Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Tinks Are 1!

Today, my lovies have their first birthday. Who'd have thunk that a year could go so fast? And that it could feel as if they're brand new and have always been here at the same time?

Remember the start of the Tink Freaks club?



Now those little beauties are healthy, happy and highly mobile.



Happy birthday, kidlings!

(photos by a TinkParent)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Once, a long time ago – I was about 12 years old - someone asked me what arthritis pain felt like. After great deal of thought, the best I could come up with was said it felt like being inside a ball of used cotton, greasy and gray and containing a great deal of slightly dulled glass splinters. Later, I came up with a number of other types of arthritis pain, but most of the time, that's what it felt like to me. However, there is one good thing about arthritis pain: if you sit still and take medication, chances are you can get it turned down.

Four years ago, I developed fibromyalgia. And it's a sonofabitch., requiring completely different and opposite coping mechanisms to deal with the pain. Sitting still will make you feel as if Medusa’s glared at you and are slowly turning to stone. Very painful stone that does not respond well, sometimes at all, to painkillers. It's got something to do with your pain receptors going wiggy and instead of being 'on' proportional to the level of the injury (bumping your foot against the furniture hurts less than breaking your ankle), they get turned up to 11 at the slightest provocation and stay wide open. Pressure gets interpreted as pain, a cool draft makes your muscles seize up and speaking of muscles, they’re always tense - spasms on top of spasms on top of spasms (that last one got interpreted by Dragon as “topless batsman” – I love this program!) and the only thing that breaks the cycle is keeping ridiculously warm or some form off muscle relaxant.


Which brings me to the point of today's post. A post that has a hopefully limited audience.


I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV and own no stocks in any pharmaceutical company. But I have discovered a medication that is the equivalent of seeing a divine being in your living room. For the past year, I have used cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) at bedtime and it has done wonders in terms of ‘resetting’ my muscles overnight - as long as you start relatively anew in the morning, it's easier to stay ahead of the pain. However, although it's been working, there's been limits, especially now that it’s colder. About a month ago, my rheumatologist gave me a prescription for drug called gabapentin (neurontin). Originally used to control seizure activity, it is also used for nerve pain, migraines and the like, but in much smaller doses. A few weeks ago, I took 100mg before going to bed and woke up relaxed in places I didn't know I had. Places that had apparently been tense for months, maybe years. And for the next two days, I had little, maybe even no fibromyalgia pain. After one tiny little capsule. Unfortunately, I developed an apparently somewhat rare side effect that is highly unpractical for me (merely looking at a glass of water made me run to the bathroom - impossible when you need someone's help in that location), but I'm keeping it around for emergency purposes and investigating alternatives.


If you have fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor about this medication. It will blow your mind.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Things I Have Learned While Away

I’M BACK! Well, I’ve learned the hard way to not get too definite about these things, but I moved my stuff home Wednesday evening and so far, so good. Guess who else is back? Madame Mojo, no longer Of The Sore Butt, but very recently nicknamed Stubblebum, as the nasty vet people shaved that area prior to surgery.


The "nasty" vet people also took incredibly good care of her through surgery, her 10th birthday and a much longer-than-expected stay. Everybody at The Animal Clinic are awesome.

It was interesting to see her emerge repeatedly from the safety of the bedroom closet in ever-increasing circles, as she made her mark on the apartment again. She's been gradually re-discovering her old habits since yesterday and, aside from a massive case of mommy-itis (we've got to catch up on 5 weeks of cuddling), is almost back to normal. Here, the Stubblebum has semi-retreated to the closet after she tired of being chased around by a demented idiot waving a camera, attempting to get a picture of aforementioned hairless area (and sitting on it, to ensure that there's no chance of me pointing the blasted camera at her rear).



And, really, that's not as crazy as it sounds - it is quite astounding how tiny a long-haired cat gets when it’s shaved. Okay, fine. Maybe that is crazy. But it was blog fodder.

Herewith a brief(ish) list of the things I’ve learned while being on enforced vacation.

Vacation is nice. I should take one more often.

I’ve missed my cat.

Spending a lot of time with the same person creates some sort of psychic link. By the time I’d been at mor’s for 5 days, we’d started thinking/saying the same things at the same time. Rather freaky.

