All these long years...

I've kept this blog active, always with the intent to get back to it.  But it has been almost 5 years.  Why is that?  When I look at the date, it becomes clear.

In October 2011, the date of my last post, I had recently been promoted to non-equity shareholder in a job that I (mostly) enjoyed, having achieved reasonable amounts of success in a field that was not always kind to women.  I was at a firm where I figured I would spend my career in private practice, working with people who had become like family in a lot of ways, for better or worse.  I was learning krav maga, which I loved.  The Man Meat and I were firmly entrenched in the home of our dreams, in a neighborhood we never thought we'd live in, back when we started our life together.  I had three wonderful dogs and an asshole cat, and apart from the stresses of everyday life, things were great.  We had just traveled to Scotland for a roadtrip through the Highlands earlier that year.  We had fun with friends, often entertained, and I found reason to laugh every single day.

I had always been tired and worn out - that's not a secret to anyone who has known me.  I knew I had issues with stress management and sleep (who doesn't?).  But nearly 20 years of daily headaches were wearing me down.  And the fatigue was getting worse.  The body pain was more than what I should be feeling from getting my ass kicked at krav maga twice a week (by large men, half my age).  I couldn't stand loud noises or chemical smells, and it was evident that my senses were on high alert.  It was all becoming a crushing burden.  And while I suspected what was going on, I didn't want to face it, because I had spent at least part of my career making light of people with this condition.  Shame on me, for that.

Fibromyalgia.

My primary care doctor confirmed it.  She put me on medication that made me vomit if I missed a dose by as little as an hour.  Then a specialist at OHSU confirmed it.  Then a doctor who only treats fibro (and who has fibro, herself) confirmed it.  I suppose there was no getting around it.  The good news is that it wasn't cancer, or MS, or even arthritis.  It wasn't fatal, and it wasn't necessarily degenerative, and with a sound approach, it would not be debilitating. The bad news is that it wasn't known what caused it, and there wasn't a magical treatment plan.  It would be a lot of trial and error.

I gradually became comfortable telling people, knowing that many of my professional peers would sneer at the diagnosis.  Some people were understanding, even if they didn't really understand what it meant.  Some people actually laughed at me... to my face.  Others just told me that it meant that no one knew what was wrong with me. 

So, along with the diagnosis came a little bit of shame.  Shame that people weren't taking my issue seriously.  Shame that I was having a hard time keeping up with all of the expectations put on me, and which I had accepted.  I had to dedicate all of my energy to work first, and life second.  Shame that the pain and the swelling and the overall bucket of shit that comes with this condition were so evident to all around me, because it was getting increasingly harder to pretend.  If you think it's hard enough being a woman who is expected to SMILE! and BE HAPPY! all the time, imagine trying to do that when you are in some level of pain, most days.

Recently, some friends have been diagnosed, or suspect the diagnosis, so I decided it was time to talk.  On their behalf and on mine.  I don't know why it affects women at a significantly higher rate than men (perhaps only women seek treatment?).  I don't know what causes it - some say it's childhood trauma, some say it's a sleep disorder, some say it's a result of physical trauma or injury, some say it's a holdover from mono, some say it's a result of toxicity caused by gut imbalance.  I suspect that all of those things can factor into it, but what I know is this - it's real, and I don't want my friends to suffer the same shame I have.

So, to help them, and to help others understand, here's what it feels like:

There is widespread pain - some days are okay, and some days are worse.  Doing something as simple as climbing stairs can cause your muscles to burn unreasonably.  Sometimes, it's hard to walk in the morning.  Often, when I wake up, it feels like there is a layer of fire between my skin and my muscle.  I get electric pulses shooting down my arms and legs. There are points on my body that feel excruciating pain when you apply even the mildest pressure.  Chemical smells give me horrible headaches, and if it's too much, will cause my glands to swell and my throat to constrict.  Loud and repetitive noises make me batshit crazy.  My neck and traps are basically concrete blocks.  I can't do much with those muscles, which means no krav maga, no gym, no kayaking - nothing that repeatedly brings my arms at level with my shoulders, or higher.  This means no extended photography, which I have always loved.  I am constantly swollen - sometimes my hands are so swollen it's difficult to close them.  Sleeping is tough.  I can sleep eight hours and feel like I have only slept three.  An old sleep study revealed "alpha wave disruption disorder" with a "remarkable number of intrusions," which basically means my brain is as active asleep as it is awake.  Exercise is nearly impossible, apart from walking - my muscles sometimes feel like a hundred rubber bands, stretched to their limit.  My trainers have said they have helped people with fibro, but they have lied and have caused more harm than good.  Most foods make me sick and I'm fairly confident that I'm not digesting nutrients appropriately.

