Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman

The Secret History of Wonder Woman
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book #24 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Categories:
– A book from the library
– A NYT bestseller
My Personal Reading Challenge Category:
– A book featuring a mythical figure
Read Harder Challenge Tasks:
– Read a biography
– Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes

Technically, I should have rated this one star, because I did not like it. It annoyed me, it frustrated me, and it pissed me the hell off. But that wouldn’t be fair to Lepore, as I suspect all of that was her intended effect. So she accomplished what she set out to do, and I agree with many of her insights, so I ought to give it three or four stars. I just can’t get past my feelings of disgust for the subject matter.

Not so much Wonder Woman herself, though I confess, I never was a fan. Even as a grade-school kid in the ’70s, some part of me was thinking, “Why does she need to be all sexy and half-naked to be a role model for me?” The answer to which is, of course, that she wasn’t there to be my role model. She was there to feed the sexual fantasies of young boys. And man-children. Like Marston, who created her. Sure, he made grand boasts of feminist ideals, and he may even be indirectly (very indirectly, like, homeopathically) responsible for some of the feminist strides made by the strong women who turned him on (when they were tied up). But in truth he was an alcoholic, sexually and emotionally predatory, narcissistic, academically disgraced shyster of a pervy creeper. I suppose I should thank Lepore for revealing this. I just wish it hadn’t taken hours of my life to slog through the incredible amount of detail she presented to support her case.

I have seen criticism of Lepore’s style, that it got dry and boring for some readers. I personally thought she maintained an engaging style throughout. Too engaging, perhaps, as the ick factor often forced me to put the book down. At one point I even sent it back to the library. But don’t let my two-star rating fool you. This is a well written book and I would not be at all surprised to see it added to women’s studies curricula at the university level. I learned a ton about the women’s rights movements of the early 20th century, and I must admit I am somewhat ashamed of myself that I didn’t already know most of it. I am also saddened that I see so many young women fighting these same battles 100 years later. This is the kind of historical background that they should be learning instead of the boring and meaningless lists of names and dates that I had to memorize back in the day. (If they even managed to make it onto the lists. Most of them didn’t.)

I’m not sure about making recommendations beyond that. If you are a die-hard Wonder Woman fan, you probably won’t be receptive to Lepore’s underlying message. If, like me, you were never really into comicbook heroes in general, let alone WW, you’re not likely to get much out of it. But if you’re somewhere in the middle there and can handle the deconstruction of a supposedly feminist icon, give it a go. Just don’t expect to have fun.

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Review: A Dance for Emilia

A Dance for Emilia
A Dance for Emilia by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #23 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Categories:
– A book that’s under 150 pages
– A book with a blue cover

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t (view spoiler). Then again, this is Beagle, so it’s a mistake to expect or not expect any particular thing. That’s one of the things I enjoy about his work.

This really wasn’t a calculated tearjerker of a story, but it really got to me. I was sobbing almost the entire time I read it. It’s a sweet and touching story of grief and coming to terms with the loss of a great friend. I especially appreciated how he handled the dynamics of all of the relationships. I would recommend this to any Beagle fan, or to somebody who has lost a lifelong friend or a soulmate. But have a box of tissues handy, just in case.

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Review: Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl
Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #21 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Categories:
– A NYT bestseller
– An autobiography
Read Harder Task:
– Read a nonfiction book about science

If you know me well at all, you know I’m kind of a nut about owls. The owl was my high school mascot, and it is the unofficial symbol of a social organization to which I belong. I count myself lucky to be currently living in a part of the country where it doesn’t take much effort to go watch owls in the wild. I even live just down the street from a raptor rescue facility. I’ve given some thought to volunteering there, but after reading this book, I think I would stick to support work that would let me admire the birds from a distance. As much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t think I have it in me to go hands-on with an owl.