Having a place and time to go to work makes you more effective. I started going back to my apartment to work a few hours every day halfway through the process. When working wasn’t competing with household chores, shopping, cat management, and cooking and all the other aspects of everyday life, it’s amazing how productive you can be. Working from home is awesome, but it’s really hard to shut out the home bits.

Likewise, not dealing with all the home stuff, and being prevented from moving about much (no pacing!) due to the limited accessibility of my home away from home - and pacing-related irritability of my host - as well as eating really spectacular food not only makes you feel relaxed, it also helps you gain weight. A whole size. Yippie!!

Internet addiction can be cured. Of course, now that I’m home, I suspect I’ll have a relapse right quick.

Moving into your mother’s apartment, a different place than the house you grew up in, still becomes home in a matter of days. I’d go back “home” to my place, then “home” to mor’s for dinner and feel completely confused. But by the time I’d been back home for good for an hour, it wrapped itself around me and my home and I gave each other a big hug hello.

And speaking of home (sort of). In the first week, I was told by one of my attendants that I’d acquired my mother’s accent and way of speaking (apparently, the woman’s contagious). It’s interesting – in Danish, I’m what a friend calls a “verbal chameleon” – pick up regional dialects after being with a person from whatever region in about 5 minutes. Never could do that with accents in English. Another of my attendants once tried to teach me Jamaican patois and gave up in peals of laughter – I just can’t make my voice do that. Increasingly, though, I can approximate an Irish accent – I think it has the same “music” as one of the Danish dialects. And sure, picking up my mother's way of speaking is fairly natural, but it still felt kind of weird.

Remember Mercury retrograde and its nefarious stalking of yours truly? It was only this weekend that I realized that the proceedings three weeks of nightmarish "everything they can go wrong, will" took place during - you've guessed it - a Mercury retrograde. Just another piece of evidence to support the theory.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Worth

I’ve been thinking lately about the messages of worth we receive. From the media, from others. I’ve been thinking about focusing on problems, something that our North American society is wont to do. Talk shows everywhere delve into problems, papers and magazines poke at the wounds and I’m starting to wonder how healthy it is. Which is a fine thing to say for someone with a Master’s degree in social work – kind of ironic, don’t you think? It’s not that I don’t think problems often get better with talking about them, I do and not just because of my professional indoctrination. My point today (and to borrow a line from Ellen Degeneres, I do have one) is not so much a rant about the picking at scabs, but thoughts about the quest for perfection behind the prodding and digging.

Because, unless you’re talking serious issues, that’s what’s hidden behind the unceasing focus on what’s wrong, isn’t it? That somehow, if you’re not the best that you can be – physically, emotionally – then you’re not good enough. I don't know anyone who isn't on some level worried about a flaw, obsessed with improving their looks or lightening their emotional baggage. Of course, if you been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am on a sort of self-improvement journey myself, although I finally figured out that what I need to 'fix' is the feeling that I'm not good enough. Progress, of a sort. Or so I tell myself.

And so, I’ve meandered my way to the current focus of my thoughts: messages of worth as they apply to disability. Well, actually, I've yet to see any. Whether it’s the 'evil-saintly' image in the media or overhearing people say 'if I lost the use of my legs, I'd kill myself', the greater picture is one of abnormality to the point of being unacceptable. And when it comes to physical appearance, well, that’s just icky, ain’t it? Women, especially, appear to require at minimum working legs and arms in order to be attractive - how many of the world’s "beautiful people" have disabilities and how many of those are women?

Once, a long time ago, I read what has been a rather infamous study in the disability field regarding the break-up rate in marriages where one of the partners acquired disability. If the man became disabled, 50% of the marriages broke up. If it was the woman, the figure was 99%. Shall we pause for a moment to let that number sink in? Granted, this study is likely at least 20 years old, but I would suspect that although it might have changed a little, the trend is the same. My personal experience certainly seems to indicate that most men find it completely impossible to see a woman with a disability as a prospective lover/girlfriend/wife. There are some and I’ve enjoyed their company every now and again. Of course, first you have to weed away the ones who have a fetish about disability (yes, I know I'm picky, but I would like to be liked/loved/lusted after for who I am, not for what I am). In general, though, they're pretty thin on the ground.

