Friday, December 28, 2012

Post-Holiday Wrap-Up

This christmas was really rough.

The week before, we were called by a good friend of ours to come and say goodbye to his partner of 25 years as he died peacefully in his home.

After having only a few days to recuperate from that loss, we were hit even harder; my partner's mother died. Their relationship and her death aren't my story to tell, but they were both complicated, and I can see the strain on my boyfriend. Death has cast a pallor on the holidays this year, and while we enjoyed some quality time with family, we both kind of wished we could be under the covers, hiding from the world.

I want to reclaim New Year's, or at least my birthday, which follows less than two weeks later. We won't have much money, but I want to do something grand, something I'll remember for the rest of my life. Something life-affirming. I don't have a single idea yet, but I'll be thinking on it.

But, back to christmas. I'm giving each family unit an aloe vera plant and a jar of sauerkraut, which some people have loved and others ignored. I don't worry about people who don't appreciate the gifts I bring, if they refuse to take one, there's more for everyone else. And the people who do appreciate it make up for the grinches in spades.

My boyfriend flew back home from dealing with his mother's death on xmas eve, so we kept it quiet that night. The next morning we drove to the city and spent the beginning part of the day opening presents, making pickles!, and leisurely chatting. It was pretty great.

We stopped at our friend's house, the one who lost his partner, and spent a little time with him, but before we knew it, we had to head off to the big family extravaganza.

I slapped in my earplugs as soon as we got there, but still only made it about thirty minutes before I was wishing it was over. It makes me sad how little I enjoy these big fmaily gatherings now, it used to be the highlight of my year, but my new reality is what it is, so I'm just happy I made it out of there without crying or screaming at anyone.

We're on day three of project holiday recuperation, and I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, I also see my birthday approaching, and that's usually a whole other ball of social gathering pain.

I do pretty well with my limitations throughout the year, but these two months never fail to remind me of just how sick I am. I miss having birthday parties, and looking forward to the holidays. But there's not point in moping over it, I'm making the best of a very difficult situation and all I can do is keep trying.

So, I do.


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Power of Choice

With the next episode I watched, Star Trek disproved nearly every statement I made about the show in my last post. And then it got real personal.

In The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2, Spock goes rogue, losing his crown of sensibility, and every woman is treated as respectfully as the men (though one is still particularly scantily clad). There's even a female first officer, who is lauded as being the most experienced officer on the ship! (This is the future Lwaxana Troi of TNG, FYI.) Kirk is minimally featured, as the episode is predominately flashbacks to Spock's experience with his former captain, Pike, who is not at all grabby of women or smarmy with his crew and I wish he could be the captain forever.

But no. And also, he's a paraplegic now, unable to communicate save for a light on the front of his "futuristic wheelchair" that blinks once for yes and twice for no. Despite that method of communication, most of the people around him treat him as though he is unreachable, as if there's no possible way for the man to have a life.

Spock figures out a way for Pike to have a more able-bodied life, but instead of asking for Pike's permission, he KIDNAPS HIM, and the whole time Pike is blinking twice for NO NO NO, which I found horrifying. The disabled man has no agency, and his able-bodied friend thinks he knows what's best for him and there's no reason to consult the disabled guy anyway, what, is he going to blink at us? RAGE.

Of course, it ends happily, and Spock's deception is mostly used as a fuel for dramatic effect, but that drama is at the cost of a man's dignity and freedom of choice.

My partner is my caregiver, and sometimes we have to have conversations about agency. He has to make some decisions for me, I'm not always capable of higher reasoning in a moment, but even when I am, there have been times when he's forgotten to consult me. At a doctor's office, he and the doctor have agreed on a plan of treatment, were pleased as punch with themselves to have solved the next few months for me, only to look baffled when I disagreed vehemently. As if they forgot I might have a say in my own life. Luckily, my boyfriend has recognized when this happens and always immediately backs me up. It's a rare occurrence, but it's still rather frightening in those moments before my freedom of choice is acknowledged.

Our choices are so easily taken away, and it's terrifying how quickly the opinions of people with disabilities or illness** can be silenced and ignored. Just because we don't fit the default mold of a white, able-bodied, cis, male, bootstrapping capitalist, doesn't mean we shouldn't have absolute agency over our own lives, no matter how different we may seem.

** also, this stands for people of color, people of religious and racial minorities, women, and those of the lgbt etc persuasion. We should all be able to choose for ourselves.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Star Trek: The Original Sexism

I've been watching Star Trek: The Original Series, and I have some observations.

Captain Kirk is really smug and unlikeable. In every episode so far, he's insulted his crew's intelligence and been skeevy with every single woman who comes near him, including a girl who was supposed to be about 12.

The portrayal of women is largely disappointing. Uhura seems to be good at her job so far, and Yeoman Rand (the one with the blond, weaved bouffant) is a stellar waitress, but is that really what yeoman are for? Honestly, she just serves Kirk drinks. Then there's also the easy sexual harassment of the women, which the ladies of course accept with either a flattered smile or a non-threatening quip. I wasn't nearly prepared for the attempted rape of Yeoman Rand by Evil Kirk, which was particularly disturbing, given the flagrant sexism in the series. Yeah, yeah, the times. Screw the times, it's awful seeing my whole gender categorized as sexual objects with almost no independent thought.

Bones and Spock are the highlight, they're both used as the voice of justice and reason when Kirk is flying off the handle and being manipulated by brain zappers or whatever is making him try to rape people this week.

But, there is just enough awesome to keep me watching. I just finished the one where the space-cube/yellow-ball-ship/wavy-grey-aliens (also known as S1E10, The Corbomite Maneuver) test the crew of the Enterprise by threatening to destroy them, and while I found most of the episode tedious, the end reveal was fantastic.

I've been wanting to write more about television, I end up watching a lot when my head's on high, and I have so many opinions. I'm interested in portrayals of minorities in media, as my paper a few posts ago would suggest, so I'm going to be talking about it more here. This calls for a new tag!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Achievement Unlocked

So, I've been doing squats wrong for my entire life. I blame every apathetic, angry PE teacher I ever had.

This is a revelation, my friends, and I'm excited to add them into the little workout routine I've got going for myself.

A year ago, I wasn't nearly capable of what I am now, and I'm so proud of myself it feels decadent. A year ago, a hike up just a portion of our steep hill would have left me winded, my head throbbing, and the next few days shot to hell. Now, I can make it all the way up without stopping, often with no migrainous repercussions.

A year ago, I couldn't touch my toes without bending my knees to a nearly 45 degree angle. My flexibility has always been poor, but I've astounded myself with how much it's improved. Now, I can touch the floor easily with straight knees, and those deep stretches feel so good.

I walk up the hill on my best days, and on some moderate days, when I'm being brave. I go slow when I need to and always stop when my head sends out alarms, but making it to the top feels like such an accomplishment, I really only turn around if I have to.

I do some really basic yoga: dog and cat poses, some simple forward bends while holding onto the chair because I get dizzy really easily, and triangle and warrior, cause they're my fave.

I have some light hand weights I use while watching TV, they're just three pounds, but after a million or so reps they feel heavier.

And lately, I've been adding in some old-school exercises, crunches, pushups, leg-lifts and now, SQUATS! I'd only avoided them so long for the knee pain they always seemed to trigger immediately, but after reading a few people recommending them for pelvic floor weakness (which I strongly suspect I have), I decided to give them another go, and with a little help on my form from youtube, achievement unlocked!

I don't work out every day. If I'm not feeling well, I don't push it, but I do at least one thing on the above list nearly every day, and today, I did everything. Oh, I'm pretty done for now, my butt is firmly planted in this chair and I'm medicating liberally, but I'll probably recuperate enough in a few hours to make a decent dinner and hang out with my man, so I've got no complaints, really.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rhythm and Meaning

I have no sense for meter in poetry and sometimes I think that makes me less of a person.

I'm joking of course, but it is rather strange. I can sense rhythm in music perfectly well, but finding the beats in speech and naming them, it is a mystery to me how that works. Honestly, I've tried reading troublesome poems aloud over and over, listening to recordings, writing it out, tapping it out, and I even tried to cheat by googling for some kind of meter decoder and there isn't one. Internet, you have failed me.

But it seems that my deficiency isn't going to hurt me too badly, because I got my poetry midterm project grade, and it's a 50/50! I made involuntary high-pitched noises and wiggled with glee off and on for several hours after I saw it, it was the best migraine trigger I've had in weeks. The teacher heaped on the praise and said she hadn't given a 100% until my paper, much to my surprise and delight. I worked hard on that paper, and I put my whole heart in it, so I was pretty terrified about my grade. I feel like I have a knack for analyzing poetry, but it's all so subjective sometimes, like seeing patterns in the clouds, how do we know if our interpretation is "right" until someone else comes along and validates it?

While I've loved taking both of these classes, I'm so glad the quarter's nearly over. It was a lot, taking two classes at the same time (even though photo is more of a half-class at only 2 units to poetry's 4). Having my attention split, especially at more intense periods in the classes, was really difficult and more than a little stressful for my migraine-addled brain, so I'm only taking one class next quarter. I considered taking a break totally, I could use one after how hard I've had to push this quarter and considering the holidays are about to kick my ass, but I'm so looking forward to this next course, a career planning class, and I don't want to wait. My finals are next week and next quarter doesn't start for a month. That'll probably be about perfect for holiday recuperation.

My head's been highly symptomatic lately. I had knots in my scalp for the first time in months. I've been waking with a headache consistently for the past few weeks and I'm having trouble getting good sleep because of it. My neck has been spectacularly stiff and painful, and yesterday I went at it with the theracane for an hour just so I could turn my head without crying. The nausea's been a pain, and I'm getting more frequent dizziness when I move too quickly. It could be stress, it could be my bed's too soft, or the storms that have been rolling through every couple of days, or a combination of all of the above.

