Monday, September 29, 2008

"Making" Money

Rarely, Eric & I bet over something or other. I do not believe in making large bets, and so the tradition was established that whoever lost the bet had to present the winner with a dollar bill that they had defaced.

I don't remember what the bets were about, but twice I won. The first bill that Eric gave me featured George sporting a moustache fairly reminiscent of the one that he was growing at the time. The second dollar was much more, shall we say - ahem - colorful as he had allowed Miles to mark it up. But as time went on, it became inevidable that I should lose a bet and I finally did.

As I said to Eric when I finally paid off, he can deface his bills his way and I get to deface mine in my own special style. Eric said that he was going to frame my bill as the first dollar that he never made. And I realized then and there that that WAS the first dollar I had actually made rather than earned.
Click on the picture for a close up of the bead embroidery.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

West Side Story

Los Angeles is huge geographically. In fact, you can drive for two hours on the freeway from my home before you left Los Angeles and entered other cities south. (I live on the very northern end of the city.) My home is in the San Fernando Valley, also known to Angelenos as simply "The Valley."

From The Valley, we travel "Over the Hill" (aka through the Sepulveda Pass) to get to West Los Angeles, aka the "West Side." It's much more trendy, but expensive to live there. There was a time that I would have given my eye teeth to reside in that area, but that was in my youth. Now I realize that the traffic over there would make me completely nuts, and I'd just rather go over the hill when something is happening that's worth attending. And so it came to be that I traveled over on Saturday (yesterday).

Originally, I thought that I wanted to go to The Creative Castle where there was a class called Elements of Beading that I really wanted to take. But still being sick was a concern. The class was seven hours long and I was pretty sure that I would not hold up under those kind of hours.

Then I realized that on the same day, my Spinning Guild was meeting, there was a very special presentation being given by Stephanie Gaustad that would well be worth attending. I didn't know if my friends from the guild would be there or not... I've been out of touch for quite some time now but it would be really nice if they were. And so I decided that this was the venue for me.

The meeting starts at 9:30 am; I didn't even leave home until around then. Mornings are bad for me (as are nights) and I generally get a slow start. But 40 minutes later, I was entering the doors of St. Andrews Lutheren Church - our lovely meeting location - and immediately saw Janet and Dave and Carol and Ann by the door. (Elena is also in this picture although at the time of my arrival, she was busy at the front of the room running the meeting.)
I would have liked to set up shop right next to them, but it didn't seem like there was enough room, so I started around the very large crowd looking for space. Nancy was lovely and came running over to help, and soon I was situated. The guild has gotten so big that I don't know everyone anymore (I was a member when we only had maybe 12 members and we were a pack), but there is strength in numbers and I love seeing the demographic differences between attendees. And so I spun. Badly, but I spun.

I did not do very well. Unfortunately, my stamina is still lacking and by 11:15 or so, I would have liked to have left, but it was the middle of the lecture and there was no way that I could make a graceful exit with a spinning wheel, a chair, and two baskets, so I suffered through. Didn't absorb much information and that's too bad because I could tell that the subject was interesting, but that's life. If I can get back into the swing of things, I'm sure that my friends will share.

I stuck around for maybe 1/2 hour after the meeting and then with the help of Ann and Chris, I went back to my car and drove home. Carried my basket in but left my wheel in the trunk. It's still there. Took my temperature. As usual, as soon as I try to do anything, it had risen and it measured at 100.3.

I spent the afternoon and night in bed, feeling just awful. But I also felt just a little bit good. I love my friends. I miss them. I wish I was still part of the pack. It was really nice to connect again.

It was also nice to know that my decision to forego the beading class was the right one.

In addition, given how I held up in a situation where all I had to do was sit, it's a gauge as to my readiness for exercise class. I am not ready. That's useful information.

So as usual, life is full of negatives and positives. And I'm positive that I made the best possible choice in activities for me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

To Go or to Not Go...

