Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jolly ol' St. Nicholas

in Which the Little One Writes a Letter.

On the Eve of the day in which our world was to end, my three-year old quite obliviously wrote a letter to Santa Claus.  She chose the letter A.  And then she drew a balloon and colored it black.  On the outside of the envelope she instructed me in very fine detail to tell Santa that she wanted two toys.  No more, no less. That night, she gave thanks for Santa and his reindeer.  Also, thank you that I am going to get two toys.  At one point in time, Eva had known that this holiday was about Jesus, but then she saw Santa in the mall.  I’m pretty sure that he’s the one who whispered the idea of two toys in her ear.  And now it must come to pass.  There are no outs on this one because she truly believed him.  Two gifts—from Santa, because he never lies…. 

Meanwhile, I face the cruelest of all facts: I spent good time and money buying my daughter the best of all gifts (exact number: two).  I had visions of being the coolest mom ever as Eva opened her princess stuff—forget visions of sugar plums.  We don’t have a ton of money for this kind of thing.  Now the parents are stuck with giving a tutu (her third), a hand-me-down Tinkerbell purse, and a toothbrush.  All these were supposed to be stocking stuffers (thanks for the full stocking, Santa)! For the good stuff—scratch that—all the stuff I have to give credit to the dubious Kris Kringle, alias St. Nick.  Unbelievable.  

It’s a good thing the world didn’t end, because I would be charged with a)failure to teach said child in all things religious and b)strangling a fat and jolly man.

Monday, December 17, 2012


in Which Legalities Greatly Affect our Heroine.

I don’t get out much. 

About five months ago, I had a major seizure and it takes the grand total of six months for quasi-epileptics like me to legally drive.  I am not actually epileptic and I don’t plan on having a seizure anytime soon, yet I am illegal.  Oh-how-traumatically-unjust.

But maybe I’m not seeing this the right way.  For one, I now know who my real friends are—they are the people who routinely drive me everywhere.  Additionally I get to spend a lot more one on one time with my daughter.  I appreciate my husband even more because he is my constant companion: i.e., chauffer.  I get to do a lot of reading.  With all my spare time, I do a teensy bit more housework. 

The unfortunate downside is that I don’t have a lot to write about as far as current events.  Right now, I am the event of every day (along with my daughter and her shenanigans).  In that vein, a summary of me and my life: I feel pretty good, though I still have tired/dizzy spells sometimes (not every day).  Emotions fairly stable (except for that one day…).  My head shakes when held in the right/wrong position, like an old woman.  This can be very disconcerting when teaching a RS class, solution: slump as much as possible and tip head alternatively from left to right.  If you are lucky, people will think you are concentrating really hard on various comments—not that I wasn’t.  (Promise--the comments were exceptional, but my slouchy neck issue was a distraction on occasion.)  Grade: B+.  Oddly enough, it isn’t so bad to be awkwardly off-balance.   It’s the driving thing that’s really getting on my nerves.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Going Batty

In which the Fruitbasket goes Bananas.

About a month ago, I was completely unable to control my emotions.  Here’s a visual for you: One Sunday, about 15 minutes before leaving for church, I began crying for hardly a reason.  I could not get myself to stop.  In the end I was so red, puffy, and tired that I opted out of attending my Sunday meetings.  No way was I going to show up looking like that.  Thankfully, that has passed.  Sort of. 

Several times in the past three to four months, I have felt a sense of dizziness and vertigo—especially when I was at my largest combined dosages of Keppra and Lamotrigine.  This has gotten considerably better as the weeks go on, though I still have a rough time every day from 11 to 3.

Since I began the decrease of Keppra, vision issues.  At first I thought I was having trouble focusing my eyes—as if I was crossing them and unable to fix on an object.  Sometimes it almost seems like my vision is getting better, like I’m wearing prescription glasses that are too strong for me. 

All of this doesn’t even cover the confusion, memory problems, and general stupidity.  But this a topic for another day.  I still need to work these things out in my own head.  If you can’t tell, I’m not really sure what is going on here; possibly “I am going bañañas and there are bats in my belfry,” thank- you-Madonna.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Better Than the Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

In which our Lady is Sincerely Grateful.

Facebook has people who go all through the month of November and up until Turkey Day with incredible gratitude.  Every day they post something for which they are thankful.  I’d like to think that I have at least as much to be thankful for as them, but I am unwilling to get on Facebook every day.  So, although I could give you a list of exactly 22 one-liners, I will here do something a little different.  By the way, I mean no disrespect for those admirable facebookers who…one-line.  After all, they are my inspiration today.  Okay, so here goes:

Thanks to all the people that are constantly thinking of me and helping me out.  You know who you are and FYI I hope to get actual Thank-you cards mailed out someday.  Meanwhile I will shout my gratitude out to the universe.