I can't control the weather, but I can try to control myself. The hamster wheel in my head is ever-spinning, and I often only stop and take care of myself when there's no other option. I worry that I'm stretching myself too thin, but if I'm not trying as hard as I possibly can at all times, I feel like I'm failing.

I'm not, of course, I'm succeeding more than I thought I could a few years ago, but my life is a bizarre, never-ending tug of war between compulsive overachievement and forced relaxation. It's like my personal rhythm and the rhythm of the world around me are at odds, and I can never quite get the tempo right. But, like poetry, it's the meaning of the thing that really matters, not so much the speed at which it's read.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Minorities on Television

Originally written a year ago for my journalism class, and edited a bit for academic overload, this article explores the representation of minorities on television, and how inaccuracies can be harmful to individuals and society.

American culture is media saturated. We consume television, newspapers, magazines, radio and the internet like they're food, and our technology continues to advance at an astounding rate, constantly increasing the amount of news, entertainment, and advertising we're exposed to. The messages we receive from the media, and especially television, can greatly influence our perceptions and our thinking as a culture. "Entertainment [has] important mass communication functions, including cultural transmission" and it can be detrimental to society when that which entertains "may perpetuate stereotypes or try to appeal to a certain segment of the population at the expense of others." (1)

While there are many minority groups that are underrepresented, and misrepresented, in all forms of media, for the purposes of this article, we'll be looking at people of color on television.

Irresponsible media can create racial divides, can make people of color the "other" to be feared, mocked, pitied, scorned, and mostly, ignored. “Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.” (2)

The people who make our media are largely white. The number of minority-controlled broadcasting stations hovers around 3%, severely under-representing the solid quarter of the US population that isn't white (US Census, 2010). Those media-makers tend to reinforce their own life experiences by promoting and distributing content that is glaringly white, which leaves a significant portion of the population seeing an inaccurate representation of themselves on television, or worse, no representation.

"Viewers who consider media portrayals as valid and realistic are more likely to internalize stereotypical messages. Over a period of time, media representations that are internalized become chronically accessible from memory while making judgments... Media messages influence racial attitudes from a very young age, especially when direct interracial contact is minimal... the impact of television is likely to be quite profound." (3)

For example, seeing only smart and awkward Asians on television repeatedly would surely result in assumptions about the people as a group. Violent black men, the Arab terrorist, the flashy, opportunistic Latino; anyone who's watched American TV knows these stereotypes, and with repeated viewing, they become etched into our brains and influence our feelings about people of color in the real world.

As a first-world dwelling white woman, it's been easy for most of my life to take what I see on my television for granted. Most of the people in my family are white, most of the people on tv are white, there's a seemingly logical parallel there. Except, of course, when I look out my front door and there are people everywhere who aren't white. In researching this topic, I realized that I can only see this subject from my own (white) perspective and that I'd need to create an objective experience to be able to analyze this issue impartially. So, I conducted an experiment.

I decided to critically watch television shows, many from the Nielsen's Top Tens (4), but some were decided on in the moment. I stuck to programming available on basic cable channels, but watched in a variety of ways (live, via On Demand, on and avoided sports, news, movies and cartoons. Though I watched quite a few shows that are standards in my rotation, I watched many that I normally wouldn't, and commercials that I certainly would never sit through.

I kept a notebook handy and jotted down every time a person on TV spoke; I put a hash mark down to indicate whether they were male or female, and what race they were, using the US Census categories -White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or Some Other Race- and my best estimations. I included people who sang, had one-word lines, but none who only laughed or had their voices drowned out by others. I didn't count voice-overs. If a commercial aired several times during a show, I counted each viewing. I did not count cartoon characters unless it was very clear what race and gender they were representing, ie Homer Simpson was noted, but not the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

In total, I watched 23 television programs, all from thirty minutes to an hour in length. These are the observations I recorded. The letters in parentheses represent whether the show was viewed: (L) on television, either live or via DVR, (O) using my cable company's On Demand feature, or (H) on my computer via The asterisks indicate whether the show or group of advertisements met the 25% quota required to represent our population's white versus non-white population accurately.

The results are undeniable: white people, mostly white men, dominate television programming. Only 26 of the 46 scored (23 shows, and their ads were scored separately) met the minimum 25% ratio of non-white to white, and that doesn't even take into consideration ethnic breakdowns beyond non-white. Of the 1079 people noted in my research, 278 were people of color. Of those, 44 were Asian, 44 were Hispanic and 198 were black. Only three of the twenty-three shows I watched - Dancing With the Stars, Everybody Hates Chris and My Wife and Kids - met that 25% quota in both the program and the advertising. The rest were deficient to varying degrees, but the least inclusive of minorities was Two and a Half Men, which had absolutely no people of color in either the show or its advertising.

A study done by SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) in 2006 stated that of the ethnicities portrayed on television and movies that year and the previous, the breakdown was this: Asians and Pacific Islanders - 3.4%, African-Americans - 14.5%, Caucasians - 72.3%, Latino and Hispanic - 6.3%, Native American - 0.2%, and Unknown/Other – 3.3%. In another study (5), it was found that minorities made up only 21% of the faces on television and that over the ten years prior, "the racial representation of television actors has not changed significantly. White actors continue to be in a distinct majority position, African American representation is in line with their percent of the U.S. population and the representation of Latinos continues to be in a distinct minority."

My research is congruent with this, showing some improvements for people of color and other declines. In the shows I watched, minority representation was up to 26%. Black people were represented the most of the minority ethnicities, at 18%, when they actually only make up 13% of the US population. Asian representation is also up, at 4% in my research, which is an improvement, but is still far from the actual goal of 6%. The visibility of Hispanics on television seems to have markedly dropped, at 5%, while their real-life population continues to grow and is currently about 9%. (6) Unfortunately, in my small sampling of television entertainment, I observed no Native Americans or Hawaiians, Native Alaskans or Pacific Islanders.

"[The] audience often assumes that the media pay attention to things that make a difference in society or things of consequence. The misconception might lead to the inevitable conclusion that Asia and Asian people make little difference in contemporary life, that they are of little consequence." (7)

When an ad comes on for, say, tires, tissues, beer, or microwaveable dinners, most of the time those actors will be white. If an ad is for a household cleaning product, it usually stars a white woman. Prescription drugs: white people. Hair dye: white women. Clothing: Thin, mostly white people.

The real problem is when our commercials are trying to sell us products, they show us something to aspire to. A group of people laughing, a stain coming out of a favorite shirt, nutritious and delicious convenience meals; whatever it is corporations are selling us, they are showing us something to want, something to aspire to. And when there are very few black people in those ads, and hardly any Asian or Hispanic people, we see that being a person of color isn't something to aspire to. In fact, they hardly seem to exist.

"Television portrayals of minorities in the United States can influence minorities' perceptions of their group identities and vitality." (8)

In a country in which racism is alive and well, in which people of color only take up a very small portion of seats in our government and a huge percentage of cells in our prison systems, we need to look closely at our media and what messages it's sending us. Are they helpful or harmful? Do they reinforce stereotypes or challenge ideas that are harmful to our most vulnerable people? Increasing the number of people of color on television, and other media, is the only way to change the inaccuracies being perpetuated. If it's equality we're striving for, equal representation in the media is a great place to start.


1. Pavlik, J.V. and McIntosh, S. (2011). Converging Media: A new introduction to mass communication. New York, New York, Oxford University Press.

2. Gerbner, G., Gross, L. (1976). Living With Television: The Violence Profile. Journal of Communication 26, 163-183

3. Ramasubramanian, S. (2001). Television Exposure, Model Minority Portrayals, and Asian-American Stereotypes: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 26, July 2011. Retrieved from:

4. Neilsen. 2011. Top Tens and Trends, November 7, 2011. Retrieved from

5. Monk-Turner, E., Heiserman, M., Johnson, C., Cotton, V., & Jackson, M. (2010). The Portrayal of Racial Minorities on Prime Time Television: A Replication of the Mastro and Greenberg Study a Decade Later. Studies in Popular Culture, 32.2 Spring 2010, 101-114. Retrieved from:

6. Humes, K.R., Jones, N.A., and Ramirez, R.R., 2010. Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs, March 2011. Retrieved from:

7. Piehl, D. & Ruppel, R. (1994). Primetime’s Hidden Agenda: The Anti-Asian Bias of American Television. A Gathering of Voices on the Asian American Experience. Fort Atkinson, WI: Highsmith Press, 179-185

8. Pornsakulvanich, V. (2007) Television Portrayals of Ethnic Minorities in The United States: The Analysis of Individual Differences, Media Use, and Group Identity and Vitality. ABAC Journal Vol. 27, No. 3 September-December, 2007, p. 22-28. Retrieved from:


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Day After Thanksgiving

We did Thanksgiving a little differently this year.

I decided I didn't want to battle other people's perfumes this time, so I asked my mom if we could have dinner the day after thanksgiving. I was afraid I would cause hurt feelings, or that they would have plans and would feel put out that I was being difficult. The initial conversation was emotional, but not because my mom thought I was being a pain. She kept automatically defending people who don't think about how their actions affect my migraines. She was right, of course, most people aren't intentionally triggering my migraines, and aren't aware of how their scented products, car stereo, or bright, blinky holiday pin affect me neurologically. While my mom is sympathetic to my pain, she asked me to forgive them their transgressions, cut them some slack.

I snapped a little.

