The definition of insanity

I got myself again, with coffee. The store was out of beloved Stumptown, beloved because I like it and it NEVER makes me sick. I turned to the right…there was a small, seriously local (not pretend local but the parent company is like, Sbux) roast there that I had enjoyed in the past. And it was on sale, since it was a Xmas blend! Sold.

Two days of that and I was sick and Pete was sick. He reacted right away, running to the bathroom. I gave him grief because I thought he was eating too many nuts on the Whole30. Boo, me. He didn’t have any on Thursday morning because he ran off early for work. I didn’t feel great, but brewed the coffee again Thursday and took the dogs for a walk and it hit me–WHAM.

Brain fog, trembling. I go through this really embarrassing denial when I am getting sick. “I can still think! I can! Let me just multiply some fractions really quick…can’t think of any fractions…7/16ths…can that be reduced? Hang on.” This eventually fizzles out and is replaced with the sound of white noise, being on the verge of tears, and the theme song to Ducktales.

At this point on the walk I was getting dizzy and starting to really sweat, like I had a flu. It was a 45 degree day and I was dressed in reasonable layers, walking at a good pace but not approaching a run, and when I came home my bra and half my shirt was completely drenched in sweat and I was shivering.

There is a nag nag nag in my brain going, Hey. Hey stupid. Just quit coffee. My sister has terrible reactions to coffee and has quit it all together. But when coffee is good, it is really fine. I feel GREAT, which is to say, normal. Some mornings I forget to drink water along with my half-pot and my pee is still clear (you’re welcome). I am coffee-adapted.

I have quit coffee successfully before and it wasn’t that challenging to taper down and then stop. I feel about the same and I can function fine without it. (This was not true when I was sick and tired all the time.) I like it so much and I don’t want to give it up if I don’t have to.

So the last day I had the “bad coffee” was a week ago and I’m still feeling the effects. Headaches, sleeping 10+ hours a night, can’t recall names, poor attention span, misanthropic outlook, etc. On Saturday in boot camp, a couple of days after being glutened, the (woman) teacher told me I should be “more confident.” (In private, and it wasn’t out of nowhere, don’t worry.) I was thinking to myself, man, she’s right. I’m a different person when I’m sick and it’s hard to explain that to someone. I was also thinking that I had just broken up with my toilet after a long engagement with it all day the day before (Friday). I woke up shaky and sweaty Saturday, and had that Sophie’s Choice of OH GOD IT IS GOING TO COME OUT OF BOTH ENDS which is a race to the bottom really. I finally vomited, felt better, then ate breakfast minutes later as if nothing had happened. GROSS, I know.

As an aside can I say that I used to vomit a LOT since I was a baby for the first 36 years of my life, and I was really good at it. It was super casual. I could relax and just vomit silently, and it would just sound like a faucet going on and off. I am losing my vomiting skillz. It actually hurt to puke and I made a bunch of noise like a total amateur. Now I am starting to understand why people are anxious about puking. :[

When I have a bad day I’m trying to find that balance. I don’t want to be a person who gets valid criticism and it’s like “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME, I’M STILL A MYSTERY TO YOU” but I also know I was having an off day. I don’t like to lie and say something like “Well I have the flu today” or tell the truth and say “my food allergies make me stupid sometimes” because people don’t really understand that either.

I could not for the life of me get conduit offset bends right and I felt very thick and slow. I feel kind of embarrassed saying this to you, as if I am just making excuses. “I could have killed it if if if…” But I do have a lot of experience doing things glutened and un-glutened now. I will see how it goes next time before I am totally harsh on myself.

Ultimately with all this in mind, I decided not to take the criticism totally personally. The teacher had a snapshot of an incoming apprentice on one day and formed an opinion. But it scares me now as I am on the verge of being dispatched. I’m thinking about keeping a diary of when I get hit and how, and how long it takes me to recover. I’m not sure how often this is happening exactly–maybe once every other month now? (Too much.) I know it takes about 4-6 days for my guts to get back to normal, but it’s a week in and I am still tired and pretty gloomy.

I wish I could go follow the supply chain of something that makes me sick that in theory, should not contain gluten ever.

The good news is that since Strudel (usually) doesn’t drink coffee, she missed this round of gluten. She’s in choir and so is conscripted into the spring musical. This year it’s The Lion King Jr. She has to audition with “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” Her dad and I have been singing it with her and playing the soundtrack and doing the karaoke version on youtube and I have discovered something very interesting about her. At first I thought she was pretty hopeless and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but as we went on I realized that she can’t “hear” or recall the melody or notes in her head at all, so she was kind of guessing where her voice should be based on the notes.

I have no training, but I like singing, and I have always liked jazz vocals in particular. I can copy vocal styles and hear songs I learned 30 years ago in my head. As soon as we got the audition piece I remembered how the chorus went from being bludgeoned with it on its release in the 90s. I don’t think this is extraordinary at all, but it kind of blew my mind that the kid can’t really do it. I grilled her on some old violin pieces that she played over and over and OVER a few months ago and she couldn’t sing the melody back to me. What to do to help this? I know her violin teacher works on ear training and rhythm work (like clapping) and it’s a terrific struggle.

The good news is that she is trying to push past this, and she really wants a part. She was in tears a couple of nights ago about how hard the singing is, and we talked about how it’s discouraging sometimes when some things come easily to us (in her case, math and reading) and music is more of a struggle. I brought up the miserable failure I had with conduit bending a couple of days before, and how I felt like I wanted to quit for a minute, but that I will keep at it and will get competent, even if it’s not my thing.

She wanted to do warm up singing in the morning while she gets ready for school, and Elton John wasn’t going so well, so I encouraged her to sing a song they are working on in choir that she knows well, “J’entends le Moulin.” I said, “Hey, that’s in French, and isn’t easy, and you know that one.” I think that encouraged her. Not sure how that song can stick in there and Elton John cannot. I asked her to think about what might be different about this song and she thinks it’s because they were playing instruments along with their singing, like wood blocks and xylophone. Eeenteresting. As a bonus, guess who can entend le moulin all day long now? Yes me.

So I’m glad we’re encouraging her to stick with the violin, because I think she needs that challenge, and to see some progress and success in something that does not come naturally. I know when I was a kid, if it was at all hard, I gave up, and I didn’t have family support or encouragement to keep trying. I don’t think developing that attitude ruined my life or anything, but I’m glad she’s learning a different way that I hope will keep her options more open in the future.

