Challenge 2013: A race a month

2013.01.02.running-challengeI failed ever-so-slightly in my 2012 Race a Month Challenge, but I enjoyed it so much that I’m challenging myself to the same feat for 2013. It’s not really my resolution for the year—which is to continue hoping for good things—it’s more of a lifestyle choice. And because it’s meant to be a bit of a challenge, I will try to increase the number of marathons or half marathons I participate in.

As it stands today, my first intended race will be the Buchlyvie 10K in Buchlyvie, Scotland. It was my first race of 2012, and I am desperately hoping it goes better this year! Of course, as my race partner (and race transportation provider) has moved to Wales, figuring out how to get there will be half the challenge!

I am also thinking about doing the Alloa Half Marathon in March and the Edinburgh (full) Marathon in May—if I can wrangle an entry, as they’re already sold out. And, of course, I’m thinking about running the Loch Ness Marathon again.

Oh! I’m even going to attempt at more—and better—training this year. Oh yes, I am!

If anyone is a runner and wishes to join me at a race—or if you’re not a runner but want to come cheer me on—please do get in touch. Running is, after all, a very social sport for being such a solitary one.

Happy running!

So long, 2012!

2010.09.20.sometimesIf I am honest, I would have to say that 2012 has been a pretty unhappy year. I think it’s been even worse because I had such high hopes for it; I suppose that hoping for happiness only served to set me up for greater disappointments. And it really has been a disappointing year on so many levels.

But despite the disappointments I faced, there were good things, too. And those are the memories I will try to take away from 2012. So, here are a few of the year’s high notes:

I also have to give special acknowledgement to a group of women who became my virtual ears when I was really struggle a couple of months ago. And further acknowledgement to two amazing friends who’ve been working to bring Just Frances back up to speed so that we can scrap this temporary blog and move full-speed ahead into a bright 2013.

So, goodbye 2012. I will remember the good times. And for you, 2013, I hope you bring me the joy I so desperately want and need!

(Want more year-end reviews: Here’s 2010 and 2011!)

It’s an onomatopoeic day

2012.12.14.onomatopoeiaI do love a bit of onomatopoeia. But I don’t like experiencing it first-hand. Achoo!

Of course, since I’m home, snuggled under my duvet, experiencing the agony of a cold, there is a lot of onomatopoeia going on.

I’m sneezing: Achoo!

I have a runny nose: Sniff, sniff

I’m drinking soup: Slurp

I’m cat-napping: Zzzz

And I’m complaining: Grumble

But I’m sure that I’ll be better soon. And then I’ll be laughing (haha) once again.

ITP Awareness Month: My story

September is ITP Awareness Month, so I thought I’d share my ITP story with you.

First, some key bits of information so that you know why it’s such a big deal:

  • ITP stands for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura which is, essentially, a very low platelet count. A normal count is 150,000-400,000 (generally said as 150-400).
  • The lower the number, the higher your risk of bruising and prolonged bleeding/healing—or at the extreme, spontaneous internal bleeding and haemorrhaging (‘brain bleeds’ and such).
  • It is classified as a rare autoimmune disease.

This story is about my personal journey. If you want more information on ITP, check out the following links:

Right. Now let’s get this story going!

My story begins in late 1995 when I was just 21 years old. My energy levels were sapped and I could barely drag myself out of bed most days. My arms and legs were covered with bruises; my gums bled when I brushed my teeth; cuts took ages to stop bleeding and even longer to heal. It took a while for me to fully realise that something was wrong, at which time I went to the local clinic to be checked out. By this time it was January 1996.

It was only an hour later that I was called back into the clinic for more blood work because my platelet count was in the single digits and they thought it might be wrong. A subsequent draw gave similar results. Then there was a bit of panic with the nurses and doctors who were making loads of phone calls before prescribing me some prednisone and asking me to come back the following day.

In the days to follow, I had my blood drawn almost every day. I also began to experience the evil side effects of the steroids. But despite the medication, my platelet counts never rose above 30. I was frightened, to say the least.

Soon, my rural family doctor made an appointment for me with a haematologist in Seattle. I didn’t have anyone to take with me, so I made my way on my own and found that the haematologist’s office was in the Oncology Unit. You know, like cancer! As I sat there in the waiting room, watching cancer patients come and go, I began to cry. I was even more frightened by this time and there was no one there to hold my hand.

Meeting with the haematologist was strange. She talked to me about the possible causes including leukaemia. She also talked to me about the various tests she needed to run—some of which required bone marrow aspirations. As I left the hospital, I was shaking. I was still no closer to knowing what was wrong with me, but I was increasingly frightened that it was the worst case scenario. (The side effects from the evil prednisone didn’t help.)

Eventually, it was decided that I had ITP and that they would do a splenectomy to ‘cure’ me—a decision I felt I was bullied into at the time and one that I regret to this day. My surgery was April 1996 and by June of that year my counts had stabilised to a ‘normal’ count of around 160, though they would drop to the 80s when I had a cold or other illness.

Unfortunately, by February 2002 my body decided that stable wasn’t good enough and my counts took a drastic nosedive—with a count of six (yes, 6) on my birthday. Once again, I found myself back on the prednisone. And, once again, I found myself frightened. But because the prednisone wasn’t working this time, they put me on azathioprine as well.

It took several months for my body to regulate itself again, only this time it stabilised at an average count of 70-80. Which meant that getting sick means drops of 40 or below.

Today, my average counts are still around 80, but I have had a couple of 150-180 counts, too. (Which makes me happy.) But, sadly, I still get low counts (my last low was 13 back in March).

What does this mean for my life? Well, it means that I have to listen to my body. It means that I have to be careful and pay attention to any new bruise. It means I have to keep an eye out for signs of a low count (fatigue, petechiae, nose/gum bleeds). It means that when I get a cold, I get a double-whammy of a low count. It means I have to be careful around things that can lower my counts (chemicals, certain foods). And, frustratingly, it means that I have to argue with people who think that I need to be treated like an invalid.

But I can still live my life. I can still run and play and do things. Yes, I have to be careful and I have to use common sense, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to enjoy life.

So, that’s my story. It’s not interesting or anything, but at least I’m alive to tell it!

[That’s a picture of my platelets that I drew when I had a count of 10 in January 2011.]

Quiet-ness

I’ve been quiet again. (Still?) So I feel that I should pop in and say hello, since so often I’m quiet when life is hard and I’m feeling down. But that’s not the case right now. Well, mostly not the case.

The past two weeks have been… interesting. In fact, this past week it got even more interesting! I’ve had a lot going on and have been mulling over all sorts of things. Some good; some not-so good; some potentially good but yet undetermined. But nothing life threatening. (Life altering, maybe.)

I’m being vague. I know. And I’m sure that there are a few people who may think they know what I’m talking about. But they don’t. (I know! More vague-ery. Is that a word?)

Anyhow, since I’m not really in a position to share the interesting-ness of the last couple of weeks (yet) I’m just checking in to say that life is mostly good right now. I am busy working on my dissertation and am filling out job applications like a mad woman.

But since I’m being vague, I’ll at least share a few highlights:

  • I finished a swirl drawing for my lovely [former] foster daughter. (I must get it in the post next week!)
  • I had a platelet count last week and the results came back at 164. Yes folks, that’s in the normal range. Awesome!
  • I am running the Edinburgh Half Marathon tomorrow. Only I didn’t get registered in time, which means I’m running as someone else, since they kindly sacrificed their entry for me.

Anyhow, I expect that the next couple of weeks will be weird and filled with more mulling. (And job applications.) But I’ll try not to be too quiet.

[Photo is the swirl drawing I’m sending to the kid. She is, after all, one of my biggest swirl fans!]

Seven years

I started a post yesterday, but couldn’t bring myself to finish it through the tears. You see, yesterday was my 7th wedding anniversary—and the 4th one I’ve spent as a widow. And it really hurts to realise that, which means that the past couple of days have been filled with tears and sorrow.

But I couldn’t let the fact that I had a wedding anniversary go un-acknowledged, so here I am acknowledging it.

May 21, 2005 was the happiest day of my life. I never would have imagined then the pain I’d be in now, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. After all, you have to grab love and happiness when you can get it—and if you’re lucky, that love will be so strong that it carries on for eternity.

I love you, Paul.

A weighty issue

I’m fat. No, that’s not true. That’s so far from the truth that it’s laughable. Heck, I’m not even overweight. Still, I feel ‘fat’(ish).

Here’s the problem: After my marathon I stopped partaking in a normal running routine. And as the days turned to cold, wet, wintery weather, I stopped partaking in most exercise all together. I became rather sedentary, but I continued eating the same volume of food.

Add to all of that, my school schedule means that I have a lot of time on my hands. I don’t have an eight-hour office job to go to, and I’m certainly not spending a full eight hours on campus or at the library. And that means more time for eating out of boredom.

And worse, a long struggle with being sad over the holidays meant that I was less inclined to cook healthy meals and actually got into a habit of eating lots of high-fat, sodium-laden foods.

Combine all of those bad habits together and you get a gooey Frances.

Now, I really do know that I’m not fat. I still fit into my clothes and I can still button my jeans. The problem is that where once there was a super-flat, firm tummy and thighs and a back-side that didn’t jiggle too much, there is now a flabby tummy and wiggly-jiggly bum and thighs.

And it’s making me sad. I feel really mad at myself for letting my body get so out of control. I’m out of shape, I’m not drinking enough water, and I’m jiggling where once I didn’t jiggle.

How sad (and frustrated and desperate) am I? Well, I’ve found myself Googling terms like ‘fast weight loss’ and ‘weight loss food’. I’ve even looked at appetite suppressants. I just looked, but there was a little voice in my head that was saying: ‘Come on. Two weeks on that and you’ll be back to normal!’ No, that’s not a good thing for my mind to be saying to my body. In fact, that’s a stupid thing!

So, the solution: Well, for starters I need to run more. I’ve got my race-a-month challenge, but I need to get more training runs in not only for that, but for my overall health. I also need to eat less. I don’t mean starve myself; I mean cutting out the habit of eating a large bag of crisps in one sitting, or eating half my weight in olives and cheese after dinner every night. I need to drink more water (lots more!). And, I need to start eating healthier foods again—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.

I’m not fat. And I’m certainly not suffering from body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t know what I weight and I don’t care. Still, I want to be back to my normal. Which isn’t fat or skinny. It’s more average and toned maybe.

I’m not sharing this bit of information with the hope for advice or tips. I’m sharing it because saying it out loud will make me more accountable to myself to fix it. I’m sharing it because admitting my flaws makes me more determined to fix them.

And I promise that I’ll fix this slowly and without the aid of pills and potions. Good, old-fashioned exercise and healthy eating will set me straight—and will probably help my race times, too!

An ode to my platelets

Once again, I’ve found myself with a lower-than-ideal platelet count. Well, it was very low last week (13!) and I had them re-tested today. Hopefully when the results come in later this week, they’ll be better. In the mean time, I have been referred to a haematologist again. Not that they can fix me, as this silly little condition seems to be sticking around.

But it got me thinking about my poor little platelets and how much I love them. I mean, first of all, my bone marrow is a bit stingy with its output of the little guys. So they’ve already started out life at a disadvantage for their required job. And if that’s not bad enough, my immune system bullies them to death. Literally.

So when you hear me complain about a low count, it’s not the platelets I’m angry with—no, they’re fighting the good fight and they’re doing it with a super-small army and are up against the rest of my body. I love those little guys. They’re my friends. And so I’ve decided to write them a poem. (I hope my prose isn’t so bad that they in turn commit suicide!)