It's been five and a half years since these migraines started, and every member of my family has been well aware that I'm sick, and that I have triggers. They've had five solid years of holidays with me in hats and sunglasses, five years of me being scent sensitive (scentsitive?), and five years of me wearing earplugs and running from anything noisy. When are they going to start caring enough to change their behavior a modicum? If you love someone, don't you want them to avoid pain? I'm not sure why I'm expected to constantly forgive other people their continued carelessness, and they aren't expected to change their behavior at all. I'm tired of pretending these people care about me, they obviously don't, and that makes me care less and less about them.

My poor mom was not prepared for this rant, and I made her cry. I apologized for my timing, she was at work and would have to go back in somewhat tear-stained, but I couldn't apologize for my meaning. I'm sick of it.

So, we did a separate thanksgiving on friday, we drove down early and spent the day with just my immediate family, ate leftovers for dinner. It was wonderful.

I'm hoping christmas will be similarly simple. Avoiding family might just be my new holiday tradition.


Friday, November 16, 2012


School has been intense, hence the sparse updates, but I'm keeping up. I'm not getting the 100% I always strive for in either of my classes, but I still have a good chance of getting an A in both.

The poetry class is a lot of fun, and a lot of work. I really like breaking down the poems and discussing them, analyzing them for every little iota of meaning, but it can also be tedious, and emotionally draining, in a way. I'm exhausted after every essay I write, it takes all the energy I have to make my brain function like it used to so easily.

Luckily, the photo class has been energizing, if anything. I get to stretch my creativity without too much pressure, since it's a rather slow-paced class, and the feedback I've gotten from my teacher and classmates has been encouraging. I've turned out some images that surprised me, and I'm starting to take myself more seriously as a photographer. I don't know if I could make it into a living, but it's something I feel good about exploring and I think this will always be at least a hobby. I've got my store up (looking for a unique holiday gift? One-stop shopping!), and I've also got a facebook page, but I haven't sold much, and I have no idea how to market myself. Uploading to the facebook page and sharing when I post new images is anxiety-riddled enough.

I finished my xmas shopping online this morning! I'm just doing real presents for immediate family, and everyone else will get a homemade gift. I feel really on top of the holidays so far, though thanksgiving is weighing on me a bit.

The drive to the city -where my parents live and will be hosting turkey day festivities- is always hard on me, and then it's likely that stinky relatives will be coming. When I heard that, I really wanted to back out, I have no desire to put myself through the pain of perfume. But, I don't see my family much since we moved, and I miss them, so very, very much. Maybe I'll just dress warmly and hang out in the backyard? That's depressing, but I'd probably survive better.

Head wise, I've been ok. I've been struggling, in pain, and nauseated about as much as is usual, but I've still been productive and kicking ass, so I don't have much to complain about.

I've even gotten some crafting done lately. I sewed a hat from crocheted scraps; it looks a little odd, but it's cozy warm. I also took the hood off a knit zippered sweater and re-purposed it into pockets! I'm a little obsessed with having pockets.

I cut my hair off again, and it's so liberating. I'm hoping I can afford another cut before xmas, because it would be fun to shock my family with even shorter hair. But, my neck is kind of cold, so maybe this is short enough for now.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Resting Days

I've been in my robe going on two days.

I'm under the heating pad this morning, it doesn't seem cold enough to fire up the wood stove, but my feet are still chilly. I'm always colder when I'm migraining, though.

I woke with foreboding head pain this morning, and the nausea started as soon as I got up. At least it let me sleep well enough, I can migraine hard for days and maintain my calm pretty well as long as I get sleep, so I'm still optimistic for today.

It's been a year since we moved into the mountains, and I still marvel at the freedom I have in being able to walk outside my house on bad days. The quiet, the shelter of the trees, the clean air, and the solitude are shaping my life quite differently than it was last year, and I find it difficult to complain, even when I'm migraining so hard I can't talk. It used to be so much worse, the struggle was my whole existence.

I had a busy several days last week, which is likely the cause of this dramatic downturn in my health. A few trips to town, and not one, but TWO social outings have tapped my reserves completely. I expected to be knocked down afterwards, but not this hard or for this long. I've gotten cocky, in my happy bubble of quiet, and I nearly forgot how sick I am.

Of course, I experience daily pain and neurological disorder, but I've gotten so used to them and the routines I've built for myself to cope, that I don't notice many symptoms anymore unless they actively impede me. Since I've adapted my life so much to accommodate my migraines, that doesn't happen much at home.

I mean sure, doing dishes is still a daily battle, but there's rarely an insurmountable pile anymore, since we've gotten the dishwasher. And the laundry does pile up, but once I sort it, I can have my ever-helpful honey take it down to the machines for me. They're just under the house, anyway, I can usually handle that haul on all but my worst days.

So today, I'll consider it a great accomplishment if I clean the kitchen, and the day will be a rousing success if I manage the pot pie recipe that's been taunting me from my blogroll for the past hour. Sans chicken, of course. And my boyfriend will have to roll out the dough, my head can't take the manual labor. So maybe we'll make two so he can have a meaty one.

Or maybe I'll just stay curled up under the heating pad and watch some episodes of Downton Abbey.


Saturday, October 20, 2012


We're back online here at chez steph, after a week hiatus from internet while we tried to afford it.

Going without internet is a lot more stressful when I'm actively participating in two online classes. I'm so lucky that my neighbors are generous with their wifi, and tolerant of my driveway-lurking behavior.

I've managed to keep up with my coursework, by downloading everything I can when I can get it, getting work done offline, uploading my work when I have have access again, downloading, and repeating ad nauseum. It's tedious and tiring, but workable.

My poetry teacher has provided text for all of her video discussion content, as promised, but I still haven't gotten any captions from the disabilities people. My counselor and teacher decided the one video we've had so far that wasn't auto-captioned well wasn't really pertinent to the curriculum. So, that's how we deal with that, apparently. I'm just glad my teacher is being so helpful, even if the department assigned and funded specifically to help me access my classes won't.

Otherwise, school's great! Poetry is interesting and engaging, I'm liking it a lot more than I thought I would, though I'm still intimidated by some upcoming projects.

And the photo class is fun; it's easy enough so I'm not panicking, and I can complete assignments well enough with my little point-and-shoot, but it's still a little challenging. At least, I'm making it challenging for myself by not submitting any "easy" shots, so nothing I've shot previously (which some of my classmates are doing, and I don't get that at all. Isn't the point to learn and practice?), and I'm trying to branch out of my normal creative processes, so I'm experimenting with new angles and techniques as much as possible. My textbook is great, I actually feel like I'm learning something about the technical side of photography, after years of trying to drill it into my thick skull. Overall, I'm loving all the creative stimulation.

I picked up an extra course at the beginning of the quarter, unsure if I'd be able to keep poetry, with its caption drama. The first assignment for that course was to do a fairly complicated personality and career assessment on myself, and the results were fascinating. See, I'd always weirdly pegged myself as a worker bee, an office jockey doomed for accounting or some such horror. The idea was to have a practical career, something I'd nearly always be able to find work in, in a relatively stable environment. I lived in Silicon Valley, there's rarely a shortage of corporate-type jobs. I never thought my creative side was worth exploring, and I really can't tell you why that is. It's been in my head as long as I can remember that creative careers weren't for me. Being a writer isn't a practical job, can a photographer even make money? A painter? A designer? I scoff, there's a reason for the term starving artist. Would I be a failure my whole life if I pursued artistic endeavors? Better instead to find myself a nice, safe career that doesn't rely too much on creative talent. Enter accounting.

The why of this self-defeating inner monologue remains mysterious to me, which is irritating, but that'll be something to navel-gaze about with a therapist, one day.

Anyway, I took this career assessment profile thing and it told me I'm Investigative and Creative, which means I'd enjoy a career that requires problem-solving. I had to drop the class once I'd decided to keep poetry, but I plan on taking it next quarter, and I'm excited for what the rest of the curriculum will reveal about my inner workings.

My head's been about the same. I woke up with a headache this morning, which set the tone for a rough day, with not a whole lot of activity and frequent breaks during what I did manage to get done. Then, the tractor showed up to do some dirt moving around the property, in anticipation of putting in a septic system, so yay! But also, it was much too loud for my tender head, so I made a vegan spaghetti bake to cope and it turned out better than I expected. Eggplant, mushrooms, and homemade tomayta sauce baked over spaghetti; even migraining, it was hard to mess that one up.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall and Other Stuff

The weather's turning!

We had a (hopefully) final heatwave last week. It was miserable, as expected, but now the weather's perfect, temperatures in the 60s and 70s, cloudy in the mornings, with at least an hour or two of warm sunshine in the afternoons, and the nights aren't too cold yet, just barely dipping into the 40s. I love fall.

To celebrate, I got a little pumpkin to put on the mantle. I'm not really a holiday decorating type of person, but it felt necessary to have a little bit of autumn in the house this year. It's not practical to do a jack-o-lantern out here, the animals, bugs and mold would make it disgusting pretty quickly, but I love the ritual, and the seeds! So, I also plan to get a big fatty misshapen pumpkin to do something fun with. I have a weakness for the misshapen ones.

We had a thunderstorm yesterday and are expecting some more activity today. I was just about to type out that it hasn't affected my head yet, but then I realized that it's rather early in the day to be feeling this nauseated and achy, so I guess I'm just getting better at ignoring the lower-level symptoms. Yay?

My neck has been really stiff lately, it's been getting slowly worse for months, and I've been doing some gentle stretches to try and loosen it up, but nothing's working. I feel like I'm losing range of motion and I think it's time to ask a doctor for help.

