Thursday, April 7, 2016

March Madness

So March 2016 has come and gone ... duh.

It is a little strange that I decided to start writing here again and in the same month many things seemed to happen ... or maybe I started writing again because I realized so many things were happening ... I don't know.

One of the disappointments of this March was an issue with my work.

In 2015 I concentrated on bettering my attendance.

The end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 I had very poor attendance ... the again, they discovered a mass in my chest and it had to be removed.  All the appointments before and after surgery as well as the recovery time had me miss more work in that short period than I had in the previous 20+ years combined.

The end of 2013 my mom had back surgery.  This did not cause a lot of absences, but it did cause many scheduling issues as I tried to help with some of the issues like getting her to the doctor.  I did not do nearly as much as others, but I tried.  2014 brought a series of migraines similar to what I have recently had.  The migraines were not as intense as they are now, but I had several clusters of them between July 2014 and November 2014.

2015 I did great.  I was off a week after my knee surgery and 3 weeks after my lipoma surgery ... other than that I on;y missed 2 other days.

March 2016 I missed 8 days due to migraine symptoms.

So much for good attendance.

In mid March I was driving the bus back from my last school.  I saw a young white dog running along the sidewalk and a gentleman about 300 feet away.  I took my foot off the throttle as soon as I saw the puppy ... I hit my brakes before the thing ever ran toward the street.

The thud.

The yelping.

The noises that play over and over in my head as I try to figure out what I could have done differently.  I hyper-analyze everything I did.  I am a trainer.  I should not have been caught in that situation, but I was.

If I had a driver sitting in my office after something like this happening I would tell them to not beat themselves up.  I would ensure them they did everything they could.  I would show them the GPS report so they could see their speed and how quickly everything actually happened.

Less than 10 seconds ... I was driving 22.6 mph in a 30 zone.  From the top speed to a complete stop in less than 10 seconds.  It was possibly faster, but our GPS doesn't record information constantly ... just every 10 seconds.

The dog did run off.  The owner of the dog told me the dog was fine.  Somehow this doesn't make me feel any better.

That was the day before Pam and I celebrated our 29th anniversary.

I cannot imagine life without her.  She is truly my soulmate.  We spent a part of the day in a quiet room with one bed ... well, it was our doctor's office because I was having more migraine symptoms.  Luckily we had celebrated out anniversary a week early when we had a late lunch with our son and our niece.

The people at Olive Garden made our day very special.  They gave us desert and wrote a special message on it.

The month came to a close with me talking to my doctor about my MRI results.  The radiologist who read the images noted some anomalies, but no tumors or cancer or anything else immediately dangerous.

The problem is I read the report online 2 days before I saw the doctor.  That is a lot of time to speculate and worry about what these readings may mean ... and the internet doesn't help.  It turns out that just about every disorder you can think of can appear as the same reading on a brain MRI.

What did the doctor say?  The MRI reading shows that I am likely prone to migraines.

Did I really need to be squished into a tube to tell me I'm prone to migraines?

He did say that he consulted a neurologist and the other unusual readings are likely nothing to worry about.  So I do have a brain, it's just a little different ... that makes me feel good.

In a brief moment of insanity ... or, after doing some research and talking to other people who suffer migraines, I decided to get a daith piercing.  It was a little interesting ... there wasn't much pain, but the noise in my ear was a little disturbing.  I will see if this works ... I will hope it works

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Life in the tube

Some of my very early childhood memories deal with going to doctors ... doctors, waiting rooms, blood tests, pee tests, x-rays, ekgs, poking, prodding, stethoscopes and many other things that seemed to be designed to test my patience, my ability to follow directions and my ability to stay still.

I was born with a heart murmur.  Because of this I made regular trips to UCLA for multiple tests every year.  I can tell stories of each individual visit ... stopping at Burger King on the way home and being allowed to have a double cheeseburger and being allowed to walk to the counter by myself to ask for a crown ... finding the twisty balloon in the box of uninflated balloons as a reward from the doctor, then being allowed to take 2 balloons because I was having trouble choosing ... Yes, I do remember details of the trips, but it is easier to categorize certain issues.

Nurse - "Take your shirt off. Stand still.  put your left arm in the air.  Lean against the plate ..."

I'm actually too short for the machine so I am standing on a small step or platform of some sort.  I know it is flat, but this adds to an already disconcerting feeling of vulnerability.

