Oh, My Achin’ Back

At the height of back pain, it helps me to visualize a relaxing beach - tangledpasta.net
At the height of back pain, it helps me to visualize a relaxing beach – tangledpasta.net  

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

It was foretold in the stars before my birth.  It loomed large on the maternal and paternal sides of the family.  Growing up, I watched my father periodically hobble around after work, easing himself into his wingback dark green leather chair, where he remained planted the entire evening.  My mother called him “Rigoletto” after Verdi’s opera character of the same title.  The aforementioned Rigoletto was a hunchback.

Not that my father staggered around in chronic back pain, but when the pain surfaced, he set off to the chiropractor.  He derived great relief, he claimed, from “Dr. Quack”, as my mother called him.  Her aspersions cast upon the chiropractor arose from Mama’s fierce loyalty to her three brothers who were all Indiana University [IU] School of Medicine graduates and interns at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Early on I adopted a live and let live attitude towards the chiropractor.  Loathe ingesting prescriptive medications, this explained Daddy’s willingness to undergo chiropractor treatments.

Mama, on the other hand, suffered from various maladies throughout her life, but from middle age on arthritis plagued her in her hands, neck, and back.  She was from a family of nine brothers and sisters; Daddy was from a family of six siblings.  Every one of them on both sides of my family suffered from disc pain [Mama’s side primarily] and osteoarthritis [both Mama and Daddy’s sides].

When I came into the light [an old Italian term for “being born], I didn’t have a chance of escaping osteo pain.  Five years ago I couldn’t understand why it felt like my thigh was on fire.  After enduring agonizing pain for a week, I awakened one morning to find I could not turn.  The pain reduced me to tears, so searing it was.  My maternal cousin, who is an orthopedic surgeon [three of my maternal first cousins are also IU Medical School graduates with Mayo Clinic interning under their belts.  A familial trend has manifested itself, gentle reader], ordered an MRI for me.  This MRI illustrated an impressive ruptured disc.  Yes, I had entered the twilight zone of disc-dom among family members.  The icing on the back cake too was a lower back full of osteoarthritis. In the immortal words of my father, “Oh, my achin’ back!”

Ciao for now.


Envelope containing a birthday card to me from my darling daughter  - tangledpasta.net
Envelope containing a birthday card to me from my darling daughter – tangledpasta.net

For almost two months I grappled with the fact that I was facing another one of “those” birthdays.  I mean the kind of birthday that kicks off a new decade in one’s life, in this case, in my life.

When I turned eighteen, I was wild to turn twenty.  Nineteen felt like a mere holding pattern until I reached the magical age of twenty, thus jump starting my so-called life.  Or so I thought.  The twenties were filled with advanced degree pursuits and travel abroad, mostly to Italy and to Greece.  Actually, that decade was quite grand in its own way.

My decade spent in my thirties consisted of still living in Houston, marriage, relocating to the Midwest, motherhood, adjustment, and separation [in the marriage].  It was a decade of incredible highs [motherhood] and crashing lows [the demise of a marriage].

The decade of my forties saw me focused on rebuilding my life professionally, while simultaneously creating a secure, joyful life for my child.  There was the renewal of love with a former flame, and happiness loomed large on the horizon.  As the decade drew to a close, I became edgy about commencing a new decade in my life.  I still saw myself as the starry-eyed twenty-four-year-old with unending Italian spirit, alive with endless possibilities and vigor.  Everything came to a screeching halt when my beloved Mama suffered a massive stroke and died five months before my birthday.

I ceased worrying about “What if” and began asking “Why not?” when it came to each birthday.   As my dear Mama was fond of observing, “Consider the alternative.” I choose life.

Ciao for now.



Tybee Island – tangledpasta.net

Travel is in my blood.  Travel permeates the fiber of my being like a siren song demanding to be heard.  Exotic locales at home and abroad eternally beckon me like an insatiable lover, seducing me time and time again.  An inveterate traveler, it did not occur to me that my footloose and fancy-free nature could ever be curbed.  Blindsided I was, however, by the emergence of a condition that irrevocably rocked my travel world.

Throughout my halcyon youth, I studied in college and worked steadily in order to pay for my next Italian or Greek or French voyage. Yet travel steadily began to take on a different complexion:  Somewhere along the line, I developed claustrophobia, a thoroughly most sensation when flying thousands of feet in the air.  Medication has provided some relief from the panic attacks that would overtake me during take-off, the flight itself, and when landing.  Until I sought medical help, I am quite certain I struck panic too in those unfortunate enough to have been seated next to me.

Route 66
Route 66 (Photo credit: eGuide Travel)

My conundrum was that taking prescription medication in order to fly on a plane offended me even though I felt certain others do this, or assuage their fears in alcohol.  Consequently, I have turned more frequently to drive vacations.  When I mention how much I enjoyed travel by car, people fired back that “more people die in car accidents than in plane crashes.”  It perplexed me that some see this as some sort of competition.  These days, I simply want to get my kicks on Route 66.

Now, where did I put that atlas?

Ciao for now.


Smelling Fresh


Geraniums on the front porch, The Grand Hotel, Mackinaw Island – tangledpasta.net


Over the weekend I ventured into a Super Target store.  In addition to a few groceries, I also needed to buy deodorant.  My deodorant stick at home kept falling out of its holder, which indicated it was time to replenish product.  Over the years, I had purchased Dove’s Sensitive Care for Sensitive Skin deodorant.  On this shopping expedition I intended to buy my favorite sensitive skin deodorant.


Upon glancing up and down at the rows and racks of Dove deodorants, I did not see any labeled sensitive skin.  What I saw instead were deodorants in the company’s new Go Fresh line [Who wants to Go Unfresh?].  Variants were titled: Go Fresh Rebalance Sleeveless [Who are the Go Fresh Unbalanced? What about those who want to Go [with] Sleeves?], Go Sleeveless Beauty Finish [Is the implication Go Sleeveless Beauty or Non-Beauty Unfinished?}, and Go Sleeveless Nourished Beauty [How does this affect a Malnourished Beauty or Non-Beauty? Isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder, according to my grandmother?].  Interspersed with these deodorant choices were Dove’s Go Fresh Rebalance Body Mist [Does this serve unbalanced consumers only?], Go Fresh Revive Body Mist [If someone is clinically dead, will this bring the person back to life?], and Go Fresh Burst Body Mist [Does anyone else find this reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alienmovies?].


Cover of "Alien (The Director's Cut)"
Cover of Alien (The Director’s Cut)


I felt myself glazing over from squinting while looking at the deodorant sea of pastel colored tops, and from reading the small print on the front of the deodorant  [I admit to being too lazy to rifle through my handbag for my reading glasses]. I finally settled on the Go Fresh Cool Essentials cucumber & green tea scent, a reasonable choice since I like cucumbers and I drink green tea daily.  Suddenly waves of deodorant nostalgia swept over me:  I found myself longing for the days when deodorant choices were limited to the clear roll-on or the powder one.


Though I failed to locate the Dove Sensitive Skin stick of choice, I am pleased with the fragrant scent of cucumbers and green tea.  One could smell worse, but I do not admit that I have.


Ciao for now.