Friday Randomness

image
4 out of 5 ain’t bad. I’m not a fan of In-N-Out Burger, except that they pay better than most fast food places, and supposedly they use better quality ingredients. But the food is meh. And Maya likes to tell the story of when she went with her cheer squad, and she asked for a veggie burger. She didn’t know that their version of a veggie burger is a standard hamburger, sans beef. Bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, and sauce. Needless to say, she was hungry soon after.

Anyway, what else is going on? It’s hot. It’s been over 100 for the last several days, and I’m tired of it. I dislike the heat, though I’m thankful that it’s a dry heat and no humidity. So it may be 102, but it FEELS like it’s 97. I’ll take 100 and dry over 85 and humid any day, so I guess it’s a good thing I live here. We’re supposed to get a break starting tomorrow, with temps in the 90s, and then into the low 80s for several days after that. I can’t wait.

Do you ever get cold sores? Have you ever wondered whether Abreva works? I’ve been trying Abreva for several years now, on the occasional cold sore that pops up. Maybe one every 2 years. Generally I feel the cold sore coming, and I think, “Gah, I’d better buy some Abreva”, but then I don’t get there for at least 12 hours. I put it on and hope for the best, but generally the cold sore still bugs me. Well, a few weeks ago I woke up feeling like I might be getting a cold sore, and I had some new (not expired) Abreva in the house, and used it right away. I applied it maybe 2x a day for the next few days. I barely got any cold sore at all. I don’t think it was visible, but in any case, it was much less uncomfortable than usual. The stuff works! Consider that an endorsement.

Do you like cooking shows? I sometimes do, and one chef that I really like it Jacques Pepin. He has a new series starting tomorrow on our local PBS station. I’ve only watched him on PBS, locally, so I don’t know if all (or most) PBS stations carry his shows, but if yours does, give it a try.
Update: Jacques just alerted me, via Facebook, that his show will start here tomorrow, and nationally next Saturday, Sept 19th.

Did you have a nice Labor Day? We had some friends over on Sunday for a swim in our very cold pool. Monday I pretty much relaxed…Ted had to work. Labor Day is always worth stopping and thinking about the labor movement, and the benefits that it has brought us. Safer working conditions, 5 day work week, overtime pay, minimum wage. I’m thankful for all of that, though I’ve never been the member of a union. Ted’s a member of SAG/AFTRA, which gets us free DVDs of award nominated movies every winter. Not as important as safe working conditions, but nice nonetheless.

I’m plugging along on my inflammatory arthritis treatment. I’m optomistic that it’s working, though it’s slower than I’d like. I still can’t really go for a nice long walk without suffering for it for hours, and I can only dream of wearing my rings again someday, but I’m much better than I was seveal months ago, and I do think it’s working. I’m very glad for that.

Since my Uncle Forrest passed away, my cousin and I have been asked to serve as trustees of our Grandma’s estate. So we’ve been helping her to plan for her eventual death, and trying to plan for her wishes to be carried out when that sad day comes. That motivated me to buy an urn for my mom’s ashes. It was too much, emotionally, for too long, and her ashes have been sitting in the closet, quietly waiting. When my Grandma dies, she wants to have her ashes buried in the grave with her first husband, my mom’s father. My mom said, off-handedly, that we should scatter her ashes on her father’s grave if something were to happen to her. Well, I haven’t done that, and I don’t really like the idea of it. So I talked to my Grandma, and she said we can bury my mom’s ashes in with hers and my Grandfather’s coffin. So now at least I feel ready for that. I will say, Amazon is a lovely thing. I got a very nice wood urn for $89, with an engraved plate with her name on top. I think she would have liked it, and I know she would have been happy that I didn’t pay the $600 – $700 I would have paid if I bought it at a funeral home.

Maya did the 23&me thing, as did my dad. Pretty interesting stuff, though of course no real surprises. You send in a vial of your saliva, and they run it through some DNA tests, and they tell you who your ancestors are, genetically. Not any famous names or anything, but ‘56% Britiish, 23% French’, that sort of thing.

Lastly, (but not least) here we are, it’s September 11th again. What an amazingly horrible day that was, and the reprecussions have been horrific in the extreme. We can never forget that day, even if we wish we could. Our world has been changed in so many ways, and I don’t know that any of it has been for the better. Not any. Such a somber occasion. We are flying our flag in rememberance. It doesn’t feel like enough. Likely because it isn’t. I don’t know what would be enough, other than staying involved, politically, and trying to make this a world in which such atrocities do not happen again. It feels like we keep saying that, doesn’t it?

Our hot dry burning state

imagepicture of lovely drought resistant landscaping

California is a bit of a mess right now.  OK, more than a bit.  I’m sick of this damn drought, as I’m sure everyone else in the state is.

