The Introverted Activist: Back In the Game

I dropped out of the political scene a bit ago.  I went to Detroit for a week in February for Amphibian Management School. After a whole week of being off social media and news, it was way too hard to pick it back up again. I have tried. I have dipped my toe in the water once or twice. But then I became so depressed that I could barely get out of bed, and it just didn’t seem worth it. That’s the definition of White Privilege, isn’t it? Being able to turn it off for a while? But I’m back.  I can’t afford not to be anymore.

To be quite frank, the Senate’s version of the healthcare reform bill is terrifying. And evil. Gutting Medicaid? 40% of kids with disabilities are on Medicaid. Essential Health Benefits removed? So prenatal care is no longer considered a basic human right. While we’re at it, why not cut more from Planned Parenthood? So more women will be getting pregnant, having to stay pregnant, but not receiving the care they need to ensure a healthy baby? This is ridiculous.

Apply head to desk. Repeat.

And then there’s me. I am a walking pre-existing condition. I have asthma, but I also have a chronic, hereditary liver condition that can (unpredictably) affect pretty much any system in my body. So I get shoved into a high-risk pool because of my genetics, even though I take good care of myself and have only been hospitalized once. I’ll pay more for insurance. Because let’s face it, no insurance company is going to provide benefits at lower costs than they have to just out of the goodness of their hearts. And if I do begin to have more issues, I could be capped a million dollars over my lifetime.  Anybody know how quickly you can hit a million dollars in health costs? Imagine having an expensive disability. Once you hit the cap, it’s all out of pocket. People will have to decide whether to eat or get health care, and that’s not one tiny bit hyperbole.

 

What I did this week:

  • Signed the online petition asking Angela Merkel to lead the other 19 countries in committing to a cleaner planet at G20. I’m not a big believer in petitions here in the US because too often they aren’t designed to lead to action. But this one allows me to put some hope in someone who can DO something.  It took under a minute, and it’s terribly encouraging to see the numbers of signers going up in real time.

 

  • I called my Senators. A bunch of times. I left messages because I can’t get through to real people normally, which is fine. When I’ve gotten hold of my Republican Sentators’ Republican staffers, they sound bored. But the message on the machine is upbeat. This week, my theme has been the health care bill. First, I asked that they say a big, fat NO. Then I asked that they push the vote until AFTER the recess to give more people time to read what’s IN it. Seriously. Spinning it behind closed doors like some twisted Rumpelstiltskin, holding the BIG REVEAL on Thursday, then trying to railroad it through a vote in under a week? Nuh-uh. Want to call your Senators? Find them here.

 

  • Then I called the Senate Finance Office at 202-224-4515. They are tallying calls on people asking for a PUBLIC forum on the health care bill.  At least if they hold public forums and still screw us over, it will be obvious that they were planning to railroad us all along. The harder they make denial for some of our citizens, the better off we will all be. 25% of Americans have no idea what’s in the health bill currently.

 

What did you do this week? Shout it out in the comments, even if it was “I took care of myself and stayed away from politics.” Because we all have permission to rest and recover. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Or maybe not marathon. Cage-match, perhaps?

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Unlocking Bellatrix: A Rescue Story

I have two disclaimers here. The first: I don’t recommend getting a pet at Christmas under most circumstances, especially a rescue pet who can carry some emotional baggage. It’s such a nutty time of year. A new pet needs time, peace, quiet to adapt to their new surroundings. I made the decision to bring Bellatrix home the day after Christmas because I was off of work for nine days, and my kids were leaving home for most of that time.

My second disclaimer: this post is sponsored through a partnership with Nakturnal. Wag.com has info and deals on the  best cat litter boxes for odor control on their website. Click on through. They also offer for sale tons of other goodies for cats (I’m getting the kitty girls a giant cat tree from them after Christmas -Shhh! Don’t tell!)  and other critters.

And let me catch you up! Two years ago in August, we adopted Pixel.She is strange and wonderful, and I can’t imagine life without her. Shortly after adopting her, I sent a note to the rescue group we got her from. thanking them for our furry little weirdo. I received a note back telling me that her sister was still available. Which led to this post.

So I brought Bellatrix home the day after Christmas. She was about eight months old and roughly the size of a cross town bus. She hid under the bed for a few hours once she was released from her carrier.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Bellatrix was out of sorts the day she came home. New cats, new people, new smells and noises.

I knew that Bellatrix, formerly “Cocoa,” had been returned to the rescue program because she was the wrong fit. The family had gotten her “for the kids,” all of whom were under the age of 6. They brought her back to Happy Paws because she ran from the children and wouldn’t let them pick her up. I don’t necessarily think they were bad people, but animals aren’t toys. What I didn’t know was how long it would take to earn her trust.

Bellatrix and Pixel fell into step immediately, like they had never been separated. Pixel’s favorite thing was to wrap Bella’s head with her paws and give her a good ear washing. Bella was cool with it.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Bella says this is the life. Pixel says “Don’t you ever wash your ears, cat?”

