Monday, May 27, 2013

My Garden, Scavenged

The garden is going both better and worse than I expected. The old seeds I planted were indeed, very old. None of them sprouted, and I chucked the rest of the packets into the compost bin.

Oh yeah, I have a compost bin! This is new and wonderful. I found the basic design I wanted on the internet, my boyfriend built a box to my specs, we stuck it an out-of-the-way yet easily accessible bit of the yard and I've been adding to it every few days. Rodents are getting in there, which I expected and don't really mind, as long as they keep the mess within the confines of the box, which: so far, so good!

But, back to the plants. The tomato plant is shooting up and has a few small, green globes teasing me. The eggplants are sluggish, and dropped flowers when we first brought them home, so I suspect the cooler temps may have stunted them, but I've got my first successful, and rather lovely, eggplant flower, so I still have hope that I will have fruit. The pepper plants are also all fairly slow-growing, I think it's been too cool for them, too, but we have all summer for that.

My impressively handy boyfriend also built me a potato box. We found an interesting idea online, I saved some sprouting potatoes, then cut them up and planted them. I put in two types of potatoes, I planted them half and half, and then I forgot what I planted. Russets or golds or red potatoes, I'll be excited to pull them out of the dirt either way.

I bought a basil at a local nursery, and it was infested with aphids. So, the next time I saw it in the produce section, I bought some fresh, cut basil and immediately put the stalks in water until they sprouted some good roots, then planted them. I got four plants out of it, and they're still alive, but there's no new growth yet. I did the same thing with spearmint, and I'm having the same result. I think they're both going to give me love, they just need to get adjusted. I can be patient. I also took a chunk of peppermint from my brother's dessicated plant, and that's already got one, lonely, but strong sprout, which I've just pinched to hopefully promote more growth.

I've also got about twenty avocado pits in water. I've become obsessed. They take forever to sprout, and not all of them do, so I've been saving every pit and hey, I eat a lot of avocado. I've got a four-foot tree that a neighbor gave to me (which is what set off the avocado frenzy), and one of my pits has grown a stem and a few leaves, but the others are all just thinking about it. I've read that it's near- impossible to get a good avocado tree from a pit, they get the good ones from grafting usually. But, every now and again I run across some sworn testimony from someone in a garden forum with a convincing testimony of glorious avocados from their backyard, store-bought-pit tree, and sure, it only took thirteen years of nursing the tree, but it was WORTH IT for the glory of delicious backyard avocado. So, now I'm hoarding avocado pits.

Taking care of plants really grounds me. School, my head, money, family, life is stressful, and gardening is one of a few activities I partake in that calms me no matter what is happening, lets me stop thinking and just be in the moment. The metal smell of the soil, the warmth of the sun, watering each plant just enough, soaking in the green, the only thing better is actually reaping the labor fruits and eating them immediately. Fresh tomatoes taste like happiness.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing With Migraine: An Adventure in Run-on Sentences

I don't normally have obvious hormonal migraines, but this month, my head decided to try something new.

The day before my period started, my head started to ramp up for no real reason. My normal range for the past few months has been 0-5, but now it's suddenly no lower than a 3, with peaks at around 9.25. I always get into decimals when I'm recalling high pain. The number 10 is never assigned lightly, that number is sacred, reserved for pain so overwhelming, that I wouldn't want to sully the number by using it in any other circumstances but the utmost unbearable.

I wonder how many of us get creative with pain scale numbers. We spend enough time thinking about them, calculating by whatever internal system we've worked out. I always liked the pain charts with the faces. Assigning a number can be difficult in the moment, migraine messes with my thinking, my speech, and my comprehension, but the faces all lined up are always easy for me. That one. I point, or I can suddenly say the number like it was there all the time. I don't know why those faces help me communicate, but they do.

On the last episode of Elementary, Sherlock tells Watson that his pain level is pi, which caused me to pause the show for several minutes so I could giggle it out and not miss important dialogue. If you're not watching Elementary, you should be.

I haven't written with a migraine this bad in a while and it's an interesting venture. I can't focus on any one thing for long, so I can see this post heading for some wild stream-of-consciousness territory. You've been warned.

Pain and stiffness in my neck is always my first migraine symptom lately. Then, the yawning. My jaw feels like it's going to unhinge, I'll start yawning so hard. Then, I start feeling disconnected, like things aren't quite real, and the vision problems start. Either flashing lights or dramatic after-images or such sensitivity to light that nothing but complete darkness will do. My eyes burn and tear and I can't even describe the pain that comes with that. When a migraine comes on that strong and fast, I can feels waves moving over my brain, pain and raw nerves, coming over and over like nausea or some kind of horror-orgasm. I can only curl into myself, put my hands over my eyes, and cry quietly until it passes. Minutes, hours, years, who knows, I feel like I'm being born when I can finally open my eyes again.