Everything is dry dry dry.  August is generally dry.  We rarely get any measurable wet between May or June and October.  But this was the dryest winter on record, so we started out dry.  Ugh.  We’re under orders from our Governor to reduce our water use, which is a good thing.  But it sucks.  So many dead lawns everywhere.  Then there are the people who continue to water their lawns, oblivious to the suffering around them.  One green lawn, reminding us of the way things used to be, surrounded by brown dead lawns, reminding us of what is.  Then there are those who landscape with bark and drought tolerant plants, reminding us of how things ought to be.  We don’t have a lawn, we have a tiny front area and a small back area, both more patio than yard, and it’s all bricks.  We have a hodgepodge of plants around the perimeter of the back patio, filled in with potted plants.   There once was a theme to the perimeter plants, meaning there was some sense of cohesiveness, but there are goddamned eucalyptus trees on the other side of our fence, and they pretty much do their best to kill whatever is below them. So the plants that we put there on purpose have all died years ago, and whenever I get a potted plant that outgrows its pot, in the ground it goes, and good luck fighting the eucalyptus.  None of that is due to the drought, just the neighboring trees and my general neglect (don’t water enough, don’t fertilize often).

So here we are, taking our drought showers and saving water in the sink (like when you rinse an apple) in a pitcher to water the plants, and I assume that we’re all in this together.  Until I find out that we’re not.  The central valley, my home for many years of my mis-spent youth, is fertile ground for many many crops, including the big money maker, nuts.  Mostly almonds and pistachios, which are big deal money makers.  If you’re a tomato farmer, or a corn farmer, you can decide to let your fields go fallow in years of drought.  But trees need water, you cannot fallow that field.  You can let your trees die perhaps, but that’s awfully expensive, and I don’t really expect anyone to do that.  But then I heard the other day that some farmers are actually PLANTING almond and pistachio trees now.  NOW, in this horrible drought, when there is simply not enough water.  Why?  Because the drought has driven prices up, so there’s good money to be made.   But wait, you may ask, how will they water these trees, if there is no water?  The answer is depressing.  There are some huge aquifers under the valley, vast underground lakes, which are being pumped dry.  These aquifers have been there for generations, and farmers generally do pump some water out in dry years.  But they’re pumping so much out, they now have to get much bigger drills,  the ones used for fracking oil out of tar sands, in order to reach the shrinking water levels.  Which is making the valley sink.  How can we possibly be so damned stupid?  I mean, yes, you have to feed your family, you want to employ people and keep the economy from collapsing around you.  But to increase production now of all times, seems beyond selfish.  It makes me want to take a long bath, and I hate baths.  How, you may ask, does the government allow this?  Because they’re elected by the farmers, and our water rights in California were put in place almost a hundred years ago, and not much has changed.  There are changes coming to the water rights rules, but those won’t be in effect for at least 5 years (I think maybe it’s 10, but I’m not positive), so what use  is that?

And then, of course, there are the fires.  Fire in California in the summer is pretty much a given, but this year’s fires are acting differenttly than they have acted in the past, likely because the trees are SO dry, and the weather is generally hotter than it has been before.  So that’s fun.  Last Saturday, we decided to get out of dodge, which was a good thing because the wind had shifted and was sending smoke down our way from the lake fires, which aren’t really that close.  Our town is at the foot of a mountain, and you coudln’t even tell there was a mountain in the area, it was so smokey.  It smelled bad, and made me worry for those with breathing and heart problems.  We went to Monterey, which is right on the ocean and lovely and cool and just what the doctor ordered, aside from the long  drive getting there.  It took us almost 3.5 hours from here, which would generally be a bit over 2 hours. Ugh.  We should have spent the night.  So the fires are burning, (not just here, the whole west coast), and they are using active duty military to fight the fires, as well as convicts.  It’s a mess.

The question, of course, is “will it rain this winter?”  Will we have a real nasty beautiful wet winter, the kind that puts water in our reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and streams?  The kind that erodes coastlines and sends people’s houses sliding down hillsides in a bunch of mud, and floods the same towns that always seem to flood in wet years?  We need one.  We need an ugly winter, the kind that punishes a lot of people who live or drive or walk in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We may get it.  There’s talk of a strong El Nino brewing off the coast.  But there was similar talk last year, and it didn’t happen.  There’s talk about that high pressure system that sat off the coast of California last winter, forcing the jet stream north, forcing the wet and cold to punish the rest of the country with record snowfalls, while we sat here with gorgeous weather, watching, longingly.  That high pressure system that may or may not be out there again this winter.

I love California.  I love San Francisco and Tahoe and Monterey.  I love Napa and Bodega Bay and Sonoma.  It hurts to see my beloved home in such dire circumstances.  Sometimes we talk about moving, to get away from the drought.  Wondering if we wait to see how things turn out, if we’ll blow it and our house will be worthless. Hard to believe with current housing prices being so stupidly high, but I guess it’s possible.  I don’t want to move.  I love it here.  I want to stick it out and see if things get better.

Did I mention the little earthquake we had last week?  It had the decency to wait until almost 7am, and wasn’t a big one, didn’t do a lot of damage. (My friend’s hat fell off of her bookcase)  That was the only damage I heard of at first, but then it turned otu that several water mains busted.  Maybe because of the earthquake, maybe because the pipes are 90 years old, I don’t know.

Poor California.  I hope things get better, soon.

Life’s Still Sweet and Sour

One of Maya’s high school classmates was murdered last week. She was 19 years old, home for the summer after her first year of college, an engineering student in San Diego. She was bright, well liked by so many, a star on the High School track team. Her whole life ahead of her. An ex boyfriend from several years ago rang her doorbell before 7 am, and shot her, then shot himself. I think her parents were there and saw her die. She was not a close friend of Maya’s, but she liked her, and it’s so damned shocking and horrible and makes me think ugly thoughts, like, “If you’re suicidal, be decent and don’t take anyone else out with you”, which of course is cruel in its own way, and makes no sense, because clearly the ex-boyfriend (Stanford, engineering student, 2 years older) was out of his mind with something. And a better, more charitable thought is just wishing he weren’t in so much pain to begin with, or that he had gotten all of the help he needed. The young woman’s mother is a Nurse Practitioner at Maya’s doctor’s office, and has cared for her several times. I don’t know her well, but it hits too close to home.

