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More Gifts for People with Migraine or Other Chronic Pain

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It might seem challenging to buy gifts for someone with migraine, neuropathic facial pain, or other chronic pain, but if you forget the word “cure” in your quest for the perfect gift and think of comforting the person instead, it will be much easier for you to get something that they’ll appreciate. Remember that “chronic” pain means “constant” pain: if it could be eliminated, most of us would have done anything necessary to rid ourselves of the debilitating, sometimes disabling, pain. Gifts for People with Migraine and Chronic Pain explains some of the products that I’ve come to rely on to reduce pain. Here are more of my favorite products that your family, friends, and colleagues with chronic pain might appreciate.

Ginger Root Tea

Migraine attacks and other chronic pain are sometimes accompanied by nausea. While prescription anti-emetics might help prevent vomiting, they don’t do anything to quell nausea. Ginger, whether crystallized, cut fresh from the root, or made into tea, is the best natural remedy I’ve ever found to quell nausea, whether it’s from migraine, medications, motion-sickness, flu, or holiday overindulgence. It has none of the side-effects of pharmaceutical anti-emetics (prescription or OTC) and can be added to liquids so you ensure that you remain hydrated. Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory, and I’ve found that when I drink ginger tea regularly, the neuropathic facial pain is reduced. Therefore, instead of saving the tea for hemiplegic migraine attacks, I have some regularly throughout the day (for Warnings about ginger consumption, see my Natural Nausea Relief).

The best ginger I’ve ever gotten for homemade tea is Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root. I realize that tossing a couple of pieces of crystallized ginger into a cup of boiling water will give a faint ginger taste, but Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root makes a wonderful tea that I can have without sugar. It provides all the stomach-calming and nausea-quelling properties of the crystallized ginger without any of the sugar. Also, since Tea Spot’s ginger root is dried and chopped, I don’t have to store it in the refrigerator or freezer as I do with fresh or crystallized ginger, which makes it very convenient.

You can get Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root for tea in several sizes: $4 sample (2 servings), $13.50 (¼ lb), $46.50 (1 lb). The Tea Spot has a large variety of black, green, and herbal teas, all of excellent quality and flavor (but then, I’ve been a tea-drinker all my life, preferring it to coffee). They also have tea samplers, tumblers, mugs, teapots, and more. Tea Spot gift cards ($25, $50, $100, $200) are available if you are unsure about which teas your recipients might prefer.

Books

I’ve always been a huge lover of books so even when I have a migraine attack, I need to read. Books have always been an integral part of my self-care routine even before I understood the meaning of taking care of myself. Sometimes, migraine or other pain is so debilitating that the person cannot read. Other times, as when migraine becomes chronic (more than 15 days per month for at least 3 months) or intractable (never-ending), the pain, though quite severe, allows some reading. Some people with migraine have told me they cannot read e-books during a migraine but can manage traditional paper books. At times, I can read on my tablet, but I need to put it on Night (Dark) mode. When I have a hemiplegic migraine and cannot read or even lift my head from the pillow, I listen to audiobooks, which was a lifesaver in April 2018 when this intractable migraine began. There are several ways to provide books as gifts to recipients: paper books, e-books, and audiobooks.

Paper Books

So many books, so little time. I get most of my books from Amazon these days, if only because living up here on Big Rock Candy Mountain with the nearest bookstore about 2 hours away doesn’t allow much wandering the aisles and spending the day as if you were in a library (no libraries around here either). Also, as someone with intractable migraine for over 19 months and with neuropathic facial pain (formerly, atypical trigeminal neuralgia), I am mostly house-bound. I love being able to browse any category of books I wish without leaving home.

If you know the categories, authors, or specific titles your recipients might like, it’ll make your job easier when looking for books they might enjoy. If you don’t have specifics on authors or titles, you can always get them Amazon gift certificates: available as a physical card in a decorative box or tin ($50-$2,000, several designs), a card in a decorated mini-envelope ($10-$2,000, 3-5 designs), a card in greeting card with a separate envelope for mailing ($10 to $2,000, several designs), or as an e-gift card ($25-$2,000).

eBooks

10 years ago, if you’d asked me about e-books, I never would have imagined that they could have existed, let alone that I would like them. When we moved up here on the mountain in 2009, however, all my boxes of books had to stay in the barn: the house was simply too small to hold them all, and it took me years to save enough money to have some bookshelves built in my office. In the meantime, when I was desperate for something to read, I began to look at the classics, which were inaccessibly stored in the barn, in electronic book form. At that time, most of the classics were free in e-book form. Now virtually all books are available in both paper and e-book formats, and though I love paper books most, I love the convenience of e-books.