I really have to admire Stacey O’Brien. This woman devoted 18 years of her life to raising this one bird. And I do mean devoted. Her entire life revolved around Wesley’s, and finding people who were cool with that had to have been incredibly challenging. Not to mention all the dead mice. Yeah, that would be the deal-killer for me, right there. But Stacey stepped up and provided everything Wesley needed to grow and thrive.

This book is largely about the incredible bond that Stacey and Wesley shared, but it is also full of fascinating information. Some of it I already knew, but there was much that was new to me, and Stacey shared this scientific knowledge in a very accessible manner. She also discussed the ethics of dealing with animals in scientific research.

She did get a little repetitive in spots, and there was a bit of spiritualistic stuff that I took with a grain of salt, but this is a moving and edifying narrative. It is well worth the read for anybody with an interest in owls or just the relationship between humans and animals in general.

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Returning Home to Heal

This is Part IV of the saga of my woes in Greece. If you want to see all the gory photos from the beginning, start with Your Schadenfreude for the Day.

The dishonest taxi driver dropped me off two blocks from my hotel, probably because he realized that the front desk staff could see him through the plate glass windows and might report his deceitful ass. But at least I was able to recognize where I was and hobbled back to my hotel, wondering if my flight nurse had checked in yet. As luck would have it, my nurse Patrick was just returning from dinner and guessed that the American lady with the cane and the limp might just be his new charge. So once I got back to my room, he came over and had a look at my leg and took my vitals. He was a little concerned about the possibility of compartment syndrome (Trigger Warning: Doing just enough research to create that link made me dizzy for a few minutes.) but also thought I was past that at that stage. So he agreed to collect me at 4.30 the next morning so we could check out and head to the airport.

I never sleep well when I know I have to get up at oh-dark-thirty, but at least the town car ride to the airport was blessedly uneventful. We got a bit of breakfast, Patrick got me a wheelchair, and we hung out in the BA business-class lounge until time to head to the gate. Once on the plane, I took the window seat. I rarely do that, so I took an absurd number of snapshots all the way to London. I won’t subject you to all of them, but here is one of the Alps: IMG_20160505_100142Not sure if that’s Italy or Switzerland. ::shrug::

At Heathrow, we had to go from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3. It was this experience that made me decide that I’m keeping my ex-husband’s last name, legally at any rate. Apparently “that Branson bloke‘s doing terribly well,” and it resulted in customer service the likes of which I had never seen. Patrick said there was a reason he built in a 4-hour layover at Heathrow and that making the terminal transfer in mere minutes was unreal. So we hung out in the BA lounge (first class this time) and had a nice lunch and I texted a bit with my friend Tara who was also on her way back to Colorado but was in Terminal 2. Because Tara and me, we’re badass jetsetters, that’s what we are.

The flight to Denver had the business class seating that lets you stretch out and elevate your legs, so that was perfect for my situation. I was a little miffed that the screen was angled so that it didn’t work very well until they turned out the overhead lighting, but I suppose visuals aren’t all that important to watching The Big Short. Good movie, BTW. Depressing, but good. I did have a front-row seat for seeing an entire beverage cart flip. That was pretty crazy — booze and broken glass all over the place. I’m amazed none of it landed on me, and it’s a lucky thing Patrick had moved from his assigned seat to take a vacant one facing me.

Otherwise, the flight was uneventful and I even got some sleep. At the jetway, Patrick had to fight an old lady (who was just fine at Heathrow, I’ll have you know) for my wheelchair, but collecting our luggage and getting through CBP was pretty quick. Well, I’m sure a lot of that was due to me being in a wheelchair, which would explain why there were so many people who were perfectly ambulatory at Heathrow but suddenly needed wheelchairs upon landing in Denver. There was a reservation glitch for our town car, so we ended up taking a taxi to my house. In Fort Collins. From Denver. In case you’re wondering, that costs just shy of $150. Yay, travel insurance!

