Saturday, March 29, 2014

Picking Up Pennies

Several months ago, I spent a fair amount of time trying to teach Isaac to pick up small, flat objects like coins and credit cards from a hard, flat surface, like a tile or concrete floor.  He has no trouble picking them up from a carpeted floor or from the grass outdoors, but from my kitchen floor, for example, he just couldn't do it.  I talked with a couple dog trainers, got some suggestions, tried them, and still had no luck.  He would try and try but couldn't do it.  So I gave up.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I was doing laundry and someone had dropped a penny on the laundry room floor.  It's a hard tile floor, like my kitchen.  In the past, I would have picked it up.  Hey, pennies add up.  But it's too hard on my back to bend over to pick up pennies these days.  Had it been a dollar bill, maybe.  A $10 bill?  Yeah, that'd be worth it.  But a penny?  No.   Of course, I could ask Isaac to pick up a dollar bill for me.  But I didn't ask him to pick up the penny because I figured he would not be able to do it.

So, while I was putting clothes into the dryer,  Isaac, without being asked, picked up that penny.

I was surprised.  I praised him enthusiastically.  He attempted to deposit the penny in my hand, and between his enthusiasm and the large amount of dog slobber lubricating the penny, it landed on the floor again.

So he picked it up again.  And that time it made it into my hand.

He just amazes me sometimes.

Today we practiced picking up quarters from my kitchen floor.  He did great.

I think tomorrow we'll try a credit card (I actually use an old phone card for practicing that skill, I don't want him gnawing on my actual credit card unless necessary).

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Haircut

So I got my hair cut today.  Here it is.

I gave the woman that cut it a big tip.  Well, relatively speaking, considering that the haircut itself only cost $11. 

I actually considered cutting it myself, but the last time I tried that it did not go well, and that's when I was able to hold my arms up for long periods of time without pain and when my hands worked well.  I don't know what made me consider it, really.  When I say it did not go well last time, I mean, it really really really did not go well.

So I found the cheapest place around.  There was no wait and I was in and out in less than 15 minutes.

The woman that cut it for me, bless her, did not ask me why I was getting it cut.  When you have long hair, they usually ask you that. 

Last time I cut it was about five years ago, when I lost some hair following my gastric bypass surgery.  It was getting thin and I had hoped cutting it shorter would make the thinning less noticeable.  I think it was just a little bit longer than this then.  And in five years, had grown halfway down my back.  My hair grows fast.  Always has.

Anyway, the woman that cut it for me then, she asked why I was getting it cut.  I think she also asked if I was sure, really sure, I wanted to cut so much off.

Today, the woman said something like, "So we're taking a lot off," but she didn't ask why.  When she was ready to start cutting, she asked me if I was ready.  But she didn't ask if I was sure.

She also did not make small talk with me while she worked, which I appreciated.  I was not in the mood for small talk.

So gave her a $9 tip.

On the way there, I wasn't sure I wanted to go through with it.  I felt like crying.  I feel OK right now, though.  I kind of like it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


An elephant is the only mammal
that cannot jump.
I guess that's why it stands here
in the middle of the living room
while we serve tea on its back
and speak in hushed tones.

My Hands

I've thought about writing about this for a while but have not done so, until now.  I think mostly because writing about it makes it seem more real.  And I don't want it to be real.

When I saw the rheumatologist six weeks ago, she told me I have osteoarthritis in my hands.  I knew there was something wrong with my hands.  I'd been having difficulty opening those child resistant caps on medicine bottles.  Sometimes typing or using my computer mouse causes pain in my hands.  I can't rip open plastic food packages anymore like I used to; I keep scissors in my kitchen to open them instead (I got a stern warning from my dentist not to use my teeth to open packages and I definitely do not want to do anything that might damage my very expensive bridge that I am still paying for!). 

But it's getting worse.  Sewing and crocheting, things I used to like to do, are now really painful.  Painful enough that they are no longer enjoyable.  I've been considering, reluctantly, some sort of talk-to-text software to make writing easier, because that's not something I'm willing to give up.  Recently I've wanted to make some chili but I've been reluctant to try dicing onions.  Yesterday I wasn't feeling well and wanted to try to drink some tea, but it was very difficult to hold a mug.  Getting my fingers around the handle was hard.  This morning, I had a hard time brushing tangles out of my hair.  It was hard to hold the brush.

I want my hands to work.  I need my hands to work.  I don't want to think about them not working right.

The last two times I had prescriptions refilled, I thought about asking the pharmacist not to use child resistant caps on the bottles.  And both times, I "forgot" to ask.  And now I have medication bottles in my cupboard with the lids sitting beside the bottles, because it's too hard to open the lids every time I need to open them.

It's time to do something.  This is not working.

Next time I call for refills, I ask for the other caps.

I have decided to cut my hair, so it will be easier to wash and brush, and less painful (holding my arms up to wash my hair is pretty painful these days).

I'll find out about the talk-to-text software.  Maybe I can get a 30 day trial or something.  I hate to spend a lot of money if I end up not liking it.  I hate to spend a lot of money, period, but I think I have to.

Honestly, the decision today to cut my hair was... I don't know what the right word is.  It was a painful decision.  I have long hair.  Most of my life, my hair has been long, although occasionally I've cut it fairly short.  But when I've cut it before, it's always been because I wanted to.  Not because I felt I had to.  This feels like a loss.  This hurts. 

But, at the same time, after making that decision, I feel lighter.  It's like a weight off my shoulders.  And the decisions to go ahead and check into the software and to do other things I need to do came much easier after that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Distracted Doggie? Doh!

A couple days ago, Isaac and I were in Starbucks.  We were waiting for someone that, it turns out, stood me up.  Whatever.

I ordered a skinny vanilla latte and was waiting for the barista to make my drink.  There were two women with a toddler in a highchair at a nearby table.  One of the women asked, "Are you training him?"

I gave my standard answer.  "Nope.  He's already fully trained."

She looked a bit surprised and/or confused and said, "He's already fully trained?"

