Monday, December 29, 2014

The Dark Days of an Undergrad

I love Pinterest. I can't help it.  Being a creative, crafty, diy person, it's right up my alley for inspiration.  Occasionally, I catch myself looking at dorm room ideas.  I don't know why.  I suppose sometimes I want to go back in time and go back to school in a more utopian world than actually existed.  

I catch myself thinking, where was this stuff when I was a new arrival to the dorms, completely on my own?  Of sure, there was that very first trip up to school that my mother and sister made with me my first year, in January when I transferred from the fairly useless local community college.  They made a trip to Wal-Mart with me, but I really didn't have much money to support myself on, and there wasn't much offered at the local store anyway.  Plus, in 1990, I never found a lot of resources for brightening up the place.  I had to make do with too-short twin bed sheets I'd brought from home and a dark pink power strip that I found.  Wow! They came in colors! ... And that was about IT for my dorm decor and comfort.  It was also the only time any member of my family set foot in my dorm room. 

Once, in my first semester, my stepsister brought her daughter to visit.  :). My father came once or twice a year when he had training nearby, and took me to lunch. He sent me treat baskets for finals week, and they probably saved my life.  But that was it.  I was on my own as far as family visitors went.  Everybody was too busy, and frankly, not interested in driving an hour to see me.  I became a little envious of my friends whose family sent or brought them care packages, and went out for family dinners after making a special trip to see them.  They seemed to want to visit several times a semester.  I, on the other hand, felt gladly forgotten.  For a while I worked back home on the weekends, and work and school were all I had.  I didn't have time for a social life, and I couldn't afford to do anything even when I did have a little time.  I was discouraged from doing anything with my friends, especially going to parties with them.  

Hey, I was too afraid to do anything that might jeopardize my scholarships and I didn't want to be told I had to leave home while I was trying to get myself an education.  One thing I never learned in college was how to socialize. Besides, by the second semester I was there, I'd collected a third job and one of my friends seemed determined to make me feel horrible every chance she got by publicly making out with my ex-boyfriend every time they saw me.  I'm not sure who instigated that, but I finally got the chance to make it clear that not only would I NOT "try to get him back," but also that I would never TAKE him back.  (As it turned out, I didn't want a Svengali in my life.  I detest being pushed around, especially by someone who just wants me for one thing.  I didn't cave, and he dumped me.  I was better off.). When every venture into the world turns into someone deliberately being cruel to you, you tend to stay in your room and skip meals.

At this time in my life, there was no internet, therefore no easy place to borrow great decorating ideas from.  We had cinder block walls, and I had no idea how to make anything stick to those walls (hint: low temp hot glue gun -- I didn't find that out for another five years).  I didn't have any tools, so I couldn't hammer anything into the wood AC duct cover over my bed.  Tape wasn't much good there either.  Not that I could afford to buy any, of course.  Command adhesive hooks hadn't been invented yet.  Come to think of it, I'm not sure post-it notes had been invented either.  At least, there were none in my little college town.  Highlighters were innovating - four whole colors!!  

If I'd had the ingenuity / tools / materials, I would have collaged some magazine pictures, hung some posters, wallpapered with fabric and liquid starch, or even posted stuff I needed to study right there on the wall beside my bed.  

At the time, I had no faith in my own creative talents, and the most I'd done was paint a couple of T-shirts.  (A nautical themed one and the cover of Duran Duran's Rio album.). Hey, I should have taken art classes at college.  I didn't think I had time.  Gee, I would have been a happier person if I had. Just the creative networking alone would have prevented some major depressive episodes.  I crocheted, but it was always reinforced at home that it was such a Granny thing to do.  Every time I was at home and crocheted, the scornful title of "old Granny!" was tossed at me.  Shame on me for doing something creative and sitting at home (when I wasn't encouraged or allowed to be social anyway???). What I should have done -- crocheted myself a warm, thick blanket to use as a bedspread.  Sometimes the dorms were cold in the winter.  The blanket I had wasn't the warmest.  

Thinking back about that time, now as an adult, I can see just how cruel it is to call someone already so insecure and depressed names like old Granny, knock-kneed, caterwauler, ugly.  I spend my days trying to build kids up, not destroy them emotionally.  I'd probably be fired if I said things like that.  It hurts me to hear kids being called names like that by so-called adults.  Sometimes it's impossible not to cry along with them.  

I remember the only New Year's Eve party I attended - I kept the cork from the nasty bottle of champagne I had a glass of.  I still think champagne is nasty and I don't drink it.  (Crafty geek confession - I was going to make something from it -- I stuck it in my coat pocket.  That's more embarrassing to me than what I was later accused of for having it.  On the way back to my hometown from my college's town, we stopped at the Raceway for gas and the bathroom.  

At 20, paying my way through college by myself, I wasn't allowed to stay the night in town on New Year's Eve while so many drunks were out driving.  I was required to be home no later than 1:30. Wow.  The latest curfew I ever had! Good thing we never had a prom! (True - my town wouldn't allow a prom until a few years after my graduation -- in claimed pity for the poor kids who couldn't afford dresses --  though there were still a lot of formal dances going on with the "upper class" kids anyway.  Though it seemed to be placating the poor kids, it was in reality, just another way to assure that only a certain group attended frequent cotillions and balls.). 

My friend grudgingly drove me home in that freezing cold without a car heater.  When I was in the bathroom, I noticed there was a vending machine that sold condoms, horoscopes, and massage oil.  Massage oil? In that little machine? How?  So I stuck my quarter in, turned the crank, and out came... A condom.  Ugh.  I stuck it in my coat pocket. No need for that.  I had no boyfriend, and no prospects for using it in the future, either.  Besides, the thing looked too cheap to work anyway.  I forgot about it.

A few days later I was putting on my coat to go somewhere (I only had one), and I found a note stuck in the pocket, referencing the cork and the condom.  "So this is the reason for your 'mood change.'  Supposedly the parent who put it there "accidentally" found those items when she "accidentally" put on my dark turquoise wool coat instead of her brown leather blazer when she went to take the dog out.  Oh sure, easy mistake, am I right? And accidentally expected her gloves in my pocket, and found those magical items.

Because yes, a chunk of cork and a vending machine condom really are magical and have the power to alter someone's personality! I was a spellcaster, just like I'd wanted to be all of my life!  Hmm.... Maybe instead of leaving nasty little accusatory notes after snooping in places you shouldn't and making assumptions about someone's morals, you might want to ask the person what's with their personality change over the last year? Why do they seem so depressed and quiet? Why don't they go out if they have a magic condom?  Nah, best to leave an obviously depressed person completely alone to deal with it without any show of support.  Better yet, pretend they don't exist while they are at school.  Don't call or visit to check on their well-being.  Just accuse them of debauchery the first time you get a chance.  That will take the place of medical intervention perfectly.

What altered my personality was feeling completely abandoned by my friends, who were always at play practices, and my family, who didn't want to drive an hour to see me.  I was under a lot of pressure to make top grades, keep my scholarship, and try to figure out feeding myself when I was afraid to go to the cafeteria alone.  (Hey -- I only partially conquered that fear 22 years later.) If I'd had a boyfriend, I probably would have had a much sunnier disposition.  

Fact check 1: I didn't need to depend on a seedy gas station vending machine for condoms.  My little college town had several drugstores and a Wal-Mart, all of which sold condoms.  There was also a tiny building on campus, called the Student Health Center which, I heard, gave free condoms if you asked.  I never tested this theory, being perpetually without a boyfriend and too embarrassed to say the word condom anyway.  I'll admit, lack of male attention is where some of that nagging depression came from.  I was pretty, smart, and had a killer figure, and still I got little attention. Probably because I wasn't slutty enough.  And, I recently found out, a male "friend" of mine was telling lies about me to guys to keep them away.  Scott, you're in trouble if I ever see you again.  

Fact check 2: My little college town was in a DRY COUNTY.  You had to drive to Kentucky AND be 21 years old to buy alcohol!  So accusing me of being an alcoholic made me even angrier because it was ridiculous.  Anybody who had come and snooped around my dorm room would have seen that I was being boring and good, all by my own choice, and then there were all of those times I STILL got accused of spending all my time drinking instead of going to class and studying.  

Fact check 3: "We're not sending you to school so you can spend your time drinking and sleeping around."  Ohh, why was that said to me unless someone was poisoning the well?  Another person making me out to be bad?  Well, I was paying my own way completely at that point (the episode of starvation hadn't happened yet) so the truth was *I* was sending myself to school which meant, if I think about it now, that I was on my own to do whatever I wanted, as long as I had the money. Therefore: I still went to class, studied hard, took an OVERLOAD of courses, and still made the Dean's List every semester.  Worked all summer in a soul-crushing factory, and worked two jobs on campus.  Gee.... When would I have time to work in all that carousing?  

I catch myself going back in time with today's solutions and mentally sprucing up my dorm room, now that there are ways to stick things to the wall, but it's a silly thought.  Even if there had been Command products back then, I probably wouldn't have been able to afford them.  

At some point I sewed myself a quilt for my bed, a little jealous that my roommate had been sent to school with a grandmother-made quilt and matching curtains and pillows.  She had lots of cute little mementos that her loved ones sent to make her side of the room homey.  I also got tired pretty fast of all the time her boyfriend spent in our room, and all the time I had to listen to her whining his name on the phone when he didn't indulge her in whatever she wanted.  Earbuds would have been great to have back then.  :). The quilt and a few matching pillows were the height of my dorm decorating career, however.  I was still broke and trying to figure out how to make pants long enough to cover my ankles after the pants shrunk in length.  No, nobody coming to take me shopping for clothes as mine disintegrated and I ran out of money to buy food.

