Crown Royale (wit cheese)

Hey look Dorothea Lange and Mary Ellen Mark had a baby and it started taking selfies. ACK!

BUT I AM SHOWING YOU MY NEW ROBOT TOOTH THOUGH. Uh, maybe skip this one if you don’t like the inside of people’s mouths. But this is me, post-dog walking and on a pretty nice day here. Also my showers are way too hot, always. I give myself the red face.

Anyway, my poor old six-year molar that had an ancient filling in it finally gave up the ghost and started cracking around the filling. My dentist has been nagging me about changing it out for a crown for years. I was in a contest with myself to see how long it could last for. Answer: thirty-three years.

That brave molar, when it was brand new and still with new-tooth smell and those little rubber nubbins still on the tires, was declared to be rotting away. This declaration was made by a dentist in the new neighborhood we moved to after I came to live with my mother again when I was six. I presume my mother found him by opening the Yellow Pages, closing her eyes, and plunking her finger down on the page somewhere.

My mother had very bad teeth. She blamed them on busy working parents and indifferent babysitters. Parts of her teeth also had been knocked out by some kind of brother/basketball incident and replaced with a bridge. I remember her teeth looking uneven, yellow, and speckled with silver in the back. There were also weird flossing doodads in her bathroom drawers. From a young age, I assumed I would also have parts of my teeth knocked in and that they would go all cattywampus like hers.

I have very good teeth, for the most part, and have very little trouble. This may be in part because my mother was gone a lot, and maybe not able to pass her bad teeth on to me. Also I was raised in that special time when adults chainsmoked around you until you could barely make out what was happening on Guiding Light, but GOD FORBID you were not given a perfectly sterilized bottle full of science milk instead of having to fight the dogs for a half-chewed floor turkey leg or whatever.

So we rolled up to this new dentist, who told my mother I had a tooth that needed a filling. Later, he told my mother she would need four root canals in one afternoon. I suspect he had a boat that needed marina payments. I remember him calling my mother in and talking to her about it. He asked me, “Why do you think you have a cavity?” “Too much dessert,” I shot back. This got a big laugh.

We returned a few days later and I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect from the Novocain, I just knew a needle was going into my mouth. That was the first and last time my mouth had been numbed up until a few days ago.

The dentist got everything ready on a silver tray. I remember he didn’t have any kind of assistant, or front desk person. These were the days when you would spit bloody gobs into a nearby sink. Every time I go to the dentist I still yearn for that sink–there is something so much better about spitting everything out that’s bothering you. I know the sucky straws are much more hygienic but I hate them.

He prepared the shot. I felt the prick on my gums and I was scared. My good, current dentist paused as he was numbing me up, letting the liquid seep in slowly. The terrible, ancient dentist said, “Hold this for me, will you, I have to get something.” I was made to hold the needle in my mouth perfectly still while he left the room for what seemed like ages. I heard my heart in my ears and saw my little hand holding the needle as it stuck out of my mouth. I heard the clock tick. He was gone for a long time. I was scared of being alone. I was scared he would come back.

I don’t remember being drilled out. I do remember pain later, when the numbness wore off. I’ve always had this silver patch in the back, like most people over a certain age.

And then the poor beleaguered tooth, carrying its wide load of oral asphalt, finally quit. I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep a lot lately, which is not helping. I’ve been waiting for it to crack open, or fall apart on me someplace inconvenient and with many unwilling witnesses. I’m relieved it was just some cracks, which gave me time to schedule the crown appointments and come back, as well as let the office bill it to my insurance.

A crown with a live root means that you chip out the old filling, and grind away part of the tooth. Then what you you have left is a little tooth doot that they can glue something (circus peanut, real peanut, tiny beret) onto shaped like your old tooth.

My sad short tooth, which I should not have a picture of. I’m getting there….

If you are like me and the inside of your head looks like Jayne Mansfield’s mansion, you get a gold tooth, which they have to send away for I guess, and you have to wait 2-3 weeks.

“We’ll put a temporary on,” they told me.

No problem! I thought. I can roll with this. A temporary tooth hat. I told the dental assistant the temp crown she was fitting me with was too high, and she told me if she shaved it down any more, it would probably break. I kind of shrugged and decided to get on with my day, because she didn’t seem to believe my bite was off. Oh well, I thought. I have to chew on the right side anyway.

What a fucking mistake that was! I had no idea.

Tooth hat #1. If you squint you can kind of see the little brown spot and that it’s kind of already shattering about a day in.

