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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Beware the Elephant Woman - She's Lopsided!

I've been having a pretty severe issue with one of my molars. It desperately needs to be pulled, but I'm still waiting for my coverage to go through from my disability. I went to the dentist weeks ago, and she put me on antibiotics for a week. I've been off them now for about two weeks, and suddenly the abscess flared up again with a vengeance. Now I'm going to need another course of antibiotics before they can pull it, to counteract the possibility of blood poisoning going to my heart. Aargh!

Even better is the fact that the infection is now likely antibiotic-resistant, so they'll have to put me on something a lot more aggressive in order to get rid of it. I really do think I look like the guy in The Elephant Man, which was, of course, based on a real person's life; it just didn't have much to do with bad teeth. The whole lower half of the right side of my face is one big lump, and even half of my lips are swollen.

If I put my teeth together the way I normally do when I close my mouth (yes, every once in a while I do close my mouth), my lips don't want to close. If I put my lips together, my teeth want to remain apart. There is a very good chance I'll start drooling very soon - and not just from my misshapen face. Honesty compels me to admit that I am severely self-medicated at the moment. For a few hours I put up with the pain, but then it got to the point where I thought I was going to go crazy - and I live with constant pain that's actually worse than giving birth, so that should tell you how bad my face and mouth are hurting at the moment. Okay, well, not necessarily at the moment, since I'm doped to the gills, but they certainly were before taking my painkillers.

I hate having to be on pills all the time. I have a standing prescription for a neuropathic painkiller called Gabapentin, which is mostly effective for the pain in my hip joints. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than nothing. I always forget how much pain I really have, until I have to go without my prescription for a day or two. Now, with my molar abscess I'm also taking Tylenol with codeine. Yippee! That also means being on Gravol constantly, because of my sensitivity to narcotics. They make me really nauseous.

Nausea is only one reason I hate taking pills, though. Another reason is that I don't like my mental faculties being impaired like this. A third reason boils down to side effects. Ingesting large amounts of acetaminophen (Tylenol) is terrible for your liver, and every once in a while I experience liver damage from them. Thankfully the liver is an organ that actually repairs itself, so the damage is temporary. Liver damage has the effect of causing hypoglycemia in me, too, so when I start shaking and shuddering because my body is literally starving from lack of sugar I know it's time to stop taking the Tylenol.

At the moment, though, even if I start having problems with low blood sugar, I can't do without painkillers. I'll be making a very stern phone call about my coverage (in my weirdly distorted voice), but I can't do it until tomorrow. I've already talked to the receptionist at my dentist's office, and my only other option is to come in and pay for it myself. I'll put up with the pain and drugs for a few more days, thanks. Rent is coming up soon, and just having spent money on a shiny new laptop means that we're cutting things fairly close this month.

Sometimes when it gets this bad with pain and pills I doze off a lot. Tylenol and codeine wear off fairly quickly, though, so it isn't long before I'm woken up again,

I've had problems with my teeth before, and when I had one of them pulled I ended up with a dry socket. That's supposed to be excruciating, yet I barely noticed it. It was more like I just realized there was no clot in the space where the tooth used to be. Otherwise I might never have known.

Yes, I realize I'm being a bit of a whiner - okay more than a bit - but I suddenly felt like writing something, and this is what came out of it. Not exactly enviable prose, but it's keeping me in the habit anyway. Or maybe I'm just going by the premise that if I have to suffer, so should my readers!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

April, Bloody April - Unlucky for Some, and Definitely for Us

This was, at one time, a home filled with loving pets. There was a time we had three cats and a ferret. However, due to blockages and damaged kidneys - never mind the $2400 in vet bills that was spent - our one cat had to be put down on April 17th, just over 6 years ago. His name was Whiskey, and every time the Metallica song, "Whiskey in the Jar," came on, his head would turn right toward the speaker when he heard his name. Losing Whiskey was very difficult for me. It was just after the break-up of my marriage, and in fact his health issues started right before the break-up, so every bit of misery was tied in together.

