Friday, May 10, 2019

The One-Eyed Salesman

I think I was five years old on this particular errand day. I rode in the back seat of my family's Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe. I hated sitting in the back seat, because I got carsick. Society at large wasn't nearly so safety-conscious back then. Letting children sit in the front seat sans car safety seat was legal at that time. And I loved riding in the front. The car had black leatherette seats that got far too hot during summers in the southeast.

My dad drove us to the airport to pick up someone, which was why I had to sit in the back. Dad parked briefly in the loading zone scanning the people standing at the curb. A stranger wearing dark sunglasses waved at my dad, and walked over to the car. My dad looked over his shoulder at me and said, "Stay quiet. This will just take a few minutes." I nodded obediently.

The stranger got into our car. He and my dad introduced themselves to each other. The man asked my dad to drive around to an unsecured parking lot on the edge of the airport land. The man and my dad made some boring adult chit-chat. My dad parked where the stranger instructed. The stranger removed his sunglasses. Despite my tender, young age of approximately five years, I was a precocious and observant kid. I saw that something surprised my dad. I leaned up between the two front seats for a better look at this stranger in our car. The man only had one eye. The eyelid over his missing eye stayed shut and the skin appeared scarred.

The man said, "Yeah, I lost that eye in a gun accident. Don't worry, it wasn't this gun." The stranger opened a small duffel bag on his lap. He took a handgun out of the bag, and handed it to my dad. My dad inspected the gun. I sat in stunned silence staring at the stranger with only one eye. I don't remember anything that my dad or the stranger said after that. I only remember that my dad gave the stranger a wad of cash. The stranger counted the cash. My dad dropped off the stranger back at the airport pickup area, because the stranger worked at the airport. Then I got to sit in the front seat, which made me very happy.

This is a true story from my childhood. I keep flashing back to this incident. I wonder what on earth my dad was thinking to take me on that particular errand. Of course this happened pre-9/11, but I still wonder why the stranger, an airport employee, brought a gun to work to sell. I wonder how my dad and the stranger arranged the sale. My dad died over twelve years ago, so these things will remain a mystery.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

My Year of Wait... What?!



Shonda Rhimes wrote a book titled Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun and Be Your Own Person. She braved situations and adventures that in the past she might have declined. It worked out beautifully for her. (I think. Honestly, I haven't read that book yet, but I plan to read it.)

The past year of my life has been a year of wait... what?! The past year of my life featured mysterious illnesses, maladies, health challenges and an earnest attempt to reenter the workforce. It was kind of a poop parade.

March 27, 2018: While eagerly anticipating my first trip to Maui, I came down with a weird illness. Over a 36 hour period I repeatedly vomited violently, experienced debilitating vertigo and had a blinding headache. I started to feel a little better, but had burst blood vessels on my face and a ringing in my left ear. I put on extra makeup, drank some Gatorade and moved on with my routine.

April 5, 2018: I made an appointment with a new primary care physician, because my left ear was still ringing. I was still experiencing intermittent spells of vertigo that meant I had to hug the wall to avoid falling. My left ear felt stopped up, but would not pop. I experienced discomfort in my left ear akin to a two or three on the ten-point pain scale.

I chose my new primary care physician because she was on my cruddy insurance plan and had a high star rating on a doctor review website. Maybe she was having a bad day, but for the entire 90 seconds spent with me she just talked about how I needed to go see an Ear, Nose, Throat specialist. She looked in my right ear, but not my left ear. (Um, hellooooo?!) As she walked out of the exam room she told me over her departing shoulder to pick up a referral card for the Ear, Nose, Throat specialist from the receptionist desk on my way out. That was disappointing.

April 6, 2018: I had an appointment with a Physician Assistant at the Ear, Nose, Throat doctor's office. The P.A. looked in both my ears, but didn't see anything abnormal. He tried to make me dizzy with a few exercises, but it didn't work. (Apparently I have excellent balance thanks to yoga and core strength workouts. #humblebrag) Then he tried to pop my neck in an attempt to dislodge possible crystals in my inner ear. That didn't work. He shrugged and wrote a prescription for seventeen days of Prednisone. Prednisone is a steroid commonly used to treat inflammation. My own personal experience with Prednisone features side effects of insomnia, racing thoughts, slightly aggressive cheerfulness and crazy appetite.