There are those who support me physically—thank you for making me food and providing the occasional child care.  These people drive both me and my child places when I cannot.  They open cans and tie knots when my hands get all weak and shaky.  They teach my child and nurture her when I am weary—just so weary of doing it all.  There are so many of these supporters.  The best word to describe them is simply this: they are GOOD.  (As in “God created the world and it was good….”)

We move then to the emotional/mental/spiritual support.  There are those who share various parts of my malady and who are open with me about what they are going through.  Because of their empathy and candidness I learn from them.  Many are those who lead by example in addition to actually guiding me into spiritually uplifting situations when I can’t seem to find true north.  There are those who listen to me when I’m down, and who deal with my insanities while never making me feel dumb.  I know I’m not driving at full throttle (is this even a commonly-used phrase?), but people are mostly kind to me about that.  I realize that I often exhibit stupidity/slowness/incompetence/Valley-girl brainlessness.  It can be really humiliating when I am the object of a joke that I don’t even fully understand.  I tell you now that KINDNESS is a priceless gift.

As I read back over what I have just written, I realize that my husband exhibits all of the goodness and kindness addressed here, in all its finite detail.  You know, when I was lookin’ for a man back at good ol’ BYU, I picked out kindness as one of the top three qualities on my I-could-date-this-guy list.  And so, finally, I come to another point of gratitude, I am so glad I found Jon. 



Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Brave and the Grey

In which our Heroine Considers Dying—um I Meant Dyeing.
My hair is going gray. (sudden sob)  I’ve noticed a few gray hairs sprouting for some time, but last night I saw more.  As I looked in the mirror just before bed, I saw that my hair was a little lacking in luster—yes that’s the word: lackluster up near the scalp.  It seemed pale.  I thought to myself, Is my hair thinning up there? (shock: whatever this is, I will almost certainly sob soon) baldness seemed impossible given that I have always had this huge mane.  So I crept closer to Traitorous Mirror, and found that about an inch from the scalp on either side of the part was pretty—scratch that word—very gray.  (surprise hiccup sob)  What?  This never happens, does it?  All the people I know had a few grow at first then slowly more begin to turn.  But an abrupt inch?  What is that about? (frustrated sigh-sob).
Gray is such a boring color.  Why can’t we at least use grey instead?  The British can make anything look right by dressing it up in faux splendor.  Gray (yarrgh sob).  Grey (silence, almost).
Meanwhile, I woke this morning and immediately thought, my-hair-is-gray.  (groggy sob)  I tried to lie there longer, but it was too pathetic. (pathetic sob) So off to the shower I went, uselessly hoping to wash the gray away.  Oh wait, its hair dye that washes out. (wet blubbering sob).  Oh no! What if I have to start dyeing my hair! (mnmmmnnn: high whiny drawn out sob) Then: (sharply indrawn breath ending in shaky sob) Dyeing sounds an awful lot like dying—are they even spelled differently?  Microsoft Word tells me that they are.  Still: (hounds baying to the moon howl/sob).
Things I will lose if I truly turn gray:
The potential ability to flaunt.
All final joy in looking in the mirror.
The final, grasping hold on youth.
Money due to hair coloring product.
Probably the nice texture of my hair as it will be replaced by the wiry grayness of both of my grandmothers.
My husband’s love.  Just kidding, I hope.
All appearances of normality.  I’m already weird enough, I don’t need to add a semi-youthful face staring out of an ugly gray. 
Happiness, because I can only be depressed from now on.
My pride, as I will have to face the certain indignity of using the word gray at the DMV.
The former belief that brain surgery is worse than anything I could ever experience.
Alternativly, I guess I could show my gray stripes and go out with nobility.  After all, I have earned them, haven’t I?  The problem here being that I don’t have a noble bone in my body.  Pride yes, nobility no.  Oh how I mourn my misspent youth (grief-stricken, somewhat despondent sob) May the humility stop now (fervently sobbed, quickly stopped).  Well, I don’t have to let it get me permanently down.  This one I can hide.  I will fight this turn of events.  I might even do it with richer color (short sob of quickened resolve).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