To go or not to go... that was the question. Starting yesterday, thoughts started passing through my mind that maybe I should try a come-back at Slimmons tonight. The urge was even stronger today, and this afternoon, I even pulled out my exercise clothing in preparation for the decision. I finished a beaded bracelet (I'll post the picture soon), I took the dogs for two short (and I mean really short) walks, and I thought about it.

I also thought about the other things I needed to get done. I need to get the kitchen picked up (I actually cooked a very simple meal for myself last night), I need to get laundry done, I desperately needed to pick up a prescription that has been waiting for me for two days now and I'm out of that particular med. And I became exhausted thinking about just that.

My "good" times are now measured in hours instead of minutes. By good, I don't mean good like a healthy person. But I mean good as in I am not running a fever, I'm strong enough to sit up and get up to move around the condo as necessary, and my mind is functioning rationally. There has been a lot of time over the past four or five months where my illness was causing a short circuit in my brain. You couldn't really tell so much from my e-mails or posts other than a greater irritability factor than normal, but talk to me in person and there was no question but that there was something seriously wrong.

So I thought about the exhaustion. And I thought about Slimmons. It's an hour or more drive from my home on work nights; two hours round trip with no guarantee once I get there. (40 minutes on Saturday morning when there is no traffic.) And I thought about my prescription. Then my rational-thinking brain took over. It was not a good idea to try it tonight. I know that the time that I return - assuming that the Cimzia for which I am receiving another set of injections next Wednesday - is not the root of my problem, I think I may only be a week or two away from giving it a try. But it's not time yet.

So I went to the pharmacy and filled my prescription. I did a little marketing while I was out. And by the time I got home, my temperature had shot up to 101.3. Last night's lack of fever was a fluke. I've had a serious temperature every single evening for several months now. And on-and-off during the day too.

I'm looking at my computer screen's clock right now. 6:50 pm. Class has been in session for 20 minutes. I'm at peace with my decision to stay home. The last thing I want to do is go and provoke another health incident, especially the night before Richard leaves for New Orleans.

So I think I'll go get a hot bath running and spend some time warming up. I'll look at my beads and a newer beading book when I get out, assuming that my fever hasn't significantly risen and also assuming I'm up to it, then figure out their instructions how to do spiral beading. And I'll relax. The good news is that I don't think that Slimmons is going away soon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twelve-Hundred Steps

Yesterday was an exceptionally trying and emotional day. I was so sick by early evening that I took my evening pills early and then patiently waited for them to take effect. Fourteen hours later, I was still in bed without the strength or will to get up or do anything.

This afternoon, though, I looked at my dogs and how sad they are. They have not been outside of the condo for months. I thought perhaps, since it was mid afternoon and it wasn't likely that there would be many other dogs out, I'd try to take them outside.

It was hard. My heart raced, my head ached. My joints are quite painful and my left foot is swelling again. But I did it. I took them for the very-short walk through the alleys that I used to take them on just for 'business.' I know from measuring the distance on my pedometer during former walks that it is 1243 steps.

It's hard to believe that a couple of years ago, I was able to walk them for miles daily, and then attend either an exercise class or General Fitness session at Physical Therapy. These days, I can hardly stand long enough to take care of the basic necessities.

But the boys are so happy...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Three's the Charm

Button box finally located yesterday, I easily found closure buttons for all three bracelets that I've been beading. Attached the buttons, beaded loops to go over them, and voila! The bracelets formerly in progress were done!

I was very pleased. After all, these are the first products from my hands since I got sick. Of course, there's the glass half full, glass half empty syndrome which immediately manifested itself in my mind. Glass half full... if I take my time, I can still produce jewelry which is clearly desirable. Glass half empty, only three bracelets are the sum total of my output since last February. FEBRUARY! Not a lot to show for all those months.

But I think I will not think of the glass as either half full or empty. It is simply at the halfway point. It is what it is; I've made three bracelets which, if I had any idea how much time they would take to make in "real time" I would attach a price on them and offer them for sale.