I said, "Yes."

The other woman then asked, "What program did you get him from?"

I told her.  She told me how someone she knows is a puppy raiser for some guide dog program, I forget which one.

Then she said, "I'm not supposed to talk to him, am I?"

I said, "No.  It distracts him."

She looked at Isaac, who was busy staring out the big glass window.  "Hmmph," she said.  "Looks like he's already distracted by something out there."

Well...sort of.  The comment caught me off guard.  I decided not to try to explain that looking out the window when I am not doing anything that requires his assistance is not the same as being distracted by someone petting him and talking to him.  But it's not the same.  Not at all.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Call That Almost Came

Friday, I was having lunch with a friend at Subway.  I was in the middle of eating my sandwich and simultaneously explaining how if he'd just listened to my advice a couple months earlier, he would not be dealing with a sticky situation he was now facing at work.  I was trying to be diplomatic about it and not to say "I told you so," but really, I did tell him so.

My phone rang.  It was in my purse.  I was holding Isaac's leash and also eating, which takes two hands.  Plus I was in the middle of my "I told you so."  So I let the phone call go to voice mail.  No one ever calls me anyway.  I figured it was probably Time Warner trying to sell me cable again, even though I've told them about a hundred times that I do not want cable and that I do not even own a TV.

After lunch was over and I'd gotten Isaac loaded in the back seat, I sat in my car and dug out my phone and looked at the number.  The area code was the one for the part of the state where I'd grown up, where my mother and my sister live.  I have a good friend who lives there, still, as well.  But I didn't recognize the number, not really.  You might remember that not too long ago, I'd deleted my mother's and sister's numbers from my phone.  Well, I thought it might be my sister's number but I wasn't sure.

I listened to the voice mail.  It was about 90 seconds of loud static.  I could not hear anyone talking at all.  Just scratchy noise.

I drove home.  I felt anxious.  I got in the house and got out my address book and looked up my sister's number.  Yep.  It was her number.

But no message.

I didn't know what to do.  I felt like I needed to do something.

I checked my email in case she'd tried to contact me that way.  She hadn't.

I thought about what she might have been calling for.  I didn't think she was calling just to chat.  She hasn't spoken to me in more than a year.  Really, the only reasons I could think of that she would call me were if something bad had happened.  Something she felt was so important that she thought I should know.  She'd call me if our mother died.  She'd call me if something happened to one of her children, although since they are all young and healthy, it would be more likely that something would happen to our mother.  She might call me if our father died, but I'm not sure about that.

Those are things she'd probably feel I should know about, but do I feel I need to know?  I guess I'd want to know if something happened to one of my nephews.  One of them is a Marine.  He is stationed in the States, he's not doing anything dangerous (as far as I know), but what if, say, he died in a plane crash or something?  Would I want to know?  Would I go to his funeral?  Yeah, I think I would.

Would I want to know if something happened to my mother?  I really don't know.  Would I go to her funeral?  I don't think so.  Would I mourn?  Well, I guess, in a way, but you know what?  I already have mourned her.  I've mourned her a lot.  But how do I feel about the thought of not knowing?  It's hard.  Hard to explain and hard to live with.

I thought about calling her back.  I emailed a friend for advice.  Then I called Mike and asked him what he thought.  I think I expected him to tell me to call her.  He'd always encouraged me to try to maintain a relationship with my mother and my sister, at least up until all that stuff that happened in November of 2012.  He seemed to respect my decision, and to agree with it, not to get in touch with them after that.  But it was their decision, really.  They un-friended me on Facebook, they chose not to call or email or anything while I was in the hospital or after I got out.  But anyway.  I think I expected Mike to tell me to call her back.

He didn't.  He said something like well, I could call her back if I wanted to, but if it was really important to her, she'd probably call again.

And he's probably right.

So I didn't call.  I had all this nervous energy.  I took Isaac for a long, brisk walk.  I washed the dishes and cleaned my kitchen.  I finished an article I'd been working on.  I took Isaac for another walk.  I paced around the house.

It's been two days.  She hasn't called back.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dining with Doggie

Yesterday, Isaac and I met a friend for lunch at Subway.  The Subway near my home is never busy, but they were sort of busy yesterday.  I guess there is a first time for everything.  Isaac, who had taken a 90-minute nap right before we went to Subway, apparently felt he was too exhausted to stand in line for a long time so he kept lying down.  Which was OK, but every time he lay down, then the line would move.  I would move and Isaac would just lie there.  So I would inform him that he had to get up and move, too.  After the second or third time, he gave me this look like, "You're kidding me, right?  You don't really expect me to get up and move again." 

When we got through the line, Isaac decided he did not want to go under the table and lie down.  Instead, he wanted to lie down on the floor beside the table, all sprawled out.  Which of course is not acceptable.  After I explained as much to him, he went under the table, sprawled out under there and snoozed away.  There was a little puddle of drool under his face when he got up.

Today, Isaac and I met a friend at a park for a walk and then we went to Panera to get something to eat.  Panera was full of little old ladies, all of whom thought Isaac was just adorable and all of whom also seemed to know they were not supposed to pet service dogs.  So instead of petting him, or even asking if they could pet him, they did that thing where they come over to him, bend over so they can look into his pretty puppy eyes, and in a sing-song baby talk voice say, "I'm not allowed to pet you, baby.  Oh, I would pet you if I could, oh yes I would.  What a pretty baby.  I love doggies, oh yes I do, but I'm not allowed to pet you.  I'm sorry, baby, I would pet you if I was allowed, oh yes I would."

Just so you know, not only are you not supposed to pet service dogs, you are not supposed to do that, either.

Isaac has matured some, though, so he no longer leaps to his feet and attempts to kiss people that do that.  He just gives them a big doggie smile and thumps his tail.

The little old ladies also wanted to tell me about their dogs.