April 7, 2018: I boarded a flight to Maui. I didn't want to mess up my vacation with Prednisone, so I waited until I returned home to start my seventeen day course of meds. You can read about my Maui vacation *here*,  *here* , *here* ,  *here*, *here* and *here*.

April 20, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty and had an amazing workout.

April 21, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty and my house was sparkling clean. I was also really hungry.

April 22, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty. I went to a farmer's market, brunch, the craft store. I made a cool sand art with faux succulent hanging terrarium for the front entrance to my home.

April 23, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty and had an amazing workout. I wrote a bunch of reviews for Tripadvisor. I booked a trip for my upcoming wedding anniversary. I studied for my Spanish class.

April 24, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty and had an amazing workout. I also felt the effects of sleep deprivation and had trouble concentrating.

April 25, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty and had an amazing workout. I may have participated too much in my conversational Spanish class, but my grammar was muy bien.

April 26, 2018: I took 60 milligrams of Prednisone. I was so chipper and chatty and had an amazing workout. I ordered chocolate covered macadamia nut gift sets from Maui for my mom, my sister's family and my grandma. I nearly ate my weight in vegan tacos at Cool Beans. I felt tired from sleep deprivation and wired from the Prednisone.

April 27, 2018: Merciful Heavens! I got to drop down to 40 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing. I still had trouble sleeping. I still wanted to eat everything in sight.

April 28, 2018: I took 40 milligrams of Prednisone. I started seriously pining for the nights when I slept seven of eight hours.

April 29, 2018: I took 40 milligrams of Prednisone. I needed sleep so badly. I don't even want to tell you how much weight I gained taking this dumb medicine.

April 30, 2018: I got to drop down to 20 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing.

May 1, 2018: I took 20 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing.

May 2, 2018: I took 20 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing.

May 3, 2018: I got to drop down to 10 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing. I started sleeping a little better.

May 4, 2018: I took 10 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing.

May 5, 2018: I took 10 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing.

May 6, 2018: I took 10 milligrams of Prednisone. My left ear was still ringing.

May 7, 2018: I completed the course of Prednisone, and made an appointment for my follow-up exam with the Ear, Nose, Throat guy. My left ear was still ringing.

May 8, 2018: The Ear, Nose, Throat guy was disappointed that the Prednisone didn't cure the ringing in my left ear. He sent me to an audiologist for a hearing test. I had partial hearing loss in my left ear, mostly low pitches and tones. I also had a possible diagnoses of Meniere's disease.




May 9, 2018: The Ear, Nose, Throat guy was out of ideas. He suggested that I get an MRI just to rule out anything serious, like maybe a brain tumor. My cruddy insurance wouldn't cover an MRI, which would have meant thousands of dollars out of pocket. Also I had (and still have) claustrophobia. I did not (and do not) want to lie perfectly still in a cramped metal tube. I have metal dental work which was my ticket out of the MRI prevented me from getting an MRI. My left ear was still ringing.

I decided to just not think about my left ear for a while. My left ear continued to ring and annoyed me. I caught up on sleep.

May 23, 2018: I realized that I had been grinding my teeth at night something fierce. I would awaken with a headache and sore teeth and jaws. I tried a cheap grocery store nighttime dental guard, but it was too bulky. I decided to get a proper, custom-fit, expensive nighttime dental guard from my dentist. It helped for a few weeks. At first I was glad I got the fancy night guard. But after about six weeks the night guard started to dig into my gums and left sore spots. I've since had the night guard adjusted a few times with varying degrees of success/comfort.

Most of the summer I felt okay. I experienced several dizzy spells if I felt overheated or very stressed. My left ear was still ringing. Constantly. I noticed that I tilted my head more to hear people better. I noticed that having to talk and listen in group situations, or noisy settings, was even more exhausting than usual. Mostly I tried to employ a mind over matter mentality and soldier on with my daily stuff.

