May is Rare Disease Unawareness Month

Paralysis! I’ve been wanting to write, or to scream my thoughts into a bucket at least, but I’ve just been dealing with a lot of changes. Sometimes I miss audioblogging. Previously on I, Asshole: I’ve been living with assorted aches, pains, and fatigue for most of my life, which seemed to have evolved into extreme and mysterious “allergies” after I got sick and had the attack in Maui in 2014. I kind of hit the wall recently on just putting up with things.

This has all kicked off because I’ve been attempting to have OTC medications compounded, because many of the useful ones, like cold medication, are filled out with cornstarch. I can take a tiny pill, like a Benadryl, and get immediate allergy relief, but then have days of whatever grab bag of problems my body decides to shit on me.

This spring I hit the limit with what insurance will cover, because of FDA restrictions on compounding and whatnot. We’re looking at $135 for a bottle of Tylenol. I asked a well-respected allergy blogger if she knew anything about compounding and workarounds, and she told me that she didn’t know much, but that masto/mast cell disease people knew a lot about these things, and I should check out their forums.

Mast cells? Masto? I had never heard of any of this. I had a look to see if I had anything in common with them…uh oh. Oh shit. Ok. Something to look into.

I’d been in this limbo where I’ve been telling people I have allergies, or at least allergic reactions, and kind of muscling through. I was kind of frankenpatched together with amphetamines. If I didn’t take them I would probably be unable to stop myself from sleeping sixteen hours a day.

So I was interested that maybe there is this tribe of people who had the same weird problems we did, and maybe this explained what my grandmother had too. We could work with this.

Of course things got worse. Take me, universe, I say. I am already ruined. The universe is not content with this, and neither is the time bomb that is my family genes. Franny has been getting sicker, exhibiting weird symptoms that I’ve never had. She had an “attack” in April that was similar to my Maui attack, and spent most of spring break in bed with a fever. In the past year her cousin, who is the infamous Auntie Jaguar’s daughter, got very sick too, showing similar symptoms.

Strudel is also having aches, pains, and fatigue, in addition to the allergy problems. Both of the girls are challenged by the fact that they go to school with kids who are covered in perfumes, fabric softeners, carrying energy drinks, cafeteria smells, eating corn chips in class, whatever.

We’re working on diagnoses with the girls right now. I’m not quite ready to discuss what it looks like it is for Franny, and what her cousin has already been diagnosed with.

I also had another realization recently, finally, along the theme of me tolerating not-so-great situations for way too long but then being spurred into action when my children are affected (see also: my divorce). We are in the process of separating from my long time doctor as well. I realized I was spinning my wheels with her and she’s not really helping us move forward.

I’ve been complaining about fatigue and joint pain back to 2010 at least, and I get some variation on “Hmm, that’s weird,” from her, and then get a basic blood panel which shows everything is normal (hooray, but also not helpful). Recently she had me run through a blood panel again, as well as the tests for autoimmune disease, which where all negative/normal. I feel like we’ve already been down this road in 2014 when I was tested for lupus, etc, so I was unsurprised to see I don’t have markers for autoimmune. This is good that my body is not attacking itself, per se.

I asked for an additional test, which is a standard starting point for identifying mast cell problems. There was a lot of dithering from her office about how to bill for it and even if she should order it and that she couldn’t interpret it when it came back. Fine, I said. Finally I said I would pay for it out of pocket, and sure enough, the test result was high/abnormal.

I’m kind of glad I lived through the 90s, when no one I knew between the ages of 18 and 35 had health insurance. It makes me a lot more prone to just trying shit when doctors are unhelpful. I started taking antihistamines, and ramping up to pretty high doses, which are recommended for people with mast cell issues. Within a week I started feeling better. I encouraged the girls to up their doses as well. It is hard to overdose or harm yourself with OTC antihistamines.

Franny is connected with a good allergist and immunologist who has recommended the same for her. I’m now taking Zyrtec three times a day, and I notice if I miss a dose. I am taking Zantac twice a day, which has an offlabel use as an antihistamine. I am also taking a supplement called quercetin which is doing wonders for reducing the painful facial flushing I would get several times a day.

A thing I haven’t been writing about this winter and spring, because it’s been very disheartening, is the doctor-go-round I’ve been on with Franny. Our doctor did make referrals to a few different places, like a pediatric cardiologist for her palpitations and chest pain. He suggested the rare disease she appears to have, then dismissed it and told us it was anxiety. The good news was her heart has been declared normal. We did see a different allergist who did a scratch test that showed no “true” allergies to food and told her she should start eating dairy, wheat, and corn again and that her problem was anxiety. This “hey, it’s all in your head” stuff is kind of a theme with some specialists, I’ve heard.

At this point we’re waiting on some genetic testing for Franny, which I am told might indicate which levers we can pull medically to help. There’s some weird stuff in my family history, but it looks like the origin for this was SeaFed’s genes (considering Franny’s cousin is having similar problems) plus the cool genes of the people they got with. A nice thing is that it seems like SeaFed’s family doesn’t have mast cell problems, because my very rudimentary understanding of how this can work is that if mast cell people breed you can end up in the land of mastocytosis and not being able to breathe much.

As usual life is a combination of a turd burger with a really bomb side of sweet potato fries. I am finally getting to the bottom of the family curse, and based on testing it looks like I have wacky mast cells that sometimes keep it real…Harold Smith…around here, which I’ve passed on to the girls.

On the other hand, it looks like we’re probably not going to flip over to the cancer or anaphylaxis type of mast cell problems. Franny had a little epiphany recently that the sheep cheese we’ve been eating for over a year now was probably bothering her–her lips were swelling when we were having pizza night. I stopped eating it with her and lo, my joint pain that had come back and not gone away for three months cleared up in a couple of days. And this is after eating cheese and yogurt for over a year and tolerating it fine. So we’re all feeling better lately and I’ve been doing a ton of gardening, which is something I’ve missed.

Right now I’m taking a ton of pills every day, some of which will probably be with me forever (antihistamines). There’s the turd burger. On the other hand, the lower my histamine level seems to be in my body, the sharper my brain and memory is. I’m also dropping about a pound a week without really trying. My appetite is lower and I feel full faster on a reasonable amount of food. Being inflamed seems to make me puffy and hang on to weight, even when counting calories. Ultimately, I’d love it if I could stop taking Adderall and have normal energy levels on my own, and a normal, non-fuzzy brain.

This spring has been a really big deal. After almost 40 years of being sick, I’m starting to get a clue and acknowledge the fact that I’m chronically ill and not going to get over it. I’m also thinking about what this means for my girls for the rest of their lives. But it’s starting to feel more manageable now that I know where most of the rakes in the grass are.

I have been emailing with SeaFed a little to keep him up to date on Franny and her symptoms, which I’ve being doing intermittently for a few years now. He hasn’t made much of a response to any of it, at least not to the extent Franny would like (meaning making more of an effort to prevent her from getting ill when she was visiting him and remembering or acknowledging what her issues were). He forwarded me an email from his sister after Franny’s cousin got her diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic. It included a list of what was going on with the girl and how they tied to her diagnoses. “This list made me think of Franny and her symptoms,” he wrote. “What a coincidence.”

It humored me to read that, as SeaFed used to say.

SeaFed Sightings &etc

1. I keep running into little reminders that the technology I’m using is out of date. Flickr no longer talks to my SD card from my camera. I noticed this happening about a year before with Photobucket. I know I can use a usb cable to transfer the pictures, but it’s an old habit. Now I transfer them to a folder on my machine and then to the cloud. I suspect this is all because people do it instantly with their phones now–who uses SD cards anymore??

Likewise, Franny’s flip phone died a few months ago and I offered to buy her another one, or let her pay for her own smartphone. I was actually relieved that she went for the smartphone option, because the remaining choices for flip phones have gotten pretty dire. Our ol’ reliable go-to MP3 players have gotten worse over the past ten years, cutting features and support to the bone because they can’t really compete with smartphones anyway.

At the same time, I’m trying to integrate smart home technology in my house. Ray Bradbury made me think at some point I would talk to a wall and then get some scrambled eggs, but then my house would probably try to kill me before crashing into the sun. Spoiler: it might try to kill me anyway (should probably get pianos off top of bookshelves). But no. I am trying to add smart outlets to a house with a manual pencil sharpener still screwed into the wall in the laundry room.

It’s not lost on me that I’m writing this on a BLOG. Who even in $YEAR etc. Is this retro yet?

2. And now, a montage.

I got a blood blister at work recently, on St. Pat’s Day. I pinched myself like a moron in the handles of my snips SO HARD my fingertip went numb. After the feeling didn’t return for a few minutes I paused. “I better take off my glove and have a skosh of a gander,” as my old boss used to say.

Wut-oh. They started as gross jellyfishes and got a callused feel. I see why people say not to lance them. If you don’t rip them, they do a marvelous job of healing on their own.

My first blood blister! They were so big and black that my classmates in school the next week noticed them and thought I had just gotten marker on my finger. A week after the pinchening, on the way home from the last day of class, it started flaking off in the car, revealing naked baby skin underneath!

As I was leaving work yesterday, which is a big, partly skinned skyscraper downtown, I let myself out of the main gate…and pinched my pinky in it! DAMMIT.

