Health Personal Essays Science

My New Hip Henry

imagesI got a new hip.

It’s my left hip. I have named him Henry because he’s not really part of me and needs to have his own name. I’m not sure why he’s a guy when I am a girl, but it was the first name that came to me, and that’s the end of that. He’s Henry. No one can accuse me of being Lean In sensitive. I’m gender neutral as are all fake hips.

I still can’t get over the fact that I have a new hip. I wonder what they did with my old hip? I forgot to ask. I’m sure they tossed it away without the proper burial that it deserved. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on all that left hip did for me over the years, and to say goodbye. To say nothing of the possibility of a hip fairy who might leave me some money if I’d put it under my pillow.

I love to drive. Love to drive. I drive and drive and drive. I’ve driven cross-country by myself three times. I put the groovy tunes on and sing away. Or I listen to a book on tape, which is no longer accurate because they are on CDs or iPhones, not tape anymore—like my hip, tapes were just shoved out of our lives without a second thought. Anyway, I always drove with my left foot on the dashboard. Yes, I know, I know, but it stretched my leg, and I liked it. My hip did not like it, but it never complained. Not until the last three years, when I could no longer lift it up on the dashboard.

I rode horses for the better part of twenty years. I put that left foot in the stirrup each and every time I mounted, and that hip lifted the rest of me up and over. Then I jumped things and landed bam bam bam on that left hip. But it never complained. Not until the last few years, when I stopped riding because of the pain.

I played tennis. A lot of tennis. Women’s tennis, men’s tennis, and singles. Lots of singles. I was a strong player and well trained, so people wanted my Chrissie Evert kind of play on the court, and I gave it to them. I’m not really sure I liked playing tennis. To be honest, I can’t remember. But I’m right-handed, and my serve had me landing on that left hip and again and again, pivoting on it and laterally stretching it for a shot on the way to the net. Okay, that last part is a lie. I hated going to the net and rarely went. I was a baseline player. And my fabulous left hip never complained. Not once.

When the doctor looked at my x-rays six months ago, he looked around the room and asked if I were using a wheelchair.

“Why would I be using a wheelchair?”

“Because this is bone on bone in a way I rarely see. You must have a high threshold for pain.”

“Not really,” I replied. I thought for a minute and then said, “To be honest, my body and I don’t chat much. We aren’t really all that close, so if something hurts, I don’t really notice.”

He looked sideways at me, and I smiled to show him I wasn’t someone who had to get a psych consult (I love Grey’s Anatomy, don’t you?) before having the surgery. He moved on and so did I.

My friend Paula went with me to the surgery. I was very calm on the way over that morning. She said she knew I was nervous because I was making jokes in the prep area, but really I was doing that because that’s just who I am. I think I’m very funny.

So it’s been six weeks, and I’m no longer limping painfully. Titanium Henry is well ensconced in my hip, with my muscles growing back around it like the un-tended shrubbery around my house. Wow. It really is something, isn’t it?

I was reading a Facebook posting by a friend who was making bone marrow for dinner. I should make that for my hip, I thought, and then realized that the old hip could have used some marrow perhaps. But Henry here is titanium, and who knows what to feed titanium? Oil? Olive oil? Actually, I don’t really know if Henry is titanium but it’s the lightest of the metals, so I’m assuming that’s what they load into women who care about what things weigh.

Henry and I have been together six weeks, and our marriage has had no arguments to date. That’s a good thing right? When he’s a pain, I figure he’s entitled. We are doing fine.

And I guess that’s that. But I wanted to say goodbye to my left hip. This is an Ode to My Old Hip, which wins my personal Academy Award for a lifetime of achievements. Thank you old friend, old part of me.

Science Uncategorized

Fear of Flying: Deciphering Plane Crashes

I have written about my fear of flying before, so it won’t surprise you that I’m consumed with this most recent plane crash.

I spent a number of hours trying to determine what happened to Malaysia Air flight #370. Since I have no understanding of how planes stay in the air (and to be honest, I had to look up Vietnam’s geographical relationship to China to determine how far out over the water the plane might have been), I can understand why you might shake your head and wonder why I, who clearly know nothing about why planes disappear, spent so much of my valuable time thinking about this — and now blogging about it. I can understand your point of view.

