e-mails, and inventively placed notes that will jar my memory on important dates and appointments. And, dear friends, I blurt. Heavens help me and may all friends past, present, and future forgive me, I blurt in every single way possible in almost every situation there is. Did I think about something I needed to say to you during a conversation? That thing is going to spring out like a crazed salmon swimming upstream for the last time in the middle of the point you are making because if I don't say it, it is gone forever and a day. Hopefully I have something handy to write it down on so I don't interrupt you, but more than likely I have, I am, or I will interrupt you at some point in our history. Please try to understand that it is not with malice that I blurt, but that that tiny blue butterfly of inspiration or reminder is flying away before I even open my mouth or stick a finger into the air to make an open-parenthesis in your part of the conversation. And besides blurting, I hoard communication. If we have talked about something and I really wanted you to know more (or you have asked for more info), I will write you ill-timed messages in staccato succession, send several emails stuffed with links, or post and post and post on your wall until it is all out there. I am not some stalkerish loon, it is conversely the overzealous habit of caring for you that forces me to make a point. Because once I am off in another direction or corner of the cage, we may not speak again for days, weeks, months, *ahem* years. Believe me, if I have you in my life, I care for you deeply. But my regularity of social skills leave more than a bit to be desired (in my own opinion if not anyone else's). I know that this has led to both a breakdown of many relationships in the past (both love and friendship) and that it is bound to happen many more times in my life, but I am putting it out there into the blogosphere in true blurting fashion that the Care and Feeding Of for Hamster Brain includes a modicum of understanding in the reasoning of my shoddy intimate communication skills (and life skills in general). And gently throwing mini carrots my way to regain my attention is both accepted and appreciated because as a Hamster Brain, I do often forget to eat regular meals and I may bite when "hangry."

I know that I part of a larger breed of other Hamster Brains in the universe, some of whom I have met and blurted extravagantly with and most of whom I haven't (since you are probably nose-down in the next great invention or novel or solution to the universe as a whole). And while I am not writing this in apologistic fashion, I am hoping that a few of you will actually understand where I am coming from in my overblown metaphor. I am that hamster in that cage. I know there is a huge world out there to explore. I yearn for a larger Habitrail to lead the way to new adventure and places I have never seen before. This is me. And I like carrots.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dreaming is free

Awake from one of those dreams that seems at the time to be a life-changer, but too tired to fully wake up and actually start changing my life, I am thinking instead of the paths I walked to get here, listening to a soundtrack of trains, and thinking about the things that are calling me to stay. Two decades ago, Detroit was a dream to me. In fact, it was on the verge of a trepidation. I was living in Norfolk, a small Southern city, and Detroit was nothing but a blip on the distant radar screen. But the terribly rainy night in the summer of '96, rolling past the ghost of Michigan Central Station, I knew it felt like home. Something called out to me then and something is calling out to me still. I feel as if I belong here.

But going back further, I think it is time to reexamine who I was growing up and who I wanted to be at every stage of the game. I have never been one to hide behind a persona. I am pretty much who I present myself to be, a flawed pseudo-punk/hippie chick/art geek, not too good at the mechanics of adulthood, and just wanting to exist in a beautiful world. I don't want to "be" a career, I feel no call to own expensive things, and I certainly don't want to have to fit in. I am a consumer but I don't want to be consumed by it, you know?

So, back to the roots. Back to who I thought I wanted to be at 5, at 15, at 25. Where do I measure up now? And what has fallen away that I feel I am missing? These are the things I need to rediscover in the coming year. I know I am not done growing. I will never be done growing. But what is going to make me feel as I'd grown strongest and best by the end of my life? Those are questions for a more awake mind and for one that has given up control and let the dream take over. And Blondie did say it best. "Dreaming....dreaming is free," in so many more ways than one.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Can you really make a difference? Yes.

This has been quite a week of reading rants. And the reading has led to more critical thinking than I have done in quite a while. There are hundreds of thousands of armchair critics pointing fingers about wasting drinking water, unfair police, racist policy, politicians on vacation, and I only have one thing to say: Do something about it. Think ALS and breast cancer are getting more attention than the disease you or your family is experiencing? Well, fill us in and get us up to speed on awareness. Did you know that Lewy Body Dementia is on the rise and is far more debilitating than Alzheimers? I didn't either until I had a friend suffering the shock of it through hospitalized parents. The only way to get past the stigma is to put it out there. Do you think the police have too many rights and privileges in a democratic society? Then bring a discussion to your local community on how it can avoid the same situations we just saw from a distance. Adding fuel to a fire already raging is counterproductive. We should be outraged enough to be talking to our friends and neighbors about better rapport with law enforcement. It is our right and our duty. Scale your rage into workable points and goals and demand that your local officials take them to regional officials, to state officials, to federal officials, to international think-tanks.