I guess I'm going to have to make another straight through and see what the time commitment really is.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Big Hand for Eric

Eric & I planned to get together today, mostly just to be together and to do our respective marketing, but at 11 am (when we were supposed to meet), I got a phone call from him. Gabby, his ten-year-old daughter was sick and home from school. Not really sick enough to be condemned to bed, but just enough to accompany him to my home. Was that OK? Well, we quickly determined that she was likely not contagious, so I gave the go-ahead and they showed up shortly thereafter.

I am still very weak, and having done my laundry before their arrival, I was pretty-much done. Gabby entertained herself, Eric busied himself on the computer, and I lay in bed complaining about my current state of affairs. But after a couple of hours of this, the bottom line was it was lunch time, I was hungry, Gabby was hungry, and Eric could eat. I suggested that we just run over to Gelsons (a local upscale market with all sorts of in-store eating amenities) and then go next door to Vons for shopping from there. They both agreed.

We each got what we wanted to eat (Eric a sandwich, Gabby had a trip through the salad bar, and I had sushi) and sat down in their cafe section for lunch. Then Gabby needed to run up the stairs for the ladies room which conveniently were located about 10 feet from where we were sitting. Eric gave her permission to go ahead and she was gone and back in a flash.

As she settled back in, I eyed the great pile of Halloween Candy located right between the front door of the store and the Cafe, and suddenly a memory of my father jumped into my mind. To make a long story short, he used to taunt my little sister L- about a hand that would come out of the toilet when you would sit down to go and pull you under. I couldn't resist. I asked Gabby if "the hand" had tried to grab her.

She gave me a very sceptical look like she was saying "Yeah, right." and didn't reply. I insisted that Gelsons installs one in the toilet every Halloween for that very purpose. Gabby looked at the Halloween Display and then at me, not believing me in the least, but at least willing to listen. And Eric took it from there.

"Did you know that the Hand usually pinches people's bottoms, but only started grabbing them a year or two ago?" he asked the quizzical Gabby. "But originally, it would bypass the bottoms all together and go right for your pants pocket to steal your wallet."

At this point, Gabby was hooked. "Wouldn't the money get wet?" she asked.

Eric ignored her question. "Do you know what that Hand would buy with all of the money that it stole?" he asked her. "Gloves. Gloves are the only thing that a hand would ever have any use for." (I decided not to point out that a hand could also use rings. An occasional manicure. Or maybe Hand Lotion) I replied that the Hand was ripped off every time it made a purchase because "a" hand would only need one glove, but they are always sold in pairs.

He went on. "The Hand is the saddest thing on earth. It finally gave up stealing wallets and moved on to pinching bottoms. And do you know why the Hand is always so sad?"

Gabby shook her head no. We were both waiting with baited breath for the answer.

Eric looked very grave. He lowered his voice; he lowered his eyes. And he answered his own question softly. "Everybody always wants the one thing that they can't have. The Hand is always sad because it can never clap."

Gabby tried it out, clapping her hands. We pointed out that she used two hands and the hand only had one. She batted at the air with only her left hand a couple of times, I choked back a chuckle, and we went on to discuss other business of the day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not Forgotten

Last night was an intensely bad one for me, but this morning, after recovering from the drugs that I took to counteract my symptoms, I feel remarkably better. Well enough that I finished up the bracelet that I pictured in yesterday's blog (except for the closure... I really need to hunt down my box of buttons which is who-knows-where?) and am going back to embellish the green/red one more. I thought at the time that it needed more but didn't trust my instincts. Now I know that I was right and will "fix" it. As Myra Wood said in the class that I took from her last year, "More is more." So true when it comes to beading. You know when it's time to stop, and there's no reason to limit oneself based on preconceived notions of propriety.

When I feel better, I am intensely lonely. As always, those who are worth talking to are at work during the day, and I don't want to invite the "crazies" into my personal life. I can call or e-mail messages to my friends and they respond, but in the evenings when I tend to feel awful and don't want to talk is when they call. And my response makes them feel bad. So the number of personal contacts that I am having are becoming more and more limited.

But then there are the surprises. This morning I stumbled out of bed, still hung over by the Neurontin that I chose to take last evening, and let the dogs out of the front door. There on my doorstoop was a small square brown-paper-wrapped package. "Huh?" I thought? I've already received everything that I've mail ordered. What's this?