Because the restaurant was rather crowded, we had to sit at this round table instead of a booth, which is what I prefer.  The table had those legs that are like a cross on the floor and Isaac doesn't really like lying under those tables because the legs get in his way.  But we were against a wall on one side and were able to move the table over a little bit and Isaac was able to lie mostly under the table with his head sticking out and still be out of everyone's way.  He actually prefers to have his head sticking out but I usually don't let him because usually he would be in the way like that and anyway, he's supposed to go under the table if he fits under there.

Apparently he was very tired after our walk.  See him snoozing away?

Friday, March 21, 2014


I just thought I'd share that a couple of my poems, Some Bells Should Ring and How Many Hail Mary's?, are going to be published in an upcoming issue of Kaleidoscopes, a literary journal that publishes work by disabled writers, much of it (though not all) about their experiences with disability.  I had some pieces published by them several years ago, and had submitted these two pieces as well, but they were not selected for publication at that time.  I was quite surprised when the editor contacted me a couple days ago and told me she'd held on to these two for all those years because she'd really liked them and asked if she could publish them in an upcoming issue.

Of course, I said yes.  It's been a while since I've had any poetry published.  I haven't really been in the mood to write much poetry in a while and the process of submitted stuff for publication is kind of a pain.  It's fun to have work published but you very rarely get paid for poetry.  Most of the time you are lucky if you get a free copy of the journal or magazine your work appears in.  Sometimes you actually have to buy a copy if you want one.  So instead I spend my time writing about things like genital warts and scabies and eating disorders and alcoholism, which actually pays money.

This was a pleasant surprise.  And I don't get many of those in my life these days. 

Poem: Vigil

I am at work.
I am kneading dough,
soft and supple and alive
under my hands.
I am wearing the green apron,
and have flour on my hair.

Two hundred miles away, you are in hospital.
They don’t know if you will live the night.

I am slicing tomatoes,
perfect thin prayer wheels.

I could pack my bag,
drive down through the darkness,
be there long before first light.
You would not know I was there.

The knife is silver, and sharp in my hand.
The steel is cool, and comforting.

The ovens are hot, and I sweat,
weeping through my pores.

There could still be time
to say goodbye.

But I am peeling onions,
their papery skins like dead leaves
under my fingers.
The onions make me cry.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Living on a Very Tight Budget

I'm often asked how I manage to live on a very tight budget.  Well, it's not easy.  There are lots of things I do, though.
  • I don't buy much.  That sounds really basic, I'm sure, but it's true.  When I go shopping, I go with a list and I very, very rarely ever deviate from that list.  If I see something at the store that I think I want or need, I don't buy it then.  It can go on my list next time I go shopping, if I still think I want or need it after I've had some time to think about it, if I decide I can afford it.  But I do not buy things on impulse.
  • I plan ahead for expenses whenever possible.  For instance, last fall I bought a pair of boots for winter.  I'd been planning that purchase since the previous winter.  I knew several months in advance in which month I would buy them.  I knew I had to pay my car insurance in September, so I planned to buy the boots in October, and I had that planned since probably the beginning of the summer.
  • I buy used stuff whenever possible.  I love thrift stores.  I have only a few articles of clothing that did not come from a thrift store - underwear, socks (because second hand underwear and socks is just icky to me), a shirt my mother bought me at Kohl's a couple years ago, and a few sweaters that I bought myself about 15 years ago.  Yes, I have sweaters that are 15 years old.  For several years, I couldn't wear them because I had gained weight, but they now fit again.  I've always washed them by hand.  They are in great shape and do not look nearly that old.  But I'm not just talking about clothes.  A lot of other things in my house came from thrift stores.
  • I get used stuff for free when I can, too.  My dishes were free.  I found them on  I got a bunch of free towels through Freecycle, too.  My bookshelves were given to me by various people.  My coffee table was given to me.
  • When I buy new stuff, I keep it for a long, long time.  Like my sweaters.  My couch is also about 15 years old.  My bed is about 20 years old.
  • I make my own laundry detergent.  It's easy, doesn't take long at all, and is super cheap.  It ends up costing about one or two cents per load.  I make five gallons of it at a time and a five gallon bucket costs me less than $3 to make and it lasts me more than six months.  Of course, I live alone so I don't make that much laundry myself, but I do have an incontinent cat that pees on a lot of towels that have to be washed.
  • I make my own toothpaste.  It's also quick and easy to make and super cheap.  I haven't done that math, but it probably costs me about 10 or 15 cents to make eight ounces of it.
  • I make most of my own cleaning supplies.  Most things I clean with vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  Other things I clean with baking soda and water or borax and water.  Cheap and also better for the environment than commercial cleaning supplies.
  • I very rarely use disposable paper products.  I use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, cloth rags that I wash instead of paper towels.  Most of the time, I use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.  I use cloth menstrual pads instead of disposable pads or tampons.  All that means most of what I buy at the grocery store is actually food.  I don't buy stuff like laundry detergent and paper products.
  • I buy groceries on sale and use coupons whenever possible.  If you contact the manufacturers of products you like, they will often send you coupons on request.  If you like companies on Facebook, you can also get some good coupons.  I shop at dollar stores for certain items that cost less there.  In the summertime, I buy local organic produce cheap at farmers' markets and farm stands.
  • Last summer I did a little bit of canning.  I plan to do a lot more this year, so I can have local organic produce all year around.
  • Once a month I get some groceries from a local food pantry.  I also get $15 each month in food stamps, which is not a lot but it does help.
  • I buy vitamins when they are on sale and stock up.  For instance, I buy calcium citrate (the Kroger brand) when Kroger has it on sale, buy one get one free.  So I get two bottles for about $9.  I also started taking glucosamine/chondroitin at the recommendation of my rheumatologist.  That stuff is ridiculously expensive.  But Kroger had their brand on sale, buy one get one free, so I got two huge bottles for about $36.
  • I don't have cable.  In fact, I don't have a television.
Hmm... Those are all the things that come to mind at the moment.  That's basically how I do it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Poor Kitty

Cayenne was acting really odd tonight.  Like something was hurting her or she was uncomfortable, at least.  She would lie down, then jump up like she was startled, then hurry to the other end of the couch, lie down, then do it all over again after a minute or two.