That Happy Place

In which our Heroine takes Drugs.
What happened after/during the seizures:
I now go to a neurologist by the name of Dr. Troxell.  If the true sense of doctoring lies in the ability to heal, then she passes with five stars.  As an aside, she happens to know certain members of the Dahle family.  Ahem.  I am pleased to induct her into my corps of doctors.  Conversation is easy.  She actually listens and seems to understand.  She heals both physically and emotionally.  I’ve had some excellent doctors in my short time, but they quickly lose interest in me once they realize that death isn’t imminent.  With them, I am to be monitored—at a distance.  The need for anti-epileptics is both a current and continuous problem.  For this reason, I am glad to have someone like the good Dr. Troxell.
At that first visit, we discussed how my then current medication, Keppra, needed an increase in dosage.  At the thought, I literally felt a sense of panic when it was mentioned—hair standing on end and all that.  I had taken that dosage before, and it was awful.  That’s why I (with my P.A.’s clearance) had tried to go lower and then had those seizures.  Hah!  Great solution.
I personally hated Keppra, but to be fair it was excellent as an anti-epileptic.  On the other hand, it was tough on my otherwise tender emotions, etc…. On a graph: a gently undulating line the mean of which is lower than my usual.  Steady and… boring.
Instead we decided to try the switch to another medicine, Lamotrigine.  I am still trying to figure out if it works well for me.  Some medications take time to get into.  You increase slowly until you reach the target dosage.   In my case, three months.  I reached full dose and then leveled off for a few weeks.  I felt great.  Then I had what I felt was a seizure—small but it had that feeling of mind-freeze and then uncontrolled jerky movement.  Welcome to the world of intimately knowing a seizure.  It comes, you instantly recognize it.  “Oh, hello erstwhile friend.  Not glad to see you.”  Anyway, Lamotrigine was increased a teensy bit, and then I began the too-slow purging of Keppra. 
Here’s the thing, changing dosages is murder on me and I have to do it every week.  If I can just get to that happy place—the one where I stay constant for a few weeks—then I feel great.   The weekly adjustments, though small, are severely hampering my lifestyle.  The good news is that so far, Lamotrigine seems better for me emotionally.  Once again I wield a pointer at the imaginary graph: its gets me back to a higher mean, though I do have a tendency to go up and down a lot more.  That’s okay with me—feeling emotion is worth it as long as the ups/downs don’t get too high/low.  Anyway, my creativity is back and that is almost good enough for me.  Well, we’ll see what happens.  Taking both Keppra and Lamotrigine at the same time may be quite different than doing either individually.  The clock ticks.  Eventually we will see. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


In the which Writing is a Relief.

Months and months since I’ve last written!  I stopped for two reasons:

1. I began to have seizures last spring and into the summer due to my medication being too low.  They made me tired.  Once I have a seizure I’m basically out of commission for the next five days.  The cycle is this: I have a seizure, get so tired that I can barely function, then become petrified that it might happen again, and am then afraid to do active tasks that might set off another one.  I am currently working to solve this problem.

2. I started to feel like I was hanging all my dirty laundry out to dry.  Sometimes, a person just needs some privacy to deal with personal stuff. 

To explain: One of the initial reasons I began this blog was to let friends and family know what was going on during my recovery.  That seemed less necessary as the months went on.  However, after all this time I do still have the occasional health-based challenge.  If people don’t know about it, then incorrect assumptions happen.  They may think I’m just fine and can physically or emotionally handle everything another person could.  On the other hand, there are times when I am completely discounted because I have health problems.  Even if people do know what is going on, they still don’t understand how it is to work through it day by day.  The closest thing I can do toward correcting such assumptions and this lack of understanding is to write descriptively about it.  

Additionally, sometime in the past few years I went from introvert to extrovert.  I need to get this pent-up emotion out somehow.  Unfortunately I have trouble getting coherent words out of my mouth and now occasionally stutter when I try to speak.  Writing is so much easier.  Actually, it’s a relief.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Throne of all Showers

In which our Heroine Sits.

Today I used a shower chair for the first time in two years (while showering), and I thought to myself, “Wow, I should really write about this because my life is full of unimaginably bizarre experiences.” 

Using the chair today brought back some memories.  Like the time when my mom had to shave my right armpit for me because I was paralyzed on half my body.  (Hey, I’m just letting all you healthy yuppies in on some real-life sickie information here.)  There is always the lovely memory of my mom (bless her soul) putting A LOT of towels down on that cold chair and pretty much anywhere I was going to be just so I could stay warm, which is ridiculous because those who truly convalesce have no energy to dry and braid their lustrous locks of hair.  Warm towels are useless against the wet head. 

However, none of the above experiences applied today.  I needed the chair because my currently fluctuating medication makes me dizzy for several hours each day.  Of course, that precise moment of wooziness was the only time I had to take a shower today.  Usually I avoid the problem by wisely ordering my schedule around the medication.  And so goes my life: largely directed and certainly influenced by my health.