My classes are going pretty well. I'm not doing great on the poetry quizzes, but the discussions are a lot of fun and I feel like I'm contributing something to the conversations. The photo class has been good, it's only a two unit class but I'm really trying to use the opportunity to learn more and break out of my creative shell. As far as accessibility, I still don't have captions, and that's all I'm saying about that. For now.

I tried Vernon's Ginger Ale last week and it was disgusting. Not gingery at all, it tasted like perfume to me. My boyfriend suggested because the ale is barrel-aged, I'm tasting the wood. Ok, then. Thanks, Canada Dry, for not tasting like wood!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

My School Might Hate Me

We went into the city, which is a minimum 45 minute drive on winding roads of supreme nausea and groaning, to get my school books. It did not end well.

By the time we got down the mountain, I was already ill. My period started the day before and I'd had to take ibuprofen for some awful cramps (I was hoping yogurt would be safe. It's not.) and it had brought on some very intense and thankfully short-lived depression that pretty much sucked my soul out. I would have loved to lay around and rest, but I needed my books. So, I dragged myself into the car, suffered the motion sickness, and was sloughing off the rest of my depression by crying most of the trip.

We got to my school, went in and waited for the woman at the front desk to free up. When she no longer had students in front of her, I asked if she had a book voucher for me. She said no.

I was baffled. I'd signed it digitally several days ago, and my new counselor was supposed to be on top of things. She stonewalled me, my counselor wasn't available, and there was nothing she could do, even though I'd traveled all this way and was falling to pieces before her eyes.

This woman showed no sympathy. She couldn't have cared less. And when I started crying, her face slipped into a disturbing smile of smug detachment, and I pretty much ran out of there. People like that scare the hell out of me. Not that I think my tears should change everything, but a word of commiseration, or any effort at all to rectify the situation would have meant a lot in my fragile state of mind. But she did nothing, just smiled at my sobbing face and repeated that there was nothing to be done.

So, we drove all the way back home, bookless.

My boyfriend called my counselor a few times while we were still in town, hoping he'd be able to change something, but he didn't call back until we were home. He apologized, which I'm sure made him feel better. I'm just pissed off and tired and I feel humiliated and disrespected. I understand that mistakes happen, but why do they keep happening to me, EVERY quarter?

I went back on Monday after verifying with both my counselor and the horrible woman at the front desk that the voucher was actually there. So, it was another torturous drive to the city, on close to the hottest day of the year, AWESOME.

And then, the bookstore only had one book for one of my classes, and it's the class I picked up "just in case" and was hoping to drop once we (hopefully) got my captions straightened out. (I'll get to that.) So, I have to get at least two books online, out of my own pretty-much-empty pocket, and I'm SO FRUSTRATED I COULD SPIT. Why would teachers assign a text and then not have it available in the bookstore?

One of my teachers scanned the relevant pages of the assigned text and posted the pdfs online to save us money. Unfortunately, I can't read pdfs online (OW) and printing them out is costing us money in ink. I also looked for this text in the store, hoping it would be assigned for another class, but it's not there and it's at least $43 w/ shipping on amazon. I already have to buy another book for this class online, at $10, which isn't terrible, but combined with my other required and not available text, which runs at least $34, I'm digging into the necessities budget.

And captions are still up in the air. The teacher with video content told my counselor that there isn't any, but the entire discussion forum, that I'm expected to participate in at least weekly, is based on audio and video! We can respond in text, but to know what I'm responding to, I have to watch a video that my teacher uploads, and it's HORRIBLE quality video and audio, so I start twitching within moments of it autoplaying. UGH. It's not good.

So, after going back and forth with my counselor a few times, I finally emailed my teacher directly and she said she'd caption the videos herself. WHY couldn't my counselor have just found that out/told me that?

She also has a few youtube videos up this week, and when I brought them to the attention of my counselor, he said that they were captioned (by youtube's auto-captioning) and I'd be fine. One of them was ok, but the other is a man who speaks quickly and had a thick british accent, so the captions are hilariously WRONG WRONG WRONG all the way through. I emailed my counselor with the link two days ago and haven't heard anything yet.

I just need a new school, this one is obviously inadequate for my needs, but I don't even know where to start with that. I chose this school because it was the one I went to when I was actually college-aged, and I have no idea what I based my decision on back then, school ratings in the state, maybe. What I need is a not-for-profit school with a huge online program and decent disability support and financial aid departments. There has to be one, somewhere.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Speaking Up

This is where I come to vent about my migraines. If I didn't spout it all off here, I might never stop talking about it in real life. I like to talk things out as a coping mechanism, which is great for most interpersonal conflicts and temporary problems, but for a chronic, long-term illness, complaining to everyone all the time is just not the way to go.

So, I suffer in silence a lot, because I prefer to. Friends and family may ask, but I usually give them a short or noncommittal answers. Nothing's really changed and unless a person has a legitimate question or concern, I don't want to chit-chat about it.

But, there are times when I've had to speak up, and when that happens, I tend to be blunt. Who has the energy for subtlety? For example:

There's a person who constantly asks me what medications I'm taking, who can't seem to talk to me about anything BUT migraines every time I see her. So, every time I see her, I tell her that I don't want to talk about my head, it's exhausting and stressful and I'm trying to enjoy my time out of the house. Her reaction is usually not good (though we've been doing this for years now, you'd think she'd learn?), and I have to repeat myself several times per occasion.

There's another person who makes jokes at my expense, because I'm just so weird now that I'm sensitive to every stimulus ever. Last time he did it, I pointed out that he was being cruel (would he say the same things to a person who'd lost a leg or who'd gone blind?), and he got his feelings hurt and hasn't talked to me for months. That one's a win-win, really.

My school counselors, who are STILL giving me the runaround over captioning video and audio content, they've gotten my Professional Tone unleashed upon their emails. I worked in customer service for years before I got sick, and I can still pull out some frighteningly articulate smack-down language when I try real hard. I don't know that it'll get me anywhere (these people, what do they do all day if they aren't actually helping disabled students?), but at least I've spoken my mind and it's on file somewhere that I'm tired of their crap.

Then, there's my neighbor, who shows up at my house unannounced looking for my boyfriend, then starts chatting my ear off instead. I give him the old, "I'm not feeling well, you'll have to talk to [boyfriend], sorry." Then, I walk away and close the front door. Last time I left him in our front yard, he continued to talk to himself for a minute, not realizing I'd gone (even though I spoke perfectly clearly and closed the door not-quietly), but that was weeks ago and he hasn't done it since, so maybe he finally gets it.

Having chronic migraines has helped me get over my lifetime need to be liked and I've finally learned to stick up for myself without feeling guilty for it. Speaking up isn't easy, and I still get stomach butterflies of anxiety every single time I have to confront pretty much anyone over anything, but I do it anyway, because while it may not feel great to say negative things to another person, it's infinitely more uncomfortable to swallow my frustrations day after day.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

School and Entitlement

I've been registered with my school and working with a disability-centric counselor for over a year now. Unfortunately, this is my third enrolled quarter and I'm still fighting for access to reasonable accommodations.

Every quarter, several times, I've asked my counselor about providing me with captions for online video. She's had me email teachers to ask about class content, and then nothing would happen. Without those captions, I've seriously struggled through video assignments, and it's been mostly luck that it hasn't affected my grades yet.

Things reached a head last week, my counselor was on vacation, but was still responding to her emails, and was answering my very specific and time sensitive questions in a lackadaisical, canned manner. She was trying to help me without access to her file on me, I'm assuming, because I had to remind her of everything ever about my classes, disability and accommodations.

THEN, my email went wonky and she couldn't see any of my text in my messages. (I found out later that my email client was switching my font color to white on only some emails, so the message was there, it just couldn't be seen unless you looked hard for it.) I tried a few more times to message her, with no success, then gave up in frustration. We weren't getting anywhere anyway, and she wouldn't be back in the office for weeks, when I needed help NOW.

So, I decided I was finally done screwing around and got in touch with the head disabilities guy, my counselor's boss.

He wasn't initially as cooperative as I'd hoped he'd be. He didn't seem to understand that people with sensory issues can benefit from captions, and we went back and forth a few times on the topic. But, in my last email to him, I got down to business. I laid out exactly why I needed captions, I explained the difficulty I'd had with my counselor in the past, and I also asked him if I understood their job correctly.

"I was under the impression that the disability counselors are also supposed to be advocates in part, and should be proactive in finding accommodations that are available to and would help their students. After a year of struggling with issues that should have been resolved in my first quarter, I'm finding myself wondering what else is falling through the cracks. What other accommodations could I use that haven't been brought up?"

It pained me to write that last sentence, and let me tell you why.


I can't help but flinch when I question what else I can get out of the system. Am I a parasite on society? Am I milking the teat of the government, like Mitt Romney says I am? I'm trying to have a better life! I'm trying to make myself productive again, and I'm sure as hell using the tools that the government and private charities have set up to help people like me breathe a little easier.

But thinking like that is considered scamming the system, it's being shiftless. I'm now part of a group of people who "believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."

And by the way, yes, I do think I'm entitled to food. I think we all are. When we don't have food, we die. Does Mitt Romney think I should die of starvation because I'm disabled? Am I overreacting, here? It feels like overreacting, but I quoted him up there, that's exactly what he said, he thinks it's wrong that people who need to be cared for can get food benefits, and later he states that these people, who need benefits, aren't taking responsibility for their lives.

Oh, did I swear up a storm when I heard him say that.

What kind of a person thinks it's fine for people to die of starvation when there is plenty of food to go around? Or thinks poor and working-class people just aren't responsible? The kind of person who thinks government-funded public services that save people's lives EVERY DAY are wasted money. He is absolutely not the kind of person who's fit to run a country.

Obama 2012.