I couldn't figure out what was bothering her.  I looked at her belly.  You know the big gaping wound on her tumor, the one that was all disgustingly infected, that the vet told me probably would not close up?  Well, it's almost all closed up.  No more smelly green slime coming out of it.  And the other tumor just has a very small scab on it.  Her belly looks better than it has in a long time. 

And I couldn't find any signs of anything wrong.  But she seemed uncomfortable.

I ended up giving her an extra dose of her anti-inflammatory medication.  She normally just takes it in the morning.  But I gave her a dose this evening, a little less than her morning dose, but hoped it would help her feel better so she could relax and sleep.  And now, 30 minutes later, she is snoozing away.  Except I just petted her and that made her perk up for a minute.

I'm sorry she feels bad, whatever it is that's bothering her.  I am so relieved I have medication for her, though.  Last time she acted like this, it was several months ago, but I didn't have any type of pain med for her and I felt so, so bad for her all night long.

We Teach People How to Treat Us

Do you think that's true?

I don't think it's always true.  I don't think that every time someone mistreats us or hurts us or abuses us, it's because we've done something to tell them that's OK.  But when someone in our lives repeatedly treats us poorly in some way, and we allow it to continue, then I think we are teaching them that it's OK to treat us that way. 

And I'm not talking about instances of ongoing abuse.  I don't think I taught my father that it was OK to abuse me.  I'm talking about ongoing relationships between consenting adults, adults equal in power.

There's this guy I've been seeing for just a little while.  Like a few weeks.  I like him a lot but he's got a lot going on in his life and I think he probably needs to get his stuff straightened out before he pursues a relationship.  That's not up to me to decide, though.  What is up to me is what I will and will not put up with in a relationship.

So tonight I sent him an email and basically said, "Hey, I really like you, but this is not going to work for me.  I value myself more than this."

He didn't do anything awful.  He's a nice guy.  I believe he cares about me.  But he's got too much other stuff going on and there's not much room in his life for me right now and that just doesn't work for me.  Because, you know, I value myself more than that.  And I'm not going to teach him, or anyone else, through repeated interactions, that it's OK for them to value me less than that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How Are Service Dogs Cared for Off Duty?

I've noticed several readers have found my blog recently searching for information on how service dogs are cared for off duty.  While that varies from dog to do, from owner to owner, of course, generally, they are treated like pets when they aren't working.  Now, you probably know that some pets are treated really well, some are pampered or spoiled, and some are not treated so nicely.  I'm sure the same is true for service dogs, as well.

I suspect that, overall, service dogs may be treated better than many pets, because they are generally valued very much by their owners.  When you spend as much time with your dog as service dog owners usually do, I think you can't help but bond very closely.  In addition, a service dog gives his owner increased independence and is valued for that as well as for his love and companionship.  Service dogs are also expensive and require a lot of training; even if you get a dog from a program, like I did, you need to put a lot of time and energy into training and working with that dog, as I have with Isaac.  There's value in that.

Most people I know with service dogs feed their dogs a high-quality dog food.  Isaac eats Taste of the Wild, which isn't available at grocery stores or even many pet stores, and is expensive.  The people I know with service dogs make sure their dogs are always up to date with vaccines, that they get heart worm and flea prevention regularly, and that they get veterinary care whenever needed.  They spend money on quality treats, chews and toys.  They do things like pay someone to take the dog for a run three times a week if they can't run with him themselves.  Service dogs are generally kept well-groomed because you can't take a dirty, smelly, poorly-groomed dog into a restaurant.

So service dogs are generally loved a lot and cared for very well.  But I'm not sure that really answers the question.

Off duty, service dogs don't wear special vests or other gear.  Off duty, they get petted and talked to and get plenty of attention.  They play with toys.  They go for long strolls and sniff things.  They roll in poop in they get the chance.  They play with other dogs, although many service dog owners avoid dog parks due to concerns about aggressive dogs that might injure their service dogs.  Some service dog owners join play groups or arrange play dates with friendly, well-behaved dogs instead.  Service dogs get belly rubs.  They sleep on the couch or bed.  They play with, or annoy, the family cat.  They lick their butts.  They sniff the cat's butt or the butts of their humans.  They do typical doggie stuff.  And they get treated like typical doggies.

Now, I think some service dog owners might be more careful with their off-duty service dogs than the typical pet owner is with a pet doggie because they want to be absolutely sure no harm comes to their service dog.  But in general, a service dog off-duty is treated like a pet dog.  If you meet an off-duty service dog, you probably won't realize he is a service dog.  When he's off-duty, Isaac acts like a typical goofy lab puppy dog.  People that first meet him off-duty are surprised to see how well-behaved and service dog-like he acts when he's working.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Vicodin and Me

I probably sound a bit like an addict lately, going on and on about how I want some Vicodin.

I know I've said it before but I'm gonna say it again.  I used to have a high pain tolerance.  I had a natural childbirth when I was 17.  Nineteen hours of labor, and yes, it hurt, but not so much I needed pain meds.  When I had my gall bladder removed a few years ago, I took one dose of pain meds (Vicodin, by the way) at the hospital before I left for home.  I took one more dose that night before bed.  The next morning, I felt fine and was back to my usual activities.  I've never been one to want  lots of pain meds.

I very rarely drink alcohol.  I have had a total of four drinks since I had my gastric bypass surgery more than five years ago.  Two glasses of wine and one two occasions, I shared a frozen margarita with a friend.

I've never done illegal drugs.  Never smoked pot.  Been around people smoking it a couple times but never smoked any myself.  I've never even seen cocaine, crack, meth, heroin, etc.