Bellatrix was also very happy lying beside me in bed, especially by my feet. She adored being petted, but make a sudden move, and she’d vanish into thin air. And we could forget about picking her up.  She simply couldn’t tolerate it.

But as sad and damaged as she was, there was still a little kitten hidden deep inside, just waiting to be let out, a playful little kitten full of mischief and silliness. Every now and again, I’d get a glimpse of that baby kitten when Bella dragged a bow out of the cat toy basket and batted it around the living room. She’d play with joyful abandon for a moment or two, and then she’d run off like she was afraid she was in trouble. And if she thought she had displeased us, she would hide.

My kids encouraged her to play, with shoe laces, with a feather cat toy, in boxes. And gradually, she let them join in her games, chasing yarn balls and playing with string. Over time, she started letting them pet her, too. But hugs and kisses were still too threatening. Try to give her a gentle squeeze, and she’d bolt.

I began sharing my breakfast with her, spooning a wee bit of milk onto the table. She climbed up in a chair to get it. While she drank, I would sneak in a few head scratches. Yeah, I fed my cat on the table. But my goal was to make her as entitled as a cat has a right to be.

Then one day I was sitting in the kitchen minding my own business when this happened:

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Look! She’s letting me HOLD HER! It only took 8 months to get to this point.

And from there, my Bella began to unfold. She still doesn’t let me pick her up, but she wants me to love her. It just has to be on her terms. She yells at me when she thinks my idle hands could be put to good use petting her. She hides under our bed at night now, but not because she is afraid. She hides so that the Padawan won’t find her when it’s time to put the cats downstairs in the family room for the night. She wants to spend the night in the big bed with her people.

She’s more playful than ever and rather a genius. At night there is no one to throw a toy for her, so she has problem-solved her own game. She found a Nerf ball from the Padawan’s Nerf Reactor blaster. She carries it to the top of the stairs and lets it go. It bounces down the stairs with a Jelly-Bella in hot pursuit. Then she runs up the stairs with it and lets it go again. For hours. On wooden stairs. In the middle of the night. But she’s playing! And happy! So happy that the kids want to get her an entire pack of Reactor balls for Christmas.What is loss of sleep compared to a rescue cat who is finally beginning to enjoy herself? She makes me smile.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

So many teeth marks in that ball! Does anyone know where I can get more of these things?

And is she entitled yet? You tell me.

Bellatrix is a wonder and a joy, the gift that keeps on giving. Tell me your favorite rescue pet story. I want to hear it!

 

Surviving Depression Part II, Holiday Edition

This one could be subtitled “I’m going to make it.”

My chronic condition has had a flare-up, and the psychiatric symptoms are the worst part. There’s no filter. Every sense is on edge. Everything from the keyboard touching my wrist to the stale perfume of the lady sitting next to me at the movies piles up on me until I’m ready to run screaming. But there are good things in my life, too. I’m not filtering those out, either. There is so much good.

Pandora wears a Santa hat because she loves me

Pandora wears a Santa hat because she loves me

Lucky penny I found on the sidewalk. Heads up, so all the luck is still in it!

Lucky penny I found on the sidewalk. Heads up, so all the luck is still in it! Maybe it’s a wishing penny, too. I wished on it. I’ll let you know.

This guy? This gloomy Gus? That's the Padawan. He was asked by his STEM teacher to submit his project idea to the university because he thinks it might be a lead on a cure to certain cancers.

This guy? This gloomy Gus? That’s the Padawan. He was asked by his STEM teacher to submit his project idea to the university because the teacher thinks it might be a lead on a cure to certain cancers. Like, really.

I have a job where a business trip sends me to places where I can see this.

I have a job where a business trip sends me to places where I can see stuff like this.

One of my Chinese Crocodile Lizards just birthed eleven of these tiny things. They're livebearers. I'll share more in a separate post.

One of my Chinese Crocodile Lizards just birthed eleven of these tiny things. They’re livebearers. I’ll share more in a separate post.

My darling Ravenclaw. I don't know how we got on without her. She plays fetch with that balled up pipe cleaner for hours.

My darling Ravenclaw. I don’t know how we got on without her. She plays fetch with that balled up pipe cleaner for hours.

Baby radiated tortoise hatching. Can you see her closed eye? She is sleeping and waiting to break out of the egg!

Baby radiated tortoise hatching. Can you see her closed eye? She is sleeping and waiting to break out of the egg!

Obama/Biden memes. These have made post-election life bearable.

Obama/Biden memes. These have made post-election life bearable.

Birthday doughnuts! The day after my birthday, so the magic lasted EVEN LONGER!

Surprise birthday doughnuts! The day after my birthday, so the magic lasted EVEN LONGER!

Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

No photo for this one, but I got to take Squish to his first Star Wars movie in a theater. He watched the trilogy for his birthday a few years ago, now he reads the books, watches Rebels, and obsesses about Boba Fett. It was a privilege to take him to Rogue One. He was SO excited! Every time he saw an Easter egg or a familiar character, he hit me in the arm and looked at me with a look of shock and wonder.

