Something Fishy

Let me start out by saying I’m allergic to fish and shellfish, therefore I have no awkward carnivore dilemma when it comes to my incredible, bottomless ocean love of all things fishy. #FishAreFriends #NotFood

When I was a kiddo, all I wanted was to be a dolphin trainer.

The National Aquarium, inconveniently located in Baltimore, Maryland, not anywhere near anything else National-y named, was my favorite place on Earth because of one special reason.

A baby bottlenose dolphin named Chesapeake.

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Chesapeake was the first dolphin born at the aquarium, and in 1992, that was a big deal. I was 3, and I promptly adopted her as mine.

Every chance I got, I was planted in the National Aquarium’s auditorium for the dolphin show. Back in the 90s, it was an actual show- the dolphins did tricks, the penultimate being a mind-blowing leap by one to touch its nose to a bright red ball hanging from the ceiling. A very, very high ceiling. It was magnificent. I would go home and spend all night reenacting the show with my own stuffed dolphin pod.

Of course, now we know that captivity is not the best option for our dolphin friends, and the National Aquarium is working on relocating my dolphin, I mean, Chesapeake (and company), to a sanctuary in Florida. I am devastated, but you know, trying to be happy for her.

Dolphins or no dolphins, a trip to the aquarium remains my quickest route to Zen.

Maybe it’s a Pisces thing.

I have an aquarium bucket list. So far I’ve been to 2 out of 3 Ripley’s Aquariums (Gaitlinberg and Myrtle Beach. I’m coming for you, Toronto). Someday, I will shell out and have a sleepover party in one of their famous tunnels. I have seen the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, and was overcome with awe and jealousy. I’ve had deep telepathic conversations with some seriously mellow manatees, also in Florida. The #1 thing on my list is to swim with beluga whales. I’m pretty sure my mind will explode when I do so.

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I want to hug one so bad #BabyBeluga

Whenever I have something really unfortunate happen Chronic-wise, I have a habit of getting myself a present to cheer myself up. I didn’t even realize it, but quite a number of these cheer-up presents have been fish/aquarium/ocean related. For instance, when Johns Hopkins wasted an entire day of my life making me wait umpteen hours to see a “specialist” whose great and powerful Oz contribution to my life was to say, “Has anyone ever told you that you should be drinking more Gatorade? Because if you still don’t feel well, you should just drink more.” I came home with this guy, acquired from the gift shop. His funny fishy face made me forget the jerk upstairs.

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Last week, a tendon cyst from hell interrupted my life, and my initial reaction was to self-soothe with some crafting and fishy fabric. I also got to use up all the JoAnn Fabrics coupons I have been hoarding. #Score

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Please do not get me started on my love of Finding Nemo et. al. I will only say that Finding Dory was everything I could ever ask for in an animated movie, and that Pixar created what I never knew I needed in real life until I saw it on-screen: A fish rehabilitation hospital narrated by the one, the only, Sigourney Weaver.

True confession: Soda came out of my nose at that part as I was not expecting it and was totally thrilled and laughing so hard, and had, coincidentally, just taken a giant gulp of my Coca-Cola. Also, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that Sigourney is the friendly voice who welcomes you to fish rehab. If it is, sorry. But really, is it? #NothingSigourneyCantDo

For my birthday this year, my sister got me a fish. Her name is Ruby, and her hobbies include jumping through hoops I make with pipe cleaners and going to sleep every night in her castle. I am not lying. I say “Goodnight Ruby-rubes,” and she swims right into it and I turn out the light on her tank. #Melting

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Fish literally go with the flow (Unless they are salmon. Why you gotta show off, upstream swimmers? You are just going to get eaten by a grizzly bear. #CircleofLife), something I continually aspire to. Maybe that’s why I find them so soothing? Maybe Dory really is the wisest of us all when she sings, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

What’s your happy/Zen place, Chronic readers?

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If Running is Romeo, that Makes Me Juliet

Dear Running,

I miss you.

The universe is conspiring to keep us apart.

No fewer than 5 medical professionals have told me that you are a no-no this summer.

I said, “What the heck, what do they know?”

Sure, maybe the fact that they had to stop the exercise stress test due to me reaching my maximum heart rate in approximately 5 minutes of light walking was an indication that speeding things up may not go how I imagine.

I said, “No worries! I just won’t run as fast or for so long.”

Then Mother Nature figured she should get in on this, trying to stop me with the powers of 110 degree weather and South Carolina-esque humidity right here in good ole DC.