The one thing that got me through losing my cat and my marriage, aside from having my daughter as a roommate, was Stimpy. He was my first ferret, and he stole my heart even before he came home with me. He belonged to a friend of my ex whose daughter was ignoring him, so they decided to take me up on my offer to take him home. I loved him more than my own life. I would have defended him to the death if the circumstances had ever happened. Then he developed tumours in his kidneys, followed by tumours in his pancreas. He developed insulinoma and died - on April 8th of last year. By this time we had another ferret, named Pepper, and so far he's managed to get us through the devastating loss of Stimpy by making us laugh every single day. It's the same thing Stimpy did for me for the five years we had him.
Stimpy - August 2007 - April 8th, 2013

It's been over a year now since we lost Stimpy, and so fate has stepped in to deliver another loss to our happy little menagerie. We lost another cat - his name was Rabbit - on April 20th, just a few days ago. Rabbit was my daughter's cat rather than mine, and I didn't have the emotional connection to him that my daughter had, but it's still damn depressing to watch an animal die. In this case it was a matter of him being really old. Since he was a stray when we took him in, we're not sure of his exact age, but we think he was 18, since we had him for 17 years and he appeared to be a yearling when he appeared in our lives.
Rabbit - est. 1996 - April 20th, 2014

Now we have Dip (otherwise known as Dippy-Do), who is our last remaining cat, and we've still got Pepper, our last remaining ferret. Dip, who was named for the white tip of her tail that made her look as though she had dipped her tail into a can of paint, is now a lonely kitty, but she's getting up there in age, too. She's considered an elderly cat, though she still seems like a kitten to us. As far as I'm concerned, we won't be getting any more cats. I'm all about the ferrets these days. I can't resist them, and I don't connect with cats the way I used to. I love all animals in general, but I need ferrets in my life. They keep me sane.
Dip - Summer 2000 - Present
Pepper & Teddy Bear - Autumn 2010 to Present

So, as soon as possible, we'll be taking a trip to the ferret shelter in Mississauga. We just have to be certain we're properly set up for another 2-pound toddler. That's basically what a ferret is like, in case you were wondering. They have full mobility, they're really tiny, they're smarter than cats & dogs, and they get into a ton of mischief. Some ferrets only weigh about a pound, too, so they're even tinier and can get into the smallest holes, finding themselves trapped in walls, or even getting outside the house or into the furnace where really bad things happen to them. So, a ferret requires preparation in the physical sense, but also monetarily. As ferrets age, they can become very expensive when it comes to vet bills.

Being in the physical situation I'm in right now, there are also limits to what I can do to care for animals. My daughter has taken over anything cat-related, and I deal with ferret 'stuff.' Mostly that means cleaning up poop and such, usually in specific corners where there are newspapers or puppy pads put down, but sometimes there are the inappropriate accidents to deal with, too. It depends on how stubborn your ferret is with his or her potty training, and whether or not they're 'fixed,' because marking territory is a very big deal, particularly for male ferrets I believe. I could be wrong there, since I've never actually had a female ferret. I'm a little afraid of getting one, as the species is dimorphic, meaning there's a big difference in size between male and female and the females are smaller. So, I'd have to be really worried about the tiniest holes - like where the register pipes come into the apartment, or areas around the back of the fridge or in the stove.

Unlike most ferret people, I don't cage mine. I did a very thorough job of ferret-proofing (yes, that's a real term used by ferret people) so that I could give my boys as much freedom as possible. When I'm sleeping, though, I confine Pepper to the bedroom with me so I can hear everything he's doing. No matter how well you ferret-proof, you still need to keep an eye on them. If I had to leave to go to a regular job, I would have a cage. I wouldn't feel secure leaving a ferret unconfined for that many hours, I don't think.

Losing this latest pet has brought back the loss of Stimpy even more than usual. I still think about him all the time, and I still miss him every single day. There's a hole left behind from the loss of him, more so than I've ever felt with another pet. He was extraordinarily special to me, and the connection I had with him was something I've never felt capable of expressing coherently. Pepper soothes the ache, though, and I look forward to bringing another ferret home. When I do go to get one, though, I'll be bringing home the one that most needs a forever home. I can handle any personality and still feel vast quantities of love for a ferret, so it doesn't matter how 'difficult' he or she might be.

