Tuesday, April 23, 2013


It's the third week of the quarter and I still don't have any captions, in a class that is video-lecture heavy. Welp.

I had to push for audio/video accommodations again this quarter (long-time readers might remember that I've been denied them in past classes), and I think I'm going to get them? It's acknowledged that I need them, and apparently if I could go to campus, or read sign language, I'd have more options, but getting someone to type up a transcript and email it is near-impossible. My teacher is trying to work with me while we wait for the captioning wizards to take their sweet time (I'm sure they're horribly understaffed and overworked and under-budgeted, and wonderful people, I'm just frustrated), so he's written up special notes for one video, is sending me regular email updates on what content is imperative and how I can get it, or what can wait, and besides one brief email melt-down where he pretty went, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!", he's been awesome and supportive and is restoring my faith in the human race. So, that's been nice. But, this coming week is particularly video-related and if I can't get the captions soon, this class is going to get really difficult. If only it was required for schools to provide all of their content in ways that are useful everyone in the first place, I wouldn't be stressing out over taking quizzes on content I can't access.

The good news is, I'm getting good scores on the discussions and I received good feedback on my first essay, though not the actual score, so we'll see how that goes. There's going to be a final project that looks nice and intimidating, so I'm definitely going to start obsessing on that soon.

I've had a cold for almost a week now, which led to a near disaster with my last assignment. I was feeling really blocked on it for some reason, and had trouble even getting started. I still had plenty of time when I got sick, but the mild fever and body aches took away all my brain power, and I couldn't even form a thesis until three days before the paper was due. I hate working under pressure. I finished it on time, and that's the assignment I got some good feedback on, so all is probably well, but it's just a reminder that I can not procrastinate, ever. Being sick is inconvenient for most people, but it hits me extra hard because everything leads back to migraines and if I'm incapacitated for a week, my teacher may not give a shit and dock my grade anyway. He's been great so far, but he's got strict policies on late work and I'm not interested in pushing my luck.

Anyway, I need to stay on top of my work, because even if I don't get sick again, a hard-core migraine could take me down at any time. I've been feeling pretty good lately, only hitting a 7 a few times a week, and then only briefly. Except for today, ugh, I've hit the coughing stage of this cold and my head. does. not. like.

To sum up: I'm ready for this cold to be over, and I'm ready for my captions.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Picking up the Pieces (of Trash)

Regrouping from the lost days of migraine is never easy.

So it goes. I spent a few hours at the beach with friends, or I hiked too hard or too far, or I paid a visit to the city, in all its stimulating glory. Maybe I didn't actually do anything, but my head is flaring because of pollen or chainsaws or mercury is in retrograde. Whatever the reason, it happens. My head aches, I can't think, I'm suddenly cold and irritable and hungry but nauseated, and if I move, it's a quadrillion times worse, so I'm as still and quiet as I can possibly be until it passes. After the worst of it is over, and I'm trying to refocus my eyes, and my brain, on the world around me, I remain sensitive for days, and righting myself can be a challenge.

The most frustrating thing is how much neglected chores and work build up around me while I'm down. I can barely take care of myself when my head is on high; sleeping and hydration are my number one goals, but school, eating, hygiene, and especially housecleaning are often left by the wayside while I deal with the pain, discomfort, and emotional toll migraines take on my body.

So, what happens is: I start to feel better, I take a shower, I put on a bra, and I start looking around at my surroundings and I'm appalled. Where did these mountains of dishes and laundry and dust and grime even come from? (No really, WHERE? We're only two people!)

I've learned not to marathon the cleaning, that will always drive me back into migraine, but to work in mindful spurts, when I can, and to stop at the first sign of migrainous consequences.