Here we go again. Much smaller this time, next to its predecessor.

3. I saw SeaFed in January. I’ve been meaning to write about it since then, but it’s Zod’s honest truth that I completely forgot to several times. A cool thing about medication is that people who used to stress me out really super don’t anymore. I almost feel like I used to have an allergic reaction to them…I just couldn’t avoid having emotional hives. I just think of them briefly, go BLECH a little, and move on. A thing that a lot of therapy couldn’t effect.

I don’t think I’m fearless now, but I really like being more resilient.

Anyway, I hadn’t seen him since Franny’s eighth grade graduation. That occasion was a little nerve-wracking because I knew Franny would be nervous about Worlds Colliding and I knew he would be awkward (he was). He’s always seemed completely unable to modulate himself based on his relationship with other people and is an incessant small talker. But not much else, so he’s not really going to blindside people like he used to, like when he would self-admittedly “fuck with” people I had invited to our house for parties.

Franny’s grandfather lost his wife of a few years to brain tumors in December. He and her family arranged for a memorial service to be held at Pike Place Market, where she owned a shop for many years, and where they met, and lived for a time. My biggest, and perhaps only, regret from my divorce was becoming more distant from him.

It seemed necessary for a while, of course. Life went on, and he lost Franny’s grandmother, met his new wife, and then remarried. They moved to an island here and he retired. From everything I heard and saw he was happy and settled.

Her grandfather invited me to the memorial and I went, with Franny. Franny texted her father immediately after the death announcement, and asked for information about the funeral. Her father didn’t get in touch with her about it until about three days before, asking if she was coming. In his world, someone else always takes care of communicating and arranging important things.

Franny also had some major folderol with her father before Xmas, which resulted in her leaving early one morning during a visit, and getting herself home via bus and ferry. She tells me that she told him she was leaving the night before, which I believe. He sent me a somewhat surprised text a couple of hours after she texted me she left when he finally noticed she was gone.

She hasn’t been back since. She kind of threw down the gauntlet at that time, telling him that he needed to remember her allergies and her health problems. She’s given him literature to read about auto-immune issues and diet, and he admitted he hadn’t. I just don’t think he gets it.

As I’ve written about before, visiting any house for an extended period of time is very difficult. The ambient fragrance of the fabrics and environment, coupled with the smells of food that can make her ill is difficult. Then there’s knowing even if you fix your own food that you brought, you’re probably going to pick up some kind of contamination somewhere on the dishes or cooking vessels.

I know she’s been communicating with him about this for a while now, and his memory is terrible. I’m not sure what kind of effect this is having on the interest level in her life–she says he doesn’t really ask about her hobbies or interests or how she’s managing her health. Again, nothing beyond small talk. She told me recently that he seems “in and out” with his focus, and is reminding her of his mother before she fell into full-fledged early dementia. There and then gone again.

I know from experience it’s easy to downplay a bad memory, and if it gets worse over time, it kind of creeps up imperceptibly. People learn to work around and with your memory, and you learn to fake remembering that your friend changed roles at work, or that they already told you they were moving. It does come back when you’re reminded. “Oh yeah. I guess I’m just tired/spacey/PMSing/hungover” whatever.

This is just stage setting, I suppose. The important thing to know is that Franny hadn’t seen her other family since around Thanksgiving, and this was a pretty major stressful event for many people, including people who had lost their mother, grandmother, sister, or friend.

SeaFed’s family is chockablock with girls. He has three girls with his wife. His sister, the infamous Auntie Jaguar, has two girls. We walked in and saw the clump of Franny’s sisters and cousins together. I said hello to most of the girls and introduced myself as Franny’s mother. Franny’s firstborn sister would not speak or make eye contact with me. She is the clone of her mother, and as the oldest daughter, is bound by that sense of duty and loyalty that we unknowingly crush our poor daughters with.

Jaguar strode up to me and I found myself hugging her. “It’s been too long!” I disagreed, but was externally polite about it. She’s fine, she’s just a person. She has become slightly more human to me lately (albeit from afar) since I’ve learned how insane she makes her oldest daughter, who is a teenager now as well. I got a chance to talk to Franny’s cousin, who is sweet, and to reassure her that her Jaguar mother was hell on wheels as a teenager.

Anyway, we chatted, and it was fine. I caught up with one of Seafed’s cousins, who was nursing her third child on a bench. My mental picture of her involves her still having braces, but she wasn’t much younger than I was when Seafed and I got married. Seafed came up and talk to Franny about her schedule of college visits, as if she was a distant niece. This gave me a chance to check out his gelled hair, which was cut and styled to hide a bald spot. It looks “hip” from some angles and sort of makes the bearer look like a surprised chicken from others.

Later her midget stepmother finally came clomping up to us in her clogs. From the few pictures I’ve seen of her post-children, she seems to have evolved into what I think of as that uniquely West Coast mom style that involves a million mix-n-match cotton layers, leggings, and sensible clogs. That day’s ensemble was black, of course. It’s a look that works really well and looks elegant on some people, and on others it sort of looks like someone covered a piece of furniture and that furniture had a baby with an overloaded laundry drying rack. Lumpy? Frumpy? I don’t know.

I was in my tallest heels and literally looked down on her stumpy ass as she talked, only to Franny, avoiding eye contact with me like her daughter did. I watched her and waited for a break in her stream of chatter so I could say something to her but it never came. Franny was pissed later that she didn’t acknowledge me. I wasn’t surprised.

“It’s cool, honey. I’m still that psycho who called the cops when they were on the way to the airport to go on their honeymoon.” I didn’t add, also that person who takes a whopping $400 out of her wallet every month for child support. Maybe someday she will have the unfortunate experience of encountering someone who will push her to the point of taking the very last ounce of shit from someone they will ever take. That can make a person desperate, vindictive, or calculating. But most of the time lately, at peace and indifferent.

The memorial was winding down and Franny brought her grandfather a glass of wine and we offered to make him dinner soon after that, which we did last month. We had a lovely visit with him and are hoping to do it again soon. On the way out of the memorial, I chucked SeaFed on the arm and said, “See you at graduation, buddy.” I hope that’s true.

I guess I’m thinking about this because Franny got a call from her oldest sister over there the other night, who apparently sounded a little angry and snarky (probably mostly sad) and not understanding why Franny is not visiting. She informed Franny that they are moving, to another house on their island. It was nice that she did the right thing and called; Franny is interested. Franny wondered to me where they would get money to buy a new, much larger house, since the old one sounds like it’s melting due to neglect and she said they still struggle to buy groceries every week. I guess his father feels he has no choice but to continue to support SeaFed.

No word on their impending move or new address from her father, of course.

Ass gon’ give it to ya/Fuck wait for you to get it on your own

And now I see, for whatever reason, that I am not getting notifications of when people comment. Hello to A. and suenos! My blog incompetence continues…now in its sixteenth year.

A. We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. –Kurt Vonnegut

I always feel compelled to write when something significant happens. I got cut from my job yesterday, and it was time since it was almost wrapped up. I realized that I had my year anniversary in February of being in the trades. Recently I’ve finally been feeling like I’m not hopeless on a jobsite.

It’s really hard to explain how my skills are developing. I’m stronger, of course, and better at using tools, and knowing what the right tool is for the job. I think when I started on this path I thought there would be definitive answers and techniques. As if new construction was going to be like giant Lego bricks or putting together something from IKEA. (My blog throughline of “I am an idiot” continues consistently, I know you’re impressed.)

One thing that has changed is that I can look at a problem and be a little more creative now in solving it. A lot of times parts don’t work the way you expect, or fit right, and advanced skills include being able to make it happen.

There’s a phrase which I’ve always found really annoying and rednecky: “Get ‘er done.” But that’s it. You have to just make things work. Get it done, and move on. Just like life.

I feel a lot better at work now, overall, post medication. A construction site can be a very distracting place, and the key is knowing when to pay attention (here comes the crane) and when to just buckle down and work (the glaziers are talking VERY loudly about dealings with someone’s cousin who got ripped off by a bail bondsman and the merits and drawbacks of destination weddings).

I have asked myself if I could succeed in an office/tech now with my current level of allergy and brain meds. I really don’t know. I still don’t regret the switch when I think about being trapped indoors in a cubicle with all the fragrances and (for me) the pointlessness of my output being words or symbols or ideas that I don’t care about.

I believe I’m being kept by my current company for now, and transferred to another site, maybe downtown. Yesterday my boss didn’t have an answer yet, so I’m in limbo. I’m really relieved to be going, because while the job was great, and gave me a lot of hands-on experience that an apprentice might not otherwise get, one of my coworkers ended up being kind of a nightmare.

I’d like to say I’m a trusting person, but I’m totally not. As part of my assessment for Brain AIDS a few months ago, trust of other people was the thing I bombed on the personality test they had me take. It was one of those screeners where they’re looking for the big flags–schizophrenia, bipolar, anything else that can be caught. I looked antisocial and distrusting. I think part of this is my brain, which untreated can make me paranoid and full of social anxiety. When everything is confusing and all the balls are flying at your head: TRUST NO ONE.