And I have a husband who went out to get me a Waffleberry Brownie Blast because I asked him to. I am lucky. And Christmas is coming. I’m settling into the joy of the season.  Even if it’s hard at times, the joy of the season is still there. It gets buried, but it’s there.

What brings you joy? Here’s to the end of 2016

I just joined a blog hop, and you can, too. Here are your instructions, should you choose to accept them (please accept!).

From Dawn at Tales from the Motherland: “To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the InLinkz tool at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. (folks have trouble with this, but it’s not that hard. 4)Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 3, 2017. After that date, no blogs can be added.”

Inlinkz Tool Here

I can’t wait to read about the things you are grateful for.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!!

It’s fine if you politely decline to answer that question. If you know me in real life, you probably have an entire list. It’s cool with me if you keep it to yourself. No, I insist. Seriously, STOP TALKING!

So here’s my problem. I am home alone. Okay, that right there is not the problem. Home alone means getting stuff done. Or it should. I had a list of wanna-do kinds of things. I want to write some, do a bit of NaNo prep, work on my digital scrapbook, get some exercise, make a pizza, do some dishes. You know, nothing much.

But here I sit, bound, tied, gagged by anxiety. The worst part if it is, I don’t even know WHY. There is no single, logical thought that has become my tripping hazard. So in an effort to contain this prickly beast that feels like electricity in my chest, I blog. It’s a Sunday, it’s beautiful weather, people are busy with Halloween parties and their own NaNo prep, so I don’t even have the pressure of having people read this post. So it’s good.

If you have never experienced inexplicable anxiety, this is kind of what it looks like.

Why am I anxious? It could be because…

  • I haven’t processed the Padawan’s new diagnosis and made my peace with it
  • The Girl-Child is on a camping trip
  • The Girl-Child seemed ill-prepared for this camping trip
  • The Girl-Child may get eaten by a bear
  • If Girl-Child isn’t eaten by a bear, I have to drive her to Chattanooga when she gets home
  • The boys are on a hike without me to try to complete their 100 mile challenge
  • Their dad may poop out early and call it quits and they won’t get their 100 miles
  • I will be forced to rally the troops next Sunday and lead them to the finish line myself
  • If I am forced to lead them across the finish line, I will be missing valuable NaNo writing time
  • This is the first NaNoWriMo in which I have absolutely zero ideas speaking to me
  • What if I start NaNo and can’t finish for the first time ever?
  • What if I start NaNo and I struggle every, single night to get the words down?
  • I have not managed to stay awake past 9pm for the last 3 months. How will I complete NaNo?
  • I should be working on my mom’s scrapbook, but it means I have to upload photos
  • Once the photos are uploaded, I have to arrange them on the page
  • After the photos are arranged on the page, I have to CAPTION them
  • What if I die during the scrapbooking/NaNoWriMo/Hiking challenge?
  • Can I arrange to be eaten by a bear?
  • What if the baby kitties get fat?
  • Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

    Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

  • What if my cinnamon tree cutting dies?
  • Can I order cinnamon trees online?
  • What if it gets too cold and dies in transit and the company I bought it from refuses to refund me because I should have known better?
  • Can I grow cinnamon from seed?
  • If I grow cinnamon from seed, I’m supposed to plant them immediately because they have limited viability. But they aren’t supposed to be planted until Spring. And then it takes a month or more for them to sprout
  • What if the seeds are all dead and it’s too late to complain and leave feedback on Ebay?
  • What if I never own the Charlie Brown Funko figure where he’s dressed as a ghost?
  • Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can't have you!

    Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can’t have you!

  • What if I spend all day worrying and never get anything done?
  • What if I don’t get good pictures of the new Radiata hatchlings at the zoo?
  • Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

    Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

  • Speaking of new hatchlings, that reminds me I’m supposed to scrapbook for the department. I need to compile photos into a concise album to make that process easier. Easier? Suddenly it feels the very opposite of easy
  • Also speaking of new hatchlings… My new baby Neon Day Gecko – what if the parents eat it?Are there two new ones? What if they are eaten by spiders?
  • Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

    Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

  • What if we are ALL EATEN BY SPIDERS?
  • What if one day while I am hanging upside down to do water changes in the big exhibit, the driftwood becomes so weak that it collapses and everyone sees me fall into the water?
  • What if NO ONE sees me and I drown and my face gets eaten by the turtles?
  • What if I can’t find all the fun photos I want to add to this post?
  • What if I do find them, but my storage is all eaten up and I can’t post them?
  • What if I have to wash my hair again tonight?
  • What if I am out of shampoo and CAN’T wash my hair tonight?
  • What if my ENTIRE family is eaten by bears? It’s bear season, and maybe my whole family put on their best acorn underwear for their big hiking/camping trips?
  • What if Sonic runs out of dark chocolate/potato chip/pretzel Blasts?
  • What if I eat the Blast and it goes straight to my bum and none of my pants fit me anymore?
  • What if it never gets cold again?
  • What if it gets cold and I am very, very sorry that it is cold because I wear shorts all winter and end up with chilblains?
  • What if I never learn what chilblains are? But spellcheck does, so I know it’s a thing
  • What if my headache/anxiety/neuropathy/memory loss never go away?
  • What if I never get an idea for NaNo and the muse has left me and I never got to write again and my new computer sits on my writing table sad and dejected?
  • What if I go outside to go for a walk and a walnut falls out of the tree, hits me on the head, and renders me unconscious in the middle of the road?
  • What if I go to the gym to work out because walnuts typically don’t fall in the gym, but the bean burrito I ate last night makes its presence known and all the other members die of methane poisoning and I go to jail for premeditated foofing?
  • What if I don’t make it to Target in time for the post-Halloween 90% off sale and all the pet costumes are gone and Ravenclaw and Pandora are stuck being naked for the rest of their lives?
  • Okay, so maybe they won't be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    Okay, so maybe they won’t be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    pandora_the_bat