It's a lot of mindfulness and practice and patience with myself, but when I get it right, life is so much easier. For example, when I got up to get a cup of tea a few minutes ago, I grabbed everything within reach that wasn't where it was supposed to be. I grabbed my empty mug, a few pieces of trash, a plate from a snack a few hours ago, and a book that needed to go back on the shelf. I put it all away on the way into the kitchen. Then, while I was waiting for the water to boil, I took those five minutes to wash a few dishes, put a few spices back where they go, and throw away that empty wrapper that was wedged behind the toaster. I do this type of accidental cleaning as often as I can, and it's astounding how quickly the efforts of just a few minutes at a time add up, and a cluttered and messy house can be brought to a much less frightening level of cleanliness.

This has been working for me, most of the time. Even on my worst days, I can usually put in at least a few minutes' effort, and though it may cause me pain at the time, being productive - even in a tiny measure - can do wonders for my mentality when I'm in the throes of a downturn. Though, if I'm going to share the good, I should absolutely articulate how bad it can get.

It's embarrassing when my house is messy, I don't want anyone to come over, it makes me feel out of control and gross, and my usually rather mild anxiety goes through the roof when there's too much clutter. If I'm not able to stay on top of the mess, put in the daily maintenance and hold others to the same task, the mess can evolve into an impossible feat of claustrophobic proportions, which makes it a migraine trigger (or at least, an exacerbator), by virtue of the stress it causes my mind and body.

Now, it becomes a matter of getting myself out of this perpetual motion anxiety/migraine machine and breaking the cycle, which is so much harder than sticking to the small-scale, daily maintenance, because not only is it a bigger physical challenge to tackle a less-controlled mess, it becomes a mental weight, too. When every effort hurts my head, an intimidating task like a sink full of dishes can feel like a sentence of years of hard labor.

Sometimes, I get right to it, I swallow my anxiety or resentment, put on some happy music and do what I can for as long as I can, basically my maintenance routine, but kicked up a notch. Sometimes, it takes me an extra day to work up to it. Sometimes, I can't even get started without help.

I've definitely got some weird emotional issues with cleaning, especially cleaning up after other people, and while I'm working on those issues, they've gotten worse since I got sick. It helps to keep to my little maintenance schedule, and I continue to subscribe to UfYH via RSS, and the daily reminders and before-and-after shots keep me inspired and motivated on hard days.

When the migraines first started, I spent so much time curled up in bed, I wouldn't have noticed a mess if it was piled on top of me. So, it's really a testament to my improved health that I even have the energy to care so much about having an orderly home. I'm going to count that as a win.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Skipping Hempcon

So, there's this big medical cannabis convention that comes to town every few months to a year, and I went once before but it was pretty uncomfortable for me, as far as noise and seating and lights and overall sensory overload. The samples were awesome, the networking was cool, the different booths were interesting, and I sure did love the chance to try out a huge variety of products, but since my first visit, it seems things have changed.

Suddenly, this medical marijuana expo has become more than a little about exploiting women. Joining the ranks of car shows and comic-con, individual booths hire women to be friendly and wear scanty clothing, and the event itself hosts contests for women that are little more than wet t-shirt contests.

The sexual exploitation of women has nothing to do with marijuana, medical or otherwise, but that it's featured so heavily at an industry event that features professional speakers and the opportunity for patients to connect with caregivers, is really disappointing.

I wrote an email to the generic info address listed on their website. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, I honestly didn't expect to make a difference, but I thought I should say what is true and what is true is that the easy sexualization of women makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and it's particularly inappropriate in a setting that is supposed to be for the MEDICAL cannabis industry. Do we have women in bikinis at diabetes conferences? I'm pretty sure not. Anyway, here's how the emailing went down, verbatim, and it gets all kinds of [sic] down there, be warned.

steph: Hi there, I'm looking at your website and noted a few pictures of scantily clad women in provocative poses. Will there also be scantily clad men at the San Jose Hempcon on 4/20? If so, you should feature photos of them in your advertising, it would be a huge draw to at least half of the population. If there will not be scantily clad men, I would like to request them. Besides, you guys wouldn't want to be perpetuating sexism, would you? Thanks!

Hempcon: Oh please.

steph: oh please.. accept progressive ideas and have a sense of humor about your own failings?