I'm thinking - This isn't comfortable.  This thing is cold.  I don't like this ...

Nurse - "Put your right arm over your head.  Stand still.  Look at that wall.  Don't move."

Thinking - This is hurting.  Which wall?  Why are the lights off?  My arm itches ...

Nurse - "You're set.  Don't move.  This won't take long."  She walks out of the room.

I feel very alone at this time ... isolated, trapped and uncomfortable.  I want this to be over.  I am staying still.  I feel time pulsing by very slowly.

Thinking - Am I done?  Can I move?  Where are you.

Nurse - "That's it.  You need to wait so I can see how this turned out."  She walks me to the door to the waiting room.

I sat by my mom.  My dad sat on the other side of my mom.  They seem to know we are supposed to wait because they didn't even flinch when I walked out.  "See.  That wasn't that bad."  My mom was always the one to comfort me, but for some reason the words were not comforting.

I wanted to tell her that it was bad ... that I was uncomfortable, scared and confused ... that I stood still for what seemed like forever while my arms hurt, but I didn't.  I have always wondered why there seems to be this "medical etiquette" that states that regardless of how you feel or how things went you are supposed to say, "It was a piece of cake ... not that bad at all ... nothing to complain about."

It wasn't easy.  I didn't feel alright.

The door opens and the nurse sticks her head out and stares at me.  "You moved!"  She gestures me to return to the room with her.

My heart sank.

It doesn't really matter what the procedure was the concept was the same.  Stay still for the ekg.  It doesn't matter that the table is uncomfortable ... that the paper on the table makes a crinkling sound that is very distracting ... that the suction cups and straps are cold and uncomfortable.  When the suction cup they attached on the left side of my chest made a little fart sound any chance of me staying still was gone.

After I calmed down a bit they started the machine.  "Stay still."

I giggle.

"You can't move."  The lady is trying to sound nice, but I can hear irritation in her voice.

I focus on staying still.

"Don't move."

What did I move?  I can't stay any more still than this.

The droning hum of the machine makes my ears hurt.  I am uncomfortable and am getting a headache.  I just want to go home.

Maybe all these early visits to the doctor explains why I avoided doctors for so much of my adult life.  Maybe avoiding the doctor for so much of my adult life is why I feel like I am falling apart now.

On Wednesday I had my MRI.  I know it was necessary, but I did not want to do it.  I did not want to for many reasons, not the least of which is that I am claustrophobic.

I made sure I took xanax before the test ... I took more than I usually would because I knew the nerves and the thoughts would be running rampant.  While I waited I concentrated on grounding myself and controlling my breathing as my therapist has told me.

I'm called to the back ... my pulse jumps.  I am asked to sit outside the MRI room while they take my blood pressure and pulse ... 156 / 92, pulse 76.

Not bad, I think.  Ground yourself, Tiffie.  Breathe ... slow down ... breathe.

"Ma'am"  The tech walks away from his desk and to the door.  "Are you ready?"

I nod.

Hell no.  I am so not ready.  I do not want to go in there ... go into the tube.  I'm scared.

One last deep breath and I walk into the room.

"You need to lie down with your head here."  He gestures to a small pillow, or head brace, or whatever at the end of the table.

I take another breath and lie down.

"Are you comfortable?"  He makes a couple of adjustments to some equipment above my head.  "I'll put a pillow under your knees in a moment."

I take another deep breath and nod.

Do you seriously think I am comfortable?  Don't ask stupid shit like that.  Just get this over with.

He slides a pillow under my knees.  "I need to put earplugs in ..."

"No."  I try to sound calm but likely it blurted out like a demand.  "I don't like earplugs."

"I have to."  He looked a little bewildered at my statement.  "The machine is loud.  It's really loud.  It can cause permanent or maybe temporary hearing issues."  He puts the plugs in my ears.

I try to suppress the uneasy shudder in my body.  The pressure from the foam plugs causes some discomfort.

"I'm going to secure this in place."  He pulls a cage over my head ... over my face and locks it in place.

No ... don't.  I feel my pulse jump at least 40 beats per minute.  Breathe Tiffie.  You're fine, just breathe.

He wedged towels between the cage and my ears.  "This will help reduce the noise and remind you not to move."

Move?  How could I move?  Where could I move?  Do you actually listen to what you say to people?

The table slides into the tube.