Ted’s uncle died last week. I’ve never met this uncle, but he lived with Ted and his family for awhile when Ted was 19 or 20, and he liked him a lot. He was a good man, well loved by the family. He was far too young to die. It’s a shock to the family. It’s upsetting and sad and Ted’s dad has to deal with the first loss of a sibling. He comes from a large family, so he’s not alone by any means. But gah.

You know what? Skip the sweet. I’ll get there, but this one is just sour.

The Mersault Investigation


Image from the New York Times

This man, your writer, seemed to have stolen my twin Zujj, my own description, and even the details of my life and my memories of my interrogation! I read almost the whole night through, laboriously, word by word. It was a perfect joke. I was looking for traces of my brother in the book, and what I found there instead was my own reflection, I discovered I was practically the murderer’s double. I finally came to the last lines in the book: “… had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.” God, how I would have wanted that! There was a large crowd of spectators, of course, but for his crime, not for his trial. And what spectators! Adoring fans, idolaters! No cries of hate ever came from that throng of admirers. Those last lines overwhelmed me. A masterpiece, my friend. A mirror held up to my soul and to what would become of me in this country, between Allah and ennui.

The Mersault Investigation is Algerian journalist Kamel Daued’s first novel, the story of the younger brother of the un-named Arab in Camus’ The Stranger. In The Stranger, a Frenchman named Mersault  murders the Arab on  a hot beach in Algiers in 1942.  He is tried for his crime, but convicted for his uncaring attitude about the world, most specifically the death of his mother.   The Mersault Investigation picks up in the current day, with the Arab’s much younger brother (he was 7 when his brother died) telling his story, and to some extent that of his brother, to an investigator.  In this telling, The Stranger was not written by Camus, but rather by Mersault himself.  

The Arab, Musa, was murdered that day on the beach.  His body was never recovered (which makes no sense as in The Stranger the lawyers know how many bullets were in the body), and his family was thus not able to prove that their missing Musa is the same person as the Arab killed on the beach.  The mother lives in constant misery at the loss of her eldest son, and the younger brother (Harun) grows up feeling alone in the world, secondary to his brother, detached from his surroundings.  He tells of the days after the murder, then about a period in 1962, at the time of the Algerian revolution from France, when he is confronted with the murder anew, in unexpected ways.

The story is deftly told, and explores not only Harun’s identity in the shadow of his dead brother, his brother’s identity in the shadow of The Stranger, but also Algeria’s identity and people as well.  

Dope


Malcom is an 18 year old boy living in Inglewood, CA.  He’s a geek, dreaming of Harvard, if he can just survive the last months of High School in a neighborhood overrun by gangs and drug dealers.  Malcom’s best friends are equally geeky and bright, and the three of them ride their bikes through the mean streets of L.A., hoping to end up in college…while statistics say they are more likely to end up in jail.

Malcom and his pals (Diggy and Jib) are into early 90’s hip hop, have a punk-ish band, and mostly try to stay out of trouble.  They’re good kids in a rough world.  Dope is like a John Hughes version of Boyz N the Hood.  It’s rough, there’s real danger there, and the fear is that these good kids will get sucked into a world much rougher than they’re prepared to handle.  But there’s an optimism and lightness to it, so while you fear that they may get sucked into situations they cannot handle, you’re rooting for them to come through it cleanly and safely.

Ted and I both liked this movie a lot.  I highly recommend it.

Looks Like it’s Time for a Meme…

I came across this meme on my friend Carla’s blog, and I thought I’d bring it over here.  I’ve read some good books I could tell you about.  I went to see my Grandma again, and I could tell you about that.   I could even dredge up some thoughts on the horrid flooding in Texas and the horrid drought here, and tell you how it doesn’t rain in California this time of year, so if we DO get any, it will be tiny amounts and not help in the greater sense at all.  No real rain until September if we’re lucky, more likely November or December.

But no, all you get is a meme.  Sometimes my brain just works that way.  As in, hardly working at all, lazy lazy brain.  So, here goes.  The rule for this meme is that you must come up with an answer to each silly ‘question’, and the answer must begin with the first letter of your first name.  So all of my answers will start with J.

