Tag Archives: healing

The World Didn’t End (But it May Yet)

The election came and went, I know that you all are aware of who won. Major, major shock to many people and I was one of them. I spent about 3 weeks going through the Kublar-Ross grief cycle: anger, depression, denial, bargaining, acceptance. I’m hanging out in denial until we have actual proof in January that Lord Little Hands (AKA President Pussy-Grabber) is the Anti-Christ and the world begins to truly go to hell, driving in the fast lane and speeding, with the trunk full of TNT and a maniac at the wheel. I have nothing to bargain with and I don’t think that acceptance, full and peaceful acceptance is going to happen, at least for the next 4 years.

The transition has begun and He is already breaking campaign promises. Instead of “draining the swamp” (of all the old, corrupt, useless politicians), he has, as one poster on FB said, “Drained the swamp of swamp monsters, in order to restock it with newer, stronger swamp monsters.” There is not a single person on his Cabinet list that is not reprehensible in some way. And it’s either the height of stupidity or the most craven machinations of That Man to have assigned departments to the very people who will do all they can to destroy whatever cabinet they lead. Such as putting a very rich, very elitist woman in charge of Education, when her children all went to private schools and she doesn’t think that public education is necessary. (End result: only the rich will be educated, and I’m talking the 3 basic “R”‘s: reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.) Originally choosing a white supremacist as Chief of Staff. (I think that’s the right position. I don’t want to go check.)

The list goes on and is filled with billionaires and millionaires. So much for the “normal” people in this country. All of these people are a part of the 1% and have absolutely ZERO, zilch, nada, NO connection to the rest of the citizens. Life is about to become like the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”. My fears hover, ready to bloom into full-time terror and anguish; I try very hard not to think about what pushes the fear. So let’s move on to something more interesting, namely: ME. (hahahaha)

Last blog I told you about having an x-ray to find a hip impingement. It was there, on the film. I had gotten back to seeing my acupuncturist. In the time I hadn’t seen him, he had added a new person onto the staff. She is a message therapist, and what Pagans would instantly recognize as an Earth Mother. That’s someone who is motherly (caring, treating boo-boos, watching out for her children — even if they are neither her children nor even a child) and generally has healing powers, although these can be on a spectrum of specific healing. It may not be just physical healing. There’s still emotional, mental, and spiritual healing…and Earth Mothers can deal with all of them, although usually not more than one or two kinds per Mother. If that makes sense. Anyway, there was also a new routine for the session. R, the acupuncturist, stuck the needles in, put Chinese “Ben-Gay” on me and left. I laid there and let those needles do their work. Then C, the message therapist, came in and smudged me with mugwort. (Think aroma therapy, with the smoke of the mogwort being directed at my body. Mugwort has healing properties.) Then she removed the needles and gave me a short message, from hips to head, which is where my pain mostly exists. The first time it just felt great. I mentioned that I had fibro and she instantly asked if she was pushing too hard. I told her that I was hovering somewhere between “Ouch, stop” and “Oh baby, don’t stop.”

The next appointment went pretty much the same way. Except: as C was giving me the message, she suddenly stopped, one hand on my shoulder, one hand in the small of my back. “You want to be healed”, she said to me. “DUH”, said I. She explained that most of the clients just wanted to stop hurting. Then she said, “You BELIEVE you can be healed.” I just said yes. So then she did, for lack of a better term, a laying on of hands. C is a reiki master; reiki is a specific form of healing, with classes being taken from a reiki master, who leads their pupils through the process of learning about it and when they have achieved whatever it is that needs to be done, they are awarded the title of Master. (I don’t “do” reiki; my son and his wife do, having taken the classes. I have been “accused” of being a reiki master…I do healing, but not in any particular specific order of operations.)

So, as I was saying, C is a reiki master, and she placed her hands on several places–my feet, my back, my head; maybe others, I wasn’t paying close attention. What I was paying attention to was the new flow of energy through my body, that I haven’t had for several years. Think of it as stopped up drains. The water cannot get moving in a specific direction, so it just puddles around.  She “cleaned” the drains, and the water began to flow properly again. I know that not everyone understands this or even believes in it; that’s okay. I do, so of course it worked for me. Let’s just say that I have been in a better head space since then.

I let R know that I had been diagnosed with the hip impingement (you remember that? We talked about it way up^^^^there.) So he focused the needles to deal with that area because I was having terrible pain and could actually feel the hip “impinge”–like a burr on a cog, or perhaps a missing tooth on that cog–it goes around and when it gets to the imperfection, it slows things down for just and instant and then, with a little “jump”, moves again–until it comes around to that imperfection again. That’s what walking was like. So he did his needling, haha, and then when C came in the room, she told me that he had asked her to do some directed message (healing) therapy at the hip. When she was done, I could have cried in relief–there was almost no pain and I could walk with that little “click” of the impingement. Between them, the cycle of pain upon pain was broken.

Pretty wonderful, right? “But wait…there’s more!” I went and had an MRI of the hip for closer inspection and evaluation. About a week later, I have an appointment with my doctor, who reads the report of the MRI and tells me: “There is NO impingement!”. Coincidence? I think not. Believe it or don’t, I believed she could heal me; she believed she could heal me, and the impingement is no longer visible. And it’s not causing the pain it had been, at all. Trust me when I tell you that I am very grateful, however the healing actually occurred.

I got my flu shot at the same time I found out about the MRI. (Monday, November 6th.) I voted on Tuesday (with Beloved, of course). By Wednesday morning, I was in “full flu” mode: body aches, stuffy head, general “blahs”. And I had gotten my shot in the pad of muscle just to the side of the hip, above the butt. I’ve had shots there before without any problem. This time, I had an area that size of my palm (about 4″ square) swell up to about 1/4-1/2 inch above the rest of the skin in that area. It hurt like hell. That part lasted about 4-5 days. The results of the election also caused sufficient mental upset that I spend the better part of November being sick; sick enough that I didn’t do much of anything at all and couldn’t really tell you any of it because it was that foggy for me. Sigh.

I did cook Thanksgiving dinner, in small chunks with a lot of rest in between. Boiled the sweet potatoes to make mashed potatoes. Made sage-sausage dressing. Cooked two turkey thighs and a leg (for Beloved). I saved my Thanksgiving meat for the next day, because it was a major undertaking. Beloved had bought me a Dungeness crab! Here he is, prepared for an intimate dinner for moi. As you can see, he was 8″ from point to point and Beloved had asked for the biggest, heaviest crab…so he weighed in at almost 2 pounds. (With all of his shells, of course.)thanksgivingcrab-dismantled Now I’m going to assume a certain ignorance from my readers as regards crabs and the eating thereof. Those of you who know, bear with me. To eat a crab, you have to pull all of the legs, including the claw legs, off of the body. Then you flip it on its back, and begin pulling off what is referred to as “the apron”. These are the sexual organs; in the male, the apron is shaped like an upside down T and is relatively small. The females have a larger apron, with visible “feathers”; this is where she holds the eggs. After removing the apron, there is a small opening now available between the body itself and the top shell. You hold the back and front of the body in your hands, and with your thumbs in that little opening, you pull the back shell off of the rest of the body. Once that has been removed, you remove all of the gills (the “feathers”) and (optionally; there are some who eat this part) take out the intestines from the middle of the body, which is clearly divided into a left and right part. You break the two halves apart and just begin eating, working your way through all of the body. Get ALL of the meat, in the bodies and in the legs/claws. With a Dungeness, there is some meat in every section of the legs and it’s all worth getting. Claw and leg meat is slightly sweeter than the body. If you get good at it, you can get the claw out in one whole piece!

I have been complimented on my crab-picking. I had a 1/2 dozen of Chesapeake Bay Blue crabs–and when I was done, there was this tiny stack of shells (relative to the unshelled bodies). The waitress told me that she had never seen crabs picked so cleanly. (Apparently most people do not “work” for the meat. I was taught from an early age to clean it out completely.) Dungeness are a bit easier to clean out simply because they are larger overall then the Blue crab. Now I’m going to explain the “sloughing” process. Crabs are (obviously) a hard shelled creature. But they do get bigger. The process is this: first, the crab stuffs itself full of food, which in turn makes the amount of meat within its body to increase to the “very full larder” stage; this is because during the period of being “soft”, with a shell that is not yet harden and therefore protective, the crab will not eat. The second shell begins to form, like a thin layer of paper, between the body and the top (back) shell. When it is time, when all is ready for the slough, the crab will go to a safe spot and back out of the old shell. It will then be a soft crab, which is also good eating. It will eat its old shell to get the calcium to harden up the new soft back (and legs, etc). After a bit–a day or two, maybe (another fact I don’t feel like looking up), the new shell is battle-ready and the crab, which has not eaten during this period, is starving and goes off to find food.
(Side story: when the female crab sloughs, the male will cradle her in his claws and protect her from the predators who would like to have soft crab. When the male sloughs…she eats him.)

When picking a crab, you can see the evidence of either getting ready to slough, or, with small amounts of meat inside, a crab that had just sloughed. We don’t want to talk about sad things, so let’s talk about the crab that is getting ready to slough. We call that a “peeler”.  It will be noticeably heavy for its size and there will be a reddish-brown “skin” that clings to the inside of the back shell and over the body. There will be plenty of fat visible. We call the fat “mustard” because of its yellowish color. This crab of mine had ENORMOUS amounts of fat–probably 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. You can see it here:
dungeness-crab-pate-fatYes, it looks gross. But for those of you who like liver pate, you will understand when I compare this “mustard” to pate. It doesn’t taste quite the same as the meat and it has that velvety texture of a pate. My grandmother introduced me to “mustard”, which is generally found up in the tips of the back shell.

