Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Most Terrifying Haunted Barn

Tis the season for all things ghostly, ghastly and terrifying. Even at church. Or at a church function.

I was in the fifth grade. My family attended a large church in the Birmingham, Alabama area. My dad volunteered in the Evangelical Outreach mission in the church and also taught a young adult Sunday school class. My mom worked as a secretary for the Minister of Music at our church.

Our church was a wealthy one. The church had recently bought a multi-acre parcel of land that featured day camp grounds, a large bunk house for retreats, a big swimming pool, giant picnic pavilions and a stable without any horses. (My church was wealthy, but not wealthy enough for horses. They had some sense of decorum when it came to spending church funds.)

During the fall season our church usually held a Halloween carnival at the recreation center on the Friday before Halloween for families with young children. There was a costume contest, carnival games with cheap plastic prizes, bobbing for apples, refreshments such as mini-donuts hot from the fryer, popcorn, corndogs, candy and orange drink (it was orange colored and tasted like sugar water with a hint of acidity).

When the church bought the "camp" which was located within a thirty-minute drive of town, they started hosting the Halloween carnival at the camp, with the addition of hayrides and a haunted house in the horseless stables.

My dad had a younger friend at church named Warren. Warren and my dad met in the Evangelical Outreach program. They thought each other to be hilariously funny in their little mutual admiration society. My dad and Warren had been largely responsible for the haunted barn. They had kept the details top secret even from me, or maybe especially from me.

Here's some background information to consider about my dad. My mom was (and still is) deathly afraid of snakes. There are no beneficial snakes or harmless snakes as far as my mom is concerned. There are only "kill it now" snakes according to Mom. One day my mom was taking a nap after work. My dad and I found a tiny garter snake in our yard. Dad bribed me with candy to carry the little snake into my sleeping mother's bedroom and wake her up while dangling it over her face. I believe you can still hear the echos of her screaming in that neighborhood. Another example: My dad knew I suffered from motion sickness as a child. Yet whenever we went to the park with the tire swing, he'd push and whip the tire swing mercilessly with me in it as I screeched for him to stop. I know this led to projectile vomiting in at least two instances. My dad had a bit of a mean prankster streak under the Sunday school teacher facade.

So I'm at the Halloween carnival at the fancy church camp in the fifth grade. My mom's boss had a daughter that was my same age named Kim. Kim sported an impish face with freckles and a bucktoothed smile. She had reddish brown hair that stuck out at odd angles from her scalp. Kim never liked me for whatever reason. Kim saw me in line for the hayride and sidled up to me. She said, "I do not want to be you tonight."

I replied, "Did you ever?"

She said, "Did I ever what?"

I said, "Want to be me?"

She rolled her eyes and snorted, "No! But especially I don't want to be you tonight."

I shrugged. "Okay." I tried to think of somewhere else to be, but didn't want to lose my place in line for the hayride.

Seeing that she had me more-or-less captive, Kim smiled like a cat who swallowed a canary. She continued, "I especially don't want to be you tonight, because when you go through the haunted barn tonight, Warren and your dad are going to grab you and not let you out."

This information seemed plausible based on what I knew about my dad and Warren and their synergy. So I looked at Kim with wide eyes. She knew she had me hooked. I said, "What? Why?"

Kim spun her tale. "They are going to make this big deal out of counting everyone on the way in, and then counting everyone again on the way out. They're going to say eight people went in, but only seven people made it out alive. Warren is going to tie you up, and hide you in the back of the barn. He's not going to let you out until the end of the night." Then Kim threw her head back and let out a practiced and perfected villainous laugh.

Kim saw from my wide-eyed look of terror that she could milk this moment for even more hilarity. She delivered the final insult. "I bet you're too scared to go now."

I couldn't back down from this bully, who also happened to be the child of my mom's boss. So I stayed in line for the hayride that would deliver me to the haunted barn. Kim stayed right there with me. Once aboard the hayride, we ascended the hill to the horseless stables, a.k.a. the haunted barn. I felt like I was going up the hill on a roller coaster, soon to plummet into sheer oblivion. I kept thinking about what Kim said. I kept thinking how likely the scenario was to play out just as Kim described it. My pulse quickened with palpable fear. People climbed off of the hayride to wait in line for the haunted barn. Kim relished my growing anxiety. My turn to enter the haunted barn grew nearer and nearer. I finally turned around and said to Kim in defeat, "I'm not going in there."

Kim clapped in delight and stamped her feet devilishly. As I tried to get back on the departing hayride to leave, Kim grabbed me by the arm. She tried to drag me into the haunted barn. That kid was strong! I yelled "no, no, no, no. no" with increasing volume. Kim cackled, tightened her grip on my arm and pushed me harder. I realized I couldn't out-muscle Kim. I went limp and dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. She didn't want to topple over with me, so she let go. Finally free from my tormentor. I ran down the hill in the dark night back to the picnic pavilion where other people were oblivious to my fright.