An ode to my platelets
by Just Frances

Oh platelets, my platelets
You circulate with grace
You plug, you clot, you scab
You are constantly under attack
By my over zealot immune system
But you fight to help spare my life

Oh platelets, my platelets
How I love you so
You are few in numbers
But still you rush
To fix my cuts and scrapes
Your dedication means the world to me

Freedom of the City

My day started out pretty lazy and I didn’t have plans of leaving the flat until early afternoon. But then I learned that there was a military pipe and drum band making their way through town. Which meant that I needed to get dressed and get a move on my day. And I’m so glad that I did!

The reason for the parade was that the Royal Regiment of Scotland was given the the honour of The Freedom of the City of Stirling. [Read the BBC’s story about the event here.] And since you weren’t able to be there to see it (or were you there and I missed you?) I’m sharing the video I made of the event. Yay!

After the parade finished, I made my way through the Stirling Farmers’ Market to pick up some fresh produce, buffalo steaks, and a bit of smoked cheddar. I even ran into someone from one of my classes and had a nice chat. It’s always nice to run into people I know!

So, now I guess I need to return to my weekend of rest. Yep, it would seem that I have a low platelet count after last weekend’s cold. For those counting, the count was 13. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’re on the upswing again.

Swirl-flies

So I spent the past weekend on the couch dying of the common cold. OK, I wasn’t dying, but I wasn’t feeling too great, either. However, all that time convalescing meant time spent swirling!

I’ve got a couple of swirls on the go at the moment—including a blue one that [finally] nearing completion and one for the winner of my anniversary contest who asked that I donate the finished piece. (You have to wait for details on that, sorry!) And I will soon be starting a new swirl for an amazingly awesome woman I know.

But all this swirling got me thinking that I wanted to expand my abilities a bit. I still want to do swirls; I just want to make them a bit more… I don’t know… something. So I’ve decided to create a butterfly swirl.

Generally, I completely free-hand my swirls, but I felt that I needed to pre-sketch the butterfly to make sure each side was even. The next step will be to colour in the swirls of the butterfly before free-hand swirling the rest of the piece.

I am a little bit concerned that a symmetrical focal point surrounded by random swirls might make it a bit unbalanced, but it might work. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK because I have a couple of other ideas on how to incorporate butterflies into the swirls.

Oh yeah, I also spent quite a bit of time reading and doing academic-y stuff. I’m a good girl like that.

Running on empty

Today was Race Two in my goal of running a race a month throughout 2012. (A joint goal with my partner-in-crime, Rebecca.) We couldn’t find a February race within a reasonable distance, so instead we participated in the Falkirk Park Run, a weekly timed event with 150+ runners or so. (And it was free!)

But I screwed up. Really, really screwed up. You see, since it was ‘just’ a 5K, and since it wasn’t a ‘real’ race, I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I didn’t go to bed until midnight, after having two glasses of wine. Worse, I neglected to eat breakfast. Yes, I was running on an empty stomach! I didn’t really realise it until I’d been at it for about seven minutes—and then I realised that I didn’t have the energy to run hard. In fact, there were several moments when I thought I could kick it up, but then the pangs of hunger hit and I knew I needed to slow down or I’d never finish.

I finished in 32 minutes and 27 seconds, which is a respectable time for a 5K but I could have/should have done better. And instead of feeling invigorated, I felt weak and dizzy. And I felt silly and stupid because I should know better than to run on empty!

And now, because I’m hoping that most of you have stopped reading by now, I’m going to make some further food confessions. You see, it seems that I’ve been running on empty quite a lot these past few months. Running on empty, walking on empty, going to class and shopping and sleeping on empty… you get the point. Yes, I have been a bad food eater!

Now, it’s not that I have some weird body image thing and am trying to lose weight or anything (though I admit to feeling flabby, but that’s an issue of toning, not weight loss). It’s just that I’ve not been in a good routine for a very long time. If I’m further honest, these poor eating habits have been with me since Paul died—so way, way, way too long.

I rarely eat breakfast and I rarely eat lunch. So by the time I do eat, I am so hungry that I can’t eat very much or I gorge myself on all sorts of unhealthy, salty, fatty foods. And if I’m further honest, part of the problem is that I can’t be bothered to cook for myself most days. I mean, I try to do it, but it’s really hard (i.e.: sad, lonely, and pathetic) to cook for one.

I’m trying to fix this, but I’ve been saying that for more than a year now! But I’m slowly getting better. I’ve been trying to make out a week’s menu ahead of time and I’m making some nice, hearty meals that freeze well for days when I don’t feel like cooking. In fact, as I’m typing I have some chicken and potatoes in the oven and some fresh spinach ready to cook up. But I can’t promise that tomorrow’s dinner won’t be a jumbo-sized bag of crisps!

So, the goal is simple: Cook more, eat more, and be better nourished before going for a run.

Speaking of cooking and eating, it’s time to start on that spinach now. Yum!

And don’t forget to enter my anniversary competition. I’ve really enjoyed the entries so far and would love to be entertained with a few more! (Don’t be shy!)

Free drugs

I’m not new to the Scottish National Health Services (NHS), having had my first experience with them about 10 years ago, but I guess that my American upbringing is just so overpowering that I’m still taken aback from time-to-time with the strangeness of socialised health care.

And today just happened to be one of those days.

You see, I have been on medications for my kidneys for nearly a year now because it would seem that this silly polycystic kidney disease thing has decided to play up a bit. (Darn; so much for being invincible!) Before I left the States, I filled a super-sized prescription so that I didn’t have to worry about it straight away. No problem.

Then, way back in November, I finally got around to seeing my local doctor. And he gave me a new prescription for when my American drugs ran dry. When I got home, I tucked the paper away and forgot about it. Until I took my last pill last night.

So this afternoon I took the prescription to Boots to have it filled. I expected to have a bit of paperwork to fill out as this was my first time filling a prescription there. And I expected to have to come back in 15 minutes to an hour to pick up the filled prescription.

But that’s not what happened. No, instead I handed over the prescription, the pharmacist scanned the barcode on the prescription, printed a couple of little stickers, turned around, grabbed a couple of boxes, slapped the sticker on them, asked for my signature, popped the drugs in a bag, handed them to me, and sent me on my way.

Three minutes tops. No money was exchanged. He had all the information he needed on the prescription form so didn’t need to ask me anything further. That was it. Our transaction was over.

It’s strange, because I forgot that they don’t charge for prescriptions in Scotland anymore—though they charge in England, and when I was here 10 years ago they charged in Scotland, too. And then, I was being seen at the hospital instead of a clinic and there was some loophole with getting medications at the hospital that meant I didn’t pay then, either.

I know that this post may seem more random than most, but someone asked that I share more stories about the differences between life in Scotland vs life in America, and the NHS is certainly a pretty big difference!

And it’s still weird for me, this NHS business. I mean, I love the service; I love the care; I love the ease (and cost!) of filling prescriptions. But it comes at a price because I’ve handed over the control (and ownership?) of my medical history to a massive government agency. And that’s scary to me. Really, really scary.

(But I’ll leave my commentary there because 1) I admit I don’t fully understand the politics behind it all and 2) I have a friends who work for the NHS and I don’t want to say the wrong thing here and have them correct me later!)

Getting better

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling the dreaded claws of illness tightening their grip on my immune system. In fact, by yesterday I wondered if illness was winning, as I found myself suffering on the couch with a fever of 39.1°c (102+° f) and a niggly headache. But—12 hours of sleep later—today I seem to be winning.

I am still fighting off whatever this may be, and am still hoping that it doesn’t develop into a full-on cold (or other illness). But at least I’m feeling better today that I did yesterday.

Of course, being a tad ill has not helped me to get over the down in the dumps feelings I’ve been dealing with since New Year’s Day, but at least it’s not made it worse. In fact, in some ways it’s made me feel better because I get to sit around and sulk in my pyjamas without feeling bad about it!

And, in an effort to get over (or stave off) being sick, I’ve gotten myself some supplies: Crisps and dip and cookies and orange juice and fresh fruits and veggies. Oh, and some pretty daffodils to look at. Or at least I hope they’ll be pretty once they bloom.

So, now I’m just sitting on the couch eating yummy food, hydrating lots and lots, watching whatever looks interesting on iPlayer, and swirling. I hope by the end of the weekend I’ll have not only finally won the battle of this cold, but that I manage to win the battle of the sadness, too!

Paranoia

Last week I finally got around to seeing my new doctor and this week I’m regretting it just that little bit. You see, on the outside I look like a perfectly healthy, 37-year-old woman. (Though some people think I look younger than that, which is cool.) On the outside, no one would ever guess that on the inside my body is not-so-healthy.

Of course, the problem with looking healthy and (mostly) feeling healthy is that I sometimes forget that I’m not as healthy as I appear. And when I neglect to go to the doctor’s office for checkups, I can forget a lot easier. (Kind of.)

Anyhow, back to the story: Last week I went to meet my new doctor and he promptly had me schedule an appointment for blood work—a standard procedure for someone with ITP. So, on Friday afternoon I went back for labs and was told I’d have the results in about a week. And when the phone rang Monday morning and the person on the other end introduced herself as someone from the clinic, my heart sank. It’s never a good thing when you get a call…

And so, yesterday I learned that my platelet count is 50. (Normal range is 150-400.)

Now, that’s not a really bad number (I’m normally around 70-80) but it’s always a bit worrying because I never know if a lower-than-my-normal number is because it was really low and is now climbing up, or if it’s on its way down. Which means stress and worry and paranoia.

The doctor wants me to go back in on Monday for another blood draw to see where I am. I’m hoping that it’s climbing up because I’ll be a little (maybe even a lot) sad if it goes lower.

And that means that for the next few days I will be obsessed with ITP and platelets. I will worry about this, that, and the next thing. I will have irrational fears that it’s getting worse. I will dream about cutting my finger and bleeding forever. I will second guess every niggly little twinge (Yikes! Is that spontaneous internal bleeding?) and will panic at the smallest bruise. I will be afraid to exert too much energy and I will worry that I’m pushing myself too hard. I will wonder if I’m tired because I’ve just spent a day running errands or if it’s ITP-induced fatigue.

I’m always careful and aware of my condition(s), but it seems that my carefulness goes into overdrive when I know that my counts are low. You see, this is why I shouldn’t have gone to the doctor. It I hadn’t gone, I would never have known, and I could have carried on pretending that I’m just a normal, every-day, healthy 37-year-old woman.

However, it’s OK. I’m OK. Everything will be OK. So please don’t worry about me. I’m not in any danger; I’m not sick and dying. I just have a lower platelet count than I want.

It’s days like this when I really miss Paul. I mean, he would be just as obsessed as I am about my counts and would commiserate or celebrate with me when the numbers came in. And, of course, if they were lower than I’d hoped, Paul could be counted on to wait on me hand-and-foot and completely fuss over me with his ‘A woman in your condition…’ line. And even though I didn’t need to be fussed over, it was nice.

But now the real question is how I can spin this so that I can get my friends to fuss and take pity on me and come over to clean my flat. You know, because I shouldn’t stress myself out just now. You know, in case it has an adverse effect on next week’s counts. I mean, a woman in my condition… (No? No volunteers? Darn!)

[Note: That’s a picture of my platelets from last year. So, those 10 guys are like the ancestors of the 50 I have now.]

Why run?

I’m running my first—and last—ever marathon in the morning. I’m pretty excited about it, but at the same time I’m rather dreading it. You see, I don’t actually enjoying running exceedingly long distances. 10Ks and 12Ks are fun. Heck, even the occasional 10-miler or half marathon would be an exciting race to train for. But a marathon is 26.2 miles and is simply too long to enjoy.

