Thursday, December 30, 2010

lighter post: thumb war!

Apparently Megan Fox has a "clubbed thumb":

Ready for this? I do too!! I thought (and was told) that my right thumb was oddly shaped because I sucked it when I was little. Nope. I have a clubbed thumb. I have a clubbed thumb.

Apparently this was quite a big deal in Indian palmistry:

The murderer's thumb
"The clubbed thumb was traditionally called the 'murderer's thumb', denoting the powerful temper of those who carried it. In most cases this person knows on a deep level what he or she is capable of doing when out of temper. If a crime such as murder is committed, it is likely to be an unplanned affair after the person has 'snapped'."

Until the "conspiracy" came out about Megan Fox using a hand double, I had no idea that the shape of my thumb had a name (I just thought it was kind of weird)! Oh it has served me well with its opposableness all these years.

I just never knew I had such power.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"No news is good news"?

I hope you enjoyed that brief jovial post; now we're back to the grind. I'll keep it short and sweet. Or something like that.

I am scheduled for the following tests:

Brain MRI-to see if there are any new legions/increase in scar tissue

PET scan-to see how the tissues in my brain are actually functioning

Neuropsychological examination-to test whether there have been any post-crainiotomy deficits in my cognitive abilities such as short-term memory, language, reasoning, spatial awareness, attention etc.

Long-term EEG monitoring-to record any epileptic spikes

From now until I get the results of all the testing (February), I have been advised to take a leave of absence from work (that will likely be a separate blog post!!).

*Disclaimer-the following outline involved a ridiculous amount of html coding and does not necessarily reflect the correct formatting/spacing of an outline.

I. Options the dr. discussed with us

A. continued medication

1. ineffective

2. side effects

3. lifetime use

B. Epilepsy surgery

1. Intracranial EEG to map out seizure focus

a. skull open for 3-7 days

b. mortality/morbidity rate 2-4%

2. Temporal lobe removal

a. risks if "successful"

i. cognitive deficits

ii. difficulty finding and remembering words

iii. personality changes

b. risks if "unsuccessful"

i. continued uncontrolled seizures

ii.that thing we don't want to happen

c. risks either way

i. invasive


iii. missing work

I am scared to death.

I've tried to be strong for so long. But I just can't.

I was playing a lullaby I wrote for my friend's baby. It hit me. If they can't find a different answer, what if that is one of the things I won't be able to do anymore? What if I won't be able to teach? What if I cannot respond to people?

I pray they find a different answer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On a lighter note...

In lieu of the ridiculously uncomfortable posts of yore, here are a few things you may or may not find moderately amusing. No need to get your emotional game face on.

I once paid a one-legged street minstrel a dollar to play “something patriotic”. Instead, he played the worst rendition ever of amazing grace I had ever heard.

I once bribed a tow truck driver $25 to not tow my car (it was parked in a Walgreens for an hour while we were at the Allentown Art Festival).

I often counted the number of letters in a word/sentence to see if it was divisible by 5 (go ahead and count the number of letters in that last sentence; we both know you want to. This one does also).

Skor bars versus Health bars: the taste-test of 2009. Verdict: Skor.

Student: When I first met you, I thought you'd be crazy since you had crazy curly hair!

My brother's fiancee was my table partner in Kindergarten. We were separated because we kept talking and playing with each other’s hair.

I am the only person I know who hates peanut butter (with the exception of pbj sandwiches, which can be consumed sparingly to solicit childhood memories).

I never put a paper towel around whatever I’m putting in the microwave, regardless of what the directions demand.

I’ve been internationally detained.

I recently purchased coats from Hong Kong. The amount I will pay in dry cleaning to remove the strange scent is almost as much as the cost of the coats themselves.

I love mod podge.

I love that you are reading this blog post.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

oscar buzz.

You know that John Mayer song that says to "say what you need to say"? Subconsciously, I try to unsay what others have said. try to unbecome what others have become. it is exhausting.

Undoing #1: The martyrs and excessively dramatic people in my life

I was hesitant to post these past couple of entries for fear I too would sound dramatic. Yeah, I had BRAIN SURGERY, but I feared I was being too dramatic. I have at least 10 seizures every night and go into work the next day and give 100%, but I don't want to be dramatic. I don't want it to seem that I am using my illness to get attention.