Your recipient can use an Amazon gift card for either paper or e-books, but you can also buy someone a subscription to Kindle Unlimited ($9.99/month) and they can read any book enrolled in the KU program. If you really want someone to gush with gratitude, you could buy them a Kindle ($69-249) — Amazon’s tablet — but that’s not necessary for them to enjoy e-books or to be in Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Reading Apps are free for any device: iOS, Android, Mac, PC. (It’s what I’ve used since about 2010, on my iPad, Mac, and iPhone).

Any Amazon gift cards can be used for e-books: card in a decorative box or tin ($50-$2,000), card in a decorated mini-envelope ($10-$2,000), card in greeting card with a separate envelope for mailing ($10 to $2,000), or e-gift card ($25-$2,000).

Audiobooks

Just as I never would have guessed that I would love e-books, I really never would have known that I would love audiobooks. And I never even listened to an audiobook before June of 2018, by which time I’d had an intractable migraine since April of that year and was bored witless. I couldn’t read — neither paper nor electronic books — so I tried the Audible 30-day free trial. I got a couple of my favorite classic books, each read by one of my favorite actors. While I lay on the couch (tired of lying in bed), I listened to the audiobooks. Before the end of the first couple chapters of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I was hooked. Now I have a huge audiobook library, mostly classics, but some bestsellers and memoirs, too.

You can purchase gift cards for audiobooks directly from Audible (1, 3, 6, or 12 months for $15, $45, $90, or $150, respectively) or Audible via Amazon (same months and prices as at Audible). (Please note that Amazon gift cards are not eligible for use at Audible, and vice versa.)

Guided Meditation Apps to Reduce Pain

Surf City Apps and Relax Melodies

I’ve written several articles on the many free self-hypnosis meditation apps that successfully reduce migraine and chronic pain, and the links in this paragraph will take to those more detailed articles. I use Surf City Apps’ Migraine and Headache Relief, Chronic Pain Relief, and Sleep Well: Insomnia Relief (since both migraine and other types of chronic pain can cause painsomnia: pain-induced insomnia). I also use Relax Melodies, a guided meditation app which has a “background” feature which allows you to play its sounds “behind” other apps and which I use for the relief of both pain and insomnia.

Both Surf City Apps and Relax Melodies are available for iOS and Android devices. All these apps can be used for free, for an unlimited time. Download Sleep Well Insomnia Relief from Surf City Apps, from the App store for all iOS devices, from Amazon for Kindles, and from GooglePlay for Android devices. You can check out all Surf City’s free apps on its website. Their apps have been downloaded over 5 million times and average 4+ stars out of 5 for Sleep Well Insomnia Relief. Ipnos’ Relax Melodies app, available in 10 languages, has a 4.5 out of 5* rating (with 700,000 reviews).

Migraine & Headache Relief is free from Surf City Apps for iOS or Android devices, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, or from GooglePlay for Android devices.

Chronic Pain Relief is free from Surf City Apps for iOS or Android devices, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, and from GooglePlay for Android devices.

Sleep Well Insomnia Relief is free from Surf City Apps, from the App store for all iOS devices, from Amazon for Kindles, and from GooglePlay for Android devices.

Relax Melodies is free from Ipnos after selecting your type of smartphone, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, and from Google Play for Android devices.

The Difference Between the Free and Premium Versions

Although all of these apps are available free, they’re worth purchasing the premium version. The difference between the free and the paid versions of these apps is the ability to change background noises and to Loop the meditation so that it repeats as often as the listener wishes (Surf City Apps) and to include additional guided meditations to reduce the stress and anxiety (Relax Melodies) that are often common in people with migraine and other chronic pain. The premium versions of Surf City Apps’ self-hypnosis guided meditations are $1.99-$4.99 depending on the meditation. Relax Melodies premium version is $4.99 for one month access to all its features or $27.99 for lifetime access.