I've had prescriptions for sedatives, things like valium, ativan, klonopin, xanax, for years.  When I was in high school and other kids were stealing xanax from their mommies' medicine cabinet, I had my own xanax, prescribed by my psychiatrist.  And I took it as directed.  And not very often.  I also did not share with my friends.  Not that any of my friends had serious substance abuse problems, but some of them did take pain pills or sedatives or smoke pot occasionally.  But I never did, except for the meds prescribed to me by my doctor.  And I never took those things for the purpose of getting high.

I'm trying to remember if I've ever taken meds prescribed for someone else, other than the Vicodin my friend gave me recently.  I guess I have, a couple times.  A friend once gave me some omeprazole, which is an acid reducer, available both over the counter and by prescription.  It's expensive stuff and I was having some heartburn and had taken some bought over the counter and a friend that used to take it by prescription has some left over and gave them to me.  I know technically you're not supposed to do that, but it was the same med available without a prescription, and nobody is getting high on omeprazole.

I have refused to take, or to continue taking, prescribed meds that made me feel drugged or hungover.  I don't like that feeling.

About an hour ago, I took another Vicodin.  Just one. 

I was having pain in my right elbow, which is not at all unusual, but it was particularly bad.  It's hard to describe the pain, but it sort of felt like someone was poking needles into the area around my elbow while also burning my skin.  From the elbow down, my arm felt sort of numb and tingling, like when your arm or leg "falls asleep."  Every 10 or 15 seconds or so, a sharp pain would shoot down my arm.

I was trying to write an article about home remedies for warts.  I kept stopping, moving my arm around, shaking it, rubbing the elbow, trying to get some relief.  I couldn't focus on my article.  Plus, it's hard to type when you are shaking your arm and rubbing your elbow.

Finally, I took a Vicodin.  Just one.

I wouldn't say my arm feels good, but the shooting pains are gone and I am able to type.

Why is that too much to ask for?

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Fatigue is a common symptom of fibromyalgia.  You know, though, I think anyone would be tired if pain kept them awake night after night after night.

It's hard to find the words to explain how exhausted I am.  It's the kind of exhaustion you feel when you have the flu.  Simply taking a shower and getting dressed completely wears me out.  By the time I'm dressed, I feel like I need a nap.

I have no energy for cooking.  I have a protein shake most days for breakfast and for dinner.  I used to have one most days for breakfast, but now I have one for dinner, too, because I have enough energy to pour milk into a glass, add a scoop of protein powder and shake it up.  That's supposing I have enough energy to go to the store and buy milk.  Buying milk takes a lot of energy because it's heavy.  But that is my breakfast and my dinner. 

Some days I make soup for lunch but other days I don't have the energy to stand at the stove stirring it long enough to heat it up, so then I might have a protein shake for lunch, too.  For snacks I eat protein bars, yogurt, an occasional English muffin, and sliced apples with almond butter when I have enough energy to cut one up.  I used to make my own yogurt, but I don't have enough energy to do that anymore, so I buy ready-to-eat single serving containers.

I washed my sheets a week ago but haven't had the energy to put them on my bed yet.  There is a pile of clothes at the end of my bed that I haven't had the energy to put away.  Isaac is enjoying sleeping in them.  I just don't have the energy for those things.  It's all I can do to keep myself, Isaac and Cayenne fed and take Isaac out.

Ritual for Coping with Pain

I spend the morning lying on the couch, wrapped in my electric blanket, in pain.  If I lay in this position, my shoulder hurts.  In this position, my arm hurts.  In this position, my hip hurts.  In any position, my feet ache and occasionally a muscle spasm in my feet curls my toes and makes me cry out in pain.   Cayenne curls up on the arm of the couch nearest my feet and Isaac lies on the floor beside the couch, also curled in a ball.  I can hear him shifting position when a muscle spasm makes me cry out.  Otherwise all is quiet.  It is sunny outside but windy and the movement of the trees outside the window casts moving shadows across the wall.

I want someone to come and help me but of course there is no one.  This pain feels like a punishment but I don't know what I've done wrong, other than to be alive.  I understand why people in pain think of death, of euthanasia, of mercy killing.  If Cayenne was in this much pain, I'd have her put to sleep.  I think of Cayenne, who is not in much pain, who is not ready to leave this world, and who needs me to care for her.  I think of Isaac, who would most likely be fine without me, who would bond easily to another owner, but who loves me nonetheless and who I love, who I don't want to leave.

I pull myself off the couch.  I go to the bathroom, plug in my space heater, turn on the tap in the tub.  Add Epsom salts and eucalyptus oil to the hot water.  Light incense and candles, place the candles around the tub.  I put Gregorian chants on my laptop (did you know Pandora has a Gregorian chant station?).  I make tea and carry it to the bathroom, where I undress and then wrap myself in warm, soft towels.  I sit on the soft, fluffy bathmat, lean back against the side of the tub.

I breathe.  I inhale, I exhale.  The pain does not matter so much in this space.  No, I can't stay here forever, but I am here now.  And I breathe.  And I soften.

I pray.  I pray to Yemaya, who is an African Goddess of the Ocean, a Mother Goddess.  I ask her to hold me, to just let me ride the waves and keep me safe and keep my head above water.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Passing for Normal

Today at the grocery store, someone complimented me for training a service dog. I was told that I was doing a great job training him, and isn't it wonderful all the people a dog like Isaac can help, and it's just such a wonderful thing I'm doing. I'm like, uh huh, I can't even train him to stop eating Cayenne's food every time I go into the bathroom.

You know, as nice as it is to know I look "normal," the assumption that I am training Isaac really wears on me. It had actually been a couple of weeks since I last heard that. Usually I hear it at least once every time Isaac and I go somewhere.

But it's more than that.  I want to look "normal" or be accepted as "normal" but I also don't like the assumption that I don't need a service dog, that I must be training a dog for someone else (someone that does look disabled, I assume), that I don't have special needs and can't have special needs and should be able to do all the things everyone else can do.  It's hard to explain.  I'm having trouble finding the words. 