I hate flying. Hate it. Fear it. So when one of these things happens, I need to solve it. Fix it. Ensure that it won’t happen to me when I’m up in the air. Or worse, to look for the warning signs to add to the other warning signs I already pay attention to when I leave the ground. And since this particular flight clearly went down when they were at cruising altitude — which is the only time FOFP (Fear of Flying People) are the least bit calm —it’s all the more important that I figure it out. And frankly, my angst won’t wait for the experts to figure it out. It took months — months, I tell you — for them to find the Air France flight that went down in the Atlantic a few years ago.

So I called my sister, who is just as afraid of flying as I am. We FOFP stick together. She flies a lot; more than I do, for sure. She was flying back from Japan once, and the pilot got on the loudspeaker an hour or so out of New York and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we might have some bad weather flying into Kennedy, and since we are going to be low on fuel, I will decide shortly whether to divert to Philly or not.” She was in the first row of first class. She took her seatbelt off (a foolish thing to do in bad weather), stood up, turned around, and said to the passengers behind her, “All in favor of going to Philadelphia instead of risking Kennedy, raise your hand.” She raised her hand fast and furious, as did the other passengers. She turned to the attendant and said, “Please tell the pilot the ayes have it, and we look forward to visiting the Liberty Bell.” She is one of the funniest people I know, by the way, but she was not kidding this time. The pilot got on a few minutes later and said, “Despite the ayes in first class, we will be landing at Kennedy Airport shortly.”

Back to the story. I called my sister because FOFP call each other for support, and because my other friends hang up or don’t take my call when there has been a crash, knowing that the conversation will be about the crash and nothing else. My options become limited during the days following a crash.

“Oh my God, can you believe it?”

“No, I think it might have been mechanical.”

“I was thinking maybe North Vietnam shot it down? Or maybe Korea? How far was Korea?”

“No, I don’t think that was it, but there was no radar following it, and the pilot didn’t turn on the distress beacon, so there wasn’t much time.”

“What do you mean they were not on radar? Are you f—ing kidding me?”

“No, sometimes you are not in radar contact, and they weren’t. They were supposed to call in.”

“When I’m in the air on a plane, I want to be on radar every single minute. Who should I write? The FAA?!”

And so it went for a number of minutes. I pointed out to her that while each of us has our strengths and weaknesses, neither of us have any expertise in this area, and we are wasting our time on this.

“You’re right. ‘Bye,” she said, and hung up.

A few minutes later, the following text arrived.

i have a new theory – two people on the plane were on it with stolen passports – I now believe it was a terrorist attack. I am surprised cnn has not called either one of us for an interview. good news is that they just discounted turbulence as a possible source of the crash.

This has gone on for most of the morning, but now I’m going to stop. I’m going to try for the next few days not to make this my mission. I’m going to hope for the sake of every soul on board that it was swift and painless, and I will take a moment by the sea to say a prayer for them all. I will focus on the people lost, not the crash itself.

In all seriousness, Godspeed to them all.

Personal Essays Science

I Could Be a Gardener. It Could Happen.

I could be a gardener. I have committed to it more than once. I bought the hat, the gloves, the basket, and the tools a bunch of times. I even spent a few thousand dollars once on bulbs — specifically peonies — that I planted dutifully in the fall. At some point before they would have bloomed early the next spring, they were pulled as weeds when the gardener went in to spring clean. I clearly should have done the spring cleanup myself. Or I should have marked them with those cool markers they sell in fancy plant places. Alas. One of them was yellow and it cost $100. I’m not kidding.

You see, I have this Martha Stewart vision of myself that comes from a place that has nothing to do with who I am. Truth is that when I would go to the garden to plant, weed, and create, I hated the way the earth felt on my hands, and I hated the way my back felt when I got up off the ground. Let’s not even discuss my knees, or the fact that all my work never seems to make a dent in anything after sweating and batting away bugs for hours. Okay, it wasn’t really hours; the longest I was ever out there in one day was probably an hour. But I wanted to do it. I really did.