I am the thumbmaster

This is a good one. I’ve been sleeping and in bed for most of the day after “poisoning” myself this weekend. I was in South Seattle this morning getting ready to cut aluminum cubes on a big machine–living the dream, eh? We were getting the safety talk and I was only half-listening, rudely, because after feeling better this morning on waking, I felt worse again. I was making a list of everything I’d eaten since Saturday, since that was when I started feeling funny. Homemade everything, scratch mayo and ketchup, scratch spice blends that hadn’t bothered me before…. I took another pull of my coffee, still trying to wake up at 10 a.m. after over nine hours of sleep.

I zoned in and the teacher was telling a story about being 19 and in a hurry to go water skiing and spitting his finger right down the middle. That got my attention again.

“And in a second, there went water skiing,” he said. I saw the shiny scar that bisected his fingernail and finger, 30 years later.

That was it for me. Fuck machine cutting, I was going water skiing right then. I pulled my case manager aside.

“I’m not feeling well,” I said. “I have really bad food allergies and I ate something contaminated this weekend. I don’t trust myself to operate heavy machinery right now.”

“Oh,” she said, making a serious face.

“I’ll try to be back tomorrow, but I’ll stay in touch.”

I walked over to my personal piece of heavy machinery, the Elco. P. used the Honda to take the kid to drop her off at camp this morning, so I was in my magic carpet of highway gas-guzzling. Not the best choice for my site visits, which were often many miles away and required stop-and-go highway traffic. I calculated if there was any way I could get P. to pick me up, since I felt kind of drunk, like I’d taken sleepy meds. I knew it would take him hours to get down to where I was by bus, a fortune to cab it, and a hassle besides.

I knew I could drive glutened, I’d been doing it for years. My only concern was that I thought I might vomit once I got back on I-5. I looked at the empty vessel that is my hard hat forlornly as my mouth watered in the bad way.

Anyway, it was a hard weekend. I had half a pot’s worth of coffee beans Saturday morning, and got some more at the store and then made another pot after I got home. I started feeling a little loopy by Saturday night, but chalked it up to waking up too early on Saturday morning. I woke up on Sunday, made coffee, checked in with the bees, ate, and was useless by noon. I kept napping and tried to play the Wii and didn’t have the patience for that. I barely broke 100 in Scrabble Sunday night.

I came to bed Sunday night, determined to get lots of rest for this morning. I was really dreading going on the site visit or even leaving the house. I found myself asking what the point of any of this was. Why was I being so negative? I wondered.

“I feel like I’ve been drugged,” I told P., getting under the sheet. “I reached for the cat food just now and I could barely lift my arm.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Maybe you’re getting sick.” I didn’t like that. No one around me was sick, it was summer, and I just don’t get colds anymore.

So I got back this morning after a loooong drive without a radio (scream-singing “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans and “Corcovado” to stay alert), the garage door grinding and the big blue beast announcing my presence.

“What’s up?” P. asked. He’s home on vacation this week.

“I’m sick.”

We did our usual detective work. He’d been super tired all weekend too, but the kid was fine, and she mostly ate the same things we did. I thought it was something I’d put in a frittata, because I had that reheated for breakfast, while she dined on leftover meatza from last night. My mood and alertness started tanking again after I’d eaten breakfast and showed up at at the site.

We’d gotten a couple of new things, but I didn’t think it was the dried figs…finally, I realized I started feeling bad when we’d gotten home on Saturday and I made a pot with the new coffee. Bringo. I felt worse Sunday morning (and for the rest of the day) when I made a pot, and again this morning. Something gluteny was in it, I didn’t know what. It doesn’t matter.

It is weird to drink coffee and have it make you feel more tired! P. cycled some vinegar water through the pot, and cleaned the grinder. I don’t really know what to do now. I love coffee. I normally drink Stumptown but we got a Costco membership recently to save money, and they don’t carry regional boutiquey brands, only big bags of Kirkland brand Good Luck with This. The first bag I bought was fine, though I did have a tiny twinge of worry as I do whenever I try anything new, even if it’s “100% Your Mom,” because that is often not quite true. This second bag was not okay. Last weekend in Twin Peaks I drank Starbucks at the meetups and even hotel room Keurig bilge water and did fine. It’s like red wine–I just can’t tell by looking at it when it’s going to have corn additives.

The bummer part is that I was all jazzed to sit for a math test with a union tomorrow. I think that would be a terrible idea now, like showing up for the SATs drunk. Really self-sabotaging. So I’m going to give it a couple/few days and then decide when to go. My test will be when I can spin up 4-plus letter words in Scrabble again, I suppose.

I have been wondering if I should give up coffee, since I am afraid of anything that will interfere with the work I need to do for the next couple of months/years. Inside I am screaming because I don’t want to give up one more thing. I really love it. When it’s good, I’m at Gilmorian levels of abuse. But being wiped out for the next few days isn’t worth it. I hate the confusion, the tiredness, the blunted affect. I hate being even more nervous about one more food.

I mentioned my worries about my future with coffee out loud after we’d figured out what was fucking us up this weekend. I had given it up in the past and had done fine.

“I’M NOT QUITTING COFFEE,” P. informed me. He’s out of good vices, too.

“Okay, okay, no one’s asking you to,” I said.

The good news is that Strudel is booted off to Celiac camp for a week. One of the directors emailed and asked me what she eats, like what brands of things, since the kids will be eating chips, pizza, and cookies. SHARP intake of breath from Strudel at this revelation, since we don’t usually go that processed anymore. I was thinking “HA! HA! Brands! How droll.” I did give her a list of things that have worked in the past, but I said you could probably feed her chicken/rice/veg all week and she’d be fine, she was used to eating differently, and could I send extra food or a food fee because PLEASE TAKE MY KID I REALLY NEED HER TO HAVE A NORMAL CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE AGAIN.

P. and I were worried they were going to write back and say she couldn’t come. My novel-length thesis on “what can your child actually eat” was sent on to one of the chefs, who has Celiac disease, as does her daughter who was diagnosed at birth. She knew about that and things like food dye allergies, the difference between xanthan gum and guar gum, and corn allergy flipouts. She’s convinced she can feed Strudel safely. I actually wept when I read it.

I hope she’ll be okay. I think she’ll have a good time. As many wise people have remarked over time, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Before the cream sits out too long (you must whip it), Or, Letter From Butthole Acres

I’ve been listening to Devo while running. The current generation has Disney furdom to cause early sexual dysfunction, sorry, awakening, we had Devo and Videodrome. A friend got me onto the idea of a 5K in April and I think I am shooting for that now. I should be up to a 5K well before the day.

So yeah, running again. Something weird there too. I’ve never been able to run without cramping and stitches. Now, miraculously, I have nothing. I can’t run very far or fast yet, but cramps will no longer stop me. I always admired distance runners for being able to get past that, and it didn’t occur to me that some people don’t experience this, or rarely. Now I feel like I could run forever. I feel like I have more lung capacity than I used to as well.