If you know of a specific app that someone uses to reduce pain, anxiety, or insomnia, you could always purchase gift cards so they can buy the premium versions of these apps. For people with an iPad or an iPhone, you could get them an Apple App Store or iTunes gift card via Amazon (physical gift card in $25, $50, $100, $200 amounts; e-gift card for $25, $50, $100, $200). You can purchase a Google Play gift card via Amazon (physical gift card $50; e-gift card for $25, $50, $100, $200) for anyone with Android phones or tablets.

Additionally, all of these guided meditation apps to reduce pain and insomnia are also available via Amazon for its Kindles: any Amazon gift cards can be used for the premium version of these apps: card in a decorative box or tin ($50-$2,000), card in a decorated mini-envelope ($10-$2,000), card in greeting card with a separate envelope for mailing ($10 to $2,000), or e-gift card ($25-$2,000).

Health Journeys App, CDs, MP3s

Health Journeys, founded by holistic medicine advocate Belleruth Naparstek, sponsors a large library of guided meditations, with many of them devoted to pain relief and healing. I regularly use Naparstek’s Meditation to Ease Pain and Meditation to Help Relieve Headaches, the latter of which features a guided meditation for relief of headache pain as well as a meditation designed to help prevent future head pain. I list several of Health Journeys other pain relief apps in my Gifts article.

These audio guided meditations are available in MP3 or CD format ($11.98 or $17.98, respectively) and are also available to stream from Health Journeys app for Android and iOS, which features a 7-day free trial. Health Journeys also has other items for pain relief and healing, including guided meditations by Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leaders in holistic medicine (CDs only), essential oils, books, pillows, lotions, etc. They also have gift cards ($15-$100) so that recipients can choose their own gifts. Health Journey’s catalogue is available online or by mail.

Remember to think “comfort” instead of “cure” when considering gifts for people with chronic pain and it’ll be easier for you to please people. Don’t have anyone to buy gifts for you? Then take care of yourself by getting at least one of these gifts, or those in my Gifts for People with Migraine or Other Chronic Pain (portable aromatherapy roll-ons and balms; all cotton heating/cold pads; and more details and meditations from Health Journeys, which  I’ve used almost 30 years, back when cassettes were the way to have portable audio). Whether you buy these gifts for others or for yourself, they’ll help reduce pain and comfort anyone suffering from migraine attacks or other chronic pain.


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For more of my articles on migraine or chronic pain,
see my Migraine & Chronic Pain page.

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Filed under Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia, Audiobooks, Books, Caregivers, chronic pain, Chronic Pain Treatment, E-books, healing, Health and Wellness, hemiplegic migraines, Meditation and MIndfulness, migraine, migraine self-care, Migraine Treatment, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines, Neuropathic Facial Pain, PTSD, Self-Hypnosis Apps, Self-Hypnosis Meditation Apps, trigeminal neuralgia, trigeminal neuropathy

We crave a different kind of buzz: Lorde and PURE HEROINE

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So, 17-year-0ld New Zealander Lorde, born Ella Maria Lani Yelick-O-Connor, is hitting the music charts after her Grammy wins this year with “Song of the Year” and “Best Pop Solo Performance” for “Royals”, which she claims shows the feeling her generation has about life, that “our lives are super mundane and we’re basically in this transition period waiting for something to happen to us.” Wow. Super-mundane? Having a mom as a poet? Waiting for something to happen to us? Writing short stories and then songs and then becoming a huge hit in her homeland before conquering the UK and cracking the US?

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Lorde says she’s always written, mostly short stories before she began writing songs, and her influences are as literary — T.S. Eliot, Raymond Chandler, Ezra Pound, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath — as musical — Drake, Kanye West, James Blake, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Etta James, and Otis Redding. “I’ve always been a big reader,” says Lorde. “My mum’s a poet and we’ve always had so many books, and that’s always been a big thing for me, arguably more so than music.” Her short video, Becoming Lorde, is poetic in itself.

Though lots of people like to trash her on YouTube’s Comments, I find her music haunting, with intelligent, sardonic lyrics. Not like some of the music or books coming out these days. You can tell that this artist actually reads good literature, then writes some coolio music.