But there has been relief.  Regular myofascial therapy has worked wonders.  No more constant headaches!  And an epilepsy medication helps me achieve deep sleep, which allows more regeneration.    I can go weeks and months at a time, feeling decent.  But if I overdo it, get a cold, or even get stuck in a room with someone bathed in perfume, a flare is inevitably around the corner. 

So, what does life look like, five years after I last wrote in this blog?  We've downsized our home to something far more manageable.  We are cautious how we spend time, and I am particular about where I spend my energy.  We used to entertain all the time, but big parties are mostly a thing of the past.  Our social life has gotten smaller - yet more meaningful.  I don't tolerate poor treatment from anyone.  My ambition has given way to identifying what I really value in my career. I left the firm I had called home for nearly nine years.  I have adjusted my professional life to have more control over it, and am lucky to have a group of clients I adore, and who make work worthwhile.  I recognize my limits, and if I don't, my wonderfully supportive husband is there to remind me to knock it off.  (For those of you paying attention, that means no fourth dog, and no house-flipping.)  I don't know what I did to deserve to share my life with such a remarkable human being (despite the rules against fourth dogs and house-flipping).

It's not a bad life, by any stretch.  But it is a life that is different from what I expected.  So, if we share the same friends, or even if you know someone who has - or who suspects they have - fibromyalgia, be kind.  The only thing worse than feeling like shit much of the time, is feeling like shit and having no concrete answer as to why, or how to treat it.  Don't laugh at them.  Don't throw them shade, or side-eye.  Be supportive, as you would with any friend or loved one.  It's that simple. 

 

 

In Memoriam: Snailio Iglesias

Snailio Iglesias....

For almost four years, I've protected you and your family from me and my family - those who wanted to salt you, get you drunk or otherwise end your tiny little slimy lives.

For almost four years, I let you destroy my plants, poop on my entryway and make out on my front door - random drippy stuff and all.  Did you know that even 409 can't clean your trails?  All of this, despite the fact that you look like a dehydrated penis with antlers.

So, I'm sorry, Snailio Iglesias.  I'm sorry that in a moment of inattention, I smooshed your innards through your head.  The *POP* still haunts me. 

I hope you know that I tried.  And I hope that slug heaven has all the greenery, dampness and hootchie sluggettes that your little heart can handle.

Home, Sweet....

We used to live in a little town just south of Portland, a saucy little place called Milwaukie.  Land of the Milwauks.  It was mildly Twin Peaksy, without all of the kink and wonder.  Lots of political intrigue, with a side of Hatfield v. McCoy... And the offices of a renowned comic book publisher.  And the purveyor of Things from Another World.  And Foxy's, the one-stop-shopping choice of nicotine-addled video gamblers.

It was the kind of place where you could get involved.  Make a difference!  Where the old-timers recalled the glory days of Oregon's own Norman Rockwellian Mayberry, and reminisced about when the circus would come to town and then continued on about how we couldn't put a ball field there, because "that's where the youngsters go to smoke pot."

But we lived in a small house on a busy street, populated by old men on bikes in horned viking helmets, canoe carrying sopranos and the occasional meth addict.   Many of our neighbors, though well intentioned, allowed the paint to peel off of their homes and their weeds to grow taller than my head, and considered a blue tarp a suitable garage.

So, it was time to go.  And go, we went.  Bigger.  Better.  In the land where good taste is legislated.  To a land, so says a colleague, where the sphincter count is off the Richter scale.

And so here I sit.  And after nearly four years in Stepford, I've seen the neighbors to the left twice.  The neighbors to the right still allow their dog to defecate on our yard without recrimination.  And the neighbors across the street have... wait for it...  wait... weeds taller than my head.

Meat Suit Mambo

For the better part of the last 36 years, my meat suit has served as little more than as a vehicle to transport my brain from place to place.  But then I found Krav Maga, and I must say, I am enamored.  I typically spend all day scared of going and by the end of the class, I'm ready to kick Jet Li's ass.

It's empowering.

And terrifying.

And exhausting.

I think I'm in love.

xo

For Joellen and her Children

Someone somewhere once said, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  The pictures of you and your family speak ten-fold.  They say love and loyalty, compassion and awe, gratitude and dedication, openness and warmth.  They say "this is a family that's got it right, that has its priorities in check, that will remain as one, always."