July 15, 2018: I had a violent stomach illness with 24 hours of repeated vomiting. I burst blood vessels in my face.  My left ear was ringing even louder than usual. 

August 16, 2018: I decided to try acupuncture for the first time. I thought maybe it would help stop the ringing in my left ear. The acupuncturist gave me Chinese herbs to take in harmony with the acupuncture therapy. 





August 17, 2018: Chad and I took my favorite cat, Kenji, age 16, to the veterinarian to be euthanized. Her hips had given out. It was clear she had been in pain for a few weeks, and had great difficulty walking or jumping. That day sucked real bad.

August 21, 2018: Acupuncture again. I felt the needles a little bit, but mostly the whole experience was pretty relaxing. My left ear was still ringing, but I decided to give the acupuncture at least four sessions of trying.

August 25, 2018: Chad and I traveled to Arkansas for my grandmother's 90th birthday. She still has a sassy spark. I hope to be so lucky if I make it to my 90th birthday.

August 28, 2018: I had my third acupuncture session. My left ear was still ringing.

September 4, 2018: I had my fourth acupuncture session. My left ear was still ringing. I really wanted the acupuncture to help, but it really didn't. 

September 6, 2018: I decided that the ringing in my left ear was borderline maddening. I had another appointment with the Ear, Nose, Throat guy. Mostly he shrugged, but decided to try one last possible treatment: a custom pharmacy compounded histamine. I spent the next two weeks taking the histamine medication and got a weird rash on my nose. My left ear was still ringing. 

September 28, 2018: Chad and I visited his family in Atlanta for a long weekend. 

October 8, 2018: On my birthday I went to the audiologist to discuss getting a hearing aid. In the whole poop parade of partial hearing loss and maddening ringing in my left ear, this wonderfully kind audiologist was the first person who said anything that helped me and gave me hope. He explained that my sudden hearing loss, likely due to a virus, was to blame for the ringing in my ear. He explained that my brain was making noise (the ringing) to compensate for the hearing loss, because my ear craved sound. He showed me a few hearing aid options. I chose a bright blue model. I mean, if you've got to have a hearing aid, flipping rock that hearing aid. I scheduled my return appointment for two weeks later to pick up my hearing aid. 

October 10, 2018: I started a new job at a place I'd always wanted to work. I hoped it would be a good fit for me and bring me a sense of community and belonging. The pay was ridiculously low, but I figured that was the trade-off for such a wonderful work environment.

I got into the groove of my new job. I realized how shabby and charmingly cruddy my new workplace was, and was mostly okay with it. My boss told me I was quickly becoming an asset to the team, and that the CEO had commented on my good work. 

October 22, 2018: I returned to the audiologist for my new bluetooth enabled, bright blue colored hearing aid. Unfortunately, the audiologist's software to program my new hearing aid was down. My audiologist sheepishly apologized. I didn't get to leave with my hearing aid. 

October 29, 2018: I returned to the audiologist for my new hearing aid. Finally! During the orientation for my ReSound hearing aid, the audiologist explained how to use my hearing aid and how to make customized soundscapes on the ReSound app. The ReSound soundscapes help to distract me from the maddening ringing in my left ear, which will likely never stop. The audiologist also explained that because my hearing loss is mostly in low pitches and tones, and because the vast majority of other people experience hearing loss in the high pitches and tones, any hearing aid will only help with my hearing loss a little bit. My $3000 hearing aid doesn't help me hear much better, it's mostly there to somewhat distract me from the ringing in my left ear. Of course, my cruddy health insurance did not cover my hearing aid, not one penny. 

When I first got my hearing aid, and would first put it on each morning, the ringing would stop for a few minutes. It's as if my brain got some sounds and was intrigued, so it quit making the ringing noise. As I've become more accustomed to my hearing aid, the ringing is more constant. My brain is no longer fooled. Listening to the ReSound soundscapes helps distract me from the ringing in my ear. 