The next day, I visited my regular doctor. She confessed later that her first impulse on seeing my leg was to admit me to the hospital, as this was almost certainly a ruptured artery, so it’s a good thing I had a nice progression of photos documenting my recovery in process. She agreed with Patrick that I was likely beyond compartment syndrome but to be sure to let her know if I had any kind of relapse. Other than that, there wasn’t much to do beyond elevation, occasional ice, and time. Here’s what my leg looked like on the 8th: IMG_20160508_081914That’s the day I was originally scheduled to fly home from Paris. Yeah, that would have been a really bad idea, even if I had somehow managed to time it right to get to Paris that day. Here are some shots from the 9th and 11th:

So you can see that it is getting better. The color is returning to something vaguely normal, and some of the broken skin is healing. At this point I am doing better at walking, sometimes even without a cane, but stairs are still a significant challenge. I’m also sleeping most of the time. More recently (on the 17th), you can see that the broken skin is completely healed:

But the area just below the knee is still swollen and painful, even today. And there is still some visible bruising. It also feels a little numb. Not completely numb, but more like when local anaesthetic is starting to wear off after dental work. So I am a little worried that there might be some nerve damage when all is said and done, but I keep reminding myself that it’s early days yet. I’m walking fine without a cane, and going up stairs isn’t bad if I have a railing to hold onto, but “normal” is likely several weeks away.

I will provide an epilogue at some point, but now I will conclude this ugly saga and return you to my regularly scheduled blogging about books, writing, food, et cetera.


The Schadenfreude Saga Continues

If you’re just joining the saga of my fall in Greece, you may want to start at the beginning. And be advised that many of the photos are on the disturbing side.

The insurance company’s doctor called me the following Monday, and I described to him that there was some improvement over the weekend but that the bruising was spreading quite a bit and moving the leg was still very painful. He decided that he wouldn’t be able to declare me fit to fly without more information than he could get examining me in my hotel room, so he contacted the insurance company and had them arrange for me to be seen at a private clinic. The clinic sent a car for me, and the driver was most helpful in getting me checked in for the exam and explaining the paperwork to me.

My vitals being fine, the doctor ordered a sonogram and an INR check. My INR actually came back low, but not dangerously so, so he bumped up my warfarin dose a bit. And the sonogram came back negative for DVT or any other worries. I was fit to fly! I forked over a few hundred Euro, and they faxed everything to the insurance company and summoned my driver back. Things were definitely looking up!

Tuesday morning the insurance company came back with the decision that I needed to fly business class and should leave directly from Athens, and they suggested a flight nurse. I thought that was a dandy idea, as my leg was looking like this: IMG_20160503_091614Yep, still extremely painful and swollen and blistery. And there is more bruising on the foot than there had been. Though at this point there is starting to be some give when I press on the skin, and it is feeling slightly less like I stuck my leg in a bonfire. By the end of the day, they had arranged for a nurse to arrive in Athens the next evening and escort me home on Thursday.

Wednesday I decided that I was not leaving Athens without seeing the Antikythera mechanism, dammit. Which, of course, was not anywhere near my hotel. It is displayed at the National Archaeological Museum, and my only real option was to take a taxi. I had the hotel call me one, and it was fine. Gaining entrance to the building was a bit more of a challenge: IMG_20160504_143452Athens is really not designed with disabled people in mind. I’m sure there was a disabled entrance, but I still couldn’t tell you where it was.

I wish I had been in better shape, because it really is a great museum and I would have loved to spend many hours there. As it was, I had a bit of a treasure hunt finding the mechanism. Nothing on the museum map said “Antikythera Shipwreck Artifacts Right Here” with big arrows pointing to it, and the website suggested that the artifacts were no longer in a shipwreck-specific display. After wandering about the main level a bit, I asked one of the museum staff, and she made vague gestures on the map and couldn’t seem to decide which level it was on, so I began methodically searching the rooms with promising titles like “Metalwork Collection.” I finally located an empty display case where some of the Antikythera items used to be, and it provided clues to the gallery I sought: IMG_20160504_132956

I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was fascinating. I spent far too much time wrapped up in the mysteries of the mechanism, so by the time I was ready to leave, I was in quite a lot of pain.