There was an obvious and rather thick new shell on this one as well. I would guess that he was within 24 hours of sloughing. In other words, the PERFECT crab to have for a meal. Yes, the meat was packed in, quite full. Since I ate it as fast as I could pick it out, I can’t tell you how much meat there was. I’m guessing at least a pound. The taste was phenomenally and incredibly good; he was probably the best crab I have ever eaten. (And I’ve eaten quite a few. For comparison’s sake, I could eat 1/2 dozen of Blue crabs quite easily. My record is 18 or 19, but they were all relatively small and “light”–not empty like a just-sloughed crab, but certainly not a “peeler”. I have yet to eat more than 1 Dungeness at a time. The Blue crab is the VW Beetle of the crab world; the Dungeness is an 18 wheeler with a trailer. Om nom nom.)

Here’s a Dungeness, with a human for scale:
dungenesscraboldharbor1Please note that this is not a particularly large Dungeness, this is just about the “usual” size.
The only thing I miss is the Old Bay seasoning that is put on Blue crabs, although I have to admit that the Dungeness (usually steamed or boiled) has enough flavor of its own that I don’t miss that enough to get some Old Bay in a small bowl to dip the meat.
Thus endeth my dissertation on crabs. Onwards.

I still haven’t gotten my chariot yet; I do hope it will be here by the end of this month. I could really use it right now–and for the past month. I did see the Physical Therapist at the VA clinic. We discussed how I manage, what is becoming harder to manage, that sort of thing. She’s getting me a new type of sock-put-ter-onner. (I couldn’t make the first one work.) She’s also getting me some foam tubing, of various diameters, to cut into the proper length for such things as to be on my kitchen tools, to provide a larger diameter than the utensil’s own handle. I already have something similar to that for my eating utensils. (I bought 2; I am using one on the spoon I use; the other is on my crocheting needle to help me hold that longer.) The PT is also getting me a jar-opener which will save my hands and wrists when trying to open recalcitrant jars. There was even some talk of a new mattress for my bed–I got it in March. Between have my head up (for GERD/reflux) and my feet raised (for swelling), my butt has created this marvelous hollow, right in the center of the mattress. The new one would ostensibly be better able to deal with the focus of weight in one spot.

Beloved and I are both having more “bad” (achy) days because it’s winter in Eureka. That means a LOT of rain and cooler temperatures. But the difference between night’s low temperature and day’s high is only about 10-15 degrees. We’ve gotten into the mid 40’s for a couple of nights–but we are still getting the 70 degree days, just not as often as we would in the rest of the year. We’ve even had a couple of thunderstorms, which are not common here.

Not a lot on the calendar this month. A couple of appointments for each of us–one of mine is for the radiographic (?) ablation of a varicose vein in my left leg. Basically, it kills the length of vein and the blood then goes back and forth in the artery/veins that don’t have faulty valves.

No specific plans for Christmas. We will probably at least acknowledge Winter Solstice (Yule) and we will definitely talk to his family on Christmas Day. (We talk to them almost daily.) I might even talk to my parents over the holiday time. I suppose we’ll have something special to eat for Christmas Day, although we could as the Jewish people do on that day: go eat Chinese food. (LOL) New Year’s Eve is another “non” holiday; we stay to watch the ball come down (on our computers), share a toast of something bubbly and then go to bed. Or back to our computer games.

So nothing really earth-shaking to report. I will of course let you all know when my wheelchair arrives and how I’m doing with it. Stay warm, keeping getting out of bed every day. Blessings and peace to you all!

Compassion for Others Begins With Compassion for Yourself

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” ~~Thomas Merton

“Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer.” ~~Rachel Joy Scott

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.” ~~Albert Schweitzer

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~~Lao Tzu

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~~Brian Tracy

“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.” ~~Robert Kiyosaki

I have tried, my entire life, to be compassionate to others; to offer a listening ear, a hug, or whatever else seems the appropriate response for their suffering and need. I would like to think that I have achieved this…but lately, I have realized that I never offer myself that same compassion. In my head, I speak to myself in ways that I would never dream of using to another person. I am my own worst critic: cold, judgmental, harsh, unfeeling and uncaring. Since I have become disabled, it seems to have gotten worst as I blame myself for not being able to do the things I always have, even though my debilitating pain is a valid reason for the inability to do them. I just don’t cut myself any slack.

I believe I have mentioned Toni Bernhard to you before. She is the author of three books aimed specifically for those of us who are chronically ill, who have the most valid reasons for not living “normally” because of our health. She consistently mentions self-compassion, being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself for not being able-bodied or doing the things “that need to be done”. She planted the seeds of learning how to be loving and compassionate in my head–but more importantly, in my heart. I follow the Tibetan Zen Buddhist path, with all of the selflessness that entails. It’s very easy for me to be kind to others, to do what I can to alleviate their pains. However, it had not occurred to me to turn this way of living inwards, to my own soul.

And so I have begun to incorporate this into my daily life, as best as any imperfect being can. I don’t always succeed, but that’s part of the joy of both self-compassion and the practice of mindfulness: you acknowledge the lack, then let it go and start again. I am learning to have the patience for myself that I have never had before, to acknowledge my limitations without judging and without blame. My limitations just “are”; they exist without any connection to something I did or didn’t do.

In making this a part of my daily routine, I have discovered that I am also losing the rather judgmental way I had been perceiving the strangers on the street. Specific example: I am embarrassed, even humiliated, that I do not shower as regularly as I used to (every other day),  nor do I shower as often as I need to. For someone who sits quietly most of the time, I sure can get stinky–and my hair gets greasy. Being showered and well groomed has always been important to me but I no longer have the ability to do it on anything approaching a regular basis. I simply lack the stamina and flexibility it takes to wash my hair or to bend and twist to wash my body. Some days, a shower is my greatest–and only–accomplishment. I think I had accepted this as just part of my life as a chronically ill person, but I was not self-compassionate about it.

Now when I see people on the street and they are less than my idea of groomed, I know from  my own experience that it’s not from a lack of caring about how they look but rather from not having the ability to do so. Eureka has a fairly large homeless population…so there’s a whole segment of our society that doesn’t have consistent access to a shower. I know that this does not mean they are somehow less of a person than someone who can. I just didn’t apply that mindset to myself.

It’s not just about showers. It’s about anything for which I can condemn myself. I have always said that I have a great deal of patience for everyone else, but never for me. With the onset of chronic illness, with symptoms that prevent me from holding a job, I am being forced to learn this patience for me and my (perceived) short comings. Our society makes a lot of perceptions about its members, some of them valid but I think mostly mistaken. Perceptions are judgments–and who am I to make judgments about others when I have enough issues of my own?

I am wrestling with more than not having a paycheck job. My mother raised me to be a Southern housewife, to take care of my husband, keeping house and cooking meals. Add to that cooking the fact that before I became this ill, I was working towards having my own business as a personal chef. I feel disappointment in myself because I cannot clean the house as I want to. I am particularly unhappy at my inability to make basic meals, never mind the “gourmet” dishes that I so enjoyed creating.

These feelings, while valid (because all feelings are), are neither useful nor self-compassionate. I acknowledge the concepts of using our minds to (help) heal ourselves but what I have cannot be “thought” away. I  have structural damage in my spine which cannot be easily remedied. Any sort of treatment that would work, could work only for a while; there’s a reason it’s called “degenerative” arthritis. I do believe that with mindfulness–but especially with compassion for my own being, I can reduce or relieve a great deal of my pain and various lesser ailments.

For example, I must acknowledge the limitations my body has now, not what it used to be able to do. If I refuse to accept the true state of my body, I may be able to “push through” and do the thing(s) I want to–but I will pay for it in greater pain and even less ability for a period of time exponentially larger than the amount of time those actions took. Simple facts are simple facts, and the truth is very simple: I am very limited as to what I can do now versus what I did *then*.

Another aspect for self-compassion that I need is to stop the self-deprecation. I forget something–a word that means just what I am trying to convey or a task that needs doing. Then I chastise myself for being “stupid”…when it just a state of being. I understand that being in pain means less attention to focus on anything other than that pain–but I am still working on allowing myself the compassion to not fret about it and certainly not to punish myself. I am attempting to retrain my mind such that I accept my state of being, at whatever point I may be, on any given day, just as a state of being, with no particular emotions tied to it–and certainly not negative emotions.

The only time we can be sure of is this moment…and this moment…and this moment, for all of the moments of our lives. Trying to live at any other time, past or future, means that we aren’t living NOW. NOW is all we truly can have, can experience in “real” time. To live in the now is very difficult sometimes, maybe more so for some people. All of us have connections to the past and hopes for the future but if we let those connections and hopes replace the moment, we are not living our lives to the fullest, nor being the person that has this moment. “Be here, right here, right now. Everything else is just a dream.”

What is so important about self-compassion? As with real and abiding love, we cannot be truly compassionate (or love) anyone else until we know that feeling for ourselves, within our minds and hearts. It needs to be a natural and inevitable part of each moment, something that we don’t need to think about, or have to do any specific ritual to bring about this behavior.  We “fake it until (we) make it”–and it only takes 21 days to establish a new habit. At first, it may seem contrived and even foolish to speak to ourselves with compassion. But if you will persevere and continue the practice of being kind to yourself, I believe you will find yourself both feeling happier as well as being a better person for that practice.

“If you believe it, you will act on it. If you continue to believe it, you will act on it again and again.” ~~Hugh Prather

Our minds create our reality–what we think the world is, it is to us. So if part of our world view includes negative ideas about who we are or what we are, we will continue to behave in ways that will support, even validate that view. We create a mindset that establishes a certain point of view and we can become locked into the view, no matter if it is actually true or not. A quote from Doug Adams says it all: “He was amazed at how different the world looked from a point three feet to the left.” That world view includes our own being; sometimes we need to step “three feet to the left” to get a new angle, a fresh perspective on what we thought we knew–even about ourselves.

