The index to The History of the Ancient World arrived yesterday, under the worst possible conditions.

Background: This pre-Christmas week was cheered by my unscheduled visit to the hospital. I won’t overindulge in details. Suffice it to say that the visit lasted three days and involved an undignified amount of throwing up. Neither will I name the hospital in question, but here it is in 1883. (Hey, it’s Virginia. Even the hospitals are historic.)

Apart from giving birth four times, I haven’t been an inpatient since 1992. Have there been sweeping changes in nursing practice that I’m not aware of? Apart from making sure that my pulse was still beating every four hours, the nursing staff pretty much allowed me to enjoy my solitude. Even when I didn’t want to.

Me: (hitting ‘call nurse’ button frantically, and repeating every twenty minutes until I get a response)
Cranky Voice: What do you WANT?
Me: I need to see a nurse.
Cranky Voice (suspiciously): Why?
Me (thinking that I’d just as soon not describe my various problems into an intercom): Can I just see a nurse?
Cranky Voice (clearly losing patience): Why do you need to SEE a nurse?
Me: I’m in PAIN.
(Long pause)
Cranky Voice (eventually): Well, all right.
(Wait of forty-eight minutes ensues)
Nurse (appearing in doorway): What’s the problem here?
Me: You told me to tell you if I was in pain. Well, I’m in PAIN.
Nurse: Honey, we can’t do anything about that.
Me: Can I have a Tylenol?
Nurse: Your doctor hasn’t ordered anything like that.
Me: Can you ask him?
Nurse: We don’t want to disturb him at 2 AM, do we?
Me (mentally screaming, YES, darn it): Well…can I have a cold cloth for my head?
Nurse (thoughtfully) : Hmm. Yes, that might help. Good idea.

SIGH. (Before I get a zillion indignant comments, I know that there are many dedicated and hardworking nurses who want to make their patients as comfortable as possible. Floor 5 of this particular hospital didn’t have any duty over the weekend, that’s all.)

Anyway, I staggered home Sunday evening, after three days of being sustained on nothing more than IV fluids and ice chips, to be welcomed into the island of sanity which is my home.

As any normal well-balanced person would do, I immediately checked my email. And there it was: a massive electronic file containing the newly-finished index, along with a note from my editor’s new assistant saying, ” Please look over and answer any indexer queries (such as different spelling of names that overlap–which one is correct?). Please also look through the entire document for any spelling errors or concept ideas that need to be changed. As everything here works on a fast schedule, please email, call or fax the changes to me by the end of the day on Dec 13th at the very latest.”

In other words, forty-eight hours to read and evaluate the whole thing, as well as answering a raft of scintillating queries such as:

Which of the following spellings is correct? Please clarify:
Artabanos, 544. Artabanus also on 544.
Artaphrenes, 524–27. Artaphranes, 526, 527.
Herod Antipas, 709, 720. Herod Antipater, 720.
Magadha kingdom, 482, 484, 489–90, 610, 642. Maghada, 490.
Satapatha-Brahamana, 15, 307. Satapatha-Brahamana, 307.
Sealand, 383, 383, 387. Sealands also on, 383 and 387.
Tso chuan, 300n, 493. Tso Chuan, 493.
Washukkanni, 213–17, 214, 240. Washukanni, 213.
Xiongnu, 650, 652, 652, 653, 655, 715, 749, 759. Xiangnu, 715

(If you’re on codeine, it looks even MORE fascinating.)

Now, if you were raised female in the South, in a certain type of environment, you would rather DIE than give anyone a hard time. Your deepest fear is that people will think you’re Difficult. I mean, the closest thing to complaining I did at the hospital was to say meekly, “Are you sure the anti-nausea meds ordered four hours ago aren’t up here yet? Oh, okay, thank you so much. I’ll just keep on throwing up.” So I got ready to check the index.

My husband said, “What are you doing?”

I said, “Norton wants the index back in forty-eight hours.”

My husband said, “”Well, tell them they can’t have it.”