Pain was holding steady through the week, and then at the one week mark my tiny hat popped off as I was watching TV. I had already made an appointment to have it adjusted so I thought I could just cruise through overnight and get there. I ended up calling off work and sleeping most of the day. I had gotten a little cold right after the initial day of drilling, which is my body’s angry response to any trauma, like stress or sleep deficits. I was starting to get Messed Up.

I went back and had a second one put on. That dental assistant was competent and patient, and found the right fit.

By this point my face (especially my chin) was starting to break out, which never happens anymore, and I was developing ulcers in my mouth, including an inflamed salivary gland. It was getting a little weird.

Finally, yesterday, I had the crown glued on. I was straight up with my dentist about how my three weeks had been, and how much pain I was still in. He was straight up with me and told me he knew a guy who took six months before his dentin calmed down after his crown was placed, but the nerve didn’t die.

I had the wretched assistant #1 and I thought, shit, she is going to make a dog’s breakfast out of this awesome gold tooth. Sure enough she couldn’t get it right with the grinders and my dentist helped her fit it. He numbed me up a little for the fitting but it was still intensely painful and sensitive.

I lay back in the chair, biting the cotton roll as the cement set for five minutes. Tears ran down the side of my face. I think that’s the only time I’ve cried at the dentist. At the end the assistant tried to fetch a mirror for me and I was like, “THAT’S OK. I’M OUT.” I just made sure I didn’t need to do anything else at the front counter and then fled. I could feel sleep overtaking me but I had to get home first.

So I am wicked sore today in all my joints and muscles, probably from tensing up. My mouth feels a little better though–mouth ulcers have calmed down, and my face hasn’t had any new eruptions.

Hard-earned!

Sparks Fly

A Couple of Weeks Ago

In the trades you can make two divisions: one side is trades who do the first phase of work, much of which is buried behind walls or ceilings, like electrical and HVAC. The second is “finishing” work, which is the stuff you see in a building. Wooden shelves, painted walls, etc. As an early-phase person I work side by side with the sparkies a lot.

I was leveling out a unit and enjoying one of the 12,000 podcasts I listen to when a nearby sparky asked me something I didn’t quite catch. He was another one of those guys solidly in his career, probably mid-fifties. His face was twisted into its usual scowl, and I had the feeling he was engaging with me just because I was in his vicinity and he needed someone to work out on. I knew this guy, and I wasn’t crazy about him. He was kind of a yeller and a grump. I tried to reply somewhat politely to him, even though there was this part of me that didn’t care what the fuck he wanted or was saying.

“I don’t know,” I responded, because for a minute I thought I knew what he was saying. “Wait…what?” Not great, but whatever. Someone was running a chop saw through metal studs, which is possibly one of the worst noises ever invented.

Framer I can never resist a nice shower of sparks.

A post shared by Taibas Jones (@asstagramme) on

Dude started to fully dress me down. I was faintly aware that none of my personal gang of burly dudes, ye olde sheet metale guyes, was in evidence on the floor I was on. I thought these two things might be related.

“That’s not a very PROFESSIONAL attitude.” I heard that through my earplugs, which I pulled out of my ear. “What year are you?”

“Second,” I said, flatly.

“If you want people to take you SERIOUSLY, you’re going to need to start acting like a JOURNEYMAN.” I said nothing. “DUNCAN is an apprentice and we take him SERIOUSLY and treat him like a JOURNEYMAN because he acts like a PROFESSIONAL.” Poor skinny, acned Duncan was several feet away from us and attempting to both bend conduit and remain invisible at the same time.

I continued to give the grumpy journeyman the blank stare I’d perfected during my many dressings-down as a child for being inadequate in some way. I thought about all the things I could say to him with no consequence. I could swear at him. I could tell him his mother was a professional…at being the town bicycle. I could threaten to report him to someone.

Instead I decided to be my definition of a professional: I put my earplugs back in, turned my back on the asshole, and climbed back up my ladder. I got back to work.

MEANWHILE

We’re doing punch list in the building we’re in now, which means inspectors come and pick all the nits and we have to fix whatever they say is the problem. This means more interaction with finished work. Walls are painted or tiled, carpet is installed. Laborers run around making sure the building stays clean. I do my part; I do a ton of vacuuming and sweeping my own mess because Your Mom Doesn’t Work Here. Laborers notice this and sigh with relief and are nicer to us.

There’s quite a few women laborers, and it doesn’t escape me that they get relegated to a lot of cleaning duties. Whenever I see a woman ANYTHING I go out of my way to say “hi” and maybe make one small speck of chit chat with them. It’s kind of Lady Builder Code. I see you. Your life is both hard and rewarding like mine. Hi.