Speaking of which…it’s been a year since I got really sick. There’s not much to say about that, except that I am doing the right things now to the best of my ability, and I feel about ten years younger. Except I think I didn’t really feel this great when I was 27. I have more hair. I’ve cut it into a shortish bob now that the shaved bits have grown out and it spends most of its time sticking up now, like a crazy person’s hair. I easily have twice as much hair coming in than I did for years. It was getting quite thin and flat. I also have this sprout of silver coming in at my part near my face. I am getting older and younger at the same time.

Franny and P. are totally on board with our continued dietary changes. At this point, it’s not really changes, it’s the new normal now. I may have mentioned this but P.’s lost about 10-15 pounds without much effort (other than not eating things that disagree with him) over the past year. Franny has also slimmed down. For the past few years she would come back from her father’s house with a bloated stomach that was noticeable on a growing kid with a slim frame. But she just looks less bloated overall. As we all do.

I’m struggling with Strudel. Or maybe I should say she’s struggling with herself. She keeps coming to me with mysterious lesions/rashes and other issues. For a while I wracked my brain to figure out where she was getting “poisoned” and then I’ve discovered it’s mostly self-inflicted. I’ve been finding corn syrup-based candy wrappers in her laundry and last night she was in her room eating a “Baby Bottle Pop” before dinner. It wasn’t acceptable to eat random candy before dinner before we realized we had dietary restrictions, so I’m not sure what crack she was smoking.

Fortunately, corn is not even close to an anaphylactic shock situation, but it does cause a lot of disruption. She gets sores/rashes, joint pain, anger and mood problems, and almost the worst thing is the sleeplessness it induces. She and I can both be up til 3 a.m., hearts pounding, if we have any, so I can’t imagine the kind of night she had last night after eating a whole container of candy. I know she’s getting less than eight hours of sleep right now–she seems out of it, has dark circles under her eyes, looks terrible. Her attitude has been kind of weird, and we were puzzling over that, too. We’re a very sarcastic, jokey house, but she’s been curt and smartaleky beyond that.

I don’t know what to do, besides talk to her about how I think she’s affecting her health. We have “safe” dessert and/or chips on the weekends. Last weekend I made a big pan of chi chi dango with baking chocolate added so it tasted like brownies. On Monday I made a special pan of cherry crumble bars since my sister and I have started Twin Peaks again (it is February, after all, and she wants to compete in the trivia contest at the fest this summer). I don’t think it’s a case of crunchy granola perfect eating all day every day oppression. I think I’m just going to have to wait for her to decide what’s important. Kids like consuming copious amounts of sugar, and there is a convenience store a couple of blocks from her school. I get it. In the meantime, I need to brace myself for a tired, cranky kid.

I have about 4 grillion pictures that I would like to post, and I will, I just decided to pagebarf today since it’s been a while. Time’s been flying. I’m experiencing a lot of really nice domestic moments. That sounds so fucking stupid. But I am mostly enjoying myself now all of the time. P. sometimes sees me for the first time on any given day in the afternoon and says, “You look happy,” and I am, for no reason really.

I made an eight-course meal for Valentine’s Day for my family. (I have pictures of that as well.) It came off very well, but I was knackered. I am embarrassed to say I cooked for eight hours, because how is that fun, really? But it was. I thought it was going to take half the time it did. I made small portions but even so we were like the sad dog who steals a pie and then lays around howling afterwards. I was literally on the floor rolling around. I don’t overeat like I used to, so that was a weird night.

The next day I did what I think of as “pre-gardening”–cleaning up some of my pots and getting things ready for spring flowers. I brought some mint home because this winter has been so freaking mild. P. was more athletic and planted a persimmon and dwarf crab apple with Strudel’s help. We are slowly chipping away at the trees we don’t really like. There’s an ornamental cherry in the front bed next to the sidewalk that was allowed to grow out of control. Eventually we will cut it down as the crab apple gets bigger. I had P. take out a holly tree out front that was doing not much except providing sharp things for us to step on in the summer as we weed the roses or pick blueberries and raspberries. I like a lot of the established flowering ornamentals, like rhodies, that this house came with, but a lot of trees and bushes, I say if it doesn’t make any fruit, PULL IT.

So the minifarm is coming along. I am down to seven chickens, now, sadly. I was in the kitchen cooking on Monday afternoon and I went out to get some sage leaves and saw that Goethe was staring at something in the corner of the yard. She turned her head as I approached and her eyes were like saucers. I looked beyond her and saw a pile of feathers kind of exploded, and then Death Ray laying in the middle. I didn’t think she’d come to a bad end wandering the yard alone, because it is a pretty standard-sized lot in a residential part of the city, and she always squeezed through the fence by dusk to put herself away with the other chooks who cannot fit through the fence.

The only thing I can think of that happened is that a raccoon came out in broad daylight and attacked her, but got spooked before taking her off. She was a Silkie, and very tiny. She had a bit of blood at the back of her neck, which I assume was broken. It was hard to tell because she had stiffened so her neck didn’t flop. The dogs followed me out after I spent a couple of minutes looking up into the firs and bushes to see if I could spot a horrible little face, and I realized they hadn’t been out or involved at all. They were smelling, smelling, smelling the ground all around where Death Ray was. Horace chased the chickens when he was small, but I trained him not to, and Edith pretty much followed suit. The chickens are not afraid of the dogs. The chickens pretty much ignore them, as they do my cats.

I turned my head to look in the pen where the remaining chickens are and it was quiet and there was not a chicken in sight. Shit! Would there be more deaths? Would they be chased off somewhere over the fence into the neighborhood? It was so weird, because I had heard absolutely nothing and I was in the kitchen right off the patio. I found most of the chickens cowering in the corner of their pen and Molokai was hiding in the coop. So something weird certainly went down.

Death Ray lived through so much bullshit and this was her third house. She was part of my first batch, the first summer I got chickens again after my divorce, when we lived in the duplex by the Zoo (2008). I never dreamed she would have made it this long. On one hand I am glad that she enjoyed her “retirement” out on the lawn where the younger, stronger chickens could not peck at her, but I know it caused her demise. If they were all in a clump I don’t think a raccoon would have messed with her.

I’m finally going to start my beehive this weekend–I decided on a set of plans. P. says he will help me build it, which is a relief, but he doesn’t want to take point on it as a project. I totally understand that feeling–he’s still got the basement coming along slowly but steadily for someone who works full time. It’s a lot easier now that I am well 99% of the time and he doesn’t have to drop everything and take over making dinner or run an errand that I was supposed to do.