  1. First name : My first name?  Or just A first name?  My first name is J.  Duh. Or, as we used to (so eloquently say in Jr. High, “No Doy”. Or is that spelled, “No Doi”?)
  2. An animal: Jaguar.  Jackal.  Jackass.  Jellyfish.  Have I told you about the time Maya and I found a jellyfish washed up on the beach in San Francisco, and I could see its pulse (which makes no sense, because I don’t know that they have a heart),  and Maya convinced me to pick it up and get it back to the water.  I used a plastic bag to protect myself if it should sting me.  SF has now banned plastic bags, so I don’t know what would happen today.  Or if the bag would have proteted me if it had stung.  But it was a happy moment, watching it float away on the tide.
  3. A boy’s name:  Justin. Or Jack.  My two nephews. 🙂  There’s also Jeff, and Jason. Or my friend Cherry’s son, Jacob.  Or Tracy’s son, Jeremy.
  4. A girl’s name:  Julia.  Janet. Janice.  Jane.  I know, I’m only supposed to give one.  So what. My blog, my rules. My great-great aunt, for whom I was named, was Julia.  One of my most darling best friends is Janet.  Maya used to have a toy cat named Jane, who had wings.
  5. An occupation:  Judge. Janitor. Jailer.  Justice of the Peace.  Jelly maker.  Journalist. Juggler.  Jockey.  There were a few years there that I really wanted to be a jockey, despite not having spent time around horses.  Or, not enough time.
  6. A color:   Jaundice.  Is that a color?  Jet.  Jade.
  7. Something you wear:  Jeans.  Not Jeggings.  Never Jeggings.  Jackets and Jodhpurs and Jewelery.
  8. A drink: Julep.  Jagermeister.   Blech to both, though I’ve never had a julep, so I shouldn’t speak to that.  I don’t think I’ve ever had Jagermeister, either, actually.  Let’s stick with some lovely chardonnay by J vineyards, shall we?
  9. A type of food:  Japanese.  Jello.  Jam.  Jerky.  Jalapeno.
  10. Something found in the bathroom:  Jean Nate after bath splash.  OK, not MY bathroom, but there was a time when I was a kid that I used to buy this for my mom.  I don’t know if she actually liked it, or just used it to make me happy.  And my Great Aunt has some in her bathroom that is probably 30 years old.  I’ll bet that smells lovely.  As in, not.
  11. A place:  Jet plane.  On a jet plane, on my way to Paris or Milan or somewhere wonderful and lovely.  Or, conversely, Joliet Illinois, which I remember passing on I-80 on our drive from San Francisco to Philadelphia, back in ’94.  Jerusalem.  Japan. Jaipur.  Jamaica.
  12. A reason to be late:  Stuck in Joliet.  Not a GOOD reason, but a reason certainly.  Or perhaps, stuck in a traffic Jam.  Or, Just because.
  13. Something you shout out:  JESUS!  If you’re Christian, it could be, “PRAISE JESUS!”  If you’re not, it could be something you shout out in exasperation when someone almost rear-ends you on the freeway.  Or something you say at the end of ‘Planet of the Apes.’

That’s my list of J.  Perhaps not worth much, but at least it got me to post something.  Whew.

Life’s Both Sweet and Sour

Yesterday was Ted’s birthday, which was a milestone year, as he turned 50!  We had a lovely party, with family and friends, laughter and perfect weather.  Perfect weather was important, as we had not the room inside, and most of us ate at tables in the back yard.  He received a LOT of bourbon, his favorite spirit, and we ate drank and were merry.  It was a great day.

It was especially nice for me, because my brother Richard was here.  I haven’t seen Richard since our mom’s memorial in 2008, and it’s been far too long.  He lives in Juneau, Alaska, which is an expensive flight and hotel combo, so we haven’t been able to make it up there.  I do hope we can make it sometime, as Ted has not yet been to Alaska, and Juneau is fairly stunning in the beauty department, with lots of lovely hikes and amazing views, and the best fish I’ve ever had.

The reason he was in California was very sad, however.  My mom’s younger brother, my uncle Forrest, passed away on April 21st.  He had been sick enough to worry his daughters for a couple of months at least, but only sick enough to really scare us for a couple of weeks, and to be honest, we’re still not entirely sure what went so wrong as to kill him.  He was only 67.  He left behind a wife and his two daughters, all of whom are broken hearted, as well as three grandchildren, and his dogs, who are missing him and wondering when he will come home.   We are most worried about my Grandmother, though, who has been in poor health herself for the last several months, and has now outlived 2 husbands and all 4 of her children.   We’re worried this last loss will be the undoing of her.  She is holding up the very best she can, and says that at least she had her children with her as long as she did, and she is thankful for the time she had with them.   She’s the strongest person I know, in her 92 lb body and broken heart. I do hope she can recover from this.   His memorial was Saturday evening, and was a lovely chance to celebrate his life with family, friends, and his coworkers, all who loved and respected him greatly.

So this has been an emotional time, full of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears.  I’m glad Richard was able to stay long enough to celebrate Ted’s birthday with us.  I’m glad we had a chance to come together as family and friends to celebrate Ted’s first 50 years.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Avo Bagel
Look at that awesome breakfast. Bagel, toasted, with avocado and lemon pepper. That’s it. So delicious. Served with OJ and tea (PG Tips, a bit of milk and sugar). One nice thing about Facebook is that some people post pictures of their food, and you can choose to be inspired by their pictures. I’m not sure I would have come up with this combination on my own, so thank you Facebook!

Then there’s this…the Gluten Free Museum. Famous paintings, with any offending gluten removed. Click the link to see more awesomeness.

