A Bad Case of the “What Ifs” ~ by Sam

I have a long-standing chronic case of the “What-Ifs.”  Every time I see a new freckle, or dimple, or pucker, lump, or bump I’m thinking, “Oh, God, What If…??”  I can’t help it, there’s a lot of Cancer in my family.  Every time I fall, I wonder if something is broken, because 9 times out of 10, something is.  With a track record like that, you start to get nervous.  Every time I start to cough, and my chest feels rattly, I think, “geez, what if this turns into bronchitis, or pneumonia?”  Because, you guys, I don’t have time for that.  Nobody’s got time for that.  Look, I have asthma, and the chances that my cough is going to turn into something like that are higher than those of a person who doesn’t have asthma, so it’s not just totally crazy for me to think that.  When my kids cough, I think, “What if…??” FOR EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS.  And, like, they’ve already missed roughly three million days of school.  And that was probably just this week. There’s probably a truant officer at my door right freaking now.  I’d answer it, but I’m on hold with Kaiser because the automated system kicked me to the wrong option when I coughed.  It’s not my fault.  I might have pneumonia.

Basically, I’m a mess.  Pretty much always, and I know it.

Recently ~ and by recently, I think I mean since like the beginning of April ~ I have been chronically congested, and my nose has been sore and chapped.  It’s super attractive.  I figured it was probably allergies.  I have allergies.  I have never found a daily allergy medication that works very well.  Usually, at some point, I end up with a sinus infection, which I was dreading, and trying to avoid.  I also have a Eustachian tube malfunction in my left ear, which is not the ear in which I use a hearing aid ~ I hate to call it “my good ear,” because my other ear is just as good, despite being somewhat deaf ~ this means it almost always feels sort of plugged, and like it needs to pop, but it doesn’t pop.  Like, ever.  And this affects my hearing in that ear.  It sounds like everything is underwater, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days.  Anyway, it had felt this way, and I was kind of used to it, but it wasn’t terrible, to be honest.  I haven’t ever had any pain associated with the Eustachian tube thing.  Maybe, sometimes, it feels a little full, like a little pressure, but never pain. Then, last Saturday, as we were driving home from Accepted Student Day at Hallie’s college  ~ OMG!  Did I just say that?!!  My middle child is headed to college in the Fall!!  How crazy is that??!!! *deep breath* I’ll have to post about that later ~ my ear popped, just a tiny bit, but it HURT.  I mean, it really hurt.  I had to grip the steering wheel, and grit my teeth. Then, it continued to hurt through the day, and into the evening.

I figured, maybe that was sort of normal with the Eustachian tube malfunction; but, when I looked it up online, I couldn’t find anything about pain being associated with it. So I did the smart thing, and decided to wait a few days, to see what happened.  You see, by this time, I had decided, probably nothing was wrong, and I was worried for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

But…

WHAT IF…?

What if I had a really bad ear infection, and I didn’t get it checked out, and I permanently lost hearing in my left ear?  What if my eardrum was ruptured?  I mean…On the one hand, I guess, if I thought through both of those scenarios, I’d have to say, “So?”  Like…”So, if either of those conditions already exists, HOW IS NOT CALLING THE DOCTOR GOING TO HELP??”  Also, I do get that, if I were to lose some (or even all) hearing in my left ear, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  It would just be a change from what I’m used to.  It’s weird that the idea freaked me out so much.  I think, maybe it was the possibility that something (like an infection, or ruptured eardrum) might be very wrong that was most upsetting.  I think, in situations like this, I still have a tendency to go into small-child-survival-mode. Like, maybe if I don’t call, it will go away, and then it will be like it never happened.  That’s how life works.  I’m so good at being a grown up, you guys.  Right?  I’m reminded of the time, when I was 5 years old, and a needle I’d stepped on broke off in my foot.  I just didn’t tell anyone.  That resulted in surgery, so you can see how this plan has worked for me in the past.  It makes sense that I’d stick with it.

Like the needle, this just wasn’t going away.  I couldn’t hear.  It hurt.  People would talk, and I’d ask them to stop yelling.  It was bad.  And you know how when something is wrong with your ear, your balance is off, and you feel sick to your stomach, too?  Yeah.  That, too.

So, I finally bit the bullet and emailed my doctor.  Emailed, because I didn’t even feel like making a phone call.

I got a phone call back from the nurse.  She was a bit taken aback that I had not called, and said that doctor wanted me to come in as soon as possible to be evaluated.  You guys, I was on the phone with this woman asking, “Are you sure?  We can’t possibly do a phone appointment, can we?” and she had to say to me, “No.  The doctor needs to see your ear, dear.”  I know this.  I know all of these things.  I know I needed to call.  I probably needed to call Saturday, let’s be honest.

*sigh*

Well, my ridiculous story has an equally ridiculous, but happy, ending.

I have really bad allergies.  And a Eustachian tube malfunction.  They don’t like each other very much, so they don’t work together well.  There’s no infection.  My eardrum is intact.  I’m trying new daily allergy medications, in hopes one will work.

