Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First object up the nose!


After playing together all morning, I stepped away from Rosie for just a moment to get a little work done this afternoon. When I heard her crying, I went to investigate and found her covered in ink. Her entire mouth and nose were completely saturated with black ink, so I thought she had sucked on the marker and drawn on her face a bit. I scooped her up and carried her to the bathroom where I pointed out her face in the mirror. Rosie was enthralled with her black teeth, and we laughed about how silly she looked. But when it came time to clean off her face, she screamed every time I wiped her nose. As if I were watching an instant replay on tv, my mind flashed back to the original scene of the crime. I remembered seeing the marker next to her, but it was somehow missing the tip. I was increasingly horrified as I realized that the felt tip of the marker was still in her nose.

I collected my thoughts for a moment, before completely losing my head. I tried to get a good look up her nose but all I could see was a cascade of black ink. Her ink stained spit and snot was draining out of both sides of her nose and her mouth. I tried my best to pull out the tip, but my tweezers weren't wide enough to get a hold of it, and I was quite sure how aggressively I could try to get it out without hurting Rose. I plugged up the other side of her nose and asked her to blow, but it didn't do any good. I was now imagining the tip of the marker stuck millimeters from her brain like on the Simpsons, and struggling to keep my cool.

I decided to call the doctor, but could not find my phone anywhere. I then remembered watching Rosie toddle away with it earlier. After searching the house for the dumb phone and swearing to get a land line when all of this was over, I was soon left with no other option but to ask Rose what she did with it. I stared her in the face and repeated over and over as calmly as I could, "where is mommy's phone?!" She can usually find things, but not this time.

I ran to the computer, hoping that anyone was logged into chat and could call my phone. Luckily Genevieve was there, and received the most random IM from me, ever.
With the phone located (it was between the books on the bottom shelf downstairs) I called the doctor and whisked her down the street. Kris met us there and we proceeded to be completely embarrassed by her face full of ink.

When our normal pediatrician failed to pull out the marker tip, I felt a little better about myself. I had really tried to take care of this myself, for fear of being that crazy first time mom. Our Pediatrician went to grab the expert Puller-of-objects-out-of-children's-noses-er and he broke down laughing as soon as he caught sight of Rosie's face. He devised a plan that included a crazy hook tool and three of us to hold down the child. When he finally pulled the marker out of Rosie's nose, he asked if we wanted to keep it. Seriously.
Note: this picture was taken after trying to clean off her face twice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Possible cure for MS could be one trial away - ABC 4.com - Salt Lake City, Utah News

Possible cure for MS could be one trial away - ABC 4.com - Salt Lake City, Utah News

Posted using ShareThis

This sounds like potentially exciting news for everyone with autoimmune disorders, so I thought I would put up a link. Doctors at Johns Hopkins have found a way to "reset" the immune system and keep it from attacking the body. The problem is that they are struggling to find funding for the the last stage of trials. The patents on the drugs used have expired, so big pharma will have no part in funding this treatment which has so far CURED 90% of MS sufferers who have tried it.

In the ultimate David and Goliath narrative, a woman from Salt Lake has decided to raise the millions needed herself to help more people get this experimental treatment, and complete the trials in hopes of getting FDA approval. I decided to help, and recently asked her if I could make a pendant in her honor. She chose a phoenix for her design since a cure for MS would mean nothing short of rebirth.

Learn more about Michelle at CureForMS.org
You can donate there, or visit my Etsy Shop to pick up your own Phoenix pendant!

Friday, November 20, 2009

20 Years

It's here, friends. The 20th anniversary of the accident that got me into this entire mess is today. I have been rounding up for a while now... "20 years of pain," I would say to myself, but I knew it wasn't completely true. As if 19 years was really that much better.

As of yesterday, I'm back at work on the dumb book, I mean the wonderful book about the last 20 years of my life. I have been ignoring the book for quite some time, but going through those all-too familiar words yesterday reminded me of an amazing revelation that came from the writing process. So even if I don't sell the book, at least I have some peace, right? I realized that being in this much pain since I was 10 years old hardened my spirit just enough to face all the crap with my mom that was in store. When doctors accused me of lying about the pain, I had to develop an inordinate amount of self respect and self love so that I could continue to defend myself. When my mother lost her mind to mental illness and tried to take me with her, I was able to save myself. (The infamous) THEY say that most people never make it out of family situations like mine. And just look how functional I am!! So at least I have that going for me... which is nice.

But if given a choice, I would choose no pain at all. (duh!) This is why I have to offer props to science! Another RSD Blogger recently posted some exciting news that was published in Scientific American about Glia cells being responsible for chronic pain. The frustrating part, is that I have been asking for one of the medications that is supposed to suppress the Glial response for over a year now, with no luck. Anyway, this is the article if you're interested. http://www.rsds.org/2/library/article_archive/pop/Fields_ScientificAmerican.pdf

So that's where I'm at today. I'm tired. I'm tired of pain, and having it be a factor in every choice I make from walking the dog to having children. I'm sad about all of it, but pain has been such an integral part of my being for so long, I know that my life would be completely different today if I had never stepped in front of that car. It's a question for the ages I guess. Without the pain would I still be here with my amazing family, or would I be stuck in my mother's insane alternate reality. That's a way-homer...


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Sad Day

I knew this day was coming, friends. The day when I would be inspecting my pendants after they have already been fired and tumbled, and notice to my horror that I did not drill that all important hole for the jump ring.

It happened today. On all 12 pendants I fired last night. 12!

But I fixed it, and I thought I would attempt to share the wisdom I learned today with the next lost soul googling "forgot to drill hole in PMC before firing"

Though not as soft as the clay, silver is quite soft. It does not require much to drill a hole. In fact, the more speed or effort you put into it, the worse off you'll be. I had to purchase a 1.35 mm drill bit (I actually bought two in case one broke). I got it at my neighborhood jewelry supply store, but if you are not blessed with a store like Freshmans I bet you could just buy the smallest bit available at Home Depot. The bit did not fit in my flex shaft, so I also needed a collet pin. If you don't have a flex shaft, a regular drill should work if you can control the speed easily.
First make sure that you make a dent in the silver where you want the hole to be. I just used a regular hammer and nail. The dent will keep the drill bit from sliding all over your piece. When you're all set with the bit in place, start it spinning and run it through a chunk of beeswax to lubricate it. Then stop the motor. It doesn't take much wax, but it will help with the heat problem to be explained further down. Rest the tip in the dent and just barely start the motor. If you go too fast, the silver will get really hot, and de-anodize the steel. Then it won't be able to cut a thing. SLOWLY increase your speed until you see little curls of silver coming out of the hole. Keep it at this speed and hold the hand piece really straight, or you might break the bit. The slower you go, the faster it will drill the hole (and you won't wreck the bit by over-heating the silver). There you have it-- a hole!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We're afraid of losing this quality of care?

Let me say a few things about the standard of health care in America.

I have CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, formally called RSD). Granted it is not a well understood disease, but compared to when I was diagnosed 19 years ago to today, general knowledge about CRPS has increased by leaps and bounds. Some doctors even call themselves specialists.

I have seen these specialists. I have been to Johns Hopkins and Stanford- both supposedly offering the highest level of care. But it wasn't until a pesky pain I have been dealing with in my foot for years finally got out of control, that someone took a basic x-ray of my leg. My family doctor told me last night that I have such severe Osteoporosis in my left leg that I could break my foot just by walking around on it. This could have been useful information to have before now. I probably have a stress fracture in my tibia, but I won't know until the MRI tomorrow.

I knew from poking around on the internet that Osteoporosis was a common problem among people with CRPS/RSD, but I figured that if this was really a concern for me, one of the many doctors I have seen would have checked for it. I even had a terrible case of it right after my accident and shattered my ankle in three places because I was trying to keep up with my friends. I have told that story to every doctor I have seen about my leg, but none of them ever checked to see if the Osteoporosis was still a problem.