But, back to the accommodations. After I sent my rather scathing email, which was still pretty damn diplomatic considering the bull I've been putting up with for the past year, I got the most productive response I've ever gotten out of their office, the highlight of which is that they are allegedly working to get me transcripts for all audio content.

Success will be sweet.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marvelous Machines and School Struggles

I got a dishwasher! I've been stalking craiglist ads in my area for months now, hoping that someone would post a (1)working portable dishwasher (2)for a reasonable price (3)when I actually had money to be able to spend on it. Last week, that ad was posted.

It's a half-sized, portable dishwasher and it works brilliantly. I've only used it three times so far, since I've actually become quite the hand-washing dish-ninja, but when I have utilized it, it's been sorely needed. As a consequence, I haven't had a kitchen-cleanliness-related mental breakdown since we brought it home! Less stress leads to less migraines, which leads to an easier existence! And I am all about making my existence easier.

In other fantastic news, I've been gifted a sewing machine! It's an ancient Morse, model still unknown, and I don't have a manual for it, but I managed to thread it and get it to work long enough to find out that the motor needs replacing (well, all I saw were sparks and smoke, it took a few good men to determine that it isn't something reparable), but a motor is fairly cheap, at least compared to a sturdy old beauty like this girl here.

SO PRETTY. Also, she weighs a freaking TON.

In more stressful news, I'm getting the runaround from my school counselors regarding what accommodations I qualify for. I say captions are really important for a chronic migraineur's comprehension of video, they say captions are only for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. I'm currently crafting an email to the head disability dude at my school and I'm hoping that my thorough explanation of what videos are like for me and what it means to have captions (or transcripts) available in a learning environment will sway him to help me out. This is why people sue! If no one will listen, what other option is there?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Going Natural

Between being a newb feminist, discovering my inner greenie, and being physically unable to bend and reach repeatedly, my personal grooming habits have totally changed. It's not something I bring up a lot, but today I saw an advertisement for eyelash extensions, and I suddenly feel the urge to preach my efficient, yet minimalist version of self-care.

My hair was one of the first changes I made when I got sick. My shampoo and conditioner were perfumed, as are 99% of the self-cleaning products on the shelves, and when scents started bothering me, taking a shower became a torment. I googled around for unscented shampoo options and came across the no-poo method. It's been years now since I've used anything on my hair other than baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary tea and cornstarch, and it's normally just the soda and vinegar. This method has also reduced the frequency with which I need to wash my hair, which is great because the reaching while shampooing and being cold while my super-thick hair takes HOURS to dry are both potential head triggers and I'd rather not do them four times a week.

I've also turned to natural, unscented soaps. I've been switching off lately between a basic olive oil soap and a goat's milk soap, which does have a slightly... goaty scent. On my face, I use the oil-cleansing method, and I really love what it's done for my skin. I break out a lot less than I did when I used the non-comedogenic, medicated, supposedly gentle for sensitive skin, commercial cleansers. Now, I just rub my face, neck, shoulders and chest down with an olive oil/castor oil blend, sometimes I steam with a hot washcloth, then wipe it all off, gently, and my face is soft like a baby's butt.

My facial skin is also probably improved because I hardly ever wear makeup anymore, and can't actually remember the last time I wore anything more than chapstick. I have no good makeup recommendations, because all I have is stinky stuff that I hate, I can't afford replacements, and I think makeup is a bullshit institution anyway. Why can't I have visible blemishes? I'm a person, not a mannequin. I might be on a makeup strike.

Speaking of strikes, let's talk body hair. Until the last few years, I was the master of the razor. I wore short-shorts and bikinis and rarely was stubble ever seen. But with migraines, I've been unable to shave my legs without triggering head pain, from all the bending and the reaching. During the winter, this isn't an issue at all; I'm not wearing anything skimpy when it's less than 80 degrees anyway, so I leave it alone.

In the summer, I'll use a razor on my legs once or twice, but mostly, I rely on a trusty electric trimmer to mow the leg-lawn. It leaves stubble, so it really only changes things from fluffy to prickly, but it's better than feeling like a total sasquatch when I have to be in public on a hot day. Depilatories and waxes aren't an option for me, I hate them for their smell, skin irritation and ingrown hairs.

I do pluck my eyebrows a bit and wax my upper lip every now and again, though. I prefer not to have a moustache, or a unibrow. I'm only exaggerating a little.

I do eventually hope to come to terms with my body hair, embrace my sasquatchiness, and to be able to simply leave it alone, without feeling self-conscious. I consider the requirement of females to be hairless to be sexist and unfair, and I'm trying to reclaim a love for my body, as it is. Body hair isn't gross, it's certainly not unnatural, and it's no one else's business but mine. And, now yours, I guess. Hi!

My one purely self-indulgent, totally toxic grooming behavior is painting my toenails. After migraines hit, I didn't for a long time, but just this summer I've started it back up. The fumes are really noxious, and I have to be outside to withstand them, but it's worth the effort, when I can handle it. I've been rocking some white metallic paint on my toes for the past few weeks, but the next time I'm feeling up to it, I'm thinking of going cobalt.

Besides all the superficial stuff, a big part of taking care of my physical appearance is protecting it, and sunscreen is the one thing I haven't been able to change about my routine, yet. If I will be in the sun for more than a half an hour, I always wear it, though I really dislike the feeling, the smell and that every brand I've ever tried has made my skin break out. But, if I can't stay in the shade, I have to suck it up. Sunburns are the worst.

Being chronically ill can really take the wind out of your sails when you are trying to appear socially acceptable. And I have a secret for when I feel too tired or I'm in too much pain to keep up the charade: I don't. Those normal social rules that dictate what we should look like and how we take care of ourselves? They're crap. If I feel terrible, I will walk the dog in my pajamas, or go to the pharmacy without brushing my teeth or hair. I will even go out without washing my face, if I don't have the energy. If get funny looks from strangers (and I do), I just keep moving and get my stuff done so I can get back home and lay the hell down.

So, my priorities have shifted over the last few years. Appearances still have some import, but my health takes precedence. And it's sad that it took getting sick for me to realize what really matters.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Ginger and Whining

Whyyyyy is the nausea kicking back up again??

Not that it's really ever died down that much, for nearly a year now, it's been ever-present whenever I'm in a moving vehicle. Years ago, before migraine was a word I used, I used to brag, "I can read and eat sitting backwards in the back of a bus and I'll be fine!" Ugh, just writing that sentence made my stomach roll and my vision went a little wonky. The letters on the screen started doing a sort of 3D wiggly-dance, anyone else ever get that?

This post is brought to you by Canada Dry! They didn't actually send me anything or pay me, but for a reasonable price, they're keeping me from feeling like I'm going to hurl on everything at all times. Thanks Canada Dry!

As far as ginger ales go, Canada Dry is a good-tasting brand and is consistent in quality and flavor. Also, my boyfriend has become an extreme couponer in order to keep up with my habit, and Canada Dry is the only brand sold locally that we can afford. The last time we shopped he got me a eight cases for $2 or something silly like that. I've tried a few other brands, Seagram's was the most recent attempt, since they also offer coupons, but they aren't gingery enough for me. I've also tried some fancier ginger ales from Beverages and More (my brother's a bit of a soda connoisseur), and they were, on average, AMAZING, but way out of my price range. So much so that I never even bothered to look at the labels, just savored the moment while I had it.

Other than for medicinal purpose, I avoid sodas completely. It's ginger ale for the nausea and dizziness (a sip or gulp every minute to half-hour as needed), but I'll also rarely turn to Coke or Pepsi if a migraine feels like it might respond to caffeine (no more than 1/4 can at a time, and no more than 2 cans a day), but only if coffee (a sip at a time, spaced minutes apart) or tea (a few sips at a time, spaced minutes apart) aren't available. I don't drink soda recreationally, though, because I think that corn syrup, and it's high-fructose brother, are terrible for my health and for our country's agricultural sustainability. That's why I prefer my medicinal caffeine via coffee and tea, and if I could afford and find ginger ale without it, I'd be an instant convert.

I've considered making ginger ale myself, but haven't yet had the money to invest in bottles to give it a whirl. I do drink ginger tea, sometimes, but the carbonation in combination with the ginger is what really kicks the nausea for me, I have to drink twice as much tea as soda to get the same effect. Ginger candy is gorgeous, and I do like to keep some on hand, but I have to eat it continuously for it to be effective, so I treat it as more of a candy than a medicine.

So, I'm a ginger ale junkie, as long as the nausea sticks around. It's the only thing that's consistently made me feel better, reliably and without side effects. I do catch myself without ginger sometimes and those occasions are very uncomfortable. My backup remedies are only somewhat effective, if at all, and include eating or drinking constantly, sucking on lozenges constantly, and/or whining and moaning constantly, none of which make me a fun person to be around. Hence, the boyfriend has become an extreme couponer of ginger ale. Thanks again, Canada Dry!


Sunday, September 2, 2012


Despite being disabled and not having any prospects of employment outside the home, I try my hardest to be productive, and even make a little money, where I can.

For the past few years, I've been filling out surveys online, I wrote up a review about the companies I was using back in 2010, but times they've a-changed.

Lately, the survey sites I frequent are Global Test Market, Pinecone, My View, My Survey, i-say, and a few others that so infrequently pay me anything that they aren't worth mentioning. Even the ones that do pay out regularly seem to take forever to build up any cash lately, because I'm a terrible consumer, with my DIY and cooking from scratch and buying everything used. It's my own fault, and I'm ashamed.