Let me ask you how many times you step out of your comfort zone to volunteer in your local community each year. And this isn't about volunteering at the inner city soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, this is about the other 364 days of the year when the children that live next door might not be getting breakfast on a weekend morning because there is no free meal without the public school. Adults are the ones who lob the threats back and forth, but children are the ones who suffer the most. Regardless of your religious affiliation or political affiliation or complete lack thereof, children are the only hope we have of making changes. It takes a village to raise a child and that isn't necessarily a village half a planet distant, it is a village you live in and contribute to.

Is it popular to say I grew tired of all the finger pointing in the news this summer? Well, no. Is it too much to ask that we find something positive in our lives daily to share with our fellow humans to give us hope for another day on this planet? Probably. But we should all try.

I will leave it at this: Every society has extremes. If extremes make you uncomfortable, do your best to come to terms and an understanding with a moderate form of the extreme. If you feel uncomfortable at a home
less shelter, donate time to stock a local food pantry. If you have an uneasiness of mentally disabled adults, perhaps try volunteering for a pet therapy program for rehabilitating patients. If you fear death, hold the hand of one patient in a hospice facility. The only way we can become more human is to do things with actual humanity in them. And these, dear friends, are the stories we should share with each other over coffee, in a public park, with children playing in the distance. We should live at living.

Monday, January 20, 2014

My septoplasty story (or, How I got the center of my nose removed and put back where it was meant to be)

If you know me, you know I can be a bit boisterous at times. As a child, I was a totally bouncy trouble factory whether at home or in the wilds. And I had grand ideas of how to amuse myself while my mother was doing the serious business of grocery shopping. One Saturday morning in 1973 (I think...the photos are long gone at this point), we were at the local grocery store (Radford Bros., North Main St., you might remember it) and I was marauding in the produce aisle. A produce clerk was filling up a center of the aisle bin with gourds. Stacks and stacks of decorative gourds all piled up inside this giant red and chrome Studebaker of a produce bin. I had been on a Richard Scary drawing kick and I saw animals in those gourds. Birds and monsters, and dinosaurs and Maurice Sendak wildebeasts. And I had to get a better look. So I hoisted myself up on the side of the bin to get a better view. Something felt wobbly and I froze in place. That is actually the last thing I remember for a while. I was wearing a short sleeved shirt and the chrome lip of the bin was cold on my arms. And then it tipped over on me, gourds bouncing everywhere, and I was pinned underneath. I don't remember that part at all. My next memory is of a fireman looking down at me in his big helmet and shaking his head, laughing a little, picking gourds off of my stomach. There may or may not have been commentary about what kind of trouble I had gotten myself into, but my mother had called my father and next thing I knew we were rushing to the county hospital emergency room in the station wagon.

My next memory is of a doctor wiggling my nose and saying, "Yes, that's broken all right." With all the luck of the universe, the bin didn't totally crush my skull, but it sure landed across my face, both cheekbones and my nose taking the brunt of gravity before the bin hit the stack of empty cardboard gourd boxes thankfully still sitting there in the aisle. In 1973-ish there was no such thing as mending a broken nose. I got an ice pack, some baby aspirin, and a lollipop. And then the next day I got to dress up in a ruffled white dress and tights and patent leather shoes and be baptized into the Methodist Church, looking for all intents and purposes as if my parents had beaten me within an inch of my life. There was a lot of explaining to do that day and I was promised both Jello and Jello Pudding so I was having none of that waiting around the church thing my mom was wanting to do.

Skip forward to age 12 when I was learning to swim. I could not breathe out of the right side of my nose. Every time the swimming instructor told us to go under the water and blow bubbles in the baby pool (ah, the indignities of learning to swim at an older age), I would end up snorting a nostrilful of water. There was none of the turning your head and breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose of swimming for me. It was breathe in through my mouth, go under the water, breathe out through my left nostril, come up and breathe in through my...nope, snort a nostrilful of chlorine that was not cleared out of the right side of my nose. I was miserable and never swam with my head underwater again. I became the ultimate Zen master of floating on my back in the pool for hours and hours.