I'm still on that Star Trek tear. I rejoiced when I finished the original series, kirk's grabbiness and the unapologetic sexism were overwhelming all the fun of the show by the end, and spock was my only shining light. I made it through the movies, some which I enjoyed more than others, and now I'm happily entrenched in TNG, the Star Trek of my childhood. It's a very different experience, seeing these characters through adult eyes, but I think the show is aging well. Wesley was one of my first crushes, and he makes me cringe and groan, like first crushes are supposed to. Data shows far too much emotion for someone who gets an emotion chip later in the series, but his attempts at laughing are brilliant, so I forgive them the inconsistencies. Riker is so hot post-beard, you guys, I don't even know what is happening to me. And i love Pulaski.

Which is interesting, because as a child I hated her, mostly because my step-dad did. He's not a fan of pushy broads, as I seem to remember him once calling her. And Pulaski is pushy; she's abrasive and speaks her mind freely, even if it means that she disagrees openly and adamantly with her superior officers. She's fantastic. I know her run is fated to end sooner than later, and Dr. Crusher comes back, but I wish Pulaski could hang around and buck the status quo forever. Pushy broads unite!

I keep seeing movement in the corner of my eye and think it's a spider, which is NOT COOL, brain. I've killed two in the past week, that's me trying to deal with my phobia like a big kid, but it's spring, so they are out in fucking droves, and my fb friends are jerks and keep posting australian monster-spider pics, so I'm a little twitchy and it would be nice if we could go back to the sparkly lights aura instead of the peripheral movement aura because i don't need one hundred thousand heart attacks a day and before anyone says I should ignore it and assume the movement is just my head, the last TWO times I tried that tactic, a BIG ASS spider was CRAWLING ON ME or maybe it was NEAR ME, either way UNCOOL. Another reason to move to the arctic.

I hope my head ebbs back down soon, I miss hiking up the hill, and being able to cook and clean at the same time. I'm back to barely cooking, sitting, barely cleaning, sitting, and hoping I'll be able to play catch up later. I've been keeping up with school, which is always such a fear of mine when my health goes south, and it's entirely due to being proactive and working ahead. I really wish I could take more than one class at a time, but no. I'm firmly in slow-but-steady country. It's better than nothing, but it would be nice to be able to get my BA in under ten years.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Writer problems: I have a 250-word discussion post due in class, and I wrote 764 words.

I managed to pare it down to 534, but I can't take off any more without having to do some serious butchering. My teacher doesn't seem to mind when I get wordy, but my classmates probably hate me. They all stay within the two paragraph average and my posts stick out like a wall of text among tweets.

I don't care, comparing Troy Maxson (Fences) to Don Draper (Mad Men) was awesome and I'm totally getting an A on this one.

I got a few more videos captioned last week, but I'm still way behind, and today is another deadline, so let's see if they'll meet this one. I'm so lucky my teacher is being flexible, I would be tearing my hair out over this otherwise. I'm sure they're all sick of seeing my name pop up in their in-boxes, but if I wasn't harassing people, I don't think I would have gotten as far.

To keep myself from falling behind while I fall behind, I'm working ahead. I'm keeping myself about one week ahead of my class, at least with whatever assignments aren't dependent on having captioned video. I wish I was further along in my final project, but I'll be doing major research this weekend when I join a volunteer group to help clean a beach. I'm going to interview people and take pictures while I pick up trash, then I plan to write about my experience and do a bunch of internet research to back up my findings. BOOM.

I get a lot of pleasure out of being a honey badger, a bulldog, a tenacious, tough, resilient human being. I like these challenges I've got to face, and how I know I'm going to knock them all down, one by one. I relish the moment a class ends, and I can look back on my success, but no more than the first day of a new class, when it's all new and confusing and ripe for the conquering. And even right now, being in the middle of a quarter of chaos, I'm so in love with this class and my teacher and writing, that I could cry.

When an essay really starts to come together, I experience the most wonderful moments of peace, of flow, of oneness, of joy, it's the most addicting feeling of completeness, I don't know how I ever let myself stop writing. I get a similar feeling while taking and editing photos, maybe creativity breeds endorphins. I still have a niggling fear in my heart that I'll never make anything of myself as a writer, but I know that's just negative self-talk, and won't do anybody any good.

I've decided to take a summer course, which is a brave move for me because the heat makes everything a million times worse, but it's a basic health class, which I expect to be on the easier side. The really good news is, the video content for this class is allegedly already captioned, so I shouldn't have to go through all of these shenanigans during the shorter summer quarter.

Hope springs eternal.

- More...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Addressing Anxiety

My head has improved to the point that I am having about 80% fewer emotional outbursts.*

*This is a total guesstimate bull-pucky percentage.

Of the remaining pissy-fits I throw, at least half of those are totally warranted. Tripping over the shoes I asked to have picked up five times that day, or finding out the captions I was expecting from my school weeks ago are going to be delayed (again!); these are valid reasons to get tense. It's the random and unexpected freak-outs that I'm not appreciating, the ones that seem come out of nowhere. It'll be about something small, like asking a stranger a question, or starting a project I'm unsure about, and I may be left crying and panicky for no real reason. I could take control in these situations, plunge forward through the fear and face it, and I often do, but sometimes I just can't.

