books, death, film, humor, love, Pixel & Feldspar Diaries, politics

Orange Violence and Leprechauns

After his first viewing of A Clockwork Orange on Inauguration Day J20:

Feldspar: What Now?
Pixel: Something classic, something funny
Feldspar: Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
Pixel: Try again.
Feldspar: Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
Pixel: Hmm, that’s new.
Feldspar: It has Leprechauns and Banshees and Sean Connery when he was young. Singing.
Pixel: Perfect.

feminism, interviews, music, politics, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

Indigo Girls: Song, Spirituality and Social Justice | Vortex Music Magazine

In their 30-plus years as a band, Indigo Girls have increasingly turned their attention to social causes.

Indigo Girls have been in the music scene since the ’80s, experimenting with their sound, enduring worldwide touring, and outlasting many of their female acoustic-based folk rock contemporaries. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers boast a long-lasting girlhood friendship, 16 albums, more than 35 years of writing, arranging, recording and performing together as a duo, and a Grammy for their self-titled album, which contains their signature song, “Closer to Fine,” featuring earnest lyrics and finely woven vocal harmonies delivered with equal parts fire and grace—a distinctive quality that longtime fans have come to cherish.

Separately, they’ve released solo albums and embarked on successful personal projects—Ray founded a record company and a nonprofit organization that promotes independent musicians, while Saliers scored a film, opened a restaurant and cowrote a book with her father. But their accomplishments have expanded because of the music they make together—and beyond it—into the realm of political activism. Indigo Girls’ commitment to social justice issues, humanitarian concerns and environmental causes can be heard in their musical themes and seen as personal action. Together with Winona LaDuke, Ray and Saliers founded the nonprofit Honor the Earth to raise awareness and financial support for indigenous environmental justice.

READ the rest at the Source: Indigo Girls: Song, Spirituality and Social Justice | Vortex Music Magazine

health, humor, politics, psychology, rants, sex

Sustainable Bleeding – or Eco-Friendly Menstruation

 

Panty shields up, Captain! We’re rebooting the Ovarian Operating System . . .

I know, the title of this blog alone makes you want to click fast and away. But I have to tell you a tale of consumer eco-angst removed from the simple and often expensive decision to buy local, organic products and food. But first, a little herstory . . .

tamponThere’s already been enough shame, secrecy, and taboo surrounding “that time of the month” and all the other fine euphemisms invented to be humourous or circumspect about the mystery of menstruation. There are countries where tampons weren’t and still aren’t sold because you’d have to “touch down there.” There are women who follow this practice willingly, even in forward thinking countries. They build huts and red tents and spas for this exact purpose. To wear pampers or to be pampered. Elsewhere.

But it’s moved beyond that to a place where we’re supposed to celebrate and “have a happy period,” a campaign from a company that stupidly chose their brand name to be “Always.” As in, “I’ll ALWAYS bleed, and I’ll ALWAYS wear these things.” At least Kotex, Tampex, and Playtex (all with –ex as a suffix to mean “out, from or away”) sound almost medical or medicinal. And it’s not ALL feminine hygiene, even wounded soldiers are prone to use a tampon (French for “plug” or “stopper”) to halt bullet wounds from weeping. “Always” doesn’t seem to imply medical or even chronic, instead, it implies a life sentence. Doesn’t your uterus protest? Well it should. War is hell and there’s a war in your drawers and the sick folks at Always were also responsible for aerodynamic pantyliners and pads. That’s right – they got your code red covered in homeland security and you can feel secure each month knowing there’s a little, white F-16 in your pants.

It’s not just a troubling war at home either . . . it’s covers many land masses and miles of ocean.

Spastic Plastic

Your average lady uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime, that’s 250 to 300 pounds of tampons and applicators. Tag on a few thousand pads and panty liners, and your ecological footprint is looking more like Sasquatch. Of particular offense are the plastic applicators some tampons are encased in. They are casually tossed into wastebaskets where they later escape the curb trash or landfill, trotted off by animals, resurfacing in parking lots and playgrounds and a host of other locations you’d rather not see them appear.

They come back from the watery depths to haunt you, too.

angry-uterusPlastic tampon applicators from sewage outfalls are one of the most common forms of trash on beaches. Yeah, you thought food wrappers and glass bottles and needles were the only gross & hazardous materials washing out to sea and coming back in with the tides. You flush them and that’s just the beginning. For building owners, pads and tampons that are flushed down the toilet are the most common cause of plumbing problems. Further down the flow, they end up the sewage treatment plants and surf into a lake or onto a river, and on into the ocean where they pool with the rest of the plastic detritus at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There it all sits and breaks down into ever smaller particles until they are the size and color of plankton or worse, are pelletized high-density polyethylene (HDPE) white “nurdles” that resemble fish eggs or food to sea creatures. Then the birds and fish ingest these hormone disrupters and concentrated toxins like PCB and DDE and the circle of life gets a big kick in the nurdles.

But it’s not just the animals somewhat removed from you, you’re an animal too, and guess what it’s doing to you by directly inserting it? Your conventional feminine hygiene products contain a mixture of rayon and cotton. Rayon is in your blouses, dresses, lingerie, linings, scarves, suits, ties, hats, socks, the filling in Zippo lighters, blankets, window treatments, upholstery, tire cord, yarn and diapers. It’s highly absorbent but no good at retaining shape and as far as biodegradability goes, it’s a real loser. Most importantly, synthetic materials like the Rayon used in tampons show an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), particularly for superabsorbent tampons. So if you’re a bleeder, you’re a feeder.

And sweet, white cotton isn’t much better up in there. Cotton is highly pesticide-intensive; 25% of pesticides used globally are devoted to growing cotton. To achieve that lily-white look, pads and tampons are bleached with chlorine, a process which creates dioxins, a known carcinogen and those bad boys shouldn’t be placed anywhere near your reproductive organs. And you swear you never smoked a cigar in your life. Especially in a donkey show.

Think Outside the (Tampon) Box

mr. menstruationIt’s getting easier to select tampons, pads, and panty liners made from organic, unbleached cotton which is cultivated without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, sewage sludge, irradiation, petrochemicals, or genetic engineering. All of which we now have think about when looking at the towering isle of soothing, pastel colors, reminding us that yes – we’ll be back out there swimming, riding ponies, surfing at the beach and smiling while playing miniature golf in NO time.