One thing I will say for myself, and for my daughter, is that when we do bring home pets, those pets are never left behind or gotten rid of. As far as we're concerned those pets are family, and if they're not welcome, then neither are we. Thankfully I live in a province where landlords are not allowed to kick you out for having a pet, unless they destroy the property or interfere with another tenant's enjoyment of their home.

I do hope April doesn't really become a cursed month, but then maybe it's better this way. Our misery during anniversaries can be confined to that month. You never stop feeling the loss of a pet if you loved them, but the anniversaries are just that little bit more difficult for us.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Comfortable in My Own Skin

It's a very good thing I'm not the type of person to get cabin fever. I live a very secluded life these days. I'm content with it, though. Sure I'm frustrated by the fact that my healthcare is so crappy I may have to wait a couple of years before I can get my surgery (just one of those things I've found out recently that have made me a bit cranky and even more introverted than usual), but I'll do what I have to do to keep myself occupied and content.

I did forget to mention in my last post that I've rediscovered the joys of being single, through no fault of my own apparently. I managed to get myself dumped - by e-mail no less - but it was a good thing as far as I was concerned. For the first little bit I was really into the relationship, but then drew back almost completely when I saw he didn't have the same enthusiasm. I was actually somewhat content to let things go on casually, but I guess he felt guilty and thought he'd be causing me serious hurt down the road, so he decided it was for my own good that I be released from the relationship. Kinda sounded a bit pompous to me, but that's okay. After all, I was starting to make excuses about the weather being too bad for him to drive all that way. I guess he didn't notice.

So here I am, back to being a single entity, and it's rather a thrill. The thing is, if I'm going to be with someone, I want it to be someone who makes me feel good whenever we talk. Someone who is always encouraging, and doesn't suck all the energy out of me. My last serious relationship, which ended about 6 years ago, completely exhausted me. For several years I simply had no interest in being with anyone. I felt the odd spark here and there, but didn't want to pursue anything. Just the thought of getting involved, and dealing with all the crap relationships tend to generate, made me want to crawl under the covers for a week. I just could not bring myself to consider going there.

I'm at a point now where I'd be okay with a relationship, but only with the right person, and the guy I was seeing for a few months there was apparently not the right person. There was a lot of good there, but it was actually making me tired. I felt like I was forcing things, and as though I was obligated to text or call, and try to carry on conversations when I just didn't feel like it. That made me tired all over again, so that I just chilled for a few months (as anyone who reads my blog would have seen from my lack of posting). I wasn't upset or depressed - just tired.

Of course, taking a break from writing meant I lost all my momentum there. It goes back to that inertia thing. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Well, I've been at rest in practically every way lately, which means having to kickstart myself - as in, a good kick in the ass most likely.

Thankfully I've got really good friends who keep me attached to the world even when I don't necessarily feel like it. I have friends that just want a quick e-mail to let them know I'm still alive, and then I've got my friend and business partner who calls me all the time. He's one of those people that has a knack for getting people going, too, which is always a bonus. Even when he nags me, I don't take offense or get irritated, and in fact the nagging does push me to get things done. I guess the nagging is more like really good encouragement. Then again, he is a teacher, and from what I can see he'd have to be a damn good one.

Even feeling like a lazy git, it doesn't seem to bother me all that much. I've learned to accept my limitations in some ways. I get work done when I feel up to it, and don't force myself when I'm not. At one time I was posting in this blog every day, along with writing an additional two or three articles each week. I stopped enjoying my writing, I think. That didn't occur to me until now, which is surprising, but the fact is I just couldn't bring myself to start tapping at the keys. Of course, having a new laptop that does everything it's supposed to do makes a huge difference in my attitude. I waited a long time for this little treasure, so I'm very content.