And so we are back to appearance and imperfection and the ceaseless quest to look better, closer to the ideal, perfect and some days, I am struck by how hard women work to live up to an impossible goal. Some days, I can’t help but internalise those ideals and feel nothing but ugly – no matter what I do to my hair, face, clothes, etc., the disability will always override the rest for a lot of humanity. Some days, I know I'm hot. And other times, I am almost grateful for my disability, for the disease that has made my body twist and turn in ways that forever will prevent it from coming close to the ideal and so, since I cannot hope to reach acceptable in the eyes of “society”, I can focus on other things.

What is it with the need to fit in and, conversely, the urge to judge/punish those who don’t? Is it some sort of herd mentality?

This post isn’t exactly a smoothly-flowing essay on the implications of being imperfect in a world striving for perfection, but currently, I’ve got more questions than answers and…. well. I rely on you for intelligent discourse. Clearly, I’m a little wonky in that department today.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Random November

In a fit of efficiency, I organized today's post yesterday and promptly clicked the wrong button, inadvertently posting for about 50 seconds. If you were wondering what Teresa (link added belatedly due to rampant idiocy from yours truly) was talking about in the comment box on the last post, that was it. My "efficient" blog management.

Anyway! This month's random is going to be a quick one - I'm still only home for a few hours a day (for reasons which shall remain unnamed, as we are all sick of the topic), although am planning to gradually move back over the next few days, fumes be damned (ok, I mentioned it). I need my life back.

Dancing With the Stars is over. Sniff. I'm really going to miss this show - it's astounding how happy watching it makes me. And it made me really happy to see Emmit win – what a charmer!

I need to ask the American contingent among you something. Remembrance Day has just passed - Veterans' Day in the states - and I always thought that this day was intended to commemorate those who served, including those who died in service for their country. Or if not the latter, at least the day is a somewhat solemn one. Except, when watching TV last week on an American channel, I saw an ad for a Veterans' Day sale at Macy's and got hugely offended at the commercial takeover of what I thought was a day of quiet remembrance. Am I out of my tree or should there be some limits to what is an occasion for a sale?

Also last week, I was reminded of one of my favorite jokes (and prepare for a jarring segue). The first time I heard it, I was about 17 and at a party. I asked one of my friends to pass me some pretzels and she told me this joke. Imagine a child asking its mother for a cookie and a mother says "sure. Get one out of the cookie tin". Child whines and says "but Mom…", to which mother replies "I'm busy. If you want a cookie, get it yourself". Child stomps and whines even more pathetically "but Mom, I can't". This goes back and forth as long as you want to draw it out and in the end, Mom says "no arms, no cookies". Danish humor. Gotta love it.

Susanna Clarke, the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which I raved about here) has a new book out – a collection of short stories called The Ladies of Grace Adieu: And Other Stories. If you love Jonathan Strange, go get it. If reading a 900 page novel is a little much for your current schedule, this book might be a better introduction to Clarke. I have the book, haven't read it yet, but cannot imagine that it is not wonderful.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shhhhh

The problem with the paint fumes – are you as sick of this topic as I am? – is that I live right next to the stairwell. Management was awesome and decided to use low-VOC/low-odour paint for the hallways in the building, but the stairwells have so much traffic they needed what I call “the nasty stuff”. The fumes linger. And linger. And then linger some more. It’s been a week and they’re still creating some interesting symptoms. I lose my voice. Start croaking like a frog, cawing like a raven, in general sounding utterly unintelligible. After this has been entertaining the multitudes for a few hours, the constriction in my throat progresses, the pain in my vocal cords start and then my lungs start protesting about the giant’s hand gripping (and squeezing) my chest. This is usually the point where I skedaddle.

So I talked to my doctor while I was there for the Enbrel shot, anyway. About moving back home, the fumes be damned and what that sort of strain could do to one’s voice (the voice, without which, I don't write). She mentioned how straining your voice when under the influence of laryngitis could cause you to lose it entirely for a while, although whether that would happen to me was impossible to say. I’d just read about Dilbert’s creator and was already having a somewhat hypochondrial (it is too a word) worry and she didn’t help. However, she suggested spending a little more time here every day to see how it goes. So that's what I'm doing - I go home, do a bit of work, let my poor mother have some space, watch the boarding bill for Mojo shoot into the stratosphere. So far, I've been able to stay about 3 hours.