And here the slightly modified part that I write in my journal at the start of a new year: I hereby promise to write much more often in this incredibly important, wonderfully interesting, and shall we say, indispensable blog.  I will even post a summary of the past several months so my indefatigable fans will be current on what is happening otherwise.  I know this because it is already written.  I set the date and time for 11/14/12 at exactly 2:03 p.m. Alaska Standard Time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Invalid vs. the Grateful

In which our Heroine tries to be Happy with her Lot in Life.

Speaking of split worlds, I also live in a place of both discontent and gratitude.  Yes, you can have totally conflicting emotions all at the same time and even for days on end, if you are me.  Lately, I am feeling a confusing combination of invalidation in life and yet gratitude for that life. 

It is not news: one of the best ways to beat hardship and the accompanying anger and depression is with gratitude.   For instance, while I was stewing away in my doctor’s waiting room that horrible Monday, I was dually aware of how blessed I have been in my recovery.  Every time I go, I fill out the medications and physician information sheet.  It consists of fifteen or so lines for medications, and three areas for your other doctors.  I wrote my ridiculously low dosage of ”500 mg 2/day” next to my one-liner “Keppra,” and felt a little better about my lot in life. 

My lack of emotional maturity was next brought to bear against the 20 or so patients who came and went while I sat there—every single one of them looking worse than me.  After all, my scars are all hidden underneath what the world of teen fiction might call a ravishingly thick head of wavy hair.  I do not use a wheelchair, nor do I limp.  My hands are weak, but I can still use them.  I am not grossly overweight, or even cancerously underweight.  My medicine makes me a little crazy sometimes (illogical, irrational, easily irritated), but on the whole I am in control and very happy.  My wonderful husband and daughter were there with me (no babysitter, and by the way I need a chauffeur now)—I was not alone that day, nor have I ever been bereft of support. 

These things are the truths of my life, all laid out in that one waiting room experience.  But more than that, God has given me some truly wonderful tender mercies lately.  First, I have had a lot of opportunities for service in both church and community.  When you have limited time, it is nice to know that you are doing something worthwhile with it.  It is amazing how much energy you can get just from doing something for someone else.  And I can’t help but love it when someone acknowledges that service.  One particularly hard day, I began to feel like I’d made myself physically ill (quite literally) for nothing as I overheard someone else claim credit for something I’d spent hours preparing for—albeit while quietly at home and for weeks in preparation rather than at the actual date of the event.  I turned around and bitterly walked away from the situation.  Not two seconds later, someone interrupted my moping to express gratitude for something else.  Perfect timing—I really needed to hear that right then.  A few days later, I received a surprise thank-you card from a friend for teaching a Relief Society lesson at church—also great timing.  Caring surprise phone calls, cuddling with my child, successful gardening ventures, or my husband bringing home dinner and doing the dishes while he laughs with me about something—I have felt the reaffirmation that my life is full, though I am simultaneously aware that it really only consists of 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of livable time for which I long. 

Tara vs. the Invalid

In which our Heroine has a Seizure and experiences AFTERMATH.

A long time ago, in a blog far away, I expressed my confusion over the word invalid: pronounced 2 ways and with two different meanings: as in one with an illness, and then one who has been invalidated—made non-essential, unsound, unacceptable, even nullified.  At that early time of recovery, it was irritating to find that this title applied to me so well.  However, it is more annoying to find that after nearly two years of recovery, I am still an invalid. 

I’m getting it now.  Sick people are invalidated from society not because they are “unacceptable,” as the thesaurus says, but because so much of their time and effort is spent being ill, and therefore much of their life really is invalidated of both energy and enterprise.  I would say that I spend a good quarter of my day (not counting my 9 hours of sleep each night) resting up so I can live the other hours more meaningfully.  I’ve been deluding myself into thinking that I would make a full recovery after brain surgery.   I don’t mean to be maudlin.  The simple fact is this: I have a chronic illness named brain cancer, and I need to finally get it through my (metaphorically) thick skull.