Everything still sounds like it’s underwater.  And, sometimes, it hurts.  But at least I’m not as worried about it as I was.

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Having a Day ~ by Sam

You ever one of those days? You know the ones.  When you thought you were just having a moment, but then, you looked up, and it was, like, 4 or 5 hours later, and you’re STILL having the same moment, so you really had to admit to yourself, you were having A DAY.

I don’t mean in the sense that, say, you and one of your very best friends have chosen your absolute favourite thing to do, and said to one another, with great enthusiasm (in cartoonish unison, for maximum effect): “Let’s make a day of it!”  That actually sounds like fun.  I would love to have that kind of day.

I mean, you know, having a day. 

Like, when nothing in particular is wrong, but, it’s just…look…maybe you just really don’t like eggs.  You don’t, okay?  And so, you know what?  Screw eggs, and why are they one of the, like, 19 foods you can eat without feeling terrible?  And of those 19 foods, why are there only roughly 4 proteins ~ and why did one of them have to be eggs?!  The truth is, you never liked eggs; and now you have to eat them all the time, and you’ll be damned if it’s not making you feel a little better, which is particularly frustrating.

Then, you know what else…if you’re gonna hate eggs, maybe you don’t like walking all that much, either.  You were a runner, for crying out loud, and walking is not running.  It’s really not very fun, even on a good day, and maybe your foot hurts; or maybe walking is just slow, and kind of boring, to be honest.  Maybe you just walked a little bit farther than you intended, and now you have to walk back home, and, frankly, you’re just not enjoying it.

By now, you’ve probably made it to the evening.  Perhaps, you think it might be a good idea to try to unwind with a little yoga, but there are things you have to do first: things like laundry and dishes, and other chores, which ~ let’s be honest ~ nobody likes doing when they’re already feeling grumpy.  (Well, I don’t know.  Maybe somebody does, but it’s not me.)  Then there’s PT, and then, finally, you can probably do some yoga and try to relax.

But you probably won’t enjoy it.   Because it’s the same day, and you’re still having a day.

Yeah.

It’s one of those days when, for no particular reason, you just wanna stick out your tongue at the whole world.

And you didn’t even win the lottery.  Again.

Luckily, I get to try again tomorrow.  I mean, not to win the lottery.  Just, you know, with the whole day thing.

But I think I’ll skip the eggs, just for a day or two.

 

Out With the Old…

I am not going to pull any punches, 2017 was a tough one.

I know, at the end of a year, we are supposed to stop and count our blessings, and, as always, our year has been filled with those; but I would be lying if I sat down and wrote a post about how great the year has been, and pretended it hadn’t been hard.  It’s been a hard year, in a lot of ways, for a lot of people I know.

I am not talking about politics.  I know that the social and political climate has been difficult for a lot of people to navigate, and that has put real strain on familial relationships and friendships.  I know there has been a great deal of social upheaval, and stress, and anxiety, and real life consequences as a result of what is happening in the political arena, because those things impact us all every day.  I don’t want to discount that, or for anyone to think that I am not taking those issues into account ~ they are part of the reason this year has been difficult for a lot of people.  In fact, for some people, that is the primary reason this year has been so difficult; because, for some people, those issues directly impact their daily lives so profoundly that they can’t help but think about them every single day.  So it’s hard for me to come here and say, “but that’s not what I’m talking about.”  Perhaps what I meant to say was, “That’s not all I’m talking about.” I would be remiss not to mention it at all.

There were deaths in families, and deaths of long-admired celebrities, as there always are.

Here, in California, we recently had the fires, and so they are fresh in my mind, but all over there the world, there has been disaster, and violence, and so much suffering, anguish, and frustration.  It’s difficult to even know what to say.  Some days, it felt like the world had gone mad.  It was hard to want to read the news ~ there was a genuine fear there.  What else could possibly have happened?  

On a very personal level, it’s been a difficult year for me, in regard to my health.  If I were to say, “I don’t talk about my health much,” you would probably think I’m being ridiculous.  It seems I talk about my health all the time.  But, really, I don’t.  Or, perhaps, I do more than most people, but there’s a lot I keep to myself.  So, when the CRPS started flaring up, I didn’t mention it, because, frankly, I feel like all I ever do is complain about my health issues, and, quite frankly, people must be tired of listening.  Nevertheless, it did start flaring up.  I figured it was probably because I had slacked off on my exercise routine.  I wasn’t doing my PT every day, and I wasn’t walking as much as I should.  Oh, and also because I had cut the dosage of my daily medication down just slightly because, in combination with the other medication I take daily ~ for that other issue that I am still reticent to discuss, because I STILL don’t have a diagnosis, so I feel weird about actually saying much about it ~ it was making me VERY SLEEPY; but only at night, after I took it, and upon waking, but this matters, when you have school-aged teenagers, who might still need your help, sometimes…and they do, sometimes, and I am their mom, so I want to help. (Do I win an award for that run-on sentence?  I think it was fairly spectacular, ‘though I am not convinced it was actually a sentence.)  So, I decided, first, to try doing all of the Right Things.  I exercised.  I took my medication.  The CRPS kept flaring.

