M.A.N. Project

    L to R: My brother Bob, my father (also Bob) and my younger son Benjamin

    Today was a momentous day! My father, one of my two brothers and my younger son Benjamin spent the day working on various projects outside that required lots of muscle. They started by cleaning the gutters on my house, then progressed to trimming dead branches off my three big trees.

    They stand above, like victorious hunters, with one very large branch. The biggest almost crossed the width of my yard and came from my cottonwood tree (which is looking none too healthy, I must say). My honey locust trees are looking worse for the wear, too, so I need to give them some serious TLC. Growing trees anywhere in Colorado except in the mountains is not easy. Too hot. Too cold. Too dry. Too high. But I digress...

    Today’s project is the fruition of something Benjamin put together, called the M.A.N. Project. That stands for Men’s Action Network. Being a single mom, I’m not much of a dad. And between writing and my neck troubles, I can’t do a lot of the harder work that he does outside. So he created M.A.N. and drafted my brothers and my dad.

    The idea behind M.A.N. is to get together every other weekend or such and go from house to house doing the kinds of projects that men can more easily do. So the next M.A.N. Project will be at Bob’s house.

    So now they’re finishing with the trees in the backyard. Benjy’s enjoying the new chainsaw I sent him to buy yesterday. Men and tools. It’s cute, really.

    This is a real boon for us. We save the branches and chop them into firewood, which then I burn in our green-burning fireplace to help heat the house in the winter. With all the smaller branches, it looks like I have a beaver dam on the north side of my house. I probably have close to a half cord of wood out there now.

    I have to admit that watching them climb around in the tree in my front yard with a chain saw and other saws made me nervous, especially when the wind kicked up. True, my dad and brother are active mountain and rock climbers with lots of experience on stuff that’s a lot hairier than a tree. But we’ve had a few thunderstorms move through this afternoon, dropping a few sprinkles, blowing the branches around and then moving eastward across the plains. And having my kiddo high in the tree when the wind really kicked up...

    Let’s just say mommy went inside for a while.

    Surgery news: I saw the neurosurgeon yesterday. He did a basic exam and found what I’ve known forever — that I have profound sensory nerve loss in my legs. That’s a strange thing, given how much they hurt. But it’s all phantom nerve pain. He also discovered that my balance is really compromised. I sincerely hope I’m never pulled over and asked to go through roadside sobriety maneuvers because the police will think for sure I’m drunk.

    Then the surgeon showed us the MRI of my neck, and it wasn’t pretty. From C4/C5 to C6/C7, my spine is pinched flat. The surgeon’s word for it was “pancaked.” It goes from being round and looking white (indicating lots of spinal fluid) to being almost flat and black (almost no spinal fluid).

    So I am having fusion surgery on my cervical spine. Two of the vertebrae will have to be drilled apart because they’ve grown together. The discs and extra bone growth will be removed entirely. Then the doc will use the bone he’s drilled out to set up some bone grafts to hold my vertebrae apart like they’re supposed to be. All of that will be held in place by several titanium plates.

    I don’t have a date yet, but I’m guessing it will be mid- to late July. I’ll miss about eight weeks of work, and then hopefully, I’ll be in good shape again.

    The doctor said he’s not sure this will make the pain in my legs go away, because the nerves may be too damaged. Even so, I can’t leave it that way. As he said, regardless of what I'm feeling/not feeling, having my spine smashed flat like that is affecting my body from the neck down.

    I truly hope this makes my life better because the past two years have been really rough.

    I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

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