  • What if I can’t figure out a super-cool Halloween costume?
  • What if we go trick-or-treating and kids come by our house and no one is home, so they egg the place?
  • What if we buy a million bags of candy and we have no trick-or-treaters, so I am forced to eat the candy myself because I take one for the team, and then I get fat?
  • What if the MRI costs $10,000 and insurance doesn’t cover it and we are stuck in debt again?
  • What if my chest actually bursts apart with the electricity that is building in it?

Is it too late to sign up to get eaten by a bear? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about a costume because I would be Winnie’s Poo. Also, now I want a hermit crab.

 

 

Hallmark Really Dropped the Ball Here.

Why doesn’t Hallmark have a “Dear Son, I’m Sorry For Peeing In The Gene Pool” card? They’ve missed the boat here. I owe the Padawan a greeting card at the very least.

So I got up last Friday to discover that the Padawan was already up. I should have seen a red flag waving right then. This is the kid who hasn’t willingly seen a sunrise since he became aware the earth actually revolves around the sun. But he was up.

When he asked his dad for “mutton chops supreme,” we made an appointment with the doctor. When he began hallucinating that his dad was light saber dueling with Squish, we went on the the Emergency Room. When he told us that Iron Man was abandoned by his parents at the age of one because they were billionaires and couldn’t be bothered to put him up for adoption, we were certain he was going to die. Kid knows his super heroes. Usually.

A billionaire says "Huh?" My parents didn't give me up for adoption, dude.

A billionaire says “Huh My parents didn’t give me up for adoption, dude. And also, where did your mother learn to draw?”

They ran a few tests. The first was an EEG. We sat in on it, eyes glued to the screen, pretending we knew exactly what we were looking at as the computer scribbled out patterns like the world’s most expensive etch-a-sketch. The computer drew graceful lines here, a few frantic scribbles there, every once in a while the cursor backing up the screen and marking places of interest. Sometimes the parallel lines intersected. Was that bad? Sometimes they were slow and sleepy, sometimes they bounced around like an itch his brain was trying to scratch.

I tried not to look at the socks on his feet, the ones I had had to put on for him that morning because he was unable to follow simple directions well enough to dress himself. They were his brother’s socks,the only ones I could find in a hurry, too small for him, grey heel and toe not quite lining up, rather like the child whose brainwaves we studied with such intensity.

The boy in the bed was a stranger to me, like someone had been called on to impersonate our son but didn’t have the act down pat yet, words a little too sharp, expression guarded, as if he didn’t quite know who we were, either.v The lights were on, but no one was home. And at that moment, my biggest concern wasn’t whether he would survive, but whether or not I would ever get back the son that I knew.

God is good. All the stars were in alignment that day. Not only did they have openings for MRI and EEG (usually it takes a week or more to schedule each because they only have one machine), the neurologist himself just happened to be present for the whole test. He was the one responsible for the screen backing up at seemingly random points, and he saw what he needed to see. He came and got us in the middle of the test.

A seizure, he said, judging by the irritability of the brainwaves. Really? How is he different? Aren’t all teenagers irritable? Now we had an answer that begged another question. A seizure, but why?

We went back to the ER to wait for the MRI to tell us whether the Padawan’s rare blood disorder could have caused an intercranial tumor. I had to stop him from messing with the IV in his arm. He rolled his eyes and complained that I was fussing over him. For the first time in hours, he sounded like himself.

I smiled, the terrifying episode over.

“Awww,” he cooed suddenly. “Look at the leopard geckos on that guy’s shoulders!”

Okay, so not QUITE over. But mostly. The MRI was clear. No tumor. The ER doctor was patient and encouraging as he gave us our parting instructions.

Fast forward to today and our follow-up appointment. Epilepsy. Genetic. What? No one in this family has crappy genes. Oh, wait…

This smile is supposed to be ingratiating, not supremely creepy. Looks like I missed the mark here, too.

This smile is supposed to be ingratiating, not supremely creepy. Looks like I missed the mark here, too.

Will the real genetic train wreck please stand up?

The Padawan (in orange) is my not-so-mini-me.

The Padawan (in orange) is my not-so-mini-me.

