Lions and Tigers and Ocelots… Oh My!

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Banshee and Beowulf when last I saw them. Updates as they look now later in the week.

I am thoroughly ensconced in my desk within the gift shop of the Great Cats World Park, surrounded by paperwork. Outside, the sound of lions roaring and tigers barking floats through the light fog settling into the Oregon countryside.  Though I know these sounds sent shivers of primal fear up the spines of distant ancestors, I personally find it peaceful.

This park, these animals, and the people who care for them, are a great joy to see.  These cats are happy.  Blissful in their generous enclosures, thrilled when they are encouraged with food rewards to engage in their natural behaviors.  Their sultry eyes follow you wherever you walk in the park.  They are used to people, but they are not pets.  I am aware these furry little serial killers would have me for breakfast without feeling a moment of sadness at my passing.  Still, they are cute.

Walking through the low valley between my temporary abode and the park I see raptors flying and plump guinea fowl strutting around seeking bugs.  I see huge old trees covered in moss and green everywhere I look.  Green, even in winter, seems to permeate everything here, as does the cold, damp, air.  Walking through the park proper to the gift shop I am stalked by dozens of feline eyes as their owners crouch low in their comfortable dens.  Each one merits a hello and responds with a nod, huff, or flick of a tail, excepting the jaguars of course, they are the velociraptors in this park. They stare expressionless at anyone who walks past, gorgeous and lush and absolutely lethal.

While my head keeps pounding mightily in the background, the calming backdrop of deep woods, dense fog, and wild fur has me feeling calm and relaxed. The addition of pampering from Traveler makes the park feel like home.  Calm happy home. Yesterday I discovered that lionesses have the most alluring eyelashes. They have thick, rich, dark-black lashes that elongate as they cross from the nose to the outside of the face, creating a look Liz Taylor would kill for. They are mesmerizing. Dandelion, the wee lioness whose lashes I was studying so closely, was previously a denizen of a petting operation, and therefore kept trying to tell me to reach into her enclosure to stroke her soft well-loved stuffed animal pelt.  I know better and she was disappointed in my refusal. However, she was pleased to have me sit and coo at her for a while while she blinked those limpid eyes at me. Banshee and Beowulf, the babies I got to help feed last time, are now too large to be handled by a novice like myself.  They do huff at me as I pass their enclosure and show off their new found leaping, bounding, and wrestling talents for me. It is gratifying to see them so fluffy, happy, and entertained.

I love this place. I wish the people who naysay it would come and see it for themselves. I have never been anywhere that treated their animals so well and catered so carefully to them.

A holistic approach to migraine treatment

I’m reeling.

Photo on 1-15-15 at 2.41 PM #2
This is me, reeling.

I met with my new doctor this week.  Dan took me to see her and when we got to the door I thought they were closed.  You know, because the lights were muted, there were no fluorescent lights at all, it was quiet.  There was no loud music, just a super low classical playing. The walls were painted a dark brown, with a matching carpet. All the decorations were dark in color. It was like a cave.  A lovely muted cave.

The doctor’s assistant is named Novella. I’m taking it as a sign.  The doctor herself bears my godmother’s name.  Another sign. That and her last name is Lane, as in path, as in a new path.

She is a whirlwind.  My hour-plus appointment with her was spent learning I do have migraines “Just migraines, I don’t know what all this other crap they have been going on about is, cluster and tension headaches go away, you present with persistent migraine”, that I do have trigeminal neuralgia, that I will need surgery, and that I struggle with feeling happy not simply because I am in pain but because the migraines literally sap my brain of the chemicals it needs to keep me happy.  In other words, she took me completely seriously, had done her homework in advance, didn’t rush me, and developed a plan.

A PLAN PEOPLE!! I have a PLAN!!!

I left overwhelmed, reeling, happy, and in tears.  I am not sure why the tears, except that having someone validate me instead of throwing meds at me was wonderful.

Treatment is going to be a full time job. I try to remind myself that my headaches were a full time job, but my brain is currently trying to rabbit.