I located an elevator to the cafe/gift shop level and spent a while relaxing there as I decided just how I was going to get back to my hotel. Walking even as far as the Metro station was out of the question. As I exited the building, I had decided to try Uber, but there were three taxis sitting in front of the museum. So I took one.

Huge mistake. Yooge! Long story short, as the driver was dropping me off — nearly two blocks from my hotel — and I quickly recognized that he was cheating me in at least three different ways, something in my brain clicked: You are a disabled female trapped in a vehicle with a man you cannot trust. Forget the fucking change. Give the man a bunch of money and get the fuck out of this car NOW. Next time, I will totally try Uber.

To Be Continued…

Schadenfreude, Part II

In yesterday’s post I showed the leg a few hours after injury and then just the knee the next day. Y’ain’t seen nuthin yet. So if you’re squeamish, like me, you might want to surf away to something more pleasant.

The travel insurance company suggested I ask the new hotel if they had a doctor on call who could come to my room and do the evaluation. They did, and he arrived shortly thereafter. He cut the leg wrap away, and this is what he found: IMG_20160428_154838At this point the swelling was still rock-solid, to the point that I couldn’t really bend the knee much at all, and moving the leg was extremely painful. You can also see some blisters beginning to form due to the swelling.

I got the INR lecture again, along with an admonishment for travelling alone. He prescribed a round of antibiotics and some heparin gel, told me to keep the leg elevated as much as possible, even when going out for meals, and to refrain from walking more than 10 minutes at a time. He recommended I return home as soon as I could arrange a flight and wrote me out a “fit to fly” note.

He gave me some notes for the insurance company, but he, too, refused to complete their paperwork. He nattered on about official documentation approvals from the Greek government and how the insurance company would have to get everything from the KAT’s administrative offices after a few weeks because doctors don’t do ::gasp:: paperwork. Just writing out the credit card receipt for his 100-Euro fee was offense enough to his professional status. The theme of his rant was an interesting combination of “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a secretary,” and “Fuck this American bullshit.”

Merolia arrived shortly after the doctor left, and she was able to get the antibiotics prescription filled for me. After trying several different pharmacies, though, she was finally informed that heparin gel is no longer an actual thing, so arnica cream was substituted.

I emailed everything to the insurance company, and they weren’t satisfied with his rather limited examination notes. For one thing, he didn’t have a pulse oximeter, and that was a clearly stated deal-breaker for them. So they decided to take matters into their own hands, and they sent me a doctor of their choosing the next day. He took one look at my leg and said, “You are not fit to fly.” He confirmed that I was taking antibiotics and elevating the leg whenever possible, and he filled out the paperwork (including all the required vitals!) and sent it to the insurance company along with a pretty picture of my leg. (It looked and felt much the same as the previous day, so I didn’t take my own photo.) He said he would have to re-evaluate on the following Monday. So here you can see the progression over the holiday weekend:

In the Saturday photo, you can see the colors deepening and the blisters growing. In the Sunday photos, you can see the yellowing of the bruises as well as the shifting of the lividity. You can see where one of the blisters popped and bled, but the others are still growing. Quite painfully, I might add. Throughout the weekend, the most painful part was moving the leg into a vertical position. Once I did that, walking was not all that bad.

To Be Continued…


Your Schadenfreude for the Day

So, I went to Athens, Greece, for the 2016 BookCrossing Anniversary Convention last month. It was awesome. More on that later. The plan was to spend a few more days sightseeing in Athens, maybe hop an island or two, then head on to Italy and France for an adventure by rail before returning home. ::sigh:: Yeah, that last part didn’t happen.