This abrupt realization is brought home by a couple of recent seizures.  The first was a Monday about two and a half weeks ago.  I had just walked ten minutes to a friend’s house, and was greatly surprised to find myself standing at the top of a half-flight of stairs shaking uncontrollably.  Now, I’m no fool, and I know you are all just a bit curious about what it feels like to have a seizure.  So, here goes:

Imagine yourself on the way out of a smile, when your face freezes into a grimace and your upper body starts jerking horribly.  You are conscious and still standing, but become aware that you really should get to a chair.  Your mind is working slowly the syrupy sludge that is a seizure even through the panicky adrenaline you can feel washing through your body.  Desperately you think, “If I can just concentrate and take a deep breath, then maybe I can stop before my friend notices.”  But it is too late.  You hear her repeating your name, progressively with more alarm.  It takes five to ten seconds for you to get your response out—and are somewhat surprised to find that you can.  But your jaw is stiff, and you come out sounding like you need speech therapy: “Yeessh,” in a deeper voice than usual (think special needs voice).  Friend grabs shoulders and tells you that she is going to help you back to the bench a few steps back. “Ohh…Kayye.”  Once sitting you are able to take a deep breath and the thing stops abruptly. 

But that’s just the beginning, because there is the aftermath: You are tired for the rest of the day—quite literally bone-weary.  Actually, it lasts for a week.  You call various people over the next few days to get out of various commitments/appointments.  You stop doing housework and quite cooking meals in favor of sleeping.  Your child watches progressively  more hours of TV.  You do what you can, but its never enough.  You wish for more energy, and you angrily blame your anti-convulsant medication Keppra—after all what are you taking the stupid stuff for anyway?  You make an appointment and meet with your neuro-surgeon who simply increases the dosage for said hated medicine.  In the face of your emotionally erratic displeasure, the poor man refers you to a neurologist.  You are so tired after spending all afternoon in the waiting room of your doctor’s office that you come home too exhausted to think and forget to rip open the bag containing the more powerful Keppra before going to bed and instead take the old.  The next morning you have another seizure standing in front of your vanity mirror.  It is mildly interesting to watch yourself seize, but mostly grotesque, and you can help but feel a little repulsed by yourself.  More anger.  More exhaustion from seizure combined with the inevitable moodiness and tiredness that accompanies getting used to an increased dosage of your most beloved medicine. 

You live in a split world, one in your head that makes idealized plans for what it will be like when you’re all better; and the other where you realize that the only reason you have time to make such ridiculously hopeful plans is because you have to spend all morning lying on your back.  But don’t worry—this is not the end of the story, please do take the time to read the next post to see all the good stuff that is happening to me too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Not Fooling

In which our Heroine experiences a Spring, of Sorts.

Travelogue: Alaska.
Dear nephews and nieces in Phoenix,

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen snow before, so I thought I’d let you in on a little secret:  I have A LOT of it.  I’ve included some pictures below, so you can see what my outdoor life is like—at least in part. 
The last few weeks have been beautiful here in Alaska.  The cold snap is over for now, and it is a relief.  This winter was LONG.  It was the second snowiest winter ever recorded in Anchorage, actually.   But there’s still time for this year to make the number one spot—it is only April 1, after all.  Am I fooling around?  Not at all.  Here are some photos to prove it:

This is Eva helping me to dig out her play equipment on the back deck a few days ago.  The snow is deceptive—it was actually about 55 degrees in that sheltered and sunny part of my backyard that day.  So warm!!!  The problem with clearing off the deck is that the snow has to go somewhere, and my snow-throwing range is short, so… now we can’t get off the deck area anymore.  The snow is too high.

There’s so much melt-down going on that it sounds like it is constantly raining: (molto allegro and staccato: drip drip drip drip drip drip drip.)  Also, the snow on the roof is starting to slide down, so now we have 2 rows of icicles.  Pretty sure my crawl space will be flooding this year. 

A history of our winter shown here: In December we had 4 chinooks (warm winds from Japan that thaw stuff temporarily).  And then it got really cold and snowed and snowed.  I am used to waking in the middle of the night to the sound of GIGANTIC snow plows.  (Seriously, they’re like the stuff of little kid’s nightmares).  The snow gets plowed into the middle of the street, and then a GIANT snow blower shoots it all into dump trucks, which take it to one of a number of city snow dump spots.  If these snow mountains don’t melt this year, can we call them glaciers?  Dear nephew A, you should come to AK and get a summer job shoveling snow.  Ha Ha.

Present left by the neighborhood moose about an hour ago.  Because moose and sometimes black bears live in the suburbs too, apparently.

Oh, and by the way, I DO NOT LIVE OUT IN THE BUSH!  Here in Alaska, our little family lives in a normal townhouse (not an igloo).  We even own a TV.  However, we do use ice cleats on our boots on occasion, and popular outdoor activities here include snow-shoeing and skiing.  Spring-time holidays like St. Patrick’s and Easter are a little funny since there’s still snow everywhere.  And Jon has been known to wield a pick axe/ice-chipper come springtime to dig off the 6 inches of ice build-up on our driveway.  Sometimes, when we back out of our garage, the car slides into the road and people swear at us.  Oh, and we DO NOT live in the dark for 6 whole months of the year.  In fact, tonight the sun will go down around 8:50 pm.  Ah… life in Alaska, so misunderstood, but also kind of funny. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tara the Heroine, Detective

In which our Heroine goes Gumshoe.