I'm too fat.  Shit ... I'm not going to fit.  It's too tight.  I try to keep my breathing under control.  Too small.  Too tight.

The table stops.  "Are you doing alright?"  He places a device in my right hand and adjusts my hands to the side of my body to help me fit better.  "This is a call button just in case you need ... ... anything."

I think I nod.  I can't be sure as my head is locked in place ... and besides, he cannot see my head any more.

This isn't too bad.  I can deal with this for a little.

I close my eyes.

The table slides in further.  The sides of the tube press my elbows into my body.

I knew it.  I'm too fat.  He's going to pull me out and cancel the test.  This is so damn embarrassing.

The table stops.  "Is this too tight?"  I don't know if he is talking louder or if the tube is just causing his voice to resonate.

Oh geeze ... this is so uncomfortable.  How long do I have to stay like this?

"No."  I try not to gasp.

"Will you be alright this way?"  He is trying to sound sympathetic and sincere, but he is starting to annoy me.

No.  I an NOT alright.  I am stuck in a tube with my elbows wedged into my floating ribs and my head locked in place.  Even with my eyes closed I can sense the closeness of the tube.  Every fiber of my being is screaming in anxiety.  Why would you even think I am alright?

"I'm fine."  I try to take a deep breath but feel like I have a weight on my body.  "Just get this over with."

I hear the machine start to make clicking noises.

I open my eyes.

There is a tiny mirror attached to the head cage.  In theory it is supposed to allow me to see the outside world while in the machine.  Because I am fat I mostly look at my stomach .  I do see outside the tube, but it is not what draws my attention.

The noise begins to escalate.

A feeling of isolation creeps through me.  I am stuck with the worst person possible ... myself.

I close my eyes and focus on my breathing.  The pulsing sounds create a lightshow to my mind.  A dazzling display of colorful laser like images flicker and dance across my field of vision ... but they fade ... and now they are gone ...

The noises from the darkness now bring silhouettes in my peripheral vision ... vague faces that peer out from the emptiness only to fade or morph into creature that scamper through haunted forests in the darkest of nightmares.

I open my eyes.

Breathe, Tiffie.  Just breathe.

I watch the rise and fall of my stomach in the mirror.  My breathing gradually slows.

I keep my eyes open.  I try and find a focal point, but nothing is truly in focus ... the cage falls between my eyes or the edge of my peripheral vision ... the tube is plain white.

I don't like this.  I want out ... stop ... stop it, Tiffie ... breathe.

The noise stops.

My breaths echo in my solitude.

I close my eyes again.  The machine begins to tick and a new set of sounds emanates from everywhere around me.  The lights start again and once again fade into macabre the world of a horror movie.

I realize my breathing is uneven.

Slow down Tiffie ... just breathe.

The sequences of noises, visions and silence repeat.

I cannot keep track of time ... I don't know how many times the noises start or stop.  When my eyes were open I could see how literally I was trapped in my reality.  If my eyes were closed I was trapped in the depth of my imagination.

At one point I realized my eyes were wide open and scanning side to side in a frantic motion.

What are you looking for? ... Breathe Tiffie.

My eyes zip side to side, then to the mirror and back around the tube again.

Breathe ... breathe ... slow down.

I force a few slow breaths.

That's it ... that's good.  How long have I been doing this?  Does it matter?  Does the tech see what I'm doing? ... Breathe ... breathe.  Don't think about it.  Just breathe.

I close my eyes again.

The noises stop.

I hear the tech over the PA system.  "There's just one more.  This one is really loud."

I give the thumbs up with my left hand.

Has he been talking to me during every break?  Have I been answering?  Why isn't it over yet?  It's been too longs  It wasn't supposed to take this long.  Something must have happened.

The machine clicks.  The usual pulses of sound quickly turned to pounding, and the pounding became shaking.

Breathe ... almost done ... ... almost.  Just keep breathing.

I feel the table sliding out of the tube.

Did the noise stop?  Is it over?

The tech stands over me.  "I'm going to undo this."  He released the cage over my head and removed the towels.  "Do you need help?"

Am I done?  What now?

I stared at the tech.  I heard him, but he wasn't making sense.

He extended a hand toward me.  "Do you need help? ... ... Sitting up?"

Yes ... yes.

I realize I am still in my own little world.  "Yes ... please."  My voice sounds different ,,, hesitant and shaky.  I extend my hand upward.  "Thank you."