My cousin has a POSLIQ. (Persons of Opposite Sex Living In Same Quarters; it’s an IRS term. Some of you call it living in sin.) Her name is Louise, and she loves to garden. We had lunch yesterday, and she said she’d spent nine hours gardening the day before and loved the way she felt at the end of the day. I couldn’t help but wonder just why she felt so good at the end of the day, but I didn’t want to ask. Her gardens are cool, and in addition to roses and other fabulous flowers, she also grows things you can eat, like beans. I admire people who grow things like beans. They seem so… so helpful.

My cousin told me the other day that Louise had also bought a power hose.

“A power hose,” I lamented. “Really? What the hell does she want to power clean?”

“The house,” he said proudly. “She wants to power-hose the house.”

“Well, you better not stand still outside,” I pointed out. “She will power hose you!” I wasn’t kidding.

She is amazing, that Louise, but just to show she is also one of us, she sent him a text while she was gardening the other day that read, “Please bring chocolate. Desperate.” So you can’t even hate her. She is one of us in her own way.

The thing is, I love the way gardens look. I fell in love with H2 (husband #2) walking around the rose gardens outside of Paris at Parc de Bagatelle, and then a four-hour lunch at Pré Catelan. It was our second date. I never forgot meandering through those rose gardens, and I never wanted to go back, sure as I was that the second time could only be a disappointment. I loved the way they smelled, and you could almost understand why roses are what they are to so many people.

So I love flowers and gardens, but I am not the girl in the garden nurturing the flowers to be their best selves, and that makes me sad indeed. I hope that the fact that I would like to be that girl will be enough. If you are a gardener, and you actually like it, then you sit in superiority to me and others like me. We do have other assets though. I like to drive long distances and listen to Sirius Radio while I’m driving. That’s something I really am good at. We all have our special talents.


Bronx Zoo’s Missing Cobra

I hate snakes more than flying. I am terrified of snakes. And now, when I’m heading to New York in a week, an Egyptian Cobra has escaped his Bronx Zoo cage and is roaming the neighborhood. Or maybe not; it turns out they believe the Cobra hasn’t left the building and will come out when he’s hungry, which could take months. Excuse me?

First, let’s face it, that Cobra is one mad sucker. He’s been cooped up for years in a little cage and fed whatever we thought he would like whenever we thought he would like it. What would you do if you were him? Stay in the building, or get the hell out of Dodge? Look, I’m no rocket scientist, but I know that snake is lying in wait to welcome me to the Big Apple. I believe in associations, and apples and snakes have a history dating back to Adam and Eve. Remember the picture of the snake slitering around the apple? Hello.

Here is the zoo’s statement about said snake’s escape: “Upon leaving its enclosure, the snake would feel vulnerable and seek out a place to hide and feel safe,” zoo director Jim Breheny said in a written statement. “When the snake gets hungry or thirsty, it will start to move around the building. Once that happens, it will be our best opportunity to recover it.”

The snake is feeling ‘vulnerable?’ Really? Our “best opportunity” to catch him? What does that mean? In ten years we couldn’t find Osama Bin Laden, and he was two feet taller than everyone else in the area and traveling with a hospital attached to him. But we think we are going to find a snake in New York City?

Next they said the best way to catch him is to cool down an area of the reptile building at night (dark is good, apparently), set up a heater somewhere in the room, and said Cobra will slither toward the heat. Voila, they have him. Another thing they are doing is walking around at night with a flash light to see if he’s out. Just who is doing that little patrol? Would it be the last person hired in the reptile department? They always get the worst jobs. Get everyone coffee in the morning and stay late with flashlight in hand and see if you can find our missing deadly Cobra.

Finally, they have issued this suggestion for what to do you if you happen upon him: Avoid coming within a snake’s striking range, which tends to be about half the length of the snake’s body length. The escaped cobra measures approximately twenty inches long, so its strike range would be limited to about ten inches. Do not attempt to provoke the snake by poking at it or stepping on it, as doing so will only endanger you even more and likely will result in a snake bite. Do not attempt to provoke the snake? Who are you people?