I’m excited about this because I’ve wanted a hive for a long time and we haven’t worked on a little project like this since we built the coop together. When it’s done, I’m going to order a batch of bees and they should be here in April. I am read up on Seattle law about where hives can be sited and whatnot so I don’t think the neighbors can formally complain. We are not putting it close to anyone, because I don’t want to provoke anyone, anyway. My street was closed recently for construction and I parked in front of the neighbor’s house behind me, and she came out and yelled at me for parking on the street in front of her house (parking is not tight in this neighborhood, nor does she have a lot of visitors). I was holding Nordstrom bags and wearing interview clothes, not flipping a switchblade or something. I told her I was her neighbor and that both streets next to my house were closed and her response was to slam the door. I shrugged and moved the car–it’s not worth it. So it’s good to know I am surrounded by old cranks!

My last bit of news is that I cannot stand being miserable doing what I am doing anymore, nor can I see spending the next ten years complaining about it (and as I bragged recently my student loans are paid off after ten years), so I am in progress with making a career change. It should happen pretty quickly, in the next 2-3 months, but I don’t want to say what I am up to til then. Nothing earthshattering! I just need to do something new. And now I can, because my brain and body is working…I don’t need to be trapped behind a desk for all time. Hooray!

“I like the pole and the hole, and right now I’m as moist as a snack cake down there.”

“The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.”
–Jonathan Swift,
Polite Conversation

I’m wearing my Jerri Blank pants of “I GOT SOMETHIN TO SAY” but whether or not it’s of any interest is an exercise for the reader. I’m doing better, with some fine-tuning. I was thinking this weekend that I am kind of like a fussy sports car in that everything has to go exactly right, but really I’m more like a broken-down jalopy. So we’re immediately back to Jerri Blank.

What this jalopy needed was MOAR magnesium and potassium. I had slacked off on it since I’m in a shiny modern office building all day again, but yep, I need to be sippin on it all day like orange chalky drank. Whatever works.

I doubt anyone who is reading this reads xojane, which is Jane Pratt’s web manifestation, but you never know. I think I have a nostalgia for Jane Pratt product, she of Sassy-inventing fame. I loved Sassy, and I know lots of women my age have said things like it caused them to be feminist/green-haired/political/whatever but I don’t know if it changed my life.

That’s not entirely true. It did introduce me to the concept of the reusable menstrual cup at an impressionable age. I think you do have to be at some kind of impressionable age to think that toting your own blood barge is a groovy idea. Also the idea that some women don’t shave. Ever. That was amazing, and I cravenly experimented with this bohemian lifestyle choice one winter. Unfortunately it led to a conversation on my one and only ski trip when my pant leg accidentally slid up and two inches of my offensive unshaven leg was on view for ten seconds that basically went like this:

Footballer: Do you think you’re like, a guy or something?

Me: No?

GENDER SHAMED! Also, this was freshman year, so it took a couple more years of rigorous Veronica Mars-sized trauma to go straight to the “FUCK OFF” or “I’LL CUT YOU BITCH” buttons. It is also important to note that I owned this PJ Harvey shirt and wore it well into my twenties until it smelled funny and become less a shirt and more a collection of holes. That was an important thing to do then.

Ultimately, I was kind of sad when I realized that Sassy was meant to have a clubby, inclusive, get-over-here-to-our-table-freak vibe that somehow felt exclusive to me. I imagined these writers were all sitting around braiding each other’s hair and drinking chamomile tea, and well, I knew I wasn’t there. They referenced each other by name in articles and I knew that they were talking to each other, not really to me. It was like reading a really nice slam book, but someone else’s slam book.

I picked up Jane Pratt’s next magazine, Jane, which in hindsight felt like the print version of xojane (albeit more milquetoast because of the nature of print vs. click mongering). I wanted a glossy estrojam but I couldn’t lower myself to buy the dominant, blatant paeans to capitalism and Pleasin Yr Man ™. I’ve done a total 180 on that one. I keep my ISSUES and GENDER and SEXUALITY and POLITICS out of my capitalism peanut butter. I haven’t set foot in a salon in months, sadly, but whenever I went I would go straight for Lucky or In Style. I want my lady mags STRAIGHT UP TRANSACTIONAL nowadays.

So sometimes when I am bored I will fuck off to xojane to see what Jane Pratt and her current stable of Manson Girls employees are up to. The site is being sold off, and it appears to be transitioning somehow, some say dying a rapid death due to commenter/click loss. I tried to comment for the first time the other day and was told my Disqus login was banned. Very weird! I had always entertained fantasies of writing one of their old-school-meets-new-school “It Happened to Me” confessionals, which was a hold over from the print days. Before, you know, those kind of tawdry confessionals were just a click of a publish button away. *cough*

But I dunno now, if I am randobanned, and it looks like the site is kind of dying. I think I’ll keep my eye on Jane Pratt, the way you do a batty old aunt. I still have the IHTM, I just want to give it the time it deserves, since I have to make dinner. It’s times like these I often think of Grace Metalious, so determined to write that she locked her children out. I don’t want to do that, but I would like to buy more time somehow.

In the meantime I guess I’ll just DEAL WITH IT.

$15.99, the Price of a Regular Cat Planet

No, I am still not over Cat Planet.

Last week was rough. I spent a couple of days in bed, including a workday. I worked from bed, which was distracting. Sometimes I spend all day feeling like my heart is going to burst out of my chest. This lasts for about a week and then I get really tired and sore at the end. My body is exercising by itself sometimes.

In the middle of this I took the girls to their doctor for a check up and some shots. It did not go well. I feel like I should chronicle it, so I can remember why I was mad later in case I think about going back there.

I admit I was a little keyed up since I have been spending a lot of time in many doctor’s offices this year, being told various things that sound like guesses or just wrong a lot of the time. I kind of hate everyone, worse than usual, which is making it challenging to go into a medical place and try to wring something out of it. I fall back on my auto-didactic training in manners I fetched up after fleeing Being Raised by Wolves. The lizard part of my brain is going, “Punch them, punch them all, and then steal exam gloves and run out.”

Our serious nurse in Scooby Doo scrubs that I always liked was not in evidence. It was strange to have someone else come out and fetch us. They lumped the girls up in one room and I suggested that they have separate appointments as I requested on the phone, since they are not four. I said “for privacy” and was not snotty about it as I was in my previous statement. The substitute nurse seemed taken aback by this, as much as she could be by anything, I suppose, since she hardly seemed to have a pulse. Her tone was annoyed with every request I made and response I gave. I couldn’t quite figure it out.

She left the room and we all three kind of sighed.

“I wish the regular nurse was here,” Franny said. “She’s good at shots.” Franny hates needles.