I did the logical thing.  I kept going to my class taking kids to school, doing chores, attending performances, meetings, shopping, driving all over town, picking up, dropping off, running errands… You know, all of the usual “mama” stuff.  I kept tie-dyeing things, and playing my banjo when I had time, but it kept feeling like I had less and less time.  Everything felt like it took so much longer.  You know, because it did.

While all of this was happening, other things were happening, too.  I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.  Other people I knew were having hard times, too; and, while I am not at liberty to share other people’s hard times, you know, when people you care about are having hard times, you want to help, and you probably try to, and I hope that I did.  I think, at least, I tried.  I keep trying, and I will keep trying.  I feel like, a lot of times, I fall flat on my face, or my back.  Sometimes, I feel like I started there, and, if we are both there, maybe we can just lie there, hold hands, look at the stars, and know that, whatever is going on right now, it will all be better someday.  It will.  I promise.  It always is.

Also, while all of this was going on, I was having increasingly terrible digestive issues.  I’m not going into detail, because nobody wants that (and also because I don’t have all of the answers yet), but, basically, it breaks down like this:  I was diagnosed years ago with IBS.  I hadn’t had a lot of symptoms for a very long time.  Then, in recent years, I started having trouble again.  This year has been the absolute worst.  (This is NOT the undiagnosed issue I’m not talking about.  That’s still something else.  Sorry to keep being cryptic about that.  If you know me, I’ll probably talk to you about that ~ I just feel weird putting stuff down in writing and out on the internet about that one.)  So, I saw a gastroenterologist who has put me on a low FODMAP, gluten-free diet.  I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic.  I have to tell you, after two weeks on the new plan, not only are my digestive problems virtually a thing of the past ~ as long as I stick to the plan, which is very restrictive, and difficult to stick to when I am away from home, and can’t cook my own food ~ but, now that my digestive issues are under control, the medication I am taking for that other (cryptic) issue seems to be working well again, because my body is actually able to absorb and process it.  I still need to return for a couple of tests to make sure we aren’t missing anything, but the good news is, things are much better.

So…back to the CRPS:

While I was busy getting everything else under control, it was still flaring out of control. To the point that I was having difficulty getting around to complete simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store.  Pain was interfering with my ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, eat, remember things.  It was bad.  Worse than it had been in a long time.  I contacted my neurologist and my pain management doctor ~ to see if there was any way we could change either medication, since, in combination, they made me SO SLEEPY.  To make a long story short (and remain as cryptic as possible), neurologist said something like, “This medication is controlling your symptoms, so NO.  We won’t be changing that.”  Upon reviewing that situation, we all agreed, this was a good plan.  After an examination, my pain management doctor determined that the CRPS was not just flaring up, it was progressing.

As you can imagine, this is not the news I was hoping to hear.  He scheduled me for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, as soon as possible, in hopes that I would get some pain relief, and that we might stop any further progress.  That would be December 21st, and I would need to rest for several days after the procedure.  Perfect timing.  I hadn’t been able to accomplish much shopping, due to pain, and now, I had to be completely done by the 20th, so I could rest until Christmas Eve.

But, there was nothing else we could do, and just that little glimmer of hope that, maybe, we could stop it from progressing…or, at the very least, get a little bit of relief.  So, I agreed.

It’s been 10 days since I had the nerve block.

I think I must be in that “might get worse before it gets better” phase.  This hasn’t happened to me before, but I am trying to be optimistic.  They say you might not know until at least two weeks after how effective it will be.  So, I am waiting.

During all of this, there was this whole swirl of life events going on around us, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  I tried to attend to events I could attend.  I went to the performances and parties, I smiled, I chatted, I tried to make small talk, but, you guys, I am an open book.  I’m not good at this.  I am a terrible liar.  I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve; it’s stamped all over my face.  Which is weird, because I’m an actor, right; or, well, maybe I was, many years ago.  But I think that’s different.  I like to think, in my real life, I’m not assuming a character when I interact with people for whom I actually care; and so, it’s different.  In real life, I am an open book.  If I am upset, or angry, or tired, or sick, or sad, or anxious, or lonely, or in pain, the whole world will know just by looking at me.  I thinkI have been every one of those things this year.  I suppose we all have, at some point, every year.