One really good thing lately has been the fact that my daughter has been working for several months now, so between the two of us we're able to live decently instead of just getting by. Hence, the new laptop. We're no longer worried about the monthly bills, or how we're going to manage to buy enough groceries each week. In the last couple of years we've really noticed the changes in food prices, I tell ya. It's unbelievable. I mean, I used to be able to feed three people on $20 a week. Now that wouldn't last a single person for 3 or 4 days. Minimum wage is going up here again. I can't remember how much, but it's a pretty good hike, so that means things will be a little bit better, too, since it's more than what my daughter makes now, even though she's getting a little more than minimum wage.

I've started doing some website design, too. Just a little bit, but I'm learning a lot. I'm delving into Flash finally, so that should be an interesting (and steep) learning curve for me. I don't do well with graphics programs like PhotoShop, but hopefully my experience with music and video editing, along with my limited background in computer programming, will be of assistance there. When I need a good graphic or logo design, though, I generally ask my daughter to do it. It saves me tons of time, because it would take me forever to do what she can do in a couple of hours, even when she's doing multiple things to give me options to choose from.

I was taught how to use a computer back when there were no ready-made programs to use and if you wanted the computer to do something you had to type in the information yourself. The programming language was called Basic back then, and later they went to VisualBasic with the graphical user interface (known as GUI in geek). Banging out lines of code was rather simple, actually, and some of the newer programs and languages have complicated things in their own way, because generally you have to learn to use the program that you're going to be programming with.

When you use things like Expression Web, you still have to deal with HTML (5 generally, if you want your website to work properly), but you also have to learn where everything is in the interface. Of course, you no longer have to write the code to insert a button, but you do need to understand how the coding works in case you need to make changes - sometimes those changes can screw up what you've done, and you have to dig in and figure out where it went wrong. I've had some really stupid and frustrating errors, but at least I can say I'm learning a new skill. There are a lot of 42-year-olds out there who just don't bother anymore.

That's something I'm rather proud of, actually. I have one of those inquiring minds where I just want to keep leaning things, and I'm not talking about butting into anyone else's business. I've never been nosy in that way. In fact, people tend to tell me more than I want to know, simply because they know they can confide in me. It's one thing when your closest friends do that - it's expected in a real friendship. When people you don't really know start doing it, though, you just kind of shake your head in wonder. I've never understood how people have always just had that kind of trust in me, but maybe it's instinctive. I simply don't gossip. I have no interest in hurting people, or having to deal with confrontations from people because I shared with the wrong person, and those are only a couple of reasons I don't discuss the business of other people.

I'm like that in relationships, too. There are things that happen between two people that are absolutely no one's business, and I will never discuss intimate details. I've had men ask me questions about former lovers/boyfriends/husbands, and I'm just not going there. Quite frankly they should consider that a good thing, because then they know I won't be discussing those details about them. As open as I try to be about myself, particularly when writing articles on things that are personal to me, or writing blog posts, I always keep in mind the reaction and feelings of another person should they read what I've written about them. I don't generally use names, unless the person is deceased, or it's something positive they're doing that I feel deserves recognition.

Now I know this has been a rather rambling post about a multitude of things, but as I said in my last blog, I just really need to get back in the habit of writing. Once I start doing it more regularly, I'll start paying more attention to the things I see happening in the world - that's when my posts will become more focused again. I've got new things going on that I'm not quite ready to talk about, too, but I think it'll be interesting for my readers when all is revealed. At least I hope so! I can only hope I haven't lost the knack for writing to the point where no one finds it interesting anymore. I did finally write an article for a website I occasionally contribute to. If you're interested in semi-political stuff, you can find it here. It's called The Current Evils of Indoctrination and Complacency. Something that's happening with frightening consistency these days.

Part of me has been avoiding non-fiction writing to try to get into the swing of doing fiction. Now I've got three separate books started, and all three are the start of a potential series. Aargh. I really need to focus on one thing and just get it done. My original book is about 25% completed now, and this is about the 4th or 5th draft, so once I get this draft done it'll be ready to be sent off. I haven't decided exactly where just yet, but I'll deal with that when the time comes. My second book is about demons, so it's in the realm of fantasy. The first one is serial-killer-murder-mystery stuff. The third one somehow popped into my had from a dream, and delves into international spy territory. It's not something it ever occurred to me that I might want to write one day. The dream was a damn good one, though, so I went with it.