And there I had it. A book and card from Vennie - "The Best Friend in the World" it's called - but more important than the gift, the sentiment. I burst into tears. A physical manifestation that somebody cares about my trevails right there on my front porch, and then on my kitchen table.

I've scanned the book and think I'll read it all at once, then keep it by my bed and read one section at a time every night before I go to sleep. To remind me that even when I am physically alone, I am not alone in spirit.

One of the most difficult things about the kind of illness I am dealing with is knowing when to let my body rest and when to start to push back. I'm at that place right now. I know that I tend to get ill - including fevers - every time I exert myself, but my "good times" when my mind is active and my body a little more willing to work can be measured by the hour now instead of the minute. Don't get me wrong; I'm not ready to run a marathon or even contemplate a shopping trip, but knowing that I need to change my bed and put away the laundry I did the day before yesterday is not enough to bring me to tears. I'm even thinking about putting on make-up before my therapy appointment today.

This go-around with illness has been remarkably different than those of the past. Then they were mostly about Crohns Disease proper and weight-loss went along with the package. Now I'm dealing with other auto immune issues like Eyrthema Nodosum and terrible chronic fatigue as well as flaring Fibromyalgia along with the Crohns, and also the side effects of the Cimzia. I'm able to eat. I'm unable to move about much. And I'm bored. End result? Eating too much and weight gain. (I also, in all fairness, don't know what effects the various drugs I'm taking have on weight, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. I know my transgressions of the past week.)

Which brings me to exercise class. What to do?

Since attending the wedding with Eric last weekend, I know that I might be able to get a good hour or two out of the home before becoming physically and mentally incapacitated enough not to feel safe driving. I know that I am bored and lonely and would love to be amongst people, many of whom already know about my health challenges so I don't have to explain and I don't need to be secretive. And I know that I desperately need help with my eating.

But is Slimmons a good idea anymore? I'm not sure. I lost my standing there when I went "Scholarship" and don't feel comfortable defending myself against inquiries that are out of line. Like Richard's line of questioning about my sex life the last time I was there and was clearly too ill to either have a sex life or mentally acute enough to respond with a quick "Quid Pro Quo," thus silencing him. I also know that even before the current circumstance, my only standing there was as a hood ornament. I lost the weight, I was the big number, therefore I was welcome. Well I'm up 10 pounds now and don't know what I'm going to do. I really don't know if I have the fortitude or the physical stamina to get it off again, and that brings my position at Slimmons even lower.

With others at Slimmons, they have been put to use in other areas (like the Retreat or the Cruise or the radio show or the P.E. in School campaign) so when they started struggling, they still had some value to the operation. Me? The only times I've been asked to do anything was when X- had me doing the "Database to Nowhere" on a volunteer basis and I was expected to watch and keep silent about things going on that I considered unethical (and I did maintain the secrets which bothers me to this day) until I quit, or when Richard needed somebody in front of the camera that he could crow about. Again, it's all about the number.

So I don't know. I feel like some movement and some social interaction might be good for me right now, as limited as it might be, but I don't know how to get it started. I do know that if something untoward is said to me again at Slimmons (and Richard knew he was being inappropriate even as he was questioning me), I will have to leave and never go back again. Would that be a bad thing? Would that be a good thing? Would it not really matter in the scheme of life at all? And if I left, is there a place for me in another setting?


A therapy appointment behind me and the answer is clear. I am not ready to go back to exercise class at this point.

Dr. M- pointed out the following obvious facts which I know but got lost in my health drama:

1. Richard tends to get inappropriate in his line of questioning when he is feeling uncomfortable in social situations. With the way I'm feeling and must have looked that day when I made my way into class, it must have really thrown him for a loop. Ergo while there is no "fault" in this situation, there is a cause and effect, and I was the cause.

2. I have a long history of just picking up and going, before having permission from health care providers, when I want to go back to Slimmons. The fact that I am even questioning whether it would be appropriate for me to return yet (every time I get physically active, it results in a fairly high fever) is a strong indication that I should not be going.