I sit on the table with my legs hanging over the side.  I fumble to remove my earplugs.

Is it really done? ... Can I go now?

It seems like it has been hours since I walked to the back of the building.  My eyes cannot focus on a clock ... or if there is a clock.  I get dressed and head to the waiting room.  I think I finally take a normal breath when I see Pam sitting where she was so long ago.

She smiled.

When we got into the car she said, "Not bad.  We're out of here at 5:15 ..."

That can't be right ... I was back there longer than that.

I focus on the clock in her car.  It was indeed not too long after 5:00.

People who knew of my test asked if it went well.  I think of that stupid etiquette where I am supposed to say, "It was fine ... piece of cake."

Of course this is the same basic rule that says a person suffering from depression is

supposed to say, "I'm fine" if they are asked how they feel ... or people with chronic pain are
supposed to say, "I'm doing alright" when asked about the pain.

I do not like this rule.  Life is not always fine ... things do not always go well ... phobias and anxiety are real and have actual adverse effects on people.  It is not a weakness or a lack of faith that makes people fear certain things.

How was the test?  I did not like it.  It seemed to
take several eternities.  I felt isolated and trapped.  Every impulse in my brain wanted to escape ... to stop the test and get out of that place.  Staying in the tube and enduring what I saw, or what I thought I saw drained me of every ounce of mental, physical and emotional energy I had.

Would I do it again?  I suppose ... if I had to.  Would I like it?  No.

I see the doctor next week for my results.  The waiting is now my nemesis.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"M" is for ...

I realize it has been many months since I wrote anything here.

There are many reasons ... or excuses, but I just have not been able to separate my thoughts into coherent sentences.  A lot has happened ... nothing horribly interesting ... not profoundly wonderful nor terribly bad ... just a lot of things.

I won't try to explain everything that has happened in the last 6 months.  Most of it you have heard in previous posts ... work being hectic, little annoying injuries, money issues ... just the same old stuff.

I did have something a little interesting in December.

For many years I have had a lipoma on the back of my neck.  It has never caused much of an issue other than being an ugly lump and making me feel self-conscious.  My doctor had looked at it before and said it is just a fatty mass (a lipoma).  I never saw the need to do anything about it since it did pose an immediate threat.

I started having tension headaches in October.  It is not unusual for me to get stress headaches, but this one became continuous, and it seemed to radiate from the lipoma.  This is when I needed to have it checked out.  My mind tends to wander into the dark and scary places and I could imagine hearing that this innocent mass had spread or grown into my brain or ... ...

My doctor did not believe the headaches were caused by the mass, but he did agree that we needed to look at it and get it removed.  I was referred to a surgeon who had a CT scan done.  After a couple days the surgeon calls and said, "The radiologist looked at the scan and he sees what may be a cancerous spot in the lipoma ... ..."  I really did not hear much after the word cancer.  The conversation ended with him saying, "I want to get this surgery done as soon as possible."

It freaked me out ... a lot.

The surgery went fine ... After a few days the pathology report said there was no cancer in the mass.

I will just add this to the collection of scars on my body.

About a week ago I started having a horrible headache.  The pain focused on the right side of my head, any form of light felt like a laser drilling into my brain, certain sounds felt like my skin was being pealed off, I had no energy ... the list goes on, but needless to say I was miserable.

I did not go to work on Friday when the pain first hit.  I could barely walk straight, I could not imagine trying to drive.  This all lasted through the weekend with no real relief.  Monday I tried to go to work and managed to survive until the end of the day.

Tuesday I was not as lucky.  I was lightheaded and still had all the symptoms.  I had to give in and go to the doctor.

This is not the first time I have felt these symptoms.  This is not even the first time I have seen a doctor with these symptoms.

For many years I have suffered from these issues.  In general they last 2 or 3 days, then I have a few day reprieve before I feel the pain again.  This pattern would repeat 3 or 4 times, then go away for usually many months.

I have talked to 3 different doctors about the headaches.  I gave them detailed descriptions of everything that was going on.  Each time I went to the doctor I was told, "Well, it's not migraine.  It sounds like a stress headache ..."

I did not want to talk to my doctor and have him tell me "Take Advil ... It's stress."

Advil doesn't help.

I get called back into the room and go over my symptoms.  My doctor looks at me and says, "Has anyone ever told you that you have migraines?"