Are you a fan of the ‘Little House’ books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder? If so, and if you like knowing the background behind these fictional books, I recommend the newly released “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography“. It’s an amazing amount of research into almost every detail of Wilder’s unpublished autobiography, “Pioneer Girl”. Wilder first put her memories down and tried to publish them as “Pioneer Girl”, which is the story of her early life. The story is not written for children, and has some darker elements than the ‘Little House’ stories. The decision was made that the stories would better be told as children’s books, and Laura and her daughter Rose worked through the same material, and they turned into the ‘Little House’ stories that we all know and love. The difference between reality and fiction is sometimes jarring. That she had a little brother, who died as an infant, I knew. That the infamous Nellie Oleson was a composite of several girls in Laura’s youth, I knew. But that Jack, Laura’s beloved brindle bulldog and constant companion, was actually given away when Laura was 4…that was too much for me, and I thought I was going to have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from passing out.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I really enjoyed ‘The Precious One‘, by Marisa de los Santos. I’ve read a couple of her other books, and I really enjoy them. They’re light enough to be an easy read, but I love her writing and her lovely use of language.  Without giving anything important away, this is the story of Taisy and Willow, sisters 18 years apart in age.  They share the same father, who is imperious and overwhelming and towers above their lives. They’ve only met once before, when Willow was a baby, when Taisy comes to stay for a short time at the request of their father.  Taisy is determined to find answers to how her father turned out to be the man he is, the kind of man who would leave her, her mother, and brother, and start over with a new wife and daughter.  Willow is focused on her dislike and jealousy of Taisy, and trying to navigate the treacherous waters of High School, after a life of being home schooled.

Ted and I went to see ‘Wild Tales‘, which was in town for about 15 minutes.  We’re fortunate that there’s one theater in town that plays independent and foreign films. I knew nothing about the movie going in, except that I wasn’t interested in any other movies that were playing, and that it was a foreign film. It’s a series of stories with a common theme, and that’s all I will say. Also, fairly dark, but not horrific, and pretty laugh out loud funny in some parts. Ted thought one woman in the audience was going to choke, she was laughing so hard. I’ll be watching for it to come to Netflix or something, so I can see it again.

Whew.   Now you’re all caught up.  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted…I blame my iPad.  I don’t really like the WordPress app on it, so I get frustrated and don’t bother.  For this post, I pulled out my old laptop.  I should do this more often, clearly. I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Maya is now 19, and that we had a lovely weekend celebrating. Also, if you like to laugh, go look at this.

Antibiotic Therapy

I’ve been doing some research into the treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the options are mostly crummy. Even the more innocuous drugs seem to have long term use risks, which don’t thrill me. I’ve been on sulfasalazine for several months now (I think I started in October), and I’ve not seen any good results yet. It takes time. So I looked around some more, and found a somewhat old school yet unconventional treatment, which is long term tetracycline use. You take a low and slow approach, taking 100mg of a specific tetracycline 3 days a week. Like other RA treatments, results come about slowly slowly slowly, often 6 months or more, sometimes a year or two. When I looked at the roadback website set up for followers of this protocol, I saw a ‘current protocol’ and an ‘historic protocol’. Current says take 200mg daily, historic is the more intermittent dosage. So I took this information to my doctor, and said I’d like to try it. She doesn’t have a lot of faith in the treatment, doesn’t think it will likely work, but she is willing to let me try it, and wrote me the prescription that I wanted. She prescribed it for 200mg daily, which I took for a week. I felt like crap. Somewhat sore, but really nauseous and sick to my stomach. So I looked a little more closely, found the intermittent dosage, and decided to try for that instead of the amount prescribed.

No difference is pain as of yet, but the feeling like absolute crap is gone since cutting back on my dosage. I’m glad for that. I gave myself a treat this weekend, and took some prednisone Friday and Saturday, which really is wonderful and takes away so much pain, and gives me a reasonable amount of energy. I cleaned up the back yard. I did some other chores. I felt like myself. I love that stuff. I do wish that I could stay on it, but I cannot. It’s too dangerous. So I took a smaller dosage yesterday, and a smaller still dosage today (you’re supposed to taper off, not just go cold turkey).

So now it’s back to no prednisone, giving the antibiotics a chance to work. Apparently tetracycline does not give you issues that some other antibiotics give…no resistance to antibiotics, no yeast issues. I am taking a probiotic to help my gut.

A lot of the people on the website say they get marked relief from going gluten, sugar, and dairy free. I tried those, and saw no difference. I had some blood work done awhile ago to look for food intolerance. I’ll wait to hear what the test results say before I decide whether to give these another try or not. I’m happy to eat more healthfully, but am not eager to eliminate entire food groups, so hopefully that won’t become necessary. I do see that for many people, they only need to restrict these food groups when in a flare, and most of the time it is not necessary. So that’s another consideration. A lot of people on the road back website discuss lyme disease, leaky gut syndrome, and so on. I don’t have any symptoms of lyme nor leaky gut, except for my RA.

I’ve tried several things to help. Acupuncture is known to give some relief, but didn’t help me. Vinegar and honey helps some people, but I haven’t noticed relief. Diet changes have made no difference. Yoga helps some, at least to relief stiffness. It doesn’t do a lot for pain. Swimming helps with energy and stiffness, but again, not much of a pain reliever. I’ve gotten into hot tubs twice, once with immediate relief, another time not so much. I even resorted to taking a bath (with epsom salts), but I hate baths so much, it just made me tense, which is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. I’m taking turmeric, fish oil, and vitamin D. I’m thinking I should try some kind of meditation, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I have had a couple of massages, which generally feel good, but don’t help my joints. I am hoping that the antibiotic treatment works, that I can get off of the sulfasalazine, and get my groove back.