I am happy, however, that I will be treating this headache with a doctor who believes in approaching migraine from all aspects of life, instead of just medication.

So, headache diary, check.  Food diary, check. Exercise diary, check. Medications, check. Therapist, check.

Oh, and the other thing? She asked Dan in with me so he would know what he was dealing with too. So, supportive and knowledgable boyfriend, check.

The brain surgery is out-patient, which is so futuristic to contemplate that my mind wants to rabbit whenever I think about someone rooting around in my head with a steel crochet hook and then sending me home.

The scary part is that I am back on the Topomax.  This is a big trust thing for me.  She swears she has a medication to counter any cognitive disfunction resulting from the drug, but I am terrified.  Last time I was on it I lost 40 pounds in three months and forgot words like “table” and “glass”.  Dan has offered to conduct daily word game tests to track any potential side effects.

The other scary part is knowing that the future holds a week or two or more at this ultra intense migraine clinic in Michigan if we can’t get it under control here.  She kept telling me that the clinic used I.V. meds to find a solution in this really excited voice, like I should respond as though she were telling me the clinic used 8 hours of massage a day.  I do not find I.V. meds nearly as enticing as massage.  However, it’s good to know there is an end game here, you know, that isn’t MY end game.

She spoke 8 million miles a minute and made notes for me that look a lot like pidgeon feet on sand so I am still trying to remember the entire picture, but those are the high points. (And low points. And silly points.)

Gravity is stupid.

I think I might be auditioning for a role in the up-and-coming Three Stooges movies, subconsciously at least.

Friday morning it was slick. We had what some would call a “Winter mix” of weather. (That is the “clever” Colorado News Anchor term for the rain/snow/sleet/ice that has a tendency to fall from our otherwise expansive blue skies. )

Friday morning I got the children into the car, managed to scrape the thin layer of icy concrete off the windshield and windows, and carefully drove through the slick streets.  I delivered the children to both of their schools on-time and without incident.  I got home safely.  I got out of the car, walked around the vehicle onto the ice-rink like ground, into the slippery alley, up the fall-on-your-ass driveway, over the face-plant slick steps, and into the back porch all without incident. 

I opened the door, put a foot inside my kitchen onto my dry kitchen floor and fell like my comedy career depended on it. My left leg slid out from under me in a banana peel fall kind of way and I twisted my way into the kitchen to land in a semi-split position on the floor, back against the 1950’s replica step-stool.

Everything but my head hurt.  My headache considerately went away to allow me to fully recognize the extent of my other injuries.  Perhaps regular physical beatings are a possible form of treatment in the future?

The result of my fall was three days of complete stiffness everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  I walked like a combination of Frankenstein and the ancient homeless lady who pushes her walker/cart down my alley.  Despite three volcanic epson salt baths I remained ironing-board stiff.  Unlike five year olds, thirty-nine year olds do not bounce.

My Three Stooges audition banana peel fall sprained my left wrist and ankle and wrenched my right knee. The weekend was spent hobbling around like the hunchback of Notre Dame.  In truth, the weekend was spent occasionally imitating the hunchback of Notre Dame. I do a passable impression (developed and perfected over time to insure a future ability to embarrass The Teen) and was getting bored with my own physical limitations.

Hunch shoulder, drag foot, swing arm, moan Sanctuary, Sanctuary in a low, dramatic voice. 

I got a lot of eye rolling from The Teen. The Teen also didn’t like it when I fell on her in the morning to wake her up, rolling around and singing Judy Garland’s “Get Happy”.  (The other option was a spritzer bottle, so I thought I was being kind). Like I said, I was getting bored.

Today I am happy to report I am down to just the sprained ankle and a bit of tenderness in the wrist.  My headache is still much better, likely because I am seeing my new specialist tomorrow and it doesn’t want to get caught messing with me while there is a medical professional present.  It’s a crafty little bugger.

The villain in my head…

I wake up, on any given morning, to soft sounds or loud alarms.  For a moment, one brief moment as sleep leaves me, I am free of pain.  That minute between sleep and wakefulness is a peaceful, blissful, break.  Then in a slow but steady wash it begins.