Of course, that statement makes one wonder why I’m going through this torture in the first place. So, let me tell you!

I am running a marathon in the morning because Paul didn’t; because Paul can’t; because Paul died about a month before his first marathon.

When we first met, Paul was anything but athletic. Then, shortly after we got married, he decided to join my gym with the caveat that it was a one month trial—and the insistence that he would hate it and quit. In fact, in the first week or so I thought he would! But then he found the treadmill and was pretty excited about that.

A few weeks after finding the treadmill at the gym, Paul set a goal to run a 5K. But he would never run more than that. Then I mentioned the Spokane Bloomsday 12K and he was uninterested (too far, you understand) but eventually he changed his mind and ran that. But he would never run further than that.

Then he ran his first half marathon. And then he started to talk about how he’d like to run a marathon before he was 50. So when he decided—at the age of 47—that he was ready for that first marathon, I smiled. After all, he only ever wanted to run a 5K!

Paul loved running. It became a true passion in his life and he was good at it. And he trained and trained for the marathon—he even ran whilst we were on our last holiday to England.

Paul died a week before what would have been our third run at the Bloomsday 12K—and a month before the Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Marathon. The Bloomsday 12K took place the day after his funeral, so there was no way I could have done it, but at the time I felt this odd need to run (or at least walk) the marathon for him. But that was silly since I could barely stand on my own two legs for the first few months after he died. In fact, I gave up running all together for quite a while after he died.

Anyhow, I eventually got back into running again and felt the need to run a marathon before what would have been his 50th birthday. And that would be this November, so I needed to get in gear and start training!

Of course, I am not really in shape for this adventure. I don’t have the stamina to run that far. Between my blood condition and kidney disease (and pure laziness), I’ve been struggling with getting the training in and maintaining my health. In fact, often times I can hear Paul yelling at me about how a woman ‘in my condition’ ought not be running a marathon. I can also hear him nagging me about getting my training in and about how I need to be careful not to make myself sick and about how I need to eat my breakfast—especially on training days—and that I need to remember to cross-train.

But, as Paul well knows (knew?) I am stubborn and when I say I’m going to do something, I do it.

So that’s why I’m running. I’m running for Paul. But since running for Paul makes me feel happy, I suppose that I’m running for myself, too.

Oh! And I managed to talk Rebecca into running with me. She’s running for her own reasons as well as for charity. (Don’t be shy you don’t have to know her to sponsor her!)

Paul: I know I won’t enjoy this race as much as you would have. And I know that I won’t make as good of time as you would have. And I know you probably don’t think I should be doing it at all. But I know you’ll be there cheering me on. I love ya, luv! xx

Lost voice messages

[Note: This post has nothing to do with phones or other technology.]

Just before bedtime on Sunday I started to feel a bit of a tickle in my throat and by the time I woke up Monday morning, my voice was gone. (I think the tickle stole it!) I was certain it would get better as the day went on so I headed into the office. Only my voice didn’t get better and I found myself sipping mint tea just to keep going.

By last night my body was beat so I went to bed early hoping that a good night’s sleep would coax my voice out of hiding. Instead, I had a miserable night’s sleep because my throat was so very sore and swollen that I was in too much pain for proper rest.

So this morning I woke once more only my voice was completely gone by this point—not a squeak to be heard—which meant sending an email to the office to let them know I wouldn’t be in. But I still needed to go to town to take my foster daughter to day care, which meant that I might as well stop by the doctor’s office. And since the kid had a ride home, I didn’t have to stick around when I was done.

Anyhow, the doctor says I don’t have strep throat, which is awesome. And that I have a platelet count of 100, which is almost unheard of for me, which is awesome. And since I was in town with a sore throat I took the opportunity to pick up a few messages. (Ah! There’s that word from the title…)

And when you have a sore throat and have lost your voice, you need to have think carefully about what sort of messages to get. I chose apple juice and lemon-lime soda, apple sauce, chicken noodle soup, and fresh raspberries (one pack didn’t survive the drive home). Oh, and just in case my voice comes back and my throat stops hurting, a bag of pretzels and some cheese-in-a-can.

But for now, I think I’ll pour a glass of apple juice and soda and attempt to kip for a couple of hours…

(Do you like how I’m starting to use more Scottish terminology in my blog?)

For the last time

Well folks, the Bloomsday 12K results are in. But I’m going to get all melancholy for a bit before I get to that part.

You see, it dawned on me sometime last week that this may very well be the last time I run Bloomsday. It’s not my hometown race and once I leave the Palouse it won’t exactly be convenient to participate. Sure, about a dozen people travel from my hometown for the race each year, but I’m not returning to my hometown; I’m returning to my home county.

It also dawned on me that this was the first time I participated without Paul. We were registered for the race in 2009 but he died a week before the starters’ gun went off. Of course, knowing that it was a matter of ‘when not if’ Paul died, part of me is glad we didn’t run it. I mean, what if the ‘when’ was whilst he was running a race with 50,000 plus people? I don’t know how I could have coped with that. (I know: Whatifs are silly things. But the mind seems to go there from time to time!)

Anyhow, I am a bit sad about my time. I mean, I came in under my goal of 1:45 (just) but it was a whole 23 minutes slower than my last time. And we’ll not talk about what my time would have been in my teens and early-20s when I was at my top fitness!

I know I shouldn’t be upset. After all, my physical, mental, and emotional wellness really took a hit when Paul died and I’m not yet at my pre-widowed levels. (I might not ever be!) I also have to remember that I have had two severe platelet crashes since January—the last of which was just two weeks before the race when I sat in the doctor’s office discussing the possibility of a platelet transfusion. So, really, I probably shouldn’t have been running in the first place! But, I guess that my slow speed is just another indicator of how much life has changed for me in the last two years.

So, now that Bloomsday is done, I guess it’s time to start thinking about that marathon in October. And, of course, the hometown Runner Stumbles 10K over 4th of July weekend—my last American race for who-knows-how-long.

And, finally, here are the times for our group:

  • Nearly-12-year-old nephew, Haden: 1:41:39
  • Me: 1:44:22
  • Nearly-13-year-old niece, Flik: 2:10:14
  • My sister, Celeste: 2:11:31
  • Nearly-12-year-old foster daughter: 2:11:34
  • My neighbour (Kerry): 2:42:28
  • Kerry’s friend, Leslie: 2:42:28

Don’t forget to check out some of our photos, too!

For the record

I picked up my medical records today so that I can give a copy of my medical history to my new GP when I arrive in Scotland. I’m a little nervous about passing them off, however, and have decided that I will scan them all before I leave so that they’re not lost in the system.

Now, I have to say this next part carefully, because one of Paul’s old school friends* works for the Scottish health system and knows something or other about how medical records are transferred and blah, blah, blah. We once had a broad conversation on the topic and I don’t think we agreed with each other’s views. Mostly because I was right and he wasn’t. [Enter cheeky grin here.]

But it must be said: I don’t have full faith the UK’s medical records system.

Mind you, it’s not because I don’t trust the system, but rather it’s because the system is too big and I have no control of my records once they are handed over. (Much like the military hospitals here, I imagine.) Once I hand over my records, they ‘belong to’ the government-run system. I don’t know if I have a problem with this because I have a healthy habit of questioning my government’s actions, or if it’s because I’m an American and my government has no right to own (or to know about) my medical history.

But you see, in Scotland (and the whole of the UK) health care is socialised** and I don’t get to pick-and-chose who my doctors are (unless I pay for private care). It also means that if I move three miles away, I may need to register with a new GP and my medical records will be automatically transferred. The good part of that is that I don’t need to do anything for that to happen. The bad part is that if I feel there are errors in my records, the new GP will have that (potentially) incorrect information. It also means that, when seeking second opinions, medical care providers will have access to records which could inhibit their ability to give a non-biased opinion.

So I don’t know; there’s just something wrong (in my opinion) about my medical records being part of the government’s database and therefore subject to the National Archive’s Data Protection Act. But, I want to move to Scotland and I may will need a doctor when I get there. So I guess that I need to play by their rules. And thankfully, Scotland is one of those counties where I’ll not be executed for having an opinion contrary to that of the government’s.

I wonder if other expats have these concerns, or if it’s just another case of me being a little off-kilter.

Anyhow, I guess that’s one more thing I can check off my to-do list. Sadly, I think I’ve added about a dozen things to that same list in the last week…

(And for those counting, there are only 104 days remaining until I’m an unemployed bum–and only 71 of those days are actually working days. Yay me!)

[Disclaimer: I realise that I do not have a full understanding of the health system in the UK and that my statements and opinions may be grossly unfair. I also realise that there are great differences between UK and US medical systems on many levels and that each have their pros and cons. This post is in no way meant as a political or social commentary on those systems, but rather a commentary on my own personal feelings and insecurities (rightly or wrongly) about handing off my medical history to a system that gives me less control and access to that information moving forward than what I am accustomed to currently.***]

* I say Paul’s friend, but in fairness he is also my friend. Though I bet sometimes he wishes that weren’t the case!
** Apologies again to UK family and friends; the term socialised health care is just what we use state-side to describe government-supplied care and in no way means I think you’re all socialists.
*** Gaining a full copy of my records was as easy as signing my name to a very easy-to-understand form then waiting two days for them to be ready. No fees, no additional red tape, no hassles.

D is for deficient

One of the many tests my doctor ran as part of my annual exam last week was a vitamin D screening. She was worried that with my current diet I wasn’t consuming enough of the vitamin and combined with my lack of interest in outdoor activities, I wasn’t getting any of the stuff from the sun’s amazing co-production facilities. Of course, her bigger concern was that I was getting ready to head off to a nation known more for rainy, cloudy days than sunbathing.

And, as suspected, I am vitamin D deficient for the first time in my life.

It’s a small knock to my health-esteem because it’s yet another reminder that not only has my diet floundered in the past two years, but my once avid enjoyment of the great outdoors has all but disappeared as well.

I know I’ve said it over and over again, but I am confident that once I’m away from here and the constant reminders of my shattered dreams, I will be better at everything. Once my new future kicks in, I will have more energy to devote to eating well and I will be excited about taking up my once-enjoyed outdoor (and indoor) activities.

But I can’t continue to neglect myself in between now and then. So I’m trying to figure out some stop-gap solutions.

First up, I’ve found a list of vitamin D rich foods. Lucky for me, salmon and tuna are in the top four and eggs are on the list, too—toward the bottom, but they’re on it! Second, I’ve started to research multivitamins. I’ve always shunned such things because (in the past) I always got all the vitamins and minerals I needed from my wholesome, home cooked meals. But that’s no longer the case.

So for now, I’ll try to eat more fish and eggs. And I’ll take a vitamin tablet each day. And hopefully, when my new future becomes my reality, I’ll be getting my vitamin D from the sun again and the rest of my nutrients from my food.

Or, to summarise: I’m deficient in vitamin D and to fix that I will be eating more yummy things like mushroom omelettes and baked salmon. Yay!

The trouble with Bob and Dave

Bob and Dave* are my kidneys. Bob to my left; Dave to my right. Both are riddled with cysts and are considerably larger than normal kidneys. Bob is nearly double the average kidney size; Dave is a big’un, too, though slightly smaller than Bob.

Bob and Dave are the silent sufferers of polycystic kidney disease (PKD). I’ve known about the condition since I was five years old and am just one of several people in my family with the genetic disease. But I’ve always been lucky in that I’ve not had significant problems with my kidneys. In fact, if it weren’t for the cysts which are present in ultrasounds, you’d never know I had kidney disease at all!