I guess I'll just say I wish diversity was respected and valued more.  I wish people didn't feel the need to divide people into "normal" and "abnormal" groups and that I could go to the grocery store and just be me, a woman with a service dog that wants to buy her apples and almond butter and yogurt and dog treats and go home, not some poor disabled girl and not some saint that trains service dogs for other poor disabled people.

On Feeling Sorry

Recently it was suggested to me that I am feeling sorry for myself and ought to stop it.  Well, it wasn't so much a suggestion as a rather harsh and unfriendly comment, at least that's how it seemed to me.  But after I got over being offended, I decided to consider it.

What does that mean exactly, to feel sorry for one's self or for someone else?  Does it mean to feel sympathy?  I don't think that would be a bad thing.  In fact, I think it would be a good thing if I felt more sympathy for myself.  Often, I judge myself hardly.  To be honest, I feel more contempt for myself than sympathy.  That's true for many survivors of abuse that I know.  We feel sympathy for others, but not for ourselves.

But I don't think that's what people mean when they talk about feeling sorry for someone else or for one's self.  I think they are talking more about pity.  Feeling pity for someone else is sort of demeaning, I think.  Or at least it's often perceived that way.  And self-pity, well, I think people are usually talking about wallowing in it.  And it is frustrating at best to be around someone that wallows in self-pity and it's certainly not helpful or constructive to spend much time wallowing.

But maybe it's more about feeling sorrow than about feeling pity.  What's wrong with feeling sorry for someone, including ourselves, that has been through something terrible?  You don't want to get stuck in the sorrow, you don't want to drop anchor there.  But isn't sorrow a reasonable feeling in some circumstances?

I think some people say not to feel sorry for yourself because they don't want to feel sorrow and if you feel it, it might cause them to feel it, too.  They don't want to acknowledge the pain that you've been through and they don't want to acknowledge their own pain.  It's easier for them if you don't acknowledge your pain, either.  It's easier for them if you don't feel sorrow or sadness or pain.  They'd rather you only feel happiness and joy and contentment and other "good" feelings, or if you do feel something else, that you keep it strictly to yourself.

When I was in college, I took a class on spirituality and addiction.  The class was taught by this really cool nun.  I wish I could remember her name.  It was something Native American.  Anyway, she said repeatedly that what gets buried alive, stays alive.  Do you want that sorrow to stay alive?  If so, bury it.  Don't feel it, don't express it.  But do you want it to pass some day?  Then I think you have to feel it.  Go ahead and feel it.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Let it out.  Let it go.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Laundry Dog

Last night, Isaac and went down to the laundry room to get my laundry out of the dryer.  We ran into one of our neighbors, one that adores Isaac and that Isaac adores back.  She followed me into the laundry room and stood there talking to me while Isaac and I got our laundry.

When I opened the dryer, a sock fell out.  Isaac happily snatched it up and gave it to me, without me even asking him to.  He proceeded to get the rest of the laundry on command, paying very little attention to the neighbor that was standing there talking to me.

I was so proud of Isaac.  When we first moved here, he had a really hard time getting the laundry out of the dryer when someone else was in the laundry room or even if he just heard someone out in the hall.  He got a bunch of treats for his good work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pain Management

I've been talking with friends and acquaintances recently about pain medication and it seems that doctors are getting more and more reluctant to prescribe pain meds.  One friend told me that heroin addiction is on the rise among senior citizens because they can't get adequate pain medication from their doctors and apparently heroin is cheaper than buying pain meds on the street.  How scary is that?  And how sad?

I have a friend that recently had a total knee replacement.  She had her other knee done a while ago and after that surgery, her orthopedic surgeon prescribed Vicodin for her to take before physical therapy appointments because the therapy was so painful.  This time, he has refused to do that for some reason.  She told me that at her last appointment with him, he was complaining how many of his patients have been cancelling their physical therapy appointments.  He didn't seem to get that the reason they are cancelling may be related to his refusing to prescribe pain meds for that purpose.  Duh.  Patients don't want to do very painful therapy without any pain medication.  Imagine that.

My friend is supposed to do physical therapy once a week for eight to 12 weeks.  She wants two Vicodin per week.  Sixteen to 24 pills.  Seriously, no one is going to get addicted taking two Vicodin a week.  I don't think it would be possible to abuse two Vicodin a week.  I guess you can get a slight buzz off two Vicodin, although you probably wouldn't even get that if you abused Vicodin on any kind of a regular basis.

Another friend offered to give me a few Vicodin that he had left from something, I think having some dental work done.  I told him that if I could have two, that would be super.  I was imagining one night of being able to sleep without pain keeping me awake.  Today, he gave me 10.

I can't even explain how precious those 10 pills seem to me.  They were in an envelope.  I brought them home, found an empty pill bottle to keep them in, tore off the corner of that envelope and poured them into the bottle.  I always label any container I store meds in other than the original bottle, so I made a sky blue label for the bottle.  I set the bottle on my kitchen counter for the day.  I thought of putting it on my alter.

At bedtime, I straightened out my covers, turned down the lights, and took two Vicodin along with one of my few remaining Flexeril.  Twenty minutes later, I lay down and I didn't hurt.  I didn't fall asleep and I kind of didn't want to.  I just wanted to enjoy the feeling.  I was able to lay in one position for a long time.  My arms didn't hurt.  My hands didn't hurt.  My hips didn't hurt.   My toe didn't hurt.  How stupid does that sound?  But my little toe on my right foot has been hurting a lot.

I felt a little sad because really, how sad is it that it's been a long, long time since I was able to lie still for a while without hurting?  It's been a little over a year since I had any Vicodin.  It's been a month since I came off the Tramadol, but that didn't allow me to lie down at night without pain.  It just made the pain more bearable.  But gods, does it feel good right now.  One night without pain.  Priceless.

Edited to add: So I slept really, really well last night.  I woke up feeling rested.  I noticed when I got up this morning that my blankets were still neatly arranged.  Usually, they are all twisted into knots when I wake up.  Apparently last night, I didn't twist and turn all night like I usually do.  It is so amazing to wake up actually feeling rested.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sometimes I Hate Night

I hate night a lot lately, actually.