November 9, 2018: All hell broke loose at a mandatory employee meeting at my new workplace. Employees tried to bait the CEO into arguments. People cried and yelled. Profanities were hurled. I kept my mouth shut and was regarded with suspicious side-eye from coworkers for not jumping into the fray. 

Later that same day I got a flu shot. It left an uncomfortable bruise the size of a quarter coin at the injection site. 

November 10, 2018: I awoke to a headache and vomited once. I wasn't sure if my illness was caused by the flu shot, or the terrible work meeting, or some combination of both. I drafted my resignation email for my job. In the email I explained that despite the notoriously lackluster pay at that company, I'd always heard about the amazing sense of community there. I explained that I'd taken the job in hopes of having that sense of belonging, but found the complete opposite. 

November 13, 2018: I received a reply email from my boss asking me to please reconsider. She said that the CEO also wanted me to stay and had offered a personal meeting with me. While I was flattered, I politely declined. 

November 23, 2018: Chad and I took advantage of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend to do yard work and to wash all the windows on our home inside and outside. During this flurry of activity I got cactus spines in my hands and also possibly a spider bite. (I'm still not sure.)

A few days later the skin on my right hand got very sensitive. Three of my fingers swelled and developed sores. After applying Benadryl lotion, my hand seemed to get a little better for a few days, but then got worse. 

December 7, 2018: I had an appointment with a new primary care physician. She was much better than the last primary care physician I saw. She feared that I might have an infection and/or a bad allergic reaction in my hand, because my joints were swollen. She prescribed a five day course of Prednisone (really?! again?!) and a ten day course of medium-strength antibiotics. 

I didn't sleep well during the five days on Prednisone. The ten days of antibiotics kind of messed with my stomach. My hand looked 90% better after ten days. 

December 29, 2018: I came down with a cold for the next eight days. I never ran a fever, but I was congested, coughing, had headaches, had a really runny nose and was generally tired. 

January 10, 2019: My right hand started looking a little weird again. The skin on my hand got sensitive again. I didn't want to brave another round of Prednisone, so I used Cortisone 10 lotion to treat my hand. The Cortisone 10 seemed to help heal my hand over the next week.

January 27, 2019: I came down with a second cold. Again I experienced congestion, coughing, runny nose, headaches, tiredness, but no fever, for about eight days. I was also in the middle of rehearsals for a new play for Fronterafest theatre festival. 

January 29, 2019: I developed a red angry rash on both wrists that ran halfway up to my elbows. The rash looked like a reaction to poison ivy, but I'd barely been outside due to my cold. I still don't know what caused the rash. It itched something fierce. The Cortisone 10 lotion seemed to make my rash angrier, so I discontinued its use. 


Big Guy cast photo by Kenneth Gall

February 6, 2019: I performed in Fronterafest theatre festival. The show was extremely well received. My castmates did an exemplary job performing. The script (once again by my talented friend Max Langert) was hilarious, mysterious, nuanced and touching. I was (and am) so proud to be part of that production. 

February 21, 2019: My rash is about 95% healed. I can still see the red shadows of rash bumps on a small part of both wrists if I look carefully.

My left ear is still ringing. The ringing still causes discomfort. I get tired more easily, because I'm struggling to hear and filter noise. I have trouble listening to one person in a noisy restaurant or at social events where more than one person is talking at a time. On a bad day, it makes me cry and feel a little hopeless. On a good day, when I'm channeling my inner Pollyanna, the ringing in my left ear is no big deal. 

I'm counting my blessings. I'm so glad that I have a sweetly supportive husband who urges me to rest when I'm sick, and who listens to me talk about my hearing loss. I'm so glad to be in a financial position where we can pay for medical care despite cruddy health insurance. I'm so glad to have (mostly) patient people in my life who deal with my hearing loss politely when I explain that I have trouble hearing in my left ear. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Manic Hobgoblin's Resolutions

My inner Manic Hobgoblin made some New Year's Resolutions. (Don't worry. I already ignored or broke all of them.)

1. Hit the gym at least five days a week. No excuses. Go in the early morning as soon as the doors open, despite the fact that you're a total night owl.