If we are seeking to make our lives more fulfilled, if we want to create peace in our lives and to maintain the practice of loving-kindness and truly living in this moment, we must start from the point within ourselves that is the core of our being, the “who” of who we are. It is one thing to require real changes to ourselves because we are making poor choices in how we live–and quite another to berate ourselves for things beyond our control. Would you blame a person for being blind? Would you belittle someone for being elderly? Of course not. Then why would you–or do you–blame and belittle yourself for circumstances beyond your control?

And life is always about choices–and the magic of choices is that you can always choose a new way to go or do something. You are not bound to the past unless you CHOOSE to be; you are not endlessly longing for the future unless you CHOOSE to be such. Self-compassion is for those times when you are in pain (mental, physical, spiritually) and you want to lessen or alleviate that pain by understanding that all beings suffer and so the choice is the manner in which you deal with the problem.

Through compassion for our own state of being, we acknowledge our connection to the rest of the world, to everyone else around us. And we then understand that we are no more and no less than any other being–and compassion is the natural response for the human condition, even unto ourselves. The act of self-compassion opens us to a deeper relationship with those we meet. It encourages diversity and tolerance, mutual respect and a sincere honoring of the sacred being within each of us. And it begins with acknowledging our own sacred being, warts and all.

I close with this link: Self-Compassion from Toni Bernhard, in which she shares some thoughtful and inspiring quotes about self-compassion.

Namaste!

The Pain of Being Touched and The Heartbreak of Not Being Touched

Fibromyalgia has been known by many other names, including chronic rheumatism, myalgia, muscular rheumatism, fibrositis, myofibrositis, and spinal irritation. The list of associated symptoms is an impressive one–never less than 3 and frequently a lot more than that, a virtual litany of problems that relate back to that single diagnosis. Whether your doctor is sympathetic and refers to it as “fibromyalgia”, or he says that “fibromyalgia is a ‘junkyard’ term” (which my newest doctor actually said)…at least physicians seem to agree that the predominant symptom is chronic pain. Which they are required to treat, according to the law.

“Chronic pain”. Two short and simple words that fail utterly to accurately describe the reality of life with never-ending pain. “Chronic pain” is like a password, the secret code word that opens the portals of an exclusive club. Well, not that exclusive. This disease affects between 2 and 4 percent of our population, mostly women. Men who are diagnosed with fibro may find it difficult to get the proper treatment they need because it is associated with women’s health. (Here is a good site to use as a starting point, either for you or to help explain fibro to your family and friends.)

If you’ve had fibro for more than 10 minutes, you know about the “tender spots” and “trigger points”. You’ve probably heard about “soft trauma” and a handful of other terms that all basically mean the same thing: pain. Doesn’t matter how it gets started, only matters that it never ends. Even with medication, the pain is always there, just waiting to take center stage again. You have to choose between having a clear head and ability to think coherently but suffer the pain, or take enough meds to reduce that pain to a murmur in the background…while you are literally Dopey, sleepy and basically not safe to operate any machinery–from driving a car down to using the toaster.

Chronic illness of any sort takes over your life. Chronic pain just makes the inevitable losses that a chronic illness requires that much more…well, painful. To be blunt about it, certain chronic illnesses (or more accurately, “chronic medical conditions”, hereafter referred to as “CMC”) are visibly limited–people in wheelchairs, missing limbs, paralyzed, or blind. Fibromyalgia is just one of the invisible conditions that are as limiting, as devastating as being paralyzed. With these invisible CMCs, someone can’t just look at you and realize that you have limitations.

And if you thought the list of associated symptoms for fibro was long…the list of what it limits, the things it will steal from your life is longer. Much longer. Chronic pain affects everything you do–or don’t do, or cannot do any more. And I’m not talking epic events. I mean things like cooking dinner, making a bed, washing yourself. What other (healthy) people do every day without even thinking about it–requires planning and adaptation for those of us with any CMC.

Receiving a diagnosis of a CMC is like being told your mother died. You have to go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance. And there is no time frame for any of the stages, nor do they necessarily line up in that particular order. There is frequent overlap between two or three of the emotions listed. And sometimes, you just don’t get past one of them…maybe two. And sometimes you’ll think that you’ve gone through them, arrived at the end and have accepted the loss of your old life–and then something happens that make you realize you were fooling yourself. And the grief cycle begins again.

Depression is the symptom that is almost synonymous with a CMC, particularly one like fibro that has so many limitations. Why wouldn’t you be depressed, when faced with a body that never stops hurting somewhere, with new inabilities cropping up, when you realize that the life you thought you’d have can never be, no matter how hard you try? And depression is anger turned inwards. Our society teaches women in particular to be soft-spoken, to be gentle and to never, ever express such strong emotions as anger. Fuck that. You heard me. If you’re feeling angry, you have every right to express it — loudly, with a lot of swear words, or however you want to. The only caveat is that your expression should not hurt you–or anyone else. So suicide or murder are not appropriate expressions of anger. Throwing china can be, if you’re willing to clean up afterwards. (Or if you have a loving someone who will hand things to you for you to throw and will then clean up for you.)

Be angry. Feel depressed. Grieve for your life, because it’s changed completely the moment you truly acknowledge that all these vague symptoms add up and your doctor has diagnosed a CMC. You could do what I did, which was to announce loudly and in front of other people that “I will not allow this disease to define who I am.” Right. Within a month, I realized that “this disease” had been defining my life for literally YEARS. I figure I began having fibro symptoms perhaps as young as 13 years old, but definitely by the time I was 15. I had the tender points–couldn’t stand the boys coming up and poking me in the ribs. I never laughed, and when they complained that I didn’t react “properly”, I told them that it hurt. Which it did.

I have had vague aches for as long as I can remember. While I was young I could just “push” through them. I managed a 4 year stint in the USAF; got married, had children. But looking back from this point in time, I realize that I began accommodating my aches (which were growing into pain) in a variety of ways. For example, I would clean the house. You know, dust and vacuum, put things away, take out the trash. But I did not do all the tasks in one efficient blur of cleaning. I’d work for about 30-45 minutes, then sit for about 15 before resuming the chores. This is when I was but a mere child of 28 or 29. And so gradually I didn’t notice it, that 30-45 minutes of “up” time got smaller and I required greater time to rest.

The aches had gotten full grown into pain, on a very regular basis. It was localized in my hips and knees so I wasn’t thinking “fibro”–hell, back in 1992, no one used that term. I did go to a rheumatologist, told him I had pain in my knees and hips. I got spend $500 for him to eventually tell me that I had pain, located in the knees and hips. Hot baths and aspirin were his prescription. I had already been doing that–and there’s just so much time you can spend in a bathtub. And so I lived on, making small adjustments as I needed to but never thinking of them cohesively as limitations because of my health.

Time passed, as is its usual manner; the kids graduated high school and went out into the big world. I lived alone for the first time in my life. I kept the house clean–but it was 10 minutes of task time, then 20 or more to rest before hitting the next 10 minute task. I began to have neuropathy–a fascinating pain, more like hot lightning than stabbing or thudding. I was becoming (even more) clumsy–my father used to tell me that I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time without falling. I began avoiding stairs whenever possible. My sleep patterns were fractals, at best. I had worked night jobs for 6 years and figured that the 4-6 hours I was sleeping was because of that.

I have had stress incontinence since the birth of my first child. (Thanks, kiddo.) Suddenly, I also had IBD (or IBS, depending on whether you consider it a disease or a syndrome). I would have no warning, no cramping or gas to let me know I’d better head for the loo. So when the first sensation of pressure appeared, I’d have about 3 minutes to find a porcelain receptacle or I would, to be grossly blunt about it, I would shit myself. Dear gods, I was only 46ish and I was not ready to be wearing Depends…

In 2010 I met and married my dearest love. He also has CMC, both physical and mental. So he had a very good relationship with his doctor, whom he had been seeing for about 7 years. He took me in for what was my first real physical since…the Air Force? That was in June. For the next 4 1/2 months, I began to really pay attention to my body and what was going on. I had quite a list of things…damn. I did exactly the wrong thing and went onto WebMD to check out the symptoms. Each item on my list had its own list–but they all overlapped at “fibromyalgia”. So I went back to the doctor and told him what I had discovered. And he told me that he had thought I had it, the first time he saw me. Well, gee, Doc–ya coulda saved me a lot of time if you had just said it then. But he also told me that he preferred to have his patients identify it for themselves because it was still considered a “throw away” diagnosis, something to tell a patient, giving their problems a name and make them go away.

I have to say that giving my symptoms a name seemed to open the floodgates of fibromyalgia. It poured over me and flowed into every single aspect of my life. It seemed that by admitting I was sick, I was suddenly aware of just how sick I really was–and apparently had been denying, “pushing” through it for quite a while. Within a year, I started using a cane for stability and had to stop working. Within two years, I was barely functioning as we experimented with the necessary medications to get the right ones at the right dose. At year three, I was in a really bad way because the VA doctor I was seeing then removed me from pain meds and then overdosed me on my neuropathy pills.

At that point, I was also dealing with Beloved’s month-long stay in the hospital–caused by gross incompetence: the doctor sent him home three times without addressing the reason we had gone there in the first place. He was having intractable vomiting and couldn’t hold down anything–and that went on for 3 weeks. You can die from dehydration, you know. So needless to say, I was an emotional wreck–which of course affects the body. I ended up at the main VA medical center, with instructions to be admitted for psychiatric evaluation. I had every sign of a panic/anxiety attack, and the most beautiful British accent. I’ve told you about it before so I won’t go into the gory details here.