My nape begins to pulse, a slow throbbing that spreads up the back of the left side of my head into my temples. A sharp stabbing hits my right temple, jarring any remaining sleepiness away and the villain I live with comes to life.  It roars into my ears, seeps into my skull, pounding more loudly with each moment. Before too long I have no choice but to get up, sleep will not come back, lying here will do nothing but hurt.

I get up. Movement makes me dizzy as the pain moves around, front to back, side to side.  I stumble downstairs, brush my teeth, use the bathroom. The light is too bright, the sounds are too much.  I breathe.  Moving my head from side to side trying to pop my neck, stretch the muscles. Each step brings stronger pulses of discomfort.
Distraction time. Something, anything to give me a chance to push the villain behind something else in my mind.  A book, a blog post, a t.v. show. Anything.

Some days it simply will not be ignored.  On those days I struggle not to snap at my children when they hug and touch me.  Every time they jar me my head pounds, every happy laugh is a sharp stab.  I hate the kind of mother this villain tries to make me into.  I breathe.

I know they can see it in my face if I am not careful, so I do my best to mask the discomfort they cause.  They deserve a mother who loves their touch, they deserve praise and kind responses when they notice I have a headache and lovingly pat my head, unaware that the very gesture of love they give makes it hurt more.

I want to be the mother who wakes up and make pancakes, laughing and smiling in my froggy apron, joking around and bringing them smiles.  Instead I head for the coffee, and sometimes, an illicit cigarette.  The combination brings some measure of comfort, reducing the villain to a manageable background roar.  Other times I try the Cephaly, it’s electric medicine slowly spreading the sensation of thousands of ants across my head as I sit and pray this time it will work and bring relief.

I don’t take pain killers.  While they bring me an hour, maybe two of rest, the resulting kickback headache will be so much worse than the one they were meant to fix.  I drink water.  I breathe.

I eat something, as my stomach protests the coffee.

I remind myself, as my forehead demands attention, that the day will have work or play, family or friends, rest or peace, and that I can focus on those things, use my mind and strength of will to drive the villain into the background where it can just sit and be quieter.  Other days I despair, wishing I had a different morning experience. Wishing a cure could be found.  Wishing I could keep that one moment of waking pain free and stretch it out to last the day.

A New Year’s Letter

Dear friends,

It was a lovely holiday, though busy enough to tire me out to an unusual degree.

The children enjoyed sledding, snowball fort making, too much food and sugar, and a satisfying pile of presents. We focused on games for the kids this year, ideally those we can play together.  Ms. Marlena got Gloom, a cheery game focused on making your family as miserable as possible before killing them off.  Oliver got a TMNT version of Trouble.  Together we got Whowasit? and Castle Panic, both of which turned out to be rather fun.

I got several intense headaches due to the winter storms but I managed to enjoy the freshly falling snow in spite of them.  I am hoping the new year will offer some resolution to this ongoing issue, but not counting on it.  Instead I am focusing on breathing through the pain and managing a good life where my headaches, though unwelcome guests, don’t intrude overly much.

I have been enjoying my time away from Facebook.  For the first few days I kept looking at my phone to check my feed but eventually I stopped and instead, brought my new Kindle with me wherever I went.  I have read 7 books in the two weeks since I dropped Facebook. I think it is time better spent.  I do miss the regular updates from people’s lives but I got a chance to see most of the people here over the holiday and instead caught up in person.  My plan in the future is letter writing, both on physical paper and here.

Dan’s dad showed me some of his stamp collection and we enjoyed a discussion about the stories stamps carry with them.  This got me all fired up to send out some stamped stories of my own.  I shall have to purchase some attractive stamps to use as postage and some satisfying new letter paper, but I am set for pens. A caligraphy set appeared in my gift pile this year and I am looking forward to using it.