But I persisted. “I will get up before the sun so that I can go running!”

Turns out you don’t need sun for it to be so hot and humid that your mouth feels like it’s full of cotton balls and you can’t breathe when you step outside the door.

“I will drink more water and wear my sweat-wicking clothing, thank you, Science!” I said as I stepped out anyway.

My brain loves you, Running. We feel incomplete without you. Nothing could come between us.

Oh, except bodily breakdown.

Yep. That’ll work.

This time last year, I broke my heel bone in pursuit of you. I thought that hurt.

No, Running. That was not pain.

Pain is developing a cyst on your tendon, a cyst whose size and therefore level of pressing down on said tendon (Read: SMOOSHING WITH THE FORCE OF A THOUSAND ELEPHANTS) is directly related to whether or not I stand up.

Sitting or lying down with leg elevated: Eh, ouchy.

Standing or walking around: SWEET JEHOSEPHAT IS MY LOWER LEG EXPLODING?

So you know, I have been foiled at last.

For now, Running, we must consciously uncouple. We must take a break, and explore other options, like Pilates and Yoga and other gentle stuff that makes my mind feel like jello, but that will apparently be just a-okay for my tempermental tendon.

I just wish I knew how to quit you.

Ugh.

See you in October?

Love, Nic

Icebergs, right ahead!

Let’s think cold thoughts shall we?

If you live anywhere near the East Coast of the US of A, then you know that we are having a heat wave. A tropical heat wave. The temperature’s rising, it isn’t surprising…

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Sorry. I digress. #IrvingBerlin #TheresNoBusinessLikeShowBusiness #LikeNoBusiness #IKnowww

When you are melting, it can feel like you will never be cool again. You start to forget that just a tender few months ago, you were buried under 4 feet of snow in the Snowpocolypse and were praying for this very moment that we are in right now.

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Where can you go? What can you do? The weather people are insisting we all stay inside, huddled around the cool of our air conditioning units. But that gets boring.

Luckily, the National Building Museum in Washington, DC is here to help us out.

Every year, the Building Museum has a big summer exposition. I managed to miss last year’s, an instillation called The Beach, which was essentially just a gigantic ball pit in the main hall, an oversight I may never get over. #BooHoo

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This year, the project is called Icebergs! (emphasis theirs!), and it is a pretty nifty display. Plus it happens to be just a little bit chilly in there- more so than 99.9% of the rest of the National Mall et. al. Of course, I had to see it.

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The blue bits of netting represent the ocean. Then the ice-looking bits, are well, ice bits. The point is to show that while you can see the tip of an iceberg above the surface, so much more is hanging out down below.

Invisible chronic illness reference, anyone?

From the top view, you can see icey little triangles. Sure, there’s something there, but it all seems well and good.

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But go below the surface, and you can see just how deep a problem-ahem, iceberg- runs, and just how much life-ahem, again, excuse me, surface area- said artifice really takes up.

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Or you know, you can leave the analogies here and just go climb up rickety-sounding/feeling scaffolding (Fear of heights mantra: This is totally safe! It was built by BUILDING MUSEUM people! They know what they’re doing! Repeat as necessary), which is enough to liven up anyone’s Sunday afternoon.

Whatever floats your boat.

RIO!

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Dum dum de dum dum dum de dum dum dum de dum dum de de dum dum dummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!! ( I know, I know, that was a perfectly accurate rendition of the theme music on NBC. #NailedIt)

Don’t you just love the Olympics?

Spoiler alert: I do!

I mean really, when you sit down and think about it, there is absolutely nothing like the whole world sending representatives to participate in a giant sporting match that lasts for 2+ weeks. It’s really cool, and a great reminder that if nothing else, the world has sport and competition in common.

Full disclosure: I have been a major slacker when it comes to exercise this summer. It’s been too hot with too poor air quality to be running, and though I make an effort to do my rowing machine or lift weights instead, it’s been pretty sporadic.

Nothing exercise-related is quite as motivating as watching the Olympics.

Sure, these athletes have been working since they were born to be at the level of Olympian now. Most are also not allergic to Wheaties, which I hear is the Breakfast of Champions, so you know, they have that going for them as well.

But am I really the only one who sits on their couch and feels like “I could totally do that!” while watching an event?

(I’m not, right? You do it too? Yep, thought so.)

I don’t know why, but watching the Olympics gives me an inflated sense of what I personally am capable of. All it takes is 10 minutes, and I want to go out, find a beach volleyball court, and show the world that anyone can be Kerri Walsh Jennings if they just get out there!