One dumb x-ray a long time ago could have spared me this pain, hassle, and possible surgery. I guess what I'm saying here is that YOU are in charge of your own health care. Be educated and ask about possible complications. I have always worried about offending my doctors by mentioning research I have found on the internet, but no longer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Deep Thouhts Dripping in Polypropylene

For the last few weeks I have felt like my brain has been coated in plastic. With immense effort I can bend my thoughts through it, but if my efforts wane for even a moment, my thoughts are lost to me, and I end up on a freeway exit somewhere in Taylorsville, instead of my intended destination.

This is how I found myself last week suddenly approaching the entrance of a cemetery in Sandy which was several miles out of my way, and wondering if my car had actually driven there all by itself. I walked the rows with my daughter until we found the marker of my oldest and dearest friend for whom Rosie Alice is named. The stone bearing my friend's name was so much smaller than the one from my memory shaded with so much grief and guilt over time lost for petty reasons. Rosie and I picked the dandelions, made wishes, and cleared the grass clippings away. It was a nice visit, and I left feeling better than before I got there.

By the same turn of events, I was surprised to find myself driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon this evening at almost the same time my mother took the drive three years ago today. On October 2, 2006 my mother purposefully and violently ended her life somewhere in that canyon. For the first two years afterward I was barely able to drive past the mouth of the canyon. But today I felt happy to be there enjoying the colors, even though they were unfairly stunted by an early frost. When I turned around and started to drive Rosie and I back home, I was struck by the contrast of how my mother's body left the canyon that day, compared to my joie de vivre as I drove through the twists.

I feel like my plastic brain has an important message to convey through these unintentional visits: no matter how painful life can feel, with luck it is possible to turn around and return to a place of peace.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Kiln Full

These are my orders from just the last few days! It's barely been two weeks and we've already raised over $300 for MDA/ALS Division. Thanks to everyone who has helped to spread the word.


Now I get to wait three hours for them to be done... it's going to be a long night.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Exciting Things Afoot


I've added a new necklace to my collection. It is in honor of my friend Lance, who is living with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease). The ALS division of the Muscular Dystrophy Association gives so much support to people with ALS that Lance asked me to help him give back. We are donating $10 of every Dancin' Lance pendant to the MDA/ALS Division. In fact Lance, Bree, and I will be on the Labor Day telethon on Monday (ack! tv!) to talk about the necklace. Quite exciting, indeed. click to see it on Etsy!



I am also preparing to go back into the booth sitting business. I thought that when I said farewell to art shows and farmer's market, that I had spent my last long hot day in a booth, but on September 12th I'll be back (baby). My cute husband will be participating in a marathon relay which benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I asked if I could set up a random table and sell Love to Breathe pendants... but I was informed that there will be a whole expo, and they offered me a booth space for free! I'm quite busy preparing for the event, and I hope to see a big response from the runners and their friends. Beat the rush, buy one here.

And finally... I picked a new charity for my mommy jewelry proceeds. Friends of Maddie provides support for parents with children in the NICU. Heather keeps an amazing blog about her daughter Madeline, who lived a short but beautiful life. Caution, don't read this blog without lots of tissues handy. I was wrapped up in it last night, and it was all I could do to not wake Rosie up for a hug, and to reassure myself that she was still happy and healthy.

I made this necklace for Heather B. Armstrong (different Heather, different blogger...), crossed my fingers that she wouldn't think I was stalking her, and dropped it in the mail. She (or possibly her assistant) recently sent me a post card to say thanks! Followers of Dooce, keep your eyes peeled for a hint of silver around her neck. (I hope, I hope, I hope!).


Friday, August 28, 2009

The Formal Livingroom

I totally get it now.

Just a few short hours ago I was informed that my husband was coming home early. I glanced around the house which had recently suffered a nuclear Rose attack, and panicked. Not that Kris would even care if the house was messy as long as Rosie is happy and healthy, but I still like to feel a little bit useful beyond the baby-playing.

So I started gathering the wet pull ups, and searching my brain for how they ended up on the couch in the first place. I gathered up the blast of alphabet cards and shoved them back in the diaper bag. I swooped up the dirty baby clothes, tiny mate-less shoes, stuffed penguins, blocks, and kitchen clutter. I vacuumed the dog hair from every corner, and off all the furniture. It was ridiculous, especially considering I do this EVERYDAY!

When I was a lass, several of my friends had fancy living rooms that we were not allowed to play in. I always thought it was silly to have a whole room full of things no one could touch and furniture no one could sit on. I can still remember their mother's exhausted, half crazed faces as they begged us to please, just leave one room alone.

But here I am wishing that I had a place where I could sit down and relax without first having to sweep a layer of baby away. My hands are up and I'm dangerously close to declaring my bathroom a dog and baby free zone.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Music and You and the Gift of the Trees


I wish pain behaved more like a house guest who won't go home for whatever reason, but with some bargaining, might be convinced to grab a hotel room for the night, and maybe do the dishes before she leaves.

I attempted every intervention I knew to ditch the pain last night before the Xavier Rudd concert (!! I'll get to that in a moment, but must finish complaining first) but still found myself lying the grass in front of the Delta Center, showing the husband how to adjust my old lady hip so that, just maybe, I could put an ounce of weight on my right leg. But really, who needs the right leg anyway-- especially when the left has been enhanced with RSD!

The adjustment mostly worked, but I still needed to use Kris's body like a crutch. I dragged my sorry joints to the bathroom, unassisted past the door and clinging to the wall even though it offered no support, to pull the leaves and grass out of my formerly cute party hair. Then I got to face the indignity of walking (I use the term loosely) to the end of the line at the door. I hate to limp in public.

Once the music started all was (almost) forgotten. The first time we saw Xavier was in San Francisco. We were there to see The White Buffalo, who opened that night. There was giant lump of something on the stage which was covered by a tie dyed bed sheet. Once the Buff was done we simply had to find out what was under the sheet so we stayed. It was drums, digeridoos, and four or five guitars all attached to a giant frame so that Xavier could play them all at once. Before the show, we had downloaded a live show from Australia, and Kris and I had both assumed it was a full band, but it was just this dirty surfer with awkward hair. The digeridoos were so big they touched the floor, and shook the building when he played. It was amazing.

When we moved home to Salt Lake, I worried that I would never get to see Xavier again. Lander and I traveled to Denver to catch a show a few years ago. Detailed here. Last year marked his first show in Salt Lake. There was a pretty good sized crowd, but this time, everyone came back and brought five more friends. We were squished right up against the stage.

It was the husband's birthday as well last night, so my cute sister thought ahead and taped four sheets of paper together with "Happy Birthday Kris" scrawled across them. At a strategic moment I held the banner over his head and waited for Xavier to glance at us. We were only about 5 feet away, so it was hard to miss. At the end of his set, I held up the sign again, and jumped this time for emphasis. Xavier took it from me, and stretched it out for the whole club to read. Then he pulled Kris on stage, gave him a huge hug, and wished him happy birthday. The whole place went nuts! After Kris got down off the stage, he crumpled in a pile a revelry, and absorbed the good will of the crowd. Awesome birthday! Amazing show! Clever sign-making sister!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Handmade Wire Bail

I got a lovely request from another artist on Etsy to explain how I made the bail pictured here:


I'm really not sure I can adequately explain the process, but I will try. It takes a few practice runs, so I would suggest not using sterling to start out. I still get it backwards now and then, and have to start over.

I use 16 or 18g round wire. Flush cutters (they leave a straight cut, rather than a V) make it look nicer, but if you don't have them then snippers and a file will work too.

I use a length of wire that's about 5 fingers long. It makes the wrap at the end easier if you have a bit of a tail. (You can save the tails and sell them to a silver refiner!)

Using round nose pliersand staring the middle of the wire, wrap it twice around in a loose V pattern.


Cross the ends.


Bend the longer tail so that it is going straight down. This piece will be the middle of the wrap.


Wrap the shorter piece around 1 1/2 times, and snip the tail. You want both cut ends to meet each other in the back.