We apparently moved, although I barely recall the cluster fuck of getting our apartment emptied out. We arrived in Eureka CA on November 2, 2013. Our problems haven’t gone away; some have gotten worse. I have had my adjudication with the Social Security Administration’s judge–and been “declined” again. I will now move up to the appeal board–and if they also “decline”, then it’s into Federal court. With the move, I of course have had to change lawyers and the new one inspires trust in us that we can do this, and that I will (eventually) be declared “permanently disabled”–and collect SSDI. (Could take up to 4-6 more YEARS. Erk.)

In the meantime, we are living on just Beloved’s SSDI check, food stamps, food pantry–and the incredible generosity of his parents. We do not regret the move–if we were still in Northern Virginia with all of the same things happening…we’d be living in my in-laws spare bedroom.

So actually of this has been to set the background for my main discussion: The Pain of Being Touched and the Heartbreak of Not Being Touched. My story is not unique; anyone with a CMC has a story like it. Since I know fibromyalgia best, I’ll just use that from now on–but if you have a different chronic condition, just substitute the name of yours.

Chronic pain, as I said in the beginning, is completely inadequate to explain what the person with chronic pain has to live with, has to deal with on a daily basis. It’s the sole indicator of whether you’re going to spend the day in bed or if you can actually make some chocolate chip cookies for your grandchildren. Chronic pain dictates if and when you shower, wash your hair, actually get dressed (in real clothes and everything!). And they aren’t kidding when they talk about tender points and trigger spots–what would be an incidental bump for someone else ends up causing such pain that you are now on the DL and the coach has to send someone else in to play for you.

Chronic pain makes all of your choices: will I type emails to my friends, join discussions on Facebook, play solitaire–or watch NetFlix because I can’t do the necessary hand motions to do those other things. Will I be able to concentrate enough to actually read (and retain) a novel? I want to finish crocheting the blanket I am making for my grandson. Begun before his birth, it–and he–are now 3 years old. I also have another grandchild that needs to have a blanket from me–and my grandson will have a sibling next May. That makes me 3 blankets behind.

Chronic pain. Do I have enough energy to essentially ignore the general “normal” level of pain, medicated with my good friend, Vic (Vicodin) that I can cook a hot meal? I was going to be a personal chef; I made gourmet foods–now, I am just a cook. Nothing wrong with being “just a cook”, but for me…it’s a demotion. And if I am not able to cook, I cannot justify spending grocery money on going out for Chinese. But we (too) often end up doing it anyways.

But never mind all of that. I know that having fibro means major–and endless–changes to everything in my life. I get that part. What snuck past me was that having fibro means enough pain that it hurts me to be touched. I’m not talking “punch in the face” touch, I’m talking the gentle pressure of a hand on my arm, the enveloping joy of a hug. Fibro means not extending my hand when meeting new people because the shaking (and the sometimes crushing grip) hurts me. It means not cringing when the sweet puppy leaps up into my lap.

Chronic pain has locked me away from touching, from the sensation of my flesh and someone else’s flesh joined in friendship, comfort–and yes, in making love. My dear Beloved knows that I hurt, that it hurts to be touched. So he’s very careful to … not touch me. He will rub the back of my head as he passes by, or pat my hip when we’re going to sleep. But hugs and kisses, what used to be a steady diet of loving touch…not so much any more.

I am a very tactile person–what a lot of people refer to as “touchy feely”. And chronic pain, damned chronic pain…has made my own body a prison that excludes even the most casual sensation of flesh on flesh. And that most intimate sensation of flesh on flesh doesn’t happen at all… Making love is all about flesh on flesh, the intimate bonding of two people, a ritual of love that strengthens their commitment even as it celebrates their union. Denied to me. By this unending, godsdamned, fucking chronic pain.

I need to be comforted, I need to be touched and petted and yes, physically loved by my husband. I want to hug my children, grandchildren, friends, people at church. I want to shake hands when I meet someone. I’d love a massage. I would LOVE sitting snuggled up to Beloved, with his arm around me. I want a dog.

I literally ACHE with the need to touch and be touched. Skin hunger overwhelms me and I’m starving for human contact. And then Chronic Pain rears its ugly head and reminds me that I will have to choose between more pain with contact…or no contact and no worsening of pain. Pain is a powerful training method, used with incredible success for many years in many different places and circumstances. If this was inflicted by an external source, I’d have something to rebel against, have a revolution to free me again. But alas, my tormentor is me. Well, my body.

And so I ride on the see-saw (teeter totter, depending on where you’re from)…it hurts to be touched … but … it breaks my heart that I am not being touched. Frankly, it all comes down to this one question: Am I willing to accept the pain that the contact will cause because the contact itself will provide emotional healing? Which outweighs the other–the Chronic Pain Monster or the sacred human interaction? And it’s not even so much “will I pay the price” but “CAN I pay the price”.

Did I mention anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance? I only go with 4 out of 5 when it comes to skin contact. There is no acceptance of being untouched, of having no tactile connection with my fellow travelers in life. I am stubborn and I am always, ALWAYS going to choose to be touched. I will deal with the devil of chronic pain because I have to–but I sure as hell am not going to let pain take that away. It’s done its damage to my entire life–changed it completely, added limitation upon limitation. But this is one war it will not win. I cannot let it win–because if I do, I lose my own humanity and life is worthless.

Chronic pain can kiss my ass.

Namaste!

Summer Vacation (In Place)

Back story: Beloved’s sister, my sister-in-love, hereafter referred to as “SIL” is a costume designer. An amazing, creative costume designer. Who is 2/3 of the way through grad school in IL to gain the paper proof of her abilities known as The Master’s Degree. She’s not only been burning the candle at both ends, but in the middle and anywhere else the wick dared to peek out. So Beloved and his parents managed to convince her to come visit us as a well-earned and much-needed break from the grueling millstone of school and shows and summer jobs. And after talking to her, Beloved got the vacation extended from 4-5 days to 9 full days in beautiful, calm Eureka.

And the curtain on our Summer Vacation goes up:

We picked her up at the local airport (a single baggage claim area, one gate, and everything but the Pepsi machine closes at 8 pm) on July the 2nd. She looked tired and from more than a full day’s travel (a 7 hour layover in Sacramento to catch the puddle jumper up to here). But she was happy to see us and we were happy to see her. We grabbed a bite to eat at the almost only place open 24 hours, the local family diner, then took her to her home away from home motel room. (Trust me, there’s no room in my house for her, and besides, she has some modicum of privacy, of which there ain’t none at all in my house!)

Next morning (or later that same day, depending on how you look at it), we gather her up and the meals begin…during these 9 days that we had with her, we took her to all of our favorite places to eat, carefully planned so as to maximize the number of restaurants we could fit in with us only eating 2 meals a day. We hit Walgreen’s and Target for some of the little things she forgot, to replace an extension cord that the TSA absconded with on her flight out here, and beach paraphernalia such as a chair, bucket (for seashells) and a hat. We hit Old Town one day, having lunch at the Cafe Nooner and then she and I walked around the shops. Well, she walked, I rode my new(ish) scooter; Beloved went back to her motel and hung out until called to fetch us for dinner at the next restaurant on our list. We repeat that process a day or two later to hit the local thrift stores–which she may have actually enjoyed more. SIL has been thrifting most of her clothes for a long time. She found some great stuff–and I didn’t do too badly myself!

We had Chinese food, Vietnamese, Thai and German. We had Mexican food and California sushi, as well as Japanese (traditional) sushi. All of it fresh, most of it local, some of it organic. A better quality of food than most people eat and a sure fire way to help her restock her body’s energy. Lots of sleep and days of doing nothing in particular, just what the Doctors Brother and His Wife had ordered. I have to admit, living right by the ocean, the only kind of food we didn’t feed her was seafood (other than in the sushi and that’s not everyone’s idea of seafood, even if it is fish!)–Dungeness crab season ended as she arrived, so we’ve put that on the “To Eat” list for the next time she’s here.

We showed her Eureka, our Costco which has a lot of organics (probably due to local demand for it), our house and the little town we live in (south of Eureka). We went to the fireworks show on the 4th–first one I’ve been to in years. For a small town, it was downright impressive–about 20 minutes long, with fireworks I’d never seen before. We sat at one of the Boardwalk down on the channel where the boats go through to the ocean–and the marina resides. Lots of people, but all of them happy and pleasant. We even had a puppy cuteness overload with the people next to us having 3 puppies, maybe 2 months old…awwww.

We took her to the beach. Four or five times in the time she was here. The first time, we hit the jackpot with the wild life. She was happy to see all of the dogs, which we also enjoy. (Or as Beloved points out, there are only 3 rules for this beach: don’t turn your back on the ocean, beware of the rip tides, and if you have an earthquake, assume tsunami and move to higher ground.) But some of the other things we had talked up to her also showed up–a flight of pelicans, almost in slow motion, passed over our heads, a serious photo op if ever there was one. She got to see not just one, but FOUR horses, being ridden on the sands. We also saw those little bobbing brown heads that are seals. And of course, the surf fishermen, the kites, the terns and other shore birds and, last but certainly not least, the ever-changing, ever-eternal ocean.

I was very glad to have this time with her. It’s the first chance that SIL and I have had time together without a major holiday and everyone else around. And lest you think that I monopolized her time, I made sure that she and her brother had time together without me as well. Maybe not as much as she and I did, but hey, they already knew each other. Even with the limitations of our disabilities, we had a great time having her here and found that we could push ourselves to the point of being able to spend as much time with her as possible. We only had to beg off from a couple of late night talk sessions–and she allowed as she was tired, too–so that wasn’t too bad.