I have no more excuses with my writing and other projects. Having a new laptop that I can actually use on my lap means I really can write anywhere, no matter how miserable I am. Hopefully I latch onto that and get moving again. I've been missing something vital in my life, not having my writing, so I need to reclaim it.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Back in the Saddle Again?

I am now woefully out of the habit of blogging - or writing of any kind for that matter. So, rather than set myself the task of delving into a complicated topic, I thought I'd make a few self-deprecating remarks about my own shiftlessness. Or maybe I'll just whine a little bit? You see, I get myself into trouble sometimes by setting unrealistic expectations for my own perfection. My myriad character flaws, however, render perfection not merely unachievable but laughable in the extreme.

They say the devil is in the details, and if I may I will offer my own interpretation there. I think the devil can get you with the details. I have this nasty habit of not wanting to finish something if it's not perfect, and unless I have someone else to answer to in that respect I often allow that trait to derail me. When I was in corporate work I had a direct supervisor, and since I do not like making excuses because I haven't finished something on time, or it wasn't done right, I simply made sure things were done and done well.

Writing isn't like that if you're freelance, when there's no deadline to meet. I get ideas for things I want to write about, and some of them are good ones, but I somehow manage to put off starting a piece for another hour or two, which can turn into weeks unless I slap myself around a bit - and trust me, that really is as difficult to do as it sounds. It reminds me of the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar, where he kicks his own ass in the bathroom at the courthouse to try to get out of continuing. If you've seen the movie, you already know it didn't do him any good, and left him in a lot of pain for no reason at all. Sort of like the misery I put myself through by procrastinating.

Okay, so if you're reading this I have to assume you're a bit curious as to what I've been up to. I would love to say I suddenly developed a life or something...except I didn't. Being as brutally honest as I am, particularly with myself, I'm left with nothing but the truth. I've been bloody miserable, wanting nothing more than to crawl into a hole for a little while. Misery stems from multiple sources.

First, I'm in a lot of pain. My whole body is getting even with me these days. It's not just the damage in my hip joints, but also what seems like a million other ghosts of old injuries. My knees would love to kick my ass for the damage I did to them when I was thirteen, except that it's physically impossibly for them to do so. My left ankle is still mad about the skydiving accident from nearly twenty years ago. My left foot is spitting nails, and I don't mean toenails, for the three bones I broke in it over twenty years ago. My back isn't happy about something, and is being very passive-aggressive in that it won't tell me why it's so upset with me - the nerve damage shows up in an EMG, and every once in a while both my big toes go numb, but I still don't know what that's from.

A few weeks ago I developed an abscessed molar, too. I've been to the dentist and was put on antibiotics, but they were supposed to call me once the coverage for an extraction went through. Now I'm probably going to have to be put on another (stronger) course of antibiotics, seeing as I've taken every last one of them like a good girl, but still no call from the dentist's office. Time to start nagging them.

Second, I was finally able to get myself a new laptop to replace one that's been very much abused. As thrilled as I am to have one that isn't six years out of date, I'm not so thrilled with having to set everything up. It's worse than simply re-formatting my hard drive, because now I'm stuck with the latest and greatest disaster from Microsoft. Windows 8.1. It started with Windows 8, though, which was a lot worse, so I guess I should be grateful for small favours. I'm adapting from Vista which was unstable and terrible in the extreme, but at least I knew what I was doing with it. I always seem to skip over their best operating systems.

Moving my e-mail history was...um...interesting. I still haven't set up all of my accounts in Outlook, but the major ones are done. My G-Mail has over 8,000 items in it. Outlook doesn't like downloading them all at the same time. It only did a few hundred at a time, but I didn't realize that at first. I kept wondering why the search function wasn't bring things up for me - turned out it was because the items weren't there yet. "Outlook has stopped working," has become my least-favourite four-word sentence. "We need to talk," is now second on the list.

Well, as much as I would like to continue whining until I've gone over everything, I know that if I don't post this now I probably never will. So, hello again everyone. Giddy-up!