I cope with the pain pretty well during the day, for the most part.  I hurt, but I can deal with it.  I can ignore it.  I can distract myself.

At night, I can't.  It's hard to sleep because of the pain, but I'm tired, I can't keep myself busy and distracted from the pain all night.

And then that pain, that unrelenting pain, triggers memories of being in the emergency room and of my childhood, and it's hard to cope with those memories at night when I'm tired and in pain.

And it's lonely.  I think of all the people I know, think of calling someone, and think of all the reasons I shouldn't bother them.  Plus, I don't know what I'd say if I did call someone.  They'd ask what they could do, how they could help, and I don't know.  I don't know what I want or what I need.

And the night seems so long like that.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

To the Person That Keeps Posting Hateful Comments on My Blog

I'm pretty sure I know who you are, though I'm not sure why you're so full of anger and hate when we haven't even spoken in about 10 years.  If you need to discuss something with me, and if you can do so in a polite, respectful manner, please email me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com.  It seems like something better discussed in private, not on a blog.  However, if you are not able to communicate in a polite, respectful manner, then don't bother emailing.  I won't respond to verbal abuse.

I'd like you to stop posting inappropriate, rude, hateful, hurtful comments on my blog.  That's not what this blog is for.  I will continue to moderate comments and to delete all comments of this sort.  Those kinds of comments are not welcome here.  Comments about my daughter are particularly unwelcome and inappropriate.  You're an adult.  Start acting like it.

Whatever the reason for your anger and hatred, perhaps you would benefit from seeking some professional help in dealing with it.  But take it elsewhere.  It doesn't belong here.  It's not welcome here.  Move on and get a life of your own.  Leave mine alone.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

More Thoughts on the Abyss

The post I wrote recently about the abyss was inspired by a conversation with a friend.  I asked him how he'd gotten through a very dark time in his life without being totally screwed up.  Of course, maybe he is more screwed up than I realize.  I think I am more screwed up than he realized.  But what he told me was that he stood at the edge and looked into the abyss and knew he couldn't stay there long enough for it to look back into him.

I was thinking about that today and I think he was old enough and wise enough when he experienced trauma that he was able to recognize the abyss when he saw it and to know he could not stay there long.  I, on the other hand, was not old enough or wise enough to recognize it or to know not to linger.

Do you know the story of Persephone?  I talked about Persephone in that post.  But there are really two stories about Persephone, although many people only know one, the newer one, although both are really old.  Persephone is an ancient Greek goddess, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus.  In the earlier myth, Persephone went into the Underworld because she heard the cries of the dead and she went to comfort them.  In the newer, patriarchal version, she was kidnapped by Hades and taken there by force.  Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, went in search of her daughter and rescued her.  But because Persephone had eaten three pomegranate seeds while she was there, she has to return to the Underworld for three months each year.  That's when we have winter.  Demeter grieves for her daughter then and will not allow anything to grow.

I prefer the older version of the story, in which women have more power and aren't subject to the control of men who abduct and assault them.  But the newer version was more what I was thinking of when I first wrote about the abyss.  Because I did not choose to go there.  I was taken there, by force.

Silly Sleeping Doggie

The Pretty Kitty Went to the Vet Today

Cayenne went back to the vet today for a recheck of her infection on her belly.  It's cleared up nicely, which I knew because I could tell by looking at it.  No more drainage, no more nasty smelly greenish sliminess. 

She was her usual grouchy self about the trip.  I had to stuff her in her carrier, then she yelled at me plenty on the car ride there.  I was actually glad about that, though.  I think it means she's feeling good.

Fortunately, she did not puke, pee or poop on the ride there or on the ride home. 

The vet suggested doing another round of antibiotics, just to prevent the infection from returning for a while.  He thinks that when she comes off the antibiotics, it probably will return, at least at some point.  He said probably sooner rather than later.  But there are risks associated with long-term use of antibiotics, too, so it's not like she can stay on them forever.  But another 14 days of them might delay the inevitable a bit.

As the tumors continue to grow, the skin will continue to break down.  That will allow infection to set in, plus she will lick the ulcerated places more as they break down more, which introduces more bacteria.  But for now, she'll do another round of antibiotics and I'll do my best to keep the ulcerated spots clean and dry.

She gained five ounces since she was last there.  She's been eating like a little pig.  She demands treats frequently, and since she's spoiled rotten, she gets them.

When I had her on the exam table, her carrier was on the table beside her, and she kept trying to get back in it.  Only the little door was closed.  But she kept pawing at it and butting it with her head.  She wanted in that carrier.  It's hilarious how cats do that.  They hate getting in it at home but get them to the vet and they can't wait to get in. 

Isaac was very happy to see her when we got home.  I'm not sure who he missed more, me or the kitty.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Pacing Myself Sucks

A few days ago, I wrote about how I've been learning to pace myself.  How important it is to do so.  But sometimes it sucks.  Sometimes I really sucks.

Today a friend issued an invitation that I really, really wanted to accept.  I almost did, without thinking too much about it.

But then I did think.  It would involve getting up really early.  This morning, I was up at 3:30 am.  Cayenne woke me up hacking up a big juicy hairball on the couch, which happens to be where I was sleeping.  Since I don't enjoy big juicy hairballs on my feet when I sleep, I decided I better get up and clean it up.  Plus, you know, I was already awake.

I got up, cleaned up the big juicy hairball, and discovered I was cold and sore and achy.  I decided I needed a hot bath.  With Epsom salts and eucalyptus essential oil, which, by the way, is very good for relieving muscle aches. 

It was so early, Isaac didn't even want to get up.  He rolled his eyes in my direction when I looked in the bedroom at him.  I did nap a bit later, but my point is, I was up very early and am running on far too little sleep.