And even in your darkest hours, even in your greatest depths of agony and profound loss, when you feel like your soul has been drained from your feet, and every breath is filled with sorrow, these things don't change.  A man like Scott cannot love his family like he did - so hard and so completely that strangers can see it radiating from photos - without staying with you always.

Costco.

Costco used to be called "Price Club" when I was a kid.  Or at least, that's what it was to us, in the pre-merger state.  Back then, to get in, you had to have some special quality to your humanity. Either you worked for the government or you belonged to a certain credit union.  There was none of this "any and all yahoos allowed" business.




Once, online, Costco sold Baconnaise.



But I digress, twice.

The real reason for this post is simple.  Marital Man Meat and I went to Costco last weekend to pick up trash bags.  We joked at the time, that our last purchase of trash bags lasted a good 3-4 years.

So, imagine my horror when I discovered that we already had the jumbo pack of trash bags, stashed away in the garage.  As someone who cannot bear to throw away soap or old towels, there is some sense of overbearing obligation in having, now, two boxes of Costco bags that could very well last us until 2019.

I will be 44.

Enough said.

Chewing Cardboard's List for 2011: Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Grub, Yay God!

4.  The Ultimate Happy Meal

Eat some prozac, where the "pro" stands for professional and the "zac" is ex-zac-tly how you want it.  What in the HELL am I talking about?

It's not a happy pill...

No... I am talking about the Ultimate Happy Meal.

Grilled Cheese
French Fries
Strawberry Milkshake


Right coast:  get it at Vancherie's in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Left coast:  Swing by Skyline Burger... so legitimately old school they don't even have a website.

In between:  I'm not sure, but I'm guessing you've got a little diner somewhere that can hook you up.


Chewing Cardboard's List for 2011: Go To My Happy Place.

3.  Lazy K Bar Ranch, Crazy Mountains, Montana


Now, I was all-sorts-of winding up for a long one on this bad boy, but there aren't really words that express the depth of my sixteen years' worth of love for a single place.  If you're in search of even a single, solitary zen-ish moment this year, then turn left off of Highway 191 just outside Big Timber, Montana, rumble about 12 miles on a dirt road (past rattle snakes and ranches and sometimes, lost great pyrenees puppies that you'll want to take home, but don't, because the puppy isn't yours and isn't supposed to be on the road in any event), and mosey (do you like that?  that's local, right there) on up to the Lazy K Bar Ranch.  It's somewhere near where the grey meets the green...


Let's share a moment of silence.  GoogleMaps has found the Lazy K.

No cell coverage!
No internet!
No television!
No cell coverage!  (Did I mention that?)

There's nothing quite as lovely as narrowing down your laundry list of stress and worries to one simple concern:  avoiding cow patties.  The air is cleaner, the sleep is deeper, the priorities are right-er.  Check out my homies at www.lazykbar.net.

This here is that dirt road I told you about.

And deep in that canyon sits the Lazy K.

Although you'll be up early for breakfast, you'll at least get your clouds made-to-order.

Yeah, I got nothin' for this one.  Just enjoy it, already.

Quality time with a grumpy calf is included in the price.
Seriously.  In what world does this happen?  It's as if Mordor never existed.



Chewing Cardboard's TaskMaster List for 2011: Because Being Old is Cool

2.  Watch Lake Placid.  Then Watch It Again.  Then Laugh Until You Pee Your Britches.




Lake Placid is one of the singularly most hilarious movies you've never seen, but much like a good bratwurst, it's better the second time.  ... Finest one-liners in cinematic history, and Betty White - before the Betty White Renaissance - chock full of F-Bombs.

I mean, who doesn't like some profanity-laden Grey Panthers?

This movie will Turn. That. Frown. Upside. Down.

Chewing Cardboard's TaskMaster List for 2011: Because Humans Cannot Live on Cheez-Its, Alone

1.  GREG LASWELL:  The Guy You Need to Listen to, to Stave Off Homicidal Urges while Stuck behind Subaru Station Wagons in Downtown Portland



It might be true that I could be his biggest fan...

AND it might also be true that my good friend Jason was so kind, so generous - so completely hell-bent on ripping away every shred of dignity and self-worth I've managed to hold on to since the ill-fated day of my birth in the Year of Our Lord 1974 - as to introduce me as such...

AND it might be that that introduction was followed by a ridiculously uncomfortable 45 seconds standing in line with Laswell to use the loo... him, and me, and no one else...



And it MIGHT be that following that moment at the toilet, he could possibly be considering a restraining order (I was drunk, I had to pee... I was tongue-tied... it was not my finest moment)...

BUT... you gotta give this guy some love.  He is amazing live and incredibly friendly to the peeps at his shows.  I mean, he just hangs out in the crowd.  Who does that?