Generally speaking, I am cautious with people and I don’t tell them my boring darkest secrets right away. I was getting that little prickle from my coworker that said, LOOK OUT. Let him talk more. I heard a lot about how much he liked working with women and how great he was at working with them and how some of his favorite crews have had women on them. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered this is a flag as well. Men who are easy to work with usually never mention the fact that I’m a woman right out of the gate, and later only if it’s actually relevant somehow. (My boss, who was awesome, mentioned a couple months in that he was the long-time apprentice of a woman who is nearing retirement age in our local and who is kind of a hero and legend because of how early she joined and how much butt she kicked.)

Then the pennies started dropping with my coworker. A couple of months ago he came up to me and told me someone in another trade onsite said something really nasty and sexual about me and him (meaning my coworker). My first response was, “Ok, that is very deeply weird.” I told him not to tell me ever if anyone says anything like that about me. Just don’t pass it on. I don’t need to know. I asked him who it was and it wouldn’t tell me. That was weird and vague.

So this sat in my craw and rolled around, like when that goddam pelican ate that pigeon. It niggled a little. But mostly I was relieved because I was able to look at it more calmly and objectively than in the past and I didn’t dwell on it. “Brain, we need to keep a brain eye on this,” I said. FILED.

A week later he told an elaborate story about how he got into it with the guys from that trade (one of whom supposedly made the anonymous sexual comments about me) and how he ended up hiding all of their tools and they looked for them for 45 minutes and he told them not to “fuck with him.” These guys were HUGE. Tattoo-covered absolute BRUISERS. Who were always very polite and sometimes joked with me.

Coworker retold the story during lunch and I watched people’s reactions around the tables. I watched how whenever someone told an interesting story he had a one-up. He didn’t just see one semi jackknife, he saw THREE at once.

He would talk and talk with no filter. If I made an offhand neutral comment (“I’m going to paint my basement this weekend”) he would launch into 15 minutes on the time he painted some building by himself overnight with no help and both hands. Uphill both ways. Everyone thought he was great. Hey, did he ever mention his mother was a compulsive liar? Hmm, no kidding. Let’s hear more about that. Well, I don’t have a choice, do I? That was a big tell right there.

His behavior towards me got worse over time. I felt like he was looking for some kind of angle where he could get at me. Sometimes he would start slamming me in front of the rest of the crew under the guise of teasing me. Or he would have some gross junk food or crap candy I couldn’t eat and said “You can’t have any of this, too bad. It’s not for you.”

He would nitpick little things, and not listen when I told him our boss had asked me to do it that way. He would pull me off work I was doing to make me walk around with him. This is not uncommon boss/apprentice behavior to look at the progress of the work and discuss what needs to be done, but he wasn’t giving me things to do. On Wednesday he was kind of thinking out loud about some changes that needed to be made in a room due to some lighting placements. “I’d ask you if you know anything about that, but you don’t know ANYTHING about lighting.”

I was leaving on time a couple of Fridays ago with some other crew and he was a little late, on the other side of the building. My boss had already left for a meeting and I didn’t see a reason to cool my heels waiting for my coworker. As I passed him, he sneered, “Leaving already, huh?” I was like, “Yep, goodnight.”

My independence and increasing competence was obviously becoming a threat somehow, though I am NO THREAT to someone with years of experience. I had heard him talk shit about every pipefitter who was on our crew, as well as every tinner who’d worked with us, so I assumed he was spending time badmouthing me to our boss as well.

On Monday after “leaving already?” he sidled up to me as I was working and looked friendly and pleasant, and almost too casual…the face I had seen him make with some other whoppers. I had learned his tells.

“So, our boss’s boss got an email from someone about us leaving early all last week,” he said. “We can’t do it anymore, so don’t clean up until 2:10.”

“Oh, weird. Who would send an email like that?”

“I don’t know!” he said, smiling slightly and shaking his head. “Probably one of the fitters.”

I followed this edict, returning my tools to the gangbox and locking up at 2:10, while noting that his tools were already in there and he was nowhere in sight on the floor. I came into the office and he was shooting the breeze with our boss, who was reaching for his coat and lunchbox. I had noticed that when we all parked in the garage he would always make a point to leave before me, or tell me when I could leave. I didn’t care. It was just noticeable.

A day later the fitter foreman, who is a real joker and general stickybeak, decided to talk to me as I was working away at 2 p.m. or so.

“Surprised you’re still here, SJ. Your boss is gone to a meeting, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know that.” I put on a worried face. “Unfortunately, we can’t wrap up early anymore, even though we’re ahead of schedule. Someone emailed Boss’s boss and said we were leaving early, so now Boss said we have to stop it.”

“What! Who would do that? Who would care?”

“I don’t know. Coworker just told me yesterday. He said he thought it was the fitters.”

Our lunch is an hour before the fitters, so the next day at lunch the office held me, coworker, our tinner boss, and the fitter foreman. The two foremen were talking about work stuff when my boss said he was going to leave early that day. The fitter foreman took the bait and brought up the email I’d mentioned. “I thought you couldn’t leave early anymore.” My boss said he’d never received such an email in front of the three of us.

“SJ!” the fitter foreman said. “There you go, making stuff up to make me look stupid! That’s the last time I’ll believe anything you said, not that I did before.”

I shrugged and said, “Sorry, I guess I was mistaken about some things,” and kept eating my lunch.

That’s when things got more openly nasty, because I had proved for myself that this guy was lying about stupid stuff (as well as some gross sexual fantasy stuff). He vacillated between being super extra nice and making snide comments.

I grabbed the fitter foreman the next day.

“I need to thank you, man, about what you said about the email to boss’s boss that you brought up in the office.”

“Oh?” he said.

“It proved some things I’ve been really wondering about. Coworker told me that, you know.”

He jumped on that. “Yeah, everyone knows Coworker bullshits constantly. It’s just how he is.”

“It took me a couple of months to figure it out,” I said.

As the finale to my five-month sojourn at the campus of everyone’s favorite search engine, I decided to treat myself to a company-sponsored respirator fitting. I didn’t realize there was a physical involved so I had to pee in a cup (waiting for the phone call telling me I tested positive for meth since I haven’t had cause to disclose the Adderall yet).

The interesting part was the lung test. I had to blow into a device, which the nurse said I was doing wrong. She gave me some tips since I’d never had one. My lungs already hurt and felt squished, since I’d come from work (spray paint) and the waiting room was full of perfumes and colognes. Finally she got a reading and said, “We’ll see what we can do with this.” ???

The doctor came in and did some things, and looked at my breath read out. “Do you have asthma?”

“Well, allergies,” I said. “It’s hard to breathe when I’m indoors. My lungs hurt right now and when I was blowing.”

“Hmm, looks like asthma.” He said my lungs sound fine, and don’t rattle.

A few minutes after I left I felt fine again and was taking my normal, non-painful breaths.

B. Perfect is the enemy of $9 orphan paint

As I mentioned, we broke from the basement bedroom, took a left at Albequakey and ended up in the furnace room. Rain and snow are making us concerned about doing things like replacing the windows at the moment. Pete, the good sport, was on board for my paint idea, since the walls had been whitewashed at some point but were a sad ombre grey blah as seen in my last post. Let’s do something cheap, quick, and cheery to make it feel like a room that won’t give me the sad ughs every time I switch laundry. My idea was to check out the orphaned paints at the hardware store, since I’ve had great luck with the paint lottery for things like chicken coops.

Grape Green. WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? And in a semi-gloss! Talk about your rooms to go insane in. Pete and I talked while we painted, about why people abandon paints after ordering them. Heart attack? Water broke? Maybe walking in to pick up Grape Green was the tipping point, your personal Dear Beyonce moment, when you realize your relationship absolutely cannot be saved and how were you married to an insane person for so long! I’m leaving. That tears it. I’m moving back to Skokie.

Their legal debt was our gain. We ALMOST got a sensible beige, with the thought that ZZZZZZZ

What was I saying? Who cares. Grape Green it is.


Fist pump for emphasis I reckon.

We got a couple of racks from the hardware store as well.

We built them slightly lower than their full capacity and then cut down the struts that were next to the window so we could still open it if needed. Kind of shaping the racks around the window.

Painting the room green made me realize I own a lot of red things! I also got a cheepy shade to cover the bulb and a new cheepy pull.

Not pictured are my laundry drying racks, which now do not live in the bathroom!! I really like the exposed joists as well, as opposed to the sagging ceiling. I was relieved at the relatively small amount of recycling, donation items, and garbage that was in the room. Mostly we needed Storage Solutions.

We were very industrious and also picked up our closet door, made to match the other basement doors.

“So, what are you going to do with your clown painting collection?” Pete said.

“Hum, I should probably consign them, I suppose.”

“Oh good.”

I felt sad. And bad. And slightly murderous at this thought. Like a clown.

I tucked them away on the wall next to the furnace, mostly behind the door. Now I feel happy!!

“ARRRGH WHY,” Pete said.

PROTIP: get your mental problems written into your marriage vows somehow, so you have backup later.

I scored some FREE!! destined-for-the-trash carpet from my previous job, and am going to make a runner out of that, carpet the dog stairs finally, and possibly make stair runners when we redo our horrendous basement stairwell.

I will snap pics of my carpet progress this weekend. Happy almost spring!