Oh wait. Maybe anyone who is not allergic to the sun…

…and who doesn’t hate sand with the extreme passion with which I do.

Ok, so maybe let’s go inside.

Gymnastics!
I’m slightly hyper-mobile. Simone Biles might have springs inside her feet (#NoOtherExplanation), but I bet it’s not that hard to do…well whatever it is that she is doing out there.

Oh wait. Nope. No, no, no, really cannot do that.

(Nic Note: DO NOT TRY TO BE SIMONE BILES AT HOME IF YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY SIMONE BILES)

Let’s head over to the pool.

Time for my inner Pisces to be unleashed!

Michael Phelps isn’t that fast. I could totally do that.

Well, you know, he is an entire foot taller than me. When he dives in, it’s like half the pool length right there. I’m calling unfair advantage.

Hmmm, equestrian?

Whoa, there, pony. Maybe I really am just a dog person.

I know-cylcing!

Who put those cobblestones there? Um, ouch.

Let’s be realistic, I probably won’t be qualifying for a room at the Olympic Village in Toyko 2020. But it can still be motivating. The Olympics show us what is possible. We all have so much potential inside us. We just have to let it out!

Humidity + Compression Stockings = Not Happening

The weather people in the metropolitan DC area are liars.

This is a tremendous accusation, I know. What on Earth would compel me to level such a claim?

Humidity.

Pure and simple.

You see, for my entire life, I have believed the weather people when they have told me that it is 100% humidity outside. There was no reason not to believe them. Step outside, and it is clear that it is oppressive out there. Of course it is, because it is 100% humidity.

What then is greater than 100% humidity?

South Carolina, apparently.

Y’all, as a Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia line hugger, I am an honorary Southerner. We are technically below the Mason Dixon line.

However, I have not been one to ever really travel in a Southernly direction, unless it included a 2-hour climate controlled plane flight to Disney World for Thanksgiving. Which is in November.

You know what’s not in November?

July.

Apparently people live in South Carolina (Hello, South Carolina people!) and apparently, their weather people tell them that it is 100% humidity there too.

Their weather people are right.

My weather people?

Not so much.

There was a place when it shifted; like an actual line drawn across the shimmering heat weaves rising off the pavement. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but it was somewhere right after Virginia ended and right before South Carolina began.

Oh right, it was called North Carolina. (Hello North Carolina people!)

I’m sorry, it’s probably the Damn Yankee in me, but places that contain the word “North” in their name should be cold, or at least cold-er than whatever is either South or not directionally differentiated. There is nothing cold in North Carolina. The “cold” cases for beverages in the gas station we stopped at were even functioning at a mild lukewarm. Someone told me it snows there in the winter. I’m pretty sure they were trying to pull a fast one on an actual Northerner.

I have never been so flipping hot in my whole life.

Sure it started in North Carolina, but it built and built until we reached South Carolina. I can’t even describe the feeling- like the elephant I have always wanted as a pet decided to take up residence sitting on my lungs; like a freshly fallen dew was permanently creeping up my arms; like my skin was literally expanding.

Speaking of skin expanding, at the Cracker Barrel, there was a sign that said, “Heat causes things to expand. I’m not fat, I’m just hot!”

Evidence to back this claim?

I could not get my flipping compression stockings on.

My skin expanded to some degree, I’m sure of it. My compression stockings also took this time to shrink to some degree, wilting into themselves.

It is hard to put on compression stockings.

Period. That is a statement.

It is really hard to put on compression stockings in 100% Maryland/DC/Virginia line hugger humidity.

It is simply a ridiculous endeavor to even attempt to put on compression stockings in true, honest-to-Deep-South 100% humidity.

Bonus?

We happened to go during a record-setting, hottest weekend/week ever (in the history of the world!).

Chronic friends. My predicament was this: In order to survive, I must wear the compression stockings. Yet, actually getting those suckers on was a true test of my Chronic superpowers.

I had to take breaks.

No really.

Are you laughing?

Please, feel free too. Part of the reason I had to take so many breaks was because I was laughing so hard in the setting of the previously mentioned elephant on my chest. One needs air if one is to continue the battle.

And battle I did.

Let me tell you, I seriously limited the number of times I went to the bathroom, because the only thing worse than trying to wiggle into those sausage casings in the open wide expanse of my hotel room was trying to do it in a teeny tiny stall in the boardwalk/reststop/otherwise beach-side bathroom. I was checked on, for fear of fainting, only to be found huffing and puffing trying to get my self situated.