Ummm. Let’s see. Things known to be inherited…

Who has asthma?

That’s me.

Poor vision? Worn glasses since kindergarten AND had an eye patch?

Right-o!

Depression?

Here.

What about severe allergies?

Yep, me, too.

Liver disorder with 50% rate of inheritability most people have never heard of that could cause… what is the word I’m looking for…seizures?

Me again. Can we stop now?

Thinning hair?

That’s – hey, wait. That might be his dad.

Looks like the Padawan got cursed with more than just my stunning good looks. ***

We ran a few errands today after the doctor’s appointment, then we got treats at McDonalds. I gave him my Happy Meal, though. If he’s going to get something deadly from me, it might as well be a cheeseburger.

 

***true story. He saw a photo of me as a little girl and said “Aww, a picture of little me! Wait. Why I am wearing a dress?” That’s how much he looks like me. Even he can see it.

Maybe Marriage Isn’t So Great After All

So the husband and I have joined a marriage class at our church. It’s a biblically-based Francis Chan study, and there’s a free PDF for anyone who is interested.**  Let me know if the link doesn’t work, and I will see if I can find it for you.

The first chapter is called “Marriage Isn’t That Great,” and I’ve been chewing on that title for the last two weeks. And you know what? They’re kind of right.

Marriage changes everything. Husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. We knew each other well, or at least we thought we did. We were starry-eyed idiots. “I do” turns into “What have I DONE?” and moonlit walks become mortgage payments with the speed of Seabiscuit on crack.

When we were dating, a professor told us that he and his wife knew each other well. “I know my wife will eat the last piece of chocolate cake without telling me,” he said in class one day. “And she knows that I will, too.”

How horrible, I thought. Not only would I leave my beloved the last piece of cake, I would set it out on a plate with his name on it and draw a bunch of hearts around it so that he will know how loved he is. Fast-forward 21 years, and not only do I hide all the good treats in an empty tampon box so he won’t touch it, I don’t even want to share the FIRST piece of a cake. I got a chocolate ganache cake at a cake walk. When husband asked what ganache is, I may have told him it means “antelope testicle.” And he didn’t believe me because 1/4 of the cake was gone the following morning.

Sad antelope. He's sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Sad antelope. He’s sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Marriage is HARD. There’s a reason the expression “The honeymoon is over” exists. When we were dating, the toughest thing we had to agree on was where we were going to eat. Now it’s “Whose turn is it to do dishes/laundry/lunches/grocery shopping?” ***

Dating is a time we put our best foot forward, even while we were planning that trip down the aisle. We used to whisper sweet nothings like “You’re so beautiful!” “I could hold you forever.” “I love you so much, my heart hurts.” Now our whispers are more like “I haven’t pooped in two weeks.””What is that smell? Was that you? Dear God in heaven! See a doctor!” And “I would give you the MOON!” becomes “Another cat? Are you serious? The MOON, woman! I offered you THE MOON! The moon doesn’t use a litter box!”

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Marriage is laundry on the floor, reading when your partner would rather be talking, talking when your partner would rather be reading, paying utilities and mowing the lawn. It’s responsibility. It’s constantly fighting our natural selfish instincts to keep from killing one another in “The Great Covers War.” It’s learning the real meaning of “In sickness and in health,” when you watch your partner develop a potentially debilitating illness. It’s the storm, but it’s also the calm after.

It’s reaching in your lunch bag and finding a surprise package of animal crackers. It’s knowing that he ate some testicle-free ganache cake, but discovering that he also bought a bag of Sweet Tango apples because he ate the last one and he knows they’re your favorite. It’s my heart skipping a beat when he walks in the room, not because he scared me, but because he still looks good to me after all these years. It’s the coming home and finding the kitten you’ve wished for sitting on your pillow after work.

Marriage itself isn’t the easy road. But I’m so glad I’m here, and I know I’ll be okay as long as he and I are on this road together.

It looks like he's up to something, doesn't it?

It looks like he’s up to something, doesn’t it?

** for the record, it loads onto an e-reader as a PDF file, but it reads just fine. My Kobo isn’t very PDF-friendly, but it reads like any other book. Don’t let “PDF” scare you.

*** the answer to this question is usually “mine/mine/mine/probably mine.” What can I say? I’m a slacker.

Surviving Depression

Some posts, like my last one, are so easy to write. The words and images flow to the page in no time. This post isn’t one of those. I’ve pondered it for weeks on end. How do I say it just right, so that I don’t look like a crazy person do the topic justice? Will I say it right? Will I embarrass myself? My family? The cats? They would never forgive me.

I am just going to stay in this tiny little ball and pretend the world doesn't exist. M'kay?

I am just going to stay in this tiny little ball and pretend the world doesn’t exist. M’kay?