In some videos, she doesn’t even sing, which is really unusual for generations of MTV viewers who are used to seeing the musicians play or, at the very least, sing, in their videos. The UK version of “Royals,” for which she won awards, apparently doesn’t show her singing, as this US version of “Royals” does. I guess someone thought the US would want less storytelling and more of her face, I don’t know.

I just know that I found her totally accidentally, roaming around the YouTube listening to music, especially to artists I’d never heard before, and I liked her lyrics from this song so much, I listened to more of her album.

Royals

I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I’m not proud of my address,
In a torn-up town, no postcode envy

[Chorus]
But every song’s like “gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room.”
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like “Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.”
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.

And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

[Verse 2]
My friends and I—we’ve cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the train to the party.
And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this,
We didn’t come from money.

[Chorus]

Her video for “Tennis Court” doesn’t show her actually singing, but it doesn’t tell a story either: she lets her lyrics do that.

I liked the samples I heard from her album Pure Heroine, and love the album. It’s ambitious and dangerous, it’s almost a cappella with a serious bass. I like it. “Funky with a totally intellectual attitude” doesn’t begin to describe it.

No, Lorde doesn’t strike me at all as the type that would have been singing into a hairbrush in front of a mirror when she was a young girl.

What a relief.

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Filed under Books, Documentary/Historical Video, Music Videos, Music/Song

Books That Changed My Life

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Someone on Twitter asked, “What books have influenced you or made an impact?”

How could any serious reader answer that in 140 characters or fewer?

Influenced me? How? My own writing style? That’s easiest to answer. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Hemingway’s The Sun also Rises, Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, anything by Alain Robbe-Grillet, anything by Chris Bojhalian, James Joyce’s short stories and the last (Molly) section of Ulysses.

Made an impact on me? Not sure what that means. Books you think about over and over? Books you read over and over? I don’t know. There are so many that I’ve read multiple times, for different reasons. Still, I couldn’t answer that in a Tweet. Or two. Or three.

What books irrevocably changed my life?

Ah, now that question I can answer.

When I was about 6 and T.S. Eliot died, the local newspaper ran a front page story about him, complete with picture and excerpt from his epic (and not always very good) The Wasteland. (When authors die today, they’re lucky if they’re mentioned on CNN’s ticker, momentarily, at the bottom of the screen during the morning news.) At 6, I tried to read The Wasteland excerpt myself, but couldn’t get it all, so I asked my mother who the man in the photo was. After she glanced at it, she said, “Some poet.”

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I asked her to read from the poem. She must’ve been in a really good mood that day because she actually did it. I was standing in the living room, looking up at a tiny window near the ceiling where shafts of sunlight poured in, watching the dust dance in the brilliant light, and listening to the most beautiful language I’d ever heard. I thought to myself, “One day, I’m going to write words like that, words that sound like music.”

My path as an author and life-long reader had just been chosen for me, and it began with poetry, specifically with Eliot’s The Wasteland, which you can read here, free, since it is in the Public Domain.

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When I was 8 and discovered Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales changed my life dramatically (this link will take you to the Prologue, free). My parents were always throwing my books away (after hitting me with them) because they thought the books were a waste of time since “women were supposed to get married and have babies so they didn’t need to read.” When I discovered a funny, dirty, interesting book written in English which they couldn’t understand (because it was in Middle English), it was an incredible epiphany.Unknown-8I was sitting at the kitchen table reading “The Miller’s Tale” and giggling hysterically over the arse-kissing part. My mother demanded to know what I was reading that was so funny. I obediently showed it to her. After a few seconds, she shoved the book back, asking, “WTH is this? It ain’t even in English.” I answered, “Old English” (because that’s what I thought it was). Her response, “You know, men don’t like smart girls. You ain’t never gonna get nobody to marry you if you keep reading crap like this.” (Only, being my mother, she didn’t say it quite so politely.)