From time to time I will get a kidney infection or a cyst will cause me a bit of pain. But my blood pressure is in the normal range and my microalbumin creatinine levels have always been awesomely normal. Which isn’t normal for someone with kidney disease—especially as they move further and further away from their first birthday—but I’ve never been normal, right?

I’ve long prided myself for my healthy diet and my exercise patterns. And my doctors have all agreed that those lifestyle habits have helped me to maintain my kidney function, blood pressure, and overall health for all of these years.

But then Paul died. And my diet went downhill. And I wasn’t getting any exercise. After all, cooking for two is more enjoyable than cooking for one—that’s what TV dinners are for. And running without your favourite running partner just sucks.

And that means that for nearly two years I’ve just not had my once-healthy lifestyle. I mean, it’s not been completely rubbish, but it’s not been as good as it once was. So it shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise when I was called back to my doctor’s office to discuss the results of my lab work from earlier this week.

Long story short: My Bob and Dave are no longer giving 100% to their task of keeping me healthy. They’ve started to look toward retirement, and it’s really making me sad.

OK, in fairness, I am not in kidney failure—nor do I expect to be in kidney failure in the near future. But for the first time in my life, my microalbumin levels are elevated. And that means that it’s time I realise that I’m not immortal. It’s time I realise that I do, in fact, have a progressive, genetic kidney disease and that I am, in fact, a sicky.

I’m trying not to blame myself for Bob and Dave’s lack of work effort. I mean, they are genetically pre-disposed for part-time work and early retirement. I tried to give them incentives to work hard for 35 years, but for the last two years I’ve not been the best manager. So of course they’re staging a bit of a work slowdown now.

I’ve been trying meaning to get better about managing my health for the last year, and I suppose that now I really do need to grow up and stop pouting. I must get back to my pre-widowed eating and exercise habits before the crew completely walks out on me.

But just in case they up and quit, I’ll give a quick plug for organ donation:**
If you’re not an organ donor already, consider signing up to give the gift of life because, despite the pretty picture I’ve drawn to accompany this story, kidneys do not actually grow on trees.

Now I’m signing off to go feel sorry for myself for a while. But I promise I will snap out of it soon. After all, depression isn’t good for your health!

* Thank you to Layla for providing my kidneys with names. It’s not something I’d considered in the past.
** I don’t need a kidney transplant at this time and likely won’t need one for years and years so please don’t feel the need to offer yours up. I’m naively optimistic that when if I do go into renal failure, they’ll have come up with a fantastically-awesome robot kidney solution! (Robo-Frances at your service!)

Bug gear

I had a post all ready about how beat tired I was and it was only Monday. But I’m not going to post it because my stress and exhaustion is nothing compared to what my niece is going through right now.

So instead, I’m going to give a plug for the new Team Buggie CafePress site so that you can go buy some Bug Gear if you want.

Bug heads to Seattle in the morning for her first week of chemotherapy. I’m sure she’d appreciate all the prayers and good thoughts you have to spare. Maybe some for her folks and sister who are all exhausted and stressed, too.

I love ya, Bug! xx

Team Buggie

My awesome niece, Bug, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the other day. She’s just days away from turning 15 and is an amazing kid. Really.

Bug is a golfer. She’s a softball player and a soccer player and a basketball player and an any-other-sport-you-can-think-of player. Well, maybe not a rugby or cricket player because we just don’t do that in our neck of the woods.

Bug likes math and she’s good at it. Heck—Bug just likes school in general, and is good at it.

She likes hiking and camping and fishing and hunting.

And she’s stubborn and bloody-minded. And she’s a fighter. And she fights like a girl. And girls fight to win. And when she says she’s gonna do something, she does it! And she says she’s gonna beat this. And I have no doubt in my mind that she will.

Go Team Buggie! We all love ya lots and lots. xx

Friday eve

Friday eve is here and I’m celebrating with a cold bottle of Pyramid Brewery’s Haywire Hefeweizen and a bowl of pretzels.

It’s strange because, if you didn’t know, I’ve been teetotal since the end of January. Not because I have a drinking problem and should be teetotal, but rather because I’ve been very stressed lately and that stress has made me unhappy. Added to that, I’ve not been sleeping well. And let’s face it: booze + stress + sadness + insomnia does not equal a good idea!

Also, I try to stay away from salty snacks. Having kidney disease means that I need to maintain my blood pressure and salt is not a friend of low blood pressure. (Then again, neither is excessive amounts of alcohol!) And as pretzels are extremely high sodium—even compared to potato chips—they are a rare treat indeed!

So why am I lapping up the beer and salt tonight? Well, because I’ve had a pretty good week that has seen some of my stress [temporarily] melt away. And it’s because for two weeks now, my blood pressure has been around 115/75 which is pretty gosh-darn-good for a woman in her [late?] 30s with kidney disease.

Oh, and I guess I’m also having a mini celebration because I had my dental cleaning and check up today and am cavity free. Not bad for a candy addict, huh?

So—Yay for Friday eve!

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

A year of Just Frances

It’s been a year since I started Just Frances. Whilst it’s certainly not my first blog, it is unique in that I’ve actually put my name and face to it!*

In the past year, there have been: 5,897 unique visitors (based on IP addresses; not including bots and the like); 527 search terms used to find these pages; 806 approved comments; 1,092 comments caught by my awesome spam blocker; and a whopping 315 stories posted.

In the past year, I’ve shared some of my poetry and drawings with you; I’ve shared my happiness; and I’ve shared my sorrows. I’ve uploaded several YouTube videos to speak directly to my awesome readers and I’ve shared photos of my adventures.

This blog has been a tremendous help to me as I grieve for Paul and the future we once dreamt of, and as I contemplate a new future that is now in the works. If you don’t write for public consumption, you may not understand the therapeutic value that blogging brings, but I promise you it is a true therapy for me.

But whilst this blog serves as a form of therapy for me, I also want it to be something of value for my readers. To that, please feel free to participate! You are always welcome to comment on my posts, but you can also ask questions or suggest things you’d like me to write about. Want more video uploads? More photos? More drawings? Please feel free to let me know! I even have a handy-dandy comment form (look for the tab at the top of the page) if you want to contact me privately!

And there you have it. A year of Just Frances.

So thank you, Dear Reader, for your support and encouragement over the past year! Just knowing you’re out there reading the nonsense I’m posting makes me smile and gives me the strength to continue. You’re awesome!

* RyanCentric was the first website I put my name and face to, but it was more website than blog so I’m not counting it for the purpose of the aforesaid statement.

Working out and working through

Since my foster daughter had a social engagement this afternoon, I took advantage of the kid-less time to get some miles in on the gym’s treadmill. And I realised just how much I needed not only the workout, but the time to work through some thoughts.

As many runners will tell you, there is something cathartic about pounding the pavement—or in my case, the treadmill’s conveyor belt. So whilst my body was thriving on the adrenaline and endorphins during my five-mile run, my mind was getting a workout of its own.

First, the work out breakdown:
I put 70 minutes in on the treadmill (10 of those were cool-down minutes) today. It was a run-walk combination, though I did run more than walk. In the end, I put in 5.25 miles. With the exception of a short burst of speed at the end (and three walk breaks) I kept a steady running pace of a 12-minute mile. This is slower than my ideal 5K race pace, but I am going for endurance at the moment so will be keeping a slow pace for a while. And I felt good throughout the work out, which is awesome!

Now for the work through part of the story:
I tried to keep my mind focused on my running and breathing as much as possible, but by mile two my mind was completely immersed in a thought pattern that I couldn’t ignore, which is actually a good thing, because I was able to work through the thoughts.

You see, I’ve been beating myself up in recent months over a couple of my personal relationships. In a nut shell, I have allowed relationships to continue even though they ultimately make me feel bad about myself. The old Frances never would have put up with it, but I guess that I’ve been so hopeful that these relationships would flourish that I’ve let my standards slide.

It’s hard, because the friends in question aren’t necessarily bad friends, they’re just unable (or unwilling) to be what I want or need. They have priorities that don’t include me: Spouses, children, jobs, families, and closer friends. And that means that my needs are often placed at the end of their lists. (Which is OK—we all have to triage our lives!)

There’ve been cancelled plans, un-returned phone calls and emails, broken promises, and (in some cases) flagrant disregard of feelings. And I’ve accepted those things because I know that these friends have other priorities and I don’t want to be a burden.

So, I worked through what I want from each of these relationships and what I am getting from them now. And I’ve decided that at least one needs to go immediately, another may end up gone soon, and the other needs a lot more thought—because I really don’t want to lose that one.

I know I sound harsh, but in all three cases I’ve tried to be open with communication and I’ve made myself available to them around the clock. But I feel neglected over and over again, and it makes me feel like a burden. The majority of our communications are initiated by me, which makes me feel that I am being tolerated rather than wanted. And it really hurts.

By mile four I’d resolved to act on these broken relationships. But I also began to think about the positive new relationships in my life. You see, since Paul died I have gained new friends and re-found old ones. I am excited about the direction that some of my new friendships are going because I feel so happy and secure in them; I feel wanted and needed in them. And I’m thrilled to have found renewed friendships with people I know from school—though our communications are mostly electronic now, I feel loved and wanted and cared for by them. In all cases with these new and renewed friendships, I know that they would be there to support me when I need them without me feeling like a burden. (And I will be there for them.)

[I accept that relationships are a two-way street and that I am not an innocent bystander in the breakdown of friendships. I also don’t think that dissolving friendships is a bad thing—you know, ebbs and flows and all that. Also, I don’t believe that they read my blog, so I’m not posting this as some passive-aggressive message. I promise!]

OK, I know that this may seem like a negative post, but it’s not really negative in my mind. You see, I decided that 2011 was going to be a year of taking care of my needs: my emotional needs, my mental needs, and my physical needs. Part of that means that I need to address things that are burdens in my life. Sadly, that means that I need to get rid of things that upset me. But it also means that I am focusing more on the things that make me happy. And ultimately, these steps will help me to find peace in my world.

Just two minutes

I used to be able to sit in complete silence and just be at peace with myself. I used to be able to curl up with a book and focus on only the story I was reading. I used to be able to listen to music and not think of anything other than the sounds coming from the speakers.

But when Paul died, I found that I was no longer at peace with myself, nor could I focus on a single task. I needed constant stimulation to get through the day: TV, music, Facebook, real books—you name it. And often, I had them all on the go at once. It was the only way to stave off the sadness and tears long enough to get me from one hour to the next.

And now, I’ve found that I don’t need constant stimulation to hide from my grief anymore—I need it because it’s become a part of my routine. I no longer know how to function without a constant stream of noise and distraction.

Which is why one of my goals for the new year is to focus my mind. I’m working on the art of single-tasking. This means that when I take my shower, I am only thinking about my shower—not planning my day. When I’m driving down the road, I am only thinking about the feel of the wheel, the curve of the road, the pressure of my foot on the gas pedal—not rehashing a conversation in my head.

Sound easy? It’s not. I fail at single-tasking all the time. But I’m getting better.

Well, I say I’m getting better but I can’t manage to do nothing for two minutes. And that frustrates me.

But I’m not one to give up. So once I post this, I’m going to turn off all the noise in the house then I’m going to sign out of my email and Facebook accounts, and then I’m going to attempt at doing nothing for two minutes. And once I succeed at that, I’m going to shut down the computer (without re-checking emails or Facebook) and I’m going to go to bed—where I plan to single-task my way to a peaceful night’s sleep.*

How about you? Do you think that you can manage to do nothing for two minutes?