There used to be no online repository of recipes perfect for cooking in a dorm where you're only allowed a microwave and refrigerator.  I sneaked in a Hot Pot and a sandwich press, eventually, and they were very useful. :). If only there had been blogs with recipes such as desserts in a mug!  Mmm.... I'm sure people had such recipes -- there was just no way to find them.  I feel strongly that if I were an undergrad now, I'd probably have to create such a blog myself as part of a writing class.  .... which would be useful.  

Oh the things that I could do now... I swore that I'd make sure to help my kids be comfortable at school.  That turned out to be a non-issue, of course.  I'd probably feel better about all that loneliness back then if I could help someone else avoid it, I guess.  Ah... Maybe in another life... One in which I didn't fail at the simplest goals I'd had for my life.

Well... Pinterest and cookie-in-a-mug recipes await....

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spurred to Inaction

I had my follow up yesterday for my do-over MRI.  (The first one was pretty poorly executed.). Diagnosis: bone spurs in the hip socket.  The doctor could grind them off but he isn't sure that would alleviate the pain I feel, considering that I feel the pain higher up on my pelvis than in my hip socket.  Then again, he says, I may just be "wired weird" and feeling the pain in an unusual place.  Nevertheless, he doesn't want to do the surgery not knowing for sure because it would involve removing my leg from the socket.  I suppose the trauma and possible complications from the surgery are just too great compared to my pain.  

So I'm going to have to live with it and take a daily anti-inflammatory as a remedy, until something truly more catastrophic happens with that area of my body.  

He twisted, pulled, and manipulated my leg trying to induce the pain of a serious labral tear, but none of it was more than uncomfortable to me in his office -- hours later I started hurting in those places, of course.  Maybe my idea of pain isn't the same as his.  I've been dealing with migraines so long that noing else is quite as excruciating to me.  I deal with pain and push away my notice of it because I'm pretty sure that most of the time, there's nothing that can be done, and more often than that, nobody but me really cares about keeping me out of pain.  

So I have a prescription that I don't want to take and another month of physical therapy to go through to strengthen my adductors.  This time I don't intend to drop my legwork at the gym, though.  It didn't really do anything for me than to kill my established exercise routine and make me lose ground on tryng to lose weight.  

I think the only medical bright spot of my weekend was when I had to go to the urgent care clinic on Sunday for my migraine (4 days long) and the nurse practitioner said I have a nice low heart rate.  That's good, because when I do my cardio, it's always pushing 180 bpm, which is far above recommended pace for someone my age.  

Where is my mind now? I feel like giving up and just living with the pain.  Someday I won't be able to walk and then they'll probably still scratch their heads and say they don't understand why I don't fit into their pre-defined lists of symptoms.  

And I'll tell ya, this isn't doing good things for my already missing holiday spirit.  Christmas is feeling (emotionally) to me this year the way it has felt for the past seven years.  I feel inexplicably sad, and I still don't want to do any holiday decorating.  I just want to go home, go to bed, and sty there the rest of the day.  I don't want to participate in anything holiday related.  Not the office potluck, the office Christmas party, the cousins' Christmas party, and not even Christmas.  

You'd think that with all the bright lights my neighbors put up that I'd feel cheerful, but I'm still driving up to a dark and gloomy house, and I don't have time to decorate because I'm getting pulled in so many directions for everything else. I feel like that blob in the Zoloft ads.  I want to drop everything except work and sleep, even fun stuff like painting.  Well, it was fun until I started struggling with the current painting.  Now it's a chore.  And I have to start and finish a painting by Christmas.

Is it just stress? Social anxiety?  (I just ran from the teachers' dining room rather than make small talk with the people actually enjoying holiday stuff. I just needed to flee back to my room with the lights off so I can cry by myself for no good reason.). I can't handle even a good change in my life without freaking out and wanting to retreat into a dark space by myself. Or is it my old shadow depression, which never really leaves, though I do manage to ignore it for chunks of time?  Maybe it's hormones gearing up to kick me in the teeth yet again.  

I don't know. Whatever it is, I'm miserable and I don't know why.  Yet here I sit, making a bunch of handmade gifts for Christmas and hoping for a blizzard this week.  Dreading Christmas and being around people.  Thinking if I could wear an elf costume to Christmas, my goofy attire would distract me from the gloom.  But I can't find one premade and I don't know if I have time to sew one together. 

I hate feeling this way.  I really do.  I should go wrap up in a blanket and hide in a closet somewhere.

Oh,  this might be slightly funny... I've been informally diagnosed with narcolepsy.  Now THAT might explain the nighttime hot flashes and my ability to have vivid dreams within minutes of falling asleep... Even with all the lights in to room on.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Stairmaster Incident

I'm pretty sure I'm currently "on ignore" so I thought I'd tell the Stairmaster story.  It's okay to ignore me, but... I remember the last person that deliberately ignored me. He did it to punish me, and make me give in to his demands.  It was the distance that made me finally lose interest in an unhealthy relationship.  He didn't get what he wanted, and he shoved me away when the intent was to keep me under his boot.  So I was better off.

I suppose that's how you tell the difference between someone who cares and someone who just wants to control.  It hurts. Always does.  There's no way to prepare for it.

I spent five minutes on the new Stairmaster at the gym.  I was dying.  I knew it was going to be tough, so I was just hoping to stay on five minutes. 

When the five minutes were up, I couldn't figure out how to get down, so I decided to ride the stairs down and hop off just before they turned under.  

And that would have been fine, except that when my feet hit the floor, both of my fatigued knees buckled and I landed on my butt, flat on the floor.  As if that weren't enough, going back I commanded lots of attention by falling back into the bike behind me, with a loud clang.  

Everybody looked.  Fortunately, I really did land on my very cushioned rear and it didn't hurt, but it was very embarrassing.  

Whirlwind in My Head

My mind is aswirl this morning.  Fortunately, it's not to the maelstrom point yet, but whirlwind is an apt description. I've got too much on my mind, none of which I can quite put aside.  If you stick with me, I promise there's a funny Stairmaster story coming up.  

There's that continual issue of people who turn their noses up at me as I pass, who have nothing to do with me until they want something, and then they expect me to be on call fulfilling their demands.  I'm an accessory to them -- a servant waiting for the ring of their bell to spring into living existence.  Sorry folks, I don't live for the slight praise you give when I fulfill your whims.  As a colleague of mine advises, "If you've got the money, I've got the time."  Maybe. 

It's getting to where I don't have the time for various reasons. Christmas is approaching, I have gifts to complete and gather, Medical procedures to do over, and I'm feeling myself inexplicably fatigued just by going through my daily routines.   Oh, and there are a few things I do for myself that I will NOT compromise on.  People want you to just "do this one quick thing for me" that eats away at your time like acid, and then they don't care that you have no time for yourself.  In their eyes, you'd better get it all done without disturbing your service to them.  

They'll get over it when I say no.  They have no choice.  When someone who has had nothing to do with you for twenty years wants you to cancel your plans (because YES, I do have holiday parties to attend, even though I don't splash all my business on Facebook) to do some special last-minute, time-consuming project, it's not surprising that I can't stretch extra hours into the day for them.  If I'm not already part of your life, why would you think that a few flattering words would motivate me to do work for you?  I truly do not understand these people.  And you know, it's so many people treating me that way.  I'm not an on-call demo person who figures out your machinery and then comes to give you free personal lessons, before, during, and after your active snubbing of me.  How about if you pay me $25 per hour as a consultation fee, up front?  Plus expenses.  I mean, you don't call me your friend, so you might as well consider me hired help.  Treat me that way with cash up front then.  Otherwise, I can't even consider making time for you.  My time is worth money.  I could be sleeping.  

If we were friends, sure, I'll consider helping you out if I could, but you need to get over that "she's single and has nothing better to do with her time, so I'm doing her a FAVOR by keeping her busy when she's not at work" misunderstanding about me.  I know who my friends are.  There aren't that many.  They spend time with me, do things with me that occasionally I want to do and they don't, and they don't invite me along just so that I can carry their bags, babysit their children, and defray their costs. They don't spend their free time being judgmental of me or blabbing every personal thing I tell them to whomever they like. This might be why I don't confide in some people anymore.

You don't have to worry.... I have plenty of things to do in my spare time.  I have home repairs and improvements to do.  I paint.  Sometimes I crochet and rarely I knit.  (Confession: I don't really enjoy knitting.  By the time I finish a small project, I'm far past the point of enjoyment on the project.  If I give you something I knitted, you should feel honored.) I make things.  I make a lot of things for people who are dismissive of all the time and materials I used in thinking about and executing a gift that I made for them.  I'm especially mindful of the ones who deliberately destroy that gift in my presence, just to show that they can.  I write.  I write to purge myself of negative feelings that just make me unwell.  I write because I have always wanted to write entertaining stories and I wasn't ever given an opportunity to act anything out.  I paint, when I'm not too disheartened by that situation.  More feelings of being an inconvenience.  I'm taking baby steps to being able to paint at home.  I have an easel.  Glass for a palette.  I'm lacking confidence.  My gut tells me that what I need to do is simply to paint more.  