Thank goodness for a friend at work who took it upon herself to organize a driving schedule for me. I was embarrassed to ask people to drive me home from work because I didn't want to inconvenience them. (This hole in my head that is filling up with cerebrospinal fluid is not exactly a 7-eleven). I am not supposed to be driving because I could danger myself or other drivers if I seize while on the road, but I didn't want to ask for something people were more than happy to do.

Undoing #2: The narcissistic and attention-seeking people in my life

Barring my professional and academic aspirations, I have not sought out opportunities to promote myself. I sing and would love to share what I have with the world, but do not want to have to convince people to want me. I am willing, but will have to be asked. I will never insist. I know many who have recorded and are involved in various musical projects. I would collaborate in a heartbeat.

I do not doubt my abilities; it's just that there is no forum to showcase them. I dislike when people are constantly doing things for recognition. But who doesn't want recognition? Who doesn't want appreciation? Who doesn't like attention?

I did not have a recital or a gallery where I could invite people and receive flowers and applause (side note: doesn't that look like "applesauce"?). There will be no stage lights when I modify my program (beyond what is required by NYS) so that my student with Autism can be successful. I cannot invite you to a performance of my classroom so you can see what I pour into my life's work. I feel strange even mentioning these things for fear of how I might sound.

I am not self-centered, nor am I self-loathing. I am not egotistical, nor am I unsure of what I have to offer. I find the need to explain myself for fear that I will be perceived as being on either side of this spectrum.

I feel strange even writing this entry. I'm not sure what you'll make of it.

I have always been the supporting actress. I understand that this is a noble and important role. In moderation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

truth: spiraling.

Things are completely out of control.

Even since my former post, seizures have worsened and we are unable to get the right help we need. Apparently after you have one seizure, the medical community is no longer concerned and your case is no longer considered urgent. Or they condescendingly inquire about any stress in your life. Yes, doctor-THIS.

I think, but I am unable to move, to speak, to react. A familiar heaviness covers the pathways from my brain to my heart, my limbs, my eyes, and my mouth. I am completely disconnected from my own body.

Lately, there's been no clear beginning or ending...just an ongoing sequence of unresponsiveness, stillness and unconsciousness, followed by confusion, followed by more unresponsiveness. Mix in a couple of convulsions and we have Saturday night at the Lipps'.

I spend so much of my effort attempting to stave them off by trying to keep my mind "distracted"-but I am always overcome eventually. It turns out that mentally reviewing multiplication facts, the first 26 digits of pi, or my favorite words in alphabetic order are futile opponents against this relentless force. (Oo-"relentless"-maybe that will be my new "r" word.)

What's that expression about losing the battle, but not the war? This is a civil war (me against my body) and either way, I lose.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

the new norm.

Unpredictability has become a predictable foe during my recovery. Recovery is not over just because my hair is growing back. "Recovery" is a process that I am still in. I am reminded of that fact every. single. day.

I look normal and act like everything's normal, but it is far from normal...unless you had a brain tumor and are having reoccuring episodes from the after-effects.

Medication seems to help during the day while I am working. But every evening, I crumble, despite a second dose. People (besides Tim) don't see that. So they like to think it's not happening. They can't handle hearing about it. So I suffer in silence. God forbid I make anyone uncomfortable.

This world of neurolgy and neuro-oncology and EEGs and MRIs has become a regular staple in my schedule.

Roswell Park is not just a place I sang in with a choir or that my students sent letters to (while thinking I did some good deed). It is a place I know well. There is a particular scent there: the stench of impending bad news.

Since my seizures are still not controlled by medication, I need to have another long-term EEG monitoring done. That means a week at the hospital with probes glued to my head. The next week I have off from work is in December. Merry Christmas. If that test shows epileptic spikes (which showed in my 30 minute EEG last month), I may have to have a second brain surgery.

I will have to relive this nightmare another time. Start over. "Recover" again. Have another scar from having my head sliced open. Have another artery cut. Have more cells removed from my brain-maybe the part where my memory is stored. Maybe the part where language is stored. It depends on where the seizure focus is. If the surgeon is off by a millimeter, I could become paralyzed.