 (Jazzy music plays softly in the background as city lights slant into the office.  The office is spare—containing only a desk, two moth-eaten chairs, and a double-locked filing cabinet.  Backwards on the door’s window in white letters read: Tara the Heroine, Detective.)

Tara monologues in a New York accent: There I was, sitting with my feet up on the desk, innocently and might I say successfully evading the periodic knocks of the landlord as I read the Times in the waning light of the sunset.  Rent was hard to come by these days.  I could hardly afford to keep my fedora, let alone my office.  I was hungry.  I wanted a pie from the diner around the corner and a job to keep me going another week.  Either that or I needed to get out of town—and quick.

(The door handle rattles as someone tries to push through into the office.  Tara jumps under the desk.  An older woman with short brown hair and sensible shoes walks in.)

The Lady inquires politely but determinedly: “Hello?   I’m looking for the detective.  I have a job and an airplane ticket for you.”

Monologue continues: Cripes!  This woman looked like my mother!  And she knew I was there too.  Well, nothing to do but come out…

“Ah…hello… I was just looking for my pencil there under the desk…”

The Lady quirks her eyebrow up and issues a cold smile: “I see.  Perhaps you’re not the person I was looking for.  I demand absolute honesty in all my dealings.  I’ll just see myself out.”

Tara, with desperation: “Look Lady, I’m not proud, but you can’t be too careful in this town.  Now why don’t you sit down and give me the score.”

She sits. The Lady’s eyes begin to tear up. “Its just… I’ve lost my daughter.  She can’t seem to find her way home—perhaps she doesn’t remember how? (Sniffle)  I need you to track her down.  There are some things in my basement that might help you—boxes of old junk, really—but you’ll be needing to see it if you have a hope of finding her.

Tara monologues: And just like that I was hired.  The next plane to Idaho left at midnight. 

By midmorning I was going through crates of STUFF.  Honestly, what good was all of this trash?  I was in for a long day.  It was in the girl’s box of old dolls that I found my first clue.  All the dolls seemed familiar—but especially the cabbage patch doll, and a little number with blue flower-print skin named Trixie. Good name.  I’d had a best friend with the same name once.  Despite the mess, I was beginning to feel quite at home here. 

I kept searching.  Photos of a cute kid with a mass of wavy hair and bad teeth, Barbie dolls with accessories still included, a slap-stick bracelet, a 2 inch model of a six-shooter, and 3 ½ inch disks badly organized and dubiously printed with the occasional: “My disk.”  It all seemed so familiar. 

Boy, the cogs were turning now, folks.  I was really detecting.  An idea popped into my head: Was this mine???  It had to be.  I distinctly remembered playing with these toys.  And that girl in the photos—well, big hair and all—that had to be me.  It was hard to believe because I felt so removed from it now.  I was hardly the same person.  Nothing for it, I’d have to go through the rest of the boxes tonight or I’s get no respite. I HAD to prove that all this stuff was the detritus of my previous life.  

The next several boxes were labeled “College Ceramics.” Piece by piece, I set them out in a row on the floor.  Here’s a curious thing, I hardly remembered half of them.  Maybe this wasn’t me at all.  There was a Raku piece that I swear I’d never touched before—it just couldn’t be me.  But when I turned it over, there was my name scored into the underside with the date, ’01.  Well, that would place me at Junior College.  Yeah, I still remember doing Raku at good old Ricks.  And there—I remembered that graceful vase—a bit of mastery if I do say so myself.  And my teacher at BYU, Von, grunting and saying that at least if I had to do a boring vase it was better than most of the designs the kids came up with.  I remembered that compliments were hard to come by when you did pottery instead of sculptural ceramics. 

Well, I had to admit it, it was all mine—even if I still had no memory of it.  You’d think after crafting it with my own hands, going through the shaping, bisque firing, and then glazing process, that some of this would stick a little better.

The Lady comes down to check on the detective, offering a plate of fried chicken. “Did you find her?  Yes?  Good, now you can help me get rid of all this stuff!”

It’s a queer thing trying to decide which piece of pottery to keep and which to throw out.  I must confess that some were pathetically easy because they were both ugly and apparently unmemorable.