And I sleep.  Sometimes I sleep because I can't face being conscious anymore, and sometimes I'm just so exhausted in mind and body that I can't stay awake. Sleep deprivation is ten times worse for me now than it was five years ago.  Though I'm not currently being pulled under by a quicksand of depression, it does feel like my feet are mired in a thick nightmarish tar that won't let me lift my feet completely free before they're pulled back down into the muck.  A few weeks ago I had to take diazepam before an MRI and it felt like I was wearing lead boots.  Then it felt like I was made of lead from the waist down.  That's what walking through my day often feels like - no spring in my step and feet of lead as i trudge. (refer to A Knight's Tale for the best description of trudging.)

Today, as yesterday, I'm sitting in my dark bedroom during daylight for yet another hour after waking.  (Thus is hour three, btw.) Am I wasting time? Well, not right at the moment, because I am writing.  Even the worst writing serves a purpose if it purges some darkness from your soul.  Okay, purges some darkness from your heart... Is that less pretentious?  

Of course, I'm sitting here listing to the wind tear through my property and thinking that I need to go buy a sheet of Advantech and replace my crawl space doors today while it's not bone-chillingly cold.   It's not that I've ever been taught anything about carpentry, but I'm intelligent, curious, and starting to understand that there's a lot I can do if I just give it a shot, even though it's out of the domain of things at women are "allowed" to do in this misogynistic world that proclaims equality for all.  

I don't want to think about all that will entail, though.   It's always a bigger job once you get started, and I know I have to consider the following tasks: measuring the door opening (which mysteriously reeks of mildew that literally clings to my hands beyond three washings), going to Lowes to buy Advantech.  Getting the sheet cut down so that it will fit in my car. Trimming it to size with my jigsaw once I get it home.  (Because that's all I have) Painting it with exterior grade paint. Mounting it on new hinges.  Attaching a new door latch.  Hoping there are no cats trapped under the house.  Repeat for the other door. I'm sure that there will be complications and challenges. There always are. Home repair never goes as easily as you hope it will.   (My house was added on to, hence two separate crawl spaces.). I could sit around just complaining that my house needs repairs.  Or I can take the steps toward accomplishing those repairs, which means learning, spending my time on unpleasant tasks, and getting a lot of splinters in my hands, then proudly completing the task only to have critical people tell me what I did wrong.  Well, up yours since you neither guided, advised, nor helped when it was needed.  I may be a genius, but knowledge comes from a place other than thin air and solitude.  

Where does knowledge / inspiration spring from, for me? (I pair the words, because after I'm inspired, I seek knowledge.  Then I learn.  And then I accomplish. )  Gadgety type stuff : seeing some material and wondering what I can do with it.  If I had time, funds, and enough understanding, I might invent a few things beyond the ideas I've held onto for years.  I just fixed my car with Sugru.  And some keys.  And a broken knife handle.  And Iphone cords.  And other things yet to come.  Yeah, roll your eyes at my geekiness, but you're the one who wanted to keep reading.  Inspiration from Pinterest.  The Internet.  Books I've had for a while.  Etsy. Instructables.   

Success with one project leads me to a slightly manic pursuit of success with similar materials. "I must make ALL the things out of wood! Mwahaha!"   I built an end-of-cabinet cutting board holder.  It made me happy so I made some underbed drawers. Then I hung several pieces of white pegboard in my studio. I leapfrog to the next idea, and hopefully, I have the time to complete that idea.  Coming up are crate-style shelves for my bedroom and another underbed drawer, plus a serving tray.  More pegboard, but in the kitchen to counteract the meager cabinet space and nonexistent counter space.  My kitchen has less working space than a camper - no kidding.  I've been inspired by my dad's woodworking magazines since I was a kid.  Books, my own magazines, TV shows... But if it wasn't for the Internet, I would really have a hard time learning about new things in a timely manner.  

I know that I'm being a big disappointment to someone right now, but if I'm not being honest about how I'm feeling, I'd just be puppetting myself, putting on an act to please someone.  I've found that being fake leads to resentment because I can't be myself, and myself isn't enough.  Should I only exist to make others happy?  Is being a fake version of myself acceptable? Because I've gotta tell you, some things about me will NEVER change.  I will always be short, yet shun high heels for the sake of my feet.  I will never want blonde hair.  I will never pretend to be stupid. I will always have wide hips, because that's bone structure.  I will always have small hands, which aren't pretty, but they're skilled.  I will always cringe at the rampant poor grammar I see from people who should know better.  I may have an uncontrollable need to point out the error.  I will not put myself out there because I have been too badly hurt in the past and I'm not sure I've recovered from it, or forgiven.  I can't forget.  I won't mind if you ask me about my kids and I have to respond that I don't have any.  You don't have to run away, embarrassed that you asked about a painful subject. I wanted a houseful of my own children. But I will get angry if you tell me how lucky I am to be unable to have kids, bombard me with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, complaining yet bragging simultaneously.  If one of them died, would you like for me to tell you how "lucky" you are to have one less annoying descendant in your life?  You could just change the subject.  Or I could. But don't shun me by running away and never speaking to me again.  I'm just one of those people who didn't get that gift from God.  

Sometimes I wish I could project what I'm feeling onto someone else, so they would understand what the smile and attempt at an easygoing attitude is covering.  Some people just don't understand the danger of a hot stove until they burn themselves on it. I don't need dreams that I'm expected to drive over crumbling bridges to tell me that I'm worrying about upheaval, destruction, and death. (I got out of my car and refused to drive across that bridge.)  I don't need to dream about bizarre body changes that aren't really happening to know that I'm afraid of changes I can't stop and I wish would get to the finish already.  (I actively sought out the means to undo that change in my dream.) Still, I'm having those dreams and they certainly aren't comforting.  Neither are the reasons I'm having those dreams -- purely biological, I'm sure. Next time maybe I'll remember to change the dream to suit me, instead of scare me.  

I spent a large part of yesterday making handmade Christmas gifts.  I don't know if they will be appreciated. Does it even matter anymore? Isn't the point to give and let others make snarky comments behind your back while they toss it in the trash, or the yard sale box?  It's why I've stopped making many gifts.  That and the sheer cost of the materials.  Sure, I'll spend $80 on the materials for your blanket, and then spend the next three months making it, and sure, I'll be glad to add another foot to YOURS (it's only another $20) and another month to make it...  No problem.  I live to serve and spend my grocery money on you.  Oh of COURSE you'll take good care of it.  Yeah.  That "treating it like its a cheap dollar store rag" thing hurts me.  I don't use cheap materials.  I really need to just make myself some cheerful holiday sweatshirts.  (Then would come the "You could sell those and make a lot of money!" Comments that never come with "I'll spread the word for you" or "Of course I'll be glad to pay for mine -- we're friends, aren't we?" ;) 

Once I had a friend ask me to paint a full-wall wraparound mural for her baby's nursery.  I calculated what the charge should be ($1000) and told her it would normally cost $1000 for that much labor, expertise, and materials, but I would do it for $250.  It would be floor to ceiling mural work, with me painting the entire wall, after I prepped it.  She balked.  Having had no problem charging me full price for scrapbooking materials every time I came for a "party", she had a problem with paying $250 for four walls of custom decorative painting.  (The running rate for plain paint on the walls was $400 at the time.). She said that because we were friends, I should do it for free, for "word-of-mouth". I told her that was the cost of the labor and materials.  She'd need to at least pay for paint.  No dice.  She wanted a free mural.  Well, needless to say, she chose to drop our friendship after that.  She barely even responded when I said hi to her, and wouldn't speak first.  Now she just glares if I do see her.  The bright spot was that I didn't feel obligated to spend money at her house once a month after that.  It turns out that I can do a much nicer job on scrapbooks with Photoshop.  Yes, I know I could hire myself out to make digital scrapbooks, but again, people want free labor for that.  Everybody wants designer results for yard sale prices.  This is why we can't have nice things.

I have a multitude of valuable skills that nobody wants to pay for, but everybody wants to benefit from.   Lol. 

I know this post won't make me popular with anyone, but let's face it -- nobody is ringing my phone off the hook as it is, and probably won't know how to find me when they want something again, and I don't care as much as I thought I did.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Magnesium Result

I started taking a magnesium supplement on Monday.  Monday night, I slept so well that I felt like I'd been anesthetized.  I didn't wake up groggy, though my body did try to wake me up exactly one hour early in honor of Daylight Saving Time's change in the clock.  Yeahhh, get with it body, we are on a new schedule.

It was such a solid, heavy quality night's sleep that it felt like a warm darkness tangibly snuggling my whole body.  

Now it could be the sudden boost in magnesium, which helps calm the nerves and allows for healthier sleep.  I honestly thought it was due to the glass of red wine and 5 mg of melatonin, with my thunderstorm recording playing.  It could have been a fluke.

Except that last night I slept very well too, with all the same factors. :). I don't care what it was -- I'm grateful for the restful sleep.  That's the way it's supposed to feel, by golly!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Lowes Employees Fear Pinterest

Last week's carpentry project was a wood drawer / box, to be used under my bed for storing my shoes.  You know how it is... You have sneakers for running and exercising (though running shoes really should be reserved for running only...), sneakers for just wearing around for comfort, so as not to wear out the running shoes, and old running shoes that became the yard-mowing shoes.  I think it's time to cycle them down and give myself a newer pair of yard mowing shoes, eh? And maybe stash a pair in my car for emergencies.  