Later that night my mother asked why I made "such a hysterical scene with all the screaming" at the haunted barn. Word travels fast at big, snooty churches. I tried to tell my mom about what Kim had said, and how I believed her. My mom wouldn't hear a word against her boss's child. My mom said that I embarrassed her and the whole family with my "ridiculous behavior".

A little later that night my dad pulled me into a half hug at his side and said with a mischievous grin, "Warren and I missed you in the haunted barn. We kept looking for you."

The most terrifying haunted barn was one that I never dared to set foot inside.

Also, if your child tells you they are being bullied or harassed, please hear them out. Kim continued to torment me until my family moved halfway across the country a year later.

Hey Kim, if you're out there:

Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Pivot: I'm in Pastry Chef School

I've had many different jobs. I love to try new things. I love to learn. For many years, acting for stage and screen fulfilled my creative urges that weren't met by regular jobs, and/or acting was my regular job for several years. (Yes, I made money acting. The income was really good sometimes, not so good other times, overall inconsistent.)

Since I lost most of the hearing in my left ear, I don't get the same joy from acting that I once did. (I had a demeaning experience with a mumbly director this past year over my hearing impairment in one ear.) I'm also choosing to age somewhat gracefully, and not freeze my face into a rictus facsimile of youth. I'm out of the acting gigs, at least for a while.

My inner Manic Hobgoblin and my more rational inner voice teamed up last year to convince me that I need to find a new career path that incorporates my creative compulsions with a more steady stream of reliable income. After much thought, navel-gazing, planning and paperwork, I am back in school for an accredited, well-regarded pastry arts certificate at Austin Community College. I'm taking the prerequisite classes this semester:

Food Production and Planning - This is actually a math class for the professional kitchen that includes conversions from volume to weight measures, scaling recipes, figuring portion numbers, portion sizes and costing menu items. When I first started this class, the algebra made me hyperventilate with anxiety. Now I love this class. There is an elegance to the math. I see how incredibly useful this math will be.

Sanitation and Safety - With great power comes great responsibility. Serving food to people is a huge responsibility. I won't go into all the terrifying pathogens, parasites, toxins and contaminants that food can carry. It makes me both queasy and a bit scared to eat in any restaurant that receives a score below 90 on their health inspection. The information in this class is so vital, but it also kind of takes the joy out of food preparation.

Hospitality Human Resources Management - This class is all about the business end of things. It's an invaluable introduction to business, especially for people who haven't held many jobs in service industries, or who haven't had to interact with customers or employees much in their past experience. The professor for this class tries to keep us all engaged. He brings many years of professional experience in hospitality jobs to the teaching role.

So, I'm not baking pretty things in any of my classes yet. I'm working on the foundations to be able to safely bake pretty things in the correct proportions without causing interpersonal strife in the workplace. I'm spending about twelve hours a week doing homework with lots of reading, typing and use of a calculator.

Next semester, I hope to bake some pretty things. I will learn at least fourteen different ways to cook eggs and chop vegetables. I will take a chef nutrition class, which will likely involve more typing and calculating. My inner Manic Hobgoblin is itching to just frost cakes all day, but I'm trying to keep him soothed by watching pretty pastry videos on Instagram for the time being.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

No Thanks to Nitrous

Recently I needed a filling at the dentist for a wee little cavity. The dental assistant offered nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas. I politely declined. The dental assistant assured me that I'd be able to drive myself home, but still I said, "no thanks." She looked puzzled.

I answered that I had a weird reaction to nitrous oxide as an eight year old child. The dental assistant asked if the experience made me scared of dentists. No, just wary of having nitrous oxide ever again. I kept my explanation brief and polite. I got my filling without incident and without pain.

Here's the full, dramatic tale of how my bad nitrous trip went down at the tender age of eight. Up to that point, my trips to the dentist had been fine and dandy. No cavities, and rewarded with a sugar-free lollipop for my troubles. BUT, at age eight, I had my first cavity. To hear my mother tell it, this cavity was a doozy of dental decay, almost a root canal. Mom shrieked at me most shrilly about my terrible failure to properly care for my teeth. She warned me this filling would be painful and awful. I cried and apologized to my mom. I was such a little people-pleaser, and hated to disappoint people. I worked myself up into an anxious, fearful state on the way to the dentist. My mom and I were both red-faced hot messes upon arrival.