Mmmhhhmm…

So I have a bone to pick with you, Weather People. Tell the truth. I know you are trying to make us all feel a little better about the stories we will one day tell our children (“We still had to go to work in the summer of 2016 when it was 100% humidity and 100 degrees…can you believe that? So stop your complaining and go to camp…”), but come on. One family vaca to Myrtle Beach and they will know the truth.

We know nothing of humidity here.

Also, if that Cracker Barrel sign speaks the truth, we may have a real shot at battling the obesity epidemic by paying just a smidge more attention to global warming. That is my Nobel Prize winning idea, though, okay? Don’t steal it. 😛

Me versus Magneto

Want to impress a medical technician?

Show up to your MRI wearing totally normal-looking clothes that contain absolutely no trace of metal. Anywhere.

Yes, thanks a bundle, sweetie, but I will not be needing that drab hospital gown that does not actually tie shut in the back.

Let me explain…

Magneto is my favorite X-Man (favorite X-Woman: Shadowcat, Rogue, Phoenix, Storm- don’t make me decide!). Sure, my love of this metal-wielding bad guy was initially stoked by the fact that Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender play him in the movies (#Talented). But really, he is one cool dude. And seriously, in our day and age, what isn’t metal? He really would have a quick path to total world domination. That’s a true supervillian right there.

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I recently faced a real-world version of Magneto. Lay people call it an MRI machine (techies: magnetic resonance imaging). Magneto would LOVE this thing. It is a gigantic magnet, so essentially, it’s him. It can rip earrings from your ears, a pacemaker from your chest, a pin from your joint replacement. That hunk of metal is not screwing around.

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Not my real MRI. Understandably they don’t let you take photos of it with your metal iPhone when it is on…

MRIs are fascinating though. They can see your insides for goodness sakes. Okay, sure, lots of tests can see your insides, but MRIs are super fun because they can see your soft tissues, which are much more interesting than your skeleton. Not to knock x-rays, but anyone who’s sat in a science lab classroom has seen a skeleton. The thrill is gone.

(Fun fact: When German physics professor Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays, he was super excited and showed his God-fearing wife, demonstrating his find using her hand. Instead of being like, “Thanks for sharing, hubby! That’s such a nifty discovery!” the poor woman flipped out, insisting that he had shown her a vision of her own death. Isn’t science fun?)

Often, MRIs are of brains, and fMRI (the f stands for functional) can be used in all sorts of serious research projects like, “When you think of cookies, what part of your brain lights up?”

My MRI was for my abdomen, because that plague of awfulness I was blogging about in December of last year just didn’t want to quit, until it did, but then it came back again. #Cruel

As per usual, I suited up in my Captain America apparel. Sure, I’m mixing books, and going all Avengers vs. X-Men (which was a great cross-over special that you should definitely read!), but when you are facing a bad guy, like Magneto in health testing machine form, you suit up.

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When you are a chronic, you pick up on things in medical settings. For instance, you do not actually have to live in the gross hospital gown when you are at the hospital just because one is given to you. Sure, wear it for procedures, whatever, but if you are getting a simple saline-fillup or are there for more than 2 days, wear your own clothes, people. Sigourney Weaver may hate sweat clothing, but we cannot all be Sigourney Weaver all the time, now can we? (#Goals #SigourneyAllTheTime)

Also, you get to know the most frequent medical tests and what they entail. We pass on the red and orange colored jello (#1 no-no for gastro testing), we avoid the cherry flavored anything (Cherry flavor does not make anything taste better, promise), and we know to wear a pull-on sports bra and yoga pants to our MRIs. No buttons, no fasteners, no getting superglued to the side of a Magneto machine. Mmmkay?

So, yes, this will impress your technician. They might also not believe you, and run through the list of all things metallic that might be hanging out on your person. (Um, no, I don’t have a tongue ring or other body piercing that cannot be seen, but thanks for the double check? #SureYouWerentBeingCreepy)

It’s also just plain more comfortable. I mean really, if you are going to be trapped in – I mean situated inside of – a very small vessel of magnet magnitude for a very long time (most MRIs are upwards of 30 minutes), you should be wrapped in a hug of Steve Rogers memorabilia that covers your tush. At least that’s my feeling on the matter.

In case you were wondering, my MRI was normal in terms of my digestive system, although no matter which way I look at the images of my spleen, I’m just not convinced it is supposed to look so much like a blob. Are spleens supposed to be blob-y? Am I even looking at my spleen? The world may never know…