The fabulous Sarah (daughter extraordinaire in Boston) was on the phone with me this morning. I told her that she had to pay close attention to her feet walking around Cambridge this week.


“Because a cobra has escaped from the Bronx Zoo, and I’m concerned. Just don’t take chances. Watch where you are walking.”

“Just how do you think it got here?”

“I looked on the map and Amtrak runs right by the zoo. Have you not heard of the Acela?”

“Love you mom.” Click.

After hours of research, I thought you should all know that a Cobra (privately owned in a trailer park in California) escaped in 1979 and he was never found. I’m just saying.

Someone set up a twitter account for the Cobra and has been tweeting things about its whereabouts since its escape. “Went to financial district yesterday. Slimy.” Late night comedians have also been chatting about Mr. C since he escaped. I have a really good sense of humor, and I can make people laugh if I want to. I am really good at being irreverent in difficult situations. But this is no laughing matter. I’m running out of places to be safe. I’m heading from California, where I’m sniffing the air for nuclear waste, to New York, where I will have to look under my hotel bed for a missing Cobra. It’s exhausting having to save myself from the negligence of others.

Listen, if I were Mayor Bloomberg, I would tell them they have 24 hours to find said snake, or the building will be ripped down, brick by brick. And, then the rest of the zoo will be dismantled and all the ‘wild’ animals will be returned to the real wild where they belong in the first place. Zoos, like circuses with animals, churn my stomach. I have always wondered about the things that entertain us. Taking a wild bear and putting a tutu on it and having it dance in front of laughing people has always been grotesque to me.

So, in short, find the F***ing snake. Now.

Health Science Women

Women and Stem Cells

So, as it turns out— surprise, surprise—women’s stem cells nurture regrowth twice as much as men’s stem cells. Now, I recognize that this may mean nothing more than that our stem cells are ‘richer’ than men’s. But it may also be God’s message about what we offer in the bigger scheme of life. Think about it. If it had been Lehman Brothers & Sisters, that company’s story might have had a different ending.

I’m just saying.

Seriously, the stem cell thing is an enigma to me. So, I took to the Net to do some homework. Here is what I learned.

1. Stem cells are uncommitted cells that have the potential to turn into any cell in the human body. Scientists are able to isolate stem cells and to keep them indefinitely.

Wow. Uncommitted cells. I know about trouble with commitment, but what exactly does that mean? Then I decided it doesn’t matter why they are uncommitted, just that they are and can be anything you want them to be. Talk about the mysteries of life. Wow.

2. We may be able to direct stem cells to become any type of human cell (nerves, heart etc.) that can’t normally be replaced once damaged.

The key word is may. But whether it works or it doesn’t, where is the question? I have never really paid much attention to the debate on stem cell research, but who wouldn’t want to take cells that might save your life, change a friend’s life, or enable someone battling a terrible disease to cure it easily? How is it possible that you wouldn’t want to do that? And if we are going to discuss this in the context of the abortion debate, I can live with the fact that some consider it murder, no problem. But since it’s legal and they are doing it whether you like it or not, it seems ridiculous to me that you would expect them to throw away the stem cell matter just because.

3. Stem cells can be found in: embryos; umbilical cord blood and adults (bone marrow and brain);

So it’s in the umbilical cord, which makes sense. A mother ‘sends’ those cells to nurture the growth of a child. I get that they would be uncommitted until they reach their target destination. I get that. But bone marrow and brain? First, what’s the connection between the two? Brain. Bone Marrow. I want to know the connection between umbilical cords, bone marrow, and brain matter. I need to know. I’m working on it and will get back to you when someone answers that question.

Back to the beginning: Female stem cells are more productive than male stem cells. Might I point out that the more enlightened we become, the better my gender looks in the scheme of things. Turns out we are great at building businesses. Turns out we are great at raising children. And now we’ve discovered our stem cells beat out the competition easily.

I’m just saying.