I’ll tell you, this whole thing has been an education for me. Not necessarily one that I wanted. I feel sort of like I’m bouncing back and forth between snake oil salesmen and big pharma. I don’t ally myself strongly either way. I’m all for figuring out the least harmful way to help yourself, and trying to go from there. Wish me luck.

The Drought Continues, and other news

It’s hard to complain about the drought when the rest of the country is dealing with unheard of amounts of snow, stupidly cold weather, and ice storms. It’s 4:00 on Presidents’ Day afternoon, and it’s 71 degrees here. The birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, kids are running around outside enjoying the sunshine. I went for a swim this morning that was lovely and warm. We’ve grilled outside twice so far this week. I drove to Stockton yesterday to see my Grandma and Great Aunt, and the scenery was lovely, with green hills and fields of wildflowers. It’s a great time to be living in California, and those of my readers East of here are probably using the F word about me right now. I am sorry for your misery, and even more sorry that there isn’t a way to ship some of that excess water, which you CLEARLY don’t want or need, out our way. We had a lovely wet few days last weekend, but then that goddamned high pressure system came back, and it’s been nothing but gorgeous ever since, with nothing but gorgeous in our foreseeable future. We’re so screwed.

In other news, I heard about this guy on the radio awhile ago, and keep meaning to tell you…he’s got an issue with the expression ‘comprised of’, because ‘comprised’ means ‘composed of’, so when someone says ‘comprised of’, what they’re really saying is ‘composed of of’. and that gets his inner grammarian all ticked off. So he goes through Wikipedia, page by page, finding where the term ‘comprised of’ has been used, and replacing it with ‘composed of’. Not everyone agrees with his interpretation of the rules, and some are perhaps offended that he is going in and making changes to their entries, but I kind of like his dedication and persnicketyness. Rock on, Mr. Grammarian, let your freak flag fly!

Grumbling about my teeth

Today was a new experience for me, and not one for which I am thankful. Well, perhaps I’m a bit thankful*, but it was unpleasant. What could it be? A crown on my tooth. One of my teeth cracked, which exposed a bit of root, and made me very sensitive to both hot and cold. Blech. So off I went to the dentist, where she filed down my poor tooth, fitted a temporary crown on it, and sent me on my way. I have to say, I wish I didn’t know that they file your tooth down. The whole time that stupid file was in my mouth, I kept picturing my poor tooth being worn down to a nub. Not pleasant.

We have a new dentist, and this was my second trip to see her. My first was when she diagnosed my problem. I like her well enough, she’s gentle, which is a good thing. But I do miss my old dentist, Dr. Ochikubo. Dr. O was such a sweet guy, and had been practicing dentistry for many decades. He would sometimes tell stories about when he and his family were put in an internment camp during World War II, he being Japanese and living in California. Not a fun story, but interesting, and such a part of our history. He retired last year, not because he wanted to and was going to travel the world, but due to health issues. So that’s sad, and at least at this point, it brings a whole level of sadness to going to the new dentist, who is in his same office. Sigh. So now I have a crown, which somehow feels like a moral failing to me. Like I failed to care for my teeth or something. I know, I’m weird. I sometimes feel guilty when my eyesight gets worse, too. Everything that’s wrong with me is surely my own fault, and if only I had done things differently, I wouldn’t have these issues. Never mind that it’s all hereditary, and I’ve always taken good care of myself (except perhaps for my soda addiction, which I finally quit in late 2013). None of that matters in the face of the guilt.

You know what would make me feel better? If my ‘Downton Abbey’ DVD would hurry up and get here. It’s supposed to arrive today, and yet here it is, almost 8:00 at night, and NO DVD!!! Uncool.

*A bit thankful, or should I say, very thankful really, that modern dentistry exists, and there is help beyond just yanking a painful tooth out of your head. That would suck.

Friday Randomness

I had such high hopes for this month and blogging. I posted on January 1st, and again on January 2nd. I was on a roll. Sure, they were both just recipes, but still. It was momentum. Then I lost it. And here it is, 3/4 of the way through the month. Sigh.

Guess what? I’m a human pincushion. I’ve decided to try acupuncture for my non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve heard it can help. I went for my first session last week, and it wasn’t horrid, but I didn’t feel any relief. I was told that it sometimes takes a few sessions, so I went back today. I do feel a little better now. I also have Chinese herbs that I’m supposed to take, though I keep forgetting.

Also on the arthritis front, my doctor increased my dosage of my meds. I think that’s finally helping a little, too. I dislike the side effects, which include a nasty taste in my mouth, and often feeling queasy. Plus many my tinnitus is getting worse, but I’m not sure on that. But the pain isn’t as bad as it was before, and I’m not as worn out, so that’s a good thing. I can’t believe this has been going on for 6 months now. Miserable. Is this the rest of my life? I hope not.

In other news, Ted again received DVDs to watch so he could vote in the SAG awards. Last night, we watched ‘Cake’, which came out in theaters today. I liked it a lot, though it was fairly depressing, and I found myself watching Jennifer Aniston walking around in such pain, and wondering if that’s how I look. Stiff and careful and miserable all of the time. Ugh. Aniston gives a pretty amazing performance as a pill popping drunk trying to cope with her physical and mental pain.