Even if the test doesn't show constant epileptic spikes and the episodes are actually psychogenic, I will need to continue medication. Medication that currently makes me dizzy. Medication that makes my limbs heavy so that I fall off the couch, unable to move.

In addition, there is a 10% chance my tumor will grow back. "Oh, that's good!" they say. But that's 10% more than they will ever have to face. There is a 100% chance that I will be on medication for life. There is an equal probibility that I will live in fear all of my days.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Yesterday was a ridiculously significant day: it marked 6 months from the very start of everything that happened this year and, in turn, marked the minimum length of time I would be restricted from driving.

Luckily, doc was kind (or I complained a lot about it, either way) and decided that it would be ok for me to drive since things seemed more controlled.

When I got the call, I didn't know what to do with myself. I knew I wanted to go drive somewhere RIGHT away, but didn't know where.

So I put my keys in the ignition, arranged my chair to my liking, and carefully selected what would be the anthem of this experience (an old favorite-Switchfoot's "Learning to Breathe"). By the time it got to the chorus ("I'm living again, awake and alive"), I was so excited to be actually driving, I didn't care where I went. I didn't care if I ever stopped driving.

Naturally, my heart led me down Elmwood and the official first place visited on my own with my new found freedom was Rust Belt Books.

From there, I hit up Half & Half Clothing Co, Clutch, Feel Rite, and Rite Aid (it was a "rite" kind of day!).

Mobility after 6 months of medical restrictions, forced dependence, and perceived isolation: Awesome!

Bonus: Submitting this to the author of The Book of Awesome and REALLY awesome!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I have had a large bag of shaved-off hair that I've been afraid to tackle. Until this morning.

After calling and looking up requirements for donating, I learned why the task had been so daunting: the hair had to be at least 10" long (NO problem!) and needed to be in a neat braid or ponytail (problem!). Thing is-when you're getting your head shaved in preparation for brain surgery, you forget to ask the nurse to put it in ponytails to cut off prior to shaving it. :)

So today's task was to untangle the big knot of hair and create ponytails, which, after much detangling, strand-by-strand straightening and even cutting to make it look neater, left me with 3 ponytails ready to donate to Locks of Love.
But there was over three times that amount leftover that I couldn't untangle, rendering it unusable by charities such as Locks of Love. There MUST be SOME other good this could be used for. This is exactly why Google was created!

After some searching, I found a non-profit environmental organization called Matter of Trust that has been making "hair booms" and "hair mats" to soak up emergency spills, such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico. They take any hair, fur, fleece, and feathers to make these booms and have made over 25 miles worth of booms in one month! Volunteers sort out the donations, make the booms, and are deployed to where they are most needed, which, right now, is the Gulf.
My hair will grow back and, in fact, I am enjoying the regrowth process because every centimeter shows how far I have come and I will not be ashamed of that or boo-hoo about how much it lacks.

I had been avoiding dealing with the shaved-off hair because I thought that the process would be cumbersome/painful. It was strange, yes, but I feel as if I will be investing a part of my former self into something much, much greater.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

curtain call.

There is something so unbelievable beautiful about what happens behind the scenes-about people who work diligently for the betterment someone else, for a cause that is bigger than themselves.

The best part about this rare breed is that, although their labor certainly merits praise and attention, that is not what they seek.

Here's to people who know who they are without constant accolades, who do what they do without seeking personal gain, and who work silently for the greater good.

Friday, June 18, 2010

loaded questions.

In my last entry I was full of optimism and wrote that fear was gone. Little did I know that having my head cut open was only the beginning of this very dark and difficult journey.

People see the self that is healing, that is improving, and that is rebuilding. They have the best of intentions when asking about how I am doing; it's just that my answer is too long to say, too long to type, and who wants to hear the FULL truth anyway?

The thing is-they will never fully understand how triumphant each small victory was or the strength that was needed to complete each step in the process of complete recovery, a place I have yet to attain. The paralyzing fear of both the known and the unknown was something to overcome. The devastating loss of quality of life, though "temporary," was something to overcome. Every single day and every single night was something to overcome.

There were very dark days-ones where I thought I would never be able to sing again, ones where I thought I would never be able to walk again, ones where I thought I would never be able to teach again, ones where I thought I would never be able to be myself again, and ones where I thought that they might be my last. Truly.