The next part is easier to show in pictures:






This last picture shows a mistake! If you pull the tail around it won't meet the other in a continuous spiral. This will make sense once you try it. So if you have this problem, then just move the tail to the other side and wrap. Don't forget to hang your object,(it sounds dumb, but I have done it many times) and make sure that it is hanging towards the front, and the cut tails are in the back.

Here's what it should look like:


I used wire with a copper core, so that's why you can see a little pink, but you can sort of see the tails come together in the back.


You can pinch the loops at the top all the way together, or open them wide. You can also play around with how big to make the loops.

I hope this helps!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Body Project: coda

So I thought I was done with the drug experiments since I'm trying to get pregnant and all, but in between cycles I've been taking my vitamins with gusto. This month I decided to try an immune system booster after reading about the research they're doing over at Stanford. They are using a prescription drug to boost the immune system of people with Fibromyalgia. They used to think that the cause of autoimmune disorders was an overactive immune system, but now they're wondering if it's the reverse. Considering how often I got sick (and stayed sick) I never thought it made sense.

I popped over to whole foods on Tuesday (in order to secure the 15% discount on vitamins, because I'm broke) and picked up a supplement for immunity support. It's only been a few days, and it may all be just a big coincidence, but I feel better today than I have in months. I have lots of energy, the pain feels manageable, AND I'm not dealing with all of the nasty side effects from the Lyrica and Cymbalta (hello extra 15 lbs... welcome to my hips! Please, stay a while!!)


Still taking the (Source Naturals) Fibro-Response and LOVING IT!
Whole Food's brand Immune Support and Glucosamine/Chondroitin

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Marthon


A house in St George near the finish line of Lander's first marathon.

Last night Lander and I packed up the baby and drove up the canyon for dinner. On the way up we passed a runner, with the most muscular legs I've ever seen, powering her way up the constant climb. We were both infinitely impressed by her pace and obvious strength. It was a clear demonstration of endurance and ability, and for more than a moment, I wished I could do that.

This morning I woke up to a seemingly endless list of things to do. Most of the things I did were hardly interesting enough to explain, and I certainly couldn't squeeze any jokes out of my two trips to the grocery store, or the chair match between me, my toddler, and the printer. Throughout the World's Most Boring Activities Part 682: Revenge of the Smart Women in Business Grant Application, I ignored the pain in my body. I pushed the exhaustion out of my consciousness. I felt like that woman from last night. Only I was attempting to reconcile mommyhood, housewifery, and the art of succeeding in business (while trying as hard as humanly possible) with the constant drain of chronic pain and the all-consuming exhaustion that comes with it. I mentally awarded myself a Finisher's Medal once I reached the end of my to do list. Too bad no one at Smith's recognized the feat of strength they were witnessing. Perhaps it would have been more inspirational if I had been wearing one of those cute little running skirts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Return Ticket to Agent Town

I read a bit of advice a while back which loosely said, "find a publishing deal first, then an agent. You won't like the kind of agent you're likely to find without a deal." This is in reference to the plethora of good-hearted souls out there who claim to be publishers, but really just want to charge editing fees and take all your money without ever publishing your work. So I started approaching publishers directly.

I thought I had found the publisher for me! She was looking for "socially relevant personal journeys." The only way my book could be more perfect for her list was if I could have somehow rigged the book itself to play, "Don't Stop Believin'" (Journey's greatest hit in case you happen to not be old. Just thought I would explain the joke to the kids. And now I'm done.)

I sent her my first query, but she sent it back covered in red ink. She carefully explained everything I did wrong, but invited me to fix the query and send it back. She said I needed a strong marketing platform since the "Coping Memoirs" genre is so saturated. I was elated to have another chance, but I knew I lacked a gimmick.

I decided to focus on the sheer drama of my life, hoping that a good story could still sell a book these days. I explained the car accident, the pain, my crazy mother, the rampant abuse, rebuilding my life with nothing but $25 bucks and a cracker (do you think it's enough...) Just when I thought I had put it all back together there was the miscarriage, and my mother's suicide two weeks later. As I stuck what was left of my mother in a drawer and asked the Universe, "What's next?" a surprise baby came along to carry and care for just when I felt sure that my soul had already left the building... I could go on, but the James Frey police might come after me.

She said my query was better, but she still wasn't interested because the way I have survived this life was not revolutionary enough to sell to the media. Too bad I didn't rise above my grief long enough to buy a Julia Child's cook book or some other inane set up that seems to sell books.

I have thought about this for several days now. At first I just wanted to tell her that the very fact that I did survive AND became a contributing member of society IS revolutionary. But now I have decided to find comfort in the idea that I'm ordinary. It means that if I can go through this much garbage and come out a better person in the end, anyone else can too.

More research has led me to plenty of books about regular people coping with crappy things in ordinary ways. But those publishers won't accept work directly from the author, so now I'm back in the hunt for an agent. In the meantime, I plan to cook tofu everyday and journal about how it changes my life, and then I'm going to attempt the impossible and run a hundred mile foot race with no ability or training so that I can come to terms with my grief, blah blah, blah.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"pressing your money into hands that are still caked with dirt"

This response was left by my eloquent young husband Kris Lander, in the comment section of my previous post about Industrial America. I thought I would post it so that no one missed it. I keep telling him that he should write more often.

I asked, "why do I hold things like the arts, food, and all other indulgences which are good for soul apart from industry? Why do I think it's ok for the car manufacturers to make decisions based on the bottom line- that they would be ridiculous to continue making a part by hand, when a machine can drastically cut costs, but I am offended when the same principle is applied to dinner and diamonds?"

Kris Said:
I think the reason why you hold a double-standard when it comes to dinner and diamonds is this: You can control the origin of your dinner and, to a certain extent, your diamonds.

If you need a new car you can't help where it was manufactured. The sticker on the window may tell you the origin of the parts, and the countries where they were assembled, but if you want a new Toyota Venza you don't have the choice between the Venza built and assembled in Mexico and one built and assembled in Japan. There's only Venza. Sure, you could opt for a car that's built and assembled in the USA, but that may not always be a practical or financially feasible decision. (As an aside, Marketplace had a story a few days ago that said the majority of new car buyers are no longer willing to pay a premium to buy an American-built car).

When it comes to corn and chicken breasts you do have that choice. And, increasingly, you don't even have to shop at another store to make the choice. Organic milk sits side-by-side with the rBST laden SuperMilk. Organic apples and pears are next to conventionally grown apples and pears. The choice to choose organic is as simple as putting a different item in your cart, and opening your wallet a little wider. (Another quick digression: shouldn't produce grown using organic techniques be labeled as "conventional"? It wasn't until relatively recent times that farming involved huge quantities of nitrogen, pesticides, petroleum, and genetically modified seeds. Perhaps these foods should be labeled as "Industrially Grown").

The same holds true when it comes to jewelry. You could go to the mall and pick out something bright and shiny from Claire's or Nordstrom's. But, you can just as easily walk through your neighborhood farmer's market or arts festival to find something equally bright and shiny, and as a bonus it's probably unique. Or at least unique enough that you probably won't see other girls wearing the exact same piece.

The other bonus to purchasing organic foods and handmade jewelry is that you often see your money changing hands with the farmer or artisan. When you buy a basket of strawberries at the farmer's market chances are you're pressing your money into hands that are still caked with dirt. When you buy handmade jewelry you know the person on the other side of the counter is directly involved in the production of that jewelry. You don't get the same feeling when you buy a new car, or pick up a family-sized package of toilet paper from Target.

corn as far as the eye can see


Since I found myself in the car in the late evening yesterday, I settled in for Marketplace, one of my favorite shows on NPR. Of course they were discussing the fall of the American auto industry... a topic we are all too familiar with around here since Lander's employer collected most of their revenue from car dealerships. The story was about a machine from Canada which cut the price of a particular part, which used to be handmade here in America, from $14.00 to $2.50. The reporter tossed the term "handmade" about like a dirty word, and in this context, I agreed! I actually started questioning my devotion to all things handmade, or locally produced, and felt like I was somehow responsible for holding the entire American economy in the gutter.

Progress!