I have also been enjoying Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries this holiday, a show about a lady detective set in the 1920’s.  I fell back in love with the fashion of the era and much to my delight discovered a nearby consignment store with a dizzying array of cloche’s, scarves, and tops that will allow me to add a touch of 1920’s glamour to my day.

For my part, I gave out gift baskets full of wine from NakedWines.com and chocolate treats from Swiss Colony.  I made some bookmarks and wine glass markers as additions to the baskets and my parents added their own presents as well.  The baskets were pleasing to deliver and sparkled with glittered branches and poinsettia blossoms.

Dan and I spent a number of days resting together as he transitioned into his new day shift.  Moving from nights to days has worn him out but I am sure we will both enjoy having him home after four p.m. instead of after three a.m.  We will be happy to have more time to socialize with people and attend evening events together.  In the meantime, we have enjoyed days spent reading to each other, watching television, playing with the cat and dog, and generally relaxing.

Before too long we will have to get moving on getting him moved in.  I have been clearing out things I no longer need to make room for his things and we have been putting our heads together with my father to renovate the largest room in the basement for our own private sanctuary.  We are going to put in recessed lighting and sconces, new wood flooring, and a wet bar for entertaining.  We will miss sitting before the cast iron stove fire in his basement abode so we may be getting an electric version for our new space.  Our hope is to have a place we can play board games, role playing games, and quiet conversation that is separate from the rest of the house.  For now, we will share the large attic garrett that has been my living quarters.

The children are excited about the transition, though initially some trepidation was expressed.  Oliver wanted to make sure he could still snuggle in with me at night if needed and Marlena wanted to establish that she would maintain her hard earned responsibilities and liberties with a new adult in the house.  We explained that we were all making this up as we went along and promised to make it up all together.  That seemed to set them at ease.  It helps that Dan is very supportive of their relationship with their father and has made it clear to both of them that he does not see himself as a replacement.

It will be interesting staying in a multigenerational household but I already see how much happier the children and I are here and how much more closely they have grown to their grandparents.  I treasure the relationship I see building here and am so happy we have this chance to spend so much time together.  While I am sure there are roadbumps ahead, and I acknowledge the bravery of a man willing to move into a multigenerational family home, I think we will all be very happy here.

My father has already created a new parking space for Dan and is happy to have another man about the house.  My mom is excited to have another person interested in cooking, as it means yet fewer meals she has to prepare.  She isn’t very fond of cooking and Dan and I are.  Further, Dad has become quite the cook since his retirement, so the once onerous job of preparing family meals has lessened significantly.

Both Mom and Dad had some health issues this holiday, with mom having cataract surgery in both eyes and Dad having a sprain in his leg from all the home improvement work.  It’s been paining him a lot.  We have all been trying to muddle through our various ailments but I am not sure the three of us all together yet make a whole healthy person. Still we are solicitous of each other and work hard to help out when we can.

Work has been lovely.  I am really looking forward to the coming work year. I really enjoy the reading, writing, and designing I get to do and am excited to get our new website up and our newsletter out.  Then I suppose it will be time to study for, and take, my certification exams.  If for no other reason that I need more paper hanging on my office wall. I bought a new bookshelf for the office and have been bringing books into it.  I enjoy the process of filling that space with my own work things and getting them out of my house! This is the first time in ten years that work will be somewhere other than my home, most of the time, and it is very relaxing to shut the light off at the end of the day and go home to read fiction, crochet, make earrings, or play games.  I think I might be finally achieving some sort of work/life balance.  Hooray!

On that note, I am signing off to make the bed and prepare some tea.  Dan is on his way home to me after a cold day enforcing the law and I am sure he would love to revive himself with some lapsong souchong and snuggle by the fire.  For that matter, so would I.

Poisoned!

I’m bugging out!

Photo on 12-19-14 at 2.36 PM

I went to a favorite standby bar with my boss last night for a margarita.  We ordered what we always order;

  • Rocks/Salt Marg’s
  • Queso
  • Steak Quesadilla with Corn Tortillas

Our food arrived and I began munching.  We were talking about all things serious and silly and I was enjoying myself.  Somewhere near the end of my third slice of quesadilla my brain recognized the fact that this was waaaaay to flaky to be a corn tortilla.