O.B. tampons: small box, no applicator. Compact, simple cellophane wrapper covering them, easy to use, and take up very little room in your purse. It is unfathomable, but some women simple aren’t down with getting that up close and personal with their own lady bits and maybe getting their finger a little spotty. Come on darlings – this is no time to be prim and squeamish. If you haven’t seen it in a mirror to understand how it goes together and pushed the buttons to see how it works, you don’t deserve to have sex and should just hang an “Out Of Order” sign over your girdle loop. Get over it. Get into it. It’s yours. Deal.

im_a_woman2OG-style Tampax: wrapped in paper, cardboard applicator that breaks down relatively quickly if they happen to get loose in the environment. Preferable to the Pearl brand, which has an indestructible plastic applicator strong enough for shotgun shell casings and is then further wrapped in coated paper. Awesome. Go ahead. Try running them over with your car. You can’t destroy them. They’ll only get dirty . . . and more angry. That plastic rocket launcher is just one more wasteful obstacle between you and your nana. I don’t even want to go into the perfumed varieties. Now on top of your plastic fetish, you’re going to open a vapor-impermeable pouch and stick this vulcanized, alcohol soaked albino vampire into your hoo-ha where no one and nothing but your senseless cervix can smell it? Well it doesn’t work and now you smell of lightly talcumed meat. Fail. p.s. Talc is closely related to the potent carcinogen asbestos and talc particles have been shown to cause tumors in the ovaries and lungs of cancer victims. So hey – go easy on sprinkling the Johnson’s about your leaky basement. It’s a safety hazard. You’ll slip and fall. No need to announce “clean-up on aisle one.”

Natracare and Seventh Generation: chemical-free, non chlorine-bleached, simple packaging which means even less waste. Eco-conscious enough with all the key ingredient and disclaimers including no animal-testing and skin-tested only on fellow humans. You can sleep well in the knowledge that no bunnies had to hop about with a maxi pad strapped to their fluffy bums and instead, some nice lady in a lab got itchy a few times. This is still within the normal scope of your monthly cycle.

Jade and Pearl Sea Sponge: natural tampons inspired by the traditional use of sponges by menstruating women of ancient times. So if you want to bleed like Cleopatra, this is your bag. The Egyptians invented the tampon too – so you can thank them for that little wonder. Sea sponges are available in Teenie, Regular, and Large and you precision(?) fit to size by trimming the sea sponge and experimenting with insertion. Wow. Try not to think about doing dishes or wiping counters or a nice hot sponge bath because really, I can’t see how this is either sanitary OR relaxing. So Sally, if you’re worried about sullying up the seashore, (welcome to my new menstrual tongue twister) this is all the rage amongst mythological aquatic creatures. Apparently, sea sponges are what mermaids use.

period_panties_1Menstrual Cups – i.e.: Diva cup, Mooncup, Instead Softcup, Lunette, Keepercup, LadyCup, Femmecup, Miacup: Ok. Here’s where I drawn the line. This ain’t a Dixie Cup, or a Sippie Cup, a Tommee Tippee Cup or an Ice Cream Cup. This is none of those fun, sweet, childlike associations. But I trust you probably got over that the first time you sprung a leak and wrecked your favorite Underroos or your expensive lingerie for failing to count the days. Maybe I just haven’t been brave enough to go with a new, miserable experience, but let me get this straight . . . i fold a plastic, rubbery cup into a jelly roll, insert this, it pops open like a tulip, I “stir” it around to make sure the umbrella’s been fully deployed, which may take some coaxing and pushing and twisting, and then I pull it out by its dangling tail at intervals, wash it and reinsert it like tiny, portable Tupper Ware?!?!

Oh, hell no!

I am not about to wash my snatch basket in the sink (and carry special, mild, perfume-free, hypo-allergenic fem soap) in between classes or you know, when I take a restroom break to freshen up while out to dinner. I mean, how does one do this discreetly? Oh, and once a month, I get the distinct displeasure of a 5-minute boil for my little traveling jellyfish at the end of the cycle in some dedicated kitchen equipment that never sees food. Or, hey, I can use rubbing alcohol (and not hydrogen peroxide) to sterilize it. But I have to be extremely careful not to soak it too long and allow it to dry completely and not degrade the integrity of the plastic and rinse the residue so I don’t fuck up my vaginal pH.

O.B. tampons sounding better all the time, huh? Can you imagine wringing out your sea sponge? Wouldn’t you rather “touch it” now?

Go With The Flow

happy-tampon
I’m just a happy little tampon

There was a time when i worked at a place so uptight, they wouldn’t allow the female staff to carry in a purse. Whether this was for security or to keep outside worldly distractions such as cell phones to a minimum was unclear, but the idea completely incensed my friend Nicole.

“What?” she snapped. “Where are you supposed to carry your tampons, up your ass?”

I explained to her how bad the work environment sucked and how tension and impossible precision reigned, thus, the topic of anal retention seemed a very fitting description. The job had me so upset, i couldn’t poop for a week. Then I quit.

And many light flow days from then, here I was on a Wednesday nite, standing there in the supermarket isle, paralyzed by too many choices and horrible, far-reaching consequences of those attempts at informed decision. There I was: hungry, cranky, wanting ice cream and a heating pad at the same time, thinking about plumbing, and ocean waters and marine life and cancer of the Yoni.

I turn to the woman next to me who is clicking and sucking at her teeth in audible consternation, just like me, and we both smile nervously, amazed at the mini internal crisis over what we’re going to buy. Neither of us will move first, both seem to be wondering how the other will select, looking for a brave trend to follow. Somehow, there’s a preposterous sense of worry over being  judged, like bringing a film or a music cd or a book to the checkout clerk, the fear of choosing poorly, unwisely, without taste or sensibilities. “Hmmm,” she says. “Yeahhhhh,” I mutter slowly and drawn out. And we both start giggling.

My cup of joy is overflowing

I consider my internal flowchart for assessing absorbency needs:cuterus - the adorable uterus

junior – aww, isn’t that cute, you inked!

light – Miss Kitty has a nose bleed.

regular – oh, yay. my period’s back.

super – omg that’s a lot of blood.

super plus – jesus, maybe you should go to the hospital!

ultra – uhh, I think that blood clot just asked for a cigarette.