We Are Vagabonds/We Travel Without Pampers on

My wanton swath of destructiveness (and rebuilding) through my house continues. If this chapter of my life had a subheading, or at least one bit of metadata attached to it, it would be: INDUSTRIOUSNESS.

So, something bad happened in the furnace room. Actually, several somethings since we moved in. I’ve been using it as “temporary” storage for things that should be stored permanently and well (camping stuff, canning stuff), things we should not keep at all (random router I don’t remember buying???), and half-finished projects. Just until the bedroom remodel is done and we get our space back in the garage, I said. As our various home projects march into year FOUR, I realized that I had to stop treating the furnace room as Stuff Limbo and turn it into a real space. And make some goddam decisions already, which is something I have always struggled with. OR HAVE I?

This realization coincided with Franny asking for a way to make some serious money, not a $5 little chore. “You could…clean out the furnace room?” I said, hesitantly. I said something vague about trying to divide all the things into rough categories so we could store stuff or Goodwill it. I mean, it was a weird hodge podgey disaster that I knew I was going to have to tackle, and I was super dreading it, and it seemed mean to inflict it on someone else. But it had escaped my lips and was in the air now.

The furnace room. The rest of my house has been kept pretty clean, or has BECOME organized and tidy A.P.M. (after proper medication), and I have made regular pilgrimages to Goodwill. But this was our house’s secret angry bald patch under the rest of the long flowing tresses.

On Sunday I fucked off to a friend’s house with a small shepherd’s pie for a couple of hours, with final terms left undiscussed and unnegotiated. When I returned home, she was in there, grinding away at it. I went downstairs to paint the basement bedroom ceiling (not pictured), and she piled everything up in our bathroom, around the tub and in the walkway. Since Sunday night Pete and I have had reminders of our packratting and dereliction of proper organization as we ablutinate.

We discussed what to do with it. He thinks I am a little cracked (as he does daily) because I want to paint the sad concrete walls. I also want to lay a trail of carpet tile from the door to the washing machine and replace the classic murder room combo “stark bulb with ancient pull chain” with some kind of shaded fixture. Nothing fancy. I don’t want to hang out and tat to Miles Davis in there, but I would like it to be less creepy.

We did immediately agree on one thing, and that was to tear down the ceiling. It was the original 1950s wallboard with trim tacking it up to the joists. When this house was switched from oil heat to gas lines, the iron piping was run over the top of the wallboard. Then the house was replumbed, and hey, let’s run the copper over the ceiling as well. This house is a sturdy monster and I love it, but “improvements” that came later were needed but executed strangely sometimes. People cut into the wallboard over the years to add cable, pipes, more electricity here and there, etc.

This about sums it up. Iron piping, holes, The Bulb.

Here is an original mahogany hollow-core door that originally hung in the kitchen that was in the basement when we moved in and I cannot bear to throw out yet. Every time I make a change to the 50sness of this house I feel I’m cutting off a hostage’s toe.

CAN THIS ROOM BE SAVED? I don’t know! But it’s going to get some shelving, some bins, and an ATTEMPT. Franny was filthy and tired when she was done (seven hours) and I told her I would pay her $10/hour for her labors. Which she is promptly spending on more hair dye.

The bedroom is still crawling along. I don’t know if I mentioned, but we have a spreadsheet now. With DO THIS dates, that we mostly adhere to. We have windows in the basement that were meant to be installed last weekend (we nixed it when it snowed all morning), and a closet door to pick up that matches the other ones.

The paneling is farther now, but we’re pausing to install the door and then see what needs to happen with trim. So this is a very specific snapshot of what is happening with my house right now, and my life pretty much TODAY, which was my intention when I started this trash heap anyway. I am hoping to blog more…I have it set as a task now (lame) because I miss it. When your memory is so porous it’s good to have a record. When I am senile from sucking on paint chips I can look at this all and say, “what idiot could have done all of these stupid things?” and then go back to pooping myself.

I’m sure I’ve had enough to know when I have had enough

Soo I had a memory of posting sometime in December, but apparently I didn’t. I’m trying to set writing on my calendar now and I’m hoping it’ll be easier now that the holidays are over. Also now that I’ve made so many changes to my house and life. I went through a big teardown period where I noticed everything that was wrong or broken or dirty and I had to fix it. Not in a OOooOOH METH way, though. I swear. I just needed systems and some order again. And to internalize what life felt like when it wasn’t on hard mode.


I know just how Horace feels. I don’t want to leave my warm bed either, even if someone is trying to make it.

I’ve got about 12 new perspectives on things. That’s not just my usual blizzard of ideas, either. (Okay maybe the inside of my head is still blizzardy in sections). It’s that my brain is working differently. I can look at something I’ve looked at for years and see a totally new solution to it. This is keeping me pretty busy. I’m also trying to find time to just fuck off and feel good about it. WHICH I DO.

The biggest change after the white noise falling out of my head is getting my energy back. The one daily dose of Adderall I was on worked for my brain and getting things right at my job, but it was wearing off after about six hours. After a normal day of work, I would limp around and my back would hurt, and I’d be exhausted. I’d be exhausted on days I didn’t work, either. (I was exhausted before when I worked in an office too.)

The second dose that I take at lunch is finally getting me up to bedtime. I am a reasonable amount of tired after work, but I don’t feel broken or extremely sore. I thought that was normal, since I’ve felt this way since I had standing jobs in high school and college. Hell, I was tired out as a young kid. I used to force myself to exercise for years, too, because I thought that would give me more energy like everyone said. It never really did and I often injured myself doing relatively minor things (like cleaning my house) no matter how fit I was.

This is the vaguest, most unscientific explanation, but I have been reading that malfunctioning brain receptors don’t just affect mood and focus, but can also affect how your body deals with pain and energy. I think I was a flickering bulb with dirty connections before. It’s been astounding and a huge relief to me that speed is bridging the gap in there.

I shared a house with my mother briefly when I was in my early 20s and I was pregnant with Franny. She was around my age now and I remember her being in chronic pain and in bed very early every night, and not sleeping well. She was often in bed by 8 or 9 when I was in high school too. At some point after her early 30s, she just kind of…ran out of gas. She was given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which I had my doubts about. “She’s just getting old,” I told my sister, like an ignorant asshole. My sister was having chronic pains, too, and doubted what I was saying, I think, though at 13 she was less likely to disagree with me about anything.

By the time my grandmother was my age, she was finished working for the rest of her life. She was dizzy, in pain, slept poorly, and lived on black coffee and cigarettes. They took one of her inner ears, thinking it would help with her Meniere’s disease diagnosis. (I had vertigo and tinnitus for 20+ years until I stopped eating corn and assumed I had inherited her condition.) I don’t know if she was collecting disability, but she probably should have been. I was worried I was heading in that direction myself.

Now that my own oxygen mask is on, I’m trying to help Franny with her health issues. It seems that she’s gotten my dud wrists and we’re exploring carpal tunnel surgery, before she goes to college. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I took her a few months ago to have a vein in her nose cauterized and her chronic nosebleeds that she’s had since she was two stopped. I’d like it if the stuff I suffered with for years (especially related to my digestion) could just be avoided for them. We’re working on her breathing issues as well. I’m hoping life doesn’t have to be hard mode for the girls.

SO. What have I been doing since Thanksgiving.


BYE UGLY

1. In addition to taking blurry cameraphone photos (sigh), my stove died. HOORAY! This was early December. I was making pizza as usual on Saturday night and when I took the last one out and turned off the broiler, it wouldn’t turn off without being unplugged. We are going to redo the kitchen, I hope starting this summer, so we talked about whether we wanted to try to repair this oven, which we didn’t like, or spring for a new one now. We sprung.

I have never had a new stove, let alone one I loved. I was incubating this fantasy of putting in a double oven on one wall and just having a gas cooktop, but my kitchen is not terrifically large as it is. It turns out that double ovens are kind of a thing now, which I had no idea about. There is more available burner space on top, as well as a long oven burner in the middle for a griddle or a big gravy pan. As a bonus the lower stove is so low that Mere can watch bacon cook. It just cooks better. No more random burnt cookies.

It is very interesting having serious food allergies and living without a stove for a few days. We did a lot of microwaving and even some wintery grilling. In the past I would have just fucked off out to dinner.

2. Goethe got ill. She is my little trouble cat. Jail visits, face breakage, and now this. She was living to drink out of our leaking bathroom faucet and was getting matted fur. I worried that it was hyperthyroid or diabetes, but her blood etc came back normal and it looks like it is something common in cats, IBS. They are all on the nicest kibble but switching to wet food seems to have made her feel better immediately, and all the animals are enjoying being back on wet food. I went to kibble because the dogs were stealing the cats food, but I feel like this is something I have the energy to monitor now.

3. The basement is moving again. It’s never easy to work full time and do home renovation, but obviously we’ve had some challenges. Recently Pete dyed the floor a russet-y color of my choosing. We talked about making the color variegated, but neither of us had handled the dye before or knew exactly how it would turn out once it was try.

Well. I hated it.

See the kind of blotchy parts that look like spills? “Looks like a murder happened,” Franny remarked. “Several of them.” It’s not showing up in this photo, but the dark blotches were actually reflecting back a weird iridescent green. He got back in there with some water and a sponge and smoothed the transitions between the lighter and darker spots.