Fast forward to college where I was out at a club with my (much younger) boyfriend who had never been slam dancing. We stood at the edge of the "pit" and watched, he surfed in and out a few times, and then just decided to stand there next to me. I was wearing glasses. I did not want to smash my glasses. So, instead, the drunken buffoons standing next to us picked up their even drunker friend and threw him at my face. Broken nose number two, no health insurance, full time college student, not even enough gas in the car to get me out to the hospital where I knew that nothing would be done anyway. Not even a lollipop this time around. And it made my nose much, much worse.

I have lived with this crooked and even more crooked prow for forty years, sleeping with my mouth open and waking up with woolen teeth, having a chronic drippy nose because I could not sniffle on my right side, biting a blood blister on my lip to force my cheek muscles to flare my nostril open. And those horrible up-the-nose selfies? One nostril was tiny and one was huge, with my septum doing a funky pokey-outey thing on the side I could actually breathe from. And one day, roughly 4 years ago, I ended up going to an ENT for a complicated ear infection and the doctor looked up my nose and said, "Wow, you know you have a completely blocked nostril, right?" and I affirmed his observation. But what was I to do, thinking that my health insurance would never cover rhinoplasty. Then, last summer I was poking around on the website of my latest insurance coverage and found a listing for "septoplasty, " as in the insurance would cover septoplasty but not cosmetic rhinoplasty. What was this septoplasty they speak of?!

Of course, the first thing I did was to go to YouTube and watch a septoplasty video. Please, don't ever, under any circumstances, go to YouTube and watch a septoplasty. You do not want to see someone's face being chiseled like a jack-o-lantern (unless you are into that kind of thing, and at this point I say, ewwww, Dexter, out!). The gist of the procedure is that the septum is either removed from the interior of the nose and shaped/replaced or partially detached, reshaped and re-anchored, all through the nostrils. I am a total wimp and I have no idea how I decided to go through with the surgery, but there gets to a point in your life when you are so tired of compensating for something physical that you just have to power through fixing it. This was my time to barrel through the construction barriers.

The rest of this post is the tell-all, describe-all, nitty-gritty of the surgery procedure and the recovery process and it is really not pretty, but I am hoping that it will give someone (anyone) a better idea of what to prepare for and what to watch out for in recovery. Some of these things are hints I wish I had beforehand, some are things I never would have thought of. But I hope that they are indeed helpful details.

First of all, I had to go to my regular physician to be cleared for surgery. This had to take place within 30 days of the actual procedure so think a little in advance. I needed blood work, an EKG, a basic physical, and to review all my medications for the surgeon. Both of my doctors' office staffs were very helpful in getting all of this paperwork filled out, triple-checked, and filed with my insurance company. There are no shortcuts, just be prepared to write a lot. I had already met with the surgeon for a consultation and he took a look at my nasal passages to confirm that I was a good candidate for the procedure. I didn't have any other procedure done so no MRI, no x-rays, not any other tests. It was an obvious break with an obvious deviation. If you have sinus polyps, need external or internal rhinoplasty, or have other issues with ears or nasal passages, this is where we will really differ. The cartilage of my nose was in the wrong place and it needed to be separated from the plane of my face, the area above my front teeth and the dividing line of my nostrils, reshaped and reattached with a scaffolding of sutures. So, here we go.

A month or so in advance, I arranged to take time off work over the Christmas into New Year holidays. I took 10 full days and I needed each and every one of them. More about that later, but please do not expect to go back to work and be functional in your life for at least those 10 days. If you are up and around and ready to move then you are getting the bonus plan. I stocked up on Ensure and V8 juice as well as things like soft granola bars, chicken pot pies, and pita chips. I wasn't planning on chewing being as painful as it was, so you might want to think about some nice soups and chunky stews. Do not plan on chewing unless you have to as a last resort, seriously.