Haha, no! Not really! But, I do miss that income, so I decided to try out two new website-income type sites, Swag Bucks and Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Swag Bucks paid me $35 in Amazon bucks for the month I used it. I installed their toolbar, used their search engine, completed tasks, signed up for stuff and took surveys, but I also quadrupled my spam influx and often spent an hour a day on the site to get that income. It wasn't a good fit for me, in the end, so I cashed out as soon as I could and closed down my account.

Amazon Mechanical Turk, however, is my new favorite thing. It's basically a database of surveys and clerical tasks that can be completed relatively quickly for various dollar amounts. In my first month, I made over a hundred dollars and expect to make about fifty a month in the future. I'm sticking with this one, and look forward to a little extra christmas money.

Update: I only used the Amazon Mechanical Turk account regularly for a few months, then abandoned it because it was too much screening effort on my part. There is money to be made there, but my migrainy brain can't handle such a large amount of varied information without blowing up, so it wasn't profitable at all in the long term.

Does anyone else make money online? Save for gigs that require a webcam or talking on the phone, I'm always looking for new possibilities!


Sunday, August 26, 2012


I took a photo class in high school, and had some interest in exploring it further in college, but didn't. It was always in the back of my mind, though.

I've always sort of snapped photos in my head of pretty things when I saw them, it was never anything I talked about or that even took more than a second, it was just a moment where I'd think something looked like art, so beautiful or ugly or interesting as to be visually compelling. Taking up a camera didn't even occur to me until I got sick. I think the compulsion came about because the beauty of the world was no longer presenting itself to me, being as confined and tortured as I was, so I had to go and find it, as a matter of survival.

My first couple of cameras were point and shoots, and they were brilliant. There was a Sony and a Nikon, and they both worked well until they didn't. The Sony got sand in it and died a quick and painful death but the Nikon is still working, save for the busted battery cover. Luckily, I've got no shame in using a duct-taped camera, it's just annoying having to disassemble the tape every time we want to transfer photos.

I've also been frustrated lately with the point-and-shoot because it seems to lack fine control over images. In good light, when a subject behaves, it works perfectly, and I've got a hundred pics on cafepress to prove it, but I lose a lot of gorgeous, interesting shots because I don't know how to compensate for light issues and can't control the actual capturing of the image as much as I would like.

Since my boyfriend has been getting more work in the photography and video industry, and I've officially become impatient with the capabilities of the point-and-shoot, he saved up for a DSLR, a Nikon D60.


Mostly, it's not a bad camera. It's user-friendly; as you're shooting, the screen shows all kinds of technical f-stop related numbers and information that I don't understand yet, but I'm sure will be fantastically useful once I do. Unfortunately, I don't really think I'm going to be able to use it. The display screen is so busy showing all those cool technical details, it doesn't show what the camera is pointing at. I have to look through the viewfinder.

Which means, I have to squint, bend, contort myself into whatever weird angle I'm trying to shoot while simultaneously struggling to figure out how the ding-dang-mother-brother thing works and what all those numbers mean and why can't I get it to focus properly, even with the fancy focusing brackets? It's a migraine every time I try to use it, and that's the opposite of what photography is supposed to do for me.

So, I hate it and have demanded it be replaced by something with a usable screen. I still have my duct-taped point and shoot, and though it's not returning the quality of images I'd like as often as I'd like, it's better than hurting myself every time I shoot.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Women in Sports

With the Olympics came a whole lot of sexism leveled at the females athletes, from commentators, news sources, and the general public. When I was faced with this sexism in real life, or on the internet, I tried to counter it with facts and pointed out the flaws in whatever was said, or photographed. I spoke to my friends and family when they'd listen, and even went on a rant on the internet. I don't usually confront the internet, it can be monolithic and intimidating, but I found that I was more passionate about this subject than I knew, so I'm reprinting my thoughts here.

Women are disadvantaged in sports, they have less sponsorship opportunities (and the ones they do get tend to be sexually exploitative, a la Danica Patrick for GoDaddy), less access to training resources, lower pay and less of a chance to play, because women's sports aren't considered interesting.

I think that part of the problem is segregation. Women should be able to play with and against men whenever they want, and I see no reason for them to be separate.

But, but! Upper body strength, muscles, center of gravity! I heard full paragraphs of bull supporting these phrases and I shall not type them out because rage isn't healthy. But, know that similar arguments were used to keep black people out of white sports back in the day, and it was determined then and is still true now that separate is never really equal. We all have different body types, we all have different strengths and weaknesses and that's why there are winners and losers in games, instead of everything always ending in a tie.

Yes, many women are physically weaker than many men. But some women are stronger, some women are faster and more agile and more talented than many men, than ALL the men, and they aren't being given the same opportunities, solely because they're women.

I do think that women should have the option of playing separately, if they want it. The world is so male-dominated, any place where it's okay to be a lady can be a rare sanctuary. But, if a woman wants to play golf, or tennis, or soccer, or football or ANY sport there is and she wants to compete with the men, she should be rabidly encouraged.

And, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Female Athletes' Endorsement Opportunities Hindered By Sexualization And Lack Of Visibility, Say Researchers

Men vs. Women in Athletics

"By directly challenging and dispelling misconceptions about women’s capabilities, integrated sport programmes help to reduce discrimination and broaden the role prescribed to women." From this amazing, and hugely long study: Women, Gender Equality and Sport.

Here's an article about a female weightlifter who outranked ALL the men and still had trouble getting any scholarships: Why doesn’t Sarah Robles, the highest ranked American weightlifter, have all the athletic sponsorships?

"Because females have historically faced athletic disadvantages, they should be able to play on all-female teams if they choose. But they shouldn't be barred from playing on traditionally male teams.", from Women and Men in Sports: Separate is not equal

Feminism has become a part of my life since my bubble of able-bodied privilege was broken, and I'm probably going to start writing about it more here. Hence, new tag!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Other Drugs

Having a migraine that I can't cope with is a rare event nowadays. The pain comes, but it's generally not as severe as what I used to face daily, and I tend to live in a more emotionally stable frame of mind than I once did, thus making pain much more dealable. Yesterday, however, I had a throwback migraine and it was brutal.

The morning sun in the kitchen made me a little twitchy, then I talked to a neighbor for a minute over the roar of his diesel truck, and then I got into a brief spat with my honey, and then I had a little coughing fit when my attempt to medicate revealed a weakness in my lungs that would forbid me from smoking for the rest of the day. I had chronic bronchitis as a kid, and still get painful bouts of pleurisy occasionally, so I don't screw around with my lungs. There would be no weed for me.

So, after the light, the noise, the stress, the coughing, then a whiff of cigarette smoke, and some bending over to pick up stray laundry for good measure, I tried to take the dog and the man for a little walk and whammo-blammo surprise! I'm finding myself sitting in the middle of the road because my legs cannot possibly carry me and my massively engorged head any further. I rested for a minute or two, realized it wasn't going to pass, then left the dog to my boyfriend and hightailed it back inside, into the dark.

Without the option of smoking marijuana, I struggled. Regular readers may remember that triptans and other abortives have never worked for me, so when I have a migraine, I focus more on accepting and riding out the pain than on stopping it because that has been historically futile. So, I pulled out my dusty bottle of soma and took a couple halves throughout the day. That didn't do much for my head, but it really helped when my neck, shoulders and back started scrunching themselves into painful, knotted ropes of tortured muscles. I also had to take a valium when my anxiety started to skyrocket. It's not my favorite, but it works in a pinch.

To minimize the drugs I take, I prefer to try to dissociate from the pain. I was in too much pain to meditate very effectively, so instead I watched Doctor Who for hours. It was a wonderful escape until the Dalek episodes, those guys are shrill.

I usually go to bed between 9 and 11, any later and I tend to suffer the next day. So, at 11:30, when I was still awake and felt strung so tight I could snap into a million pieces, I threw caution to the wind, took a whole soma and slept all the way through the night.

I woke stiff and achy, but that full night's sleep did some serious magic, and as the morning progressed, I slowly started feeling more normal. By the time some friends stopped by for an after-lunch visit, I was ready for some socializing.

And socialize I did. We were actually going to go hiking, but I was in no shape for any kind of physical activity, so we sat in our front yard and chatted for HOURS. I love my friends.

After they left, I had the standard let-down. When I'm having fun, actively engaged in a pleasurable activity, my adrenaline or serotonin or whatever keeps my head a bit lower than it really is, because once the good time is over, the ache sets in hard. But after all that fun and talking and laughing, the pain is ok. The pain is there, and it's distracting, and it's certainly disabling, but it's ok.

Friends are magic, I tell you.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Uphill

I went for a hike with some friends last week. We probably only walked about 3 miles, but the remarkable thing about this hike was the hills, and mainly, how I didn't migraine myself into oblivion by climbing them.

When we first moved from the city into our little forest cabin, the hills were a struggle for me. We're on the side of a mountain, so the road past our house is an incline, the trails around our house are all fairly hilly, and even doing the laundry involves hauling my butt up and down a small hill.

When we first moved, I was so out of shape that the smallest exertion could flatten me for a week. My head would throb, my body would feel heavy and tired, my mind would become confused and irritable, and I would walk so slowly, the banana slugs were all, "Speed it up, sister."

But I kept trying. In the quiet of the mountain, without cars, sirens, the sun, or strange men to fend off, I found going for walks easier, even with the hills. So, I kept walking, my stamina grew, and my muscles woke back up.

It's taken eight months for me to get here. I can touch my toes, which I've never been able to do in my life, I can hoof it up our road and make it to the top without stopping constantly or feeling like I'm dying from the head. I've been using hand weights, too, and my arms are starting to look like a feature at the gun show. I've lost at least ten pounds, and several inches around my waist, bringing me back to nearly my pre-depakote weight. The progress is visible, and it is encouraging.