I embrace technology in almost every other aspect of my life. Why then, would I shun mass made jewelry still stinking with the smell of sweat shops and child labor? Why would I support tiny farmers over the industrialized super farms with all of their pesticides and monoculture?

I do appreciate my own hypocrisy. Somehow, I think it's just fine to buy my clothing, toys, computers, and cell phones, etc. from China, but as long as I don't shop at Wal-mart, I buy organic food, and I make my own jewelry by hand, I still get to feel all superior. Most of the time it is very difficult and expensive to purchase everyday goods like food, clothes, diapers, and toilet paper which won't offend my body, my morals, or my carbon footprint. No matter how much I wish this weren't the truth, I don't think it will ever change, especially considering the sad state of our economy. Sales of locally produced, or organic food are plummeting. Skinny wallets have sent many of us running back to ConAgra with all their subsidies, artificial additives, and cheap ingredients which put cost ahead of nutrition and taste.

I guess the point to all of this rambling is this: why do I hold things like the arts, food, and all other indulgences which are good for soul apart from industry? Why do I think it's ok for the car manufacturers to make decisions based on the bottom line- that they would be ridiculous to continue making a part by hand, when a machine can drastically cut costs, but I am offended when the same principle is applied to dinner and diamonds?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Birth




As I less-than-patiently await birth stories from at least four of my blog buddies who just had new babies (you'd think they're busy, or something) I thought I would post my own story from, what seems like, a lifetime ago.


“I know one flower which is unique in all the world.” --The Little Prince

Towards the end of my pregnancy I was so fat and tired and miserable that I googled "signs of labor" and "inducing labor" every day for two weeks straight. I had been having contractions for about a month. They didn't hurt much, but sometimes they were very regular, so I ended up in labor and delivery twice for false alarms.
At the hospital they have a separate room for observation. They pretend like they send everyone there to determine if real labor has started, but I'm pretty sure it's just for the first-time moms like me who wander in calmly and say, "Yeah, uh...I think I might be in labor...but I'm not sure."
I had no idea when the baby was actually due because I had two different due dates in September that were about two weeks apart. Since Rosie was a bit of a surprise we didn't know when she might have been conceived. I understand that it's all guesses anyway and I would have been able to go with the flow, but my mother-in-law, Peg, had to be out of town for a week right in the middle of the two due dates. I really wanted her to be there for the birth. Not only did I want her to see her first grandchild being born, but I also wanted somebody who had done it before to be with me. None of my friends had had babies yet.
When Peg left town I was already dilated to a three. I technically had two weeks left until the most likely due date, but I was still positive that Rosie would not wait that long. The whole week Peg was gone I was full of mixed emotions. I was so so so ready to not be pregnant anymore, but I didn't want Peg to miss the birth. She would be home Friday morning, so I was desperately hoping Rose would be born that day. Saturday, September 15 was my mother's birthday. It was the first one since she killed herself, and my feelings about her death were still quite raw. I did not want my baby and my mother to share a birthday.
On Thursday evening I went to visit my sister's new apartment. It was in yet another hundred year old building in a cool old neighborhood downtown, so of course there were a thousand stairs to her door. I climbed them slowly, but secretly hoped the effort would send me over the tipping point and straight to Labor and Delivery. Waiting is just about my poorest skill and not even being sure when the waiting would end was the worst test of my anemic patience, ever.
"I have figured it all out," I said as I caught my breath between flights of stairs. "Peg gets home tomorrow around 11:00am. That means I can go into labor tonight at midnight and spend the average 8-15 hours in labor. That leaves her plenty of time to get here before Rose is born."
“Midnight, huh?” Amy said. “That's a very clever calculation.”
“Thanks. I thought so too.”
At midnight on the dot I woke up screaming. The tight pain in my tummy, back and legs was the most consuming thing I had ever experienced. Eight minutes later, almost to the second I had another contraction. I got out of bed to gather my last minute items for the suitcase that had been gathering dust by the door for a week. Kris stared at me with so much excitement, but I was anything but excited, "You must put on pants. We're going to the hospital, now," I said.
"They said in class that you have to wait until they're five minutes apart."
"I'm not waiting."
Another contraction started while I was getting my toothbrush so I steadied myself on the sink. I wasn't breathing, I couldn't speak, I couldn't signal when it was over like we had practiced. Things hurt me more than they should because my central nervous system is overly-sensitive to pain. My nerves amplify even the tiniest pain message. A pinched finger or a stubbed toe can be excruciating to me, but as a result, I have a lot of practice dealing with terrible pain, so I had been wondering for months what labor would feel like to me, and now I had my answer: crappy.
I only had to endure one contraction in the car because the hospital was close. I stood at the front desk with my suitcase, pillow, and a determination to get an epidural within the next ten minutes. There was no way they were sending me to the observation room again, and I was so happy when they didn't even try. Maybe the fact that I couldn't sign my own name on the form was an indicator of my general discomfort and urgency.
When I got in the room I was almost dilated to a five already. They still made me wait over an hour to get the epidural...something about IV fluids. I was so unprepared for the pain. I tried to do the little breathing patterns we had learned in the birthing class... the same patterns I had neglected to practice more than once. What was I thinking?
Then suddenly I had something else to focus on besides the pain. My baby was in distress because the contractions were so strong and close together. The nurse had me turn to one side, and then the next to try to lower Rosie's heart rate. I flipped over and over like a pancake, and eventually her heart rate settled.
When I finally got the epidural I hated the way it felt. It was nice to just watch the nearly constant contractions go off the chart in intensity on the monitor and not feel them, but I hated that I couldn't move. My legs were heavy and floppy and required my husband to move them for me.
Two hours later, my second exam revealed that I was already completely dilated so they quickly called my doctor. Of course he was unable to make it in time, so a woman I had never met introduced herself to me and said she would be delivering my baby. Then she broke my water. What's one more stranger with her hands up my skirt at this point?
"I'm going to go start your paperwork and then when I get back we'll start pushing."
"Are you serious?" I said.
"We'll push for about an hour, and then we'll see where we're at."
I braced myself for what sounded like a long morning. It was about 4:00 am, and Peg was only just boarding a flight home. But I didn't have to wait long.
As the nurse checked me one more time, she called to her assistant behind her, "go get the doctor, now!"
Then to me as calmly as she could muster, "looks like we're ready to go." It had barely been ten minutes since the doctor had left. The nurse went to put my legs into position for me when I realized that I could move them myself. I started to feel the contractions again, each one stronger than the one before. I was actually happy that my epidural was wearing off though, because I wanted to feel the birth.
Bob excused himself to go call Peg and let her know that her first grandchild was about to arrive. She was beside herself that she could not be there.
After one peek the doctor said, "I guess we're starting now. That didn't take long." I had no idea what they had been waiting for in the first place, but before I knew it the doctor was teaching me how to count and push. I couldn't believe it was happening already. I felt like a little girl again- small, scared, and being dragged along by the hand toward something I didn't want to do. I wasn't ready.
I pulled my legs into my chest and felt the next contraction coming, but this time I had a job to do so the pain was not too bad. I focused on pushing for ten seconds straight. I was supposed to keep my chin down but I kept watching in the mirror. It was fascinating.
I had given up on he he he hoooo a long time ago, but then Amy told me to breath into the spaces between my ribs just like we had practiced at yoga so many times. I breathed into my back and ribs and it calmed me. I suddenly felt more prepared that I thought I was, like maybe I could do this after all.
I only pushed for about 15 minutes before the doctor told me to stop. One last slow push and then there was Rose. I saw a head, and a shoulder and an arm and I said, "oh my God, it's a baby."
"What did you think was going to come out of there?" the doctor said.
The nurse plopped the baby on my tummy and Rosie squinted at my face. She had more black hair than I had ever seen on a baby, dark skin, and blue eyes. She was beautiful, and so tiny. She was only 6lbs. 3oz. I was shocked because an image of Rose had been forming in my mind over the last few weeks, and my vision looked just like her.
They took her away suddenly. Rose hadn't started breathing yet, so they carried her quickly to the warming bed and started a flow of oxygen just in front of her nose. Kris hesitated to go but I released his hand and told him to follow.
My nurse called the NICU for a consultation, but before they arrived Rosie finally took a breath on her own! "Oh, she's a doll!" the NICU doctors said and cooed at her for a few minutes before they were called away again.