On what was supposed to be my last full day in Athens, I was checking out the Ancient Agora. I had just entered the site and taken a few photos. Like this one: IMG_20160427_143340 And then suddenly, I know not why, I pitched forward onto the lightly pebbled path and landed on all fours. But mostly on my left knee. A staff member and a bystander rushed over to me. We determined that I didn’t seem to have broken any bones, and they helped me to my feet, gathered my things, and got me to a bench out of the sun. Dimitria (the staffer) brought me some nice cold water and chatted with me for a bit while I rubbed my knees and reassured her that I was probably just a little bruised. After all, my jeans had escaped damage save for a very tiny hole below the knee, so I probably hadn’t even broken the skin. (I was wrong about this.)

Eventually, I decided that I had done what I could to ease the pain in my left leg, so I might as well see at least part of the site. I was in the Stoa of Attalos, and that seemed as good a place as any to start. I wandered around the lower level and then discovered the stairs to the second level. They were absurdly steep, but I limped up them, holding onto the railing for dear life and hoping there was a way down that wouldn’t give me vertigo. And I was rewarded with this view: 13147459_10153545498886127_5055401417790637681_oI was relieved to find a non-vertiginous set of stairs at the other end and made my way back down.

My leg had gone from hurting (which, being no stranger to chronic pain, I can cope with fairly easily) to feeling Very Wrong Indeed. So after a brief stop into the gift shop for postcards, I decided to make my way back to my hotel. You know one way to tell you have crippling social anxiety? You have a leg that is damaged in some unknown and possibly severe way, but you don’t know how to hail a taxi, so you limp back to your hotel nearly a kilometer away. (Yes, Pete, I have since installed Uber on my phone.) But I digress.

And here I suppose I should post a Trigger Warning: No more pretty pictures. From here on out you get to see what an arterial bleed looks like. Which could be useful if you are a writer trying to accurately describe such an injury over the course of a few weeks. Or maybe you’re just a sicko who wants to revel in my pain.

I limped into the lobby and explained my predicament to the nice lady at the front desk, and she quickly fetched me a bag of ice and called the elevator for me. Once in my room, I took off my jeans and assessed the damage: IMG_20160427_171545Doesn’t look too bad, right? But what you can’t tell, since I normally have very large, muscular calves, is that the entire bruised part of the left knee is burning hot and swollen rock solid. I’m also at this point wondering how in the heck I got all those scrapes without seriously damaging my jeans. And I’m thinking that my BookCrossing friend Merolia is not going to take me shopping in the Syntagma area that evening.

I was right about that. Merolia arrived and agreed that I should see a doctor instead. I contacted my travel insurance company, and they advised me to consult the hotel front desk about a medical facility and then re-contact them to file a claim for reimbursement. Merolia and the front desk staff determined that I should go to the KAT hospital, which specializes in orthopaedic medicine, and they arranged for a taxi. Merolia accompanied me, and I am so glad she did. I would have been lost without her.

The ER doctor at KAT ordered x-rays and determined that I had no fractures. His conjecture was that the pain was caused by an enormous hematoma pushing the patella into a bad position. He wrapped the leg, lectured me on the folly of travelling abroad with a high INR (that makes sense if you know anything about warfarin therapy), flat refused to complete the insurance paperwork, and told me to ice the leg and stay off of it for a week. I flat refused to do that and explained my ambitious itinerary. He rolled his eyes at me and released me back to Merolia’s care. Merolia got me back to my hotel, brought me some dinner and a fresh ice-pack, and promised to return the next day.

I was at a loss as to what to do next. I emailed the insurance company what little paperwork I had, but as the KAT is a public hospital, there was no charge for them to reimburse. And nothing from the ER doctor but a hastily scribbled reassurance that I hadn’t broken my leg. The hotel was completely booked for the following night, but it was becoming clear that I was not leaving Athens the next day, so I got myself booked in for the next night at the hotel next door.

After breakfasting the next morning, I moved next door (with the gracious assistance of the lovely hotel staff), and then I dared to take a peek under the wrapping: IMG_20160428_131858

To Be Continued…