Some great things happened this year, and others are still in the process of happening.  Justice finished her Child Development certificate, and CPR and first aid training, and was accepted to the Music Performance program at her college.  Hallie is a Senior in high school this year, and is busy earning A’s in classes like AP lit and Digital Imaging (things I couldn’t even grasp in high school ~ and let’s review the fact that I didn’t make it through Senior year of high school, so kudos to kids who do), and looking into art schools for after graduation.  Kaia finished middle school and moved on to high school where she is participating in and loving Marching Band. She finished her Computer Science class early, and was allowed to move on to the AP course in independent study.   I took my first ever ASL (American Sign Language) class, and finished with an 87%, which is a B, but a high B, so I’m cool with that.  I probably can’t take another class just yet, but I will keep practicing what I have learned, so I don’t get too rusty before I can continue.  I do plan to continue.  Shane has worked on so many projects that I just can’t name them all ~ and I probably shouldn’t here ~ but I can say that he was recently able to purchase a used 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 that appears to be in very good condition (fingers crossed).  I bought him a repair manual, so he can maintain it.  It’s a vehicle he’s wanted for a long time, and it means that, with Justice’s busy schedule, and with us on the brink of having a 4th driving in the household, we finally have a 3rd car.  I think it should make think easier for everyone.

There have been weddings, and engagements.  There have been children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews ~ oh, heavens!  Not all mine!  I just mean, in the world, there have been these things. In lives of my friends and family members, I have watched them unfold.

So, as I look forward ~ ever forward, never back…well, occasionally, wistfully, back, but never, ever with regret ~ it is with the very highest of hopes.

Here’s to 2017, and all of it’s challenges. Here’s to the tears we’ve wept, and the losses we’ve suffered.  Here’s to the lessons learned, and to every victory, every happy memory, every blessing and every joy this year has brought with it, as well.  For some, this might have been the best year yet.  For some of you, this was the year you were married, or the year your child was born, the year you finally bought your first home, or brought home the pet that filled that hole in your heart and made your life complete.  So here’s to 2017, for everything it’s been to every one of us.

2018, we see you on the horizon, and we have pinned our hopes on you.

We’ll see you soon.

 

 

Nerve-Wracked ~ by Sam

Peace12:21:17.JPGIt’s the evening of December 21st, and I am not rushing around checking things off my shopping list.  I’m not baking sweet treats, wrapping gifts, cleaning up after our annual Tree-Trimming party (or planning for yet another very late one, because we didn’t get it together and plan one). I’m not planning to receive out-of-town guests, or planning my out-of-town trip for Christmas (‘though we will be heading out of town soon after).

Nope.  Not doing any of that.  Which is weird, because, normally, this close to Christmas, I’d be running around like that chicken you always hear about.  Right now, I’m lounging on the sofa after a nerve block at 2:30 this afternoon.  I debated posting about what’s been going on lately.  I feel like I’m THAT FRIEND.  You know the one.  The one that talks too much about their health problems?  And so…I just didn’t really say anything about this for a while.  Honestly, when the CRPS started flaring up again, I thought, “Well, I haven’t been walking every day, and I haven’t been great about doing my PT, and I had to lower the dose of my medication because it interacts with the medication I have to take for that other thing, and makes it really hard for me todo things like stay up late, and get homework finished, or help kids with whatever they might need, or, you know, wake up in the morning and make sure everyone gets off to school without a hitch….so…it makes sense that it’s flaring up now.”  I decided to try fixing those things.  That should work.  Right?

But it didn’t.

So, when I contacted my pain management doctor and explained the situation, he, naturally, wanted to see me.  After assessing the situation he determined it wasn’t just flaring up.  It was progressing.  The pain was moving much farther up my leg than it had in the past, and that is not a change we want to see.  We discussed various options.  Since I can’t stop taking the other medication, upping the dose of the medication I currently take for CRPS is not a great option, since it is already, in combination with the other med, making me very sleepy at night (which, at least, is the right time to be sleepy ~ and, hey, it’s a solution to my longstanding battle with insomnia).  Adding another medication at this time is also not at the tops of our list since a) I currently take two daily meds, and b) the other meds we might consider adding next are things I had already tried, without much success, as treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms years ago, so he doubts they would be helpful here.  Because we have had success with lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks in the past, it seemed like a no-brainer.

The only downside was the timing.  Due to both the amount of pain I was experiencing, and the fact that the CRPS was progressing and we needed to try to nip that in the bud, it was important that we get me in for the nerve block ASAP.  Right now.  You know, at Christmastime.  Me.  Right now. At Christmas.  Because it’s not like there’s other stuff I would rather be doing.  Like going to parties.  And hosting a party.  And baking stuff for teachers, and friends, and family.  And decorating my home.  And buying and mailing gifts. And going to Mass.  And attending shows and concerts. And driving through all of the lights, and walking through the Zoo Lights, and visiting with friends, and shopping.  Did I mention shopping?  Shopping?  Shopping with my kids!  I want to be shopping with my kids.

But instead, I am sitting here, resting, for several days, in hopes that this nerve block does the trick; because, quite frankly, if it doesn’t, I’m back to not doing a lot, which is kind of what I was doing before, in case you hadn’t noticed.