I got to nurse her before they took her upstairs, and I was cheered because it went pretty well. As soon as they finished sewing my body back together, I followed her to the maternity ward.
Subsequent feeding sessions, however, were very difficult. She wouldn't latch and I couldn't keep her awake. I was so frustrated and I felt like such a failure already for not knowing how to feed my child. I had even read a book and gone to a class to learn how, but I just couldn't do it. We eventually resorted to Kris dribbling formula down my chest so Rosie would think it was coming from my breast and want to suck. It took forever to even get half an ounce in her like that.

I felt alone and clueless and for the first time I broke down in tears. Kris made me scooch over on the bed and just held me until I was ready to say out loud that I wanted my mom. I wanted someone to teach me and help me be a mother myself.
It wasn't all frustration and tears though. Between the feedings we got to stare and coo at the most beautiful baby ever born. We marveled at what we had made together and wondered about our new life as parents. We got to show her off to our friends. And when Peg's plane finally landed, Rose met her only Grandmother.

The day after Rose was born was my mother's birthday. We were still in the hospital learning to care for our baby. I was closing my eyes hoping to get a little sleep but it wasn't working. Kris was holding Rosie. I heard a catch in his throat and a few quick sniffs. She was so beautiful and amazing that she made her new dad cry- a feat I had only witnessed a handful of times in ten years. I kept my eyes closed and tried not to intrude on his moment with our new baby. I was thinking of my mother of course. It was only then that I realized that my mother's last words to me were, "Thank you for the rose for my birthday." That's just what she got this year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Udon Noodles With Seame Crusted Tofu


photo credit: The Vegan Dad


My darling husband used to cook for me all the time, so I have never needed to hone my kitchen skills. Back when I was actually employed and worked pretty late every night, I would almost always come home to a fragrant house and a beautifully plated meal on the table. Those were the days, people.

These days, Lander apparently has better things to do when he gets home like playing the baby he so dearly misses every minute he's away at work. So I finally gave into my maternal guilt, tightened the apron strings, and bellied up to the cook top. However, I had no idea what to do next.

I was determined to actually cook a meal tonight without the microwave. I have thus far mastered the art of opening bags of frozen vegetables (which is no easy task-- sometimes I even have to use the scissors.) And I am a pro at the classic Lander meal consisting of chicken, a vegetable, and rice, which I relished every time I crashed the nuclear dinner table at Kris's parent's house. But tonight I attempted to branch out.

Once again, Lander gave me more credit than I deserved when he suggested a yummy recipe from http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2009/06/udon-noodles-with-sesame-crusted-tofu.html

I wandered the aisles of Smith's, wrestling my squirming child, and gathering the ingredients to the best of my ability. I managed to get home with most of the ingredients in tow. I felt fancy as I tossed the tofu in sesame seeds, but it only went down hill from there.

The tofu bubbled in the oil but never really turned golden brown like in the beautiful picture on Vegan Dad's website. When I tried to flip them the white piles of goo just fell apart and congealed into sesame covered mush. I thought more heat might do the trick, but I only managed to start a beguiling collection of tiny third degree burns on my arms and face, and coat the kitchen in a slippery layer of oil splatters. As I nursed my wounds, I reflected on the good old days when Lander did all the cooking. I recalled watching him drain and press the tofu, as I sat uselessly watching Buffy and sipping wine. Oh, how I miss Buffy.

Rosie missed her bedtime waiting for me to finish cooking. I left out the green onions because Somer told me to, and I forgot the hoisin sauce, so it was slightly lacking in flavor. The noodles were sticky, and we've already discussed what happened to the tofu. In summary: a complete failure, but stay tuned for future adventures in house-wifery. I'll master this yet.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vacation! All I Ever Wanted

We recently flew to Huntington Beach, California to visit Rosie's favorite uncle, Josh. We all decided to celebrate our anniversary with some moderately good Seaside Mexican food on the snazzy little HB main street. Rosie made eating out just as adventurous as ever with the screaming, the spills, and suddenly proclaiming "all done" before the beers were half gone. Kris and I have come to accept that for the next 18 years, we are essentially banned from restaurants which serve meals over $9.99, because it seems that fancy people don't appreciate the occasional lemonade bath for their Jimmy Choos. But since Josh is still childless and fancy free, this weekend has been a crash course in parenthood. If only we could be better stewards for his journey since being prepared takes 97.2% of the stress out of outings with children. But as it is, we rarely remember to bring snacks, sippy cups, or diaper wipes along with us.

Once we were back home from dinner we started the bed time dance where we insist that it's late, and Rose is tired, and she in turn assures us that she's fine and it's time to play. Being taller and slightly smarter, Kris and I eventually prevailed, but less than an hour later Rosie woke up screaming. I almost left her to work it out for herself, but I figured she probably didn't remember where she was, so I went up to comfort her.

Once I got the door open I heard gagging and coughing interspersed with the screaming, and instantly started panicking. Rosie started to throw up a little so I scooped her up, ran down the hall to the bathroom, and held her over the sink. "I need help! Rosie is choking!" I screamed.

Kris and Josh came bounding up the stairs. Kris assessed the growing pile of pink puke in the sink, and the pathetic gagging sound Rose was making. We watched her gag and cough and cry for a moment, feeling completely useless. When I could no longer take it I halfheartedly stuck my finger in her mouth to see what was in there. Finding nothing, I looked up at Kris with sheer panic on my face. He took Rosie from my arms, and one triumphant finger sweep later, the puke fountain flowed freely. Gobs of stinky pink and white goo filled the sink. I suddenly realized it shouldn't go down the drain so I tried to hold it back with one hand while picking up chunks to identify what could have made her sick. As the puke oozed through my fingers, I remembered that Josh was also standing there, and could go get some paper towel. I glanced through the doorway and saw Josh's wide-eyed face completely drained of color and washed in horror. Above all else, Josh was concerned for Rosie, but combine the puking with the crying all night, waking up at 5am, inconvenient napping and generally stickiness and it has become clear that we have set back any future Lander cousins another few years.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy 8th Anniversary Love!



The last 12 years have been amazing. I feel so lucky to be married to the sweetest man, and the best father I know. Thank you so much!!

California here we come...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We'll Say "Hi" to The Compound For You, Somer :)

We're going to the beach! Kris, Rosie, and I will leave tomorrow evening for Huntington Beach to visit Josh. We couldn't be more excited! Here's a few pics from our trip to Newport last year. Rosie was just about ten months old and took her first wobbly steps at the beach house. She didn't walk on her own for a few more weeks, but it was fun that the whole fam was there to witness her genius.


Rosie in her Aunt Billie and Uncle Mike's pool in Vegas


Wearing our commemorative "Hot Sake" shirts to celebrate Ricki's line in Iron Man.


Swimming in the buff in her sombrero-shaped beer cooler. Ultimate embarrassing baby picture, right? I'm pulling this one out on prom night.


Practice.


So little!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tonsils

My parents said that I was practically born with tonsillitis, but the doctors waited until I was four to take them out. Apparently, I would wake up at night gasping for air, my throat too swollen to breathe.

The first time I realized something bad was going to happen to me, my dad had taken me to a movie, and kept apologizing over and over. “I'm sorry you have to have a tonsillectomy,” he said. The lect-to-me part and all the guilt in his voice made me think it was his fault. I had no idea what it meant, but I thought about it for the whole movie. My mom apologized all the time too. I started to think my parents were plotting against me. If they were both so sorry, couldn't they just not lect-to-me my tonsils?

Most of my childhood was marked with constant confusion. My sister recently found a picture of me from when I was about five. “Look at your face!” she said. In the picture I was trying to smile, but my eyes were huge and radiating fear. It was enclosed in a frame made of cardboard and a few remnants of macaroni and gold spray paint. “I must have been at Sunday School. I never really understood Sunday School,” I said, peeling off a loose noodle. People should explain things to kids better.