One of the last things she did while here was something that she had asked me to check out and go with her–she was ready for her first tattoo!! I did my research around here and found a one man shop, with a tattoo artist who is amazing to be her first. (But not her last, as she already had plans for several more tattoos in her head…which I think will find solid form on paper now that she knows what tattooing is all about.) And of course, I couldn’t let her go all alone…so I got my 14th tattoo, as seen here:
Purple Butterfly

This is my purple butterfly for Fibromyalgia Awareness, a permanent sign of both my disease and a hope for a cure or at least better treatments for the conditions it brings with it. Amazing scrollwork, very fine lines for the outline, just great work all around–to the point where I may have to start saving up for (and doing in stages) the half-sleeve tattoo I’d like to have on my right arm. The left is saved for a military-style “flash”, where badges are located on the uniform, for a personal tattoo that represents me and the Beloved. The half-sleeve will be a compendium of my life, my children and grandchildren, things that are important to me. I feel that I have finally found an artist I can work with, whose style is very complementary to what I want my tattoo to look like.

So SIL and I bonded through ink and needles, as well as some amazing meals. She is seriously considering basing out of here once she’s out of school, as she will essentially freelance costume design–this keeps her from being limited to one company, one place. I also suspect that her (and Beloved’s) parents may also end up here, having both retired just this past May. They are already making tentative plans to come see us at the end of summer, beginning of fall–and I think SIL’s report will only encourage them to visit us. They want to live near their children, and since Beloved and I are already out here…and SIL may also be, just stands to reason that we will soon all have CA addresses.

This was the closest thing to a vacation we’ve had, almost ever, in our 4 years together. It was fun and tiring, happy and way too short–and I’m so glad we got to share it with her. We are looking forward to repeating the formula of good eats when the parents come out–and Beloved’s best friend, who is to visit us next month. How lucky are we, to have all this good food around us–and to be able to share it with the people who mean the most to us?

Now we rest up and recuperate, back to the usual schedule of doctor’s appointments and preparing for my SSDI adjudication the middle of August. Lots of memories were made this week and a half–and the last place we took SIL to, before putting her back on the airplane back to IL? The beach, of course.

Bay Drive Beach

A Kinder and More Gentle Life

I never promised any regular posting–which is good since I let all kinds of time slip past me these days. We all agree, Beloved and our two housemates, that time does not move in the same way here as it did in VA. It goes fast and it goes slow and we’re never really sure exactly what time it is. The days are long and short; it seems like we have several days before we have to be somewhere and then suddenly, somehow, another week has passed. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We are still getting used to the Life Pacifica. We are very gradually losing the frantic and hassled outlook on life. There’s something about living near the ocean that lends itself to a more natural pace. Life in VA was lived under the direct influence of Washington DC, with all of the characteristics of that blighted place. Too many people, too many of them so sure of their superiority, with the attendant arrogance in their attitude when dealing with anyone else. Too much hurry to get to the next thing, no matter what it was. No time for anything that wasn’t tied to the need, the driving urge, to move up the food chain–and the very well defined food chain of the citizenry.

If you make a lot of money, it’s not a bad place to live. If you don’t make a lot of money (in this case, we’re only talking about 50-60,000 dollars income per year. Only $50,000? Might as well be $500,00  or $50 million for those who don’t make it), anyway if you don’t make a lot of money, you’re totally screwed. You have to pay what you can for rent, never mind where you end up living–and then commute to work, which is another soul-searing, humanity killing part of living in the area. It’s not healthy and it’s really not meant to be for humans.

I tell you this so that you’ll understand that after more than 10 years of *that*, it’s taking me a while to let go of old habits and return to living in a better way, a more healthy way. Beloved and I still laugh about “rush hour” here, a daily occurrence that any driver in NoVA would sell his soul to be able to have–it might back traffic up for 2 or 3 extra minutes’ drive time. Not the 2 or 3 extra HOURS a bad day’s commute can give you back there. When we eat out, the wait staff is unfailingly polite and generally kind. There is no rush to get us out of the place, we can sit and talk without disturbing the routine.

I generally end up fumbling something when checking out of the grocery store. The people in line behind me wait patiently, without rude comments or flashing evil looks. And when I apologize, I get the same answer each time: “No worries, it’s okay.” And they MEAN it. They are genuinely willing to wait without letting me know that I have so inconvenienced them that I probably shouldn’t be allowed to even continue breathing.

Have I mentioned that we have a visible homeless population? (I won’t say sizable because I don’t know how many there truly are–but  it seems like a lot because as I tell people, we “don’t have homeless people in Northern Virginia”. Well, we do–but they are shamed, ignored, made to move on and generally pushed by the cops to go away and disappear.) So anyway, even the people who are asking for money are polite and kind about it, and if you tell them you don’t have anything to give them, they thank you and tell you to have a nice day. Not like the people who hang out at the metro stations and call you names if you don’t cough up some change. Not that I really blame them for having that kind of attitude, since the only thing worse than living at the poverty level in NoVA is living IN poverty there.

Money was a major factor for us deciding to come to the West Coast. We knew that there would be other benefits, like organic food and a steadier climate but the costs of living were the big reason to make that big a change. We hoped that it would be a slower and easier way of life but as I said, it’s taking a while to really accept that it is precisely that. I am trying to shed Virginian habits and become a true California Girl. I should remind you, or tell you if I haven’t, that I was conceived just down the coast in Monterey. My first assignment in the AF was also in CA, down way south at March AFB, Riverside — about 45  miles east of L.A. It has been like coming home. There was never any doubt that I belong here, that I will spend the rest of my life here. VA seems like a dream sometimes…

I have been mostly medicated for pain for a month. I still have yet to meet with the Pain Management Team and set up the full plan for dealing with my pain. It’s mostly focused in the degenerative arthritis in my spine. This means I cannot stand or walk for more than about 15-20 minutes at a time without having sciatica and neuropathy. It’s annoying to realize that I am being more active, doing  more–and it’s not seldom-used muscles that are giving me trouble. It’s a part of my body that exercise will not diminish the pain, that I can do much about at all. I wrote in my last blog that I had finally got to see my PCP. Well, she got things rolling for me on several levels. I have new wrist supports; I have seen the therapist and will soon be showing my ability to deal with an electric wheelchair (having determined to be a better match for me than a scooter for mobility assistance); I have had my lady part visit with the Women’s Health specialist at the clinic. I have an appointment for my hands (which hurt and are swollen more mornings than not) and I’m waiting to find out when I can get a new MRI for my back. The MRI and the hand clinic are both in San Francisco, at the central VA medical facility and I will coordinate the appointments so that we only have to drive down once to do them both. I am also waiting for a local appointment to get my eyes checked for the first time in almost 3 years. (I need new glasses…)

It is all progress, especially after losing healthcare insurance coverage before I was able to get into the VA system. And the VA medical care here is WAY better than what I was getting in Virginia. I call my care givers by their first name–which levels the playing field and makes me a part of a healthcare TEAM instead of being low man on the totem pole when it comes to making decisions about my care. The people all seem to be genuinely concerned about the care they are giving and view it as a service to veterans. I did NOT have that opinion of the staff at the Fredericksburg clinic. So anyway, let me update you on my meds, because except for the pain, it all seems to be working well. I am taking Vicodin 5 mg for pain, which is the limit dose because they are so afraid of addiction–and there is a real problem with it, so I understand that. I take Lasix for the swelling in my hands and ankles. I take loratidine for allergies; trazadone for sleep; gabapentin for the neuropathy. I take Venlafexine for depression and Hydroxyizine Pamoate for anxiety. The two psych drugs really do work well. The Hydroxizine used to was an antihistamine, but it’s being prescribed for lots of Vets with PTSD. It’s gentler than the “–zepams” (Valium, Xanax, Clonazepam) and doesn’t seem to have bad side effects. Now you know.

Beloved is also getting his health back in order, thanks to the ACA and expanded Medicaid. He is in physical therapy for his physical ailments, which means he gets to get into a pool kept at 92 degrees and do therapy twice a week; he has adjustments and stim/TENS with heat once a week. He reports that it’s making a difference after only 3 weeks of going. He is also getting his mental health in order, with weekly sessions with the psychologist, as well as two different group therapies, one for anxiety and one for bipolar disorder. He will finally get to see his psychiatrist on April Fool’s Day. No hidden meaning there, I’m sure! Beloved does agree with me that no matter how bad any one day may be, we are truly happy to be here and are content with the decision to move. No regrets…

Odds and ends:

We received a surprise gift of some money from Beloved’s godmother–she died from cancer and while that’s sad, we were glad to receive the bequeathed check. We have used it to get some things that catch us up to pretty much where we had hoped to be before we spent an extra week in the motel and had a rental car for 3 weeks which ate up our savings upon arrival here. Beloved has been very, very sweet, getting things to make the kitchen easier for me to work in and for him to help me with meal preparation. The single biggest improvement for us has been the appearance of new computers for both of us. Our old machines were ummm well, old. Mine was almost 7 years old, which in technology is practically another era. So we’re trying to get used to Windows 8 — after 4 years with an HTC Evo smartphone, I find it’s not that difficult. I am just not real thrilled at how we are moving more and more towards icons instead of words. Indicates a greater level of illiteracy in the general population, never a good thing.

We’re trying to make it to HUUF (the local Unitarian Universalists) more often. Went this week to find out that Starhawk (The author of “The Spiral Dance” and a Pagan celebrity) was going to lead OUR fellowship in the Spring Equinox ritual. As I said on Facebook, I knew we lived in a cool place; I didn’t realize it was that cool!