The skies opened and light shone down. I can DO that? I mean, what if they do think I’m high maintenance? It’s not like I socialize with the Norton folks on a regular basis. It doesn’t really matter if they like me, does it? Anyway, the book will still come out, right? And I AM high on codeine, right?

So I emailed back, “I’m just out of the hospital. I can probably get it back to you by Monday, but if that’s too late, it will have to go to press unchecked.”

And in five minutes, she answered: “Get better. Monday is fine.”


So I went to bed to recuperate, where my invalid hours were cheered by the regular appearance of Emily in a laundry basket, a.k.a. Scary Basket Monster.

Showing 13 comments
  • donnabooshay

    A great season for an epiphany!

    ( I have some horrid medical stories….but one time…late at night a dear older nurse came into my room and rubbed my back with lotion. It felt so good to my sick body and my weary spirit.)
    I’m sorry you did not have an angel of mercy at the hospital…but it sounds like you have one at home.

    Rest well and get well.


  • Jennifer Tracewell

    Susan, just discovered your site…hope you’re feeling better and glad to hear you can say no – I’m still trying to figure that one out.

    I decided to homeschool this summer. I ran over to Barnes & Noble in Eugene, Oregon, grabbed the first book I saw in the education section, which happened to be your “Well-Trained Mind” book, and immediately read the entire thing. Loved it, and can’t believe my providence in laying my hands on that gem.

    We began our homeschool life in August this year (2006) here in Central Oregon – we just recently moved over the mountain from Eugene. I was thrilled to read a few of the “day-in-the-life” schedules of your homeschool. It’s just as chaotic and wonderful as mine, so I’m not nearly as worried as I was that I didn’t have this tidy little school with kids all lined in a row. I also have four little ones, a little younger than yours (2, 3, 5, and 7).

    An enormous “thank you” to you and your mom for the gift of your experience put down in words for us home educators. I tell absolutely everone I know who cares (believe me, there are many who don’t) about The Well Trained Mind and the resources listed there. I’ve been using First Language Lessons and the Spelling Workout series and many other ideas you recommended. And I’m about to purchase the Story of the World vol 1 as my Christmas present to myself! I’ve been using Hillyer’s Child’s History of the World, but have a few issues with it and can’t wait to get yours.

    Here’s a question – like you, I work. My husband and I started an online sports merchandise store,, (we’re not sports fanatics, it’s just a good industry to make money in) but I am very commited to teaching and training my children. The balance is so tricky sometimes. Because it’s our own business, and it’s strictly online retail, we’re flexible. But there are seasons, like right now between Thanksgiving and Christmas when we do 90% of sales for the entire year, when I have no time for the kids! So many times I think, gee, they’d be better off in school…I’m doing so little…It’s tough, for sure. Anyway, from reading a little bit about your current project, you must have some advice!

    I have never posted a comment anywhere or done any blogging yet, so if this goes to the wrong place, my apologies.

    You are amazing; best wishes for strong health for the holidays.


  • Amy in MD

    Wow! What an experience. I hope you feel better soon. Enjoy your extended deadline, your rest and that fun family of yours!!


  • Janice in NJ

    I can only imagine that hospital nurses have to deal with a lot of real whiners – folks who treat the hospital like the first-stop rather than a last-resort. It must harden them.

    I recently spent six hours in the emergency room; I was really in pain. The nurse treated me with empathy, but when the doctor announced that I just had a bladder infection her attitude changed. In her mind, I had fallen into the category of being a big baby about nothing. The next day, the head radiologist had consulted with a specialist over my scan; they were quite alarmed. They called to change my prescription, and to inform me that I had a very serious kidney infection. They apologized for the mis-diagnosis and told me to follow up immediately with my doctor. They said that they were surprised that I wasn’t in more pain – sigh, I DID go to the emergency room after all! Something inside me wanted to call the nurse and tell her; I wanted to be released from the place of being “difficult” even if it was only in the mind of a stranger. I can only imagine that the hospital means different things to different people. I wouldn’t have gone if I wasn’t over the edge.