It became clear to me that I would have to stay overnight at the hospital when my mom took me to K-Mart to pick out my own pair of hospital jammies. They had purple, pink, and orange tulips on them and ruffles at my feet like clown pants. I couldn't wait to wear them. I would lay them on my bed, straighten the tiny purple bows, and dream about the day that I would finally get to wear them. In retrospect I was clearly being manipulated.

When the big day finally came, I got to go on a tour of the hospital. I had my jammies in a bag over my shoulder and the promise of endless ice cream and popsicles filled my mind. The nurse gave each child on the tour a plastic medicine bag. In it was either that weird mirror thing doctors strap to their heads in movies, or a pointed nurses cap with a big red cross on it. All of the boys got to be doctors, and the girls were nurses. I handed my medicine bag back to the lady, once again confused about why she thought I wanted to be a nurse. “I want to be a doctor,” I informed her. I was thinking big and bucking stereotypical gender roles at age four. I often wonder what happened to that gumption. I had the surgery and felt pretty miserable for about a week. Soon I could breathe and swallow like a champ, but at the end of all of my suffering I learned the cruelest lesson of them all: life is not fair and when you're not paying attention your sister will eat all of your ice cream.



So about six months ago at one of Rosie's checkups, I was complaing that she was sick ALL THE TIME and wouldn't eat or sleep. Our doctor pried open Rosie's mouth and said, "Oh my!" as if she couldn't control herself. Once she had gathered her thoughts, she added in a much calmer voice, "Rosie's tonsils are simply huge."

They were swabbed for strep, but showed no infection. Her tonsils had just grown to be too large-- known as kissing tonsils. The Doctor explained that they were making it too hard for her to breathe at night, so she woke up all the time. And they were so big that she couldn't swallow enough food to nourish herself, which is why she hadn't gained any weight for almost six months. Feeling like THE WORST MOTHER, EVER, I promptly made an appointment with an ENT who droned on about having to wait to do the surgery until kids are at least two, so they can be reasoned with if they refuse to drink fluids. I thought in my head that we could be waiting for years, in Rosie's case, since she's as stubborn as the dykes are tall in her native Netherland home. But as soon as the doctor caught sight of the tonsils in question, he said, "my, that's an impressive presentation," and told us to schedule surgery immediately. He also said we could put tubes in her ears at the same time to help with her constant ear infections.

So I took my poor baby (who couldn't breathe, eat, or hear) home and waited nearly a month for the surgeon's schedule to clear up. It was agonizing. I spent most of the time playing out in my head what it would feel like to hand my baby over to a stranger and watch her get carried into an Operating Room where I couldn't comfort her.

When the day finally came, Kris's parents surprised us at the hospital, and waited through the whole morning with us. It was such a relief! Between the copious toys in every corner of Primary Children's Hospital, and the nurses who blew bubbles and sang, Rose was fascinated with the whole process. When the Surgeon came to take Rosie away he even let her take her monkey and her blankey with her, so somehow, it felt a little easier.

The surgery was over in just a half hour, so one of us got to go back to recovery sooner than we had ever imagined. Kris is the best dad, ever, so I knew he would be aching to comfort Rosie. He practically ran down the hall to go get her. I had to wait another 30 minutes before I got to see her. When I finally got to go back I expected to see a beautiful reunification of father and daughter, but instead Kris had a mix of heartache and terror on his face, and was covered in the blood that Rosie had coughed up. She was still choking on her sobs. Kris said that Rose was so mad she would focus very her on deliberately pinching him between all the screaming.

It got better from there, though, with only a few more traumatic moments. Once we figured out that the IV in her foot was making her miserable, and adjusted it for her, all was well again. We all got a little sleep, but Rosie woke up at about 3:00am convinced that it was time to play. Kris and I pulled her through the halls of the hospital in a wagon for hours. We watched Bambi, which only made her giggle and yell, "bunny!!" rather than lulling her back to sleep. By 5:00am, the nurse said we could just go home.

After another day of rest and occasional bouts of the grumps, Rosie was a new woman! Now she can breathe, eat and is starting to put some chub back on her tiny bones. I feel so lucky that one of the best children's hospitals in the country is just up the street from my house. This whole experience could have been so much worse than it was.

While I'm very excited to stop explaining why my 21 month old baby is barely the size of an average one year old, the best result of the whole experience is that Rosie giggles all the time now. A laugh from Rose used to be a very rare treat. She was always pretty happy, just doing the best with what she had, but I think she felt too sick to giggle and play like a normal kid. I just hope we can get the next kid's inevitable case of Tonsillitis nipped in the bud even sooner.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vocabulary

I have been feeling really guilty about forgetting almost the entire Spanish language, so I jumped at the chance to put a Word-A-Day gadget on my google homepage. Here is the list I saw this evening:



Between my in depth analysis of my unique pain-causing anatomy, my mother's death, and my attempts to understand it all, this vocab list is like a synopsis of my book! (except the hardware store-- I have no idea where that came from.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Caution: poop story (it had to happen eventually... this is 33.3% mommy blog)

"Did you poop?" I asked Rosie.

"No!" scamper scamper scamper.

But she totally did. She went in the bathroom and shut the door and everything. If only she would sit on the potty instead of costing me .30 cents every time she craps life would be easier to deal with right now. I have always been afraid of potty training, but much like a 42 week pregnant lady who may have once been afraid to give birth, I say - let's do this now!!

Anywho, there I am holding Rosie's feet in one hand, and wiping her poopy bum with the other. I was mentally chanting, "don't puke, don't puke," since I wouldn't have a hand free to catch it and would have ended up with a much bigger mess. I glanced at the wall cube which holds the world's Most Random Collection of Stuff, but occasionally also holds diapers, to find that it was bare. There were none in the drawer. The diaper bag. The stroller. No. Diapers.

It was then that the poo smell overwhelmed my tender gag reflex. I didn't actually puke since my teeth hurt too much to chew food, so there was nothing to come up, but yucky heaves shook my body.

Rosie said, "bwess you mommy."

Feeling (almost) instantly better I snatched a swim diaper from the closet and declared the problem solved.

Rosie with her friends Eli and Emerson Ashton

Tuesday, June 16, 2009



Rosie has been a little late in saying her own name according to her grandma. I wasn't terribly worried considering she seems to know the names of EVERYTHING else.

Since I was attending a baby shower last Saturday, I decided to wear my R necklace made in Rosabella's honor. Fun and yummy food was had by all at Ashley and Lily's shower. The world is ready... come on out baby!

When I got home, Rosie pointed to my pendant with interest. I told her that it has an "R for Rosie," as I poked her tummy. She smiled and said, "for Rodie," and patted her tummy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fascinator!


A bride asked me at a show back in January, "do you work with feathers."

"Of course I do!" I said. Not true, but how hard could it be?

It turns out it was a lot more challenging than I expected to even find pretty feathers rather than the cheapo bag at the craft store. But once I found those, it was actually kind of fun.

New self discovery: I'm allergic to feathers.

A Baby Story


Yesterday I was listening to Rosie and her dad playing in the basement. He was trying to fix a computer for a friend, and just as he was downloading the last update, Rosie pushed the power button. He was understandably irritated, and told her "NO!"

She crawled her way upstairs and found me hard at work on my rewrites. Her face was very serious and she proceeded to tell me the story. "Dada. Button. No."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rosie dances with Mr. Xavier


MVI_1265
Originally uploaded by lissabird

Peace II

I have vowed to single-handedly sell out The Depot on August 15th 2009 when Xavier Rudd will once again grace Salt Lake with his presence. I want to make sure that he comes back every year! We first stumbled upon his music at a show in San Francisco. When we moved back home, I was worried that we would never see him again.

This is a story from my book about traveling to Denver a few years ago just to see him one more time. It goes like this.