The weather has turned beautiful. The days are just cool enough to merit a light jacket, but sunny and it’s great to be out of doors. We live in a teeny tiny little village that has no lights so the night sky is amazing and awe-inspiring. I can see the moon from my window (when it’s out). It was raining this morning, but that’s cleared off and the sun is out. We’ll have temperatures between 45 and 60 degrees all week. This steadiness and constancy in the temperature means that when the weather changes, it’s not the sword-stabbing pain in the long bones of my legs like the extreme and sudden changes in VA caused. I can live with this!

I am both amused and grateful for how much organic food the local Costco carries. We get our apples there (Gala and Fuji); coconut oil is less than $25 for a gallon of it. We’ve discovered KettlePop organic kettle popcorn and are working on the 4th bag I’ve bought (A 20 oz bag, which for popcorn is a BIG bag!) I bought a case of Amy’s Organic (Vegan) chili–added grass fed pastured beef to it, of course. Organic produce, meat, snacks, cereals and a lot of other things that people who eat organic will look for, like chia seed, hemp oil, and etc. They have an amazingly wonderful organic vanilla ice cream from the local dairy (Humboldt Dairy brand) and it comes 2 half gallons in a box. NOM.

Beloved has two pans that look similar–they are both heavy cast aluminum, and the overall shape is almost square. The pan itself is what is different–it looks like a maze piece, with a “W” (or “M”) shape making the pan what it is called: The “All Edges” pan. We have one for brownies and one that is slightly larger and deeper for lasagna. I can report that they work very well, especially for the lasagna–they came with matching spatulas that fit precisely in the “tracks” of the pan and each piece you lift out is a work of art. Well, mine is anyways because I make kickass lasagna. Just saying. We’re having a conglomeration pasta dish today–left over meat sauce, with ricotta and mozerella cheeses mixed in, some sliced chicken sausage and of course, fresh grated Parmesan (both mixed in as well as laid on top). Baked for 50 minutes and then run it under the broiler to toast up the aforementioned Parm cheese.

We have the super duper bread maker from Breville, home of our super duper convection oven. It will of course make bread, but it will also make jams/jellies. I am looking forward to trying it out–and we’re going to have to, soon because we’re running out of bread and I’m not buying any more. If I can only restrain myself from eating it hot out of the maker, with butter dripping down my chin. Probably not…

The continued political and religious assaults on women is starting to really annoy me. It’s not about abortion or birth control; it’s about relegating half of our population down into second class citizenship. And once you can establish a lower class, you can throw anyone who isn’t “your type” down there: gays, immigrants, people of color. I like the meme that defines homophobia as “the fear that gay men will treat you the way that you treat women”. (Although frankly, you’re just not that cute.) Now I have to wonder if that concept needs to be expanded upon. Are men actively seeking to subjugate, limit, entrap and otherwise deny women equal rights because they’re afraid that if we women get those rights, we’ll treat them the way they’ve always treated us? If we can make our own choices for reproduction (or the prevention thereof), we will become as sexually indiscriminate and promiscuous as so many men are? Will we redefine ourselves, seeking our own kind of beauty and not pandering to the trophy status ideal? Will we be able to pursue a lucrative career, possibly shutting them out of promotion opportunities based on our superior abilities (and not on how well we can suck dick, as you all seem to think any successful woman MUST do)? Will we refuse to take on other people’s ideas, including yours, of what makes us women? Will we decide that being an unpaid housecleaner/cook/maid/nanny/sex object is no longer our dream? Will we stop needing men?

I can only hope so. And there’s nothing wrong in NOT needing men. The shame and the wrongdoing come from the necessity to “have a man” in order to be considered a “real woman”. More and more females are choosing to pursue their dreams–and their dreams don’t include that infamous “Mrs.” degree. I kinda suspect that this is the part that makes those men seeking to control women go crazy. I’m not even going to ask why a man wants to control a woman. No, the deeper and more meaningful question is this: What is about you, as a man, that makes you so afraid of females that you must ensure their total enslavement as necessary for civilization to go on? Are you afraid that women will take over and treat you in kind? And the gays? Will they do that too? And anyone who is “not you or your type” is a threat to this part of you.

As with the rape culture (dear gods, why did we even have to come up with this term?), the onus must be placed on the correct and originating source in order to actually fix the problem. In the rape culture, we HAVE to teach our females to protect themselves, but we NEED to teach males to NOT rape. That simple. The force that stops a rape shouldn’t have to be the victim. The perpetrator should never commit the crime. Likewise, in the war on women, we women are only reacting to an offensive (in every sense of the word) attack. We either have to so utterly triumph, so completely overcome the attack that the offender is smashed and defeated, unable to retaliate or launch another attack…or this will never end. Not from our side of it. The males who are firing the volleys, suggesting and enacting legislation to control women (and gays, and immigrants and etc) are the only ones who can end this war without the utter destruction continued attacks will eventually bring about.

What is it within you, Rand Paul? Paul Ryan? What is it within all of you men, elected representatives to your state or Federal governments that requires these outrageous and frankly insane attacks against 50% of your constituency? What is it within you, you pastors and ministers, that makes you act in a way that will drive someone, ANYONE, away from the Christian message of love and forgiveness for all? Why do you take Paul’s words (“A woman should learn in silence, don’t let women speak from the pulpit”) over the words of Jesus who instructs his followers to “love one another as I have loved you”?

And can we please get this settled before we blow up our own country with this ludicrous and dangerous divisiveness?

So I rambled off topic, sort of. I just ramble. Going to halt this one here so I’m not competing with “Gone With the Wind” or “War and Peace” for length. Life is good, life is sweet, even with disabilities and I hope your life is blessed and happy and peaceful. Namaste!

What Color Wetsuit Should I Get?

EverythingYouNeed

California diary, day 95: After 91 days, one unnecessary trip to the clinic and several phone calls, I FINALLY got to meet my new primary care nurse.  I was originally scheduled to be seen on the day after Christmas.  Which was cancelled without telling me, so I showed up for the appointment and had to turn around and go home.  Next attempted date of take-off?  January 22, the earliest window with a flight path for me.  Also cancelled.  Third time’s a charm, so they say and February 4th was mine.

So as a literary device and to get everyone updated on what happened while I was waiting, let’s step back into time and talk about January, since I’ve already told you about December.  (More Adventures and Updates from CA)

Beloved and I had a quiet dinner at the local Indian restaurant for New Year’s Eve.  Great food and then back home, when the ball dropped in our time zone, we had bubbly drinks, kissed and welcomed in 2014.  A week later, our friends from VA arrived after their cross-country trek and now we’re all living together.

Oh stop thinking those naughty thoughts!  It was always our intention to share living space with each other.  Like trouble, bills shared are bills halved.  When the original plan was formulated, we had no idea that the two of us, the path blazers and first away team (no red shirts, thank gods) would have to choose a place that is at best suited for two rather than four.  So it’s been an interesting month, getting the four of us settled into limited space within the odd layout of the apartment.  Compromise and a certain Japanese ability to politely ignore the genuine lack of real privacy are both being used as well as tested and adjusted to being used again.

Yes, it’s cramped and we sort of have to step over each other.  We go though their room to get to the kitchen; they come through ours to get to the bathroom.  Hmm bathroom; yeah, one toilet and one shower means a certain amount of planning for health and hygiene.  Ear plugs are de rigeur as we each have our own technology–and preferred websites.  With the minimalist approach to kitchen items, a favorite  dish or cup is often…in use by someone else.

On the other hand, there are extra hands to help with the things we either cannot do or have to plan carefully to do, like trash removal and washing the dishes.  Meals at home are much easier and more usual with help in the preparing and cooking of same.  Grocery shopping is shared, which also alleviates some of the anxiety for me, particularly when I’m having a bad day.

It’s also nice to have a concrete reason (so to speak) to at least make the effort to be more social, to make the efforts of conversation and discussion with someone besides each other.  It’s also been a benefit to them as they arrived without employment–and you cannot count on getting your dream job the first place you apply for.  (Or even the 10th, 27th or 136th.)  They have had the benefit of a place to live and food to eat without having to go into panic mode about the basic human needs.  (They also arrived with a good cushion of savings, the result of working 70 or so hours per week for the prior 3-4 months.)

So let’s segue into my doctor’s appointment.  Remember that my first VA PCP had removed me (cold turkey) from Vicodin last May?  And I have had to fight, scream and threaten (almost) to get anything resembling a regular amount of it since then?  And when I got here, I needed to have an appointment within about 4-6 weeks in order to have all medications as prescribed, without running out of them?  So it’s not a shock to anyone when I say that of course I ran out of medications?

Ergo, my condition as of 10 am yesterday morning was something along these lines: no Vicodin for most of January; no Gabapentin (Neurontin) for about 2 weeks.  That means no prescription pain medications for long enough to make me bitchy.  (Sorry, housemates and my mate.)  Instead, I was taking 4 Alleve per day.  And every medical person (or medically informed person) reading this just flinched.  Naproxen sodium is hell on your stomach and most doctors prefer that you do NOT use it as a maintenance drug.  I know this, but figure 4 of them is better than 12 to 16 Tylenol in the same time period.  (Which frankly does not stop my pain.  And I am allergic to ibuprofen (Advil) or I’d have to take about 6-8 of those.)

Therefore, I was unmedicated for pain.  In plain words, I hurt like hell, with knives being stabbed into my back (the arthritis) and general body aches and tender pressure points (all of them for the fibro test) hurting and making themselves heard.  I was anxious and stressed because I figured I had a battle on my hands to get back the pain meds I had used (been using for over 2 years) that worked.  (“Worked” being the most important word here; I tried Celebrex, a fairly hardcore pain med which did very little for me.  I’ve done all the OTC stuff and have had codeine, no effect and Darvocet, no longer made nor distributed.  Limits my choices.)