You've heard his stuff all over television - you just don't know it's him.  And now you do.  So, no excuses.


Greg Laswell at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon, avoiding eye contact with the socially deficient bathroom girl and pondering whether to donate his earnings to the installation of a private toilet just for the talent.






'

2010: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

 

 

 


The Good

A new cousin with a beautiful family
Archie's survival, despite eating everything equal to or larger than the size of his head
Two - count 'em - TWO Greg Laswell shows (and related benders)
No swine flu this year!
Telling jackass buyers of our beloved home to shove eet
Finding awesome renters to move into said beloved home
Spending quality time in Portland with old and new friends
Lazy K Bar Ranch, Montana
Garage. Organization. Nirvana.

The Bad

Bono's back surgery = No U2 Seattle
Rear-ending some chick while watching a dog hang out of a second story window
6 trips to Klamath Falls
Rental car paint = horse food
434 square feet of wool rugs destroyed by one cat with a skewed sense of appropriate elimination

The Ugly

Two root canals, one day
Various and sundry medical procedures involving the Last Frontier
Operation Eradication: Yellow Hallway Paint, and the 26 foot ladder from hell
Operation Eradication:  Old Crappy Bathroom, and the rotted out floor




 

 

 

 

Going Up?



When elevator etiquette is completely lost, our civilization will truly be beyond repair.  Period.  There are a few simple rules:


1.  Ladies first...


2.  ...Unless the lady looks like she will be pissed by a showing of chivalry, AND you are brave enough to not worry about looking like a monumental jerk... in which case, ladies second.


3.  As between ladies, the first to arrive goes in first and leaves first.  Concurrent arrival of ladies = oldest in first and out first.  Concurrent arrival of ladies of the same age = anyone's guess.


4.  Sticketh not thy hand between closing elevator doors so that you don't have to wait for the next car.   Otherwise, you've told the rest of us in the car - the rest of us who had to wait in the first instance and then had to wait again for your arrival - that it's more important for us to wait another 15 seconds than it was for you to just wait your turn.  In other words, you're a jerk, and I will spend the entire ride daydreaming about your phalanges getting caught in the closing doors.


5.  If you're in a crowded elevator and talking on the phone, don't be surprised to have said phone jammed up your backside.  Chances are, it will have fewer bars there.  Can you hear me now?


6.  As people disembark from the elevator car, spread out so that the space between the remaining folks is relatively equal.  Do it as a matter of course.  Don't wait for someone else to do it.  Don't make someone else do it, just because you want to plant your flag in the one square foot of elevator space you've claimed.


7.  Don't whistle.  Don't hum.  Don't sing.  And for god's sake, don't blow your nose.  If it can't wait until you get out of the elevator, chances are you shouldn't be there in the first instance.


8.  If I'm running toward the elevator, at least make the show of trying to hold the door open.  If you're in there, jamming your finger on the button to close the door, I'll know about it.  And I'll remember it.  And some day, perhaps in a galaxy far, far away, I'll exact my revenge.



Progeny Overload

There are a lot of reasons why The Husband Figure and I should not - and will not - breed.  Among those are this fact:  Any child of ours would be Irish/Italian/English/Czech/Dutch/German/Native Brazilian/Portuguese.  It would be as if The Almighty stuck the world in a blender with a shot of jagermeister and dumped the remains into a mug stolen from IHOP.

Unsuccessful creative endeavor

So, I've been a little stymied in blog land - busy editing photographs and working working working... I decide to google "blog prompts" to help me think of something to write about.  Yeah, uh, not so much.

1.  Can you live without electricity for a month?  Um, no.  End of blog post.

2.  Things that make me fearful:  Um... we don't have the time.  End of blog post.

3.  Have you ever made somebody cry?  What happened?  I once made a grown man cry at a table with six other grown men watching.  And I got paid for it.  And it was horrible.  But I also kind of enjoyed it.  End of blog post.

4.  What are your goals for the coming year?  Avoid death, dismemberment and disease.  End of blog post.

5.  What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?  Skydive.  Swim with Great Whites.  Anything else that is likely to otherwise lead to an untimely demise.  End of blog post.

6.  Why do you feel like you do right now?  I feel existential because of these stupid blog post prompts.  End of blog post.

7.  A trip to the art museum makes me feel... like if I had enough beer and enough orange paint, I could be an artist too.  End of blog post.

8.  Lost?  How come?  Because I got hooked on that bastard show in the second season, and it wouldn't let me go until it was over.