My doctor also suggested speaking as little as possible while in the presence of fumes.

(herewith a brief pause to allow friends and family to recover from the hysterical laughing fit they’ve no doubt experience upon reading that last sentence)

There is a saying in Danish. Well, actually, there are an awful lot of sayings in Denmark. I have a theory that it’s a dual-layer language. You can say things the normal way or, preferably, you can say it in metaphors - entirely different and more entertaining. Might be because people had to find some way of amusing yourself and others in the long, dark winters. No wonder they say Danish is an impossible language to learn. An example: one can, should one wish, describe me as a woman who talks a lot. Or one could describe me as a woman who was (loosely translated) once vaccinated with the needle from a record player.

Not speak? You might as well ask me to breathe as little as possible.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Booktalk

I'm home! Well, not exactly. I'm home for a couple of hours, to check out the status of the fumes (and to get some work done) and thought it about time that I start posting again, at least sporadically.

Given that I've been on vacation for quite some time now, today's post is nattering about books I've disappeared into lately. Just general impressions, nothing too well thought out - today, I have time for either thinking or posting and the latter feels like I’ve accomplished more.

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur. I had my eyes on this one for awhile - werewolves! Vampires! Hot sex! What's not to like? For some odd reason, Audible wanted two credits for it and I am pretty cheap with my credits, only spending them on books I really want and never two on one book (the waste!). Luckily, my birthday rolled around and my mother was kind enough to get it for me. It was alright fluff. The concept was pretty nifty and yes, there was a lot of sex - I don't normally mind (okay, sometimes I even enjoy) reading sex, but this one was... I don't know. I'm pretty sure this is Arthur's first book and there was a little too much telling, instead of showing. If you remember my review of The Ruins, you know I'm not fond of that. Also, the action kept stopping while the author explained references and there was way too much thinking about the sex. Repeatedly. About things that had already been thought about four times in the last two chapters. The book is clearly the first in a series and I’ll likely pick up the next one, as well - I can't wait to see what happens once Arthur gets a bit more comfortable (and gets a better editor). Neat concept, definite potential, needed another polish.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. When I ranted about The Ruins, I also talked about another rule of writing: to be specific. My issue with The Ruins was that it was entirely too specific. The thing about A Spot of Bother is that it is extremely specific, as well, but in this one, it works. Essentially, this is a book about one man's mental breakdown, plus some fairly intense changes in his life into adult children. Hidden in minutia of everyday living - this is where the specificity comes in - are heartbreaking and hysterically funny insights into these people's minds and lives. It is read brilliantly by Simon Vance and I highly recommend it.

Lisey's Story by Stephen King. I started this book before I left for my 'vacation' and was reminded again of how Stephen King is meant to be read aloud. This is the story of the widow of a famous writer, to whom something very bad happens (it is, after all, a Stephen King story). I can't say too much about it, as I am still only about a third into the book. What I can say is that so far I've had a marvelous time. King excels at description, at taking his time, leaving you on tenterhooks for him to get to where he's going before he gets there. Remember my argument that good horror is like good sex? This book makes you realize that you're in the hands of a very good lover. So to speak. And reading this book is making me a better writer - it is both incredibly entertaining and an advanced class in writing.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hello, I Must Be Going

I had big plans. I was moving back into my apartment yesterday. The paint fumes would be gone by then, right? Wrong. After an hour and a half, my voice had disappeared and my throat was going towards shut down, so I skedaddled. Back briefly today to check out the lay of the land, but it's still fairly thick around here and I doubt I'll be back until Thursday/Friday (hopefully - please keep your fingers crossed for me. Dunno if that'll help dissipate the fumes, but you never know).

In the meantime, a wee picture to keep you amused. Some time ago, I wrote about one of my favourite
moments and last week, when I was rooting around my computer looking for a file, I found another photo from that day. I'd forgotten just what it meant when I said that an adult tiger is really, really big...



(photo by mor)