Maia Madden

Book Author, Journalist, Blogger

Archive for the category “humor”

My Chaos Theory


I am a self-improvement junkie. That is funny and pathetic, as I never seem to improve anything, let alone my SELF. Anyway, I had just listened to “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins and was trying my best to obey: as soon as you hear the morning alarm, count down 5-4-3-2-1 and GET UP, YOU WORTHLESS HUMAN! Do not hit SNOOZE. Do not laze around reviewing your sorry life. ARISE! PLAN! ACT!

Then came the grimly positive follow-up book I thought would kick me out of my post-hip-surgery slump: “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. Set your alarm for an hour ahead of sanity, jump up and do the following, but only after brushing your teeth and throwing freezing cold water on your face: S: solitude, in other words, meditate; A: affirmations, repeat the ridiculous resolutions you kind of think you will achieve but probably never will; V: visualize what you want, like yourself at 110 lbs with no wrinkles and a table of published books and at least $50,000 to your name; E: exercise, yes, move, move, move, even if you haven’t had a cup of coffee or a second of consciousness and your dog is whining and your man wants breakfast; Scribe, a very clever word for write, so the whole sentence spells SAVES. How clever, don’t you think?

And I was trying, I really was. The rocket launch, the writing, the meditating. Okay, I didn’t always do it in order. Okay, I considered walking the dog, when I got around to it, as exercise. Okay, so reading took up a LOT of time, and meditating took as little as my shortest pre-set INSIGHT meditation (the Dance of St Francis at six beautiful minutes).  And writing was more like moaning about my life and trying to find three things to be grateful for before I could think of all the things I didn’t want to do that day.

Well, the morning of my literal downfall, my husband had disturbed my painful miracle morning rotation. I was mad that he had, although I should have been grateful. So instead of being mad, I thought I’d be my better SELF and actually go make him breakfast. And the damn dog was nipping at my heels and, really, I was angry about the whole Miracle Morning shit and my ability to be sucked into all this self-improvement idiocy when all my body wanted to do was sleep and heal. So I reached down QUICKLY AND RATHER VIOLENTLY for the dog’s water bowl, which had slid under a stool, twisting as I reached down, and heard a huge CRACK. And fell to the ground. And yelled, “Help, I’ve dislocated my hip!” Not, “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” although my perverted mind could still perceive that as funny and, if less shaken by atrocious pain, I would have chosen it instead.

The pain was the worst I have ever felt. I mean it when I say I would rather have had all five of my kids on the same day than a hip dislocation. At least there is a pause between contractions, and a baby or five at the end. My husband came running out of the shower, naked, saying, “Oh my god, oh my god, are you sure?” No, I am lying on the tile floor unable to move and screaming cause I am wondering what happened.  Please call 911! And put some damn clothes on!

The Fire Truck came within minutes with the first responders, those adrenaline junkies we should all be thankful for. I think one was named Butch. Or was it Mitch. One may have been Junior.  The woman had a lot of tattoos, but I missed her name in the turmoil. All of them were cute, and quick with the drugs. “We are giving you fentanyl,” said the nameless lady. “No, No! That’s the one everyone in Ohio is addicted to!” I yelled (actually, whispered hoarsely). “I’m from California! I want morphine!” Mitch, or Butch, or Junior, laughed. “This is what fentanyl is meant for,“ tattoo-chick said calmly, while observing my shortened right leg and my hip at a bizarre angle from my body. “But this looks pretty bad. We’ll give you both.”

She kept asking me what my pain was on a scale of 1-10. 10! 12! 15! I wanted to beg her to knock me out with a hammer to stop the pain. Just kill me now. No matter how much they gave me, the pain was still a 10. And when the ambulance came and they moved me off the floor onto a stretcher, I tried to screech 20! 20! 20! But nothing came out.

They took me to the Emergency Room at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz. Now, before you judge me, let me say that everyone there was about as nice as nice can be. And they tried. Boy, did they try. But here is the real story.

I came in at about 8am. Luckily, I was wearing my exercise clothes, as I had Miracle-Morninged myself into planning a trip to the gym to strengthen that weak hip. After I was hooked up and pumped with more drugs to dull the agony of being moved to a bed from a stretcher, and after noticing that my right hip now looked huge in its dislocated glory and almost fainting at the sight, and after wishing again that I were dead, they told me no orthopedist was on call until noon but it would be easy to pop me back into place. It was such a “routine” procedure.

There was one nurse I particularly liked. She had a weird name I was in no shape to remember, but it sounded kind of like Ayahuasca, which I wished I were taking right then and there. Anyway, Ayahausca was a very big girl, with tattoos and long black hair. She told me she weighed 280 pounds and held the world record for dead lifts. “Don’t worry, honey. I can push that hip right back in for you. No problem!”

The best thing about Ayahuasca was that she kept putting more and more drugs into my IV and smiling a lot while I shivered and shook uncontrollably from pain. She made me want to try Ayahuasca some day.