So there’s a younger woman laborer who is kind of snappy and I was feeling her out, because some people don’t want to talk to me and it’s cool. On Friday morning I saw her pushing a giant floor polisher and this dick walked by and said, “Are you sure you know how to use that?” HASHTAG MICROAGRESSION

She said, “Oh I don’t know, I’m just a helpless female! Can you show my how to use this thing??” He had fucking NOTHING.

I was all

because she’s my new hero. I ran into her a few hours later waiting for the lifts and I said, “Hey, you cracked me up earlier.” There was another sparky near us waiting and holding a ladder who swiveled his head around. He is like the good twin of the guy who dressed me down a few days before, and at first I mixed them up. It was telling he was still there and Yelly wasn’t.

“What?” she said.

I felt a little silly for speaking. “When you were pushing that floor polisher? And that guy asked you if you knew how to use it?”

‘OH YEAH. TPPPBT,” she raspberried. Seriously, did this woman have a newsletter?

“Every time I get on a fucking scissor lift,” I said, “I get, ‘LOOK OUT, WOMAN DRIVER!!’ as if I haven’t heard THAT shit 7,000 times.”

“RIGHT?” she said.

Then the sparky interrupted. “That reminds me when I was a volunteer for the Kelso fire department, and they hired the first female fire fighter…”

There commenced a story about this brave woman who used to deal with peanut butter being put in her headphones for the whole shift. Sucks. But: Ladies, Interrupted.

I saw the laborer the next day running a lift. I was with my boss, who seems pretty feminist and is really chill, and a cool coworker who’s not offensive either.

“Can you believe that sparky yesterday?” I said. “We were trying to talk about lady stuff and…”

“I KNOW!” she said.

“He had to get his oar in. Could he be more un-self aware?”

She laughed so hard. “Right! (dude voice) ‘Ladies let me tell you about my experience with sexism.”

The guys on the lift had a little moment of “uh oh a thing is happening.”

I love her.

To all my people that be drug gobblin just to get by

To all my people that be drug gobblin just to get by
Stack your copays till they get sky hiiiigh

Okay, that’s enough, Kan-NAY. How do I summarize a summer in one post? Let’s find out.

A. is for being Motorboated by the Universe’s Anus

I’m just going to say this: I had a terrible summer. I had an awesome summer. There were high highs and then I was crying in the shower again. I am a cat with internal injuries. I say I’m going to walk it off and then crawl under the porch. I have designed my life so that no one can help me. My children will be surprised when I die at 109 because I am nigh invincible.

How did I get back? Why now? I had a tipping point. If I’m working alone, I am usually listening to podcasts, which is a very magical thing about my job. Hand use hammer; brain use ideas. I was enjoying my weekly injection of my NPR boyfriend, Shankar Vidantam, when this episode came up about getting unstuck. I was stuck. I’ve known I’ve been stuck for a few months now. Nothing creative was happening. I had never been to me.

As an aside, work often reminds me of when my girls were small and I would try to have a conversation with an adult, particularly one who had little kids with them as well. The conversations could never progress past the basics because we were constantly interrupted by something else that demanded most of our attention, it was loud, and we were sleep deprived. Work is like this, and as a result there is primarily a lot of Dude Culture happening.

At first I walked onto job sites with a bias. My logical brain told me, “Well, not all construction workers…” but I still thought I would be working with right-wing, unevolved cavemen, who are there because they didn’t know what their other options were. It’s more and less subtle than this. There are some guys, like people everywhere, who are constantly crude, and are not deep thinkers. But for a lot of people it’s a veneer. I work with guys who have college degrees, who have traveled the world, and who are screaming atheist liberals.

There’s just not much time to talk to anyone about anything interesting, and there’s Dude Culture, so the bar is low and it’s mostly dick jokes. Sometimes they talk to me about real stuff if we’re alone, and then explain to me they have to do performative masculinity in groups, or they won’t fit in. Some of them encourage me to act this way as well, but I know I won’t fit in, so I’m just myself, though I keep my mouth shut a lot. It’s complicated. I also keep an earbud in one ear and an earplug in another, so I don’t have to hear a lot of what passes for conversation. *

Anyway. I’d been feeling really antsy and stuck in life myself. Usually I have a bunch of projects and interests going, but I’ve been hyperfocused on the girls and their health for about a year now. I had the multiple whammies of probably 80% feeling depressed about what the girls were going through, which led to the other 20% being about neglecting myself and my interests. And then I had bonus depression because I felt selfish about being sad about neglecting myself. It’s fun in my head, which I have dubbed The Abattoir of Joy. I am a robot who makes medical appointments and does research and panics privately and says out loud: “HOW ARE YOU FEELING TODAY? ANY BETTER? CAN I MAKE YOU A SNACK?”