Strudel’s exam was fine. The doctor told her to go back on wheat for two weeks to be tested for Celiac properly, and Strudel nodded solemnly. The doctor left the room to go to Franny’s exam room, and we were told that they were out of Strudel’s vaccination, and there was no point in testing her blood, so she got off scot-free for now. Fine, good. I had her go back to the waiting room and I joined Franny.

“So,” I said. “Franny and I have made a list of what’s going on with her so we don’t forget anything.” I handed it to the doctor. “I have hyper- and hypothyroid in my family, and Grave’s disease. This looks like Celiac right now, but I am worried that her thyroid could be involved as well with her energy levels and whatnot.”

She scanned the list of ~30 symptoms and zeroed in on infrequent periods. “Let’s start with female-specific symptoms. You think she has PCOS?” she asked.

“Well. I don’t know. I’m not an expert and I can’t see into her body. I am just giving you everything that’s going on symptoms-wise. Maybe it’s PCOS.”

“It doesn’t really matter if she has PCOS or not, because that’s an issue that affects fertility and she won’t have to deal with that for a long time.” She turned to Franny: “How about birth control? Do you want to be on birth control? It can regulate your periods.”

“I’m not sure,” Franny said. “I’d need to know more about it.”

“Sooo do you think birth control will fix things like her brittle nails and her hair loss, and the fact that she can sleep twelve hours and still be tired?”

“What do you suggest then?” the doctor snapped.

“I was hoping you would test her thyroid, and do the blood test for Celiac disease.”

“Fine, I guess I could rule things out,” she began writing.

“Yeaaah so are you going to just test TSH? Or reverse T3 and T4 and free T3 and T4 and…”

“THAT WON’T TELL YOU ANYTHING.”

“…And I thought maybe testing for Hashimoto’s since there seems to be some relation between Celiac and Hashimoto’s…”

“It doesn’t matter if she has Hashimoto’s because we can’t do anything about it!”

“Like PCOS,” I said. “You don’t believe there’s any value in knowing what’s going on with her?”

“Like I said, we can rule these things out.” She changed tack then, back to birth control, which I am not opposed to, really. I just don’t believe that’s the panacea here. “Well, are you missing school due to your period? Is it interfering with your life and school?”

“It’s not really regular,” she said.

“That’s normal for your age,” the doctor said.

“It’s not really interfering with her life because she’s only having about two a year,” I interjected.

“Oh,” the doctor said. “I didn’t realize.” It was spelled out there on the sheet, and was part of the only section she appeared to have read, but I get it. It was a long sheet.

“I will get the nurse in here to draw your blood, and to give your two vaccinations,” the doctor said, and left.

“So that went well,” I said. Franny started laughing.

Eventually the nurse came back and gave her quite a jab, and walked out again.

“Thanks,” Franny said, to the nurse’s silent retreating back. The door slammed. “Ouch, FUCK,” she said. “The other nurse wouldn’t have done it like that.”

“I know,” I said. “You know, you don’t have to thank people who are hurting you. It’s okay.”

“Alright,” she said. “You okay, Mom?”

“That whole interaction with your doctor made me feel a little crazy and upset. I’m fine. We’re going to keep trying to figure out what’s going on with you.”

The nurse brought back some testing vials and laid everything out for a blood draw. She attempted to find Franny’s vein three or four times and then gave up when Franny started crying. Wretched.

“I’ll get the other nurse,” she sighed. “Even though she doesn’t like to take blood from young people.”

The other nurse, who has been around for years and is a very nice lady, managed to get the blood out just fine, and into the vials that the first nurse had supplied.

“I know you are not our nurse today,” I said, “but Franny has only gotten one vaccination, and her doctor said she was supposed to have two. Would you please ask about that so we don’t leave without it?” She did, and returned, and gave the second vaccination.

“I know you’re a little old, but do you want a lollipop?” she asked Franny.

“YES.” Happy tears followed sad ones. BOOM, bedside manner’d.

We left and everyone was in a pretty bad mood. Except maybe for Strudel, who had escaped a shot and received a lollipop as well, which was the most serious hardcore sugar she’s had all month. I am amazed at this kid who is taking a break from her 7-11 candy binges.

“I don’t want to go back on wheat, Mom,” Strudel said.

“Okay,” I said.

Of course Franny went off wheat after this, and called me from her dad’s house this weekend, reporting that she was feeling much better…until her stepmother pulled some fried herbs off some pasta and told her to eat them and that they were wheat-free. Franny got to show off her giant bloated stomach to them as a result and slept for over eleven hours. It will be a learning process for everyone. I was relieved her dad took it in stride, since this isn’t the first time she’s gone off wheat. He bought her some grits, rice crackers, nuts.

I know I should be grateful for these concessions, and I am, but I read my post about talking to him about trying her off wheat in 2008 (which I linked to in my last post) where he blamed me for her stress and stomachaches. This is why I write things down, even though they make me mad later. It’s important to remember some things.

She says they live on wheat over there–pancakes for breakfast, Cup Noodle for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner. It’s no wonder she reports having a good weekend over there with her dad, but comes home in a terrible mood and is tired and irritable. She usually smooths out by Wednesday or so, and then it starts over again when she visits and comes back.

The doctor’s office called me on Friday, and I did not get back to them in time, so I had to wait until today. I expected a TSH result that would probably tell me nothing, and either a yes or a no on the Celiac. What I got dismayed me. The nurse pulled the wrong vials and drew her blood into them, and so they couldn’t be processed.

“So you’ll have to take her somewhere for a redraw. Where do you want the order sent?”

“Wait, you can’t use the blood that was drawn? So she has to have it completely redone?”

“Yes.”

I chose Children’s Hospital. It is going to suck to break this news to Franny tonight, but at least I will take her to a place that has been nice to us in the past and draws blood from younguns all day long. Fuck.

Pictures, I have so many pictures. My fucking photo editing tool is not letting me resize or crop photos. Also I am supposed to be downtown right now doing research in Gourmet Magazine but I actually wiped myself out from being mad. I am exhausted now. I will drag to the grocery store and try again later this week when I have time.

I could sleep forever but I am afraid of missing my life. As it is right now it feels like it’s down to a little pinpoint. And I do feel a little crazy, because the medical stuff is just expanding. It’s not just me, but I have to take care of my girls’ issues that they inherited partly from me. Some days it is hard to get up, get dressed, and now I am looking at schlepping them to doctors, poor things. Better now than later.

I think about SeaFed and his childhood nosebleeds and daily stomachaches, and the fact that his mother went down with dementia after years of brain fog, and I wonder. As I’ve mentioned P. is doing much better as well and has a mother who has not eaten wheat in years due to her many, many health issues.

As ever I am trying to break the cycle.