Then they started their “closed reduction” attempts.  That’s when they give you propofol so you don’t remember how hard they push and pull and twist and torture you until they think they’ve put you back in place. Ayahuasca, I was told, even sat on me. She apologized later in case she left bruises, as if bruising were on the top of my list of horrors. (Wait, it kind of is, now that I think about it. And there were lots of bruises!)

Michael Jackson had propofol in him, a ton of it, when he died. The good thing is that when it wears off, you remember nothing at all. One dose is supposed to last for five minutes.  I have no idea how many doses they gave me, but after each x-ray, they would say, “We’re gonna try again. Okay?” Like I had a choice in the matter.

My husband took a video during one of their inept attempts, and I am screaming and moaning like a lunatic. I have no memory of it, thank goodness, but I still feel embarrassed, having always prided myself on my pain tolerance and self-control.

They tried four times, I think, (but who was counting?), over a period of a few hours and after the fourth failure, a bit after noon, the orthopedist, who never bothered to come see me, spoke on the phone to the sweet ER doctor, and suggested they send me back to the Institute for Joint Replacement in Fremont, where Dr. Dearborn had done my revision. Really?  Was it his lunch hour? Those poor doctors and nurses had been responsible for doing an orthopedic maneuver they had no training for, and the orthopedist on call couldn’t be bothered to supervise?

So now I had to wait for out-of-county transport, only they were out of rooms, so they wheeled me and my dangling leg into the hallway of an Emergency Room fraught with the horrors of the ill, the wounded, the crazies and the drugged, along with the frenzy of nurses and doctors reaching desperately beyond their promises and abilities. Since I could barely wiggle my toes or whisper a complaint, I was a safe bet for hallway parking.

One guy who rushed by me on a stretcher threatened to kill everyone, his bright blue eyes electric with fury. Luckily, he ended up in my now empty cubicle where Ayahuasca pinned him and gave him a shot until he calmed the hell down. Good old Ayahuasca.

In the room right in front of me, door wide open, was a young woman in her twenties who maintained she had forgotten her diabetes meds back home in the Valley somewhere and had gone into a coma. She had two big red sores on her face and her eyes kept closing. The doctor believed her, never asking about meth or heroin. I wanted to scream, “She’s a drug addict, dude! Can’t you see, or do you not care?” Finally, a social worker sat down with her and asked, “Honey, I know you forgot your meds but how much heroin did you do this morning? I’m not a cop. You can tell me.” The girls’ eyes slid open a second and she whispered, “Just a little.”

Just a little. I wanted just a lot. PLEASE. I’ll even take heroin! Give me a lot of drugs so I can at least close my eyes and stop shivering.

Instead, late in the afternoon, after four hours in the hallway, they moved me into another ambulance and brought me over bumpy congested Highway 17 to Washington Hospital in Fremont. I said I wanted to wait and see my doctor. They said he would not be there until morning, and they would prep me for surgery. The frosty nurse gave me some very ineffective pills to swallow with so little water that I almost choked. Where was Ayahuasca when I needed her?

The ER doctor on duty, who, in my incoherent state, reminded me of a very young Asian Humpty Dumpty, said he was sure he could put my hip back in. I said I didn’t want to try, but he insisted, in his arrogant way, sure that he would be the hero. I wondered if young doctors use the ER as a training ground, knowing they may never see the patients again. Once again, my Miracle Morning, Be Nice, Try Harder, Stop Whining, 5-4-3-2-1, Just Do It, snapped in, and I mumbled “Okay, then. If that’s what you need to do.”

One more round of propofol. One more blackout. One more failure.

They had actually cut off my favorite pair of lace panties in Santa Cruz to place me on a damn bedpan, and I was still mad. In my helpless state, I needed a reason to feel in control, so I now refused the bedpan.  No way I’d be shoved around and endure more pain just to pee! I was the boss of me! “I want that little needle you push in. Please. Please!” Begging for drugs is one thing, but how far have you fallen when you plead for a catheter? Since they had failed, and they now insisted that surgery was the only option for me, a catheter was part of the preparation. No revolt needed, no victory won. My SELF felt deflated.

At 6:30 the following morning, after an excruciating sleepless night, 24 hours after my hip dislocated, Dr. Dearborn, before his scheduled surgeries, came in with a big smile. The nurse told me when I came to that he relocated my hip in about two seconds.

The self-help gurus say you should take everything that happens to you as a lesson, a way for you to become wiser and better. Here is my chaos theory: life can flip from order to disaster in a second so don’t be too cocky or sure you will be spared. Something will get you when you least expect it, no matter how “prepared” you think you are, and no Miracle Morning or 5-second rule can save you.

You can only hope that a kind Amazon like Ayahuasca will be there to smile and medicate you, no questions asked. You can only hope that you will have the guts to demand proper care instead of enduring 24 hours of torture like Little Miss Nice did.