Peace, Part II

I had been in a snit for the previous month or two or six. Kris and I were supposed to climb Mt. Whitney with friends. We had made all of the plans long before we knew about the baby, but in a flash my whole life was changed forever and I felt a little picked on. I couldn't go be with my friends and see a little more of the world. My life felt small. My tummy felt sick. My future felt lonely- Kris was still planning to go.
I suggested a trip to Denver to see one of my favorite musicians- Xavier Rudd. He was playing a show on our wedding anniversary, and Salt Lake wasn't on his tour schedule at all, so Denver was our only chance to see him. He's amazing. He plays the guitar, the didgeridoo, and a slew of drums and other noisy things all at the same time. I sent Kris a text about the show. "We should save our money" was the message I received back. Note to self: Don't discuss things in text messages when they are really important to me.
I let it stew in my head for a few weeks. I didn't know how to explain my feelings without sounding crazy. But the thoughts sat around in my pregnancy-enhanced brain for so long that they got huge and dripping like giant anime monsters from the sea which came pouring out of my mouth one night.
"You would rather go spend precious vacation days from work with random people than spend them with me! You would rather spend money on that, but there's a trip to Denver we could go on together and you say we have to save money!" Of course, this is what I meant to say, but when I get upset I cry. Sobs interrupted my brilliant argument. Kris and I hadn't had a fight for a good year or more so we were due. There was yelling, more crying and in the end Kris informed me that I was crazy. Wasn't that obvious, I wondered. Did he not notice that I was pregnant? I thought I had a free pass for crazy.
A few weeks later on Mother's Day, I got plane tickets to Denver to see Xavier without a single mention of my temper tantrum. On the day of the flight I woke up to terrible pain in my feet. Most days I had been feeling like my body was being held together with used cellophane tape covered in paper fuzzies. I tried to convince myself that I was strong-- wrapped up in duct tape, or at least masking tape, but I knew it was going to be a bad day.
I had been trying not to think about the pain complicating my pregnancy. So far it hadn't been too bad, but I felt as if I were losing my balance on the edge of a cliff. What was it going to be like tomorrow? Next month? There could be a genetic predisposition to chronic uncontrollable pain, so the biggest question of all is: will my baby ever be in pain like this? No one could tell me answers to any of my questions. I feel selfish for wanting to have my own children knowing they could end up like me. These fears still swirl through my head on a daily basis no matter how hard I try not to think about them.
I bundled my crazy thoughts, suppressed them the best I could, and got out of bed. We had to be to the airport soon, and my less than stellar walking was only going to slow us down.
As we took off on our flight my feet just got worse. They became more and more swollen and tender as the day went on. We were trying to see the sights in Denver before the show that night, so we went to the art museum. It was huge and amazing. We walked one floor of it. Kris walked, and I hobbled from bench to bench craning my neck to see the art without standing. Each step to the next bench was like walking on five inch red-hot nails. They pierced clean through my feet and sent pain screaming up my legs. It was too much. I wanted to quit. I wanted to go home, but I didn't go all that way to sit in hotel room. I knew I had to make a choice that I had been putting off for years.
I went by myself to the customer service desk trying to build up the courage to ask for a wheel chair. The line was too long and my pride was too strong. It took a second trip with Kris by my side. When I asked him to go with me, he reflexively said, "you don't need a wheelchair- you're so tough!" But he studied my face for a moment and then helped over to the customer service.
The man brought out an old crooked chair with a broken left foot rest. My heart sank as I inched my way into the chair. The brown vinyl folds swallowed my body, and my self respect. It had been 19 years since the accident and 17 years of walking on my own despite any challenge. All brought to a whimpering vinyl-clad halt.
Kris pushed me from wall to wall through the galleries. We struggled with doors and corners but eventually we got it down. People stared. I made a mental note to call my best friend, Bree who has been paralyzed for about 10 years. She wants to tape a sign to her chair that says "Pictures with gimp $3.00" to stop people from staring at her.
I made it through the museum with a little less pride than when I started, but I got to see all of the lovely art all the way up to the top floor. I was still worried about the concert though. I knew I couldn't stand for hours at the show no matter how much the rest in the wheelchair had helped. As the start of the concert drew near, I felt heavy, like a weight bringing Kris down and anyone near me. When we got there, the club was packed. We figured if we had to stand- we might as well stand in front so we elbowed our way to the stage and waited.
I started my search for a place to sit. I do it without thought. When there isn't a bench handy, I seek out corners where I won't get stepped on in shopping malls, or empty displays in grocery stores. I always envy the old people who have a chair built right into their walkers. I spied a cinder block by the stairs and took a seat.
Mr. Security said I couldn't sit there, I was blocking the stairs. Kris was quick to my defense, "she's pregnant man, give her a break." I pointed to my belly swollen with 7 months of baby. To our surprise Mr. security said, "Why don't you sit over there then?" and pointed to the crowd barrier in front of the stage. I swear angels were singing and a spotlight from heaven shone down on the little bench built right on the front of the crowd barrier. I was so embarrassed, but I couldn't pass up the best seat in the house. I took my seat right in front of the stage and tried to blend in.

Soon Xavier walked out with bare, tattooed feet, and crazy surfer hair that looked fresh from the oceans of his native Australia. He greeted the crowd and soaked in our good will before he sat down. He gave me the warmest smile I have ever seen.
He took a seat behind about 20 different drums, a kick box, a keyboard, and three didgeridoos. They were suspended around him in some sort of frame so that he could play them all at the same time. He picked up his guitar, started a rhythm on the drums, and blew out the first low, shaking notes on the didge. Baby girl started kicking harder than I had ever felt her before.
Song after song we danced together. The stress and indignity of my day vanished as I bounced in my seat with my hands on my belly. Baby girl twisted and kicked almost in rhythm.
A woman dancing near me leanded over to say that Kris and I were beautiful. She admired me for taking my baby out to hear the music and take in the energy of the crowd. "Live your life," she said and kissed my cheek. It was surreal. Live my life indeed.
At the end of the set Xavier walked to the edge of the stage, knelt down and reached out for my belly. He touched my tummy, and I touched his hands. I wanted to say come to Utah next time, but I was speechless. When he came back for an encore, he dedicated the song to me. "This is for the girl with beautiful healthy pregnant cheeks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Body Project: Epilogue

Oh my, I have had a bad week. I knew it was coming though, and it is my own fault. I speak, of course, of withdrawal. My first taste of Cymbalta withdrawal came when I ran out of pills a few months ago, and I didn't make it to my doctor's office to pick up more before they closed on a Thursday. I thought it wouldn't matter if I missed just one dose, and then ran in to the doctor on Friday morning.

I woke up in a cold sweat. My jammies and sheets were soaked and I was freezing. I couldn't see, but this is normal for me in the morning. But even after I put in my contacts I still couldn't see a thing. It was like my brain and my eyes were failing to communicate. Every time I moved it felt like I was swimming in Jell-o and leaving trails of sparkling tracers in my path. My body was buzzing with an electrical charge, and waves of simultaneous nausea and pleasure were fogging my brain into near-inactivity. The best part is that with the flood of Serotonin and Norepinephrine I wasn't feeling an ounce of pain, however I was way too sick to appreciate it.

All of this would have been fine if I could have just slept the day away, except that I had to take care of my child and drive myself to the doctor. I don't know what I was thinking when I got in my car! I clearly wasn't thinking straight, but I felt compelled to go and get another dose of Cymbalta just to end the withdrawal circus. I drove as carefully as I could, and eventually I made it. I dragged myself and my squirmy baby to the top floor office (who puts a pain clinic on the third floor?!) only to find the lights off and the door locked. That's right. I had forgotten that the office was closed on Fridays. I could not figure out what I was supposed to do as I pondered the idea of spending the entire weekend in such a state.

I fumbled through the rest of my day somehow, and was attempting to attend my friend's birthday party, and pretend I wasn't all strung out when my sister called me on the phone.

"Why don't you just call the after-hours number?" she said.

Of course that was the right idea, and of course I hadn't thought of it. It had required immense amounts of concentration just to put my sandals on.

So there I was, begging the inept PA to call in a prescription for three pills. I would have to pay out of pocket, since he had not completed my Prior Authorization forms for the insurance yet, but by that point I was willing to pay, or do anything for another dose. I have never felt more like a junkie.