By the way, if you had noticed, recently, that I kind of had my head in the sand, well, now you know why. Things started getting bad while school was in session.  So, I suddenly found myself needing to juggle kids’ schedules, my schedule, Shane’s schedule (you know, the usual stuff), but with a lot more pain than usual.  I am used to pain.  I have pain that I manage ~ hence the pain management doctor ~ but that’s the thing: we work to keep it manageable.  Suddenly it was totally unmanageable pretty much all of the time.  The problem was, I just didn’t have the time to stop and do anything about it.  I had all these things I needed to do (or, at least, that’s what I kept telling myself), so I kept doing them.

I guess it sounds like I’m whining.  I guess that’s because I am.

See…that’s why I avoided talking about this.  It’s hard to do without sounding like that.  Ugh.  I feel bad for dropping so many balls.  I did not give any teacher gifts.  I forgot to RSVP for virtually everything.  Most nights, I looked up and went, Oh, crud.  It’s like 8pm, and I haven’t even started dinner.  Then, we ate dinner (such as it was) at some time between 8:30 and 10:00.  I know.  I totally rock.  More often than not, we ate leftovers, or I told people dinner was “catch-as-catch-can.”  Again.

This isn’t coming off the way I want it to.  It’s frustrating.  I don’t need people who read this to come back saying to me, “I’m sorry you have pain,” or “I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”  I mean, I totally appreciate that sentiment, and I believe that you mean it.  What I mean is, I am not fishing for that.  I just…What do I want?  I guess I want people to understand what’s been going on with me, and why I have been kind of “out of it” recently ~ and that, hopefully, things are going to get better.

I decided to sit down and write this because I figured people have noticed.  I’m a mess.  I am running behind on everything.  Now, you know why.  So, if you’ve been fed up with me recently, I apologize.  I probably should have explained sooner what was happening.  In some ways, it’s just all part of the same old thing, and I guess maybe I get tired of explaining ~ I guess I think people get tired of hearing it, too.  But maybe you can understand that, if I say, “It’s been a rough day (or week, or time, or whatever I might say that sounds similar to that)” or even if I say nothing, but I just don’t do a great job of keeping up with things.  Maybe you can think back on this post, and think to yourself, “Ah, yeah.  I get it.”  Maybe we can all just sort of do that for each other.  Just try to assume that we’re all trying our best all the time, and that, if we aren’t getting things done, or aren’t getting them quite right, there must be a good reason.

Moving forward, I’m hoping to end this year, and start the next, on the upswing.  I don’t want to be just sitting around doing nothing, so I think maybe I will sit here and work on some scarves, and practice my banjo, instead.  Maybe I’ll read a book.  I’ve already managed to do some online shopping.  It was late, but at least I got it done.  The nerve block went well.  I mean, we won’t know for a while whether or not it actually did the trick, but at least I didn’t pass out or anything.  Things are already looking up.  Now, if only I could figure out how to cook and clean while lounging on the sofa.

What’s in a Name? ~ by…someone

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

So says Juliet, upon discovering her true love’s despised moniker, and perhaps it rings true.  After all, it is our character that truly defines us.  Isn’t it?  We could be called practically anything, but it is our actions ~ how we choose to conduct ourselves ~ that really matters.

Why then would I find myself hopelessly bereft over the notion that I might be in danger of forever losing my name?

This occurred to me earlier this week, on the heels of yet another call from yet another healthcare provider calling me “Kathryn.”  Only doctors, police, the DMV and IRS call me Kathryn.  Well, and my dad, who calls me by my full name, sometimes, and that’s okay, because he’s my dad.  I have never been Kathryn.  Aside from the first day they called role and I corrected them, even teachers didn’t call me Kathryn.  I was Kay when I was little, then Katie, and, ultimately, Kate.  Everyone back home called me Kate, up until I started college.  Except my dad. His nickname for me (when he wasn’t calling me by my full name) was Sam.  But then, being an adolescent girl, I got, well, you know, adolescent, I guess, I demanded he stop calling me that, because it was NOT MY NAME!

And so, he did.

But then, I felt kind of rotten about it.

So, I told him that, when I grew up to be a famous author, I would use it as my pen name.

Obviously, you can see the odds of me being a famous author are quite high.  Did you note the wry wit?  The affable charm?  The effortless prose?  It’s inevitable.

Then, I went on my merry way, being a Katie, and then a Kate.

I did all kinds of things.  Strange, awkward things, really, because I was, not surprisingly,  as strange and awkward a teenager and young adult as I am a full-grown human.  Also not surprisingly, I have not yet become a famous author.

What did happen was I went to school.  Well, everyone goes to school, I suppose.  Well, not everyone; but most everyone in the U.S. who falls above a certain tax bracket, anyway, after a certain point in history (after which I was most definitely born) has some kind of education, and so, I did go to school.  I even almost finished high school.  Wow.  What I meant was I went to college.  Junior college first, and, in fact, I liked it so well, I went for a very long time.  It’s either that, or I wasn’t very good at it, and I had to spend a lot of time working out the kinks.  Whatever the case may be, during my seven illustrious years in junior college, I pursued acting.  I did quite a lot of acting at school, and even outside of school.  Since, during that time, I found I wasn’t getting any closer to becoming a famous author, but I was acting quite a lot, I decided to use Sam as my stage name.