What I wanted to say was, "I've wanted to hear that for 30 or more years now.  Nobody seems to believe mee!"  And actually this is a part of the issue ... I have started to believe that maybe I wasn't really having these issues.  Maybe all this suffering was some form of psychosomatic response and the doctors were right.  Maybe it's just stress.

What I actually said, "No."

He gave me a shot to help ease the pain and relieve the other migraine symptoms.  He also wants me to have an MRI of my head.  The thought of being shoved into a tube head first sort of terrifies me.

I am wondering if the issues earlier in my life had to do with statistics.  Depending on where you read, women suffer migraines 3 to 5 times more often than men ... and they often present differently in men.  Maybe this is why there was no hesitation to say I have a migraine.

To me this is good news ... not suffering the pain, but being diagnosed with something I knew I had for a very long time.

There is much more good news going on in 2016, but I do not want to get into any of it right now.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Not this Serenity ...

Not that I have an Issue with Firefly.

I love that series and the movie.  Such an incredible cast working together perfectly to bring their story to life.

A group of misfits jumping around the galaxy just trying to get by.  Despite all the ... ummm ... interesting situations they wound up in they managed to work together and survive.

It was such unique story, but unfortunately it never had any success in the mainstream markets.

If that were the serenity I was looking for ... If I was a character on Firefly, I would definitely want to be River Tam.

River went through so much in her life, but she still survive.  She is such an awesome character.

She is an absolute genius.

Alright ... she was an intense, psychotic killing machine created by the government.  Despite that little quirk she was such a survivor and truly protected those she cared about in the end.

So obviously I'm not devoting a blog entry to a sci-fi show.

Okay, maybe not so obviously as I do tend to ramble on about some different topics.

Many years ago my first therapist insisted that I recite the serenity prayer several times every day ... "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change ..."

This is an issue for me.  If things bother me I want to  change them.

Yes ... it is my issue and I need to work on it.

Yes ... I know there are many things I cannot change.

Eventually I do realize that if I continue to worry or gripe that I'll just cause myself unnecessary stress ... the problem is trying to figure this out earlier in the process rather than dreading things for days or weeks.

I think the problem lies in the interpretation of the word accept.  When many people hear this word they think of:

       - To take or receive (something offered); receive with approval or favor.

       - To agree or consent to; accede to:

There are many definitions to "accept."

If you look at the etymology it is derived directly from Latin "acceptare:"  Take or receive willingly,

Sometimes the more appropriate definitions to use are:

       - To accommodate or reconcile oneself to:

       - To regard as true or sound; believe:

Also, when something happens that is harsh or unexpected happens the prayer does not say, "God make me joyous or excited ..."  It says, "grant me the serenity ..."

Serenity - from the Latin root meaning clearness.  Today it means tranquil or calm.  Back in the 1500s the word was used in regards to weather.  Clear or calm weather makes sense.  Being clear or calm in life also makes sense.

The prayer doesn't say immediate calmness or acceptance.  It is asking for the capacity to be serene so I can be able to receive or accept things.

If I were to get rear-ended it is not likely that I will be tranquil right after the accident.  I will need to deal with the immediate shock, possibly physical injuries ... I will contemplate how this may affect me in the immediate future.  How will I get to work?  What if we need to replace the car?

When I call Pam she will have the same worries.

These emotions are normal ... they are human.

Asking for the serenity to accept the situation means being able to stay calm enough to handle it in a clear minded manner.

I have seen many people get hit and they start screaming at the other driver.  Sometimes they threaten physical violence ... or inflict physical violence.  This is neither calm, clear minded nor accepting.

I know I cannot un-rear-end my car ... I cannot un-break an ankle ... I cannot undo, reverse or change many things.  I do not have to like it; I simply need to ask for the calmness to stay clear minded and accept it.

A small example ... a small step in the right direction.  Last week I found out that my company was changing my medical insurances.  I was scared.  Would my doctors be covered?  Would my medications be covered?

I did have a brief meltdown while trying to find the information, but it was brief.  I was given this serenity that often eludes me and I realized that whether or not my issues were covered that this was going to happen.  I realized that there would be a solution to the issues regardless of the answers to my concerns.

Pam did a little research and found that everything we currently have is still covered.

This was a good lesson to carry with me through other issues.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Chasing sunsets

The Ventura County Fair
from Grant Park

It seems like I am consistently finding myself ignoring some aspect of my life ... my well being ... my sanity and spiritual wellness.