The day of the surgery, I was allowed only 4-6 ounces of water to take morning medications with (and I was the last patient of the day on a Friday). No ice, no hard candy, no chewing gum, no cough drops. You will be very dry and very hungry going into pre-op but better that than have to reschedule. I had my procedure done at an outpatient surgery center and they were absolutely top-notch at the preparations and recovery plus you do not have to deal with normal hospital traffic. Highly recommend that route if you can do it! Prepare yourself to wear the most pajama-comfortable clothes and slip on shoes because, yes indeed, someone will have to help you dress afterwards. They are serious about the zero-jewelry, zero-makeup, zero-lotion, zero nail polish rules. It was not a problem for me, but why even bother pushing it. You undress and put on a gown and all of your clothes and shoes go in a big baggie that will follow you through the building from station to station. Dress lightly and don't bring a purse or wallet. I did, however, bring my Kindle with me and I am very glad I did. Ask in advance if your center has wifi and if they will let you bring a non-phone electronic device.

In pre-op, you get an IV right away. You will be a little dehydrated so if you are anything like me, you will have a couple of bags of IV solution before you even hit the operating room. Your nurse will go over medical history, drug allergies, and confirm your name and procedure at every single step along the line. This is how they gauge your alertness as well as confirming your charts are following you. The most important step for me was planning in advance to ask for an anti-emetic patch. Ask your doctor's office beforehand so it is in your notes, ask your nurse in pre-op to confirm, and when your anesthesiologist does the pre-surgical interview, he or she will confirm what medication you will receive in the patch and how to care for it. General anesthesia causes many, many people to become nauseous upon waking and to remain incredibly nauseous for days afterward. If you have ever gotten motion sickness, you absolutely want to go over getting that patch with all of your medical staff. It was a life saver for me as I can get a good motion sickness going on an escalator. You absolutely do not want to vomit after any kind of facial surgery. Besides the fact that it will be incredibly messy and painful, it can cause severe infection and the pressure can actually undo the work your surgeon just did. It is no joke.

To this point, the IV needle was the worst part of the day. Once I got my patch installed, I was much happier and less queasy and I had a nice repetitive game set up on the Kindle to play while I was waiting to meet my surgeon for the pre-op pep talk. At some point your assistant anesthesiologist will bring you a relaxing preparation for your IV. If you are very, very anxious, you can also ask for something to make you drowsy and you can sleep through until the end from there on out. This is the final stretch. After meeting with the surgeon, I closed up the Kindle, took off the glasses (that stuff got put into my clothing bag) and I got wheeled down to the operating room. Everyone introduced themselves and then I got the mask, whereas counting down from 100 only makes it to 98. Then, tahdah, someone is calling your name and asking you to wake up.

My recovery nurse had a huge cup of water and some Teddy Grahams waiting for me. You get the snack of your choice and all the water you can drink. Again, if you get the anti-emetic, you will be all ready to eat some food and drink some nice cool water! This is a surgery that requires intubation so your throat and esophagus will be tender and scratchy. I wish I had brought some hard candy with me for the ride home. The next half an hour to an hour will be all about making sure you are ready to get up and move around. I had a serious gauze packing up into my sinuses and the nurses were instructed to remove it as soon as possible. I am so glad they did that while I was still pain-free from the surgery because it feels very, very odd like an Egyptian mummifier is taking your brains out through your nose. It is a huge sense of pressure and then a rush of a very empty relief behind your cheekbones and eyes. Be prepared for weirdness. Then I got the "moustache bandage" which is literally a big piece of gauze taped across the nostrils to catch any remaining blood seepage. The first day and night, prepare for a small flood of heinous liquids. Your nurse will give you dressings and instructions on when and how to change them properly. Here is another caveat for you. The tape is horrendous on your face. I broke out in a crazy rash and changing my dressings was like tearing off a couple layers of skin from my cheekbones. I have since heard that you can ask for a first piece of tape to be put down before the dressings so you will be removing the tape from tape, not from skin. Other people say ask for a bandage before the tape. Just beware that the tape can irritate the holy living crap out of you.

All this is still in recovery. You still have to deal with going to the restroom and getting dressed. And, yes, you will absolutely need a nurse or someone else with you. It took me at least an hour to get control over my knees and I could not even lace up my own crosstrainers. I had some fun conversations with a couple of the nurses, and my friend who drove me was nice enough to deal with taking care of my prescriptions. If you can get them filled there, do it. You do not want to be sitting around waiting in a pharmacy in the condition you are in. You will not be sure what planet you are on for at least the next 8 hours. Do not plan on doing anything critical in your life. Just making it back and forth to the toilet in one piece will be all the decision-making you should be allowed until at least the next day. Plan to sleep sitting up for a few days and nights (I bought a Wondawedge pillow and it was perfect but you can also sleep in a recliner chair). And you will be thirsty like the desert for the first three or four days. I also bought a warm steam humidifier for my bedroom. The moist air was heavenly!