* On-going insomnia will likely prevent me from that task, but I am going to try. Another goal for the year is to finally start sleeping through the night again. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve had a full night’s sleep, and my soul could really use the rest!

Food woes

I’ve been noticing in recent weeks that I’m not eating enough and I need to work on that.

Before Paul died my diet and exercise routine was fantastic. I mean, I ate my share of junk food, but 95% of my diet was comprised of healthy, whole foods that were low in sodium and fat. Almost nothing came from a box or a can.

After Paul died I pretty much stopped eating. When I finally got around to feeding myself it was rubbish junk food—canned soups and raviolis, TV dinners, and salty snacks. I couldn’t be bothered to cook. Eventually I found myself back in the kitchen cooking mostly OK foods a couple of times a week. Then when I took a foster care placement in August, it forced me to start cooking even more and I tried to cook on the healthy end of the spectrum. But I never got back to eating the way I did before Paul died.

Then sometime in October I started to feel the stress of life and noticed I was eating less and less. And it’s not gotten better. On the nights that my foster daughter visits her Mom, I don’t eat at all. On the nights we’re home together for dinner, I’m eating extremely small portions or not at all. At lunch in the office, I’m picking at this and that, or when I go and get a meal, I’m only eating half of it. And breakfast? Well, that seems to have been forgotten about again.

I don’t have body issues; I don’t think I need to lose weight. And at this point, I’m not underweight. But I am certainly under eating and if it continues I will be at risk of being underweight.

But even though I know that I am not consuming enough calories (and when I do, they’re not the healthiest calories!) I still want to exercise. I still want to run. I still want to be active.

I know that some of my eating is that I can’t eat when I’m upset, stressed, or sad. When these emotions get to me, just the thought of eating makes my tummy upset.

But some of it is that I’m just too lazy to leave my office to get lunch, and I’ve gotten out of the routine of bringing breakfast and lunch to the office with me. And once I’ve gone nearly all day without eating, I am too hungry to know what I want to eat when I get home.

Now that I’ve acknowledge it, I need to fix it. I am aware that it’s a problem and I don’t want it to become a larger problem.

To start, I am going to begin a food journal and will include my mood and stress level in the journal. I think that seeing it written down will help me to know where my problem points are.

I’m also going to do what I don’t really want to do, but think I need to for a while: I’m going to get some store-bought granola bars and frozen meals to keep in the office kitchen. That way, when my reason for not eating is that I’m too lazy to wander over to the union building to get lunch, at least I can eat something.

Of course, I also know that I need to work on lessening the stress and sadness in my life so that I actually care about food again. And I’m working on that; though it seems slow-going at times. I also know that, ultimately, I need to get back to the eating habits I had before Paul died because I was at my healthiest then and I know it had a lot to do with my diet. (Of course, it also had a lot to do with the health benefits that come from a joyful and happy marriage, but I can’t get that back, so will just concentrate on the food part.)

I’d rather not be yelled at about how I really should start eating because, as you can see, I know that and I am now trying to fix it. But I’d love to hear some ideas of how to get my eating back on track. I’m open to hearing your suggestions for quick-and-easy ways to get three meals a day, even when I’m too upset or stressed to eat.

Thoughts or ideas to share?

The art of rest

I am nearing the end of my second full day of proper rest. It’s really hard because I can’t allow myself to do even one simple task because that will lead me to another and another and another. Giving me a task is kind of like giving a mouse a cookie.

But whilst yesterday was a complete sit around day, causing me complete boredom, at least today I managed to mix it up a bit by soaking in the tub and creating a new online photo gallery for my drawings. (Yay!)

And I drew a new picture for the gallery, too. (Double Yay!!)

I know it’s not the best picture of a tree (could you tell it was a tree?) but it has actually inspired me to draw a detailed tree that will incorporate a poem I’m composing in my head.

One more day of total rest then I’m going to the office. I know work isn’t really rest, but it’s an office job so I’m going to cheat. It’s that or go completely bonkers. And being half bonkers is bad enough. I’m not quite ready for full-on insanity!

The life of tiny platelets

A low platelet count means I’m on rest orders from the doctor. My foster daughter is spending the night at a friend’s house. I’m too cheap to pay for cable so I’m watching The Godfather for the gazillionth time. Which means I’m a bit bored silly at the moment.

I’m also totally obsessed with my blood disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, right now. Which seems to happen any time my counts are lower than 50. (Normal is 150-400; mine are generally around 60-80.)

So, to entertain myself I searched ‘platelets’ in YouTube. And I found a series of three really corny animated videos that I thought I’d share with you.

Apologies about going on and on about platelets. I promise to knock it off as soon as mine get back to ‘my’ idea of normal. (Soon, I hope!) In the mean time, you can bore yourself and your children with lessons in human clot creation! (Yay!)

Ten

Following up on yesterday’s spotty confession, I had a blood test today and had a platelet count of 10.* This means that I am officially on rest orders.

It also means that I am officially sad. I mean, I’m used to my counts being low, but 10 is lower than low. Ten is a dangerously low number that reminds me of the constant risk I face since I don’t always know what my counts are from one day to the next. Ten is a number that reminds me that no matter how well I feel, my body is constantly fighting a war with itself.

In the old days Paul and I would have commiserated together. Just as we would have celebrated a count of 80+. (A normal count is 150-400.) It’s not that I want to throw myself a pity party or anything, but sometimes it feels good to rant and cry and complain about it to someone who sort of understands.

Oh well. I guess I’ll just think about the good things about having a dangerously low platelet count:

  • It’s a great excuse to make my guests do all the work when I have a house full of people over for Burns’ Supper in a week’s time
  • It’s a great excuse for not beating my 11-year-old nephews in the Freeze Your Fanny 5K (because you know I’d kick their fannies otherwise!)
  • It’s a great excuse to sit on the couch eating junk food for the up-coming three-day weekend (that’s following rest orders, right?)

And, of course, because there were so few platelets I was able to draw a picture of them for you. I stopped short of naming them, but please feel free to offer name suggestions if you feel so inclined.

* Counts are actually in the 1,000s so a count of 10 = 10,000, meaning the normal range is 150,000 – 400,000.

Seeing spots

Somewhere in the midst of this cold I was hit with chills and pains. My whole body ached. My head was pounding. And I had an 11-year-old foster daughter to take care of so I couldn’t do what I’d normally do, which is to go to bed and stay there.

But I couldn’t function with the pain so I took an extra-strength Tylenol. In fact, I took an extra-strength Tylenol a couple of times; just one at a time, even though the dose is two. Yes; I’m a light weight. But it really did help the pain.

Of course, what I feared might happen happened: The dreaded petechiae.

You see, I have an annoying little ‘blood disease’* called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Which basically means that my body is on self-destruct mode on two levels: 1) My bone marrow doesn’t adequately produce platelets and 2) my immune system thinks that platelets are evil and kills them. (Yay! It’s like my own internal civil war!)

When I’m sick, my immune system goes into overdrive and my platelet counts generally drop even lower than they normally are. But the petechiae don’t show up until my counts are ‘really’ low.

And guess what? Some medications—yes, even ones as ‘harmless’ as Tylenol—can lower platelet counts.** But I took the risk the other day because I couldn’t function without it.

When I went to bed last night there were two or three little guys on my right leg. When I woke up this morning there were dozens and dozens and dozens of them on both legs. Thankfully, as I write this post there are only a handful of ‘new guys’ since this morning.

And so, I guess I need to go have my blood work done first thing tomorrow morning. And I guess that I won’t be running full-speed at the Freeze Your Fanny race in a week and a half’s time. (Not that I would have with my poorly coccyx anyhow.) And I guess that I have now shared more about my medical maladies than you may care to know. But now you know. Sorry about that.

Oh! And it seems that today is now the day that I am knocking into coffee tables and doorways. I have watched three small bruises form on my lower extremities today due to my clumsiness (aided, of course, by the low platelet count). I think I’ll just stay put here on the couch until bed time now.

But on the happy side: I returned to work today. I’m not completely over the cold (or the cough!) but I was pleased to feel well enough to make it to the office—even if I did leave two hours early because I was so tired. Yay! for back to work though. Right?

* I used quotations here because whilst it is classified as a disease, I actually hate to call it that because saying you have a blood disease freaks people out.
** DON’T PANIC! Whilst there are dozens and dozens of things that can cause a depletion of platelets, if you have a normal platelet count you will not be adversely affected by a small drop in the numbers.

Common cold

Oh, how I hate being sick. Even worse it when it’s just ‘the common cold’ because there isn’t anything you can do about it—other than hydrate, eat well, and rest. (Sorry, I don’t buy into the chemically-enhanced ‘cures’ on the market today.)

It started on Saturday. It’s now Monday evening. I think I might be just well enough to make it to the office tomorrow. Though I don’t know if I’ll make it through the entire day.

The worst thing, of course, is that there isn’t anyone here to coddle me. And I want to be coddled.

Oh, how I hate being sick…

Common Cold
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I’m not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honoured system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne’er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare’s plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

Coccydynia

Remember how I told you I went cross country skiing last week and didn’t fall once? Well, I wish I had fallen once, because it was the second fall that caused current state of coccydynia.

The first two days after my coccyx injury were spent driving; often on compact snow and ice making for a very bumpy—and sore—journey home from my holidays. The next two days were spent relaxing at home. Still sore, but not as sore as I’d been. And slowly, I began to forget about my injury.

But the problem now is that I am mostly pain free. Which means I forget about my poorly tail. Which means I keep standing up without thinking about it. Which means that I am causing myself more pain.

I’d planned to go for a training run this week to prepare not only for my marathon but for the Freeze Your Fanny 5K. But now, instead of worrying about freezing my fanny, I’m complaining about a pain in it.

Yes, this post is all about the pain in my arse.

And that picture, if you wondered, is me pointing to my fanny the first time I ran the Freeze Your Fanny 5K in 2008.

Home and (partially) de-stressed

Well, I’ve finally made it back home after having a lovely mini break to Canada. My drive home turned into a bit of a longer journey than expected, but it wasn’t a disaster by any means. So, I’ll not bore you with the details of the drive.

If you’ve been reading, you’ll know that I spent a fun day out and about at a local historic park and another fun day bottling wine and cross country skiing. Because it was such a short break, that was pretty much it for activities. But it was still an amazing trip because of the company.

I’ve been struggling a bit the past few months and have been convinced that much of my sadness is a realisation that I am incredibly lonely and that I don’t have friends to just sit around and visit with. And this short visit helped to further convince me of that.

From the moment I arrived I could feel the stress melting. It was just so nice to sit and chat with friends about nothing and everything. It was nice to feel that my presence was wanted and enjoyed; that I wasn’t a burden. In fact, the visit has lifted so much stress from my soul and has helped to give me a little more courage and strength for the great things that are waiting for me on the horizon.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I am so pleased to know that I will have many more opportunities to visit with my friends for years to come. Thank you, Rebecca and Amanda, for letting me join you for part of your family’s holiday celebrations. It’s helped to end my year on a high note!!

And because I know everyone is expecting them, here are some photos to enjoy of my trip. (Yay!)

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A winning day

I arrived in Canada yesterday afternoon to find lots of left-over Christmas turkey and friendly people waiting to greet me. (The turkey gets first mention not because it’s better than the people, but because it seems to be playing a very big part in this little mini holiday of mine.) I also arrived with a feeling of peace and a smile on my face, because I’d been looking forward to this relaxing little break for quite some time!

[Enter story and cast description here: I have travelled to Canada to visit my friend, Rebecca, who has travelled from Scotland to visit her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew who all live in British Columbia. This is my first time meeting my friend’s family ‘in real life’ and they are all absolutely lovely. Now, back to the story at hand.]