I like it a lot better now, and even more so after he sealed and waxed it. It’s hard to see because this is more of a glamour shot, but it turned out well. More photos to come.

Still on the to-do list is to find an egress diggin’ company, design the walk-in closet, replace the regular windows, hang a closet door, paint, and more. Piece of cake, RIGHT? Yikes.

4. Right before xmas we fucked off to Port Townsend, because they claimed they were having their Yuletide festival. We didn’t see the train rides or Victorian carolers, and the Victorian home tours were sold out by the day we left. Also the gingerbread house contest had about 3 entries. Get your shit together, Port Townsend.

But we had fun walking around in the falling snow.


Blurry! Bummer.


I bought a painting in a junk shop for my tropical bathroom paradise.


Last day of the farmer’s market.


In the Palace Hotel.

5. As part of my campaign to reorganize parts of my house, I tackled the pantry early one morning. It’s really more of a broom closet that Pete put shelves in when we moved in, because I guess all the other people who lived her before me were okay with a pretty small amount of kitchen storage. BUT WHERE DID THEY KEEP THEIR TAJINE? I said when I moved in. Ahem.

In the very very back of the original top shelf I found Spot Bee Gone!


It still had its Bon Marche price tag.


Made in Seattle!! The Henry Building was at 4th and University and Rainier Tower is there now.

6. Franny wanted to redo her room, so for Xmas I gave her a “gift certificate” entitling her to paint, curtains, and some new throw pillows. She wanted it to be less tweeny (pink, purple, orange, and yellow). Now it is a matoor blue.


Three lighter walls and one darker. “It’s not DONE!” she yelled when I came in. She is always a little dramatic when her boyfriend is over.

She’s also cleaned out a lot of her clutter and kid things she doesn’t use anymore, and we took a massive trip to Goodwill.

Her bedpost started to peel down to the color it was when we bought it and she’s picking at it. I think we put latex over oil paint. Whoops. I like this halfway look. It’s kind of representative of the metamorphosis she’s going through at the moment. I told her she can’t strip it yet because it needs to be done outdoors and it’s been too cold and wet.

7. Other than my everyday cooking, I haven’t been doing much. Xmas was pizza, and it was delicious. Strudel is obsessed with the old Harvest Moon games for Nintendo, and asked me if I knew anything about “moon dumplings.” I did not, but now I do!

I love mochi anything, and these were relatively quick and easy. We’re going to explore more dango now.

I’m not feeling particularly reflective on the new year or at the close of the old one as I often am. I will say because I had so much positive change this year (especially at the second half) that I don’t hate 2016 like a lot of people did. So I will just say: Happy new year!

Further adventures in getting my shit together

1.

Now that it is winter, a small brown hawk (or hawks) is visiting our yard and scaring the shit out of the chickens. I came home on Wednesday to do a quick Thanksgiving grocery/flowers drop off and bounce back out to a doctor’s appointment when I realized there were two chickens hiding under my porch shoe rack (very weird), but none of the other chickens were in evidence.


our lackluster decorating this year

I forgot the girls went downtown to have lunch with Pete, so no one had been home for a couple of hours. I called the chickens how I do when I want to feed them scraps and there was no movement. I have a pariah chicken that hides in the coop most of the time and I found her, so that made three of the eight. Then I saw the girls and Pete walking down the street from the bus stop and I asked them what was up. Nothing, they said, the chickens were there when they left.

I had to go but the girls said they would look around the neighborhood in case they had jumped over the fence. As it turns out, within an hour Franny was able to find them all in the yard, very very silently socked in to small crevices and under thick hedges. The good news is that they are bin Laden-level hide and seek experts, but the bad news is that if they hide like that and we don’t find them, they are likely to get picked off by a raccoon that night.

I suspect this is the same kind of hawk that struck Death Ray dead last winter, but Pete and I finally saw it recently. He saw it swooping into the yard and we saw it later being chased by crows. It’s too little to actually carry a chicken off.

This is weirdly frustrating. Could you at least eat what you terrify?

2.

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving. I dithered on the menu until I ended up in the realm of completely traditional and boring and I was very okay with that. I butterflied and spatchcocked the turkey again this year. Apparently I did this last year and have ZERO memory of it. I do remember the car crash and that an entertaining was a Herculean effort due to feeling generally shitty and being depressed. Whee.


another year, another turkey. But, it was delicious again.

This year I super enjoyed myself for no real reason. Everything came together very easily and I didn’t make a schedule in five minute increments like I usually do, and I didn’t forget anything. I think I was also less interested in over-the-top food weirdness like I usually am. I’m starting to feel like I can direct my energy where it counts now, and save it sometimes when it doesn’t.

We had garden pumpkins saved from summer and I baked them for pie, like I sometimes do. I’m sure there’s a ton of traditional pumpkin pie recipes out there that don’t contain evaporated or sweetened milk but I didn’t feel like hunting one down. I took a peep in the Joy and found something called Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. It called for a custard, egg whites, and gelatin as a thickener/fluffiner, and it was nice and light without being at all rubbery. I had the last piece for breakfast Friday morning.

What I REALLY was looking forward to was the Gilmore Girls revival that dropped on Friday. I had a little party with the girls, my sister, and a friend, all of whom are superfans. I don’t have a ton to say about the show here. I think you have to accept Amy Sherman Paladino products for what they are. As many recappers and reviewers have pointed out when the show was on the air, it had plotholes ahoy as well as time and other logic problems. That pattern wasn’t really resolved in the revival. I was happy to spend more time with the characters and we all laughed and cried.

I made a Gilmore-inspired buffet and my guests hung through the first two episodes, which was three hours of viewing. I made pizza, Chinese food, a cake, and Pete made The Rory, which is a very pink cocktail that Emily had concocted for Rory’s 21st birthday. I made some deviled eggs benedict, as a nod to Emily’s fancy parties but also the episode where Lorelai and Rory devil egged Jess’s car. Franny made whoopie pies because they are chocolatey and marshmallowy and good.

My sister captured the “before” better than I did because I was buzzing around finishing things up, but I did get an after.



3.

For the first time ever, I seem to be able to successfully use list/task software consistently and well. I’ve always kept a calendar, and I kept a datebook while I was in school so I could turn things in on time, but other than that I was a little random and would struggle.

During my decline and fall in the corporate world, I tried kanban-ing and task listing and bullet diary-ing and anything I could think of to make sure things didn’t fall through the cracks. I would also spend time reading the bon mots of productivity gurus and then being annoyed by them and hating them and then hating myself. Then I realized I wasn’t always using my apps consistently or even remembering to update or even open them. Pretty disheartening. But now I find that if it goes on my task list, it gets done, if not day of, then the next day.

I’m using Epic Win at the moment. It’s simple, but good for me for recurring tasks (monthly dog and cat flea treatment) as well as daily ones like flossing. Yes, my task list includes flossing, something I often forgot or put off. Some day I hope it will be so ingrained I can take it off again.

I include one-offs on my task list as well. I decided today would be the day I would clean off my rain lamp so I can consign it.

I enjoyed owning a rain lamp for a short time until I realized that oily surface = dust nightmare, and it always smells like a melted crayon when I run it. Also, in the summer when it gets above 80 the oil starts to evaporate and leaves specks on the wall, table, pictures, the statuette in the lamp, and so on.

I told myself that if I cleaned it and made sure it was running well, and consigned it, I could begin the process of looking for a TV lamp. A few months ago I found the book mentioned in this article about the history of TV lamps. I thought it would be fun to replace the rain lamp with one. Just a little spot of tacky decorative light on the credenza and a lot less maintenance.

But anything like this was an uphill battle a couple of months ago. Please excuse this terrible metaphor, but I felt like much of my life was spent paying off blackmailers rather than going to the hideout and kneecapping the source of the problem. I had a lot of inertia going. I was sad my lamp was dusty and partly clogged, and making a mess on the wall in the hot part of the summer, but didn’t have the energy or organization to deal with it. My list kept getting longer and longer. Today it rolled up on my to-do list, I found that motivation lever and dealt with it in less than an hour. It’s still very weird and something I’m trying to get used to.

4.

Last week I had trade school for the first time. It was a mix of classroom time with basic math review (area, radius, fractions, decimals, etc), OSHA training, and some shop time. I found the shop time the most challenging because I knew what kind of metal bends or folds I wanted to produce, but not always which machines did what and how to use them.

We had to make a useless duct, which was kind of a nightmare on the first go round and turned out very poorly!

My teacher said, “Write your name on your duct!” but I was embarrassed so hedged a little.

By the time Friday rolled around I passed the written test since math, history, vocab, and so on is not my hurdle. I was nervous about the final shop project since all we had was a spec sheet, but it finally clicked. I finished last, but I did fine and finished well within the time limit.

On one hand school was WAY easier to sit still, pay attention, and focus on, than it was from first grade through grad school. On the other, I was not ready for the feeling of being back to something I haven’t done in over ten years. Fortunately it’s only a week at a time and they really want you to succeed.