Long story long, I stepped back on blogging for a while because my personal project was my most personal things on the planet. In April Franny had a huge “mast attack” (I think of them this way now because of the amazing site Mast Attack) and health crack up and spent all of early April in bed. She was missing school and feeling so bad she was pretty checked out on life. I can relate to this feeling after my big break in Maui, and unfortunately it’s not uncommon with mast cell problems. Strudel was generally lagging along and getting worse after turning 12 last spring, which redoubled my resolve to make things better.

So I vowed to read the entire internet, summaries of studies on mast cell disorders (or the papers to the best of my limited abilities), talk to people, email people, march around to specialists until I found some who weren’t assholes, and try things as long as they weren’t magnets or diets involving one color group. You get the picture.

What is happening now? Some improvements and a change in attitude. I kept thinking about unsticking myself and I have a little reserve for that right now. I will drop it like it’s hot if there’s relapses when school starts next week though. It’s my job to launch them into the universe as legal adults running and screaming towards the first day of the rest of oblivion and not just let them go out with a little whimper like I limped out of my mother’s house.

After many years of thought, reflection, talking, therapy, vodka, ad marzipan the killer in the relationship with my mother wasn’t necessarily the mean, or the crazy, or the (later) blackout drinking/memory lapses. It was the lack of care. The universe dealt her a sick kid, and ignoring that didn’t make any of my problems go away, but it did make me go away. I’ve said this before but I will repeat it: I care about my girls, and more than that, I want them to feel cared for and believe their lives are worth improving and saving. And I want them to emerge into adulthood with the feeling that I tried my hardest for them.

What does all this yammery hand-waving mean on a practical level? I got Franny into physical therapy, with a recommendation in hand for Strudel. I’m just waiting to find out what her school schedule is like this year, and then I can start taking her. Franny was diagnosed with scoliosis for a second time, which can be a secondary effect of Ehlers-Danlos (connective tissue disorder). Her carriage has already improved and she’s feeling a lot better overall. Nutritional support via the ND is working out really well for both girls, with an emphasis on things that axe histamine in the system, like vitamin C and B-5. We’re still doing antihistamines, rescue inhalers, and histamine blockers.

Here is the attitude adjustment. Our NP left to join another institution after many years. She was always nice and well-meaning, but I was relieved to see her go in the end. She saw me through some of the hardest times and did very little for me except the same basic blood panels and puzzled shrugging. I had a visit with the NP who replaced her, because I still need quarterly follow ups to get my tired, narcoleptic mitts on Adderall. I don’t know what to do without something artificial to keep me awake and get me through a day.

For a while I was kind of dithery, like, “I think? This might be mast cell problems?” Now I’ve had the tests and enough confirmations to know. I’ve made the decision that we just go into places now like “WHAT? WHAT WHAT? We have mast cell disorder so that’s a thing you need to know.” So I did that with the new NP and she was like uhhh ok. If anyone’s ever again like, “that’s made up” I am walking out mid-appointment. I told the girls I am dealing with their medical stuff this way as well.

Okay I need to stop or I never will stop. I’ll be back to this, I know.

B. is for food that will make your teeth all grey

As always, I went to Twin Peaks with Franny and Morgan. I have a friend deficit right now, some of which is my fault, and some of which is drifting due to life and sickness. I remembered last summer that I also miss volunteering for things. So Franny and I volunteered at the Twin Peaks Festival. We worked the merch table and the banquet (since we can’t eat there), and I handled a celebrity.

I thought I would meet some people and talk with some people and just generally be in the world, and I was. I think I made beginning friends with one of the other volunteers. I’ve been kind of a ghost everywhere. A long time attendee introduced himself to me and asked me if it was my first festival, and I was like, “no, fifth.” He was amazed. Ha! Even Kimmy Robertson talked to me this year, and she doesn’t talk to many people overall. So I think I was being there.


Franny and Pete with camera obscura

Late one night in the Airbnb at Twin Peaks I told my sister all my stress and cried, it was just cracking open out of me. I try not to do this because I was raised to be a martyr and the family hero and she’s the baby, but she was very supportive and encouraged me to get back to myself and things I like. I feel like a gong went off when she turned 30 in July and now I don’t have to worry about her anymore. I threw her a surprise party in my backyard.