I actually kind of miss a year or so ago when my heart would race for a week at a time and I’d be like, eh, fuck it, I am just going to get a lot done since I only need to sleep five hours right now. I’m sorry, body.

TL;DR

I am guessing I have now paid off about 7/10s of the temples I burned down in a past life

I take some steroids for breakfast, some codeine for DIZ-sert/
By the time they bring the pancakes, I’m only partly alert

(With non-apologies to Kanye West but I will link to the lyrics page because that seems to make them send me emails to ask me to stop linking to them. Jolly times.)

Up betimes and pretending to do my taxes, except actually emailing with my contractor, Jolly Mike Ehrmantrout, about some last minute plumbing stuff. It turns out the pipes under the bathroom sink faucet are not long enough to make a connection to the water below. Ha! Solutions are being solicited and bandied. I had to ride my tauntaun to the outlands of West Seattle yesterday to see if they carried a faucet that would come with long pipes.

Also:

Me neither, JME! This means I get to see Jackass Plumber again. The last time I saw him around Xmas he “fixed” my laundry set up, then left, and my basement trench flooded. I was not supposed to see Jackass Plumber on Thursday when he was here and was to be finishing everything up, since I was supposed to be at work, but I got derailed again (more on that soon). He came up to talk at me about pipe problems and give me some bizarre recommendations for faucet brands. I brought one recommendation to the plumbing store in West Seattle and they pulled out the catalog and said, “Er…see, that brand doesn’t really do residential, just mostly pretty plain industrial-purpose stuff.” Er okay.

Since Jackass Plumber woke me up, he kind of figured out I was sick. That and the giant pile of pill bottles on the table, which were not arranged so artfully then.

If we are keeping score at home, that’s two types of steroids now, an inhaler, Tylenol 3, Vicodin, and Ativan for sleeping. Last month I was taking the occasional Advil, and now look at me. My pill regime comes with a booklet with FUCK YES CAPLOCKS instructions on how and when to take all of these pills. Stapled onto it is a helpful pamphlet titled: “Will You Ever Poop Again? Your Guess is as Good as Ours.”

This could be the motto for blogging, yes? I should cross stitch this onto something.

I told the plumber, briefly, that it happened in Hawaii last month and was still kind of a mystery. He launched into a story about Kehei and how his wife tried snorkling but her fake boobs were too big and she kept popping up again? He said something about saline, but it seemed just as likely somehow that he thought that’s what regular boobs are made of. I am barely standing, here, bub. I don’t want to hear about The Wife’s (I think that may be her actual given name) “pontoons.”

Jackass Plumber promised to be quiet, but I was really worried about P., who was trying to sleep so he could function well when the girls got home. We are trying to stay very engaged with them in a normal way. For the first two weeks I was home when I was sleeping, sleeping (pre-steroid wakies) I would force myself to get up around the end of school and let them yam on about their day and ask questions and sign field trip forms and make promises for upcoming kid functions I hoped at least one of us could fulfill.

P. was so tired because he had gotten up with me Thursday morning at 3:30 to take me to the ER, since my breath was getting so short I was wheezing. This was one on my list of red flags supplied by urgent care on Thursday. “Go if your breathing gets worse or is labored.” This won’t get any worse, I thought. And then it woke me up. I’ve never had asthma, but I was told that’s what it looked like and sounded like. The ER is pretty nice at four a.m. on a Thursday. Apparently no one was out getting their arms sliced off or anything, so I had the joint to myself.

They checked for congestive heart failure, since the inflammation is traveling inward and that is a likely place for it to go, and cleared that. I had a CT scan on my lungs to look for blood clots. Being injected with iodine, if you’ve never experienced it, was not fun. It really burned going in, which I was not warned about, since it wasn’t supposed to happen. The pain hit my toes and I started crying. The tech started out by warning me that when it went into my veins it was very warming and I would feel like I was peeing myself, but I wasn’t. That hit me suddenly, and I did have to go, and I was convinced it was happened. “Well, this is it. I’m going to have to tell her now that I actually did it.” But I hadn’t. Dark magicks!

This bad boy took four jabs and two nurses to get in, but thank heavens it worked so they could proceed to poison me with iodine.

I was also given some kind of breathing mask thing that issues a mist that I was supposed to suck down for ten minutes to open me up. “I’m skeptical that this will work,” the ER doctor said, “since I don’t think this is an asthma-type reaction but some other kind of inflammation. But it won’t hurt.”

The nurse removed the mask when the medicine was gone. “Now how’s that?” she asked.

“Are my lungs supposed to hurt now?” I asked, in the most polite tone I could muster. No, she told me, surprised. I knew they were trying to help. Holy hell did I spend the rest of the day annoyed about that every time I coughed. Lung rage. I told them I felt like I had a small cat on my chest now instead of a great big one. I was back to wheezing by last night but now I have an inhaler which seems to be helping?

Also as of yesterday I am losing my voice, so I assume my vocal chords are inflamed as well? My nose is bleeding too (lightly), but I think it’s because my whole body is dry. I douse myself in the take-no-prisoners, wait fifteen minutes before sitting on a slippery surface, industrial-strength moisturizer anyway, because that is how my skin rolls, and it usually is happy for twenty-four hours or so. But my skin on my legs and arms is peeling off in sheets and pills, as if I sustained a bad sunburn weeks ago.

Everyone I see says the same thing–they cannot decide if it is auto-immune attacks (extreme body pain and inflammation), or if I still have an infection (extreme body pain and fevers). Or both. The roulette wheel has been spun and my primary care doc has referred me to an infectious diseases specialist. So I’m going to pay him a visit on Monday. More tests have rolled in–no dengue, no HIV. Still waiting on Lyme’s.

I’m thinking about writing up a little history of this to bring in since it’s long. The timeline. What I feel like now. What I felt like when it was acting like “normal” flu at first. What I feel like when they taper me off steroids right now. (Like this: ;;;;____;;;;) There’s a lot there.

I’m trying to get on part time at work next week and for the next little while. I tried to work full time last week and the first half of the day was decent and productive and the second part of the day was extremely painful and distracting. It’s pretty weird being on a double dose of steroids, now though. I think it’s making me a little manic. So I am shuffling around very productively. I cleaned the leather in my house, and busted out the Murphy’s oil soap and went to town on a midcentury tiled tray that needed some spiffing up. I used to eyeball trays like these at Antika (r.i.p) but they were always four times as much there. But now I have the hook up. I also oil soaped a giant tiki shield that I am going to hang in the bathroom as well, in case some Visigoths invade and I cannot find a towel. Basically I want to oil soap all of the old wood in my house now, especially my velvet painting frames which I can never quite undust completely. I think spring is making me projecty, which I will do very sloooowly.