As with the psychiatrist and social worker, my healthcare provider is called by her first name.  I would suggest that everyone go to that method of interaction…because it puts the patient on a more equal level with the care provider.  Having to call the physician “Dr. Jekell” while s/he calls you “Fred” imposes a hierarchy of perceived authority and imbues the doctor with a certain godlike power.  And besides, my name’s not Fred.

It’s my body, it’s my life.  I will have at the VERY least a 50% say in what happens to both.  I view my healthcare providers for both my mental health and my physical health as working FOR me, and WITH me, to assure the very best, most appropriate plan of pain management, symptom alleviation or cure and general overall well being for ME.  This means that I have the final say in what I will (or will NOT) take from the great wide world of pharmacopoeia and what course of treatment or therapy I can and will follow.  I listen to the expert’s advice; I have the good fortune of having been in healthcare, so I have some experience in the field of my own to use as part of the information of my decision-making.  I do my own research about the healthcare I receive, to include the medications I am on.  And I don’t just look at one website to dismiss or verify it; it may be a shock to some of you, but not everything on the Interwebs is true or real.

Now back to the original story: it’s 10 am (yesterday) and I’m sitting in the Eureka VA clinic.  Alone because Beloved had his own doctor appointment at the same time.  Stressed and anxious because I’m alone and having to do this without an extra set of ears and eyes to help me; stressed and anxious because I fear having to battle for my own health and well being–and it’s really important to me to have a life as free from pain as I possibly can, within the limits of modern drugs.  (Herbal, natural and “old time” remedies are still possible for me but as a part of the Federal Government, the Veterans Administration cannot give me some leaves to chew on and a chunk of medicinal incense to burn.  Or even more plainly than that: if marijuana would replace every single one of the pills I’m on, I would consume only that–but I will not get it from the VA until such time as pot is legalized at a national level.)

To my credit (and my new anti-anxiety med), I am NOT talking like Russell Brand.  And once my appointment started, things went…amazingly well.  The nurse did took my vitals, started my (new and local) medical file.  A little more waiting, and then the nurse (I think she’s actually a nurse practitioner) came herself to escort me back to the treatment room.  She and I had a genuine conversation (we both got to speak!) about my medications.  She had already pulled up my records and taken some notes about what pills I was on.  (Unlike Beloved’s new doctor, who was handed HIS information in hard copy; Beloved is OCD and has enough medical stuff–history, med list, etc–that he writes it all down and gives it to EVERY health care provider he sees.  She didn’t even look at it but then she wanted him to answer questions that would have been completely covered by 5 minutes of reading those papers.  We are probably NOT staying with her once we can find someone else, hopefully recommended by a real person who loves their doctor and is willing to share.)

After my PCP and I talked about medications, I also told her about my other concerns, such as an eye exam and that desired mobility scooter.  We discussed everything and then, as the end to my appointment, she did the “doctor” thing of listening to my heart and lungs and looking into my ears and eyes.  You know, the basic check up stuff.  And I walked out of her treatment room…with stress and anxiety left behind.

Here’s why: nurse or not, she can (and did) write new scrips for every one of my medications.  Including the pain meds.  She also gave me immediate supplies of those pain meds to hold me until all the drugs can be sent from the central dispensary in San Francisco–takes it about a week to get to me.  The VA clinic here has a small pharmacy, with a limited inventory but they had the Gabapentin.  They do NOT carry and cannot give out Vicodin.  However, she wrote a scrip that the VA clinic pharmacy faxed across the street to the CVS where I went to pick it up (at no cost, of course).

We had agreed on the amount of Vicodin I would be given–which is 2 per day, with a bit of spare added in as an emergency 3rd pill on those days when the pain is that terrible and that prolonged that 2 just don’t cut it.  No fuss, no argument from her, no “I am not comfortable giving you that” like I had gotten from the VA doctor in VA.

Relief, blessed and prayed for relief of my pain.  Lack of anxiety because I can request refills or modifications to those pain pills as I need or want them.  Pretty much an immediate mood changer, to know that if I hurt, I have medication that works and I can take to stop the hurting.  (Or to be honest, stop it as much as it is ever stopped.  There is still a certain level of ache and pain, always has been.  No idea if pot, massage therapy, acupuncture or any other alternative therapy will truly and completely remove all the pain.  Not sure I’d know what to do with myself if it did.)

But wait, there’s more!

I had to see the clinic vampires…4 vials of blood and a pee in the cup to check pretty much everything of basic functioning, as well as test the thyroid (an all too common problem in women) and take a look at my blood sugar levels (and make sure that I’m not peeing out protein, a bad thing).

I have been given referrals for:
1.  Having my eyes checked for the first time in 2 years.  My new anti-anxiety med also causes blurry vision, so I spend most of my life with everything in a soft focus anyway.  Will probably end up with new glasses.
2.  Meeting with the pain management team to assess my pain and come up with my own, personalized pain management course of action.  We’ll start this as a video conference; if that doesn’t get the results we want, I’ll end up having to go down to Frisco to the central VA facility there.
3. Getting new parts for my CPAP machine.  Another video conference, this time with the “Chest” team, who apparently handles things related to breathing.  I hopefully will not need a new sleep study or it’s down to Frisco for that as well.
4.  A mobility scooter.  At least, she’s requesting it for me.  I will find out if it’s been approved…whenever they call me and tell me to come pick it up, or give me a voucher and I go pick it out at the local medical supply store.  However it works, so long as it works.  I’ll figure out how to get it in and out of the back of the van.  (And probably ask if the VA helps to pay for any modification to our vehicle required to make that possible.  Thank the gods we have this van, the perfect car for us that we didn’t know to specifically ask for.)
5.  A new medication for my GERD.  I have been taking ranitidine, which just doesn’t deal with all of my stomach issues adequately.  I am back on the med I took when I was first diagnosed with reflux, that little purple pill Prilosec.  Except that my bottle says “omeprazole” and the pills are pink and white.

Can you imagine how light I felt, leaving there yesterday?  Can you imagine how happy I feel today, having had my Vicodin and knowing that if I still hurt or the pain increases again, I can take another one and not have to meter them out because I’ll run out before I can get more?  That small, simple white capsule allows me to let go of the myopic view of life, focused through a lens of pain.  It allows me to refocus on other things.  And I’m sitting here, thinking about all the things I want to do now.  And if I’m not careful, I’ll end up hurting worse by doing too much all at once.  Sigh.

Hope and fear are so very closely related…one leads to a positive ending and the other a negative, but the general feeling is about the same until the results are known.  I was so afraid that I had to continue what had been an uphill, unwin-able battle to deal with my fibro and all of its attendant issues.  I was terrified that I would have to continue living in nearly unbearable pain, which has makes it very hard to have anything resembling a “normal” life–including personal hygiene and activities of daily living.  It was nigh unto impossible to feel hopeful, with the expectation of a good outcome given the prior experiences I have had with the VA health system.

All I can tell you is that while they may all be under that vast umbrella called the VA, the two clinics could not be more disparate.  And I absolutely prefer this one; ALL of the staff is genuinely kind, pleasant and trying to do all within their power to help.  They seem to view their jobs as happy and willing service to the veterans in this community and NOT as metering out a few paltry pills from their WWII stock to the “takers” who are trying to get all they can from the teat of “Uncle Sugar” (like they did in VA; this attitude difference occurs in almost everything *here* versus almost everything *there*, not just at the VA).  They work for and with the veterans to ensure the best possible care for each patient, to help the vet have the best quality of life within the limits of their health issues, both mental and physical.

And I have never been more glad that this (unexpected) benefit of my time in the Air Force was worth the effort of applying for it and continuing to use it.  Without it, I would have had no pain medications for almost a year now.  None at all.  Zip, nil, naught, zero.  They have given me all the medications I need; I have a new blood pressure cuff (to replace one in a box somewhere in the storage locker or the in-laws house in VA).  If my blood test does turn up diabetes, they will give me all the paraphernalia for that.  They will provide me with a scooter if I qualify–and I both understand and approve of a qualification requirement, as there is only just so much money in this pot and it should be used according to need.  While mine is great to me, how much greater is the need of a soldier returning from war without legs?  If there’s only enough money for one scooter, give it to the soldier.  I realize that this is a little simplistic, but you get what I’m trying to say?

Instead of having limitations set by pain and the fear of more pain after exertion, I can focus on doing the things I want and need to do.  I will try to pace myself so that I don’t end up in more pain through my stubbornness or asserted ignorance of the effort required.  I may very well end up making a list of all that I want to do and then categorizing and prioritizing it by what can be done now, with the small energy I have–and what will have to wait until later, when I have more days in a row without that insistent, all-consuming pain, riding on my back like a leech and blocking any chance of doing something without it hurting.

What will I do?  I want to clean up our room.  Like, move things around, sweeping the floor and then mopping it.  I want to rearrange my desk and the Pelican cases I use as a dresser.  I want to stand and cook an entire fabulous meal without having to stop in the middle–or hand off to my sous chef to complete.  I want to explore the local thrift stores, which requires walking and lots of it.  (Or a scooter, carefully driven through the aisles.)  I want to go to the beach and look for stones and shells.  (Probably NOT on a scooter, so this one requires some time to work back up to being able to walk longer than 5-10 minutes and especially on a surface that is not stable nor firm.)  I want to be able to go to HUUF every week because the prior days have not sapped all energy and ability to get around out of me.

Nothing particularly earth-shattering or even particularly requiring of tremendous effort.  Just the small moments of life that we each live, but having them without the terrible pressure of untreated pain.  And for the first time in almost a year, I feel…hopeful.  I have more faith in a positive outcome because I finally have healthcare providers that are providing my health CARE.  I did not move to CA to spend all my life inside the four walls of my home.  We did a great deal of that in VA and the desire to get out, to be outside, to be out among other people, was a prime consideration in the decision to move.