So here goes, for better or for worse. I have experienced depressive episodes for most of my life, for different reasons. I know now that I have a congenital liver disorder that can affect my whole body, including my moods. The psych symptoms are the hardest to deal with, and it doesn’t help to remind myself that these feelings aren’t “real,” that they are a biological reaction to a missing enzyme. It also doesn’t help to remind myself that I should be grateful for what I have. I can’t be grateful for my beautiful family when all I can remember is how I have let them down. I know I have a great job, two of them, actually, but I can’t think about it without thinking of all the balls I have let drop or how I could be better.

Depression is a beast. It’s a paralytic. I cannot appreciate the big things because they are just too, too big, a shadow looming overhead. Sometimes in the thick of it, I need the little things, things small enough to hold in my paralyzed hands. So there you go. My tiny things.

Kittens. Forever and ever and ever. Ravenclaw and Pandora are sometimes what keeps me going. I can put one foot in front of the other if I know that in an hour or two, I can cover myself in baby kittens and peace out.

Pandora says she just can't even, ya'll.

Pandora says she just can’t even, ya’ll.

And they sleep beside me, and they keep me company, and even when they are grown up cats, they will be my refuge. Ravenclaw’s love language is a game called “Imma trip you until you pick me up and hold me like a little baby.” And Pandora’s is “Imma lick your eyeballs in the middle of the night.” I don’t even have to think about whether or not I deserve their love. Deserve it or not, they’re serving it up.

My plants. I might have a problem, you know. I have a green thumb, and I LOVE to grow things. The only tiny wrinkle here is that I only have one window for winter when all the plants come IN. And five cats. F-I-V-E cats. But my plants help me to keep going.

The more complicated it is to grow a cultivore, the more I like it. Maybe when I have success with the tough ones, it proves I can do something right, despite the voices in my head to the contrary.

Harry Potter. And it doesn’t bother me at all to say it. I love being in a world that has Harry Potter, and even NEW Harry Potter things. And I can cos-play with the best of them. I won an award at The Cursed Child book release party. Best Costume Overall. I feel proud to be a part of it. (If you click to enlarge the images, you will see the Playboy mags on the shelf behind me)

Cherries. There are cherries in the world. I guess they are out of season now, but that means it will be less than a year before they are BACK on shelves.

I couldn't find a license-free image of cherries, and they are not available now. so I drew you some.

I couldn’t find a license-free image of cherries, and they are not available now. so I drew you some. I am a giver.

Friendship in unexpected places. We had a Harry Potter event at the zoo, and I had too much work to do and couldn’t participate. But the people running the event didn’t want me to miss out. They made me a magic wand. With Slytherin sparkles and a ribbon that looks like snake-skin. I am humbled every time I look at it.

The photo doesn't do it justice (I used a point-and-shoot). It is a thing of beauty.

The photo doesn’t do it justice (I used a point-and-shoot). It is a thing of beauty.

This might be the beginning of a series. Out of curiosity, how do you keep going when things get tough?

 

The One Where I Admit I’m Negligent

You heard it here first. I am not a good parent. I let my kids down in a big way.

I’ve never taken my kids on vacation. Like, ever. Not once. The Girl-child is 19, and she’s never been away on vacation. She has been away from home, of course. All the kids have. To grandma’s, to camp, etc. But never away to do fun things for more than a night. Until now. It’s road trip time.

It is for the boys, anyway. The Girl-child is staying home because she has a job. And I have, like, a million pets. We’re hitting the road for St Augustine.

Last night, it all seemed like a good idea, a great one, even. I was so excited. We went to St Augustine as honeymooners 21 years ago, and we loved it so much. There are plenty of places we haven’t been, but if we’re going to leap into vacation, we should go somewhere we know. Or think we know. Or whatever.

In the light of day, the shine has worn off this particular idea. I didn’t go on vacation much as a kid. Why should my kids be spoiled? Also? Kittens. How do I leave this?

Pan-DOR-able. How do I leave this face and stay gone for 2% of her young life? I don't deserve her love!

Pan-DOR-able. How do I leave this face and stay gone for 2% of her young life? I don’t deserve her love!

This morning,  husband loaded the car with way too much stuff. I will continue packing things into bags until there is nothing left but the bare studs and a few good memories if I am not bodily removed from the premises. The goal was to leave at 7am

6:30 Squish wakes us up

6:40 Finally get out of bed

6:45 Look around for the clothes I laid out last night. I swear they were *right here*

6:50 Find clothes in exactly the spot I left them last night. My bad, husband. I didn’t see them. Don’t look at me like that!

6:55 Learn that husband does not, in fact, like my orange Minions shirt and never has. It’s like our whole marriage has been a lie.

6:56 Begin existential crisis.

7:15 Ignore horn honking in the driveway and check Twitter

7:18 Go out to move car.

7:19 Return to the house to get keys.

7:20 Return to house to get coffee

7:21 Return to house to pee one last time

7:23 Insist that everyone else go pee also

7:35 Get in car

7:36 Return to house to replace kitten who mysteriously appeared in my backpack. I don’t know how she got there, so stop looking at me like that.

7:38 On the road.

The trip was uneventful. Husband found a route that takes 5 fewer hours than our last trip, or maybe new interstates have been constructed in the last 20 years. The only blip was a visit to a benighted McDonald’s with the least attentive servers in history and a child at the table behind us whose shrieks could have peeled the paint off the walls.