This week I talked to a cool journeywoman who was doing trimble work on my jobsite for a couple of days. She remembered me from the women’s meeting in October. I told her about my shop challenges and she said, “Oh yeah, I remember that. I’ve told them how hard that is for shop newbies!” She said she was organizing some shop time for the women’s committee to come in and build small objects like toolboxes for outreach programs in high schools. She told me that is a great time to come into the shop and take pictures of the machines with a note about what they do as reference for later. GREAT IDEA.

Work’s going well. Life’s going pretty well. Drugs have been like a switch going on in my life. There’s a daily “FLICK” when they kick in and my thoughts get orderly and calm, but even when they wear off (by midmorning) my mood still stays pretty good over the course of 24 hours until I take another one. After they wear off, though, I feel my brain getting skippy and sludgy again, which makes me bored and grumpy. I’m working out what a second midday dose will look like.

My doctor wants to put me on something really low dose and reasonable for a second dose so I can get to sleep at night, which I think is a good idea, since I treasure my restful, unanxious sleep now. I have an interesting reaction with these drugs. I’ve discovered I can take speed and immediately go to sleep if I need or want a nap. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. I don’t think it’s going to interfere with my sleep. What fucks up my sleep is not being on drugs and being out of work. I used to need to be exhausted, like utterly destroyed to stay asleep or fall back to sleep after I’d snapped awake at 2 or 3 a.m. But ideally I do need my brain happy and my body at least tired.


me unmedicated

I’m still not pushing myself super hard to take on big projects or new hobbies or even get back to writing…yet. I want to motor along for a while until being happy and getting things done feels normal and not novel.

Kiss my giblets

Not always, but glass measuring cups sometimes make me think of my mother. I’m sure she used it pretty often since she seemed to enjoy baking, but I don’t really remember washing them. What I remember is it coming to the table during Thanksgiving, full of giblet gravy, because my mother didn’t own a gravy boat. I own an insulated one and use it weekly in the winter. I am a hardcore believer in gravy.

I got frustrated with gravy for a while, because I was accustomed to making it with wheat flour. I tried adding the various starches like tapioca and arrowroot, but I never liked starchy gravy. Plus, these starches have a tendency to go to snot really fast, or overheat and “relax” again. Finally, I cracked the code and have been happily making rice flour gravy.

My mother’s version of giblet gravy included not only the turkey offal but chopped hard boiled eggs for extra stink. We didn’t eat organs at any other time of year, and I saw this as some of her vestigial southern-ness, which would rear its head at unexpected moments. I couldn’t get the liver and gizzard bits down and would try to navigate around the chunks as I spooned it onto my potatoes. Somehow my sister, who had as little culinary organ exposure as I did, emerged into adulthood liking it.

This is a silly thing. I thought for years about getting a 4-cup measuring cup. O FRIVOLITY, I thought. What would I do with FOUR CUPS? Finally my ye olde 1 cupper lost all its measuring lines and every time I sent it through the dishwasher my sad Sharpie marks would wipe off again. I had to let it go, and I bought a SET! One cup! Two cups! FOUR CUPS! Sometimes I serve gravy in it, because my gravy boat often runneth over and it saves well.

You may have guessed I’m thinking of Thanksgiving. I was casting about for different ideas. What if…I used recipes from 1916? Hmm, pretty boring and standard and similar to what people do now. The only difference is that apparently it was like Halloween part two. I’m trying to find Thanksgiving recipes online from circa the birth of this house, and Gourmet is not really coughing up the goods. I loved all the weird racist/sexist/whatever shit I found in the old issues a couple of years ago, but I’m not sure I’m up for spelunking through all that at the reference section of the Giant Robot Poop again. So I don’t know what I’ll do yet.

I’m back to work now, which is great. I like money but I miss crocheting every day.

I’m plugging along on a little granny square throw for Strudel right now. I got an old picnic basket from my local junk shop that seems to have been for a promotion by Chiquita bananas in 1968. I asked them to keep the plastic ware inside, and they cut me a little deal. Now my yarn lives in it.

I’m working in HVAC right now and I like my journeyman. I’ll probably be on the jobsite until Xmas. This job is VERY cozy. There’s a roof, windows, and I’m working for a company that supplies safety equipment. I didn’t know until I started with them that grinders were supposed to have guards. Seriously. This is also my first job where I’ve had an official break. It’s pretty common practice to skip break and leave a little early among companies, I’m finding, which can find you working in 5-6 hour chunks. Sitting down for a few minutes and having a snack after a few hours of work really makes a difference.

My journeyman is sneaky watching me. I thought he was teaching me and then letting me go on autopilot, but he called me out. “I saw you fix what could have been a mistake earlier, glad you’re listening.” Listening has always been okay for me, it’s the boredom that was killer and distracting. I’m pretty happy just plugging along with my (quieter, more linear) thoughts and not messing anything up.

The only thing that’s a little wonky is that my body chews through amphetamines pretty fast, so a pill that is supposed to last about 12 hours lasts for 6, tops. I get up, take a pill at 4, and it’s all gone by lunchtime. I can get along (albeit more slowly) but after lunch the white noise in my head that makes it harder to figure things out comes back. I tried taking it later, like before I get on the road around 5, but then I’m anxious on the highway, or I miss a turn, or it takes me longer to find all of my stuff.


need oil

Another thing that’s new is my time sense. I’m not a chronically late person, but if I’m home with no schedule it feels like I suddenly lose two hours, and dinner gets on the table later, or shops close and I can’t run errands. If I was at work, the last 45 minutes could feel like an eternity. Now it feels like time passes steadily. IT’S REALLY NICE TO FEEL LEGIT HIGH-FUNCTIONING instead of just coping.

Speaking of distractions…right before school started, we got Franny a pretty basic laptop, and as I mentioned she recently got herself a smartphone. It’s helpful for her to have research and writing tools for school when she needs them, but she is super goofing off on them now, which I expected. I was surprised how much time she spends on Youtube. She watches music videos with her sister, which is cool, because it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure version of the MTV of my youth. I introduced Franny to /r/youtubehaiku, and this is her jam, since her friends seem to compete to find the weirdest videos with low views.

I don’t see her as often as I used to, but she still pops into the kitchen to talk, or I pull her along on a dog walk or errands. It’s funny that one definition of successful parenting can be seeing your children less and less and not having to worry that they’re making horrible decisions while they’re out of sight. I guess even parents with the best intentions can be authors of their own loneliness.

LET’S RIDE BIKES


The daisy deadheads are sprouting. That’s a new one.

I told myself I’d wait a week before posting and I barely made it, just to give a little time to let the chemicals start swishing around. I went to the doctor on Wednesday after posting and I got put through the same sized fun factory hole that most people diagnosed with adhd get. Go in as a delectable scented blob that never comes out of carpet, extrude out as Adderall-flavored spaghetti.

She gave me the “this is a controlled substance” spiel so there’s a couple of extra hoops and I guess I’m supposed to be on the lookout for medicine cabinet pirates. (Spoiler alert: keeping the bottle in the ol’ meat wallet because there’s nothing like popping a warm Adderall in the a.m.)

?? I don’t know either.

The good news is that people who actually have adhd are less likely to abuse it. The bad news is that I am now noticing stuff like this everywhere. (TL;DR: Writer chooses to take Adderall without diagnosis, has a bad time, presents self as n=1 study.) I am hearing the NYT generally has a hate-on for Adderall. I guess you can’t sell news about people who are having an OK time. This kind of shit always made me go, “Yeesh, Adderall sounds bad, mkay?”

I had been warned about EUPHORIA. Well. We’re no strangers to love (or stimulants), so Day 1 was more like Mr. Toad’s Moderately-Amusing-But-Home-Before-Curfew Ride. I don’t feel really happy or sad, just calm. If something happens, I do have an emotional response, so I’m not zombie’d out either. I told Pete I felt like I was on wheels, like the alien spy girl in Mars Attacks! I was pretty shocked at what I’ve been putting myself through by self-medicating for so many years, because this is far superior to that. People say Adderall is really harsh and the comedown was a bitch on the first day, only because I wasn’t able to eat on schedule. Once I ate I felt better. I had about three days of new afternoon headaches but now I feel fine. Right now I have to remember to eat and breakfast and lunch tastes like cardboard, but I am told this will pass too.

My doctor said, “Let’s try extended release every day for a month, instead of the weekend breaks some people take.” I am VERY glad about this, because when I’m with friends and family is when I least want to be a confused bitch. Historically, I’ve been most functional at work, since I know people are expecting me to produce something. I can feel it wearing off in the evening, but it’s such a relief to have had many hours of calm, accomplished focus that I think I’m happier at night knowing I’ve had a pretty good day.

Here’s what’s not happening: I am not accomplishing everything that’s been on my to-do list for the last three years. I’m not walking through glass doors. I haven’t plucked all the hairs out of my arm. Guilty as charged: I did write my friend a six-paragraph email this morning. But we DO have some things to discuss, honest.

Here’s what is happening that is surprising. I have realized I get frustrated approximately 7000 times a day. The first day, Thursday, I decided to wear some boots to the noir festival. They didn’t go on quite right and part of the boot turned inside out and went under my foot. I felt a little BZZT in my head. It was like a little placeholder: INSERT TITTY BABY MENTAL TANTRUM HERE. Normally this would really annoy me, to the point where I might swear. Instead I just…fixed it. WHAT. This keeps happening. Maybe someday I won’t get the placeholder anymore?