THEN, CHRIST, shortly after that, I saw her father (my stepfather) and his wife who I haven’t seen in 12 years. We spent about a day and a half hanging out and they met the girls and saw the house. Things ended so, so badly with my, well, childhood, and I just didn’t think I would see him again. Morgan had been telling me for years that he’d mellowed out a lot from the days of the epic fights he’d have with my mother, and that he felt terrible about what had happened. She kept telling me that she thought it would be good for me to see him.

To be brave I told myself a story, which was that my sister wanted me to see him, and I could do anything if it was important to her and I wouldn’t be scared. I think that was partly true, but that she was thinking about me as well. And it was a nice time and they thanked me for taking care of Morgan so much after our mother left her third husband and lived with me for a while. It was a little heartbreaking to leave home when she was six, and have her arrive at eleven, and see how messed up she was. For some high school summers Morgan was at my house every day and even spending the night on the couch.

When I saw him walk in, I felt my cells popping. I went cold, my skin crawled, my ears rang, and I got dizzy and I was dizzy for the rest of the day. The second time I saw him I was fine, but the damage was done. I crawled past it though, and now we can be back in each other’s lives again. I was pretty sick the day they left, so work was murder. Even my boss commented on it. “You gonna push through this?” he said. He probably thought I was hung over or something, which in a way I was.

“Fuck yes I will,” I said. “Things will be better tomorrow.”

“We didn’t know how bad things were until later,” Morgan’s stepmom told me at dinner. Understandable, since Morgan kept it pretty quiet. For one, like me, she thought weirdness was normal, but also didn’t want to rock the boat and be forced back to Illinois. She was taking root in Seattle.

And it turned out! Morgan has a career she loves and meaningful relationships. I was so happy to spend a bunch of time with her friends and coworkers and her birthday weekend to see how much they love her and how they are like family after so many years. Morgan did most of the heavy lifting herself, and she is really good at Showing Up and Giving it 110%, which is like most of success, but it was really nice to be acknowledged for the part I played too. Literally no one else on the planet understood what that meant or what I was doing and could say that. Except Morgan, and she does sometimes, which is sweet.

Now that I can downshift on FIXING ALL THE THINGS for my own girls, I’m going to work on patching myself up some. I’ve got some cool medical stuff happening I’ve been tolerating, as usual, but I don’t have to. My dentist has been nagging me forever to get my one thirty-three year old silver filling removed and have a crown put on. I saw him a couple of weeks ago and he said, “Welp, your tooth cracked finally.” I wasn’t surprised, since I’ve been clenching my jaw like crazy. I AM READY. But sad. I don’t want a crown.

There’s something else too. Strudel had a very minor cavity (as in, literally a deep natural depression in her tooth, not decay) and my dentist wanted to clean it and fill it. She didn’t need numbing but felt pretty crap after, and has been been sick and sleeping almost constantly for the past couple of days–her mast cells degranulated. I’m worried I’m going to get sick too even though I don’t need a root canal. I may just have to suck it up and be out of work for a couple of days.

I’ve been wanting to pick up painting again (a practice that predates this blog), but I go blank every time I think about what to paint or even how to start. I decided to take a drawing class this fall at a community college, so I hope that’ll knock something loose. One thing I remembered from vacation this summer is that it’s worth it to take the time to focus on something else for a while.


Orcas Island score

* A few days ago I was up on a lift, way up near the ceiling working on duct. I could hear some mudders in the hallway. One, a white guy, was talking loudly. The other guy I could sort of see on his lift was Mexican. This is relevant because in my experience Mexican guys on a site are either SUPER polite and friendly to me or ignore me. Either way, they are very aware of me and move aside if I’m coming through (as I would for them) or say hello.

It starts: “SO THIS GIRL KEEPS TEXTING ME ALL THE TIME. I’M SO TIRED OF IT. (Stupid girl voice) ‘I STARTED SCHOOL TODAY!’ YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON’T FUCKING CARE.”

My break alarm went off and I lowered my lift and climbed down. The Mexican guy glanced into the room and saw me coming, and said nothing.

“YOU KNOW WHAT MAN, I JUST NEED TO GET INTO SOME NEW PUSSY. THIS ISN’T WORTH IT. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? NEW. PUSSY.”

I stepped out into the hallway and snaked between their lifts to get to the stairs. I gave the Mexican guy a little nod, since he moved his lift to let me out of the room. I glanced at the white guy, who looked like a 50-something Sam Rockwell, but busted. Sam Elliot mustache. Grizzled.

“Uhhh sorry,” he said quietly. I pretended I didn’t hear, and I didn’t CARE. I know what NEW PUSSY is. I’m married. I have children. I have a PUSSY. Christ. Own your no manners or shut your mouth.
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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.