It was so great to wake up this morning feeling rested and relaxed—despite the fact that, as always, I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep. The difference being that I didn’t wake up thinking I was having a mild heart attack, as I’ve been doing in recent weeks thanks to stress and anxiety (my new ‘best friends’, apparently).

After a nice sleep in, I enjoyed a nice chatty breakfast before we all headed out to Burnaby Village Museum where the four grown-ups in our group helped the not-quite-grown-up young boy with a 12 Days of Christmas themed scavenger hunt around the little heritage village. We spent a considerable amount of time peeking into the old buildings and admiring not only the interesting old-time displays (look for photos soon!) but also the fantastic architecture.

Once the boy found all 12 items on his list, we went to claim our prize of miniature candy canes. (YUM! I do love candy canes.) Then we got to ride on the vintage 1912 carousel, which made all of us smile like little children—including the child.

And, upon returning to the house, we got to feast on more left-over turkey.

So, it’s been a winning day all around: Successful scavenger hunt = WIN. Good food = WIN. Good sleep = WIN. Good laughs = WIN. Good friends = SUPER WIN. (Oh, and not feeling stressed and anxious about life all day was certainly a bonus WIN!)

My only disappointment was that it was a miniature candy cane. Oh well, you can’t have it all!!

(Up for tomorrow: Bottling wine, cross country skiing, and MORE TURKEY.)

Culinary apathy

As part of my marathon training, I need to get back into the habit of eating healthy foods. You know—whole foods, low sodium foods, unprocessed foods. Boring foods.

In fairness, not all healthy food is boring. But sometimes it seems like it is.

Case in point: All week long I’ve had brown rice and vegetables for lunch. Sometimes they were fresh, crisp, raw veggie sticks, other times they were left-over veggies from the night before. It tastes nice, but it’s not as lovely as deep-fried junk food!

Oh well. At least I’m out of brown rice now so will have to have something less boring for tomorrow’s lunch. Something nice and greasy for a Friday afternoon. Yes, that sounds nice.

Plus, one of the best ways to stay on track with healthy eating is to allow yourself treats every now and then. So, really, a Friday junk food fix will help with my healthy eating goals! (Right?)

I’m goin’ for it!

I’m a runner. I have been since school when I ran on the cross country team. I enjoy running. Really, I do. But I never wanted to run a marathon. I thought maybe I’d do a half-marathon at some point, but 26.2 miles? I don’t think so.

Shortly after we got married, I convinced Paul to join my gym. I asked him to try it for one month. After the end of week one, I figured he’d drop at the end of the month. But then he found the treadmills. And he started to go to the gym with excitement!

Within a few months, we purchased a really good treadmill and ended the gym memberships. His goal at that time was to run a 5K. And he did it. Then I mentioned the Bloomsday 12K and he shook his head ‘No!’ but within a few weeks, we were registered for that race, too. But he would never run a marathon, he said—not even a half-marathon.

But a year later, he ran his first half-marathon. And all of the sudden, he decided that he would run a marathon before he turned 50. But he couldn’t wait that long, so a year after that first half-marathon, he was meant to run his first marathon. But he died a month before the race at the age of 47.

I remember thinking at the time that I would run the race in his memory. But I was in the throes of grief and there was no way I could walk one mile—let alone run more than 26! A year later, I still wasn’t ready.

But now I am. Or at least, I think I am. Mentally, mind you. Certainly not physically!

Yes, I am planning to run the Loch Ness Marathon on Sunday, October 2, 2011, in Inverness, Scotland. And I’ve got a couple of friends talked into running it with me. And I hope to talk more people into running with me, too.

Now, I say that I’m going to run it but I have to be completely honest with you and myself and say that, medically, I don’t know if I can. I have a hard time maintaining my platelet counts when I’m running 5Ks and 10Ks, I don’t know that my body will like me running a marathon—or even that it will like me training for one.

So, I guess that I’m planning on doing a marathon. Run, walk, crawl… one way or another, I want to complete a marathon before what would have been Paul’s 50th birthday.

Yes folks, I’m insane. Feel free to join me along the route—running or cheering from the sidelines!

Food foibles

So I think I’m a mild food hoarder. Or that I have some weird food obsessions. Or both. I’ve known it for years but mostly lived alone as an adult which made it easier to deal with.

When I [finally] settled down and got married, I found that I had to work to overcome some of my food foibles. Well, actually I didn’t have to overcome them—Paul accepted them and just played my little games.

(All the while, Paul would point out how crazy I was being and remind me that we can just buy/make more of whatever food I wanted.)

Basically, my deal is that I will panic if I think that I’m not getting my fair share—or more. A normal meal of normal food won’t trigger panic, nor will going out to a traditional restaurant where I order my own meal. No, panic situations for me are buffets, pot lucks, and parties with hors d’oeuvres; shared foods like pizza, chips, and buckets of popcorn; and divided foods like a slice of cake or pie.

I really do panic if I think there won’t be enough of something for me. To solve the problem of panic, Paul would always give me the bigger half of whatever we were splitting and we’d have separate containers of popcorn. Now, almost always I would eat what I wanted then give the rest to Paul—meaning he still got more—but if he got the bigger piece to start with I would have felt panicked.

I hoard food, too. Not proper food, but junk food. I have candy and junk food stashes everywhere: In the kitchen and living rooms at home; in my office; in my car; and even in my handbag. As long as my supplies are well-stocked, I’m OK. But when they start to dwindle I really do panic. I’m afraid that I’ll never get another Love Heart again. I worry that I may want pretzels and not have access to them. But if they are there and available to me, I won’t necessarily eat them. No, just the knowledge that they are there and that I can have them any time I want is enough to give me peace of mind.

I will fantasize for days if I know that there is a food event coming up. I salivate as I wonder what great nibbles will be at a holiday party. When going to the movies, I think for hours about my snack choices before the movie–and I’ve been known to watch a movie I’m not too keen on seeing just because I want the popcorn. I get really excited when I get to go for fish-n-chips–and even more excited when I know I’m going to a sweets shops. It’s bad. Really, really bad.

I realized that I had a problem when Paul and I went through our adoption training a few years ago. Apparently, food hoarding and other issues are very common in children in the foster care system and is often directly related to neglect and the instability of a food supply at some time in their lives.

I was never starved as a child—despite my insistence ½ hour before dinner that I was dying of hunger and really needed a snack. I was well-fed and never worried that a meal wouldn’t happen. BUT, there was a fight for food growing up in that the ‘best’ foods were gone fast. Everyone got a first helping of everything on the table, but with eight people around the dinner table, sometimes there wasn’t enough for a second helping of the favourite foods for everyone. Which to a kid is complete abuse!

Also, we rarely got desserts and snacks and candy. So when we did, we made the most of it. Looking back I know that we were raised with an extremely good, balanced, and nutritious menu. But I can also see how my food obsessions may have started.

I must have snacky foods available at all times now. When I fly to the UK I have a special check list of snack foods to take with me (sweet and savoury, chewy and crunchy) even though they’ll feed me on the plane. In fact—I almost never eat the food that I take with me, but the one time I didn’t take it I was a bit freaked out over it, so Paul insisted that I pack food no matter where we were going and how long we’d be gone.

A tip to friends and family: Always offer me the last chip. I will most likely decline, but being asked will make me feel secure. Also, be prepared to have separate buckets of popcorn if we go to the movies. And don’t ask for some of my candy, but don’t be surprised if I want some of yours. In fact, I will probably pick a candy that I know you hate just to be safe.

Yes, you knew I was weird and a little lot obsessive-compulsive, but I bet you didn’t know that I was completely off my rocker when it came to food!

Sicky

The day started out OK. I was a bit tired and run-down feeling, but it’s Monday and it was a pretty busy weekend so it wasn’t too surprising to be a bit blah feeling. What was surprising is that a few minutes into an 11 o’clock meeting I started to feel lightheaded and dizzy. My arms and legs felt a bit weak and tingly and I could feel this fuzzy haze coming over me. I went from freezing cold to boiling hot in a matter of moments. And things seemed to be getting dark.

Then I was fine.

Then it started again.

I excused myself from the meeting out of fear that I would pass out and was immediately followed out by another woman who didn’t think that my Casper-complexion was right. So it was off to the doctor’s office for me.

And then it was home for me. Which was a carry-on because I live nearly 30 miles outside of town in the middle of BFE with no public transport which meant that someone had to drive me home—and someone else had to follow to get my driver back to town. My driver and my driver’s driver brought me in, made me soup, got me situated then left me to sleep under a cuddly blanket on the couch with the cat (after, of course, I cranked the heat and put on my PJs).

Of course, the kid needed to get home, too. But thankfully my neighbour from over the road works in town and was able to pick up the kid on my behalf.

By the time the kid arrived home I was awake again and had just enough energy to make her favourite dinner—homemade split pea soup from the freezer. And thankfully at 11-years-old, she’s old enough to understand that I’m feeling a bit blah and could sort herself out for a shower. (She must be a bit beat, too, because she went straight to bed when told to do so!)

I have to admit that it’s all made me miss Paul so very much because if he was here he’d have come to town and picked me up and taken care of me and fussed all over me and called me a ‘poor wee scone’ and he’d have cooked for me and put me to bed and then in the morning he’d have fussed over me some more. (How’s that for a run-on sentence!?) But, it’s nice to know that between my co-workers and my neighbours there are people to take care of me if I get sick. Which isn’t quite the same as having Paul here, but it’s something at least.

Anyhow, I’m feeling a bit weak still but am hoping that a night’s sleep will help. In the mean time, I’ve been given a ‘just in case’ dose of antibiotics and will wait for blood tests to be back tomorrow. I’m sure it’s nothing serious, but I’d sure like to be back to my brand of normal soon!

Coronation candy

Today I had a permanent crown placed on a poorly tooth that’s been bothering me since early May. So, in honour of my coronation, I thought I would share a guilty little secret about what’s in my stash drawer. (Well, I say secret, but I’m sure everyone knows that I have a soft spot for candy.)

So, here are the contents of my favourite drawer:

  • 11 packs of Love Hears
  • 6 rolls of Refreshers
  • 1 large box of Sweethearts
  • 1 small box of Conversation Hearts
  • 20 Refresher lollies
  • 3 Double Lollies
  • 3 Drumstick lollies
  • 4 Tootsie Roll Pops
  • 1 large Sugar Daddy
  • 1 Ring Pop
  • 1 pack of Giant Chewy Sweet Tarts
  • A 1-pound bag of Jelly Bellies
  • 2 packs of Starbursts
  • 3 regular candy canes
  • 1 jumbo candy cane
  • 8 small packs of Parma Violets
  • 2 large tubes of Smarties
  • 6 Crunchy bars
  • 2 packs of Bubblicious gum
  • 2 tins of Altoid mints
  • ½ pack of Twizzlers
  • 2 322.5g bags of Bassett’s Allsorts
  • 1 250g bag of Murray Mints
  • 1 small pack of Murray Mints
  • 3 sticks of rock candy
  • 1 200g bag of mini Wham bars
  • 1 210g bag of Swizzels Matlow Sweets (which means more Love Hearts!)
  • 10 Tootsie Rolls
  • And a few random bits-and-bobs

Oh, and in addition to the candy drawer, I have a crystal candy dish filled with Murray Mints and Life Savers. There are also a few lollypops in my handbag. Then there’s the supply in the glove box of the car. And don’t forget my stash of Love Hearts and Refreshers in my office desk. And like any other hoarder, I’m sure there are stashes of sweets I’ve forgotten about. Or that I’m too embarrassed to acknowledge publically.