I drove Franny to school that morning. I have a long, LONG history of hating Seattle driving. It’s terrible. I have even become part of the problem as I find myself going ten under often for no reason. I did not care about traffic Thursday morning. It wasn’t horrendous or light. It was just there, and I drove through it. I realized I wasn’t bored, even though I could reason with myself and say, yes, this driving is routine and boring.

Here’s a funny one: I hate writing, like with a pen. I love typing (CLICKY NOISES! FAST!), but I actually feel a sense of dread if I have to write a card or note. My brain skips around, which causes me to omit letters or words. Somehow it feels like a struggle to even hold the pen and drive it around, like my fine motor skills don’t work quite right. This goes back to being a kid as I tried and failed to keep a journal several times. I really wanted to write about my life, but it was pretty hard (hooray for blogging!). I didn’t start consistently writing fiction until high school when I realized I could use word processing software.

As a result of all this, I have serial killer writing most of the time. On Sunday night I wrote a note for Strudel, and I felt that little BZZT in my brain. “This is going to be frustrating and I am probably going to misspell things.”

However, I composed a fine note, and when I sat back I noticed something: my writing was better. It was…kind of fun to write again. I decided to test this a little. Obviously I knew I was testing myself, but I tried to put myself in the frame of mind that I was writing a routine note or a letter.

OK, it’s a little blurry but maybe you can see what I’m getting at. Top is last night, bottom is this morning. The top is actually better than usual, sadly.

I went to the grocery store on Monday, started at one side, and hit every item on my list in order. It was so fast. This is embarrassing: I used to take lists to the store, sometimes grouped by section, and I would STILL miss items. I spent a lot of time in grocery stores, circling around, backtracking, “ONE MORE THING!”

And now, a weird thing, that I’m not sure that I like. My head feels like a huge chunk of ferrous metal and whatever is loudest and most attention-grabbing (the biggest magnet) is going to drag my head towards it. On Thursday I had to go to a mini-conference for work. What a perfect day to start taking a new psychotropic drug, the day you go off to be trapped in a ballroom with 50 new people! Naturally I was dreading this, because normally I suck at people’s names, dealing with the boredom of sitting for long periods of time, and stammering when I speak as I forget words. I can fill up multiple pages with doodles at functions like these, like I did during my week of orientation last month.

A folk singer was part of the programming, which I was not looking forward to. She was obviously talented and had been at her craft for a long time, but generally I just don’t care for folk music. This is normally the point where I look like I’m listening, but I’m actually on a spaceship with Samuel L. Jackson and a unicorn. Escape! My brain is the best at it. It has inbuilt peril-sensitive sunglasses! I was already feeling pretty good, because I hadn’t been wracked with anxiety while talking to people, like I normally am.

However, I could not get away. I tried to count things on the ceiling. I thought about doodling. But I heard every activist-y lyric, every folksy guitar strum. This is what was in my own Room 101, I thought. But I didn’t get irritated, and it ended. Things keep ending, and I can move on, calmer and less exhausted. I’ll be interested to see how I feel after a month of this, and I’ll try to update then. And probably before then, because it’s not currently a struggle to form a sentence.


Wood’s here

Welcome Back to the Blog and Make it a Cool Font

Other than Pete, I’m going to talk to you about this first.

When I was younger, my weight fluctuated a lot. When I was poor, I ate less and lost weight. Then I had more money, and I shoveled in General Tso like there was no Tsomorrow and gained weight. I had a well-meaning but completely ignorant go at vegetarianism for about nine years. I was never what I derisively called a “french fry vegetarian” but there were many nights that were just salad and some French bread. Close enough. Like many people, I was also very uneducated about nutrition in general, which is something I tried to correct after I had Franny (how do you feed a kid? Let’s read several books on the topic and then get more confused).

So you take an ignorant person who’s not eating enough fat or protein, and combine that with mysterious and random pains and extreme tiredness, making it hard to exercise, and that person’s weight fluctuates. It was frustrating to me and of course I blamed myself. IF ONLY I could get my shit together and eat right and exercise, I would think. Everything would fall into place. That was the lie I told myself. I was on the right track, though. Everyone needs a good diet and exercise, but especially me, as it turns out.

For the most part, I fixed it. This is not news to you. The nutrition part was absolutely involuntary, but critical, and the exercise part is forced but, of course, voluntary with my career change. I’m very glad about those two things.

I thought some kind of magical transformation would take place once I started feeling better physically. I was super glad I was feeling so much better, and like I might want to and enjoy living past 50. But I felt like my progress bar was stuck on 79% or so, spinning, spinning…. I was depressed at times. Completely bored with my life but not wanting to or able to go back out into restaurants, bars, and movie theatres multiple times a week. I wasn’t suddenly going to discover rock climbing or anything. If I stayed home or worked outside, I felt better. But anxiety was still there, jabbing me, especially if I had to go out and function in the (corny) world. A visit to the movies could leave me in tears or vomiting, or both. I also knew I wasn’t functioning as well as I could be even after getting the corn out of my system.

I’m at a point now where I can’t struggle against myself anymore. It’s too hard. I’ve hacked and self-medicated myself for many years and I’m tired of doing it all on my own. I had a talk with myself. I’m super good at these.

BRAIN: Remember when we were on speed all the time and got so much stuff done and could remember people’s names and wanted to write bad scifi and there weren’t piles everywhere and people liked us and we could answer the phone?

Me: We don’t do that anymore, brain, now we have carrots and zinc supplements. Plus I think we were an acquired taste even then.

BRAIN: Yes but you have class coming up and things to memorize and your children are starting to work around your bad memory….

Me: SHUT UP SHUT UP

BRAIN: Maybe we could pretend…wait, what was I saying? You know what would be great right now? Getting into the shower and crying.

Me: We already did that today

BRAIN: You should get a tattoo! Or just start tatting. Tat-a-tat tippicanoe…

Me: ??? Thanks for nothing, asshole

Brain: *Hold please*

But my horrible, traitorous brain got me thinking. Speed and copious amounts of coffee was the only thing that kept me functional before I figured out I was allergic to life. Ready, this is where it gets REALLY pathetic.

Maybe…maybe I could FAKE adhd to get a legal script for speed. I started looking at signs and symptoms of adhd. I started reading message boards about people who have faked their way into the various drugs. I started reading people’s stories. Uh oh.

This was the lightbulb moment: I think…I actually HAVE adhd and wouldn’t need to fake anything. Shit.

I got tested a couple of weeks ago and it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done. Squirm factor rating was “Court” but with less emotional anguish. Think about a cavalcade of small tasks that you hate to do the most and do that for about three hours. For me it was things like mental math and memorizing, reordering, and reciting strings of letters and numbers. I kind of wanted to run out of the room. The battery was very thorough. And in the end, yes, inattentive adhd. I was honest about using stimulants for years and how they got me through graduate school and the doc said, “Yes, the fact that they work for you so well adds to the evidence that you have it.”

She said something insightful to me that made me feel a lot better and lose a lot of the guilt and shame of my lifelong, sad struggling. This goes way back, pretty much back to everything that happened after kindergarten. My complete disinterest in school, ever doing homework, complying with authority, being told I was smart but lazy. I was bored out of my mind, even in the face of new material (I had to really care about it to focus). Really my patterns of bad behavior were the origin for this blog. There are so many things I HAVEN’T told you about but that seal’s popping when Franny turns 18, ha.

What she said was pretty simple: “You told me you never did homework but skated into tests and passed them so they passed you on. You taught yourself what you wanted to out of books and ignored everything else. You’ve been successful at many things (referring to finishing grad school especially) and that’s because you’re smart. You’ve figured out how to cope.” She said she had one “aha” moment when I did well on the IQ test, pretty well on the memory tests, but as she watched me, she could see I was closing my eyes and chunking the numbers, like a phone number. I TANKED on the solo attention stuff. “You’re obviously better in a one-on-one setting,” she said, about my focus.

“This is the real me on no coffee,” I told her.

So now I get onto the (legal) medication-go-round. I feel so relieved. I am already having nicer conversations with my brain and trying to be more patient with it when I forget things right now or see a shiny thing. I am too old to think “YES THIS IS THE ANSWER NOW, we’re all done.” But based on my past experience I expect improvement. This is another lever I can pull.

Speaking of pulling people’s levers.

I did get Franny some actual factual birthday presents, but we hadn’t seen Mr. Coconut milk for a few months so I had to wrap it up. I was gratified by the “ARGGH” I was looking for.

I have a sixteen-year-old. Things are moving fast for her right now and it’s freaking her out. She’s leveling up. Her boyfriend has graduated and has a job. I took her to get a state ID the other day, which I figure she should have and will increasingly need. I turned over her social security card and implored her to memorize her number (she won’t). She is still volunteering at KEXP with her aunt but has just applied for her first paying job.

She asked me to shave part of her head last weekend, which I did. With the dog clippers, naturally.

I used to tease her about having a mohawk when she was little and it would always make her scream. I remember when my neighbor shaved most of my head in high school and my mother laughed at me until she was in tears. I still don’t get that reaction.