I am looking for regular. Just something in between, just a few tampons, a starter pack, a holdover since i don’t see any of my normal go-tos. And all they have is “a mere scratch” or “Carrie – Prom Scene.”

So I think of the dolphins and the salmon and the seabirds and i grab the 10-pack with the small, recyclable cardboard box and no applicator with the green looking package and eco-claims to fame and the woman next to me does the same. Just enough to soldier on.

It’s all I can do, really. If I don’t want to leave with anymore acronyms. Say, add PTSD to my PMS. Christ Almighty in a hybrid – i can’t even BLEED with out feeling guilty about it in my new sustainable world concept! I leave with my chlorine-free, biodegradable, non-applicator, no plastic, rayon-free tampons and my razors (which are free from animal testing) and a pint of, yes, sorry, blood orange sorbet, and it’s a good thing. While I’m happily eating my cool treat, I don’t need to imagine poor, naked bunnies hopping around with razor burn and nicks with only a maxi-pad to keep them warm. And after all this guilt, I just want to sandwich a washcloth and tuck it in my drawers or just sit on a sock and call it good.

funny-pictures-girl-lion-yells-at-boy-lion

Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health

for all your bleeding needs . . .

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One Month Later . . .

This morning a text message came in from the East Coast at 5:45am, PST. It was Meg and i was glad to hear from her, but i was also incoherent and back to sleep in moments. Then Joe kissed me goodbye as he does every morning just before 8am and i look for this happily, then listen to his shoes, the cupboard opening, the retrieval of a travel coffee mug, the door locking behind him marking that i’m safe again and i drift off once more. Then my Google Calender texted me remotely at 9am to remind me to pay Geico car insurance. Greedy lizard bastard. And just when i was drifting off for what i had hoped was the third and final time, a symphony of slamming ensues, the garbage truck begins its Thursday morning rumble through the neighborhood and i am officially awake and staring out the window at a misty fog and as i am surfacing from a sleepy fog of my own, i realize – today marks one month since my surgery . . .

As far as my health goes, forgive my over-explanation, reiteration and just plain TMI-fication if you find it tiresome – but i need to do this, to document it so i can look back on it someday down the line and say to myself, “see, you were going to be fine all along.” Several months from now, i’ll be looking forward to NOT overly concerning myself with all transportation of items in and out of me.

Overall, i AM feeling much better, there are some days i feel awesome and a few days last week where i felt, not so awesome. A couple bouts of the loosey gooseys and a bit of late nite nausea plus vomiting once. Today i feel fine, and it’s mostly because i’ve been able to sleep and eat MORE for several days; both of those things are hard to do when you are anxious and nauseous. Rice and stirfry type food arrangements seem to make me most happy, so i guess i’ll just become Chinese.

i realize that i must give my body time to adjust. Since i no longer contain an organ receptacle for the biliary system, my liver’s all, “WTF mate?” and it just tosses bile down there willy-nilly. This sends acid production into overdrive and makes my stomach go wild, which is the cause of the queasies & uneasies. It’s hard enough out there with the peanut butter salmonella scare or my grocery cashier coughing, blowing her nose and touching all of my food as she scans it, or my friends & family assuming that a female my age just might be pregnant . . . so i  tried to separate all that out and got some advice from my doctor as well as friends who’ve gone through this, even if it was anecdotal.

p.s. the next person to attribute my nausea and poo spells to pregnancy gets their gallbladder removed by me. with a spork.

i am also aware that this adjustment is different in different bodies and can be 3-6 months or even a year before things settle down in there, and sadly, some of the symptoms end up being recurrent or chronic in a handful of people. in most other cases, it’s just learning the triggers during the culinary adventure and hoping i don’t have to deal with anything that affects my eating. most food is cool and i’m taking it in smaller meals more often (as i did before, really) it’s obvious and pretty much immediate when food is NOT cool – it’s a straight lever pull to the luge. Amazing really . . . i know potato chips are OUT, perhaps unless they’re baked and Progresso soup proved to be an inexplicably bad experiment. And yeah, i know, i’m a real lady and all, but it’s the humbling stupid human tricks that make us all equals . . . Nothing like being a grown woman and filling your pants. uggghhh, fantastic!

i have added a B-complex with Folic Acid, and have chewed 1-2 Citrucel chocolate/caramel fiber chews (what am i, 60?) this seems to help some with energy and digestion. And the caramel ones aren’t bad, though the chocolate ones taste like a lame-ass diet Tootsie Roll. i don’t want to do the carb/fiber overload and i’ll be damned if i have to mix up some orange bum Tang cocktail in the morning everyday and fuck with my tea ritual, you know? My digestive system is rewiring for sure in there, but seriously, to go from a wealth of crazy delicious cuisine & wine to the BRAT diet and water, tea & juice well . . . did i mention even a leeetle bit of alcohol tends to make me really drunk and also, suddenly nauseous. i have to wait on that a bit too . . . oh, how the mighty have fallen, huh?

My doctor sent me in for more bloodwork to check my liver and pancreatic functions. They got me in both arms, the vampires. It all came back normal, thank goodness. She put me on famotidine. Yup, Pepcid. A histamine H2-receptor antagonist that inhibits stomach acid production. The amber bottles with my name on them just keep lining up in the cabinet like matryoshkas, little nested Russian dolls. i am hoping to pull them and my ailments out from inside each other till i am left with the tiniest one and i can get all the way healthy without them. But i am happy to report, eating has been much more pleasurable since Pepcid, as well as the necessary by-product of eating. It’s calmed me down considerably.

i’ve been mostly convalescing with a smattering of social outings and i think that has been making me a bit batty. Now that the scar tissue isn’t feeling so taut, i am starting back into the swing of things exercise wise, and that includes some yoga. i am also looking into Mayan abdominal and Craniosacral massage to get things moving, to realign and to push the reset button on my nervous system, to let it know it’s all over now and it’s time to busy myself with feeling better. Primarily i need to de-stress and remove the toxins and pain my body has been holding & clenching to itself.

OmBasecute logo!

i did find a really nice local yoga studio that i’m gearing up to join full-time. it’s called OmBase Yoga. i’ve been to 4 classes so far this week and have enjoyed the instructors & release in all of them. My legs tremble as they try to support me, my arms quiver under my weight, i can feel the tightness in my hamstrings, shoulders and back moan a little when i call on them to move this way, then push them just a little further, but i am grateful to breathe, to get out of my head-chatter and break existence down to nothing but me and the space on my mat.