Still, I'm left with a queen sized bed, under which the only thing tha comfortably fits is my Yorkie. It's his favorite hiding place.  It's always been a shame that space couldn't be utilized for proper storage, because the clearance on the sides is only 5 1/2 inches.  I couldn't find plastic underbed boxes to fit.  

I decided to build one. Okay, maybe three, if it all worked out.  :D

I sketched out my plans, made allowances for actual lumber dimensions, and went to Lowes with my shopping list on my phone.  

One thing on the list was a countersink bit.  I had decided to find my way in woodworking without spending $200 per project, as a lot of newbies do.  I'm limited to buying one basic tool each time I make something, and in this way, I'll eventually have some useful tools, learning to use one new thing each time.  The countersink bit was needed in order to prevent my wood from splitting, primarily, and secondarily to sink the screw heads neatly below the surface.  It makes sanding over those screws easier.  

I think I spent $63 for this one drawer.  Hahaha!  But if you throw in a drink from the cooler, and a set of countersink bits for $20 (cheaper by the set, and I would have bought the wrong one anyway), I didn't do too badly.  I also had some leftover lumber to use for other projects. Yay.

I did fine picking out 1x4s, though they had some really crummy ones in the pile and I had to dig a bit in order to find boards that were straight, not cupped, and not full of knots.  It was a pain.  Then I needed to find good quality plywood for the bases. I wanted 1/4 inch plywood, but I would have had to buy a $20 small piece per drawer, leaving a lot of waste.  

The lumber department manager convinced me to get a full sheet of plywood to save money and avoid waste, soI had him cut it for me in 25"x28" bases for three drawers, and cut the remainder in half to fit my car.  

The first sheet he pulled off and started to take to the saw was covered in so much glue that there was barely any wood visible.  He didn't seem to care until I called him on it and asked him to get another sheet that was of better quality.  I thought that for nearly $30, I deserved a piece of good quality wood, right?  Glue blobs? PLEASE!  I'm a novice, but I'm not that stupid.  

He also tried to convince me to use a really floppy piece of cheesy paneling for the base.  Then I started to suspect that he was either being spiteful of a woman carpenter, or just freaking clueless himself.  Maybe he had no vision about how a finished underbed drawer should function.  

He asked what I was making, and after I told him, he looked back with a weary expression and said, "This isn't a Pinterest project, is it?"  I said no, and asked him why.  He said that a lot of people come in having seen something on Pinterest, and expecting him to tell them how to make it.  Men and women.  I laughed and said that its my own design.  Hmm... That might have been worse. ;). I considered having him cut the boards, too, but then thought I'd rather do that myself.  Good thing I did...

The next day I measured and cut the sides, using my knee to hold the wood and my concrete steps...  Okay, I was planning to buy the recommended Workmate, but the Men of Lowes stated they hadn't sold those for a year and they didn't sell well anyway.  Here's what I think: newbie woodworkers like me either don't know about those small portable workbenches and how helpful they can be, or the ones purchased there are large workbenches for people with workshops, and they are experienced woodworkers.  

I've got a carport.  Lol. I need a portable workbench that I can store away when I'm not using it.   And how would a lass like me know about a portable workbench, when there are none to be seen in a local store?  I'd not heard of them before I saw mention of them in a book.  Fortunately, I did have a helper to hold things steady for me while I was drilling countersink holes for my screws.  

But I was on my knees on the concrete a lot, and it would have been helpful to have an elevated bench with clamps. I believe I could have worked a lot faster and avoided getting all achy on the cold, damp concrete.  Would have been nice!  

When it was time to attach the bottom, I realized that the wood wasn't cut square.  It was off nearly 1/4" on opposite corners, yet the sides I had cut and screwed together were perfectly square.  

As it turns out, Mr. "I'm the department manager and I've worked here ten years" isn't very proficient at using a panel saw. According to my brother, panel saws should be really accurate... In the hands of a proficient cutter.  I find it almost funny that I could have done a better job cutting my own plywood with a jigsaw, if only I'd been able to haul it home in one piece.  Maybe the inaccuracy of his cuts explains why he gave me a $10 discount on the whole sheet of plywood.  I wonder what it would have been on the unpaintable and covered in glue sheet he tried to pawn off on me first.  (Clueless, or malicious?)

Well, I made it work on that one piece, and sort of planed down the splintered edges of his cuts and the overhangs.  I wish I'd had a square and a workbench to use and repaired his messy cuts.  He ripped through the wood when he should have slowed down the saw to cut more smoothly.  All the edges of the cuts were splintered.  Doesn't he understand the nature of plywood??

Hopefully, the other two drawer bases I had him cut won't be too hard to correct.  I may not make three full drawers anyway.  Maybe two, and a smaller third.  

Unfortunately, the thick base means that my casters won't work, and I have to attach furniture slides under the drawers.  Or not.  But they might make it easier to use the drawers. I also have to paint and attach handles, but I think I'll hold off on that until I get the other drawers built.

My first drawer isn't perfect.  The bottom is a bit off square and it's heavy due to the thicker-than-I-wanted base, but I was limited by what was available and not wanting to waste wood with only one usable cut from a 4x 4 sheet.  Most of the pieces were 4x2 pieces and wouldn't work anyway.  

But hey... I made it to hide under the bed anyway, so it doesn't have to be perfect.  :D

Needsum Magnesium

At some point in the past year I read about magnesium deficiency causing metabolism problems and decided to start taking vitamins again.  Then I noticed that my vitamins, listed as "complete", contained no magnesium whatsoever.  Because I was juicing a lot of kale at the time, I forgot all about that.  After all, green leafy veggies are loaded with the mineral.  

My migraines are getting worse, so I read the articles that I find, and last night I found one that mentioned a correlation between magnesium deficiency and migraines.  It also said that migraines with aura (mine are called scintillating scotoma) double the risk of stroke.  Add that to my mother's strokes, and I may be in trouble.    

But another few interesting things: magnesium deficiency, IBS, and migraines.  It's all about the nerves.  Furthermore, the more migraines you have, the more likely it is that you'll develop fibromyalgia.  A third of migraine suffers get fibromyalgia because the constant migraine pain overactivates pain responses. Well, I have been hurting all over for a while, but I thought it was just aging.  Maybe those nerves are on edge all the time.  I wouldn't say fibro at this point, but maybe I am hurting a lot more than I used to.  I guess I'd better keep the Imitrex handy.

Maybe that's why the pain from my "irritated femoral nerve" has worsened.  In my imagination, it's like the Colorado River carving it's way through an easier riverbed for transporting agony.  My nervous system is deteriorating.  *sigh*

I was diagnosed a few years ago with IBS, but it manifests primarily in intense abdominal pain and swelling.  (At least I don't have to deal with the other two major symptoms often, though I think I have them more often than a normal person.) The pain feels like broken glass is moving through my digestive tract, and honestly, it makes me want to stop eating altogether sometimes.  I deal with it most days, so no comments about my swollen belly, ok? :)

Yesterday I looked for multivitamins with magnesium again, and couldn't find any. :(. I guess I'll just have to get a standalone supplement to get the recommended 600 mg per day that is reportedly the right amount to avoid migraines and IBS symptoms.  

So that gives me more vitamins to add to my hypochondriac-esque pill dispenser box.  It only holds vitamins, I promise.  It's one of those 1 week am & pm ones, so I just fill it with a two week supply.  I feel better if I remember my vitamins, and the box is just a timesaver.  If I open several bottles every morning, it takes me forever, and I tend to spill them.  :). Before coffee.  This way I just open one little box and I'm done. 

So I'm not a hypochondriac (the pain is real) and I try not to take painkillers because I don't want to get hooked on them.  There's also the problem of OTC drugs causing rebound headaches.  So that's bad.  :). 

Trying to make one doctor hear that all this is connected is difficult.  They all want to hear one symptom per office visit charge, and come back for another charge if you have another symptom.  They've largely forgotten that the point of being a doctor is to heal, not to rack up co-payments.  I don't mind paying fees for proper treatment, but I know when I'm being obviously hustled.  It makes me less likely to seek medical treatment when I need it.

I'm hoping for the day when medical science goes Star Trek and they can just scan people to find all the interrelated health problems and fix them with a few buttons pressed. :)  Though I suppose that would mean that hundreds of parties might not profit from my illness.  As you do?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gotta Get Some Wood

I attended my class reunion this weekend... More about that later.  ;)

Anyway, I think it's about time for me to build something else.  I figure that if I start by building boxlike or boxesque (gee, doesn't that make it all sound nicely highbrow?) wooden structures, I will eventually start to understand the nature of the medium and make some pretty things.

Okay, the truth is that I need a slide out tray / drawer / thing for under my bed, to store my shoes.  They're getting a little out of hand.  I would go the cheap route of buying plastic boxes, but there is only 6 inches of clearance and no box worth having is that shallow. 

Which means that I have to build one.  And I need to get on building that crawl space door, because my once dry-as-a-bone under-house area now reeks of mildew and rotting dead things.  It will only get worse if I don't replace that door.  

I promise, I've hidden no bodies under there.  Not yet. Low, dark, damp, creepy places are just not my thing.  I'm claustrophobic. 