2. Read at least 104 books this year. Make sure most of them are real dry non-fiction. Then you'll have boundless sources for party chatter. The other party guests aren't running FROM you, they're running to direct other people TO you, because you are a font of fascinating tidbits.

3. See every film nominated for any Academy Award. Form strong opinions on all of them.

4. Learn to speak Mandarin. (You'll only use it to speak to your friends' precocious children from the Mandarin Immersion Preschool Program, but that will be a hoot!)

5. Curate the perfect Pinterest board for every possible occasion. Life is short, but the internet is vast. So get a move on!

6. Visit at least 25 national parks.

7. Defeat your peanut allergy with the power of positive thinking.

8. Meditate 90 minutes daily, you fidgety mess, you.

9. Solve Brexit.

10. Write and publish the great American novel of your generation.

Manic Hobgoblin is hilarious! (Pro tip: Laugh at the inner Manic Hobgoblin. Do not take him seriously.)

My only real New Year's Resolutions for 2019 are to read 30 books of any genres that strike my fancy and to watch all eight seasons of the original Charmed television series. So far I've read 10 books and watched the first two seasons of Charmed.



Sunday, November 18, 2018

My Pets' Favorite Things: A Gift Guide

Here's the gift guide you've all been anticipating! This holiday season it's all about staying warm, durable chewy things, catnip and fashion collars.


Staying Warm

Our semi-feral cat, Mama Kitty Sabrina, lives outside. She loves a Snuggle Safe disk on a cold night. No plugs or wires, just zap the disk in the microwave, then deliver it to your pet's favorite spot to provide up to ten hours of warmth.



Sabrina also enjoys a self warming pad on her favorite step in the carport. The longer she sits, the warmer it gets.



Thanks to the community cat program through Austin Humane Society, I humanely trapped Sabrina so she could be spayed and vaccinated. I then returned her to her favorite yard on my street. Sabrina shows up each evening at sunset for her food, fresh water and back scratches. She does not want to move inside. I hold the door open for her sometimes and invite her inside, but nope.










Sonic, our indoor/outdoor cat, loves his K&H heated shelter on chilly or drippy days and nights. The heating pad for this shelter requires a plug. We run a weather-safe extension cord under the deck to the exterior electrical outlet. This shelter has a front door and a back door, so cats don't get trapped. There is a velcro-attached flap you can use (or not) to keep the heat in, and the elements out.




Slow your roll before you start judging me for letting Sonic outside. He started life in a feral cat colony. If we make Sonic stay inside too long, he cries loudly at the back door, then starts peeing on doors and windows. Trust me, he wants to go outside real bad. Sonic a healthy, neutered, vaccinated, thirteen year old cat. He is microchipped. We keep his microchip information up to date. 

When indoors, Sonic loves a good heating pad. He has his choice of three heating pads scattered throughout the house.


__________________________________________________


Durable Chewy Things

Our dog, Janie Lullabelle Mae, or just Janie to her friends, found her home with us through Blue Dog Rescue. Her hobbies include sniffing things, licking things, trying to sleep as much as the cats do, acting excited about walks then refusing to walk and chewing appropriate things. Her favorite chewy things are Benebones. Benebones are super-durable and last much longer than any other chewy things we've tried. 


Can I have that Benebone now? Plz?

____________________________________________________


Catnip

All the pets love catnip. Sonic knows exactly which drawer houses the catnip stash. He will lead me to the drawer and stare pointedly until I get the bag and deliver catnip to his favorite spot. L.B. also goes cuckoo for catnip. Janie (yes, the dog) knows the sound of the catnip drawer and bag. Janie (yes, the dog) trots down the hall to get a tiny nibble of catnip too. Weird, I know. I'm not sure if it's just about the ritual of catnip for the dog, or if she really likes it. 

The cats love Yeowww! catnip stuffed bananas, but they destroy them within a matter of days, leaving trails of catnip all over the house. Maybe your cats aren't such vicious predators, and the Yeowww! catnip toys will last longer. 