So, I went for a hike with friends last week, and it went so much better than I could have hoped for. Sure, I whined a bit, and towards the end, I had to stop every twenty feet to rest on the uphills. My head seems to be directly tied to my blood pressure, and when my blood starts pumping hard, my head becomes difficult to tolerate. But, tolerate it I did, with plenty of help from the old Mary Jane and lots of encouragement and laughter with friends.

When I got home, I was exhausted, and my head felt the affects for a few days. However, I was still able to function somewhat and the expected spike in pain was only about half of what it used to be.

The most amazing part of this bodily turnaround, for me, is that a lot of this progress is taking place in the summer. It's not as hot, and not nearly as bright as it was in the city, which is definitely making it easier on me, but maybe my sensitivity is decreasing, too, and maybe the healthier my body is, the healthier my head will be.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Unharmed Jellyfish Extract for Migraine

For a while now, I've been thinking to myself, "What's next for me and my migraines?" I didn't like where the migraine specialist wanted to go (hospitalization, lots of pills I'd mostly already tried, and some I hadn't), and I can't afford to go to a practitioner of more natural methods because medicare simply won't cover it. As far as treatments, I've been at a bit of a standstill.

So, I was very interested when I received an email from Quincy Bioscience alerting me to an online migraine trial they are putting on.

Quincy Bioscience has recently launched a distance trial to study the effects of apoaequorin on migraines after hearing several anecdotal reports that the use of a popular over-the-counter supplement reduced the symptoms of migraines.

The Online Migraine Trial is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that is conducted online using migraine assessment surveys. All study supplies are shipped directly to participants. The trial will last 90 days. There is no travel required or samples to collect. You can complete your testing from the comfort of your own home!

HOPE Trials is the research arm of Quincy Bioscience and has pioneered a form of trial research called ‘patient reported outcomes’ testing. You can read about our work here:

Visit for more information and to apply.

I did some pretty basic google research and came up with the interesting info that apoaequorin is a humanely-extracted, jellyfish-glow-magic supplement that does things to calcium on a cellular level that I do not understand.

It allegedly (per google) improves memory, helps migraine, and can also be useful for MS and Parkinson's. I looked hard, but couldn't find a single peer-reviewed study that says apoaequorin has any effect on the human body.

So, my inner skeptic was on the lookout for signs of scamminess, because why isn't there a peer-reviewed study anywhere if this stuff works likes they claim it does? Besides the random, super-ebullient forum posts touting apoaequorin's phenomenal effect on their [insert neurological disease here], I thought it was odd that Prevagen's website (who are the makers of an apoaequorin supplement and are related to Quincy) promotes that apoaequorin won a nobel prize in chemistry. That's true, but it didn't get the prize for it's health benefits, just for being discovered in jellyfish, as the glow magic. I thought that was rather misleading.

But, you know what? It was free and that's my favorite price, and what else do I have going on? So, when I got the package, I tore into it like it was full of possibilities and looked over the contents carefully, to make sure I was going to do everything perfectly. The package contained three bottles of capsules, a folder with more details of the study and a stack of migraine diary pages to fill out while taking the supplements.

Over the next three months, I took my pill almost every morning (I missed nine, total). I dutifully filled out their diary pages, completed their online evaluations once a month, and spoke with an endlessly polite and helpful representative on the phone several times. (Taylor, you're awesome!) By the end of the trial, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed that it did nothing for me. I waited not-so-patiently for the mail to bring me news of whether I'd been taking the actual supplement or a placebo and was happy to find that I'd been taking the placebo.

What happened to my inner skeptic? She was tired of nothing helping her aching head.

But, the cool thing about this study is, at the end of it, if you find out that you didn't get to try the real thing, you get to try the real thing! For free! I love free stuff so much!

So, I got my real 90-day supply of jellyfish magic, and took it daily, as directed.

I started getting more and more depressed right around this time, so at about the one-month mark, I called up Taylor and asked if that was a side effect that had been reported. She said that people have actually reported apoaequorin helping their depression symptoms. She offered to call me back in a week and we could talk about adjusting my dosage if I was still having trouble. I think Taylor has been my favorite part of this experience. Quincy, or Prevagen or whoever, you hold on to that lady, she's a good one.

The depression ebbed back and didn't resurface again too strongly during the trial, but I've just started month three of the three-month supply and my migraines remain unaffected. I'll finish it up, it doesn't appear to me harming me, at least, but I have to admit that I'm disappointed. Stupid hope gets me every time.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Head Status

I haven't done a proper migraine update in a while.

The unprovoked nausea, it comes and goes, but the motion sickness still hits every time I get in the car, so I've become Canada Dry's biggest customer in the past months.

My worst triggers are still light, sound, and smells, but I also continue to be sensitive to simple activities like bending, reaching, talking, listening and concentrating.

The head pain is less constant and less severe than it was last summer, thanks be to the quiet country life. When I'm at home, and can pace myself and control my environment, I can do almost anything and recuperate at least somewhat within a day. I've gotten great at anticipating and avoiding migraine triggers, so I've been able to go up to several days at a time without a significant neurological event. That's huge for me! Of course, when I leave the safety of our secluded woods and venture into the wilds of town, all bets are off and I'm back to my super-sensitive, hardly-functioning self. It just takes a whiff of perfume, or an unexpected motorcycle or the sun glinting off the back window of the car in front of us to turn me back into a feeble, mumbling, twitching, confused mess of a person. I still recuperate faster than I used to, though, and can expect to be back to semi-active much sooner than I used to.

I've been exercising a few times a week, sometimes every day; walking, hiking, yoga and/or 3-pound free weights, depending on what I feel up for. I've lost a little bit of weight and gained a good bit of muscle, and it feels so good to be strong again.

I've been able to get out more, too, since I only act like a social pariah about 30% of the time, instead of my previous 70%. I've spent quality time with friends and family and have felt more in control of my relationships and behavior.

My depression seems to be staying away for now. I had a sad day right around when my period started, but it coincided with migraine activity and a heatwave, and didn't leave me anywhere near as bad off as the depression I've come to fear, just a little melancholy, tired and lethargic, so I'm sticking with calling it a sad day and enjoying the depression sabbatical.

Oh, and my menstrual cramps also seem to have died back remarkably since I cut way back on the dairy. It's a huge difference, and I never would have believed it if I weren't living it, that's how dedicated I was to cheese. But, my body has spoken and I'll be sticking with my new diet. The dairy industry will suffer, I'm sure.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

School and Resources

Remember when this used to be a migraine blog? School hasn't even started yet and it's already taken over my brain.

My counselor is a lovely woman. Also, we aren't communicating well. I was under the impression that she was kind of my educational agent, that I'd go through her for all of my needs, since I have oh-so-many of them. I've been realizing slowly that that isn't the case. She can be amazingly helpful at times, but in the past few weeks I've had some spectacularly frustrating conversations with her.

There was the thing about going to campus, about how it hurts me real bad and can't I please submit forms digitally and register online and do all of this via email? The answer was no until the middle of last quarter and now suddenly it's a resounding yes. Oh, except for financial aid situations, maybe.

And I know this because my financial aid forms for this year still aren't completed. I submitted my fafsa, but because she'd helped me fill out the financial forms last year, I figured my counselor would be on top of it this year, too. I assumed that when I asked her, "Are there any other forms I need to fill out to make sure I can get my disability and financial assistance?" and she said, "No." that it actually meant "No." and not "I have no idea and you better be finding that out on your own or you'll be in trouble come fall quarter."

So, that's what that means, and now I'm in this scramble to register and pay and file forms and it's probably not nearly as complicated as I make it out to be, but it's a pretty big source of stress and confusion right now. I've registered, but can't pay yet, so I'm not sure how long they'll hold my spot.

When I got a hold of Financial Aid, they didn't want to let me submit anything electronically and my counselor also said that I'd have to come in. When I reminded her that we'd just established that I needed to stick to emailing and isn't this why I have a disabilities coordinator (nicer and slightly more subtly, though), her response was pretty much,"Oh yeah. Go ahead and fax it. This once." So, I faxed it all in and they took a week to update my online account to reflect only two out of three forms done, one's been returned as incomplete, and they've added two more.

I emailed my counselor, but she had nothing helpful to say, so I emailed financial aid and hope they'll have more advice than "Come in to the office", because that really doesn't work for me. By the time I'd get there, I'd be confused and irritable and wouldn't understand and/or remember anything they were saying anyway, which would maybe be fine for them, they'd get a signature out of me and we could all move on... until next year, when I AGAIN have no idea what I'm doing because no one explained it to me properly in the first place, in a context I could comprehend.

I'm trying to be patient. This will all be over soon and I'll be stressing about actual class instead!

On the academic side, I'm going to be taking poetry in the fall and I have a feeling that this class will be a challenge. I love to write and to read, and I used to write some terrible poetry myself, in my teen years, but honestly, if I had my choice now, this class would not be on the top of the list. I enrolled in poetry in the way back days and didn't withdraw properly when I decided it wasn't for me, so to get that negative mark off my record, I have to retake it. This is actually the first quarter that I've seen it offered as an online class, so I knew I had to jump on it, in case it doesn't last. I think I'll enjoy it in the end, but I predict that I'm going to have to WORK, and I'm feeling a little intimidated.

On a less stressful note, we went to our sorta-local community assistance place. In our old city, it was stark and huge and the experience was dominated by overhead speakers and bright, bright, bright fluorescent lighting. The workers were unaffected and often disdainful. I never, ever left those buildings without crying at least once from pain, humiliation, or both. But, this place was so different, I wasn't sure how much they'd be able to help us. There were well-used but clean and comfortable couches in the center of the place and a line of old computers against a wall which we saw a woman walk in and use, we found out later that they are available to anyone for job-searching purposes. There were pamphlets about social services everywhere. I tried to look at them all, you never know what will be useful, but it was a sea of WIC and domestic abuse and legal aid, and I counted myself lucky that I even saw the low income auto insurance one and the one about local food resources.