I've been duly frightened off using power tools by the men of my immediate family, who are sure that I will lose some fingers due to my natural female clumsiness.  Okay, I take it back.  I'm just clumsy, and we all know it.  I'm also accident-prone, and everyone knows that.  The fact that they consider me to be incompetent simply due to my being female is a whole separate issue.  But I'm gonna have to risk getting hurt because I'm the one who has to take care of all the day-to-day repairs around my house.  I don't actually know anybody who would be willing to do any favors for me anyway -- serious compensation is always demanded.  And there is that issue of everyone being so busy all of the time. 

If nobody is going to have confidence in me, I might as well have it myself.

Hey, chivalry is dead.  Not that I was ever a princess.  More like a scullery / chambermaid.  But I still say that knowledge is power, and I know a lot more than I used to.  :)  Mwaahaahaa!  Where's my wand!?!

So as for the warning that I will suffer death by jigsaw, ehhhh... Whatever.  I've gotten nowhere in life from knuckling under to my fears, last night's refusal to dance and sing karaoke being case-in-point.  

Still, I think it would be much less dangerous if I buy myself a Workmate that I can clamp the wood I'm about to cut to.  :D.  I just hear that those things are a devil's puzzle to assemble, most of the time.  

I'm thinking 1x4s for the sides, some smooth plywood (see, I don't even know what it's called -- finish grade??) for the bottom, and some furniture slides for movement (because casters would eat up the height and render it useless).  If I can construct a box out of cardboard, moving up to wood only requires understanding how to measure, cut, and attach the wood, and I might even learn to use a countersink bit on this project.  

Next thing you know, I'll be building flush wall niches between the studs.  

Okayyyy.... That might take a few years..... Im a little skittish about sawing through paneling and hitting WIRE.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jaqen H'Ghar Returns?

I've read rumors that Tom Wlaschiha has been in or was headed to Northern Ireland for more time on Game of Thrones. :D 

Oh, I hope so! Since I can't watch any of the German movies he has been in (how in the world can I find them without delving into the world of pirated movies? ) I would like to see him reprise his role as Jaqen.  By far, he has been my favorite character in the series, and I believe he shows up in the books again, though not necessarily using his Jaqen persona.  

But even if I couldn't see his face, I wouldn't mind hearing his voice!  It's just.... I don't know, something about it that has serious appeal for me.  Every once in a while you hear a voice that just goes right through you for one reason or another.  It literally makes your hair stand on end.

Some kind of magic.

One other time I heard a voice like that in voice chat playing World of Warcraft -- we were trying to get some new guild members, and this guy spoke... I don't know what it was about his tone, but it got to me. I wanted to say, "Heyyyy, I know you're not going to join our guild, but could you maybe read the dictionary to me for an hour?"  

Pretty potent stuff.  Makes a lot of sense that Tom Wlaschiha is a voice actor. Smooth tones. :) And speaking five languages is pretty darn impressive. 

Greedy Monopolizing Companies

I'm rather aggravated.  This is going to take some explanation.  

My Cricut, an electronic cutting machine, was languishing unused because I couldn't do the things I wanted to do with it.  I suddenly decided to try making it useful again, and bought a few new cartridges, none of which created the effect desired.  Darn it, those cartridges are expensive.  

I cut some vinyl with it and created a name sign for my classroom. I also monogrammed my water bottle. Unfortunately, you can't do a whole lot of overlapping with the options are presented, and Cricut really doesn't provide a decent monogram capability.  Well, at least as far as I know, because I have one of the original machines and I'm not going to buy one of the brand-new ones just for new options, which still won't to allow me to do what I want to do. 

So I dug out my old laptop, on which I had installed a purchased copy of the program Sure Cuts A Lot.  It is a fabulous program, which overcomes the limitations of using a Cricut. Unfortunately, the parent company who wrote the software was sued by the makers of Cricut,  basically to punish them for coming up with a much better idea that made purchasing extra cartridges unnecessary.  Truly, Provo craft should have thought of this themselves. I understand they lost a lot of sales in 2013 to newer machines that could use extra features easily.

Well, the laptop wouldn't stay on long enough for me to get the software off of it. I investigated and found that the CMOS battery was likely dead -- after four years in a drawer I'm sure it was dead, and I bought that computer seven years ago.  So I cracked open my laptop and replaced that battery. 

But that didn't fix the problem. The laptop will not stay on. Honestly, I was thinking about making it a machine dedicated to that particular software.  Now it looks like I will have to transfer all of that hard drive information over to another PC laptop.   I don't want to buy another PC laptop.  *sigh*. 

It looks like the only thing that I can do is to take my laptop hard drive and put it in to another computer as a slave drive. I never wanted to buy another PC laptop again though. I don't need one. So it looks like I have a machine of limited use and software that I can't use with the machine anymore.and I really don't want to sink any more money into the situation. 

It would be so much better if Provo Craft would just become user-friendly and stop trying to gouge people for $50 cartridges.  All we need is the ability to create our own designs.   It's so frustrating.  My suggestion would be for them to make iPad compatible software which would allow people to cut their own freehanded designs.

Monday, October 20, 2014

That Trip to Urgent Care...

By Sunday my migraine hadn't gone away.  Unfortunately, by that time I still couldn't keep anything down and I was in so much pain that I was screaming, wailing, and even twisting large hanks of my hair down to the roots hoping that it would distract the nerves. For a few seconds, it did.

And then the pain came back and I started wishing I had a pistol.  That was when I became desperate to end the pain and checked the local emergency clinic's hours.

I hadn't worn my contacts since I took them out Friday night, so I couldn't see much with any acuity, and the tiniest bit of light hurt me horribly.  What I could see was full of black blobs and purple sparkles though.  I was too dizzy to walk straight, so driving into the sun wasn't going to happen. 

I texted and got no responses so I called and asked my father to take me, which he did.  I wore a cap and my darkest sunglasses and only took them off once.  

There was sunlight.  A lot of sunlight.  I looked hideous anyway, because I had eaten nothing but crackers since Friday night.

I signed in, told about the nausea (which was unusual for me) and sat for an hour in an exam room.  The light kept going off.  Then coming back on...  So I turned it off, because the darkness was a relief, and the nurse who did my vitals did ask if I would like the lights out.  And then the light came back on. Then off again, then on again.

I'll admit that at the time I entertained the possibility that my exploding brain was turning the light on and off.  

Finally the doctor came in and was horrified I haven't tried anything stronger than Tylenol in recent years.  She was also concerned that my regular doctor never was concerned enough to send me for an MRI of my brain.  (Gee, he seems to love racking up fees for complaint less tests!) She had me get a shot of Toredal and Phenergan, and though my butt was stinging ridiculously from the alcohol, I was relieved that maybe the pain would go away sometime soon.  


Well, it wasn't instant.  (Nice wish though.)

The doctor said the light went off because there was no movement in the room.  But what about when it came back on and I still hadn't moved, hmm?  Weird.

So I was given a prescription for Imitrex, and told that if I burn through it before the end of the month, to come back and she would double the dosage.  I hope it works.  

In the meantime, I went home and went to bed, and experienced multiple people pinging me on facebook, calling me, and texting me.  :D Thanks for caring, but now it's Sleepytime, ya know? Loooooveyouuuuuuugbyeeeeee....

I slept the rest of the day, but even when I woke up very late at night, I could still feel my headache gnawing, trying to hit again full force.  I was dizzy all day and felt kinda like the shot was still affecting me, but it was great to have some relief finally. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I'm Getting Wood

A few weeks ago I bought a wooden swing from our local craft fair. I'd wanted one for about 15 years and when I got lucky enough to find a nice one for a good price i bought the last one they had. My new brother-in-law helped me by hanging it up on my back porch.  When we sat down on it we all discovered that the wood was so new and raw, it was Velcro-like in texture.  

The next day, I remembered that I had bought a detail sander -- a Black & Decker Mouse -- about a year earlier.  Wonderful!  Sanding would be a piece of cake.

Except for the fact that I never bought extra sandpaper sheets when I bought the sander. 

So I went to Lowe's to find appropriate sandpaper sheets. While I was there, I got a crazy impulse to build a rack for my cutting boards that I could attach to the end of my countertop. I have a serious shortage of countertop in my kitchen and getting those cutting boards hanging up somewhere would be really helpful. 

I thought, I have a sander, drill, a Roto zip, and a jigsaw. I pretty much have enough tools to start building things out of wood.  Not that I really know what I'm doing. After all, have lived my whole life as a female and nobody taught me anything about woodworking even when I asked.  I was told that I'd have a man in my life someday to do all of those things for me. (So where is he?) Nevertheless, I did sneak peaks at my dad's woodworking magazines over the years.  

Still, it's a shame that I was denied education because I'm female.  I guess that means to be worth the attention, I'd have had to be a male with a thirst for learning to make things.  Don't be fooled -- much as I'd like to have value in this world, I'll never be better than chattel - a second class citizen at best. Mysoginy is alive and well in every generation alive today, even the ones professing to be gentlemen.

After asking the man from the tool department what kind of wood he thought I should use, I picked up a 1x2 and a 1x3  and headed home with an idea in mind.  It seemed logical. I did some measuring and marking and dry fitted all of the pieces together in my head.  

Then I got my jigsaw out and started cutting.  I figured that if I completely screwed things up, there was little cost involved and I could just burn the pieces that I destroyed.

I made a few mistakes along the way, and I realized what I had done wrong when I did them.  No big deal, it was just a starter project and I was working blind anyway. 