After handing over more than $6 per pill, I finally took another dose and fell asleep. All was right with the world again the next morning.

A week later I stepped down to half the dose, and got to spend another day at the withdrawal circus, but it was not as bad.

Back to the present: I have been going off all of my pills one at a time as I prepare for the Baby Project. Dropping the magic Fibro-Response Vitamin was the hardest, because without it, the Lyrica doesn't work at all (the vitamin by itself does not work either. There must be something about the combination.)

Being in pain again after experiencing relief for the first time in 20 years has been cruel. Since I was only 10 years old when the pain started I was actually able to form my adult life around the pain. I was not an athlete forced to give up my passions. I learned how to be a college student with the pain, instead of feeling ambushed in the middle of my studies by sudden illness. I rarely felt like I had lost anything to pain, but rather that I lived my life in spite of it. I would never turn down an invitation or a challenge because otherwise, I would never get to do anything. I felt like I had overcome so much and was able to live a rich life.

Then the pain went away most of the time. I could act without thinking about the pain consequences I would face later that night. I had boundless energy-- even enough to enjoy evenings out with friends and family. I had NEVER realized how easy life is without pain. Now that the pain is back, I have lost my ability to cope with it. When I try to go out in the evenings with friends, I barely have the energy to speak anymore. I have finally realized how much of my life the pain has taken from me, because I got to live without it for 8 weeks.

I have been left to wonder who I am. Am I the quiet, withdrawn person I have been for most of my life... that is when I am not making a Herculean effort to fake enthusiasm. Or am I really the girl who was funny, charming, and brimming with energy? Was that dose of personality just a side effect of medication, or was it my true self finally able to surface from the murky ocean of pain? But enough about my hyperbole-enriched identity crisis...

In case you are new around here, I have to stop all of my medication because I am planning to get pregnant again soon, and I obviously can't take them. Kicking the Lyrica was a snap-- I didn't even notice it was gone. I left the Cymbalta for last. The Cybalta alone was not providing any relief at all. The pain and my mood were both terrible. I think that means that my energy level and mood have more to to do with pain level than a separate case of depression. I have been excited to get it out of my system since it wasn't helping, and I really don't like putting useless chemicals in my body. But I have also been dreading the withdrawal.

It has been really bad, but I think I'm almost done with it. I have been perusing google lately, and have found several sad stories of people who desperately want to stop taking Cymbalta, but cannot face the withdrawal. They feel trapped, and like me, they had no idea it would happen before they started taking it. I am going to contact the FDA about my experience. If they get enough complaints, they will be forced to investigate. Perhaps Lilly (Big Pharma) will be forced to tell doctors about the severe withdrawal symptoms, so patients can make an informed choice before taking the drug.

I have put a lot of thought into adoption or using a surrogate so I could continue my medication, but I simply do not have enough money. I think it is cruel that the system has made it so hard for people who cannot have their own children to adopt, when there are lots of babies that need homes.

If I can get pregnant quickly, then I will hopefully be able to enjoy the remission of RSD and FMS that often comes with pregnancy. The theory is that they are both autoimmune disorders. Since the immune system is suppressed during pregnancy so that the body will not reject the baby, the symptoms are also suppressed. (This is why the RA drug Enbrel might help RSD, but I have yet to find a doctor who will prescribe it for me. I think I will make that my next body project after the baby.)

I hope that I can find an affordable source of donated breast milk, so that I could go back on the meds right after the birth. After all, I can't imagine taking care of a toddler, an infant, and dealing with the pain. But that is a bridge I will have to cross later. I am confident that I will get to the other side with flying colors because that's how I roll.

I know it will all be worth it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Me Generation

Lately, I feel like I have read several articles about how self-obsessed my generation is. That we think our every thought or action is interesting enough to post on Facebook. That we construct entire shrines to ourselves on Myspace.

I have been feeling guiltiest of all for thinking my life is interesting enough to write an entire book about it.

The book has been through many incarnations. I have abandoned my efforts on Authonomy.com since none of the authors who have won the popularity contest have been offered publishing contracts. (For anyone interested... I almost won. I made it to the top 20 before they changed the rules.)

I am (occasionally) working hard on a major re-write. I am trying to make it read more like a novel with dialogue and description. It's hard and slow work, which is why I am rarely motivated to do it.

This is my new introduction. Any thoughts?




Ever since I walked in front of a speeding SUV 20 years ago, I have lived in constant pain. I remember keeping a smile on my face for my fifth grade class picture, even though my leg was on fire. Sashaying at the prom on a bed of red hot nails. Fighting to hear my college professors over my muscles and nerves screaming to be stretched and soothed. I remember neglecting my crying child because I did not have the strength to hold her.
Each day I depleted most of my mental and physical energy in my efforts to bend my life around pain. To make all the complexities of a joyful life fit into the tiny cracks and crevices of my mind and body that were not already filled to brimming with agony. I convinced myself that I was successful. I truly believed that the pain had not stolen my life from me, or turned me into a whisper of the person I should have been.
The brain has the most astounding ability to forget pain. But if it never goes away, you can never forget it. I never thought that pain could be an afterthought rather than the single most important factor in my every choice or action. Lately, I remember compensating for the pain for the last two thirds of my life, but I don't actually remember the burn anymore. I never thought that I could forget it.


I have been to more doctors than I care to admit-- not even asking for a cure, because that seemed impossible. I was just looking for an explanation. Every doctor said something different, but they all came to the same conclusion: there was nothing they could do. After spending two thirds of my life coping with this mysterious pain, I got so desperate, that I was willing to ask anyone for help. So there I was at a salon party, watching my friends sign up for free facials and waxes (Brazilians were extra). I forsook my shabby brows when I saw that I could get a free psychic reading. I thought the option seemed out of place at the salon, and I always try to keep an ear pressed to the door of the Universe, because I'm just positive that she speaks to me. Relax, kids. I don't hear voices, and I'm not crazy (probably not, anyway). Believe me, an occasional conversation with the sticky web of life that connects us all is not the biggest reason I should sport a straight jacket to all public functions-- that would be my mother's fault.
I asked the psychic about the pain. One of my doctors had just explained that genetic deformities in my muscles and bones could be the problem, and getting myself flattened by an SUV only made it worse. In other words, I had just been told that my body was made for pain.
I did my level best to not obsess about the spiritual implications of this theory, but let's face it: once an idea gets my pants all in a bunch, I just can't straighten them back out without some serious thought. I became convinced that I had been saddled with this hair shirt of a body on purpose. I had never, until that moment, felt like I was being punished by this pain. It's a popular question in the mountain of paperwork I always had to fill out at pain clinics:

41. Do you feel abandoned by a higher power? Yes No
42. Do you feel misunderstood by friends and family? Yes No
43. Do you feel that you are being punished? Yes No

I always circled no. The doctors were so impressed with me. I even got a glowing recommendation from a pain psychologist saying that, “she has such a positive attitude,” followed by the equally shiny, “I admire her goals, and her plan to accomplish them.” But suddenly, I had lost that shiny attitude.
The psychic had me cut the deck of cards in her hands, laid them on the table, and then proceeded to tell me loads of generalized nonsense about them. I waited with a pit in my stomach, wondering if I could even say the words out loud, and questioning why I ever thought this was a good idea. When I was positive I couldn't stew any longer, random word soup peppered with “pain, punished, and penance,” came bursting out like emotional projectile vomit.
She took a moment to collect her thoughts. “I really couldn't say why you have suffered all this time.” She seemed to be searching for something helpful to say. And then it hit her. “Maybe you could just ask the Universe if you could be done.”
At first I was offended by the simplicity of her conclusion, but as I previously explained, random thoughts get stuck in my head like a bad song. The longer I chewed on her words, the more I saw wisdom in them.
I had to let it go. I had to take action to find a solution. I had to tell the Universe that I'm done. I embarked on a journey to rid myself of pain, vowing to examine my past, present, and future for clues and a possible solution. Most difficult of all: I vowed to believe that someday I could live without pain. I never dreamed I would be so successful.
But let's start at the beginning.