The studio is a warm, tall, open space with burnt caramel colored wooden floors and beams, a few orange and magenta colored arches, and a little womb-like fireplace with a fan on top, drawing the heat up out its potbelly to move about. It’s more well-manicured barn than dance studio, crystal singing bowls, lots of Zen-like décor, subtle incense no full-length wall mirrors.

ombase studiothe left side of the studio . . .

i am STILL unemployed and a bit discouraged, which doesn’t lend to the mood of productivity or getting out of my house mouse routine. But, i have a funny little gig lined up for freelance photo work, which is a minor story too. So – firstly, you know, i’m a big fan of socks. Knee-highs & up to be exact. and the more colorful, interesting, sexy, star-spangled, stripey, spidery and silly, the better. There’s this place i used to mail-order from called Sock Dreams when i lived on the east coast (free shipping!)  and it turns out it’s located here in Portland. Less that 2 miles from me.

So a few months back i wrote the website, offering my services of ANY type: shipping, storefront, website maintenance, photography, leg model, guinea pig, coffee, tea & bagel donkey . . . you get the idea. i was invited to take a tour of the place where i was introduced to the staff, the 3 resident dogs and her husband/muse who said he’d recognized me through pictures. She’d expressed that she’d love to hire me, but the crush of the Holiday Season, the current economy, possible downsizing already in January, etc. i left with the gentle offer to be kept in mind in the future, perhaps finding some way to edge me in.

This week they got a shipment of baby socks so i took several pairs to photograph on some friends’ one & two year old son and daughter as they “modeled” them. i will be paid in part cash and part socks, per our agreement. The bebe’s get to keep the socks and i may keep a few pairs to send to my friends on the East Coast as gifts, since everyone is busy having babies over there. Barter just works better for me these days than real livelihood. Aside from actual feet in socks, i did get a cute portrait of one of the models . . .

Whit under the table

Speaking of lively . . .

As for the Obamamania – i took Joe to work that morning on Inauguration Day, we tuned into NPR, listened to Obama fumble the oath, the quartet bit from John Williams (i joked that the Star Wars Theme would erupt and actually broke into humming the opening strains, which got us both laughing) then i was annoyed that the NPR commentator was golf hush talking over the performance like it was background music. i drove home and listened to the poet in my driveway, then watched the rest through the Luncheon on CNN until i decided that i also, needed some lunch.

Later i went online and caught the highlights of the ball, particularly the Beyonce rendition of “At Last” since i love Etta James. We went to our friend Adam’s house for a party where the guests were encouraged to write all over a 4-foot sketch of Bush taped to wall, including all the things about him we were glad to see GO (we did NOT however spare him the requisite Hitler stache or Devil horns or speech bubbles with Bushisms and his trademark snide, stuttering laugh). This poster was burned in a bonfire in the backyard later. On another wall, a sketch of the American flag hung with empty lines and a star field. With red marker, we filled in all the positive changes we anticipate by having a new administration.

Bush poster

And speaking of REAL change . . . how about the stem cell research approval for spinal injury, and the removal of the Mexico City Policy?!?! Not to stir the shit-pot or anything, but boy howdy, the Pro-Lifers got some tough bits stuck in their craws with those rulings. i don’t know – i just can’t see how you can argue with improved quality of life, healthcare and women’s education and options.

Which really seems to be my trifecta theme lately: healthcare, education and options . . .

Having gone through this has affected more than my body and eating, it has caused me to rethink many things, mainly – what it is i want to DO for work since my previous ventures have always involved the food and wine industries. i know i can’t eat as richly or drink as i once did, mostly because it’s against my constitution but also, i simply don’t want to and i want to simplify my eating. i want to attempt to eat even MORE healthy than before, if that’s possible.

Besides the change-up in my intake, i don’t want to work those late service industry hours anymore. i enjoy time with my husband in the evenings too much. This is a chance to reset everything, really. To see if i might want to go back to school in the Autumn if for nothing else but to finish a few undone things, to re-engage myself in the discipline, to meet people & make connections. To see if something else inspires me. To do something that helps people live better. To not be a server but to truly SERVE.

What will i miss about convalescing besides the sleep, and the forced respite & stillness? i did enjoy some parts of the step back, even if it was for the unfortunate cause of major abdominal surgery. For one, not having to put on a bra or clothes for that matter. Not that my routine was heavy or high-maintenance, but i will miss all the money and time i’ve saved on applying cosmetics and perfume. my skin never looked better! i liked not having to deal with the trappings of going out and presenting myself to the public.

But i will have to do all of that soon enough . . .

Last nite i could not get the idea of a sub sandwich out of my head, it was one of the last things i ate before i went in for surgery and i barely enjoyed it, i had been feeling so poorly. So Joe & i rolled into the local Subway where some quiet, older gentleman, excuse me – “sandwich artist” stood pawing at a box of plastic food-handlers gloves, clearly biding time and waiting for someone to come in.

After some pleasantries and questions initiated by me he reported, “we had a busy lunch but it’s been over an hour since someone came in.”

“My god, this poor man has been making sandwiches for over 9 hours on and off,” i imagined. And probably by himself.

i usually get the BMT but something told me to steer clear of salami and pepperoni, so i had him load up a 6″ wheat with turkey and ham, spinach instead of flavorless, nutritionless iceberg, tomato, extra cucumbers, green peppers, mayo, mustard, oil & vinegar, salt & pepper.

i took this home, unwrapped it at my desk and ate greedily. It was a simple thing, but i felt that sandwich move through and nourish me, diffusing and filling in empty places. It was almost as if i’d been a hollow shell and someone propped me up and filled me with warm foam that hit all the places, even my fingertips and toes. It was the first time i felt full, satisfied and comfortable since, well – awhile.

Of course, this was a relatively “healthy” version of what goes for “fast food” these days, but it was needed protein, needed fiber, needed greens and it was precisely what i was craving.

My body is just starting to talk to me again, and trust me, i’m listening.

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Seasonal Love & Minor Miseries

So let me just jump right in here and catch you up on the post-Holiday bliss . . . .