1.   I had no semblance of a workbench to clamp my wood to when I cut it.  I simply held the wood with my left hand, propped the wood across two plastic bins, and cut across my line holding the jigsaw in my right hand.

2.  After being left with a couple of stalactites on the ends of my cut boards, I realize that I was pushing the jigsaw forward instead of letting it chew up the wood and move forward on its own terms.  Let the tool do the work and do not force it faster than it needs to go. Hey, I was clueless until I realized.

3.  Not wanting to get any splinters into my hands as I worked, I used the sander to soften the edges of all the boards and to remove the stalactites before I screwed anything together. If I had done much more sanding, my pieces might not have fit together snugly.

4.  I didn't take into account the actual dimensions of the lumber I used. 1x lumber is never quite 1 inch. It will usually be 3/4 of an inch. News to me that day.  However, that didn't even matter with my project. I was just making it up as I went along. Everything worked out just fine in the end anyway. 

5.  I was very careful to inspect the lumber before I bought it. I did know that I should make sure my wood didn't cup or bow or twist or any of those horrible things, so I looked down the length, flipping it over, rejecting several pieces, avoiding knots.  Some of that wood was in dreadful shape. I don't understand who would buy that.

6.  I forgot the L brackets. I would need them to hang up my finish project if it worked out okay. I had to make a second trip back to Lowe's to find the L brackets, and when I had to go find where they were, I learned a few new things about bracket hardware as well. 

7.  My wood screws attempted to split some of the wood.  At that time I had no clue about countersink bits and how useful I would find one. :) Ha ha, now I know.  Next time.

8.  I discovered, marginally, that a Workmate might be a good purchase for me... If I can figure out how to put it together.  I'm not sure exactly how to use one, but just clamping wood to be cut to it would improve my life tremendously.

My finished project actually turned out very well for a crafter who did not know what she was doing.  It's sturdy, attractive, and big enough to hold my largest cutting boards easily, and most importantly, out of my way.  Also out of reach of my dog's weewee aim too. I tested that before I mounted the rack.

I showed a photo of it to my brother, foolishly proud of my work as I was.  He asked what kind of wood I used.  I told him I guessed it was pine, because I just pulled wood from the 1x rack. 

He responded, "You should have used oak."  Right... In my orange knotty pine paneled kitchen, overdue to be painted completely white, I should have used expensive wood for a beginner project.  

Maybe he was just saying that I did such an excellent job on a free handed project that I could have made it out of nicer wood.  Maybe?  

But I swear I heard this tone and sentiment:

"The little lights aren't twinkling, Clark."
              -- Clark Griswold's father, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

My theory is this:  it's my house, and if I mess up something that I try to do, I can learn from my mistake, and try again.  I just might get it right.  I can't get it right if I don't even try, right?

FWIW:  it's been 24 hours and I'm still sick from my overdose.  I was brought some saltines i had requested, along with some very disappointing news.  I haven't eaten anything but a few crackers today, and I feel like I'm full to the top of my neck with acid.  Tums isn't helping, and my migraine is still tormenting me.  Lots of aches coming on, probably from not eating.  I finally drank some milk, probably the wrong thing to do, but it made me feel better for a bit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Don't Dream It's Over

No more time for any more of this illness or the bull surrounding it.

Last night I revisited a country I never thought I'd see again.  Self-Poisoning.  Yes, I poisoned myself again.  It was a pretty horrifying stay in that land but at least what is left of my carpet survived.

Now before your fingers start flying to text the local mental health connection so you can force me out of your life completely, not so fast, Tattletale.  (I'd have grounds for a killer discrimination lawsuit if you did, by the way.) I didn't do it deliberately.  If there's anything I absolutely despise, it's vomiting.  I'd skirt a route completely around that if I were trying to remove myself from this planet.  Lots of means that would totally avoid the possibility of vomiting, I assure you.

I'm drinking a Pepsi right now and getting that horrible relief that finally comes after you obliterate the vomit taste from your throat (making everything else contrast to it in an overwhelming sensation of sweetness.  Literally, syrupy, sugary sweetness in taste).  And I was sick a bit over 12 hours ago, so I've been lying in bed for quite a long time, trying some Internet distraction, and wondering whether the grinding sensation in my abdomen was menstrual cramps (oh so much worse at this stage of my life than ever before -- the pain has grown exponentially), plain old hunger, or further poisoning nausea.  

It has been a stressful school year.  Either my ability to deal with people's everyday jerk-ness has declined sharply, or they are just shoving it in my face because they don't give a damn (it's coming from all directions, though I won't name names, and the guilty ones are always unable to recognize their own horrible attitudes and behaviors anyway).  It doesn't matter.  My anxiety has peaked and never dropped down to normal levels again.  Result? A lot of people will never be forgiven by me for what they do to me right now.  I'm tired of dealing with their self-serving treatment of me, and it's time for me to change.  Too many have "counted on me" to ease their way and provide them with ease and personal reward, and if they can't remember they owe me grand amounts of friendship and generosity (though I will gladly accept as little as genial kindness), well, then, it stops right now.

It's stopping right now anyway.  I'll be saying no a lot more.  They need to realize tha when it's "just this one little (read: massively huge) favor to them, there are twenty others similarly expecting me to ease their lives at the same time.  I will probably say no even when I wouldn't have minded saying yes, because I need retraining.  It's all about me, you see.  I wasn't part of their lives anyway, until they wanted something.  I do favors, oh, it's forgotten.  Repaying loans is forgotten.  But doing me a "favor" in return?  I'm expected to pay.  Literally pay.  Money, goods, inconvenience.  Maybe I should start keeping score, so that I can remember it is time to say no.  Jeeves is dead.  

Maybe it's not the vomit still sourly coating my throat.  Maybe it's a whole different type of bile.  

Yesterday I felt horrible.  I spent the day in a lot of pain, from my abdomen, my torn up hip, and then my head.  Because it's so appropriate to start the weekend you need to rest sick and in pain that will overtake the entire two days off.  Still, that's a normal day for me.  The rare days are the ones I'm not in constant pain from everything at once, and I feel happy and well for absolutely no plausible reason.  

... you have to remember -- this is God's plan for me.  How dare I try to avoid it?

So after a horrible day with some decidedly ungenerous thoughts after many nasty things were said to me, I realized that I had a massage scheduled.  I hoped it might lighten some of the pain, but by then I had already dealt with more than I could handle and my eyes were swollen.  I'd taken all the Midol I was allowed over the course of the day.  I had eaten half of my breakfast in the morning, because my appetite was gone, and I'd eaten the last couple of bites for lunch because skipping lunch altogether would have been a bad idea.  Hypoglycemia on top of everything else would have just iced the cake.  

I tried some temple and scalp massage with essential oils for my migraines, and rubbed some on my belly, hoping for some relief there.  When I was face down for my massage, I got upset again and of course my whole face clogged up because I was trying to hide it while not thinking self-deprecating thoughts.  Hey, I'm the common factor in all of this so it must of course be all my fault that these people feel it's okay to use me constantly, right?

Wrong.  Maybe a lot of the people around me are just hideously selfish?  I can see my own selfishness  (and change my approach quickly, because I don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings!) , so why in the world can't they self-reflect, and see their personality deficiencies, without falling in love with their own reflections?

Or should I just adopt a monstrous ME! Attitude so that I will fit in? Hmm?  

In any case, I only mean to demonstrate what had me so torn up yesterday, making the day worse as it went on.  

The massage helped some, but when I got home my migraine intensified and I looked in the nightstand for some Tylenol PM to maybe knock me out.  I had eaten a few gummy bears to avoid taking Meds on an empty stomach.  Not only did I have no appetite, the gummy bears didn't even seem to have any flavor.  Okay, taste buds dead. No appetite.  I went to buy some nacho cheese and Doritos.  "Street Taco Flavor!" ... Does that sound like a recipe for street taco food poisoning to anyone but me?    I ate a few chips and cheese dip, drank a Pepsi, and looked for something to take some of the teeth out of the pain.

I didn't find the Tylenol PM, but I did find the hydrocodone leftover from when I had the large tumor surgically removed from my neck.  (Seriously, it looked like a golf ball growing under my jaw and it didn't do much for my already shaky self-esteem.). I took one, and got a little dizzy, but the pain never went away.  Three hours later, I took a second one and wondered out loud if they were just too out of date to work.  

Then I felt ickier.  My stomach started giving me hints that it was unhappy. I stood up, thinking to go to the bathroom, just in case, and suddenly that mechanical-feeling weirdness hit my upper chest and I ran to the bathroom. Hey, projectile vomiting is one of my unsung talents, by the way.  Fortunately, the force behind it all made me quite on target when I got sick and everything from yesterday came back out. I was sick for quite a while.  When I thought I was finished and did all the rinsing and cleaning up, it hit again.  Rinse, clean, repeat.  Feel the burning throat all night despite drinking water to get rid of it. Take three Tums and hope for the best.

Fortunately, all that illness had given me a case of shivery shock-chills which made me cold enough to sleep, finally.  

Oh, but if only that were the end of the story.  

I have a very distinct memory of walking around the back of my car to the passenger side this morning, in that misty time before dawn.  I remember standing there thinking how pretty it was, and that it was one of my favorite times of day.  I should see it more often.  I also remember being the slightest bit concerned that someone might see me out there, and then thinking that nobody would be out early enough to see me so it was no big deal.  I was dreamily nonchalant about it.  Walking back toward the house, then my memory faded out.  