Franny’s flip phone is dying, and the “kid” service we have her on has gotten pretty lame. They no longer sell phones, and if you bring your own phone, it must meet a lot of criteria, like being older than one year, not certain models, etc. We don’t use any of the special features anymore either (we used to cut her texting off at a certain time of night so she would not have her sleep interrupted).

Pete, sensibly, doesn’t want to be a spurting artery of parental largesse for either of the girls, which is something I respect about him. We dithered about what to do. I thought about putting her on our phone service, but the reason it works for us is that it’s “pay for what you use” and we’re very light users (two lines, $45 a month on average). I knew her 5000+ monthly texts would really send us through the roof.

We made a deal with her. I told her I would buy her a very basic flip phone again, gratis, and she could pay for what she uses once she’s employed, which ideally will be before xmastime. I am also setting it up in the meantime so we get alert texts and features turn off if she goes near overages. Alternately she could buy herself a smartphone, and I would pay for text and talk, and when she gets a job we can turn on data and she can pay for the whole schmear. Naturally she went for the smart phone. I’m going to give her access to the usage page for our cell service as well so she can practice keeping an eye on that. As usual, trying to do the training wheels thing with her so adulthood doesn’t scream “BITE THE PILLOW, I’M GOING IN DRY” like it did for me.

Franny wanted to Do Something for her birthday, and we want to have more family trips, large or small, before she graduates. We haven’t gone anywhere since Maui Death Trip. We settled on a long weekend in L.A., which has Harry Potterport, Hollywood, and palm trees. Franny wanted to go to the Museum of Death as well. Strudel was tired a couple of days in and got headachey, especially after a day of roller coasters, so Franny and I took an afternoon to drive all of Mulholland Drive, which was really fun and beautiful. She sneaky peed at an overlook and I kept watch. “I’m a great outdoor pee-er!” she said.

We tried to hit LACMA after landing, but were tired and getting corned at the museum, so bailed out for the tar pits.

I skipped them the first time I went to LA, thinking they were pretty tourist trappy, but it was actually cool to see them bubbling.

One of my favorite parts was when we were on our way to Universal Studios and Pete realized that no one had packed sunscreen. We stopped at the West Hollywood Whole Foods and he ran in to get some. We watched a beautiful woman who had obviously just finished exercising pick out a selection of squashes and decorative corn. It was Friday morning.

“She’s having a dinner party,” I said.

“Her workout pants are very trendy right now,” Franny said. They had the little peekaboo mesh slashes. “I bet she’s a personal trainer.”

“I bet she doesn’t work,” I said. “Look at that ring.”

“Don’t pick that squash!” Strudel yelled from inside our car (windows rolled up). “It doesn’t go with the other ones!”

I was fascinated by the WeHo Whole Foods and I couldn’t figure out why. It was grubby. The produce really sucked. The clientele was weird looking in a LA way instead of in a Seattle way. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized…it actually looked and functioned like a city grocery store. Even the middle of town at Whole Foods here I feel like I’m in the suburbs somehow. Also we could not get much for gluten free beer (tiny violins, I know). Seattle is a very special bubble and I am very spoiled with great food and I know it.

It was nice to sneak in some 70s weather in the middle of October.

The air bnb was ADORABLE.

I know I have said next to nothing about Strudel, but she’s doing so, so well right now. She’s interested in picking up another day of violin, which we’re going to see if we can make work after xmas (also I am not working at the moment). She’s really a pleasure and taking to middle school beautifully. She looks a tiny bit stressed out every day because there’s still (always) Mean Girl drama. Recently a kid came back to her small school from the BIG cluster middle school, and we are so grateful to him because he gave everyone the lowdown about the fistfights and bullying and teachers completely phoning it in and she is glad to be where she is. Middle school is no picnic for anyone but she’s doing well. Challenged in math but a lot of the subjects are teaching the same units again.

She told me she goes to visit her incredible 5th grade teacher, the one who sorted them into Hogwarts houses and did math rpgs. He is back to having a group of very difficult kids this year, because this is the reward you get for being an amazing teacher apparently? Strudel’s group of gifted nerds was a brief respite year and cookie for him, we suspect.

“I’m bored,” she told him.

“Me too,” he said.

I feel like I can’t quite see who she’s going to be yet, which is how I felt about Franny in middle school. She’s still in the chrysalis. Franny is going to get more life experience, and more mature, but spending time with her solo in LA gave me a little preview of what our adult relationship will be like. Franny seems like she’s Alice, halfway through a wee door and trying to finish pulling through. She knows she’s the right size, but the door is kind of an odd size. Strudel is still Eat Me and Drink Me-ing herself dizzy. I’m not in a hurry, though. I’m enjoying Strudel and her weird tweeny ways now.

Jumping Nimbly Bimbly From Tree to Tree

I’ve got a day off randomly, due to the disorganization of the company I’m working for, I guess. Back to work one more day tomorrow and then I think I’m laid off again for a day or two.

In the space of an hour this morning I’ve made myself vastly unpopular. Franny was at her dad’s for the weekend and came home ill. She dragged through school on Monday and then texted me about staying home on Tuesday, then later said she vomited. Today I was lying in bed reading the headlines when she swanned in sadly.

“I decided I’m staying home again today,” she said, flopping down on Horace, who was happy to be a pillow.

“No, sorry, you’re going to school,” I said. Cue tears! She did not expect that.

“WHY.”

I gave her a little pep talk that wasn’t very peppy.

“So, we’ve got this thing that we’re going to have our whole lives. Some days you’re going to feel like shit. This weekend wasn’t your fault. You’re kind of a gluten prisoner over there. Remember how I ate that jerky at work a month ago and it said it was gluten free and it wasn’t? That was kind of my fault but kind of not. I had to suck it up and keep working, and go the next day.

“You may only be halfway there today, taking in half of the information, but you have to go. Some of it will come back to you later. It’s school. Phone it in, but you gotta show up. You’re going to feel glutened for days. It’s better to do something rather than just sit around doing nothing all day.”

I have to do this because the gluten brain WILL tell you to stay home, quit your life, gaze out of the window and sigh, while lamenting your 47 aches and pains. I’ve discovered I need a cheerleader to tell me life will go on and I need to go for a walk. Pete got sick recently from sanding drywall in the basement and I got him out of the house and walking as well, but the golden rule is: Not Too Far From Any Bathroom. I told her it’s like being a major pothead without the fun parts: all the spaciness and lack of motivation without any of the giggling or dreadlock beads.

OH STEREOTYPES! Where would we be without you?

Presently I hoisted my leisurely, news-reading self out of bed and made coffee so I wouldn’t be that guy who tells you to go to school, while you’re glutened, from bed. That’s a click away from wire hanger parenting. I did relent and tell her to cancel her guitar lesson right meow since that’s non-essential and I’m sure she’d like to avoid carrying her guitar around all day while achy.

Then I got Strudel, who could not find a tooth in a shark’s open maw.

“MOM do you know where the steak is?”

“In the fridge.” I knew she was standing in front of it, chillerating the whole kitchen already.

“I don’t see it!”

“Maybe ask your sister, since she put away leftovers last night?”

Franny was grumping in the bathroom and muttered something unhelpful through the door of her primp palace. Strudel marched back to the kitchen and sighed loudly.

“Do you want me to come look?” I asked.

“No…yes….no. It’s not in here.”

“If I find the steak, you have to make dinner.” Faustian!

She dithered some more, then finally agreed to the terms. I walked to the fridge and pulled the leftover steak out and handed it to her.

“FRANNY HID IT!” she said.

“No, she sensibly put it under the mushrooms, since this glass container is so much heavier.”

Then I danced around like this naturally

while yelling “I’m RUMPLESTEAKSKIN!”

“WHAT SHOULD I MAKE! I NEED TO GET THE COOKBOOK!”

“It needs to have at least three salads and a foam course,” I said.

“I’ll make foam with dinner when you do.” That’s fair.

Joke’s on her, though. I’m going to make dinner myself because I have the day off and I like making dinner.

I treated myself to a bread machine recently. I had one for years that someone generously cast off to me, and I used it for a long time until I got ill. I’m not sorry I donated it, because it was full of wheat residue. I am one of those people who likes eating bread, but doesn’t care for how dough feels. Like, to jibbly levels of no thank you. I have been a proponent of drop biscuits for forever for this reason. Hence, bread machine intermediary.

As I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve done some runs at dairy free, gluten free breads, and have found the results mixed and fairly depressing. HOW MANY TIMES have I been snookered by a blog post claiming, “Your friends won’t even know it’s gluten free!” Like fun they wouldn’t, even if I was cruel enough to serve it to them. But now that we have our flour mix pinned down, and now that we have dairy back in the form of sheep and buffalo, it’s going pretty well. I am going to hang out on this cloudy day, drink coffee, and attempt a cheese garlic loaf in my almost-new machine. It had a test run last night with a cinnamon raisin loaf while we watched the first part of The Case of Jonbenet Ramsey.

I’m also fooling around with pizza dough a lot. I’m going to try GF girl’s weekly pizza jam for a while (scroll 7 years to get past the twee if you want the recipe). Sounds fun.

I cut my stupid face at work. THERE GOES MY MODELING CAREER!