Fiction?  Not entirely.  I really did got through my old junk down in my Mom’s basement while on vacation last month.  Many of the details, and all of the emotions are real.  I have often compared my mind to a double-locked filing cabinet with a bad organizational system.  However, I do not own an office in the city, nor do I owe rent to a grumpy landlord.  But my mother did feed me some excellent fried chicken. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Solar-Powered Villain

In which our Heroine/Villain returns.

A week ago I returned from visiting family in Idaho and Utah.  The visit—lasting 22 days total—was just long enough that I walked off the plane and into the Ted Stephens Airport here in Anchorage at what was 2 am Mountain Standard Time with a broad smile on my face.  What can I say?  I’m a sap and I missed my husband enough that I’m willing to take all that airport-related exhaustion as well as the tons of snow that awaited me outside with a smile.  Lovely family visit—but it feels great to be home.  Many of you out there did not even know I was flying out.  I kept it that way on purpose.  Mums the word. Literally.  As in, the purpose of my visit was mostly to spend time with my mother.  Therefore I didn’t hare off into any wild adventures with old friends or exotic locales, etc…

But—I did manage to get a sun-burn one Saturday afternoon in Idaho (oh excitement).  The sun was really shining my first week there and with temperatures in the 40s, it felt nearly tropical to me.  (Anchorage has had a really cold, snowy, gray winter—far worse than usual).  Anyway, every time I went outside, I bent my neck and turned my shoulders like a flower so I could get the sun on my preternaturally pale face.  I’ve noticed that non-fake-baker Alaskans all have the white glow to their faces.  Seriously—we stand out in photos.  Of course, I have the Alaskan pale mixed with my usual pastiness vs. burnt-crispy cycle with which to contend.  So, I ended up with a really hot face for about 2 days and nothing to show for it afterward.  It was glorious. 

And now I am sure of the truth: It turns out that I am solar-powered.  Despite sleep deprivation and a feverishly hot face, I found myself FULL of energy.  Any time the sun shone, I felt like I could move mountains!  It’s just possible that I am actually a superhero in a sadly successful disguise.  All that remains is to identify my super abilities.  They’ve got to have something to do with fantastically warped brain cells that are somehow fueled by UV rays…  Wait…um…well… now that I’ve written it down, it’s fairly clear that I’m not meant for any league of heroes.  I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that mutation of brain cells and inability to tan properly actually puts me in the villain category.  My seizure medication: odd chemicals purposefully put into my body twice a day.  (Just drop me in a vat of toxic waste!!!) Long torso, short legs: the opposite of Wonder Woman’s figure.  Difficulty using left hand: unbalanced, clearly.  Well, rats.  There goes my future in wearing underwear on the outside of my skin-tight neon colored suit, billowy capes, go-go boots, and the pushiest-up of all push-up bras.  I’m really going to have to rework my résumé .

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Results Are In

In which our Heroine feels a Palpable Relief.

Apparently, seizures are a fairly normal phenomenon in the neurological world—mundane enough when combined with a clean MRI, anyway.  Yes, that’s right.  After once again going through a total freak-out session before getting the results of my tests back (I’m beginning to see a pattern here), I have been given a clean(ish) bill of health.  I will go back to the doctor in six months (not three!).  My MRI scans are good.  Also, my medical history indicates that I am not really that prone to seizures.  This fact, combined with my forgetfulness at taking my medication on time, etc… means that I don’t even have to change my medication right now.  HOWEVER, if I have another seizure in the next 6 months of any kind, then I will call my doc immediately and increase my Keppra dosage.  But if I don’t, then I may be able to go completely off of any anti-convulsants in six months!  Please do keep your fingers crossed on my behalf! 

The relief, as stated above, is palpable.  And I have hope—which is such a good thing.  The only thing I’m wondering now is how I’ll really be if/when I go completely off brain-altering drugs.  You think I jest.  Because really, there aren’t many excuses left for me at that point.  Here’s a snapshot of my life in six months:

Memory? Present and accounted for, if I remember correctly. 

Personality issues? Functioning well.  You be the judge.  

Forgetfulness? I am like the proverbial elephant.

Fatigue? Must be based on other reasons entirely.

Lack of coordination? Did I ever really have a hope with this?

Fine motor skills? Good penmanship is overvalued by third grade teachers everywhere.

General weakness in limbs? Opening jars is severely overrated.

 Confused? Who isn’t, these days? 

Upset stomach from taking Keppra without food?  Gone, hopefully.  And the sooner, the better. 

Monday, January 16, 2012


In which our Heroine goes off the Deep-end.