Yeah, it’s a shocker that I’m not sporting a full set of dentures, huh?

10 on 10-10-10

WooHoo! Today is 10-10-10 and I’ve just run a 10K. Yay!

This makes me happy because:

I must admit that we were a bit slow because neither of us put in the training required for such a race. I could blame it on the fact that I can’t get out there and run because of my foster daughter, but that’s just an excuse. I could claim that I’ve been too stressed for training, but we all know that training would have brought about those lovely en‘Dolphins’ which would have helped to alleviate some of the stress, so that’s a rubbish excuse, too.

Still, I’ve managed a 10K on 10-10-10 which is more than most people I know have done today. So I’m going to take my accomplishment and be happy for it. And as I reminded Haden, no matter how slow we may have been, at least we did it!

Official times aren’t up yet, but we both finished in under 1:20 which was our goal. Haden was about 1:16:16 and I was about 1:16:21.

Yay! for me and Yay! for my nephew!

Check out more of my races here!

The cure

As a kid, I remember Grandpa Eberle talking about the best way to get rid of a cold: A shot (or two?) of Brandy, a hot shower, and a warm bed. I think even then I realized that he was basically saying: “If you have a couple of drinks then take a hot shower, you’ll pass out. By the time you wake up, your body will have fought the cold.”

As a grown-up, I always relied on the family recipe for help because “cough syrup” really does help. Any time I was sick, Paul would hand me a small glass of the stuff. The heavy liquor would coat my throat, easing the pain, whilst the booze would help me sleep.

Sadly, today was a sick day for me. No work; just rest. (Well, I did check emails from time-to-time, but was really too tired to do much.) Of course, I didn’t have any cough syrup and with the kid around I didn’t think it was wise to medicate at noon anyhow!

But she’s in bed now. And as I was still in need of medicine, I’ve mixed a lovely dirty Martini. A strong one. So now I’m going to turn off the computer, drink my medicine, and read my trashy novel until the booze takes effect and I fall asleep snuggled under my lovely winter duvet (15 tog!) that I’ve just pulled out of storage.

Who needs a doctor when you’ve got such amazing home remedies?!

Taking back lunch

I’ve been skipping lunch for years. Well, that’s strictly not true. I’ve been eating lunch (most days) but I eat at my desk whilst working. I don’t actually leave my office.

But that’s going to change! Yes, I am taking back my lunch hour!

From here on out, I will get up from my desk and leave the office for a lunch break several times a week. I’d like to declare that I’ll do this every day, but sometimes I really just can’t. So instead I am going to vow to take lunch away from my desk three or more days a week and that I will take at least a half hour for my break—though ideally I will take my full hour.

I don’t know what I’ll do for my breaks. Maybe I’ll eat lunch out.

Maybe I’ll sit and read a book in a little coffee shop.

Maybe I’ll sketch something-or-other in my handy-dandy little sketch book.

Maybe I’ll go to the gym for some light weight-lifting.

Maybe I’ll go for a brisk walk around campus.

Or maybe I’ll just sit somewhere quiet and do nothing.

I suppose it won’t matter what I do, as long as I’m not doing work.

I’ve decided that this will revitalize me for the afternoons, making me more productive for the last half of my work day. And I’ve decided that it will make me realize that my time is valuable and precious and that I shouldn’t just give away my lunch hours. And I’ve decided that I deserve it. Because I do.

I’ve decided that it is imperative for my health because, let’s face it, being overworked and overstressed is bad for your blood pressure and bad for your mental and physical being. And I’ve decided that this will help me reach my goal of being blissfully happy; which is a very, very important life goal so it shouldn’t be neglected.

Feeling inspired? Maybe you should take back your lunch hour, too*!

I’d love to hear suggestions for how to spend my time, or comments on how you’ll get your time back.

Happy lunching!

[NOTE: Today’s lunch break includes posting this from my way-awesome gadget phone whilst sitting in a comfy chair at a little coffee shop drinking mint tea and eating a (probably high sodium) sourdough pretzel. Yay for me!]

* Run the term “take back lunch hour” in your preferred search engine and you’ll see that it’s not just me doing this. It seems that there’s an international movement afoot! Yay for lunch hours!

The rising cost of teeth

We were sitting at the table eating dinner when out of the blue the kid asked what would happen if she lost a tooth when she was at my house. She was concerned that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t know how to find her. I explained that, as part of the process with her social worker, the Tooth Fairy was informed of her change of address – as were the Easter Bunny, Santa, et cetera.

This prompted a question to the kid about how much the Tooth Fairy leaves her. The kid quickly explained that she would always leave her tooth under her pillow and when she woke in the morning there was $5 or $10 in place of the tooth.

$5 or $10 for a tooth?! You’ve got to be kidding me!

All of the sudden I found myself telling the kid that, in this volatile global economic environment, the Tooth Fairy was likely to start paying less for teeth; after all, the market wouldn’t be able to bear the higher cost of teeth for long. (The fact that the kid pointed out not one but four loose teeth made this statement even more vital.)

I also had to inform the kid that because we lived in an extremely rural area off the main roads, we needed to make it easier for the Tooth Fairy to get in and out of the house quickly. So, any lost teeth would need to be placed in a glass of water on the dining room table for the fairy to find*. That way, the Tooth Fairy can come in, grab the tooth, leave some money and skedaddle. Having to sneak in and carefully remove the tooth from under a pillow is very time-consuming, you know.

When I was a kid we got a quarter. Yep, two-bits, that was it; maybe more on a rare occasion that I’ve forgotten about. Of course, when I was a kid a Jolly Rancher stick was only 10¢ and a candy bar was about a quarter. I haven’t seen Jolly Rancher sticks in ages (do they still make them?) and candy bars are nearly a buck these days. So, I can see how a tooth would also claim a higher price tag.

But how much is a tooth worth?

A quick search online gave answers ranging from a letter telling the kid how proud the Tooth Fairy was that the tooth was in such great condition (lame!) to $20 or a video game (outrageous!). So, I did what people do in this age of social media: I asked my friends on Facebook.

Luckily, it seems that most of the responses I got were within a $2 to $5 range – leaning more heavily toward $2.

Anyhow, that first conversation with the kid was about four weeks ago – and she finally lost the tooth the other day whilst I was in England. She told the family she was staying with that she would take the tooth back with her because she’d rather the Tooth Fairy come to my house. (How sweet.)

So, when we got up this morning the kid went to see what the Tooth Fairy left. And wouldn’t you know it? $2 was at the bottom of the glass ($1 in quarters and a Sacajawea dollar). There was also a ‘scratch and sniff’ tooth brush and a pack of fun flossers left behind. I guess that might have been a hint to the kid…

Now, about the rest of those loose teeth. Guess I’ll have to make sure the Tooth Fairy is prepared for them, too!

* I don’t know why, but we always left our teeth in a glass of water. Some kids left their teeth under their pillows. Others just on the kitchen table. Feel free to tell me how things go down in your home!

And the winner is…

WooHoo! Thank you to everyone who entered* for a chance to win FREE COFFEE! For that matter, thank you to all of my readers. Your support of my ego-driven ramblings means more to me than you may know!

And congratulations to Mark, who has won a $25 gift card to Starbucks!

Here’s a ridiculously silly little video of me doing the drawing. Feel free to laugh at me. I did when I saw it. (Funny, in my mind I look and sound very different. I think there must be something wrong with my webcam…)

Well, I suppose I should answer my own questions now, so here goes: 

1) What’s your coffee order and why?
Tall drip – preferably French roast but any darker, full-bodied roast will do. Strong; no milk; no sugar. Why? There was a time when I drank lattes, but I think I did it out of social necessity – after all, my friends drank lattes so I should, too. I’d order a double tall, non-fat latte but then I wouldn’t drink the whole thing because it was too milky. I was essentially throwing my money away. It just made sense to switch to drip since I knew I’d actually drink it that way. 

2) What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever witnessed when at the coffee shop?
It was at a Costa Coffee when I was living in Scotland and everyone in the shop was snickering when we saw it. Two elderly ladies were walking toward the counter; a bit slowly, but it was obviously their turn to order next. This young man dressed in his best chavy Burberry get-up pushed past them and mumbled his order in a way that only a chav can do. The ladies were extremely unhappy to have been cut off so one whacked him on his shoulder with her handbag a couple of times whilst the other berated him for his poor behavior, wagging her finger the whole time. The kid looked shocked and embarrassed and swiftly left the shop. It was great! 

3) What’s your favorite ‘random acts of kindness’ story?
Years ago when I was first diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that meant a low platelet count, I was told that I could still donate blood if my platelet counts were in the ‘normal’ range for at least three months. So when the condition went into remission I excitedly went to the local blood drive – dragging a friend with me, even though she wasn’t going to donate as she was not too keen on needles. When I was told by the Red Cross nurse that, actually, I would never be able to donate blood again because I’m a ‘bleeder’, I was visibly upset. I think I may have even cried.

My friend, the one who was extremely dramatic about her dislike of needles, instantly said “I’ll give blood since you can’t.” She knew that taking over my dedication to blood donation was the best way to console me. It was an act of impulse, but also of kindness. And each time there was a blood drawing in town, she was there giving blood in my stead. And when she was asked if she was interested in being placed on the national bone marrow registry, she said yes without batting an eye. And, eventually, she became a living organ donor. Whilst the last part wasn’t so random, the blood donor part certainly was!

Thanks again for coming out to play! Have an awesome day!

* For reasons not-yet discovered, the back-end system used for Just Frances deleted rather than approved all comments made by first-time posters (on all stories) over a period of about 48 hours, though I did get the email notifications. This means that if you commented, I got it – I will work to manually enter them over the weekend so that everyone can see them. And I’ve emailed all of those people to let them know I know they’ve commented. The system is now up-and-running so any new comments WILL appear on the board. Technology, for all of it’s amazing awesomeness, sucks some times!

The gift of life

My aunt received a new(ish) kidney today, courtesy of a very dear friend of the family. (We’ve always said that Jeanne was part of the family – and now she really and truly is!) My aunt was the third family member to receive a kidney transplant. The first was my uncle, who received a kidney from another uncle in March 2002. The second was my mom, who received a kidney from a ‘cadaver donor’ in September 2006. In all three cases, the new kidney means a new lease on life – a chance to live free of dialysis.

But why all the transplants? Because my family has been affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease – one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases. It affects approximately 1 in every 500 people. It does not skip a generation and parents with the disease have a 50 percent chance of passing the disease on to each of their children.

Over time, the number and size of the cysts will increase, along with the size of the kidneys. Whilst a normal, healthy kidney is the size of a fist, a PKD-riddled kidney can grow to the size of a football, weighing several pounds.

There is no cure. But with proper diet, exercise, and care (including the ever-important issue of keeping blood pressure low) the progression of the disease can be slowed. Ultimately, someone with PKD will need dialysis and/or a transplant at some point.

Four of my parents’ six daughters have the condition – including me. And the next generation of my family is also affected by it. And the odds are that the one after that will be affected, too.

I won’t get on my soapbox about organ donation, because if you know me, you already know my views. But I encourage you to learn as much about organ, tissue, and blood donation as you can and make an informed decision as to if it is right for you. And be certain to let your next-of-kin know your wishes, because they will ultimately make the decision for you should you die.

For more information on becoming a donor please visit the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation service in the USA or the NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK.