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Since I was only 8 but already associated “marriage” with “control”, I thought, “Oh, goodie,” and kept on reading (although I did cover my mouth to laugh more quietly). Since she hadn’t found the book offensive, she hadn’t thrown it away. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English was the first book that gave me some power in my life: if my parents couldn’t understand what I was reading, I could read it without punishment. It also began my lifelong love of learning foreign languages: I’d simply read books in languages my parents couldn’t understand. No “crime”, no punishment. Besides the fact that Chaucer’s writing gave me power and increased my love for language(s), I adored all the characters in The Canterbury Tales, especially the Wife of Bath, looking for her 5th or 6th husband while on a “holy” pilgrimage to St. Thomas à Beckett’s burial shrine. What a riot.

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Though I read virtually everything I could get hold of (mostly in secret), the next book that altered my life taught me about espionage and spy-cunning. I was 12 when Zeffirelli’s classic film Romeo and Juliet came out, and, like all the girls my age, I desperately wanted to see it. That wasn’t going to happen: there was nudity in it – OMG! I decided I wanted to do the next best thing. Buy the book. My parents guffawed: “I had to read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar once,” said my step- (later adoptive) father, “and couldn’t understand it at all. If I couldn’t understand it, you can’t.” I was actually forbidden to purchase the book, and, furthermore, threatened with bodily harm if I was caught with it.

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That was when I learned to become a spy, an undercover agent, a female James Bond. I cased out my classmates, deciding relatively quickly that my partner-in-crime would most likely be the girl with shoe-polish-dyed-black hair who defiantly wore thick black eye-liner despite constantly getting detention for doing so. She was 2 years older than I, but still in the seventh grade because she’d skipped public school so much, she’d been held back two grades, and then sent to Catholic school after she’d been caught smoking her parents’ stolen cigarettes with a boy behind the family’s garage. Yep, she’d do.

She had an older brother who could drive to the nearest bookstore to buy the book for me. After I laid out my plan, she said she’d ask her brother and get back to me. The next day, in a corner on the playground, while looking in the opposite direction and pretending not to talk to me, she informed me that her brother had agreed but only on the condition that I also pay for his Coca-Cola (which came only in bottles that you had to uncap with metal bottle-openers, and which nobody called “Coke” back then). I was also instructed that I’d have to give her a “gift” for her part in this risky affair. I was specifically told what the “gift” was to be. I agreed to all terms and immediately handed over all my accumulated stash of allowance money (25 cents/week for all household chores, including laundry, cooking, cleaning up, etc.) Oh, by the way, her older brother instructed her to tell me that he got to keep any leftover monies for gas and his time. I had to agree that, since he was the only one with a car, said conditions seemed reasonable.

For over a week, I waited anxiously, worrying constantly that the plot would be discovered, and I’d be tortured into a confession, revealing my accomplices. Finally, one day, Shoe-Polish-Hair-Girl gave me our pre-arranged signal, tapping on her uniform pocket three times, nodding once. How my heart pounded as I watched the classroom clock, how slowly its hands moved until the bell rang for lunch and recess. Outside on the playground, My Girl and I casually passed each other. I dropped one of my mother’s redder-than-red lipsticks (that I’d stolen from her dresser) into my co-conspirator’s coat pocket while she slipped the coveted Romeo and Juliet into mine. I immediately ran the length of the playground, down the steps to the church beside the school (I, too, was sent to Catholic schools, though for a different reason: despite my family’s being Jewish, the schools were supposed to offer “protection” from anti-Semitism). I covertly slipped into one of the confessionals with the contraband book. Even at that age, the irony was obvious to me.

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In the dim silence of that curtained space, I gazed longingly at my treasure for as long as I dared, rapturously and repeatedly kissing the cover — which featured Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in a furtive, soulful embrace — before I began to dismantle the book. I tore off both front and back covers, ripped them to shreds, snuck out of the confessional, and crept around the empty church, depositing the shreds into separate waste-bins. Next I took the book out the opposite side door, away from the school’s playground, dropped it into the dirt, where I then stomped on it, bent it, ripped some of the pages (but carefully, so no words were obscured). I also scraped the spine of the paperback against the rough stone of the church until its print was illegible.

Success. It looked like some raggedy old book without anything to outwardly identify it. I returned to the schoolyard in triumph and immediately began reading. My Girl in the black eye-liner and dark red lipstick nodded once at me in passing. I nodded furtively before returning to my treasure.

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At home, I continued reading. Openly. Defiantly. Because neither my mother nor stepfather could tell what I was reading. I fell in love with Shakespeare’s language and with Romeo and Juliet’s story.