I looked at it.  Closely.

By boss stopped talking and said “Is everything ok?”

I stared at the tiny little flakes of dough in my hand.

“Nope.” I said calmly “This is a flour tortilla. Please excuse me for a moment.”

I went into the bar bathroom and made myself throw up everything I could.  Again and again I stuck my finger down my throat and forced myself to get rid of as much of the gluten filled tortilla as possible.

When I got back to the table my boss informed me the restaurant had taken my info, offered to pay any medical bills, and comped our meal.  There were bringing out new, actually GF quesadillas for us. Our waitress was mortified and if she could have crawled under the floor boards right then I am sure she would have.

I sat and waited to see what would happen.  Within 45 minutes my boss told me I didn’t look so good.  I didn’t feel so good either.  My head had started to pound, the lights had auras and star points making all the world seem burning bright, the sounds in the bar were clamouring ever louder, streaming together into an impossible flurry of sound around my head. I asked my boss to drive me home, I couldn’t risk driving with such large auras.  He did.

I fell asleep within an hour. At about 8:30 and slept until about 8:30.  When I woke up I was swollen all over, my head was killing me, and I was pale as death.  I took a Benadryl and the swelling went down a little.

I am not angry at the restaurant. I know they have a good system in place because I eat there often.  Also, they did all they could to fix the mistake.  They can’t, I will be sick on some level for days until this ends, but they tried, immediately, to make reparations.

What angers me is that after five years of avoiding gluten at all costs I was poisoned by a quesadilla.  If I had known I was going to be poisoned, I would have gotten a long john, or tried a Voodoo Doughnut just once.  Instead, the days of swollen aching and itching are the result of a damned flour tortilla.

Messages from the Universe

It was a high anxiety week for me, an emotional one filled with real and imagined slights and struggles.

I was cropped out of a family photo.  I announced my decision to leave Facebook.  I felt less alone and more connected than I had in years when I got requests for real addresses and contact information from people who didn’t want to lose touch. Thank you to all who did so.

Still, the anxiety increased, my decision to leave the platform of modern communication convinced my insecure inner demon that I would lose everyone the moment I hit the delete button.

Then messages starting coming.

Ann Patchett’s “The Sacrament of Divorce” gave me a heartbreaking peek into her own divorce, into the power of the loss of that relationship, the sorrow of the ending of a promise, the sense of loneliness, separation, and distance that comes into the life of a divorced person.  This unexpected gift poured from my Audible account as I felt the power of her words sink into my soul.  Tears dripped onto the Christmas gifts I was making, tears of release long repressed. The story ended and I felt lighter.

I found “A Simple Act of Gratitude” when looking for something new to read on my Kindle.  This story is one of a lawyer, recently divorced from his second marriage, estranged from his children, losing his practice, who decides to write a thank you note each day for one year.  The story is one of growth and progression as he learns to let go of his long held onto grievances and open himself up to the good things he has in his life.  He sends a thank you note to the barrista at the Starbucks who always remembers his name, he sends a note to his ex-wife, thanking her for being a good mother.  He doesn’t change overnight, he isn’t magically transformed like Scrooge in a Christmas story.  He still struggles to overcome his own sense of failure, sorrow, desertion.

I wrote a thank you note this morning.  I doubt I will try to match his daily note sending, but I am going to try to be grateful for something in my life every day, counting my blessings, playing Pollyanna’s “Glad Game”, until I feel the fullness of my life as surely as I feel the losses.

Then Carole, a friend of a friend of a friend I met on Facebook sent me the following video.  Just as I was beginning to seriously doubt my commitment to a life lived with less constant technological interaction, just when I was thinking I would keep my account and simply try to be more disciplined in using it, just when I needed this message the most.  Thank you Carole.  I cannot express how my anxiety and stress lifted away when I saw this.

My decision stands. It’s time to connect more intimately with those I love.

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