I am not sharing that so you will pity me. Rather, I'd like to shed light on the depth of God's strength, without which, I could NOT have overcome.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

this week.

brain tumor: diagnosed.
brain tumor: removed.
head: shaved.
fear: gone.
food: received.
food: eaten.

looking back, I'll see how this whole thing made me a better person and whatnot. For now, I'd just like the feeling to come back to the right side of my face.

I'm also excited to rock some short curly hair.

and I am a living testimony that God does answer the prayers of His people!

Friday, January 15, 2010


(two years ago at this time)

Caught in between an incredible student teaching experience and the ability to get my own position, I felt in my being that I wanted to give something back-to do something important once again.

So a friend and I decided to volunteer in a program called "Let's go to the Library", a chapter of Journey's End Refugee Services that brought together refugees from Burma, Somalia, and other nations with the intention of teaching the adults English and new survival skills (grocery shopping, doctor visits, you know).

The children who accompanied their parents went in a separate room to learn, play, and build community.

We were placed in the kids' room. And we LOVED it.

We spent two hours every Saturday showing love to our new neighbors-making a home where before there was none.

This was our small way to help.

This was our version of, say, going to Haiti.

This was the best thing I was ever involved in.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

lucky woman.

Ummmm...I am married TO THIS:

Just in case it wasn't obvious by the 72 other pictures and references to him on this blog. I just want to be clear.


By Jamie Vollmer:

“If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”

I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle1980s when People Magazine chose our blueberry as the “Best Ice Cream in America.”

I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging “knowledge society”. Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!

In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced - equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

As soon as I finished, a woman’s hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant – she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.

She began quietly, “We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream.”

I smugly replied, “Best ice cream in America, Ma’am.”

“How nice,” she said. “Is it rich and smooth?”

“Sixteen percent butterfat,” I crowed.

“Premium ingredients?” she inquired.

“Super-premium! Nothing but triple A.” I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

“Mr. Vollmer,” she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, “when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?”

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap…. I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to lie.

“I send them back.”

“That’s right!” she barked, “and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!”

In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, “Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!”

pull here for ticket.

Since when do people have to pay for a hospital??

True story.

the cost of fitness.

Last year at this time, in my "I need feel fabulous at my wedding" mindset, I got suckered into a TWO-YEAR membership at the BAC. I was motivated. I was ready.

And then April came.
And I got sick of working out.
And I had a million other things I had to do for the wedding.
And I didn't really "need" to workout anyway, right? Right...

So now I have another year of $20 monthly payments getting automatically taken out of my account.

In my heart, I really, REALLY want to starting going.
I even made a "gym date" with a friend from work to go.
But, alas, I cancelled the gym date and still haven't been there.

Good thing my metabolism is killer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

tribute to my reader(s).

Here's a hearty "thank you" to my readers (actually-make that "reader")! It's awesome that she's a part of my life now-blog and otherwise. :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

this blog vs. facebook.

[due to recent happenings, the topic of this post is a slight detour from the original intention of this blog. i apologize for any angry undertones within it aimed at the facebook community.]

this blog: i can write what i want without idiots defacing it with nonsensical comments.
facebook: i can write what i want, but idiots will deface my wall with nonsensical comments.

this blog: the only words i see are ones i have written.
facebook: the words i see include a smattering of brilliance and a whole lot of rubbish.

this blog: i use it to express thoughtful self-reflection.
facebook: users use it to pass judgments, provoke arguments (i mean, "conversations"), and, oh yeah, spread "awareness."

this blog: the posts are often whimsical in nature.
facebook: the posts can by whimsical, but people may take them the wrong way and have a hissy fit (which is why i found myself deleting entire sections from my wall today).

i could go on and on-but i have a facebook status to update.

works in progress.

it is my:

1st year being married.
2nd year teaching.
3rd grad class.
4th car.

Ah, the mid-twenties. we are all works in progress, aren't we?
I am enjoying the process.
I am in no rush.
I am content.

Bonus (it is also my):
5th tablespoon of flax seed oil.
6th hour on the internet today.
7th year with an active Buffalo State account.

like I wasn't already obsessed with my own blog.

Here's a cloud of my most used words for all of you visual learners.
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