We got here in before dark, but I suspect it’s going to be an interesting visit. Instead of a magical stay at a bed and breakfast, we’re at the bad end of town in a motel who lists “toilet” as one of its amenities. I was all excited, but my enthusiasm waned with the daylight. Suddenly it seems like too much work to leave the room.

It’s not all bad. The kids didn’t want to leave the room, either. They opted to send Dad out to bring back a pizza. I’m pretending that it’s a money-saving move and not because I don’t have the energy to fight traffic tonight. Time enough for that tomorrow, right?

I can’t sleep without a kitten chewing on my feet. I do hope that one of the boys is up to the job.

 

Finding Dory: I Can’t Sit Through It Again

This is not a review.

I don’t think there are any spoilers here. But if you really need to go in blind, come back and read after you’ve seen the film. I know I’m in the minority. Everyone loves a Disney flick, and so do I. Monsters, Inc? Yes, please. The Emperor’s New Groove? I’ll have an extra helping with a side of Yzma (but hold the Kronk’s New Groove).

The best Disney movie ever made. Eartha Kitts at her most hilarious.

The best Disney movie ever made. Eartha Kitts at her most hilarious.

I even loved Finding Nemo. It came out when the Padawan was just a toddler, and he had already set his sights on becoming a marine biologist.

We went to see Finding Dory on Father’s Day, even though Disney has a history of offing parents in terrible and creative ways. We figure with both of us as parents, we’ll be paying for our kids’ therapy anyway, so why not? We even took Squish. It was his next-to-first movie. We even bought popcorn with free refills. We were ready for adventure. And then the picture rolled.

Fifteen minutes into the film, I didn’t want to watch it anymore. If you’ve never seen either movie, let me catch you up. Dory is a fish who suffers from short-term memory loss. Notice I didn’t say she’s a fish *with* short-term memory loss. She suffers. It is painful, not just for her, but for all of us.

She's adorable. And heartbreakingly apologetic. Photo source: USA Today

She’s adorable. And heartbreakingly apologetic. Photo source: USA Today

The movie contains a number of scenes that flash back to Dory’s babyhood. We get to see baby Dory and her Mom and Dad as they coach her on how to help a cruel world understand her. “My name is Dory, and I have short-term remembery loss.” Isn’t that cute? Maybe it should have been, but it wasn’t. Instead of a little baby fish with big, violet eyes, I see my son.

No, he hasn't been drinking blood. He has a cherry slushie.

No, he hasn’t been drinking blood. He has a cherry slushie.

What broke my heart more? Was it the look on baby Dory’s face each time she realized she was different, somehow lacking in an essential element? Was it her abject apologies to her parents when she failed to remember, when her disability caused her to stumble? Did I imagine the heartsick expressions on her parents’ faces when they reassured her that she hadn’t done anything wrong? I don’t know. I just know I felt exhausted, and I wanted to cry. For Dory, for her parents, for myself.

Instead of feeling hopeful at what was supposed to be an adorable story, I was inexplicably angry, and I wanted the movie to stop. I wanted Disney to quit exploiting this child, to quit showing me over and over and over again how different she is and how painful that difference is for her.

Dory slips away from her parents, something we know has to happen in order to move the story forward, for there to have been a Finding Nemo in the first place. But what was the real story? So many questions bubbled in my brain.

Were Dory’s parents  ever hopeful that one day their child would live a successful life on her own?

What is their internal dialogue each time they reassure her that she is just fine? Do they cry on the inside because they foresee how difficult her life is going to be?

Did they keep her away from the other little fish for her safety, or was it because they were afraid the other fish wouldn’t understand her and would be treat her badly?

How many times did they cry because another fish was cruel to her?

Did Dory understand her parents’ heartache and anger when she was bullied? 

Did being pushed around bother her, or was she, like Squish, completely oblivious?

Did Dory ever have supervised play time with hand-picked small fry so that she could learn how to interact with others, or was she isolated?

Had Dory’s parents planned to have only one child, or were all their resources, both financial and emotional, tied up in Dory?

They knew she had trouble remembering. Why did they ever leave her alone? Why was there no alarm on the door?

Had Dory made enough progress that they genuinely thought she would be able to remember the rules for keeping herself safe?

Were they just so worn down from constant vigilance that they let down their guard?

In the movie, Dory’s parents are always seen together. If they had maybe tag-teamed and taken shifts, would they have had more energy for supervising her? Would their marriage have suffered as a result?

And most importantly, if Dory’s parents couldn’t do it, can I?

 

 

The One With All The Medical Drama

Let me preface this post by admitting that I am a terrible patient. I am stubborn, opinionated, and, well, impatient. So maybe my appointment was doomed before it started.