At the dentist, I remember them putting the little mask on my face to give me the laughing gas, then my memory gets really fuzzy, with just scary glimpses. The first glimpse featured the dentist and dental hygienist both imploring me to keep my mouth open. The edges of my field of vision were fuzzy like television static. The next glimpse had the hygienist trying to keep my mouth pried open with her fingers as the dentist hissed at her angrily. The next glimpse showed my mom trying to drag my limp weight to the car. The next glimpse I awoke in the back of our car alone and cold in our closed garage, too exhausted and loopy to get myself out of the car and into the house. I'm told that my dad had to lift me out of the car and carry me up to my room after he got home from work. I slept through the night with no dinner and no bath. I slept through my alarm the next morning and through my parents' attempts to get me up for school. The next afternoon, I finally stumbled myself to the bathroom and vomited bile. That's all I remember.

I did not get another cavity for twenty two years.

I'm not scared of my current dentist. The older male dentist tells silly dad jokes. The younger female dentist and I talk about books and fashion. The hygienists and assistants there are all really nice. They offer hot neck wraps. A massage therapist makes the rounds giving hand massages to patients while we get our teeth checked and cleaned.  The lobby is decorated in a bold late 1990s style featuring lots of purple and clashing jewel-tones. Easy-listening music plays out of the speakers. No drama there.

Still, I always refuse the nitrous oxide.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Why I Left Twitter

I deleted my Facebook account years ago. I loved Facebook in the early days, but it changed. I noticed more people on Facebook that I felt obligated to "friend" such as far-flung family members, once upon a time coworkers, former classmates from my giant high school that I never really knew. Most of these people weren't truly my friends, but they were free to interact with each other via my page. *shudder* What's worse is that I caught myself viewing the pages/posts of actual friends, and thinking "that's not how it happened", or "that photo makes it look much better than it was".  I was looking at highly curated, well edited, filtered lies. I was judging my actual friends harshly. So, I left.

But I still loved Twitter, and told people to find me there.

At first, I loved the "shout into the void" aspect of Twitter. I could quip, quote, share a silly secret with little repercussion or interaction. And I honestly liked that. Occasionally a friend would ask about a Twitter post when we met in real life, and it was welcome conversation. Mixed in with the cute quips was a lot of really ugly stuff, but I could avoid that stuff pretty easily in the early days of Twitter.

I started having really mixed feelings about Twitter a few years ago. I would check Twitter to see what kind of cleverness my writer and actor friends might offer, but also saw more ugliness. My pulse would quicken in a bad way, like I was getting angry about things I had zero control over. Twitter turned into a way to hurl abuse, insults, lies, hurtful "jokes" and essentially start a campaign of ugliness against someone, a cause, a group of people or a belief system. Of course there were still the much retweeted uplifting, sweet or politely funny posts, BUT, those nicely clever tweets don't set the virtual world on fire the way the hateful tweets do.

I deleted Twitter from my phone entirely and turned off notifications on my laptop, but still kept my account active. I still looked at Twitter a few times a day. I was mildly addicted to the gamble of possibly seeing fun, clever, happy tweets from friends. I was mildly addicted to getting engagement on my own tweets in the form of likes, retweets and responses.

I tried to stick it out on Twitter by blocking certain accounts, muting words, muting hashtags. Frankly, it didn't work. For example: I didn't like the show Game of Thrones. As fervor built during the final season of Game of Thrones, I muted #GoT, #GameofThrones, #gameofthrones, #got, Game of Thrones, GoT, Mother of Dragons and all sorts of other Game of Thrones buzzwords and permutations thereof. My Twitter feed then started getting lots of Twitter sponsored posts for all things Game of Thrones. Twitter, just duh, the exact opposite of what I want. So imagine what happened with all of the truly triggering hashtags, phrases, words and accounts that I tried to block and mute. My Twitter feed turned into a bunch of mess that I didn't want to see.

Two months ago, I hit my breaking point with Twitter. I noticed that I was only getting angry and feeling discouraged each time I looked at Twitter. The gamble was raising my blood pressure, but it wasn't paying off with nearly enough feel good moments any longer. So I deleted my Twitter account.

Here's the really awesome thing: I don't miss Twitter. I feel better without that noise. I have more free time, which I use to read books, look at news sources I trust, and text directly with people I actually know and like.

I'm not telling you to delete your social media accounts. You do what works for you. Be mindful of how social media makes you feel.

I still love Instagram... for the time being. I love making "Squirrel Time" videos almost daily for my Instagram stories. I like that quick creative exercise. When I see friends in real life, they tell me that they love the squirrel videos. That makes me happy. I still love posting photos of my silly dog, my terribly lovable cats, travel moments, stuff I bake or just odd little scenes that I observe to Instagram. There may come a time when I don't love Instagram anymore though.

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.

Update: I got halfway through the fourth season of the original Charmed television series, and gave up. That show really jumped the shark when Pru died. However, I am on track to make my goal of reading 30 books this year.