If I can give you any advice at this point, for the sake of all that is holy, please stay on top of your pain meds! I got both a Tylenol/Vicodin combo and a horsepill of an antibiotic. Take those pain meds exactly when they tell you to take them. Do not try to tough it out and see how badly it hurts. It is going to hurt like ungodly hell. You do not want to know that kind of hurt. Just take them, stay still and keep your mind occupied on other things. I watched a lot of television online that I do not remember. Rewatch all your favorite movies on Netflix. Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You always wanted to watch those again, right? And you still have that anti-emetic patch behind your ear. Leave it there for as long as your doctor said you could. I left mine for three days. Perfect.

Now here is the gory part. The first time you change your bandages, you will be horrified. Your nose is going to be completely clotted up with blood and sutures. Leave them alone. Do not touch them, do not even try to look at them funny. They are directly connected to pain receptors you did not know you even had. Neosporin with pain reliever will be your best friend for the next couple of weeks and be very, very, very delicate in the application process. The tiniest bit of pressure will make you see stars and tweeting birds like Roger Rabbit. Total knockout of yourself. Also try to avoid any clothes that go on over your head. If you biff your nose by accident in the next couple of weeks, you will swear words you didn't even know you knew. I know I was the victim of two self-biffings and I will never forget the pain as long as I live. Your face will hurt, your teeth will hurt, your eyes will feel as if they are out on stalks like a snail. Taking those pain killers like clockwork? You betcha!

And you say at this point, "OK, but was it worth it?" Oh, heck yeah, it was worth it! At the end of my painkiller script, I was pretty much fine. I did switch down to Tylenol for the funky feeling I had above my front teeth (but after all, they had a chisel up there). I could breathe out of both nostrils for the first time in 40 years. Now, the fact that it is the most bitter winter in Michigan since I have lived here? That is unfortunate. The cold air hitting those previously-protected sinus cavities is like someone shoving a sharp, frozen chopstick up my nose even today, a month to the day after the surgery. The strangest thing is that I have two pretty much symmetrical nostrils now. I wasn't expecting that! My face looks different! My voice is also a little different and I have a muscular pain in my jaw because it is changing my bite. I do not have to grind my teeth sideways in my sleep any longer to be able to breathe. I would say to expect some of the unexpected, not all of it bad, but some of it really, really unusual.

And here is what you have been waiting for...the downside of it all. My only real drawback to the whole procedure to date (one month in) is that my sutures did not dissolve. The first three weeks I felt as if I had barbed wire in my nostrils. It was a tender, crying pain. Imagine grabbing all of your nose hairs and yanking them out...that sting constantly for hours and hours. That Neosporin with pain reliever literally kept me from ripping my own face off. Just be prepared in case you are suture-resistant like I was. In fact, this afternoon, *TMI ALERT* I blew my nose and sutures came out. They were sutures I did not even know I had from way up in the bridge of my nose. My cartilage was quilted back into my face like a finely laced doily. And I rushed into doing some things I should not have done. Shoveling snow? Don't do it. Carrying heavy laundry up and down the stairs? Don't be an idiot. Thinking of going to the gym? Do you really want your nose to go flying off your face and across the room when you overexert yourself (a hyperbole, but still...)? Just think a LOT more about what you are doing and how much pressure you are putting on that little chicken breastbone in your face. You will be thankful later.

I think that is more than you would ever want to know about septoplasty if you are thinking about having it and perhaps more about me than you ever wanted to read if you didn't. Everyone is different, but I can already see this as a game-changer in how I exercise, how I sleep, how I deal with asthma, colds, and allergies, and how my facial structure holds up in the upcoming saggy years of my life. For all of the getting used to and all of the minor discomforts, I am very thankful to have had a great outcome and a smooth recovery (albeit one I should have lengthened a few days). And to all you labored-breathers, talk to your ENT. I should have done this a decade ago! A hearty, and well-oxygenated, cheer!