We sat on the couches and filled out some paperwork. We waited a few minutes and our assigned advocate called us in to her little office and started going over our details. She quickly identified a mistake in our utility billing which will save us quite a bit. Then she called the utility company, right there, to start the process of fixing it. She's a pro, this one.

When I asked about food resources, she told us that they host a free farmer's market two days a month. I was shocked. In our old city, we could get a bag of processed foods, most of which I couldn't eat, once a month. Here, I can get actual produce. I'm delighted.

And when conversation drifted to migraines and pets, she also told me about an acupuncturist who operates on a sliding scale, and let us in on who's the most affordable vet in the area. We left there feeling very lucky and like we'd found an empathetic resource, someone who wants to help us and wants us to succeed. After five years of dealing with social services, it's nice to have met someone who still cares.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Not A Break

School's out and it's real life for the summer. I have to stay productive or I'll implode, so I've been narrowing down a few options for keeping myself busy.

It's not that I'm ever really idle, even when I'm collapsed in my chair, in pain and ill, I'm still trying to fold socks or fill out surveys. And when I can move, I'm never caught up on housework, so I've got that to look forward to. But, I need, and deserve, to have a life outside of household chores and the computer.

I've made a few new friends, so maybe it's time for some socializing! I haven't made many friends since migraines, so it's kind of a big deal for me to be spending time with new people. So, this summer, I have been and will continue to partake in social activities like: walking dogs, taking photos, and having interesting conversations.

But, my busy social calendar won't actually take up much time, since I can't handle more than one or two outings a week, and really not at all during heat waves. To fill my inevitable indoor time, I signed up for another survey-type site. I'm still active at several others, but I don't qualify for as many surveys since I don't often buy most of the things they are researching for. And now that I'm avoiding packaged foods, it's dwindled even further. I know, I just said I need to get away from the computer occasionally, but this new site will hopefully give me back a little more income. Christmas is coming!

For personal enrichment, I been wanting to supplement my photography knowledge. I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know how to use my camera very well. I know a few tricks, but never paid the technical aspect of photography enough attention, and I'm starting to see it in my work. I was thinking of taking a class over the summer, but couldn't afford it, so I've started looking online for free articles and tutorials and I think I should be able to educate myself pretty thoroughly, with a little luck and perseverance. Luck mostly, because my camera's in the process of breaking and I have no funds for a new one. This is upsetting but I have no idea what to do but keep taping it back up and hope for a miracle windfall to replace it before it shatters into bits.

Well, I think that'll about top me off. Friends, photos, learning, and money-making attempts will keep me plenty busy, and school isn't really that far off again, so I'll need to start planning for that right quick.

Didn't I say I needed a break?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nutrition Now

My eating patterns have evolved quite a bit over the years and the nutrition class I just finished has changed them even more.

Before migraines, I was a lazy, uninformed eater. I bought a lot of frozen and prepared foods, ate out whenever I could afford it, and though I did try and purchase more organic and natural items, I didn't consume a lot of produce. I was afraid of most veggies, so we ate a lot of pasta with jarred sauce, noodle bowls, quesadillas, scrambled eggs, frozen burritos, and mac and cheese. Not that a person can't eat a balanced diet while eating these items, a person can, if a person tries. I wasn't really trying, is the thing.

After I got sick, I started reading quite a bit about migraines, and nutrition was a subject that kept coming up over and over. Foods to avoid were stressed, but more importantly, I found advice pertaining to the foods that we should be eating. More plants, everyone said. The experts seem to disagree about everything else, but that one point: Eat more plants. So, I started buying produce without having a clue what I was going to do with it. I'd get it home and google recipes until I came up with something that sounded tasty. There were failed attempts, and there were some rousing successes, and gradually, amazingly, I started to get good at cooking vegetables.

Once I knew how to cook the healthier foods, I had to start working on how to decrease my unhealthy food intake. There were certain obvious pitfalls to avoid, like deep-fried, processed, and fast foods, but I still wasn't sure what good choices I should make. When I was a teenager I tried to go vegan and ended up feeling crappy and getting sick because all I ate was ramen and spaghetti. I've come a long way since then, but I still didn't feel confident at all that I was getting all the nutrients I needed.

Before the class, I didn't eat meat, but I did eat a lot of eggs and dairy, and fish rarely. I'd started making an effort to work veggies into most meals, but didn't always succeed. I'd been consuming nutritional yeast regularly, as it's a good source of b-vitamins, which vegetarians can be low in, but I hadn't taken a multivitamin in I don't know how long. I regularly read food labels, but didn't always know what they meant and didn't always care.

After the class, I'm definitely eating a more plant-based diet, and I always check the veggie drawers first when planning meals. I still read labels, of course, and I know what most of it means now, but I'm not buying nearly as much packaged food as I once did, so my new talent is wasted. Supplements are the same, I sprinkle my food with nooch, but still don't take vitamins. They're expensive and my textbook (which can awesomely be found online) said that as long as a person eats balanced and doesn't have a absorption issue, that supplements are usually unnecessary. (I do, however, plan on purchasing some, because I tend to get anemic and I'm not positive that diet alone will raise my iron stores if needed. (Iron is much more bio-available in meats (which I don't eat) than it is in plants.) Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, fyi.)

My class actually encouraged eating dairy, but my curiosity on the subject led me to some independent sources that said dairy can affect some people's bodies negatively. I decided to try and cut down, for migraine, digestive, and other reasons, and I've been surprised by how little I miss it. The first week or two was rough, but since I've reduced my dairy consumption, whenever I do eat it, I end up feeling really heavy and sluggish, and sometimes more headachy. Or maybe that's how I always felt before and I'm only noticing it now because my body isn't constantly bogged down by cheese. I've also noticed improvements in my skin and last month my normally AWFUL cramps were nearly nonexistent. That's the part that's blowing my mind and I almost can't wait until my next period to see if it continues.

The one dairy product I've been hoping to reintroduce regularly is yogurt. I love yogurt for it's probiotic properties and for it's versatility in meals and desserts, but it may have triggered a massive migraine the last time I had it, so I'm experimenting, carefully.

Most of the what the class taught felt like nutrition common sense, but really in-depth. Which vitamin does what to which parts of the body, how metabolism works, how our needs change over our lifetime; these things were interesting, but I doubt I'll retain them for much longer.

What I really got out of the course was a new perspective on food. I learned that we (USians) tend to eat way more protein than we need and too little fiber. I learned that the cultures around the world that base their diets on vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish, in that order, live the longest and have the least chronic disease. I learned that nutrition is important, every day, and that what we eat now affects us for the rest of our lives. I learned that if we can make healthier choices, if we can afford fresh or frozen produce, if we can buy local, organic meats, if we can make all of our meals from scratch, without preservatives and artificial ingredients we don't need, we'll feel better and live longer.

I know, it's idealistic. A lot of us can't afford fresh, healthy food. A lot of us can't even access it. A lot of us don't have the time or energy to make meals from scratch. A lot of us have health issues that wouldn't be affected at all by diet change. But, a lot of us aren't making changes that we could, and it's those changes we should all be thinking about right now. Cut down on bacon, or make one vegetarian meal a week, or stop salting your food before you taste it (my latest challenge), or chop up some bananas and strawberries to dip into that chocolate for dessert. It can be the little things that add up to big changes in the end.

Here's a list of some meals I've made recently, to give you an idea of how I'm eating now:

-Halved, roasted acorn squash, covered with a mountain of a wild rice/lentil mix to which I added onions, roasted garlic, mushrooms, almonds and pineapple.

-Soft tacos stuffed to the brim with wild rice/mushroom/lentil/almond/pineapple filling*, roasted eggplant, butter lettuce, a little fresh tomato, topped with a cool yogurt dill sauce and a drizzle of salsa verde, for funsies.

-Roasted eggplant* and potato* burrito

-Grilled tilapia* sandwich on whole wheat bread with a fat layer each of cucumber, tomato, and romaine, and a healthy sprinkling of sauerkraut.

-Soft tacos filled with lentils, mushrooms, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

-Tons of chopped, steamed broccoli and bell peppers over baked golden potatoes*, covered in a roasted garlic and mozzarella sauce.

-Egg and soymilk omelet scramble, with a big bunch of baby kale, mushrooms, onion, garlic, with some mozzarella sauce* over the top.

-Grilled zucchini and bell peppers over leftover wild rice/lentil mix*, topped with caramelized onions

-Quesadilla stuffed with grilled veg*, caramelized onions* and wild rice mix*, with a thin layer of mozzarella.

So, I'm eating well, for the most part. I still eat unhealthy foods when I really want them (toaster oven s'mores ftw), I just make sure to consume them in moderation. I can see that there's a lot of repetition in my menu, partly because I get into food phases and crave the same five foods for weeks or months, and mostly because I purposely make huge amounts of whatever's for dinner, so I can use the leftovers for the next meal or eight. In the above menu, I've put an asterisk* next to the items that were leftovers for that meal. Recycling and repurposing previous meals saves me precious time and energy in the kitchen, making it possible for me to cook as much as I do. Most of our meals are made from leftovers, simply because I don't have the ability to start from scratch every time. I know my limitations, now it's all about learning the workarounds.

Oh, and you may have heard me whining about how I was only going to get a B in that nutrition class and I'd worked so hard and my woe threatened to swallow us all, but then final grades were submitted and I somehow got myself an A+.

Asskicking, yes I am.