Good God

If I eat any more junk food, I'm going to need kidney dialysis just to clean the chocolate out of my blood.

*gack*

The Grass is ALWAYS Greener

When I was 9, I wanted to be 10, because I would enter the realm of double digits.

When I was 10, I wanted to be 13, because... who doesn't want to be a teenager, right?

When I was 13, I wanted to be 15, because it was 75% of the way to 20 and old enough to be taken seriously.

When I was 15, I wanted to be 16, because I could drive.

When I was 16, I wanted to be 18, because I could go to college.

And when I was 18, I wanted to be 21, because I could drink... legally.

When I was 21, I wanted to be 22, to be out of college and on with life.

When I was 22, I wanted to be 23, so that I could be in law school, once and for all.

At 23, I wanted to be 25, so that I could be finished with law school and actually make a living.

And at 25, I wanted to be older, just because I wanted to know what I was doing.

At 29, I wanted to wait until 30 to get married.

And now, at 36, I'd rather be 13.

A day in numbers

20 ceiling tiles
2 fluorescent lights
1 speaker outlet
1 fan
1 overhead Belmont light
6 x-rays
20 fingers
2 creepy extenda-glasses
6 hours
4000 dollars

2 root canals

Reason No. 3,763 I Married the Perfect Man

The last few days have been chaos and stress and long trips and high stakes and all sorts of nonsense, most of which were marked by ridiculous... and I mean, RIDICULOUS...



(much like this dude's haircut)

RIDICULOUS amounts of pain because - I think, perhaps - my dentist is worthless.  So, stuck at the office Friday, trying to get out in time to photograph a wedding and get my files together for two days of depositions... I'm absolutely miserable with pain.  Homey calls my dentist, tries to badger them into an emergency appointment, and when he can't, he demands anti-biotics, drives to the pharmacy in Beaverton to get the drugs, then drives to my office in Portland to deliver them.  Then, using the stars as a guide, demands to know whether I have taken said drugs at each exact six hour interval.  And when the pain medications make me ill beyond belief, he takes care of everything else.

Love. That. Boy.

Seriously.

K-Falls or Bust

Just finished a long drive from Portland to Klamath Falls, which was equal parts beautiful and terrifying.  Cascade pass, dark as night at 3:30 pm, storming like a mofo.  Ipod, which has a knack for coincidence, begins playing Hearing Damage by Thom Yorke and then the second the sun busts through the clouds, out pops the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.

Freaking odd.

Speaking of sympathy for the devil - or lack thereof - with one toe just barely inside the middle of nowhere, there's an enormous roadside billboard that says something like:

WORSHIP SHOULD BE ON SATURDAY, NOT SUNDAY - ANOTHER WORK OF THE ANTI-CHRIST.

REALLY?  Seems to me that (a) the antichrist probably would have bigger fish to fry then whether you wear your Sunday best on Saturday, and (b) if a tax-exempt organization is going to use its dollars to pontificate on the works of Johnny Apocalypse, there might be more effective messages to convey:


MAKING YOU CRAVE HOTDOGS, DESPITE THE PRESENCE OF PIG SNOUTS - ANOTHER WORK OF THE ANTI-CHRIST

ALLOWING CELINE DION TO BREED - ANOTHER WORK OF THE ANTI-CHRIST

MAKING ALL THE KIDS ON "THE HILLS" RIDICULOUSLY WEALTHY - ANOTHER WORK OF THE ANTI-CHRIST

or how about just simply:

MAKING CIVILIZATIONS CLASH IN THE NAME OF RELIGION, SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME - ANOTHER WORK OF THE ANTI-CHRIST



Another product of the Anti-Christ?  Mosquitoes.  Saw another sign that read:

VOTE YES! ON MOSQUITO CONTROL

Does this really need to be up to vote?  God knows that if I could control mosquitoes, I'd line them up in tiny regiments, dress them up like 18th century Scottish warriors (yay kilts!) and send them into battle against the drivers of Subaru station wagons who are so enthralled with the wisdom and truth of their bumper stickers that they forget how to use the gas pedal.

Just sayin'.






How worldly!


The "stats" tab on this little program tells me I've had visitors from all over the world... which is frankly surprising, seeing as how my mother and a handful of friends are the only ones who really read this ghastly thing.  I mean, I'm talking:

Russia
Latvia
Jordan
Ukraine
Netherlands
Moldova
Argentina
Ireland (WOOT!)

...

Random, right?  How did you peeps find this blog?  Or are you just trying to hack it?  Because if you are, might I suggest that you try elsewhere - there's really and truly nothing interesting to be found here.

xoxo


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