Hempcon: Failings ? A multi-A market Business to consumers MM Convention.
And what have you contributed ?

steph:Wow. I'm really disappointed in your hostile response, here. I'm giving you and your event constructive criticism. I'm not being nasty or rude. I even tried to be a little funny, to take the edge off. Admitting your event has an element to it that is sexist and likely makes at least a portion of your patrons uncomfortable would be a good thing. I don't expect it to change, but I do expect it to be at least respectfully acknowledged.

Hempcon: So sensitive Ms. [steph]? Use your Willed Effort some Where else.
We have In "Compassionate Intent - contributed ",..more to the medical marijuana cannabis Industry In California and Abroad than you can ever imagine.

The Hempcon convention Allows the MM Cannabis Industry to come together for 3 days to advertise,brand,market,network,promote And sell their products & services to thousands of pro-positive 420 compassionate consumers In a well organized,sare & comfortable environment. And If We Have T&A on The Website -so Be It.

Unless You are in The Business To Finance Research,Develop,Launch ,Produce and promote A multi-Market Million Dollar Trade Show, Keep The Line Clear.

Emerson D. Waters
Hempcon Senior Business Relations

steph: Should I attribute quotes to Emerson D. Waters?

Hempcon: ...

I stopped at this point, he never replied to my last email and obviously wasn't interested in opening a dialogue about how to make his event more welcoming to paying customers, and that's sad for him, the event, and the industry. Perhaps I shouldn't have started out with the humorous tone, maybe my super-professional voice would have gotten better results, but I doubt that. People who make money off the exploitation of others are rarely looking to change. But I stood up and said what was true, and now I'm standing up again to say it louder:

This is not ok.

And I will not stop until the sexual objectification of my gender stops. I'll probably be at it until I die, and I'll meet a hundred more condescending, sexist guys like old Emerson up there, but they will not shut me up and they sure as hell won't keep us down. The oppressors of women and other minorities will eventually go out of fashion, be labeled for the bigoted, embarrassing dinosaurs they are, and when they all finally die off, society will be better for it, and we will rejoice.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Other People's Life Events

We went to a wedding last weekend.

I'm delighted for the couple; they make each other happy, their children seem to get along, and I wish a hundred years of joy and love to them. As a celebration of their union, the party was a glorious success, people laughed and cried, ate, drank, and danced. There were smiles all around, and the bar, it was open. Unfortunately, no matter how I prepared and planned and anticipated the plethora of triggers I would be encountering, a wedding is no place for a chronic migraineur. At least, not this one.

I haven't been able to afford new clothes in years, so I honestly had nothing to wear to this wedding that wasn't black or ill-fitting. Months ahead of time, I started looking for something appropriate, and by the grace of gift cards and clearance racks and at least five separate trips to several different stores, I found something that fit me, that we could afford, and that didn't make me feel dumpy or like I was trying too hard. I settled on a simple black shirt, pink skirt, black heels and fedora combo that I thought looked pretty cute.

The fedora should be discussed. I have never worn one before, and I waver between thinking they are the dumbest trend I've ever seen and that I want one because that one person over there looks ADORABLE in them. I'd tried them on before, and I've always hated them on me, but for some reason, when I put on my brother's fedora a few hours before the ceremony, I thought it wasn't the worst thing I'd ever seen on me. I'd brought a black ball cap, which didn't really compliment my look, and would have ruined my tediously curled hair, but overhead lights are always a threat and must be anticipated. The fedora wasn't my usual style, but it fit my outfit and the ambiance of a wedding a whole lot better than a ball cap would.

More than five people told me, "You look SO GOOD!", in that way that assured me that I normally look like a steaming pile of triceratops poop. I played polite, but reflexively returned the compliment with a similar tone of incredulity in my voice. One person seemed to notice and flinched from it, but who knows if her reaction was because she recognized her own insensitivity or if she thought I was saying that she normally looks like a steaming pile of something or other.