I’ve been hitting my hook up spot for ye olde crap in search of tiki theme thinggummies for the basement bathroom, which is going to be a janked up fruity paradise wherein I could entice magically undead Gauguin in take a bath with me. (Note to self: procure Gauguin prints.) But of course I see other things there. Like the tray.

No scotch, which is for the best right now, but still kind of a sad look. Part of me wants to fill them with tea or pus or something decorative for just now.

Also, asking for a friend, do you know anything about the care and feeding of these jobbers? This is a lamp, which, when turned on, oil beads cascade down the strings. It is very classy, like courvoisier and pina colada butt lotion However, alas, a couple of strings are “jammed” and the spice does not flow. Also her center needs to be dusted so it’s off for now.

Observant readers will notice that this “friend” also has decided with her impeccable taste and infinite wisdom to paint her dining room bronze as well. Quelle co├»ncidence!

Seriously though I am going to have to sign P. up for some clubs or something so he can be gone more at dinner time, so he will not obstruct my view of her perfectness.

Okay, I don’t appear to be receiving my life’s guarantee of death today, so I better start its counterpart, taxes.

Cautious Optimism

Good news, I suppose. Things seem to have stopped getting worse. I am in kind of a holding pattern now and am still crazy tired. The doctors have officially settled on viral myositis, which is nice because it goes away eventually. I am really hoping this will be the last week of my convalescence. I don’t think I’ve had a fever for 24 hours, but it’s gone away and returned before, as has the pain. We’ll see.

Strudel’s birthday is Wednesday and she will be nine. She wants to go out to dinner, which is a typical thing here at Rancho Asshole. If I am having trouble walking I’m going to take some codeine and suck it up. We’re going to have FUN. Dammit. I am also on the hook to make her usual pineapple upside down cake, which blessedly she is not making me dye blue or anything this year. Don’t tell her I said this, but YUCK.

She has demanded Indian food and submitted a long birthday list before we went out of town, which I cherry picked from as usual. Several years ago Franny began including “surprises” on her birthday lists, which I think is a very legitimate ask. Strudel twigged to that idea and has run with it. I like to be surprised sometimes as well–a good one is a gift in itself.

On Sunday night P. and I were laying in bed at the late hour of 8:30 or so, and we had done all the necessary marshaling to send the girls off to blow zees. Strudel came in to have her fine, thick, long hair braided into two chunks before laying down, which makes it less of a tangled nightmare when she wakes up. She took in the picture of her destroyed parents in repose. For a moment I imagined we looked like Charlie Bucket’s grandparents, just ancient and broken.

She said goodnight and turned to leave the room, but lingered in the doorway for a moment.

“Are you two going to…flake on my birthday?”

“NO!” we said in unison.

I’m not going to lie, that hurt. The thing about this kid is that she says things like this, which is exactly what’s percolating in her roiling, evil brain, and has no idea how things may come over.

Franny, hypothetically in the same situation: “I am worried that you two are too sick to execute my birthday in a satisfactory fashion.” Franny’s first word was “poopbubble” (while pointing at an airplane) and while I don’t quite remember her second, I’m pretty sure my little Betazoid’s second word involved an “I” statement.

Strudel: “Sup, flakes.” Ouch.

But you can decode the message easily enough. I have never flaked on a birthday, though I think she was less than impressed at our tired, lackluster Xmas decorating in the first year in this house. There was presents and Feast though.

Franny was feeling better this weekend. She never got the voms like the rest of us, but she was still pretty knocked out with the virus. This weekend her volume went up again so I knew she was doing okay. She was chattering about Stephen King’s IT, which she read recently and brings up anytime she sees a clown, some balloons, or even something like a funny-shaped cloud. I think it’s made itself home in her psyche.

There were balloons tied to an open house sign on the way home from the store.

“BALLOONS! ‘They all float, motherfucker!” she said in a funny voice.

“Is that what Pennywise says?” I asked, laughing. I skipped the whole IT experience.

“Well, I added the ‘motherfucker’ part.”

She made me laugh so hard I peed a little. She doesn’t drop the MF bomb too often lately, but when she does, it’s pretty effectual. And a good sign for her health.

Passive sentence construction with overuse of certain words, see me after class

I think being ill makes me think of being young and vulnerable and poorly cared for, hence my maudlin trip down memory lane a couple of days ago. Plus the similar physical feelings. I’m in decent spirits though.

This is where I go to remember. If you talk to me in real life, I hope I seem like I’m planted in 2014 most of the time. I don’t know who I’m writing this to, ultimately. I’m glad I’ve been keeping am online journal since 2001. My secret is that when I write with a pen it’s a slog and demoralizing. Typing is my medium and it always has been. I did okay when I was a child, and in college as a note taker, but now when I put letters to paper the letters jump into the correct words, but often out of order. I am a decent speller but I cannot make my brain tell my hand to do it in the correct order. I have to concentrate to write a check or a grocery list. Typing flows like water.

I’m grateful that I’m read and heard at all. Part of me is writing to my future self, because sometimes I go back and cringe and make sense of things, sort of. Maybe I am hoping my children will read this someday and try to make sense of it some point. I have had to reflect back into the past on my own and try to impose some sense of compassion onto my family, which was obviously a mess. Maybe I am trying to leave a map for my girls so they can see that the stew is attempting to be equal parts “mom is flawed” with “but she was trying.”

Today I feel–the same. It’s distressing to have too much pain in my legs to stand in one place. It’s hard to go to the fridge and get a glass of juice. The first round of results came back and I have a marker in my blood that is saying that I have inflammation, which. Yeah. I’m on orders at this point to rest for 5-7 days and if there’s no change then it’s advanced testing. The hope from my doctor is that I have Worst Flu Ever, or “Flu Part Two” as I’ve been thinking of it, since your typical flu symptoms cleared up in about a week. He’s hoping this will subside it and it will kind of be Mystery Viral Myositis What I Kicked Eventually. I am running out of Prednisone in two days which makes me nervous because it is uninflaming (it’s a word now) my body and I can sleep.

This has been so consistent and ongoing since the onset that I don’t really have a gut feeling which way it’s going to go at this point. Being off Prednisone on Saturday will be the moment of truth I suppose. Will it be less pain, or the same as Tuesday, when I went to the doctor. I think I’m being tested for Lyme disease, but if not, I will make sure I get tested. I keep thinking about these two bug bites I got on my ankle on the first night in Hawaii that were irritated for days, and stung horribly in the ocean. Everything could be a coincidence, or it could actually mean something.