And if that fails, you can only hope you will eventually see the humor, if not the cosmic lesson, in your ordeal.



photo 2Last month I got jumped by a rooster. There I was, alone on the top of a mountain, where cell phones don’t work and bobcats and mountain lions roam, fearlessly caring for my friends’ two Savannah cats, two Chihuahuas, seven chickens and one rooster, while they were in Hawaii on their honeymoon. I never imagined that it would be the rooster, not the snarling dogs or the semi-wild cats, that would be my nemesis.
At first the Chihuahuas yapped and yapped, baring their sharp little teeth and refusing to come into the house at nightfall. I imagined finding their mangled bodies in the morning, their long brown-and-white fur matted with blood, or worse, not finding them at all. But no way was I going to let them bite me, so I left them out in the cold, huddled on their pillow bed, snarling.
tn-3The next morning I brought Newman’s Peanut Butter Treats. By noon, Poppy and Candy were following me around in silence. By four, I had them in the bathtub. By five, they were snuggling together on the top of a red leather armchair, their big brown eyes fixed lovingly on mine. Okay, so they were waiting for more treats. Still, it felt like true love every day for the next two weeks.
The cats were a bigger challenge. Savannahs are a mix of the wild African Serval and domestic cats. Lenya, the female, had more wild in her than Jag, the big black male. She sat on a beam jutting out from the loft bedroom and glared down at me with shifty yellow-green eyes. She was beautiful to watch, lean and untamed, her golden fur marked with brown striations. She would jump gracefully from table to chair to sofa to the top of her deluxe cat tree and her bowl full of kibble.
Jag was older than Lenya and three times her size. His striations were less visible on his dark coat, and he had the noble sloping nose of a Jaguar or Panther. I was told he was very affectionate and would come around asking to be petted, but for the first three days, I never even saw him. He hid under the bed and only came out to eat when I was outside.
I bought small chicken drumsticks and left a couple, raw of course, in the food bowl. Lenya smelled them immediately, leaped up and devoured one. Not Jag. I watched through the window as he pushed them aside, preferring his dry
On the fourth day, Jag suddenly appeared and jumped up on the dining room table next to my computer. I put out my hand and he sniffed it, then nudged it, then let me scratch him vigorously behind his ears and tail. His purr startled me: a deep roar punctuated by loud guttural meowing, as if he were talking to me. Thus began our ten-day love fest.
Lenya grew a little bolder as she watched Jag throw himself at me, whether I was sitting at the table or lying on the sofa reading. He would nudge me with his big head and start purring loudly, commanding me to pet him, and when I would come in from the hot tub, he would lick and nibble my toes as if they were lollipops.
On the fifth day, Lenya joined him on the table. I held out my hand, and she sniffed it carefully. Then I went back to rubbing and scratching Jag’s head and neck. All of a sudden, Lenya wrapped her front paws around his neck and started licking his ears. Slowly, I switched my fingers from Jag’s head to hers, and she let me run them down her back to her tail without flinching. I went back and forth between them until she finally relaxed and stretched her thin body against Jag’s huge one.
Every day, I brought raw meat for Lenya and let her eat it out of my hand. Finally, one quiet afternoon, she jumped up on the couch and settled herself on my lap. As I stroked her perfect little head, she started purring, a sound as faint and hesitant as Jag’s was loud and
I had now tamed the dogs and cats, but the chickens were another story. I would let them out into their pen in the morning and lock them up at night, always nervous that they might peck me to death like a scene from “The Birds,” especially when they pushed past me in a mad flurry of feathers, cackling and beady-eyed. I guess I’m not a chicken person… The rooster always emerged last, looking arrogant and menacing, a magnificent black and white fowl with a bright red crown.
After a week, I had the routine down: unlatch the small coop door, let the brood out, then go around to the big side door and check the grain supply – which was exactly what I was doing when something heavy landed smack on my head, almost knocking me over. Squawking triumphantly, the rooster catapulted himself onto the ground and ran off, crowing in glee. I swore. He had been hiding in the rafters, just waiting for his chance to escape.
I had surely lost the rooster and could not imagine how I would explain his disappearance. No way! I grabbed a rake and started chasing that devious bird through the yard, onto the porch, into the redwood grove, around the trampoline and back to the house. But he was fast and clever, heading me off or turning around to run in the opposite direction, until I finally gave up and went inside, exhausted. I needed a better plan of attack.
After a few hours nursing my trauma and vowing revenge, I had a brilliant idea, at least for someone ignorant of the ways of chickens. I shooed the hens back into their little house and locked them in. Then I opened the door to the pen. This time, that damn rooster would see who was boss. Scaring him with my shouts and brandishing my rake, I cornered him until he had nowhere to run but back inside the enclosure. Eureka!
But the battle was far from over. Imagine my surprise – and anger – the very last afternoon of my guard duty when I arrived and saw that brazen rooster standing like a statue by the front door. The devil had managed to fly out of his pen, as if to say “Ha, ha. I win! Catch me if you can!”
We stared each other down. I flapped my arms, he flapped his wings, and the chase began, a long and arduous one that left me panting with adrenaline but victorious at last. I locked up that cocky rooster and his harem of admirers way before dusk, a punishment he richly deserved.
And that, my friends, is when I decided that coq au vin would always be one of my favorite dishes.

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Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.


p 1 o 2 e 3 m = Four By 4 By Four

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