The thing is, when you do a lot of theatre, it tends to lead to more theatre, which leads to more theatre, which leads to more theatre…and, well, pretty soon, most of the people you know are people you met doing ~ guess what ~ theatre!  So, pretty soon, I had a lot of new friends, all of whom were calling me “Sam.”  I was having a grand time, making friends, doing shows, going to parties, trying to remember to do my homework because ~ whoops! ~ that’s what I went to college for!  It really was great fun. Some of the best years of my life, to be sure.  I made some of the best friends I have ever had during those years, and I have even managed to keep in touch with some of them.  I learned so much.  I landed an incredibly important (to me and my future) job that ended up shaping my career, completely changing the path I thought I wanted to take in life and helping me find the direction I had lacked.  There were so many great things I accomplished as Sam.

But it was always great to go home to where the people who had known me and loved me since I was a little girl still called me Kate, because, somewhere in there ~ strikes breast ~ I will always still be Kate, too.  You see, I like Kate, and I never meant to lose her entirely.

When I transferred to Arizona State University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Education, I got a job at a childcare center to help pay rent and bills.  I used the name Kate at work, and Sam with friends.  When we moved to California, I initially used Kate when I was teaching and at places like the children’s school and our church, and   Sam friends, but I found, as the children got older, it got confusing.  It probably wasn’t confusing for the kids yet, but it was confusing for me, and for others around us, and I worried it would be confusing for them.  What would happen when someone asked, “What’s your mom’s name?” and they gave a different answer than the name by which that person knew me, or the name they had on record?  It was too much to expect a kid to remember.  It was too much to expect me to remember.  Now, what name did I tell THESE people?  And so, gradually, I just became Sam.

Looking back, now, I don’t know why I became Sam, and not Kate.  At the time, perhaps, it felt comfortable, because I was used to it.  It hadn’t been long since my college days.  Maybe I longed for the days of rehearsals and greenroom chatter and late nights at Denny’s.  Maybe I just wanted to be different, because I was still young, and kind of ornery.

But now…

Well, now…

Now, I think, with the advent of social media, we don’t talk on the telephone as much as we used to.  So I don’t hear the voices of my family and friends back home as often as I once did.  They don’t hear mine, either, because I don’t call, and I should.  I mean, I think I should.  They might be reading this and thinking, “Oh, dear God ~ now she’s going to call me!”  I like hearing people’s voices.  Unfortunately, I think our lives have all evolved in ways that don’t allow for telephone conversations often.  I fear…or, no, not fear, exactly, but suspect…I strongly suspect we are all now hardwired in to social media communication, which is a wonderful convenience, and I am thrilled to have it, but I do miss the voices.  I miss hearing them say my name.  It’s old-fashioned, I know, and, perhaps, a little bit self-centered.  I can accept that.  I have lived a very other-centered life as a wife, mother and teacher, so, on this point, I can be the tiniest bit self-centered. I think it’s been a little bit too long since my last trip back to Maryland, and I want to hear people say my name the way they have said it since I was a little girl.  People like my mom, my siblings, my cousins, my childhood best friends.

Then, of course, there are the ones that will never say it again: Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Fran, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dody, Uncle Jack, Uncle Jim, Uncle Joe, Aunt Eleanor, Aunt Kay, Uncle Tony, Aunt Dee…  I haven’t even named them all.  I could never name them all.  It’s too hard.  I feel bad.  I keep thinking of people I need to go back and add. Geez.  That’s a lot of people.  And it’s probably still not everyone. What do you do about them?  I can still hear them, clear as a bell, in my mind, so, sometimes, that’s what I do.  I just close my eyes and listen.

What occurred to me recently, I think, is this notion that I am losing my name.  That, if I don’t hear it ~ if fewer and fewer people are calling me Kate, and no one out here in California calls me Kate ~ I will just gradually stop being Kate.  I felt like Alice, walking through the forest with my arms looped lazily around a fawn, both of us blissfully unaware of who we are, because we’ve lost our names.  As if somehow I will simply cease to be Kate altogether, when I know well and good that all the Samming in the world couldn’t un-Kate me.  I mean, let’s face it: once a Kate, always a Kate.  Am I right?

In the end, I might have to take exception with Juliet’s opinion on names.  While I don’t think our names necessarily define us, I have to admit, there is something decidedly “Kate” about me, and there always has been.  After much consideration, I am not ready to completely divest myself of my Kateness.  I suspect, like Shakespeare’s Kate, I have and will be called “plain Kate, and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst,” and I can live with that.

I’m not asking any of you to change anything.  If you call me Sam, continue to call me Sam.  If you call me Kate, call me Kate.

And, you know, if either of us ever has a minute, we should probably call each other.