It’s only a flesh wound

THE PROBLEM with effective medication is that when it is working I somehow manage to tell myself I was kind of imagining the whole thing in the first place. I felt pretty good last night, except for my poor pounding head, but I stayed in bed anyway, sensibly. Still, part of me was going, “Wow, what a drama queen. I knew I would get better. Too bad I wasted everyone’s time. I bet I’ll be back to work tomorrow.” Likewise if I saw my severed head across the room somewhere I’d be like “Eh I must have an ingrown, bring me a tweezer.” It’s stupid.

I did the same thing in Hawaii recently. I mentioned we went on a short hike in a pretty national park after the jellyfish stings and before we all started having the 2014 Asshole Ranch Sing-a-long. While I lay in bed and in between trips to the hotel room’s loo I noticed my calves were stiffening up.

“You’re limping,” P. said.

“Am I?” I asked. LYING. Could anyone be more annoying? JUST ADMIT YOU ARE LIMPING, idiot. I probably even said something like, “I can still fight you.”

My calves knotted up and he insisted on rubbing them, which was really nice. After three really gentle tries (the skin was painful to touch) he got them to loosen a little so the muscles resembled normal calf muscles again, and not lumpy steel bars.

“I have a problem with those stupid shortie stairs,” I said. “I bet this is why I’m sore.” You know those weenie stairs that are supposed to make a climb easier but they are just annoying and make you feel like you’re skittering along like Pekingese or a centipede or something. WHO ARE THOSE FOR? The park was riddled with them up to the lookout area.

So that was the beginning, I guess, which I kind of ignored.

“I feel like I’ve been poisoned,” I told the doctor yesterday. I actually kind of know what that’s like. I told him the only other time I’ve had a headache like this when when I was about Strudel’s age and I had blood sepsis. I will never forget that headache.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I had keratosis pilaris as a kid, which I was very self-conscious about. My friends always noticed and asked about them, and some people thought it was contagious. I had no idea what it was, that it was no big deal, really, and that a large percentage of the population has it. I asked my mother about it when I was little but it was considered one of the great mysteries of our time.

“I have no idea,” she would say for the umpteenth time, exhaling her cigarette at me impatiently. “All I know is that it appeared two hours after you were born and never went away.” Translation: I had a stupid baby and then it got covered in an ugly rash. Once, for reasons I cannot fathom, I was fretting about “leg bumps” and she told me that she got them too. MAN, what a relief! I wasn’t just a mystery mutant. Years later in high school I told her how nice that was to hear.

“Oh, that,” she said. “Well, I don’t remember that, but I think I was just lying to make you feel better.”

Strudel has inherited my KP but she’s fairly philosophical about it since we know what it is and how to manage it somewhat. She went through a phase of ripping her arms up like I did, and was always covered in a few scabs. I wore long tee shirts and no tank tops for years to hide the damage. She is less self-conscious. I have gently pointed out the results of her excavations and the scars and she tries to leave them alone. I keep a loofah for her for when she can be cajoled into showering, and we talk about the importance of moisturizing.

Needless to say, I was not allowed to pick at myself. I have an early memory of sobbing and trying to read a book with mittens on, which I was forced to wear sometimes. On a good day, my parents were rather Victorian in their parenting techniques.

So when one of my little bumps went awry on my arm, I kept it a secret. I think I was almost ten. I guess I got some dirt in it from my disgusting kid fingernails, because it went toxic. My grandmother was visiting and I remember we went to a little former mining town that had become one of those cute tourist traps. We had lunch and toured old homes which had been turned into museums. There is a picture of me in the corner of one of these preserved Victorian homes, pale and strained-looking.

“Why won’t you smile?” my mother asked, wielding the camera at me. Because I feel like laying down and dying but I think it’s my fault and I don’t want to be punished. I had gotten over a lot of things on my own, in secret, even lying about how ill I was. I could lick this as well.

But my body couldn’t fight it off. I woke up in the middle of the night, my head pounding. I knew I would be in trouble if I woke my parents up over a trifle like this. I came to my grandmother, crying, who sensibly woke my parents up when she discovered I was on fire and crying from the pain I was in.

“Do you have any idea why you’re so sick?” the doctor at the hospital asked. I shrugged. I had my suspicions. I reluctantly pulled back my sleeve to reveal the throbbing source of pain on my arm. I uncovered a festering scab, only about the size of a pencil eraser, the skin around it red and tender, with a three-inch red streak that was snaking its way up to find my heart. His eyes went wide.

“What happened there?” he asked, alarmed.

“I think it was a bug bite,” I lied.

“WHY didn’t you tell us?” my mother hissed at me after the doctor left.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” I said.

My poor grandmother had to spend the rest of her visit minding a sick kid, but she was probably happy in a way to have a captive audience to watch her soaps with. I remember her being on the phone with my Aunt Kesa from back home while I convalesced on the couch.

“It’s the weirdest thing,” she said, sotto voce. “I have never seen a kid cry silently before.”

So this is that headache. And the Predisone is only lasting about 18 hours. I hear back about my first round of bloodwork today so I hope this will be short-lived. If not, I’ll just walk it off. Ha!

Shrub Shaming

Thing one is that my house is covered in a not-so-fine layer of dust. I knew this was going to happen with a remodel, but it’s kind of impressive. There is still a hole in the basement floor, but it’s all filled in with dirt again, covering up the plumbing that was laid in the trench. Mere, being the asshole that is a cat’s birthright, is using the loose dirt as a bathroom. SIGH. I cannot really do anything about it. I should have asked a friend I had over for dinner the other night how the house smelled. She’s the good kind of honest.

Thing two is that my neighbor is starting to give me the creeps a little bit. I went out to get the mail from our shared mailbox cluster and she came out behind me. I passed her on the way back and I was going to give her the cut but she deliberately stopped me.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Are you planning to cut your hedges back any more?”

“What? Probably? I don’t know.”

“Well, by my raised beds. There used to be hedges there, but now there’s not.” I’m starting to understand why the previous owner let everything completely overgrow on the shared property line. I kind of shrugged. “I just know that YOU like YOUR privacy, and I like MY privacy…”

This woman and her obsession with what I am doing in my yard, I tell you. No further cans are even remotely possible. It’s JANUARY. Who is out in their yard right now, steaming about this? My neighbor. I don’t even think about my yard unless I have to right now.

I walked away. I am not going to have any more conversations with her about my hedges. I wish people would just say, “I hate your stupid face and I am mad I have to see it over my fence.”

“She’s just a mad person who wants something to do and be mad about,” P. said, when I told him what happened.

“Don’t talk to me unless something is on fire,” I will say, the next time she stops. “And then you should probably call the fire department.” In the meantime I am making plans to have the south side of the house that faces her where she had the lilacs razed painted orange, with a mural of a middle finger. Actually, I am planning on painting a mural on the garage with the girls next summer. She’s going to hate that so much.