Are you watching Downton Abbey? I am, and I’m loving it. Looks to be a great season. I do wish the seasons weren’t so short. Will Mary find love, now that she’s gotten lust out of her system? Will Granny find love with the Russian Prince? What about Tom? He seems to be leaning back towards his more socialist roots. Personally, I think he should move out of the abbey, and live in a cottage in the village. Certainly there must be a fancy house he and Sybbie can live in with a nanny. His school teacher friend is lively and pretty, but I don’t really see a romance between them. We’ll see if I’m right about that. Sigh. I do love the clothes. My brother gave me a copy of the Season 5 DVD for my birthday, and that will be coming along any day now. Then I’ll binge watch, and will have to refrain myself from spilling all.

On the recommendation of my dad and step-mom, I downloaded the NYTimes bestseller, “All the light we cannot see”. I’m about 1/2 way through, and am really enjoying it. I also downloaded “The Goldfinch”. I got that one from the library first, but it was so amazingly thick and heavy, it was uncomfortable to hold and read in bed, and that is my preferred place to read. Also because it was so thick, I doubted I could finish it before it was due. One of my Christmas gifts was a gift certificate to Amazon.com, so I went ahead and ordered these two books as gifts to myself.

Lastly, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I dislike it when people use the wrong ‘there/they’re/their’ in a sentence. You know what’s worse? When I see it in a work email. One that I wrote. Ugh. It’s not that I don’t know which one to use, but my fingers are sometimes confused. I blame the arthritis. Really.

Deciphering Arthritis

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give the whole ‘gluten free’ thing a try, to see if it helps with my inflammation and non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis.  I have mentioned on Facebook that I’ve been having this pain, these problems, and several people mentioned to me that their pain was significantly managed by going either gluten free, dairy free, or both.  I’ve also talked to people for whom these options did not make a whit of difference, but they at least gave them a try.  The first two weeks I was gluten free, and now for this last week, on the recommendation of a friend for whom the combination of gluten and dairy was the issue, I’m  going gluten and dairy free.  Yesterday was day 1 of this horror, and today is day 2.  My fear is, what if it helps.  Will I then need to go entirely gluten and dairy free, for the rest of my life, in order to keep this condition at bay?  Ugh.  I hate that thought. I’ll do what I need to do, but seriously, gluten and dairy are two of my favorite food groups.

Yesterday, I also tried a yoga video that I get as part of my Amazon Prime membership, “Easy Yoga for Beginners with Christine Wushke”  I woke up stiff and in pain, as I do most mornings.  After the yoga video, I still had my pain, but the stiffness was markedly reduced.  That’s a step in the right direction, I’d say.  If you’ve ever done yoga, you would likely say this is the easiest yoga sequence EVER, and mainly works on stretching your back and legs.  There are a total of 2 downward dogs, a few warrior poses, and a lot of resting poses.  The J who used to take yoga regularly and could do all of the poses fairly easily would laugh at today’s J, barely able to get into the posts.  Today’s J can’t do a downward dog properly, because it hurts my wrists far too much.  I can modify the pose by being on my elbows and forearms rather than on my hands.  So this yoga sequence is a good thing, basic and forgiving, and I think I need to make it a part of my daily routine.  See what that does for me.

At my last appointment with my rheumatologist, she doubled my dose of one medication.  You have to ease into it, as it is sometimes hard on the stomach.  So I started with 1 pill a day, then was up to 2 pills a day, then she put me on 4 pills a day, and said if that was too much, back off to 3 for a bit.  4 pills a day was horrid, my stomach felt like crap all day, and I pretty much wanted to throw up.  Gross.  So I pulled back to 3, which was much better.  Today I went back to 4, and thus far I seem to be handling it fine.

So, I’m feeling a tiny bit better.  Is that due to the yoga?  The medication finally starting to work?  Just a good day?  The no gluten/no dairy diet?  I don’t know.  I sure hate the idea of no gluten or dairy forever.  But a friend on Facebook, who I did know in real life back in High School, said that her husband also has an auto-immune issue (gout in his case), and he deals with it by eating some gluten and dairy and red meat when he’s feeling well, and then if he has a flair, he cuts back to a super limited diet until it goes away.  That’s something to consider, at least.  Of course, that only works if these foods are a trigger for me, which I just don’t know yet.  The key is to get to where I’m feeling better, hopefully, and then reintroduce these foods one at a time, and see if the symptoms come back.

For now, I just want this current flair to subside, so going shopping for an hour doesn’t bring me home in so much foot pain, so doing every day things doesn’t leave me worn out at the end of the day, and maybe I can do a proper downward facing dog, arms and all.

Wild


Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman destroyed by the death of her mother. Cheryl has fallen into a seriously self-destructive spiral, shooting up heroin, having sex with strangers, sabotaging her marriage. One day she hits her own version of bottom, and while in a drug store, spies a travel book, for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and she sees some sort of peace there. Her mother was that rare, truly good, happy-in-spite-of-it-all person, and told her many times to find the beauty in life, to let that beauty find her and wash over her. So she decides that the way to come to terms with the person she has become is to hike this trail…from the Mexico/U.S. border up into Oregon. She has no experience hiking, no experience with her camping equipment, no knowledge of what she is getting herself into. But into it she must get.

Along her journey, we are shown many flashbacks of her life up to now…life at home with her mother and brother, her mother’s illness, her marriage, her self-destructive behavior. She is struggling with these memories, and not so much trying to absolve herself or find forgiveness for her sins, but rather to come to terms with who she is, and see if there is a glimmer in there of the woman her mother wanted her to be.