Well, the pressure in that department is off, but I'm still scared to death about my weight gain. I know from experience that my mental health is directly tied to my body size and I don't want to return to the place from where I came.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Step by Step

Recovery is very slow. Just last night, my fever was over 102 degrees. But the fact is that slowly, ever so slowly, I think I am getting a little bit better. My crafting time had diminished to zero a few months ago, and about a month ago, I could sit for maybe five minutes at a time and work on some brainless-style beading. But when I am careful about how much energy I expend at any given time, I find that I can sit up for an hour or a little more now and that I am recovering creatively.

I had my first bracelet blank on hand, then realized that a button that I had beaded a long time ago coordinated and put the two together. A little more embelishment and I had a semi-completed piece.

Then I had an idea for another of the blanks. I started working on it a few days ago and it is taking shape. (Click on image for a bigger picture.)

It is comforting to see that I can still create finished items from an evolving thought process.

What is less comforting is checking my e-mail and blogs - which I can do now as I can sit at my computer for 10 to 15 minutes at a time - and see what my friends have been facing. Sick families. Oh such sick family. Hurricanes. Accidents. Their own illnesses.

I feel terrible that I cannot be of more support to them right now, but I am hardly up to taking care of myself. Yet.

I did accomplish a real home made meal last night. Grilled Salmon. Steamed Broccoli. Baked Potato. Heirloom Tomato.

When I can fully cook for myself again, I will be back in your lives, gals. Just hold on a little longer. I'm trying to gather energy.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Picture Not Taken

Every once in a while, I miss the perfect blogging picture. That happened last night.

Eric & I arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel just in time for the event last night, and as we were walking from the car to the main enterance, we noticed both a very shiny, clearly newly painted red curb, and the signs taped down periodically by it.

"Precaution. Wet Paint."

"Precaution?" I asked. Isn't it usually "Caution?"

Well we both giggled a little bit about the unusual wording, but as we got very near the enterance, we noticed it. A giant red work-boot print on the pristine, clean, unpainted cement. I started laughing, Eric started laughing, and the valet guys standing right there also saw what we were laughing at and joined right in.

Clearly, somebody had not been 'precautious' with the paint.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Filling In a Blank

Even as I feel like my creativity has deserted me, it apparently still resides within. Early today, I was moving some beads and some completed cabechons around and found a button that I had beaded during a class last year given by Myra Wood and hadn't a clue what it was going to be used for. Bingo! I realized that I had used some of the same green beads in the button that I had used on one of the blanks.

It always amazes me when serendipity strikes. About 30 seconds of thought and I knew what I was going to do with that particular bangle. A couple of hours worth of work and, with the exception of the closure, it is done. Odd color combination, but then again I am known for that.

I additionally now know what I am going to do with the pinkish purple blank. I'll need to work on it before the idea vanishes from my mind.

It's comforting to know that the fever didn't completely burn my brain out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Days are Blanks

As days are running one into another, at least one member of the household is improving. Sunny's back is sufficiently recovered - thanks to a dose of Rimadyl - for him to sleep on his sofa part time.
Cosmos spends his days mixed between disapproving of things such as the bathtub draining water (that noise is just unacceptable) and sleeping.
Meanwhile, I remain weak and debilitated, but no longer encumbered by a high fever, also bored. I am able to sit up in bed for periods of time now, and when I do, the feeling that I need to be working on something... producing something... is overwhelming.
Knitting is out. Not only do I not have appropriate yarn to work with, but I have gained a bit of weight with this convalescence and I need to figure out whether I am going to lose it again once sufficiently recovered before putting the time and effort into making myself anything. Additionally, I'm not sure I have the mental capacity to follow a pattern right now, and while underneath the surface the creativity is still there, I can't bring it out yet.
So I am making blanks out of #11 Czech seed beads to be embellished later into bracelets. I can write. I can do rote-and-file beading. And I seem to be able to turn out the bases from which bangles will later be finished.
In the meantime, the whole process seems to bore Cosmos.


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