All Hands on Deck

I’ve been thinking a lot about the oil spill. Now hear me out before you start with how nuts I am. I’m glad they seemingly have stopped the flow. But the fire is still burning. There are millions of gallons floating around my ocean – and your ocean – that need to be removed.

If a huge house is burning, everyone in the neighborhood becomes a firefighter. They all rush over to the burning building. They help direct traffic, run in if the firefighters haven’t arrived yet to save the children, turn on the hose and point the stream of water onto the flames. They don’t just stand there watching, or head off to their normal jobs driving by the disaster at their sister-home.

“Where is she going with this,” I hear you ask already? Keep your knickers on. I’m getting there.

We leaked oil into the already people-polluted ocean. We have it spreading all over the place. We also have really smart people on the planet. Stephen Hawking comes to mind. All those brain-peeps from NASA. Physicists out the wazoo. Ok, people, it’s all hands on deck. Mars will still be there waiting for you in a year after you fix this burning home sitting right next to you. The black hole can wait another year or so to be explained. Seriously. Everyone needs to try and find a solution. Rome is burning and you’re worrying about black holes? Get a grip people.

We need every smart person to go to the gulf, be indoctrinated into the fine workings of what happens to the ocean when oil spews into it, and then everyone needs to go put their thinking caps on to figure out what to do about it. Fix it. Get it outta there.

You think I’m nuts? There is a famous story about how a large eighteen-wheeler truck got stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel in New York. The driver didn’t read the sign that said the height restriction was shorter than his vehicle. All hands were on deck. Fire department. Police. Transit peeps. You get the picture. There was a car stuck behind the truck with a nine-year-old boy in it. Everyone was out of their cars watching them try and figure out how to get the roof off the truck. The little kid went over to the police officer and said, “Excuse me smart officer. If you let the air out of the tires, I think it will work.” Now, I wasn’t there, and this could be folklore, but either way, shouldn’t everyone be putting on their thinking caps?

I’m a smart person. I have been thinking about this myself. I was thinking about how long it takes olive oil to seep through cheesecloth. It’s a cooking thing. So, make a huge net of cheesecloth, surround one of the moving flotillas of oil and scoop it up and crane it onto a barge. You roll your eyes? Ok, smarty pants, what did you think of as a solution? At least I’m trying.

This is not rocket science. Or maybe it is, but this is the time when if you have brain power, you need to bring it to the sister-ship. Now.

Books Movies & TV Science

My New TV Rules and National Geographic’s Hawking’s Universe

Not that I have a TV problem mind you, but I came to realize that living alone, I do turn on the TV when I get home at night. I have talked to other single home dwellers who say they do the same thing. It’s company. But, if I sit down to watch, I can sit there all night. Or an entire weekend afternoon. And, what’s with me watching the same movies over and over again? Can we talk about Pretty Woman, which is on at least once a week and I watch maybe once a month? Or Silence of the Lambs? Or You’ve Got Mail? (I only like the last half of You’ve Got Mail.) So, if I watch one or two movies a week that I have already seen once, that’s four hours a week, times 52 weeks, that’s 208 hours a year, or a final tally of more than 8 full 24 hour days, or 16 ‘waking’ days, or one half a month, or 1/24th of my life watching something I already know most of the words to. After running the math (I’m such a math whiz since working at a big company), I decided I needed to take control.

Rule #1 I, Christine, will only watch one movie a month that I have already seen.

Rule #2 I, Christine, will watch only one reality show a season. (Hard choice between Biggest Loser or American Idol.) Good news is that Rule #2 does not                                     begin until the fall season because I’m already ‘in’ more than one of those shows.

Rule #3 I, Christine, will look at the TV Guide on Sunday mornings and plot my television course for the week which must include one interesting show where I                   actually learn something I didn’t know, and one talk show. (I hope I go with Rachel Maddow, not Oprah – I’m getting over Oprah.)

Rule #4 TV goes off by 9:00 pm (I Tivo everything and watch it on tape without commercials). Reading or walking Luke will take over from 9:00. Or writing.

Those are the new rules and I like them already.