The ceremony was outside, and there were flute versions of easy listening hot hits blaring on a couple of huge speakers from the first moment we arrived. I had one earplug in faster than you can say brain jangling.

They turned off the music for the vows and all, but it was back on immediately after, and even non-migraining attendees mentioned the uncomfortable volume. If the guests have to shout to be heard over your background music, it is no longer background.

When we moved into the hall for the reception, it was even worse. The flute continued during dinner, and then the DJ turned it up a notch for the dancing. Not only the volume went up, but they pulled out their strobe lights for the true party effect.

I medicated throughout the night, wanted to stay as long as I could, but once they pulled out the flashing lights, I didn't make it past the first few songs. I didn't even get cake.

By the end of my night, the middle of the reception for everyone else, I felt like I might cry or scream or just faint over dead from the sensory overload. It's been four days and I'm still dealing with the consequences. It was worth it to be supportive to the happy couple, and I'm not sorry that I went, but I'm tired. It's becoming increasingly difficult to get excited about major events in other people's lives, because they so often involve me getting served a hot migraine sundae, with extra migraine sauce, topped by a big, round juicy migraine.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Choosy Migraineurs Stay Away From GIFs

I have a love/hate relationship with gifs. On the one hand, they can be incredibly funny, clever, and even poignant and can capture moments or feelings so perfectly that I can't help but adore their usage in online discourse. They can add color, context and depth to plain text conversations.

BUT. Gifs flicker, they move at unpredictable speeds, depending on connection quality, and they trigger all kinds of migraine ickiness, usually starting within a few seconds of exposure.

I admit, I tolerate the resulting nausea and disorientation, dizziness and irritability far more than I should. I'm just so easily entertained, I can't help myself, often until it's too late. Cats running into boxes! Silly moments from Star Trek! Kids doing the darnedest things! It's impossible to look away, until of course, my stomach lurches and my eyes feel like they're trying to cross or fly out of my skull.

However, when I do get an early warning twinge and have the wherewithal to step away from the Firefly gif thread, I can simply hit the esc key, and in most instances the gifs on the page freeze immediately. As soon as the visual stimulation stops, I can actually feel my brain relax; my vision feels clearer, my mood lightens and any barfiness starts to lift.

So, I'll never post gifs here, and I've been hemming and hawing over acquiring myself a tumblr because I'm already getting enough exposure without diving into the deep end, but I continue to dabble, because entertainment trumps all, I suppose.


Monday, April 1, 2013


School school schoolschool school schoolschool school. This is what conversations are like with me lately.

Last quarter was successful, despite a somewhat clueless teacher and some lacking curriculum. I got an A, and I've chosen both an educational path and a potential future career. I worked my hiney off to get those results, but I don't mind; school has reminded me that the harder the work, the sweeter the result.

This coming quarter is looking to be challenging and spectacular. When I checked out the online syllabus, I saw that there is required video content in my upcoming course. I emailed the teacher and he confirmed that there are no captions currently available.

Then, he said that he supposed it was time that he added them.

I plotzed, you guys. I wrote him back a totally barfy email of joy, and I'm so excited to take this class with a teacher who is willing, nay, eager to accommodate. Plus, this is a real English research and composition type of course, and I'm so ready to start improving my writing, I can't wait to get some feedback from my first real English teacher in years. (Not counting the poetry teacher because she didn't really grade or critique writing style or skill, she just commented on our grasp of the content.)

So, then he apparently contacted the disability people, because they emailed me, making noises like they're actually going to be on top of their business this quarter and will be hooking me up with some sweet captioned content. I'm even getting my book voucher early enough to beat the crowds! Compared to past registration experiences, this is like a dream of a dream come true. It's just disappointing that my first easy start of a new quarter coincides with the decision to leave this school. Boo.

And, the search for a new school continues to be a tedious one. I've had limited success making contact with people via email, and that's been frustrating. I do have a tentative plan in place, but I'm trying to keep my options open, because if I know anything right now, it's that I know NOTHING about academia. Oh school, why you so hard?