    I DO hope that you are feeling better. AND I hope that the rest of your “deadlines” are a piece of cake. 🙂

  • Gwen

    Well done, Mr Bauer; well done, Codeine! Take it easy, have a few crackers and some soup, and don’t even THINK about Norton. “The island of sanity that is my home…” I laughed out loud. Have a great rest!

  • Lori

    Good for you! I can totally relate to your description of Southern womanhood. I will remind you, however, of the belle-type females who do that on a regular basis and get things done!

    Be well!

  • Colleen in NS

    Oh, you poor girl – I hope you feel better soon! Yes, you are allowed to say “no” when you need to!! 🙂

  • PatH

    Oh, Susan, I certainly hope you are able to heal quickly!

    I think we should revive the old “just say no” commercials. They would look something like this: This is your brain (picture of Einstein’s brain flashes across the screen).

    “This is stress”. (Insert cartoon picture of homeschooling mom trying to grade papers while a toddler runs through the house with a humongous trail of toilet paper in his wake, a preschooler is throwing up on mom’s shoes, an older child is reciting the Gettysburg Address from memory and at the top of her lungs, and the homeschooling father is walking through living room screaching “Honey, have you seen my glasses?” which are of course on the top of his head.)

    Then switch to a picture of an egg frying in an iron skillet with this caption. “This is your brain on stress.”

    “Just say NO!”
    End commercial.

    Get better. Everything can wait. Editing is temporary. You health or lack of it is permanent.

    Oh, I will have the opportunity to hear you speak at the homeschool convention in Cincinnati in March and I am REALLY looking forward to it.

    Grace and Peace,
    Pat H

  • Gina

    I hope you’re feeling better. I also have a hard time saying no. I’m not a southern belle. My fear is that someone won’t like me if I say no. So silly but I can’t seem to stop myself either.

    I’ll also be at the Cincinnati homeschool convention. I look forward to hearing you speak.

  • DianeW

    Are you SURE you weren’t really in the same hospital where I last gave birth? The response I received when I asked if I might please have my epidural was….

    “Well, maybe in a couple hours or so (exasperated sigh on the nurse’s part). You kind of picked a really bad time to have a baby, we’re super busy today.”

    Of course, I meekly nodded, as if I had some control over my decision to go into labor 3 weeks early, and resumed watching the “Price is Right” on the tv. I was left completely alone for the next 3 hours (well, except for Bob Barker), since my hubby was busy trying to find someone to take our other two children at 9 A.M. on a Monday morning, and my doctor was out of town.

    Things did start looking up after the delivery, when I asked for pain medication, and the student nurse looked down at her chart, up at me, then said, “Um, sure, do you want some morphine?”

    I considered it for a moment…….or two…. then decided I’d better just stick with the Motrin.

    Hope you’re feeling much better now!

    Diane W.
    Salt Lake City

  • Pioneer Woman

    Blech. I hate throwing up. More than I hate…anything.

    My dad’s a doc. I worked in his office for several years. The nursing/medical staff atmosphere is a uniquely snippy/dour/sour one. I don’t understand it. Patients are an inconvenience, somehow. Hmmm…

    Speedy recovery, Susan. The world needs you.

  • Sherrill in WA

    Wow, Susan, I’m sorry you were sick, and I’m double sorry about your hospital experience. And risking the flamethrowers, it sure sounds a lot like the few experiences I have had. I’m sure your swirl-eyed family can take care of you much better than the hospital did! Here’s hoping you can get well enough soon to deal with the pesky index. And hooray for your DH encouraging you to ask for an extension!

    God bless, and Merry Christmas to you from the other coast!

  • Patty in WA

    I personally got the Most Polite Delivery in the History of the Planet when I had my son. I know what you mean.

    I hope you feel better now. I am going to point you to a Christmas carol that has touched me deeply this year. I had never heard the third and fourth verses, but the last lines of the fourth are my Christmas wish to you.

    (I know this is tacky but I thought it was less tacky than clogging up your comments with 5 verses of a song.)

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