I’ve got this weird liver disorder. It’s rare, it’s frustrating, and very few doctors have heard of it. I have a flare-up every year or so, and my doctor decided it’s probably time to seek the input of a specialist. Except there’s that bit about it being a rare disorder that no one has ever heard of. But I trust my doctor, and if she no longer feels comfortable managing this thing by herself, I have to go with it. So she made an appointment with a hematologist. Actually, she sent out a request to a bunch of doctors in a variety of specialties because there’s not an organ system this thing doesn’t affect. But the hematologist was the only one who would agree to see me. I went.

By the time I parked the car, I was already in a bad mood. It yanks my chain that they require a huge co-pay to see a specialist in the first place,  then they they bilk me out of my coffee money by charging for parking. And let’s just go ahead and throw out that the individual who designed the parking garage is an idiot who be cursed to spend all eternity in a HumV circling and finding only spots marked “Compact cars.” Why would there be two exits with no signs indicating they didn’t end up at the same place? I took the exit closest to me and learned too late that all roads do NOT lead to Rome, or even to the Cancer Center. This exit led only to the ER. The only way to get to the Cancer Center from my sidewalk was to crawl through the shrubs. So I did. I can’t say that doing so improved my mood a whole lot.

Pretty much sums it up.

Pretty much sums it up.

My paperwork had detailed directions, including the building number. Unfortunately, the dude or dudette who designed the garage may have had a hand in the rest of the architecture. None of the buildings in the entire compound were marked with letters. I had to ask the parking lot attendant for help. She gave me a look probably reserved for morons who crawl through the bushes and gestured to the orthopedic center. I should have guessed.

When I found the suite, I checked in. The nice lady behind the counter handed me a pager. “Now,” she said, proceeding to give me a list of instructions far too complicated for 8:30 in the morning. “When this goes off, go over there to the lab. They’ll call you back. When they’re done, go down that way, first door on the left- not the hall on the left, the door, the  shake your right foot three times, jump up and touch the ceiling, steal a silver hair from the head of a mage by the light of a virgin moon, fold your copay three times and chant ‘Burning money is fun,’  and then take a seat on the north-facing wall beside the of doom.'”

I blinked. “I do what?” I hadn’t had my coffee yet. She went through her instructions again. I smiled and nodded.

She sighed.  “When you’re done with labs, come back here. A nurse can show you what to do.”

The pager went off. I went to the lab. They pushed up my sleeve, and a vampire in purple scrubs took seven vials of blood. Then she cheerfully pointed me down the hall from whence I had come. I found the desk of the nice lady, but she saw me coming and was conveniently turned away from me. I managed to find where I was supposed to be by shuffling a pack of Tarot cards, spitting three times, and following a line of sick people.

When I was finally called back, I was taken to a room. And left there. I brought an e-reader and a back-up book, so at least I had something to read besides the battered copies of “Web M.D” (spoiler alert- all their articles are titled “You probably have cancer. See a doctor.”), so I didn’t suffer too much. Finally, a nurse practitioner came in and told me they weren’t quite sure what to do with me because I had been scheduled to see a doctor who…wait for it… wasn’t actually working that day. She did take my history and looked briefly over the paperwork I had brought.

“Do you drink?” she asked.

“Um, no. I can’t because of this thing I have that you just said you are familiar with.”

“Not at all?”

“No. Even when I take communion, I have to go for the non-alcoholic blood of Jesus.”

She gave me the stink eye. “Do you smoke?”

“No,” I answered.

Her eyes narrowed further. “You have never smoked ever?” she asked. Because I look like a smoker? Did she smell something on me? I swear, it was just bad gas.

“No, never,” I said, crossing my heart and hoping to die.

“It says here your energy level is down.”

“Yes.”

“Are you active for more than fifty percent of the day?”

“Um, I get up at 6:00am, and I’m going to bed at 7:30pm, so…I guess so?”

She shrugged and moved on. “Street drugs?”

“No.” Though I was never closer than at that moment.

She paused significantly. Made a note. Left.

The doctor came in at last. We chatted. He was kind, he was funny, he likes reptiles. All things we look for in a good hematologist. But he wants to go back to diagnostics. On a disorder we’ve known about for 12 years. A disorder for which my mother has the genetic marker and which has a 50% rate of inheritance. One I have all the triggers for, one I have been treated for successfully in the past. But the level of toxin in my blood was not high enough 12 years ago for 100% proof. Forget that the toxins wouldn’t have been present at all if I didn’t have the disorder.

There was no mention of attempting to alleviate my current symptoms – the lack of energy, excessive sleeping, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate or focus, neuropathy that leads to screaming pain in my hands, the leg that has gone numb. Because we’re not ready for that yet.

We’re going back to the drawing board. And I understand. The treatment for this thing is dextrose and iron, so they have to make sure I’m not drug-seeking. It’s their bounden duty to see expensive repeat irrefutable evidence before they shoot me up with sugar water. It’s also their duty to make sure I don’t have extra money lying around. Because then I might do street drugs. So they’re doing me a favor by running unnecessary tests.

I go back in six weeks, after they have run tests on all my bodily fluids and done a reading of my past lives. I can hardly wait. I’ll keep you posted.

 

What’s your worst medical story? I want to know!