December was a CRAZY month. A car accident followed by a week-long visit from my sister & brother-in-law that involved beer tastings, strippers, lost IDs, credit cards, medication, a “Getting To Know You” session with the TSA, a flurry of found & lost employment, a crippling snow storm and a major abdominal surgery . . .

Not much of a Christmas & New Year’s, but – what can you do? Life intervenes sometimes and puts the smack down on all your sparkly plans.

So yeah, from car to job and health matters – it’s been buckets of suck lately, but thank goodness i have my Joe, for better or worse and all.

The Bunny Goes Bang . . .

Joe and i were in a car accident early in December (my poor VW Rabbit). We were simply dropping off a friend so she could avoid taking the bus. Luckily, it was a slo-mo, non-jarring crash that no one was hurt in. In short, some jackoff signaled to go right, then changed his mind and veered into us, even though his lane had ended. This sent us banging into the large SUV to our left, effectively smashing my left quarter panel, taking out the left headlight cluster and ripping my bumper off in one arc over my hood and into the street behind us.

i was all in my Zen-state, post-yoga and coolly remarked from the passenger seat, “well, there goes the bumper,” as it sailed overhead. I was not pleased to discover the no-fault law here in Oregon. The police didn’t even take a report?!?! But we did have two witnesses who volunteered information without even being asked, so it was clearly NOT our fault. i rode home with the bumper in the backseat curled up on the ends like a big, red-lipped smile while the broken eye of the headlamp cluster sat dark and blinded in the trunk.

Surprisingly, all told, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Even though it was several days before my sister & brother-in-law was scheduled to visit us from Indianapolis and i thought, “great, now what?” The body shop took us VERY early the next morning and gave us a free loaner car, a pimp-ass white ’00 Ford Taurus with the body shop name emblazoned on the doors. The smell of faux strawberry walloped you in the face when you got in, which was better than say, cigarette smoke, though the history of burn marks dotted the seats exposing the fleshy, pale foam below. Then i discovered the source of the scent.

There was a Little Trees air freshener hanging from the steering wheel. This reminded me of an old friend Dave, who became a police officer and used a special sort of profiling. He noticed that a high proportion of criminals in an effort to mask the smell of open intoxicants and / or drugs have an awful lot of the Little Trees air fresheners hanging from air vents and from their rearview mirrors. He referred to these collections as a “felony forest” and a sure sign of unlawful nonsense being perpetrated. So, in all of its red and white, cloyingly fruit-scented glory, i thereby dubbed the pimp car “Strawberry Shortcake Mobile.”

We had the estimate the next day – $5,081.00 worth of damage (we merely paid the $200 deductible). All of this was completed within a week and my car looked factory show room new. Plus – anyone getting $2,000 worth of work done qualifies for their “Detail For Life” plan, which entitles me to come in four times a year and they will clean the inside and polish up the outside of the car for FREE. Even if i sell the car, for the life of the car. The body work also took care of all minor road, gravel, dings scrapes and insults on the first half of the car since i owned it, so THAT was great too!

Jobless but not Hopeless . . .

Joe is happy & successful with his job at PSU and thank goodness he has a good salary and has made good friends & contacts with his workmates. My job search, not so much. Not since October. i started one, then had my driver’s window smashed & my car broken into while working. i could see someone else nearby had the ol’ window trick pulled on them as well. It was next to a dimly lit playground, plenty of places for crazies to crouch. No way i was hanging out there. i drove home sitting on a grocery bag that nite and had the police come to my house to take the report.

To work there, i was spending more money on transportation and parking (unsafely) than i was making and was generally miserable serving happy hour food to VIPs (Visibly Intoxicated Pricks), hotel and rich asshole marina guests. Nice enough people to work for & with, but i am accustomed to a much faster pace and different atmosphere. i quit that job.

i was also interviewed by a winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Erath) one of the oldest in Oregon wine country, until Cigarette giant Altria Group, which owns Marlboro, announced an agreement on Sept. 8 to buy smokeless tobacco firm UST for $10.4 billion. As part of the deal, Altria acquired UST’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. In all that, the position fell through or more or less, evaporated when they began reorganizing.

i also interviewed with a woman who was opening a new wine shop. i suspect her bank backing bottomed out or perhaps she chose someone else, either way – i haven’t heard from her again. i worked one day at another wine shop. a week later, he reneged his offer and sent me a check for my time. no loss, i’m afraid i was a bad fit and didn’t make the cheerleading cuts anyway.

i’m sure everyone’s been saturating themselves in the depressing news about the shitty US economy, banks, mortgage crisis, unemployment rates & the systems supporting it crashing & drained. All bad news about how it affects things both locally and globally and i am here to tell you, it’s no bullshit. Being in the service industry, i am also keenly aware that dining out is one of the first things to be culled, the first belt hole to cinch up from the family budget, making my employment search options even more grim.

Then i read this article: Portland’s restaurant scene in trouble. And thought – well hell . . . no wonder i can’t find fuck-all for work! so, i may want to reconsider my line of inquiry and use some of my other “job skills.” this of course being freelance photography or administrative desk slave. i may just start writing that novel i’ve been threatening for years. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Hope & Change guy has in mind and more, what he puts into action.

Briefly, the beer & the boobs . . .

my sister’s visit was mostly, fun. and there are stories i could tell which were hinted at in the opening paragraph, but i will protect the innocent and spare my sister and her husband the embarrassment of me airing a couple kooky escapades that ended in ill consequences . . .

It was during the week of my sister’s visit that i had the surgery consult after an ultrasound revealed several 2mm stones in that useless little bile storing organ, so it slowed things down considerably for us, in a city known for, in addition to its natural beauty, quirky places and fresh local food, its prevalence of brew pubs and strip clubs.

Now – before i get into this last bit, make no mistake, we are eating, and living and loving and surviving just fine. Oregon is wonderful; Portland was not a bad move and my Joe and i are as  happy & close as ever, Just little irritating life issues have been getting in the way, like, my gallbladder, for instance.

but let me back up . . .

You Don’t Have The Gall . . .

i had an episode several weeks back where i was waiting to see Quantum Of Solace on Sunday’s opening weekend when, apropos of nothing, i had extreme abdominal pain and pressure – it was so bad and intense i thought it was a heart attack. or a really bad taco. Joe refunded our tickets and drove me home immediately. I thought for sure i would have to go to the emergency room! Turns out that time and the 5 repeat performances afterward were gallbladder attacks. I had a mean, miserable headache for three days after the first one!

and let me tell you – i don’t wish that pain on anyone!