Cold Hands, Warm…muscles? by Sam

One day last week, while I was making dinner, my hands suddenly turned bright red and felt as if I had poured bleach all over them. Thinking I must have come in contact with some allergen, I immediately stopped what I was doing, and thoroughly washed my hands. The redness and irritation greatly subsided in 15-20 minutes, but my hands remained irritated, and the skin was peeling, as if I’d had a severe sunburn. Over the next few days, the symptoms recurred, so I contacted my PCP via email, including a photograph of the initial reaction. I supposed there were three possibilities:
a) the CRPS was spreading to other parts of my body (rare, but not unheard of)
b) these symptoms, ‘though not like any I’d experienced with it in the past, might be related to Raynaud’s (to be fair, the symptoms were not exactly like CRPS, either, but it does involve both redness and burning pain)
c) this was something entirely new and unrelated to any of my previously existing conditions
     We played phone tag for a few days until I finally got a call from a nurse on Monday of this week. My doctor felt it was most likely that the symptoms were, in fact, a more extreme manifestation of Raynaud’s than I’d experienced in the past, and that, as my symptoms seemed to be getting more severe, it might be time to consider medication.  Hence, I was referred to a rheumatologist. That appointment occurred on Thursday of this week.
     As luck would have it, the medications used to control symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease are blood pressure meds; and, because my blood pressure is low, my doctor doesn’t want me to take them.  You see, unfortunately, they could cause my blood pressure to drop even lower, and this could result in dizziness and falling. Falling has already been rather a chronic problem for me, and it has been deemed an unnecessary risk, as has dangerously low blood pressure.
     So, I have been given recommendations to step up my efforts to stay warm. These include things that might seem obvious, like using hot water bottles and heated gloves/socks/blankets, warming creams, taking warm showers when I come in from being outside, making sure to keep my hands and feet covered and protected, even when I don’t feel cold, and keeping my core warm. They also include things that might seem a little less obvious, like increasing my salt intake, in hopes of raising my blood pressure, and building muscle mass. The challenge, here, my rheumatologist pointed out, will be striking a balance in which I work out to build muscle mass, but am careful not to accidentally lose weight. This will involve adding protein-dense calories to my diet, which means adding food to my diet.  (I know.  This doesn’t seem like brain surgery.  Stick with me.  It’s trickier than it seems.)  I started working on this as soon as I got home on Thursday. I immediately baked a loaf of peanut butter bread, replacing part of the flour with almond flour.  Then I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with it.  I figured, that way, at least I am getting lots of protein (and lots of calories ~ yay!)  Because that working out and not accidentally losing weight thing?  Believe it or not, that really is a challenge.
     I know. This all sounds sort of stupid. But…food is hard.  I mean, I have had food issues for a long time.  First and foremost, there are the lingering eating-disorder-related issues, which will always linger; but, on a more basic level, there are all of the food allergies and sensitivities.  I am allergic to milk protein (and elderberries, and echinacea, which don’t come up much, so that’s okay, really.  Oh, and shellfish ~ which never comes up, because I’m vegetarian, but does somewhat complicate eating at restaurants, or buying some prepared foods).  I also have IBS, and, while it seems to be fairly mild most of the time, it can rear its ugly head at any moment, and, at those times, it is triggered by: eggs, white/refined carbs (so, any bread, pasta, or baked goods made with that, white bread, white rice ~ basically, I do better with whole grains and more fiber in my diet), and fried foods.  Then, there are times when I think it is triggered by food.  Oh, also, stress.  It is also triggered by stress.  Then, add to that the fact that I am on a medication that makes it hard for me to keep on weight, even when I am not working out.  So, now, I am trying to eat the right things that won’t trigger my IBS, so I can be sure not to lose weight while doing PT, so my CRPS won’t flare up, so I can then work out enough to build muscle mass to try to keep myself warm ~ but not so much that I accidentally work off any of the extra peanut butter I ate.
     Because then, maybe I will be buff enough to haul in some firewood and build a big fire, and then we will all be warm.  By “we,” of course, I mean me, and all of my fingers.  And my toes. My toes are also cold, but I don’t see them often, because they are very far away, and usually inside several pairs of socks. I miss my toes.
     Ah.  But we have a gas fireplace.  So, forget about that firewood.  I’ll use my muscles to lift more peanut butter sandwiches, instead.
     On Friday, I didn’t manage to do much working out, but I ate pretty well.  I mentioned this to Hallie, adding my concern that, if I keep doing this, I won’t build any muscle, and all that extra protein will just be converted to fat.  “Well…fat will keep you warm,” Hallie responded, quite correctly.  And, so, I guess we’re good.  Because, the truth is, fat will keep me warm, and I really, really need to stay warm.  Nevertheless, I have always dreamed of being sort of buff.  Warm, and buff.  It sounds kind of dreamy.

     I guess I’ll keep working on the muscle-building thing.  To be perfectly honest, I was already working on that.  Which sort of makes me wonder if I should feel a little bit insulted at the implication that I need to build muscle mass.  Except…well, I really do need to build muscle mass, and I know it.