I'm paralyzed and terrified and sick with anxiety and I don't even know why. Well, no, it's usually rather traceable if I can take a moment to think about the bigger picture, but regardless, the little things shouldn't be adding up to this dire, fearful situation. It should be mildly awkward, or maybe uncomfortable, or just a little inconvenient or unfamiliar, but once my DANGERDANGERDANGER hackles are up, I'm in fight or flight mode and the rest is some form of panic attack.

It's been more frequent lately, though maybe only twice a month. Still, that's way too often to feel out of control of my emotions and afraid of the world. So, I did what I always do when faced with a problem that not only baffles me, but frightens me, I turned to my lifelong source of advice and comfort: books. In my first venture into self-help anxiety research, at our local, rather rural library, I found one book that told me absolutely nothing more than I already know. It did remind me that phobias are tied to anxiety, which OBVIOUSLY, but I do let my fear of spiders and other creepy-crawlies get the better of me, and I need to start addressing that. I've already run across some cognitive therapy techniques that I've found useful, recognizing negative thoughts and redirecting them has been helpful, for example, so that may be something to try next time a massive mosquito-eater obsessively flies in my face. (Hi, there are no mosquitoes in my nose, I promise.) I'm going to keep researching how to implement these techniques, in the library and online, because the more I know about a problem, the better I feel.

I've resisted getting real therapy. It's too far, it'll make my head hurt, we can't afford it, I'm not that bad off; I've got at least a dozen more if you want to hear them. They're all true, but some of them are less valid than others, and I'm kidding myself if I don't acknowledge that I'm a little too quick with the thousand-million reasons why not.

I got therapy when I was a kid, my parents went through a nasty custody battle in which I suppose I was a little scarred, but mostly it was a bizarre adventure for me. I have some vivid memories of my time with the psychologist, she was kind, I played with toys and we talked. She promised me that everything we said in our sessions was private, she wouldn't tell my parents. I remember so clearly the feeling of shock and betrayal when, in a joint session, the counselor revealed something to my mom that I didn't want her to know. I don't remember what it was, just that I felt deceived and stupid for having trusted her. It was like a punch in the chest, and I can feel it again writing this down. I know not all shrinks are like that, I know that revealing that small detail, whatever it was, probably didn't change anything significant in my life, but I also know that was a defining moment for me.

I realized then that I couldn't trust people by default, that I'd have to be more careful. I realized then that honesty and privacy were not to be taken for granted, and that once I let a thought out into the world, it was no longer only mine. Anyone could repeat it, use it against me, or deface it. I hold my beliefs and my emotions close, as a consequence, and while I try to be outspoken and brave, I've always got a rock of fear in my belly, reminding me that I'm never really safe.

Yeah, trust issues, I guess. But as long as I see myself making progress under my own volition, which I am, I can justify my reluctance.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

I Should Just Move To An Iceberg And Be Done With It

I'm going into summer with my health the best it's been in years.

I want to be optimistic, it's easy to get excited when I'm finally seeing obvious improvement. We've had a few hot days already and they've hit me hard, but not fatally. It seems I've leveled-up and the old baddies aren't quite so bad anymore. On a good day, I'm able to hike up our once daunting hill like it's nothing, barely losing my breath, and with no head repercussions worth mentioning. My legs are strong again; when I first noticed the hardness of muscle, it scared me. It had been so long since I'd felt firmness on my body, I thought it was some kind of growth. It took me only a moment to realize that what I was feeling in my thigh was a muscle, but it was enough to feel profound. I was that sick. I was that inert for years that my whole body changed. It's scary, I feel like I lost time. I was 27 when the migraines started. I'm 34 now. I'm afraid to blink, my forties could spring on me at any moment!

So, my exertion-related migraines are less-easily provoked, but everything else is pretty much the same. I'm still super sensitive to smells, lights, and noise. I still get occasional dizziness, slurring of words, stumbling, and inability to focus, but at pretty much the same frequency as in the past. The motion-sick feeling is also still prevalent, often triggered by actual movement, but it's not unusual for it to start up for no discernible reason. But, it's still never productive, just a general barfy malaise I combat with ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger chews, water, marijuana, and/or whining. I still have to be quiet and still for a bit after nearly everything I do, but I do notice my recuperation time is often less than it used to be. I do feel like I often get more done in a day than I would have been able to before. I'm enjoying the benefits of improved health.

But, back to the heat, we've got a hot one coming up, and I'm scheduled to leave the safety of the trees. We picked up one of these spray-bottle-with-a-fan jobbies and I'm excited to give it a whirl. Back when I was well, I once survived an eight-hour drive in 90+ degree weather in a car with stuck-shut windows and a cooling system that demanded the heater be blasting. I could have waited until night to make the drive, now that I look back on it, but I had this spray-fan and it possibly saved my life, because I probably should have died of heat stroke, but I didn't, so the story ends well. Thanks, spray-fans!

Because of that experience, and my improved endurance, I feel like I might just survive this summer. I might be spraying and fanning myself constantly, but whatever it takes to not be miserable.