It was as if my body were hi-jacked, my heart pounded, i would sweat and waves of nausea built up into a high pressure weather system that radiated pain concentrated in the center of my chest, lateral right, and shoulder. then i’d wretch and writhe for anywhere from 30 mins to more than an hour until it passed. no position, being still, Maalox or movement eased the pain. the only thing that seemed to mitigate it somewhat was glugging down a big glass of water as the attack symptoms began and i began to ride it out.

Generally, i just felt sorta weak, dizzy & fatigued and simply tried to make myself comfortable, warm, sleep a lot and took it really easy. i’d have several hours a day where i felt good and tried to do some writing and editing photos or read or catch a flick, just to keep myself occupied.

i had another bout of a lesser attacks on and off over several nites following the first major attack, these while my sister was in town. It was all i could do to try to be remotely fun, a decent host, and not a total drag. Those tail end attacks were mostly just overwhelming nausea, pressure, heart pounding, then sudden drop in blood pressure and dizziness (like fainting), the sudden multiple bowel movements/diarrhea (sorry, TMI all indications of a sick gallbladder), but at least it didn’t include any monstrous pain or vomiting. i had some anti-nausea medication (Phenegran), and i took only 1/2 a Vicodin a few times to stave off any pain.

Eating was scary as you can imagine. everything i put into my mouth i worried about, “what will trigger an attack, this time?” i felt WAY too full after even a small meal (which was mostly, lite protein, soups, the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), juices, mint tea, gingerale, etc.) Despite all that, i sometimes felt like there was a lump in my throat, as if it were food that hadn’t gone down. a sort of creepy indigestion. This really pissed me off, and since i love food, i grew quickly fed up with the baby diet!

i was of course, drinking lots of water & tried to avoid any fatty foods or anything that might trigger an attack & send the gallbladder into secretion or action or whatever it is that it does to try to clear out the multiple stones that are in there. Thus, the suggestion that i hydrate more than usual and at the onset of attack, drink down a big glass to try to i guess, move the bile along.

None of this is fun to read, i imagine, but i suppose it helps me to assess what i experienced and to tune in with my body, recounting what i had to do to nurse myself along until i had that evil little sack of pearls out of there! So – thank you for taking the time . . .

pumpkin in the snow

“Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful” – But The Fire Inside My Gut Isn’t So Great Either . . .

i was supposed to have my surgery on December 22nd, except, my surgery was canceled due to SNOWPOCALYPSE 2008. ( SEE my photographic evidence). Or as the local news kept referring to it “Arctic Blast.” It was reported as the most snow they’ve seen in Portland in 40 years, and in its soft, white fluffy beauty, it went about crippling the city, crushing public transportation, grinding everything to a halt. The more the snow fell, the more my anxiety mounted. i worried that in the case of an extreme emergency, we were clearly going to have a difficult to impossible time even getting out.

We were lucky enough to have already purchased snow chains from a quick jaunt Joe and my brother-in-law, Flounder took out to Bagby Hot Springs the week before the real snow hit. As the mayor, Sam Adams (yeah, like the beer guy with the funny bowl cut) reported on the news, snow chains were required to travel on Portland roads, but were also SOLD OUT locally. How helpful. We got to try them out a few days before and survived our maiden voyage out to get cat food and return & rent new DVDs for the Holiday pre-surgery stretch.

The only trouble we had was getting back into the garage, if you can believe it. It was messiest in our back alley, kind of a dirty slushie. One of the chains twisted up & fell off, we retrieved it, got a little mired on an ice patch, and i pushed Joe into the driveway, but then the garage door opener and track decided NOT to work. It’s probably an easy fix, but nothing wrong with using our hands to pull the door open in the meantime of investigation. Luckily, it warmed up and some of the snow turned to rain and the roads became only slightly less sloppy the following week.

While the white shit was busy falling in heaps and mounds from the sky, it was three days before someone even answered the god damned phone at the surgery center’s office! This did not contribute to my sense of well-being. When i finally did get a human, Rose, the frazzled sistah on the other end, was mumbling some nonsense about the schedule being pushed into February, to which i declared shenanigans, “i am not waiting and feeling like this with pain, nausea and strict diet management,” i calmly explained to her. i knew it was “elective” surgery, but i was voting to have it out ASAP. So she “caught up” with the doctor and i was rescheduled for the following Monday the 29th. Sad that i have to raise hell to advocate for my own health care. but it was my first major abdominal surgery and i wanted it over with!

The F criteria . . . family, flights, fairness – does FUCK this count?

It’s been a frustrating, confusing health journey, seeing as how i am otherwise, the picture of supposed health – good diet, whole, organic foods when possible, yoga & exercise, 119 lbs, low LDL, normal EKG, healthy heart & lungs, liver function healthy and all other bloodwork levels completely within normal ranges, including thyroid. Even my surgeon said i don’t really fit most of the F criteria (Female, 40, Fat, Fertile & Fair) and remarked questioningly “doesn’t seem fair does it?” In my case, estrogen in my oral contraceptives & the environment, and family history (my aunt) might be the only risk indicators.

My mother’s initial flight had also been canceled, not enough snow plows in the city or de-icers for the planes. But she was able to rebook, came out Sunday and stayed for a week while i recovered at home. Sure, the main calming factor is, my mother is a nurse and she was able to help Joe administer my post-surgery care, but really, when i get down to the basic emotional component of what was happening to my body, i wanted my mommy!

Ladies & Gentlemen, Nurses, Anesthesiologists and a Surgeon! The Main Event . . .