And I woke up in my bed several hours later, wondering if that was a vivid dream or if I've started sleepwalking again.  My feet were a little dirty, too.  *sigh*. The deadbolt was still key-locked, and  the key still hanging up.  It wouldn't be the first time I've sleepwalked outside and never really woken up through the whole thing. 

But if I can fetch the key, unlock the locks, get outside, walk around dreamily ruminating about the pretty grayish-mauve mist in the air, all without waking up, what scarier things might I get myself into?

Truly, I don't have time to be sick.  I have to go and build a replacement crawl-space door with my fledgling carpentry skills.  I'm learning.  I have to, because things are falling apart around my house. And I'm on my own with that.

An Outside Thought About Anti-Vaccination Support

I found this as a (Facebook comment) response to a Huffington Post article written by the mother of an autistic child who believes that vaccination did NOT cause her child's autism.  I know of intelligent parents (one was a pharmacist) who held off on vaccinations for their child until she was two, but nonetheless, had her vaccinated on schedule after that.  The point is: they had good reason for the delay, but vaccinated her when they felt it was a better time for her individual health situation. They had her appropriately vaccinated.   Period. 

The original article:      

(Sorry -- my ipad blogging app has a problem with creating hyperlinks)

This parent has a very particular point of view about the necessity for vaccinations that people are often clueless about.  We simply don't understand the impact of our irresponsible inaction until it lands in our own laps, and fortunately, it rarely happens.  However, this is information that simply needs to be widely known, due to our own sometimes willful, sometimes accidental, ignorance.

For the record, I'm fully vaccinated, have tetanus shots more often than required (because bloody germy accidents come my way quite often), and I'll be getting the flu shot next week. The shot.  Not the nasal mist.  I understand the shot is better.  The last time I had the flu was the year the swine flu was a problem, and that's what I got.  I hadn't taken the experimental vaccine that just came out, and I was exposed to it by my nephew at Christmas.  (Unintentionally, of course.) Fortunately for the community, my sickly self was home alone for Christmas Break and it ran its course before I felt well enough to get around other people.  And again, I'm getting the flu shot because I know how bad the flu can be, especially when there is no one to take care of you.  Do I have a reaction? Yes, usually.  My injection site gets a little hot and my arm is a little bit sore.  I think the first time I got a flu shot, I did get a little feverish, but after that, it's like my body says, "Oh look, it's the flu vaccine again.  Well, I still have a tiny bit of immunity left from last year, so I won't have to react harshly this year. " It's like a yearly booster, with just a dash of new strain tossed in. Layman's terms, of course.  I've had scant medical training.  

The HPV vaccine? Well, I'm not so sure that one is safe for the public at this point, so I don't believe it should be mandatory.  I think it should be more extensively tested before it becomes an option, but never mandatory.  

But "childhood" epidemic diseases are a different matter.

"An Open Letter to Non-Vaxxers:

Tonight, while enjoying a nice dinner, I got a call from the director of my son's preschool. She was calling to tell me that they had made the decision to put my son in a different class because two children in the class he was supposed to be in have "opted out" of their vaccines. This may not sound like a big thing. He is still in the Tuesday-Thursday class, and since he doesn't start school until next Tuesday, it's not like he has to get readjusted to a whole new class. No harm, no foul. Actually, this is a big deal--a very big deal. You see, my son is immunocompromised. He has cancer. He was fully vaccinated and supporting the whole "herd immunity" thing before his cancer diagnosis, but that darn chemo wiped out his immunity to the communicable diseases against which he had already been vaccinated.

So, parents who choose to not vaccinate because you feel it's the "right choice for your family", I would like to thank you. Thank you for adding yet another worry to my plate and my husband's plate. You see, we already worry about a lot--it's an unfortunate part of your child having cancer--you worry every night. On top of worrying about things like relapse, organ toxicity brought on by chemo, debilitating late effects of chemo, secondary cancers brought on by chemo, the mental effects of having more than three years of painful treatment, we now get to worry about, of all things, measles. And mumps. And whooping cough. And chicken pox.

Let me explain something about having a child with cancer to you: everything is robbed from your child in some form or another. Friends, Halloween, Christmas, play dates, school. It's all taken away at some point or another and in some form or another because we have to protect our children from germs, because if they catch the wrong germs during the worst part of treatment, they can die. My son was isolated from everyone except immediate family for an entire year. For parents whose children are going through chemo, the decision to send them to school is a momentous one. It requires a leap of faith and trust in the surrounding community, in your child's teachers and administrators, and in the families sending their children to school. It requires herd immunity. Now, even though my son is now in a different class than your unvaccinated children, I get to worry about him using the communal bathroom, the playground, and even walking around the halls with them. If there is an outbreak of measles in, say, Austin this winter, I won't know if you have relatives in Austin and went to go see those relatives for Uncle Bobby's birthday. I won't know if your child was exposed to measles at the Austin Chuck-E-Cheese and then showed up at school on Tuesday. Oh, I'm sure you'll do your due diligence and call the school to inform everyone that your child has come down with a case of the measles once it appears, but, the damage is done--the exposure to my immunocompromised child has already happened. It's too late. Your choice just earned him a ticket to the hospital. Your choice just earned him a lot of shots and more toxic drugs in the desperate effort to stave off whatever disease your unvaccinated child passed to him. If, God forbid, he does come down with that disease, your choice just earned him a trip to the Pediatric ICU for a while--days, maybe weeks. Who knows--it depends on how his already stressed body handles everything.

People like to say that in choosing to not vaccinate, they are making the "best choice for their family", and that, after all, their children are the ones at risk, not other people's children. No, sorry, you're wrong. Choosing to home school is a choice that is made in the best interest of a family--it impacts nobody but your family. Choosing to eat all organic and locally grown food is a choice that impacts nobody but your family. For that matter, choosing to eat nothing but fast food and frozen meals is a choice that impacts nobody but your family. Choosing to not vaccinate impacts my family and my immunocompromised son. It impacts the teacher who is pregnant and teaching your non-vaccinated child. It impacts the man going through chemo who happened to be behind you in the grocery store when your unvaccinated child sneezed. It impacts the mom next to you at the pick up line at school who is on immunosuppressive drugs for her rheumatoid arthritis and who is bending down to hug her child just as your unvaccinated child coughs. Your "choice" has repercussions for your community.
Part of the cost of living in a first world country is that you have to do things that support the community in which you live. You pay taxes to pay for the police that respond to your 911 calls, to pay for the teachers who teach your children, and to pay for roads to be plowed and paved. You obey traffic laws to ensure an orderly flow of traffic. You don't shout "fire" in a crowded theater because to do so would cause pandemonium and chaos. Sometimes, to live in a place with the privileges we enjoy here in America, you suck it up and do things you don't want to do because it's for the communal good. If everyone chose otherwise, we would not be a first world country. We would be a country without laws, roads, and schools. We would be a country overrun with disease. Your responsibility to your community is to vaccinate your child. The number of people who actually, literally, physically can't have vaccines is extraordinarily small. The number of people who choose to not vaccinate is not--it's growing. These people cite a vague unease about the number of vaccines a child gets or statistics they learned from Internet memes on autism. They confess conspiracy theories about Big Pharma and how it's all a ploy to get doctors and pharmacists rich. They share anecdotes of a college friend's neighbor's son who got so sick from his vaccine he was hospitalized. They say their child got incredibly sick from the one round of vaccines he or she got at his 2 month visit, and they said they're not vaccinating anymore. Guess what--if your child is sitting here today, talking, walking, eating, laughing, playing, and learning, he or she wasn't that ill from the vaccine. He or she got a fever and reacted to the vaccine--it doesn't mean they had an "adverse" reaction.

I am horrified, non-vaxxers, that you are so quick to forget the lessons of history. You're spoiled and selfish because you have never seen the horrors of a society in which vaccines are not available. Perhaps you should talk to my mother about her neighbor growing up--the one who contracted German measles while pregnant with her third child. That third child was born deaf and with brain damage, thanks to his mother catching that communicable--and now preventable--disease while pregnant. Perhaps you should talk to anyone over the age of 60 about what it was like when polio was around--how nobody was allowed to go swimming or use public drinking fountains for fear of catching that dreaded--and now preventable--disease. Perhaps you should talk to the parents of a child with cancer whose daughter spent a month in the Pediatric ICU during treatment because she caught chicken pox--a preventable disease--from an unvaccinated classmate. Perhaps you should take a trip to a third world country and explain to them why they should not be lining up in droves to get their children vaccinated by the Red Cross or other relief organizations. Perhaps, better yet, you should keep your children out of school.

If you agree with my thoughts above, please feel free to share this post.
Alex Pomadoni"

Back to my personal understanding: my grandmother contracted German Measles when she was pregnant with my mother.  Mama was born extremely hearing-impaired -- nearly deaf -- and missed out on a lot of life enjoyment because of her disability.  School was a frustration for her in the 1940s and 1950s.  Job opportunities were limited.  She had to have bulky, expensive hearing aids all of my life, and they still never made her hearing good enough.  I know that she was bitter because of her disability.  Now that it is a preventable disease, I can't understand why anyone would deliberately expose other people's innocent children to these horrible diseases under the guise of protecting their own children.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Exploding Crock Pot

Lately I've been evaluating some freezer-slow cooker recipes so that I will start eating healthier meals, because I've been pretty fatigued for a long time.  I actually started by eating legitimate breakfasts instead of protein bars, and I began to feel better, so I thought general nutrition might be the key for me.  