And tomorrow, I have to go buy dog food.  I have to.  Isaac will be eating a small-than-normal breakfast in the morning because he has less than one cup of dog food left.  I was going to get dog food today but I have a coupon that is not good until tomorrow and it's for 10% off everything I buy at the farm supply store where I get dog food.  But I must get it tomorrow.  And lifting a 30 lb. bag of dog food off the shelf in the store and into my cart, then out of my cart and into my trunk, is really, really difficult for me.  I will probably have muscle spasms in my back.  I will hurt.

Doing that on top of getting very little sleep would not be wise.  It would be really stupid.

So I declined the invitation.  But it sucks.  Because a normal person should be able to get up early and still buy dog food.

What a Good Boy

Today Isaac was lying on the living room floor, chewing happily on his Kong.  I was getting ready to wash dishes and I dropped a spoon on the floor.  So I called Isaac to come over and pick it up for me.  He came right over, carrying his Kong.

That's common for Isaac.  He comes when called, but often brings a toy.  When I want him to do something for me, like retrieve something, I usually ask him to give me the toy, which he usually does willingly, then tell him what I want him to do, then after he picks up the spoon or whatever and gives it to me, then I give him back his toy.

Today, he came over, looked at the spoon, put his Kong down on the floor, picked up the spoon and gave it to me.  I didn't have to ask for the Kong and I didn't have to tell him to pick up the spoon.

He got a treat for that one.

The Abyss

"I looked into that abyss," a friend said to me, "and I knew I didn't want to stay there long enough for it to look back into me."

Well, I didn't just look in.  I fell in, head first.

I settled in.  I dropped anchor.

No, I didn't stay, not forever.  But long enough for the darkness to know my name.

I made my home there for a while.

Like Persephone, I stayed too long.

My mother did not come to rescue me.  I reached down and I saved myself, as much of myself as I could find.

But like Persephone, I'd eaten the pomegranate seeds.  I must return at times to that darkness.  I stayed too long to ever fully leave.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Poetry Blog

I've posted a few poems here on this blog but decided to start a second blog on which to post  my poetry.  I hope you'll check it out.

Poet Kelly

Pacing Myself

One thing I've been learning is how important it is to pace myself.  I can't always do all the things I want to do.  And when I do too much, the pain gets worse, I get too tired, I get overwhelmed and have trouble coping.  It's frustrating to me when I can do as much as I want to do, or as much as I think I should be able to do, or all the things I've planned to do. 

I used to feel guilty about not getting things done but I don't so much anymore.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe I just reached a point where I needed to let go of that because it certainly wasn't helping me to feel that way.  Also, a friend pointed out a while back that being tired is not a personality flaw, and that really resonated with me.  I hadn't realized it, exactly, but I had been feeling like being too tired or in too much pain to do something, like clean my house, was some sort of character flaw.  Which of course it isn't.

If I pace myself, the pain is less, the anxiety is less, I can cope better.  Duh.  That sounds really obvious but it took me a long time to figure it out.

I have a friend coming over tomorrow and I've spent the last week cleaning my house.  I still get frustrated, and also kind of depressed, if I think too much about how there was a time when I could have cleaned this small apartment from top to bottom in no time.  Two hours and I could have had the place spotless. 

Now, it takes me a week.  It takes me a week, and there are still things I don't get done, like the bathtub.  It's too hard to clean my tub.  This is embarrassing to admit, but I cleaned my bathtub when I first moved in here and I haven't cleaned it since.  I mean, I rinse it out, but I haven't scrubbed it since.  And that was ten months ago.

But having a really clean tub is just not worth the pain it causes to bend over and scrub it.  So tomorrow I will close the shower curtain and my friend will have no idea that I haven't cleaned my tub in almost a year.

But pacing myself.  I'm doing it.  And if I don't think too much about how much easier life would be if I could get a normal amount of stuff done, it works.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Girl, Interrupted

Last night I watched "Girl, Interrupted."  I've seen it before.  I'm not sure what made me want to see it again.  If you haven't seen it, you should.

Whoopie Goldberg plays a wonderful nurse is a psychiatric hospital and at one point she tells a patient she needs to get things out, put it down somehow, put it away from her, where she can't keep curling up with it.  That makes so much sense to me.  She also tells a patient, in a very dark moment, "Don't drop anchor here."  And I get that, too.

The movie takes place in the 60's and psych wards in the 60's were very different than they are now.  People stayed in the hospital for a long, long time.  Partly that was due to less effective medications, I think, and partly because we didn't have managed care then and people could actually afford long-term treatment.  I definitely don't think spending months upon months in psych wards is helpful, at least not for most people, and I'm all in favor of community-based care.  I wish there was more, and better, care available in most communities, but I'm all in favor of community-based care.

Twenty years ago, well, more like 25 years ago (gosh, I feel old now), psych wards were not like they were in the 60's, not like in this movie, but they were different than they are now.  Back when I first started being admitted to psych wards, a typical length of stay was about two weeks, maybe three.  These days, it's unusual if they keep you more than a week.

They had more treatment in the psych wards back then and more activities.  The last time I was in the hospital, in 2013, they had two or three groups a day and they were stupid groups.  It was the same the time before that, in a different hospital, in 2006.  But they used to have four or five or six groups or activities a day, group therapy, art therapy, some sort of fitness, relaxation training or meditation, arts and crafts, movies, bingo (OK, I didn't say it was all exciting).  One hospital had a plant therapy group once a week.  You got to plant things.  You got to decorate the pot and take home a plant.  Ceramics, yoga, music therapy.  One hospital had this thing one day a month where the patients cooked lunch.  We made Chinese food when I was there.

There is a scene in the movie where the patients are taken on an outing for ice cream.  I've been on a couple of those patient outings.  One for ice cream, even.  And one to play miniature golf. 

There was a feeling of safety there for me.  Which seems a bit odd, considering how terrified I am of the very idea of going to a hospital now.  In fact, last night I had a nightmare about being admitted to a psych ward.  Watching that movie probably triggered it.  But there was a time when it felt safe.  And I can certainly see how it would have felt that way in the 60's, when people were going to war and dying.