The laparoscopic surgery (cholecystectomy) involved four small incisions for light, scope, suction and instruments, and they pulled that sucker out through an incision above my belly button. Weee! It’s same day outpatient (unless they have to convert to an open cholecystectomy), routinely safe, well-practiced and the most commonly performed surgery. So, you know, i made sure i tortured myself on the internet, reading up on all the truly rare complications incurred during or after, until i whipped myself up into hypochondriac frenzy. i don’t recommend this method of education, but i was prepared for the worst, so i came out with just about the best, of course.

i scrubbed up the nite before with special special surgery soap called CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate). It was all wrapped in foil and had a spongy side to wet and release soap and scrubby side to get under nailbeds. It was quite a humbling ritual to remove my wedding bands, my moonstone rings, the small drop earrings i haven’t taken out in more than 6 years, my moonstone necklace & toe rings. And then, the morning of my surgery, absent of all body decoration, i used the second CHG provided me and was instructed – “no shaving, no deodorant, no lotion, no perfume.” No germs. No scent. No signature.

i showed up in comfy clothes, at the Sunnyside Medical Center, had 2-hour prep which included consent forms, a nurse to take my information, a nurse to start my IV, plus an anesthesiologist and his nurse with another battery of questions.

“Do you have anything of value, any jewelry, electronics, medications . . .” the nurse rattled off a big list in rapid fire succession.

“No. No. No No, nope. Nothing. i come to you naked and without frills.” i answered lightheartedly.

She laughed and gave me a big plastic snap bag with the words PATIENT BELONGINGS and a name & info sticker on the front, then told me to take everything off and put on the lavender colored hospital gown that had the words “Bair Paws” and a little foot print of a bear track scrawled across my heart.  Now let me “paws” a moment. Go ahead. Groan. i don’t care. This was one of the best things i’ve ever experienced in medical care. It was a soft, longer, thick gown with the usual bum-showing slit down the back, except that it had a sideways wrap around tie so you could make yourself decent. But the best feature is what the thing actually DID.

Pre-op, surgery and recovery areas are usually kept a little chilly to discourage bacteria growth, so you end up with minor hypothermia, and they merely toss an extra blanket on you to stave off the cold. Not with this thing though . . . the Bair Paws had a port in the side where a warming unit hose attached and a temperature control box with a dial was placed beside me. i suppose if you’re the hot-blooded type, you could choose cool air, but not me . . . crank that sucker up! In moments, it filled with warm air that puffed the gown up a little and filled the little channels inside, flooding warm air over my whole body as i lay there waiting for surgery. Awesome! i wanted to take it home with me when i left!

Speaking of comfort, while i lay there the nurse asked me things beyond the normal health battery that crossed over into personal wellness. “Are you employed?” “How would you say your stress levels are?” “On a scale of 0-10, how much pain are you in right now?” And one of the strangest things the nurse asked me was: “Do you feel safe where you live?” Which one could interpret as, “Is your neighborhood kinda sketchy and do you think you can be a bit incapacitated for a week without the worry of having to fend off an attacker or break-in?” Or perhaps an equally unpleasant implication “Is your spouse / partner / parent / roommate abusive or uncooperative?” But maybe this was just a general assessment of “Do you fear having no help or support during your recovery at home or are you safe in the knowledge that you have a loved one or family & friends to help you recuperate?”

The anesthesiologist asked if i’d like a mild sedative but i felt pretty calm and warm and content. Everyone was so pleasant, calm, kind and assuring. The woman who put in my IV was a pro, it didn’t hurt at all.

“Would you like to see your family now before we take you back? It’s almost time,” the nurse said, her eyes motioning to the clock that was 7 minutes from 8am.

“That would be nice,” i said softly and as she walked away i looked beyond her to see that one of the surgery swing doors had a feminine scrolled, handwritten sign taped to it that read “Door To Narnia.” And this made me laugh.

My mother & Joe came back to pat my hand, rub my feet, kiss my forehead and cheeks and assure me before my passage into the back of the wardrobe and on into snow-laden Narnia.

i was wheeled back past a few operating room doors all looking set for procedures, heads wrapped in institution green caps bobbing in and out of the square fields of glass in the doors and finally, there i was, last door on the right. They bumped my hospital bed / gurney against another set below operating lamps and a nice young man with his mask pulled up halfway told me his name, then a nice woman across the way named Tammy said hello, then from my left the surgeon and another nurse came in.

i mentioned i’d like pictures of my gallbladder, which drew a couple strange looks to which i explained, “Hey, i want to see the thing that’s been causing me so much pain. Can i have some of the stones too?”

“We don’t give them out like candy honey,” the nurse to my left quipped, “they usually get sent off to the lab.”

“Well, it’s just that i spent some time making them, so i want to see them too.”

“i hear some people make bracelets and jewelry out of them,” remarked Right Nurse.” i had already thought of this and in fact had joked about it just days before.

Then the male nurse to my right said, “Ok, scoot over to this bed,” while Left Nurse gently instructed, “Move up just a little so your head is on the pillow, your bed is a little lower.”

While i did this, Left Nurse injected something magical into the midsection of my IV and Right Male Nurse put a mask lightly to my nose and mouth with, “Some oxygen?” which seemed mostly a statement but went up a little at the end to form a question.

“Yes, please,” i half-thought and thought nothing else.

There was no counting back from 10 or 100, there was only sleep, then surgery for 45 minutes to an hour, and then i was suddenly awake. None of this drifting back or blurred cinematic visions of white coats flurrying about or a nimbus of faces hovering near me while lights flashed in my eyes checking for response. It was, “Some oxygen?” then, i was wide awake in a bed somewhere in recovery, back in my Bair Paws and feeling amazing. i don’t know what drugs they gave me, but it was more than relief, more than feeling that some offending organ making me sick had been removed. i felt at peace, warm, well-rested, comfortable, not cloudy, no pain, and an oddly light sense of elation. Truly happy.

A nurse picked up the phone at a desk directly across from me. i smiled at her over the tops of my feet. “Yes, she’s very alert,” she reported to someone on the other end.

i was wheeled back to the room in a line of beds where i was first admitted and my mom & Joe came in to see me. it was less than an hour of recovery where i chewed two cups of shaved ice, gulped down 3 apple juices, had two glasses of water and some graham crackers, proved that i could walk across the hall & urinate and i was free to go. A funny little old man cracked corny jokes and wheeled me down to the car where Joe helped me into the passenger seat, we were home before noon, and i rested for a week.

warm recovery

REAL food . . .

My mother & Joe ordered Hawaiian pizza and hot wings that first nite, and sure, i had my juice and water and all that nonsense, but for weeks, i had been craving fried chicken, so i am happy to report i had a slice of pizza with cheese stuffed crust and three little nubby chicken wings just hours after surgery and was SO happy. Nothing like jumpstarting your system by challenging it. Shortly after that i mostly behaved and ate more mild foods: brothy soups, applesauce, cottage cheese, peaches, saltines, tea, gingerale, and managed to destroy a box of graham crackers.