I make a big batch of breakfast burritos and freeze them, then heat one up in the morning for a very tasty meal that sometimes leaves me not hungry for my 10:30 am lunchtime. No, I'm not kidding about that.  10:30. *sigh* 

Yes, I've gained weight.  Again.  Just not to the point of my heaviest weight, and truthfully, I've not been going to the gym to work anything off.  I know that's a factor.  I've also developed a horrible passion for Jif Salted Caramel Hazlenut spread, but we ain't gonna talk about that right now.  Pepsi is back in my life, and that's a huge contributor.  But so far, nobody has said anything about noticing, so I may be able to fix it yet.

That's for another post, though. Maybe several other posts.  Hee hee. 

So to introduce the situation, I was already aggrieved by financial matters, and this was the icing on the exploding cake.  I finally amended a slow-cooker beef stew recipe to my liking (tomatoey beef stew is what the original recipe tasted like -- I wanted a gravy-tasting stew) and bought all of the ingredients to make two batches, freeze one batch, and make a batch of taco soup to freeze and slow cook later.

The idea is to pull a ready-to-cook meal out of the freezer, thaw it, and then cook it on low all day, to come home to a fabulous aroma and a hot meal ready to enjoy after work, and before I ran off to painting class on Tuesday afternoons.  

First, some background information.
1.  The first time I tried the chicken teriyaki recipe, I managed to not turn the crock pot on, because my mind was thinking it was just like my older, smaller slow cooker that had two settings when plugged in - low and high.  Nope.  My less than a year old and rarely used 6 quart slow cooker had off, low, high, and keep warm settings.  Oops.  Had to throw that all out.  I was pissed at myself.
2. I had tried cooking steel cut oats overnight not long after I bought the new cooker, and despite using the instructions fron the manufacturers themselves, it was a blackened, dry mess when I woke up and checked on it.  I still don't know what went wrong, but I suspect a thermostat went haywire.

So at this point I was being pretty darned over cautious about doing things precisely right when I used it.  No frozen food in the crock.  Only thawed.  Make sure to fill the crock sufficiently, even though it means you will be eating beef stew for lunch and dinner for the next seven days.  Never latch the lid lock on, because you aren't transporting the cooker anywhere.  Make sure there is plenty of liquid in your recipe.  

The first time I'd made the stew it was perfect, though tomatoey.  The second time I'd made it, I figured out how to make it more gravy-tasting after the cooking time.  (A packet of brown gravy mix stirred into the finished stew was the secret.). The third time I made it, I was feeling confident that I wasn't a total loser with a crock-pot, and prepped that second batch for the freezer.  

The first batch went into the cooker, no colder than the refrigerated stew meat I'd bought.  I made sure everything was set up perfectly, turned it on low, and went to bed thinking how nice it would be to take beef stew for my lunch.

I didn't sleep well that night.  I kept waking up and smelling the food cooking, and wondered if the smell was keeping me from resting well.  I had nightmares, which isn't normal  for me anymore unless I'm under a lot of stress from work.  So I got up the next morning thinkg a good lunch would help make up for the fatigue.  My dog woke me up at sometime just after four am, nearly three hours early.  *sigh* Why?  WHY?? Let Mommy sleep!  (There's beef stew in it for you, fella!)

I let him out, glanced at the cooker, and saw the lid was steamy in places, and dripped clear in another.  He came back in. We went back to bed.  

* I'm pretty nearsighted, by the way, and I don't sleep in my contacts because I have abnormal blood vessel growth into my corneas. 

At 6:30 I let my dog out again and got ready to deal with spooning up the stew into various containers.  

I stepped on a small chunk of broken glass on an otherwise clean floor.  It cut my foot.  Being so nearsighted, I couldn't see it or avoid it.  While I was pulling it out I couldn't figure out where it had come from.  So I tried to lift the lid off the crock pot next and discovered a gaping hole where I thought had been a clear spot on the glass lid.  What I'd thought was steam was completely shattered glass, held together by pure physics, like a caternary arch.  The unused travel latches fell into the batch of shattered glass stew now in the crock.  Still very liquid, despite hours of cooking.  

I was in a state of disbelief and probably didn't get all the glass out of my foot.  Nearly two weeks later, my foot is healed... But still sore under the skin.  Been there before -- the glass I failed to remove eventually cut back through my foot a few years later.  Ugh.  Home exploratory surgery or patience and pain?  I dunno.  I can't decide.

Later that day I called the parent company to let them know what happened and they said they would send me a label to send "it" back to them.  It being what?  The bits of sharp glass formerly known as a lid? The whole appliance? Where would I find an appropriate shipping container and how would I avoid cutting myself worse?  Internet research said they would only replace the lid and if you sent the whole thing, you'd only get a lid in return.  

I never really got mad.  I felt like I'd already been kicked to exhaustion.  I felt defeated, which had been my default state of mind fora few weeks.

A couple of days later a customer service lady called to interview me quite thoroughly.  I suspect the major concern was a potential personal injury lawsuit, but let's face it, I haven't sued when I should have before, so a little cut wasn't going to get me all fired up this time.

She asked me if I would like a programmable model to replace it.  I said that would be fine, but I'm scared still to use a slow cooker again. That glass lid exploded outward, with glass landing on the floor.    They sent me a nicer cooker worth $80, with a metal insert to brown things on the stove before slow cooking.  It looks nice. Scary nice.  I'm still scared to use it.

And they didn't include a user manual in the box. Grr!  I hope that programmable panel is user friendly and idiot-proof, because as God is my witness, I seem to be that idiot.

As it turns out, lots of companies that make slow cookers have had explosion issues.  There have even been recalls for several years.  That might explain why my new cooker has a metal crock instead of a breakable ceramic one.  Oh sure, it has a "ceramic" coating (looks and feels like enamel to me, which is a-ok) that could get chipped but that baby is about a third the weight of the other crock.  Maybe it is idiot-proof. I'll be trying it out tomorrow... While I'm at home.

As for why my dog woke me up at the bizarre hour of 4... I think he must have heard the lid explode and woke me up to check on it.  And stupid blind Mommy didn't notice the problem.

Summary: The Crock Pot company replaced their faulty product with a better one and were very nice to me in the bargain.  I'm still scared to try it out.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Homesick for a Time That Never Was

The past couple of days, we've had the most glorious crisp autumn weather, while the Farmer's Almanac is forecasting a brutal winter, punctuated by the fact that snow is already falling in parts of the country.   The air has been crisp and slightly cool, and it gives sunset a golden nostalgic glow.

I'm not sure whether to attribute that to my polarized sunglasses, necessary because my eyes are far too light- and glare-sensitive, or just my good fortune to exist in something beautiful for a few stolen moments.   I keep hoping to hang onto them, but since I've been an adult, autumn lasts only a week, and then everything is dead and ugly.  

It does make my mind wander back to my childhood, thinking that days like today should be filled by playing in crunchy, colorful leaf piles, collecting brightly hued fallen leaves to wonder at, and smelling the woody scent of a bonfire at night, wrapped in a cozy blanket and roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, drinking spiced cider.

Then I realize that was something I pulled out of a movie, because I do remember being told to throw my beautiful leaves away, and there were never any family bonfires. I remember that Halloween was a night when we would definitely have pizza delivered for dinner, because my sister and I were going out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.  Yes, of course we were alone, by the time I was seven.  By that time, my dad was working in Memphis, so he stayed in his apartment there all week, and when he occasionally came home on the weekends, he was too tired to do anything other an catch up on his rest. I do remember him reading me "The Devil and Daniel Webster" on one of those weekends, though.  After that he worked a third shift job, eight shifts a week, and he was asleep when we were home from school.  

Still, I catch myself daydreaming of autumn afternoons that never happened. No fresh-baked cookies  for after-school snacks (as a latchkey kid, I always wondered if people really did that outside of 50s sitcoms), no milk drinking allowed other than from breakfast cereal and occasional cookies for a bedtime snack,  though we were allowed saccharin-sweetened iced tea. It was hideous tasting.  I often suspected that was done to discourage us from drinking the tea, too. But then there came the news about saccharin causing cancer and we got to go back to sugar-sweetened iced tea.

I often think of parents making Halloween costumes of their kids, decorating for the holiday.  Walking to all the spookily decorated houses like I did when I was little.  Those were the days when all the kids roamed the neighborhood until ten pm if Halloween fell on a weekend.  My old neighborhood is all but dead now.  

I suppose that what I daydream of is what I'd planned to do if I'd had kids, but that never worked out.  For those in-your-face Christians out there, you can smugly say that was God's plan for me.  Of course I believe in God... I've seen enough of Hell already in my life to know God must exist too.  No, kids aren't part of my life and that doesn't mean I want to babysit other people's kids now that I've gotten that desire out of my heart and filled it with art projects and learning new skills.  Sorry, I guess I'm just not planning on being used as someone's general dogsbody. I decided a few years ago that I because I was the only one concerned about my own happiness, I wouldn't ask anyone's permission to use my own time as I see fit.

Maybe when I have great nieces and great nephews in my life I'll regain an appreciation for snotty, drooling baby faces and stinky diapers during occasional visits.  I'll stick to enjoying the older kids for now, and making strangers' babies laugh at me from a distance.