This leads me to National Geographic’s Hawking’s Universe, which I watched a few nights ago. You all remember Stephen Hawking and the book he wrote, A Brief History of Time. He also suffers from ALS and has lasted years and years longer than anyone thought possible by his sheer determination to see his theories become truths. I, like the rest of the country, bought the book when it came out, but I never actually read it. Nor, I suspect, did most of the other people who bought it.

So, here is his book’s content on National Geographic where they explained it all in the kind of layman terms that even I could understand. It was fabulous. For the first time I understand what a black hole is and what causes it. I get what gravity really is and how it’s not as strong as we all thought. I sort of understand the string theory of additional dimensions, and just writing these things down makes me feel smarter than you already.

I was at dinner with friends last night, and I was telling them about the show. Victor (you remember my friends Victor and Cathryn. Cathryn is the one who keeps maple syrup in her car for when she stops at IHop.) Well, Victor is very smart, and he actually read the Hawking book cover to cover but pointed out to me that it was very difficult for him, and he needed to really focus when reading it. What he was really saying was that I shouldn’t bother buying it again. I told him I had no interest in reading it.

Here’s the thing. I’m 57 years old and I don’t want to read his book now. It’s not a topic that totally spurs me on to greater knowledge, but I’m so glad I now understand what a black hole is and what causes it. And, all that in one TV show for one hour. Who knew? And, without my ‘rules’ I would never have watched it. If we are totally honest here, I watched it thinking it was more about the man than the theory, but who cares what led me to the Kool Aid, because what matters is that I drank it. And, if I had watched Silence of the Lambs one more time instead, not only would I still not be an FBI agent, but I wouldn’t understand black holes either.

So, the long and the short of this lesson is that rules are very good for you. Set some.

Politics Science

Lunar Attack

Before President Bush was in office, I loved the fact that the United States of America never struck the first blow. We will fight and bury you, but only if you threaten or attack us. Bush then attacks Iraq, taking away our success in Afghanistan, and turning the Muslim world against us. And for the first time in our history, we attacked a country that did not threatened us. Ok, I tried to put it aside and remind myself that even great nations like my own make mistakes from time to time.

Now today, we attack the moon? Are you kidding me? Send a huge bomb into the moon and catch the debris as it rises off the moon? Have we lost our minds? What the hell has the moon done to us? Once a month, when it’s in full bloom, it provides a view from the heavens that never ceases to take our breath away. And now it has a huge hole in it where we bombed it looking for water. Why don’t we spend that $100,000,000 cleaning the water we’ve ruined instead?

There is something so innately wrong with invading the moon this way. It’s also indicative of our narcissistic, it’s all about us, approach to everything. We want to know what is beneath the moon’s surface. Let’s just send in a big bomb, blow up a huge crater, take pictures of what we want and we are on our way outta there. Damage be damned.

So many moon memories. My first kiss was under a full moon. My daughter’s favorite book each night for months was Goodnight Moon. We landed on the moon singing ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ in my Cougar; it lit the way to many a night’s adventures including stealing a pumpkin in a pumpkin patch with my child and her friend and then going back the next day and paying for it. Now, you want me to add this to the list? Not a chance. After this post, I’m turning off the TV and not watching any coverage of it. Leave my gentle moon alone you idiots.

Speaking of idiots, I just heard someone from NASA say he doesn’t know what they will find when they do this. What if they find that the core is not as stable as ours and this causes some damage? While that may be ridiculous, we don’t do invasive surgery on people when there is another way, why must we do it to the moon? Why didn’t we send those guys from the movie Armageddon, have them drill gently into the surface and take samples? Ok, seriously, we couldn’t do another landing, send some guys and a drill up there and accomplish the same thing?

And, the creme de la crap is that it is costing in the neighborhood of $100,000,000. Do I need to make a list of what could be done with that money? Besides, they are lying. It’s costing a lot more than that and we all know it. And, since we believe so much in coalitions, how come we don’t do those in space where we are supposedly doing things with positive explorative purpose? Seems like the perfect way to reach out, amortize our investment and let the world share in our space exploration.

I love looking at the moon. It happens to be full right now. There is the moon and an American flag up there. Now there is a crater forever that we blew up as well. Thanks so much.