I really liked the movie a lot. Reese Witherspoon is definitely an Oscar contender for her performance as Strayed. Laura Dern (who isn’t that much older than Witherspoon) did a fabulous job as her mother. Go see if it you get a chance.

Still here

In years past, I have often, if not always, participated in NaBloPoMo, posting on my blog every day for the month of November. This year, it didn’t even occur to me. What did occur to me was to not post even one blog post for the month of November. “What if I take the entire month off?” I thought, “would the world end?” Of course not. If I don’t care, then why should anyone else? Those heady days of busy busy blogging are long gone, at least around here, and no one worries if I don’t have anything to say for a week or two. Or maybe a month.

But tonight I’m sitting, sipping wine, watching old reruns on TV. Ted’s at work, Maya’s upstairs doing homework. I’ve got a good book next to me that I’ll dive into after I finish this, so I thought I’d say hello.

In my last post, I mentioned several books that I had put on hold at the library. As sometimes happens, three books came in at once. This is a situation that can stress me out. The books are all due in three weeks, and what if I can’t get through the books in time? When the books are popular, I can’t renew them. Rats. The first one I read was “Let me be Frank with you”, by Richard Ford. It’s 4 novellas in one book, all around the same time. Frank Bascombe lives in New Jersey, and the stories all take place in the months after Hurricane Sandy, though they don’t all relate to the storm. They’re internal stories. Not much happens. Mostly Frank observes and considers what is going on around him, trying to figure out his place in the world, how to do the right thing when he’s not always sure what that is. I liked it a lot, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether or not they’ve read any other of Ford’s books about Bascombe.

Next is “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”, which is a series of essays by Ann Patchett. Thus far she’s writing about the experience of being a writer. I’m enjoying it, and I think there’s a lot of good advice there. Next up could be short stories by Tom Perotta, or it could be the new Felix Francis book. I’m looking forward to that.

It’s that time of year at work, where things get busy. Busy busy busy. I like being busy, but I don’t like everything about it. I don’t like how we sometimes are made to feel guilty for wanting to take time off on weekends. I don’t like how my company, this year, decided that the day after Thanksgiving is not a company holiday. Jerks. Thankfully, my immediate boss isn’t a jerk, so I have that day off.

Maybe you’re wondering how the arthritis thing is going. It sucks, is how. Here I’ve been healthy my entire life, and suddenly I feel pain almost all of the time, in various parts of my body, and I don’t know how much worse it is likely to get or if it will ever go away. I finished the prednisone two weeks ago, and the pain has been coming back ever since. Actually, it started coming back when I was tapering off of the prednisone. But since I’ve been off entirely, the pain is worse. I hate it. It’s not nearly as bad as it was before I started the prednisone, but the fear of whether it will come back is scary. I’ve read about rheumatoid arthritis, and everything I read sucks. I try to keep focused on the knowledge that every person’s body is different. Every person reacts to medications differently. Sometimes issues like mine mysteriously go away. I cling to that, hoping that will be my story, and that this almost-but-not-exactly rheumatoid arthritis will go away and life will be pain free. In the mean time, swimming helps. Ted bought passes to our local community pool, and days that I go are generally better than those that I don’t. Did I mention work is busy right now? Sigh. Also, sleeping with my wrists in braces helps. Also, wearing my bite guard helps, because the discomfort in my hands seems to make me grind my teeth, which make my cheeks hurt, and also maybe gum recession gets worse. I feel very sexy, with my hands in braces and teeth in a guard. Blech. Taking some new meds that so far I’m not allergic to. They take a couple of months to kick in. So let’s see. I sure hope they work, and that things get better on this front.

What else. Maya’s liking her job at her elementary school. She’s starting to think about where she’d like to transfer when she’s finished at the local junior college. She isn’t enjoying her time there, sadly. She does have several friends nearby, but no one at school to hang out with. I hope things get better there.

Thanksgiving is coming. We’re going to Ted’s parents’ house, where the plan is that we all chip in so no one person has to do everything. My contribution is cranberry sauce, yams, rolls, and vegetables. Pretty easy stuff. Really, none of the Thanksgiving dishes are that complicated, so I’m not sure why some people get so stressed about it. Maybe if it were at my house, and if it were anyone but loved relatives, it might be more stressful.

I was supposed to go see my Grandma yesterday. We got a call at 7:30 in the morning, that Grandma had been in too much pain all night (arthritis in her back) and hadn’t slept. Ugh. My poor Grandma, tiny like a little bird, in so much pain. I don’t know why her being tiny makes it worse. She just seems so frail and vulnerable, I guess. Which she is. She’s also amazingly strong. Strong in her spirit and heart, frail in body. She told me that the only way to avoid this crap is to die before you get to be her age. I need to put some thought into this whole process, and what I want when I get to be old.

The plan right now is to go see Grandma next Saturday. I hope so. Maybe even if she’s not feeling better, I’ll go. A difficult decision. I should likely leave her alone and let her rest, so she doesn’t feel like she has to be up and feeling well when I’m there. On the other hand, sometimes having someone come and visit makes her feel better. I know it would make me feel better.

That’s it. Nothing else here. I hope you’re well, that November is treating you well thus far.