Now I have the ability to make that decision real.  And Beloved’s doctor’s appointment went just as swimmingly as mine.  His was for the psychologist and was very rewarding for him.  There will be support group meetings as well as individual counseling; they will help him find more coping mechanisms, as well as alternate behaviors for handling the effects of his mental disease.  The doctor gave him a more precise, more detailed label for his disability–and the better you can define something, the greater the chance you have of finding how to accommodate the reality of that disability.

Accommodate the reality of the disability.  That’s the only way, really, to live a life that has limitations beyond the norm.  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, truly and universally, we ALL need to live in a way that accommodates the reality (the REAL reality) of our lives, whether we have a disability or not.  How many people you know are unhappy or angry because their lives are one reality, but their minds (and emotions) insist upon another?

Beloved and I are slowly, with the help of other generous, knowledgeable and caring people, gathering up the tools to accommodate our reality.  And we shall eventually, perhaps sooner than I can imagine, have a life that is peaceful, balanced and (dare I say it?) normal.  HA–I don’t want to be normal.  But I would like a life that allows me to do the things I want to do, the things I need to do, without using superhuman effort–and failing–to ignore the reality of my disability unaided.

There is a life outside of fibromyalgia’s limits.  There is a life beyond having BiPolar type I, Category B with OCD–and stress anxiety disorders for both of us.  What does this life have?  Anything I want, as long as I remember, understand and accept the limitations of my own health, our own health.

Can I order my wet suit and board now?

More Adventures and Updates from CA

It’s December in Eureka.  Well, it’s December everywhere, but I’m in Eureka.  It’s been colder than usual and the locals are complaining about the hard winter.  Nobody here owns a winter coat, so even when the mercury dipped down into the 30’s we still saw people in short and flip-flops, shivering as they walked down the street.

We’re getting settled in, forming a “Eureka” routine.  Learning where stuff is in the local grocery store, discovering that we don’t necessarily have to plan our errand route in a specific order because if we miss one, even if it’s back across town?  That’s only about 2 miles at the very most.  Distances confuse us, used as we are to dealing with that as the measure of how long it takes to get from one place to another.  (In VA, it was the only way to know how much time to allot.  And if you missed a stop on your list, it could mean backtracking 15-20 miles.)

I can sit at my desk and look out the window…and see water.  We have a lively crowd of birds who come to eat the seed spread by my neighbor in the middle of the road.  No, he’s not hunting fowl for dinner…it really is that small a podunk town (about 1/4 square miles total area, with less than 300 residents).  No traffic to speak of.  We know when someone is walking by because all the dogs sound an alarm.  Or are asking to be pet, depending on your point of view.

I’m still having stress anxiety issues.  I don’t mind being outside, or going places–as long as I am not having to actually interact with more than about 3 people.  So that means going into the grocery store can be hard on me.  I manage it most of the time by keeping my head down and staying “inside a bubble”, looking only at the shelves and floor.  If I have to look at people, watch out for other carts and keep adjusting my motion through the store to accommodate the other shoppers…it eventually freaks me out.

I got an “emergency” appointment with my new psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago.  (Side note: we are in CA, land of the hippies.  I address my social worker and psychiatrist by their first names.  VERY informal, even at the VA.)  I am on a new anti-anxiety med (Hydroxyzine Pamoate).  It began life as an antihistamine, but is used a lot for the Vets who have PTSD.  Seems to be working for me, although as an antihistamine, it comes with the warning about the sleepies (and it does affect me that way) and it also can caused blurred vision.  Yup, got that too.  But I do feel like it actually does something, which I never could prove with the clonazepam.

I get to meet my PCP the day after Christmas.  I am already making a list of things we need to talk about: pain management, a scooter for me, an assessment of the meds I”m on.  My psychiatrist told me that the VA (here) takes pain management very seriously–and is willing to use non-traditional methods to get it.  They will cover chiropractors, accupuncture and massage therapy.  WOW!  She also told me that I should use ANY herbal supplements I find helpful (code word for medical marijuana, or MMJ as I’ve seen it mentioned) as long as I keep her in the loop so that she can make sure there’s no bad interactions with my pharmaceuticals.

I need a scooter because walking, while not particularly making my legs hurt, does cause back spasms and sciatica.  I can feel exactly where the degenerative arthritis is, in my spine.  And since most of the retail stores here are not national chains, they don’t have handicap access carts.  The grocery store has one, which means I can’t do the Beloved and Me show for shopping that is usually our habit.  (He can’t walk the store, either.)

On the plus side of things, we like our apartment.  We like the town itself.  (Both our little baby town and Eureka!)  We like the people–they are kind, polite and very friendly.  We are eating better, and our health is improving (I think) because of it.  The cost of living is much cheaper so there is less stress about money…let’s talk a little more about that.

There is less long term stress about money.  We know that we can make it on Beloved’s SSDI and my LTD.  However…I am up for review by the insurance’s “Any Occupation” board, in which they try to tell me that I can go back to work and I tell them, no I cannot if only because I’m on narcotics for pain relief.  I shouldn’t drive.  I don’t do much of it as Beloved handles the transportation.  I cannot walk or stand for longer than about 15 minutes.  I still nap frequently.  I freak out around groups of people (more than 4-6 other people–big group, eh?).   Tell me which job you think I can handle, that fits my skills, experience and training and who would hire me.  Hopefully, they will see my point of view and agree with me, granting me “real” LTD (good until 2028, when I become eligible for Social Security, based on age not disability).

If I am rejected (and told to go back to work), we become immediately eligible for a lot of Social Services.  Which would cover the difference in income, and we can manage to live here comfortably with that assistance.  We are both signed up for the ACA and need to find out, on Jan 1, with the rest of the nation, just exactly what we are eligible for in healthcare.  Between that and the VA, I am seriously COVERED.  But Beloved will finally have health insurance again, so we can begin to deal with some of his medical needs.

The cost of an extra week in the hotel and 2 extra weeks of renting a car have really come back to hit us hard.  It burned up money we needed for deposits and down payments, some of which we ended up having to borrow to be able to get things like the car.  So we have reached a point where we have month left at the end of our money–never a good thing, since the idea is to have money left at the end of the month.  Sigh.

We have food to eat, no problems there.  But bills are due and will have to paid the minute any checks come in.  (Mine, his or the returned deposit from our last apartment, which hasn’t shown up yet and is more than overdue according to the complex’s manager and her own timeline.  Le Sigh.)  And there is no extra money at all, for presents to each other in this holiday season or even getting some of the household items we need.  Things that you don’t truly realize that you need to have, until you need to use them.  Kitchen towels.  Potholders.  A Scotchpad to scrub recalcitrant food off of dishes.  A toilet brush.  Soap dish.  Colander.  (I’m using a scoop sieve to deal with noodles, but something I can just pour the food and water into and let it handle the draining water would be nice.)  Just little stuff.  That doesn’t include the inevitable restocking of the spices and nonperishable pantry (stock) items.

On the other hand, when I do get to purchase these things, I get to choose what I want.  For the past 32 years, all of my kitchen towels were given to me, I didn’t pick out a single one.  Now I can go get whatever my little heart desires.  I left the potholders I had made 30 years prior behind in VA.  I will get new ones.  Or make new ones.  So there!  And I don’t have to get them at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I’m totally okay with the dollar store.  As long as the towels dry my stuff and the potholders keep me from burning myself, that’s fine.

So it’s the holidays.  Beloved and I got some early presents from his folks.  They sent us our new convection oven (http://www.brevilleusa.com/the-smart-oven-r.html) and it is the bomb.  We also got a variable temperature kettle (important because every kind of tea requires a different degree of heat to brew to its perfect state.  And coffee should never be boiled; it is made at 200 degrees.  Those 12 degrees make a huge difference in its taste.) that we use almost daily ( http://www.brevilleusa.com/variable-temperature-kettle.html).  His parents got us every accessory for the oven and even bought us the “Brownies with all edges” AND “Lasagna with all edges” pans.  (http://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Edge-Nonstick-Brownie-Pan/dp/B000MMK448)

We plan on getting the Breville breadmaker as well.  The local, organic and non-GMO loaves of bread are wonderful, tasty…and expensive.  It’s about $5 a loaf.  We can make the same thing for less than a dollar a loaf (for ingredients).  And we eat enough bread to make that breadmaker a worthwhile investment.  We’re also talking about getting a Belgian waffle maker; the prices have come down considerably since Beloved bought one for his parents ($90 then, about $25 now…) and it’s a quick and easy way to have a carb for a meal.  And once I get a good recipe for the mix, I can make either sweet waffles or savory.  Chicken and gravy on waffles is GOOD!

Like I said, we’re good for food.  And we have a roof over our head.  So life is pretty good.  Yes, having less than a dollar in our accounts is stressful, but once the checks hit, we’re fine.  We continue to learn how to live a life without all the mad, stupid amounts of stress we had in VA, to slow down to a pace of life that is easier to deal with.  And it’s not just us imposing this slow down–the general pace of things out here is slower, gentler.  And no one seems to be rushing anywhere (except the HSU students and they are not locals).

We have our computers, as old and beat as they are; we have our phones (new and awesome, but not really usable in the apartment due to old wiring interference).  We have a place to live, food to eat and a reliable source of transportation.  We have each other.

Is it everything we hoped for?  No.  Is it even half of what we thought it would be?  No.  BECAUSE there were things we have that we didn’t even know to ask for.  Because there are things which have turned out to be important to us that we had not considered.  Is it a better life than we had in VA?  A resounding YES.  Do we regret moving out here?  No way.  Besides, I still have to learn how to surf.

Namaste!