Then my mom would get to cooking and i found myself eating spaghetti and meat sauce, crock-pot slow-cooked pot roast with carrots, potatoes and buttered biscuits, happy, fluffy clouds of 2 scrambled eggs nestled into Franz white bread with a light spread of mayo and cut into little triangles. She made sure i got my protein and ate “real food” as she called it. None of this “organic” shit we usually eat which as everyone knows, is made of ground-up hippies and probably caused my gallbladder to go rogue in the first place. There may be such a thing as eating TOO healthy and not eating some evil stuff once in awhile.

But man, my mother packed this house with 12-packs of three different sodas: Vernors, a Michigan hometown gingerale favorite, Dr. Pepper and Fresca. Then there was a deluge of junk food snacks: three different types of chips, 2 dips, ranch dressing, a box of See’s chocolates, a canister of See’s nuts, a HUGE canister of three flavored popcorns (cheese, butter and caramel), a pound of Twizzler’s red licorice, Raisinettes and Resse’s peanut butter cups that were Christmas Tree shaped. That was just what i took immediate stock of, there was plenty more. i have considered hosting a movie nite or a party just to get RID of some of this!

I’d Like to Introduce You To My Girls, Vicki and Pam . . .

Diet was one concern which seemed to go fine but pain management was a deep worry. i thought for sure that i wouldn’t be able to tolerate the Vicodin, but a few experiments of breaking them in half in the weeks before the surgery proved to be promising and when i came home i simply tapered as the days went and remained a little sore sometimes, but pain free. First two days were every 4-5 hours, days three and four every 6-8, by days 5 & 6 i was taking one at noon and one at midnite, plus a little Motrin for the pain and swelling and by the end of the week and the beginning of next, i was taking ½ a Vicodin at nite to sleep through the nite peacefully.

Though infrequent, my usual fall back sleep aid is Tylenol PM, who i call “Pam,” and just one, because the suggested dosage of two guarantees i won’t be attending anything the next day until after, oh, say 3pm. i also nicknamed my Vicodin, “Vicki.” i only need ½ of her. And the girls now, well, i just keep ’em around for laughs and a good time if i need to just knock myself the fuck out of consciousness for the nite.

Here Kitty, Kitty Or, Taming The Beast . . .

i’ve been introducing food slowly and lightly as a one at a time lineup to my digestion, sort of like tossing bananas and tennis balls and roller skates and live goats into a lion’s den with “here you go – what do you think of THIS?” Experimental interaction. And because what i know of food is occupational, i think of my gallbladder in food & restaurant terms as having been “86ed” or as i said to Joe while pawing through the random generators for the words and distractedly typing on the computer the other day, “my gallbladder’s been deleted.”

To follow that theme – i’m sure it will be awhile before my digestive system reboots & comes back online. And i’m certain that i won’t be able to hork down a bacon cheeseburger and waffle fries without incident anytime soon. i don’t want to piss anything off in there . . . i know very well it’s a first class luge ticket for any food that offends my system currently rewiring itself and trying to figure out why the bile salts storage facility closed down. Sorry, love – it’s the economy. Things are tough all over. Soldier on. Now here’s some Indian Food, some wine, some corn chowder, a fried egg sandwich, some potato chips – oh, no sorry, i take that back. Baked potato chips from now on.

All told, if you find out your gallbladder is angry and you are considering just leaving it in and dealing with it, DON’T! You have to EAT to LIVE, and there was no way i was going to compromise my lifestyle & diet in fear of food and future attacks. i already had the basics and took care of my body, now i just have to bounce all the way back. The incisions are barely anything, one inside my belly-button that you can’t see, one barely the length and width of the edge of my pinkie fingernail, one smaller than the circumference of a pencil top eraser, and the largest one is about a centimeter. That one has character too . . . a little red edge, like its smirking at me which will fade and flatten over time, plus a little kitten whisker edge of a clear, dissolving suture, which i may snip if it doesn’t go away soon.

The cost of this whole adventure via the care of Kaiser Permanente? $14. Two office visits at $5 apiece, $4 for four presecriptions. No cost for the EKG, bloodwork or ultrasound. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Joe. Thank you PSU. Thank you State Of Oregon.

Well, that’s enough for now. i’m sure i have left anyone who made it this far with plenty to digest . . . sorry about that – you can see what occupies my mind these days.

And you’ll just have to forgive me, you see – i’m not all there . . .

drinking, friends, humor, photography, politics

Make A Joyful Noise . . . A Change is Coming

We were on 37th & Hawthorne in SE Portland at the Back Stage pool hall in a small, intimate upstairs room with our own table & tv (we flipped between CNN, Fox & Indecision 2008). When we got done applauding wildly, tearing up, hugging and generally being amazed at what history was happening before us, just after Obama’s victory speech with a few pitchers and cocktails under our belts, Joe, Tiffany & i poured out into the street, looking for a Champagne nitecap. This ended up being right next store at Greater Trumps, a funky cigar bar where the bubbly couldn’t be had and so, transformed into 3 Basil Hayden’s with a cube. There was quite a bit of smoke but some nice outside patio tables & when we wandered out to get some fresh air, a joyful commotion had ensued . . .

Total Spontaneous Human Happening – all emotions dialed up to stun & thrill. Fireworks had been setup right on the block, people were suddenly armed with sparklers, pot lids, drums, trash cans . . . anything that glowed & made a happy racket. There was a man with an Obama mask waving and pumping his fists in the air, a man riding a unicycle AND playing the bagpipes (i couldn’t make that up if i wanted to), President Obama signs suddenly manifested, every car honked as it went down the street packed with people hanging out of every window and howling like animals, chants and drum beats went up, “Yes We Did!” and “O-ba-ma!” And then . . . people lined up on either side of the crosswalk on the corner, by of all namely places, the Baghdad Theater, hooting, hollering stamping, drumming and woo-hooing until the crosswalk indicated it was safe to walk. But they didn’t walk – they ran, like two teams intersecting in a mass, hands in the air, giving high-fives to everyone, every smiling stranger as they passed.

Such a silly and special moment to get caught up in . . . replete with YouTube Video proof!