A week and a half ago—on Wednesday, January fourth at about 11:30 A.M., to be exact—I had what I believe is a tonic-clonic seizure.  I have avoided writing about the incident, because I am frankly so bummed about it.  The day it happened ended up being a bad, bad day because I could only focus on the worst of all the reasons it might have happened.  In other words, I thought for sure that I had some nasty tumor growing back.  

The fear was compounded by the fact that I have been tired lately.  This could be for any number of reasons: Christmas stress, bad sleep patterns, my child—who has stopped taking naps, meaning that I get no rest during the day, unhealthy foods that always seem to creep into my house, the 4 pieces of delicious See’s candy I ate the night before…etc…

In retrospect, I believe my somewhat hysterical reaction a symptom of my nearly complete lack of knowledge about seizures.  Other than a few weird, little eye-twitches that occasionally reached down to the mouth on the left side of my face, my first seizure was the biggie that sent me to the ER.  Naturally, I have no recollection of this event, and so cannot compare it with my latest.  After surgery, I had some odd numbing and loss of feeling that extended down the left side of my body.  That’s what landed me with a prescription for the anti-convulsant Keppra (aka Levetiracetum).  But this seizure—oh, it was different.

So, there I was, doing leg-lifts in time with the most grandma of all work-out videos (seriously, I have scoured our local library’s collection in search of the workout that I can do at home even on the yuckiest-feeling days).  I was on the beginning marches of the cool-down phase (barely sweaty at all) when my muscles tensed oddly.  The perky woman with big hair on screen changed to a new set of steps, and I tried too, but the muscles on either sides of my body wouldn’t obey.  For a couple of counts, my limbs were following the old routine.  That’s when I knew something was wrong.  My thoughts were incredibly slow.  I had to deliberately try to stop lifting my arms in the air (my legs were already down).  Now I was shaking uncontrollably—huge jerky movements that made no sense to my slow-as-molasses thoughts. 

In normal circumstances, what would I do if interrupted?  Why, push the stop button on the blue-ray of course.  So that’s what I tried to do.  Do you know how hard it is to press a finger to a tiny touch-screen symbol when you’re jerking all over the place?  Just use your imagination.  My whole body was racking with spasms, my legs shaking under me when I finally realized that this goal of mine was useless and I needed to do something else.  Ironically, it was the downward motion of being done that got the work-out video turned off.  I turned around and found myself in a slow-minded struggle between looking at the clock and realizing I’d forgotten to take the Keppra, and also knowing that the couch would be a good place to ride this thing out—whatever it was.  It was like one of those I-can’t-run-fast-and-get-away nightmares.

It took me a really long time to get to the door of the kitchen—too long.  But by then I had learned that my mind could only handle one simple task at a time.  So I focused on the water glass by the sink.  Then on my right hand picking it up.  Then shuffling sideways two small steps to the faucet.  That’s when I had the crystal- clear thought that if I took a deep breath, I would be able to calm down enough to stop shaking and take my medicine.  It worked, and by the time I was fishing my medicine bottle out of the cupboard, I was down to only a slight shakiness.    Then I went to lay on the couch. 

In answer to the questions, no I did not call the doctor.  I already had appointments set up for an MRI (last week) and on Wednesday the 18th, the neurosurgeon’s PA.  I felt good about the decision at the time and still do.

All things considered, I think I handled myself very, very well.  Knowing my personality as drama queen extraordinaire, and the extreme depression I tend to feel whenever I think of my chronically cancerous self—I am quite certain that I had a little extra help from God.  He calmed me and put thoughts in my nearly-useless mind that got me where I needed to go.   Directly afterward, I had a hard time recognizing this, and really lost it for the rest of the day.  I have also had my down moments on occasion since then.  The only thing that shakes me out of this is listening to good old MOTAB and reading my scriptures and patriarchal blessing. 

Mainly, I have been depressed about the idea of dealing with any kind of possible future treatment.  Why can’t the miracle of being kind-of-well just continue, I think to myself.  But there may be other reasons.  I read online about how sometimes Keppra induces tonic-clonic seizures when taken over a course of time.  Could this be it?  I hope so, even though it brings up a host of new issues (especially since I want to have another child someday soon).  Medication + pregnancy = suckiness.  I have a friend who took “safe” anti-convulsants when pregnant and now has children with learning disabilities.  I would really like to not have ANY weird chemicals in my system.  Well.  Another goal I have no real control over.

Thankfully, I have largely regained my composure over the last week—finally remembering what I had to learn back when I was first diagnosed with cancer: that what happens, happens—and all I can do is deal with it with patience and grace (in such small amounts as I have).