Did I understand it all? Of course not: I was 12 years old.

Have I loved Shakespeare ever since? Absolutely.

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His Romeo and Juliet taught me that love was tragic but beautifully written. Sigh. Again, with the beautiful language. Getting hold of Romeo and Juliet also taught me how to become a covert operative in order to deceive my parents so that I could read (almost) as many books as I wanted. It also taught me that, sometimes, the people you can trust most in the world dye their hair black with shoe-polish (until they can afford the real hair dye in a box like my mother used).

Although this first meeting scene is not as touching as the version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, it has a special place in my heart because it was this film which made me want to read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the first place.

The love song, played in this video, was a top hit on the radio that year, and I adored the film when I finally got to see it. It’s Romeo’s and Juliet’s first meeting, from Zeferelli’s 1968 film. Since the play is in the Public Domain, you can read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet free of charge.

Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist was my next life-changing book. And I  mean the book, not the movie. At fifteen, making plenty of money with all my baby-sitting jobs every night of the week and every single weekend, I’d bought the hardcover copy myself from another student who’d finished it. I removed the cover from the black hardback, and kept the spine lowered whenever I read.

One day, when I was about halfway through the book, my mother hung up the phone with my aunt, marched into the living room, and yanked the book from my hands. I protested vociferously. She claimed that my aunt had just read the book, or part of it, at least, and stopped, horrified by the scene where the satanically possessed daughter masturbates with a crucifix. Did I even know what masturbation was? she demanded loudly. I had to admit that I did not (my dictionary, also forbidden, was hidden under my mattress: I’d have to look the word up later).

My step-father then volunteered himself for the “awful task” of determining if I could finish reading the book I’d bought (though I’d already passed the crucifix-masturbation scene) by “bravely and unselfishly” reading it himself. After three weeks of annoyed but helpless waiting, I learned my sentence. My step-father announced that The Exorcist was, indeed, unfit for me to read. I was outraged. Not only had I bought the book myself but the very man who’d forced me to learn the actions (though not the words) for rape, incest, sodomy, and forced fellatio, was now deciding that I couldn’t read a book. My book. I crossed my arms over my chest, narrowed my eyes, and gave him, as they say, a look that could kill… (It never occurred to me to wonder when or how my parents realized I was reading a book called The Exorcist, I was so outraged by their taking it away.)

Though I’d never had study-halls before (too boring), I suddenly decided that I needed not one but two. The first in the morning and the second during lunch-period (I didn’t eat anyway). Both were granted because I was such a good, well-behaved, obedient student. I immediately purchased a new copy of Blatty’s book from another student and read it during my two study-halls, keeping the novel stored in my locker at school, never taking it home.

(Though we were technically too young to see the film version of Blatty’s novel when it came out, theater managers weren’t as strict as they are now about letting you into R-rated films as long as you looked like you were at least 17 (I was 15): we went with a friend’s older sister, who showed her ID, said she was our sister, too, and that we were all allowed to see the movie. The film version of one of the scenes that my stepfather objected to in the novel, though my parents themselves freely used such obscenities (and worse) was more horrifying that I’d imagined.

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Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist taught me that “a room of one’s own” — despite Virginia Woolf’s insistence — isn’t always sufficient: what one really needs is an off-home hiding/storage area to which no one else has access or keys.

After I turned 16 and purchased a ’68 VW Beetle with over 100,000 miles on it — so I could get to work without paying one of my friends for a ride — that VW’s massive front-end trunk, which locked, became the new “room of my own”- the storage facility for all my books. The keys never left my body, even when I slept. One does what one must to survive. And blossom, even in the intellectual desert that was my family.

Other books have changed my life, and me, but those are a few that I remember most vividly, and which I’ve read (and taught) countless times over the years. Though I do not have the original Romeo and Juliet, having replaced it with The Complete Works of Shakespeare, I do have my first copy of The Canterbury Tales and of The Exorcist. These books are some that are dearest to my heart: not just because of their beautiful writing or their stories, but because they, literally, changed me, my view of life, and my ideas of what I could accomplish if I was determined enough (and it my accomplices-in-crime didn’t confess under torture).

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