But, back to my aunt and the amazing Jeanne. The entire family is so pleased that such a wonderful woman has done such a wonderful thing. I know that my teenaged cousins are pleased to know that their mom will be up and running around with the vigor and excitement she once had. I know my mom will be pleased to have her sister around for years to come. And I know that everyone will always know that a woman who didn’t have to sacrifice so much did – with nothing to gain other than the knowledge that she’s given the gift of life.

Thank you, Jeanne. We all love you more than you may ever know!

And a thank you to the transplant team at the University of Washington Medical Center. I know I’m a Coug fan, but today, I’m shouting GO DAWGS!

To train and listen

I am one of those people who pushes herself a little (a lot?) too hard when there’s a goal to be met. But I’m trying to listen to my body a little more so that I don’t push to the point of illness or injury.

My 11-year-old nephew and I are currently training for a 10K race on 10/10/10 and decided to use today as a chance to get a run in on the Bill Chipman Trail. The four-mile run would be his longest – ever – and the furthest I’ve run in more than a year. Oh, and it was a hot, hot, hot day!

As we got going, I told the kid we’d be taking it slow. He was happy to go along with that plan. As we neared the two-mile marker I was pleased to see that it was actually about a quarter mile closer than I’d remembered, which gave me a bit of a (much needed) energy kick.

But as we neared mile three I could feel myself weakening. I’d not eaten breakfast (bad!) and I’d not had nearly enough water over the past few days (also bad!). Part of my brain said to keep going – after all, it was only another mile – but the other part couldn’t help but remember the dream I’d had the night before where I collapsed and was unable to call out for help.

It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to walk the last mile. And as I walked I reminded myself that I’ve not been training much, I have two ‘major medical’ obstacles to deal with, and I’m no longer the high school cross country star. (What? I’m not a teenager anymore? Oh no!)

I can accept that my nephew will get a better time at the race in October, but I can’t accept that I won’t be able to finish the race. So, I’ve promised myself that I will make a strong effort to eat better, stay hydrated, keep training, and (most importantly) listen to my body!

Yep, time to get ready to run!

Chili cheese dogs

I love food. Expensive food, cheap food, homemade food, and overly-processed food-like substances. The last is a group that I don’t get to enjoy often, partly because having kidney disease means I need to watch my sodium intake and partly because I’m too cheap to buy a lot of processed food. (It really is cheaper, healthier, and quicker to cook from scratch!)

Sometimes I find myself thinking a particular “processed food meal” sounds good but then I realize that it’s not easy to justify when cooking for one. But when an old friend from high school posted on Facebook that he was making chili cheese dogs for dinner for his family, it got me thinking that I really, really wanted one, too.

Sadly, hotdogs are sold in packs of eight, as are hotdog buns. And I’m only going to eat one – maybe two – then I’m stuck with loads of extra dogs and buns. Oh, and the rest of a can of chili con carne, but at least that can be used for a lunch later in the week.

Because of my “eating for one” dilemma, I find myself taking advantage of times when there are people around to share food with. And since my 11-year-old nephew is here with me all week whilst attending a fun and adventuresome week of day camp at the university, I’m taking the opportunity to cook all of those wonderfully-delicious meals that I’ve longed for – and that every growing boy loves!

Tonight’s dinner? Those chili cheese dogs I’ve been thinking about for two weeks!

Tomorrow we’ll have a picnic dinner at the top of Kamiak Butte and Wednesday we’ll have tacos. We’ve not decided what to do for the rest of the week, but you can bet baked tofu, curried cous cous, and arugula with low-fat goats’ cheese won’t be on the menu!

It’s a good thing the kid’s only here for a week or I’d be running the risk of high blood pressure, kidney failure, and extreme weight gain!

SUBS syndrome

This is something I posted on RyanCentric years ago, but as it’s been mentioned by a few “old” friends recently it made me realize that most of my “new” friends won’t know that I suffer from SUBS. Well, they may know, but they don’t realize there’s a name for it. So, I’m re-posting!
———————

I would like to introduce myself as one who suffers from SUBS syndrome. Well, I guess I don’t really suffer from it, but the people around me sure suffer from my affliction at times.

SUBS is a condition first named with the help of my friend more than a decade ago. We’ve had it all our lives; we just never knew what it was. Though our findings are not published, and would likely never be recognized by any professional journals, many people have been self-diagnosed since our first announcement of the condition.

But just what is SUBS?

SUBS: Sudden Uncontrollable Bursts of Sarcasm
SUBS is a generally genetic condition but is often highly contagious. Those who are not affected are often times left in a stunned condition, as they have no clue what is being said around them, nor do they understand the reason for laughter. At times, they may feel as if they are being teased or picked on by SUBS carriers, though that is rarely the case.

At the present time, there is no known cure for SUBS. Some people are able to control their outbreaks when the situation calls for it; some are able to go into remission for hours or even days at a time. But SUBS is one of those things that are simply ingrained in the inter-workings of the mind.

I am a member of the SUBS community with a genetic disposition to the condition. The genetic line runs heavily through my family on both my maternal and paternal sides. As with most cases, SUBS affects every member in my family. Even my young nieces and nephews are showing signs of the condition. There is no getting through a conversation without someone’s SUBS showing through.

Thankfully, most of the people I know suffer from SUBS, as well. In fact, SUBS is how I met Paul while I was living in Scotland. Him being British and all, he never expected that he would meet an American who could understand sarcasm and wit. If only he knew what he was getting himself into!

I am not ashamed of my condition. No, in fact, I am very proud of it. I get the jokes. I get the puns, and I totally get British sitcoms (well, almost). I love a funny little one-line zinger. Even more so when most people around don’t understand what was said.

Don’t be ashamed if you, too, are afflicted with SUBS. Share the laughter! Share the joy! Maybe your little bit of sarcasm will infect someone else. Oh what a happy day it will be when the whole world is dripping with satire, repartee, and irony!

Shaken, not stirred

My love for Martinis developed sometime in the summer of 2008. It was a drink that Paul and I spoke about trying for a long time, but we needed Martini glasses and it took us quite a long time to find ones that we liked. (We ended up with very simple Ikea glasses.) Once we had all of the supplies, we took on the task of mastering the perfect drink. It took a while, and we dumped a fair bit of failed liquid down the drain, but eventually we got there and developed our “RyanCentric” Martini.

A RyanCentric Martini is the perfect blend of vodka or gin with dry vermouth, a drop or two of bitters, and as many olives as you can fit on a cocktail pick. (Maybe a little bowl of olives on the side, too, because you should never drink on an empty stomach.) Oh, and a splash or two of olive brine, because I like it dirty… ::giggle::

I used to love coming home after work and Paul would be there waiting to greet me. He seemed to know if I was having a hard day at the office, because on those days he’d greet with with a kiss and a hug – and a freshly-poured Martini. (Hugs and kisses happened regardless of the quality of my day.)

And every four weeks, when the results of my blood work would come in, he’d be ready with a Martini. If my platelet counts were high, we’d have a celebratory drink. If they were low, we’d commiserate with one of those deliciously-salty drinks. (For those who wonder, my last counts were really really good. Tonight’s Martini is a belated celebration of that fact.)

We used to love being all “la-de-da” with our Martinis!

I remember sitting in the funeral home looking at urns a couple of days after Paul died. I knew I wanted something simple – and certainly not something etched and floraly and ugly (as most funereal things tend to be, apparently). The funeral director showed me a few options – one of which was a plain, silver, traditionally-shaped urn. As I held it in my hands, it dawned on me that it was shaped like a Martini mixer – right down to the top “lid” portion. I had to laugh. And for an ironic moment I considered it. But in the end, I went with the simple boxes. Two of them: A black metal one for his burial in the states (it reminded me of a monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and a simple wooden one for his burial in England.

I don’t know that I will ever be able to drink another Martini with at least a passing thought of Paul. But you know what, it makes me smile to think of him. And you should always smile when drinking an extra-large, extra-olive, extra-dirty Martini. They taste better that way.

And when it comes to shaken or stirred, I prefer shaken.

Fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet once said:

Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James [Bond] is ordering a weak Martini and being snooty about it.

Snooty? Maybe. Pretentious? Probably. Smart? Definitely. In Bond’s case, he could enjoy an extra Martini or two and not be too tipsy for all his spy stuff. In my case, a slightly weaker Martini means I’ll have the steadiness of hand to mix more than one in an evening. (But only one on a school night!)

Scaredy-cat

I’m a bit late in taking Schrodie to the vet’s office for her yearly check-up (she should have gone in March) but she’s finally been. I must admit, however, that she only made it when she did after I noticed she was missing a patch of fur from the top of her head the other day.

I pulled out her travel box this morning and placed an old (but clean) towel in the bottom. All the while the cat just sat there watching me. As I scooped her up I noticed she wasn’t hesitating and thought: “This’ll be easy!”, even though she did resist slightly when I placed her into the box. Once I put the box in the car, however, her slight meows turned to howls of anger and hatred. And my slight giggles turned to tears at the thought of causing the poor creature stress. For 30 miles I listed to the cat cry out in terror…

At the end of the day I went to retrieve Schrodie and we made the long drive back home – again with her in the back seat of the car howling. Once we got home, she bolted from her travel box and ran from me. Yep, she’s a bit mad!

The bald patch on her fur is still an un-known. The vet took a sample to run a culture to check for ringworm, but she’s not convinced that is the cause. Instead, she guesses that an owl or hawk swooped in to grab a kitty treat, or that she got caught out by a fence or something. It’s been suggested that I keep her in overnight, as that’s when most predatory creatures are out looking for food.

Also worrying to me is that she had a bit of a heart murmur. The vet thinks that it could just be from the stress of the car ride and isn’t concerned about heart disease at this time. Though if I’m honest, this freaks me out more than the thought of some avian creature having her for lunch!

Anyhow, I’m sure that Schrodie will start to love me again in a couple of days. But goodness only knows how long she’ll hate me if I ever move and put her through the torment of the PETS system. I think she’ll disown me the moment the plane lands!

The root of all evil

Last Wednesday I started to feel a bit of a twinge in a lower tooth. I didn’t think much of it and thought it would be gone by the next day. But it was a bit worse instead. Knowing that I had big work events coming up, I told myself to suffer through. But my tooth didn’t agree and by Friday evening I was well and truly in pain. So much so that I opened my one-and-only dose of “emergency” acetaminophen. (Guiltily, I also had two glasses of cheap-and-cheerful wine with my sister and a friend.)

By Saturday morning I was in so much pain that I called to make an appointment with the dentist then drove to town to buy some extra-strength Tylenol and a tube of topical anesthetic. Even with the chemical assistance, I was in severe pain throughout the day.

Sunday and Monday were a bit better – likely because I had a bit of a toxin build-up from all the Tylenol on Saturday then the regular top-ups. I spoke with my dentist on Monday who prescribed an antibiotic, but I declined the offer for him to call in a prescription of Vicodin, feeling that I could maintain with the Tylenol until my appointment the next day.

Well, today was appointment day – nearly a week after the initial pain. Not surprisingly, I am in need of a root canal. Which is apparently a three-step process starting with a bit of drilling and cleaning today after which the dentist packed the tooth with more antibiotics then put in a temporary filling. Next up is a root canal, which may take 3-4 months (really!) to schedule, then I’ll be fitted for a crown.

I accepted the offer for Vicodin after today’s appointment with the hope of getting a decent night’s sleep for a change. As someone who generally steers clear of medications, preferring to treat my ails with a general “healthy living” stance, I have to laugh that I’ve gone from having one stash of “emergency” pain killers in my house to having several of those evil chemicals in my handbag! I hope to be pain (and drug) free soon though, because I never can remember to take those damn pills!!