I guess I needed a New Years Resolution or two, anyway.  Y’all watch: by 2018, I’m gonna be stronger than I’ve ever been.  And warmer, too.

How Bad Is it? ~ by Sam

Last night, my foot went out.  I don’t mean it had a pleasant night out on the town.  It’s done that, with me in tow (if you’ll pardon the pun), but that was not the case last night.  Last night, my foot just sort of ceased to work.  I call this “going out,” as in, “My foot’s gone out again.”  You know, like when your transmission goes out.  This happens in a number of ways.  What I mean by this is that it simply freezes up and refuses to move.  Sometimes, it sort of seizes, and assumes an usually grotesque position before freezing (often folding vertically in a way that feet don’t actually fold, so that my big toe rotates in to a position that is under or over the rest of my foot).  Other times, it just sort of flattens and becomes stiff, like a boot, all the way through the foot and ankle.  In any case, it is useless, and it feels freshly broken.  No, scratch that.  I would say it feels more painful than a break.  It feels… hmmm… It feels like it was broken, and then…I don’t know…something else happened to it.  Like, maybe it caught on fire, and got slammed in a door.  Yeah.  I’m gonna go with that.

But that’s a mouthful; so I just say, “My foot’s gone out.”

It goes out a lot lately.  I think I should buy it some fabulous jewelry.

Anyway,  this is a CRPS thing, and, yeah, it has been happening, so I guess I had better call my excellent Pain Management doctor, because his job is, after all, to help me manage my pain.

But, see…

It’s hard, because I can’t think of myself like that.  As a person who has a Pain Management doctor, and a chronic pain condition that needs to be managed. Coincidentally, just yesterday, Justice was asking me if I considered myself to be disabled, due to fibromyalgia, CRPS (and a host of other health concerns that have cropped up recently, I suspect), and I told her I don’t.  Of course I don’t.  I am able to get around and do what I need to do.  …pretty much…  I might not feel great, but I get by. …most days…  I mean, I had to quit my job, but I am still able to do a lot of things.  …usually…  I am even able to do things I enjoy.  …sometimes…

And then, here we are, on a day like today, when CRPS has brought me, literally, to my knees.  I am not looking for sympathy.  I am not making excuses.  The thing about CRPS, for me ~ where I am with it, anyway ~ is that I have been advised to just keep using my foot as much as possible, no matter how much it hurts.  I just have to keep making myself use it, even when it feels like it’s broken, and on fire, and someone slammed a door on it, because, if I don’t ~ if I let that stop me, and it stops me for a day, and that day turns to 10 days, then a month, then 4 months, then a year…well, then, eventually, I might lose the use of my foot.  And that  would be unacceptable to me.  I think, perhaps, I am writing today to figure out where it is I stand with all of this.  (Again, if you’ll pardon the pun.  There are just far too many foot puns.)

So, last night, when my foot went out, I took my Nortriptyline, like I always do.  I struggled to get my jeans off and pajamas on over my stumpy boot-foot.  I used the ketamine gel that I only use when I really need it, because, frankly, it’s just too expensive to use more often.  I ran through my exercises.  I cussed while doing all of the above, because, frankly, it hurt like a motherfucker (you can consult the  McGill Pain Index to see exactly how much a motherfucker hurts, if you are curious ~ it’s a lot).

(Sorry.  That was rude.  I probably apologized last night for cussing, too, even though Shane was the only one in the room, and he was asleep.)

This morning, I got up and made coffee, and didn’t help much with getting kids ready for school, and drove Kaia to school.  Then I went to the store, because I had to.  I mean, I probably didn’t have to, but there were a few things we needed, so I did it.  At one point, as I was pushing my cart, a man said to me, “Oh, come on now ~ it can’t be that bad,” and I thought, “Fuck you,” but I didn’t say it, and I think he’s kind of lucky I didn’t say it, because, really, just a little bit, fuck him.  I mean, I get it.  He had no idea what I was going through today.  He has no idea what my life is like.  In fact, I have no idea what his life is like.  He might have a terrible time, for all I know.  But, you know what, it is that bad.  Sometimes, it really is that bad, and I guess, this morning, maybe that was evident, in my demeanor.  I know I was limping.  I know I was using my cart for support.  I can assume I was obviously not having a great time, or he would not have commented.  And yes, as a matter of fact, it really was that bad.  I guess, I’m lucky he didn’t ask me to smile.  Or maybe he is.

On the way out of the store, after I had paid, I noticed a woman walking directly behind me with her shopping cart.  “I’m sorry,” I said, as we made our way through the automatic door, “I’m very slow.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” she replied.  “So am I.” After a moment she added.  “At least we have our carts to lean on. I don’t know how I’d make it without that.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “that does help, doesn’t it?”

We walked very slowly to our cars together.

So, I’ve come to the end of this entry, and I haven’t figured out anything ~ except, perhaps, that, sometimes, it’s enough to know that someone else understands.