L.B. thinks he is maintaining. He is not.

______________________________________________________


Fashion Collars

The pets own many Up Country collars. They like to have outfit choices. Up Country offers about eleventy-thousand cute styles of pet accessories. Janie owns many different Up Country collar and leash sets. I machine-wash Janie's collars and leashes at the end of each season or holiday. Got to keep that fashion ready for appropriate seasonal changes.


Ready for St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin Wants to Go to Disneyland

I'm real tired of the news of late. My soul needs a break. I need some joy. And some Halloween fun that is heavy on smiling pumpkins and silly singing spirits.




The Manic Hobgoblin wants to splurge on a trip to Disneyland for the (not so scary) Halloween fun. MH convinced me that we can earn some more Hilton Rewards points by staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton, just a mile away from Disneyland. MH loves reward points programs. MH also found direct flights from Austin to Santa Ana, California on Frontier Airlines for $49 each way. So far, I'm following along with MH.


Haunted Mansion at Disneyland:
way less scary than the prices for Disneyland parks


BUT! Holy guacamole! The park ticket prices for Disneyland are where MH lost my support.

*sigh*

Sorry, Manic Hobgoblin. Nope. We can't go to Disneyland for Halloween.

I'm just going to start this video of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This will have to suffice for the moment. Also, no more looking at twitter for a few days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Murakami Exhibit: Worth the 6 Hours of Driving

This past weekend, Chad and I took a short road trip (three hours each way) to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for an exhibition of Takashi Murakami's artwork titled "The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg". 



Mr. DOB in a more tame sculpture installation.

Aren't they cute? Those are shrunken heads atop their poles.

Caution: may cause seizures and/or too much joy.

This happy mural greets visitors.

A ginormous Mr. DOB parade balloon suspended from the ceiling 30 feet up.



Chad and I loved this exhibition so much! Japanese historical themes of warriors, dragons and monks meet modern manga cartoons meet bright pop-culture iconography. Though some of Murakami's work echoes Sanrio cuteness via a fever dream, much of it is delightfully subversive and best suited to adults. Do you really want to explain the satire of overt sexualization of cartoon characters to your eight-year-old child? I don't. Nor do I want to awaken in the middle of the night to calm them after the nightmare caused by sharp-toothed Hello Kitty type monsters with way too many eyes staring blankly.


The enormous scale of many of the artworks mesmerizes. Just when you think you're done looking at one of the giant, detailed artworks, you see some other image within an image to ogle. Other installations overload your vision with literal wallpaper topped with canvases as a background to a busy sculpture, all with the same design motif. 

The architecture of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth impresses with grand scale, shallow pebble-bottom reflecting pools surrounding the building, an outdoor sculpture garden and an intriguing permanent collection starring the likes of Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and KAWS. I'll definitely make the drive again if a future exhibition catches my attention.

If you live within driving distance of Fort Worth, Texas you can also see the Murakami exhibition through September 16, 2018. *Click here for more info.* This exhibition was originally organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Maybe it will travel to other museums. Catch it if you can!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin: Already Planning Next Vacations

I've mentioned the Manic Hobgoblin who haunts my thoughts sometimes, right? He shouts over the quiet, rational voice that usually narrates my inner monologue. I didn't even finish my Maui blog posts before Manic Hobgoblin (M.H. for short) started planning our next grand excursions. Here are the five places topping M.H.'s travel destination list.

1. Scotland (focusing on Edinburgh)



2. Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland




3. Niagara Falls




4.  Pacific Northwest Road Trip



5. Budapest




BUT FIRST:

Chad and I need to visit my grandmother for her 90th birthday in August in Arkansas.

We need to visit Chad's family in the Atlanta area in the fall.

We need to visit my family in the Raleigh area.

I've tried (in vain) to reassure M.H. that after all these family trips, Chad and I will start saving up enough money and "Paid Time Off" for one of M.H.'s adventures. M.H. is not pleased by this timeline. He has hijacked my MacBook and started researching already. Yet again, M.H. proves he has no chill.

Sometimes I kind of hate the Manic Hobgoblin.