Recently I have been ignoring my "me" time.

Unfortunately this is an aspect of my life that often suffers as I concentrate on other issues.  I do not really have any time to spend "me" time.  I know there will not always be time for me, so I need to take advantage of it when I can.

This week has been a stressful week.  There have been so many things going on at work that I feel like I'm running in circles ... in thick mud ... carrying a 50 pound trashbag full of Jello.  I was feeling really worn out and was getting a little stressed.

The Ventura County Fair is running this time of year.  It is held at Seaside Park near the Ventura pier.

I had gone up into the hills above Ventura to take pictures about a week before.  Grant Park (known locally as The Cross) has a wonderful view.  I was able to take several pictures from there and was happy with them

I had an idea for a different picture ... the sun setting behind the fair and the pier.  I just needed to be near there at sunset.  I needed me time.

Seagulls swooping over the beach
I got some me time.

Thursday evening Pam and I went to the beach.  It was nice being out of the house ... and not being at work.  We made sure we got there about an hour before the sunset.

Pam waited in the car while I walked out toward the ocean ... this is a story in itself, but I will just say that my legs were not used to (and probably not ready to) walk in the sand for that distance.

The picture
the sun setting behind the fair
Spending the hour on the beach was really relaxing.  I took so many photos; caught several good shots.  I still haven't looked at them all, but many are very similar.

Seeing the pictures after I got home made everything about this week just fade away for a while.  The waiting and planning were worth the time. I definitely need to make sure I get some amount of me time on a somewhat regular basis, whether it's taking photos, riding my bike or just going for a walk.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The 2 month gap

After my last entry I had a couple comment to me that they worried a bit because it had been nearly 2 months since my previous post.

Nothing really exciting happened during that time, but that usually doesn't stop me from writing.

Well ... many things happened, but nothing that would top my list of "Wow, that was cool."

In the school bus industry the summer tends to be busy for the training department.  We don't get this wonderful summer break that so many ask me about.  I actually kind of like it because there are fewer routes and more time to get things done ... in theory.

Summer is also a time that the company plans some of the training for the supervisors.  This year we had a large group of training supervisors and instructors gathered in San Bernardino, Ca.

If you don't know where this is ... well ...

I don't like the area personally.  It is way too hot in the summer and the air needs to be chewed  before inhaling.  The heat is just so physically and mentally draining.  It makes me feel like I am running in slow motion on the last few moments before my battery just dies.  As an added bonus, this was my first trip there needing to wear a bra ... I'll just say it was an entirely different experience ... a new level of hot and sweaty that I could live without feeling again.

But the training was enjoyable.

California tends to be scoffed at by other states because we require so much training for our school bus drivers, and because we do things other states do not do.

For the first time ... literally, the first time since I became a trainer in 1995 a person from outside of California complimented our training and trainers.  That moment made my day.

There was one issue that came up during the trip.

When I woke up Tuesday morning (the second day of training, and after the first night at the hotel) I could not move.

I have never experienced this to this degree.  I was freaking out a bit.

My back hurt so bad that I couldn't move.  My arms could move, but any attempt to move my torso or legs was excrutiating.  The pain was so intense in my lower back the thought of walking to the bathroom seemed impossible.  When I did make it to my feet I realized that the pain was radiating into my right hip.

Five steps to the computer chair was my limit.

After resting in the chair I made the thirteen steps to the bathroom.  Sitting on the toilet and stepping into the shower bath would prove to be a totally different adventure.

I eventually made it to training, but I was very sore ... very sore every day of training ... very sore every day since.

Pam called the doctor after I got back home.

After an x-ray my doctor told me the issue ... I have arthritis and degenerating discs in my entire lumbar region.  These issues are causing pressure on my sciatic nerve.

Well, crap.

So what now?

Luckily the pain is not radiating all the way down my leg ... just to the hip.  This is apparently a good sign ... but it doesn't answer what I'm going to do for my back

How about this ... lose weight.  If I lose weight and strengthen my core while stretching my muscles I will likely get relief from the pain.

If for some reason losing weight doesn't bring relief there are further options starting with epidural injections.

Let's hope the weight loss helps.  If options one an two don't work the option three may be surgery.

Maybe this time I will actually lose weight and get back in shape.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Once again I find myself speaking about something I promised myself I would leave alone ...

Does Caitlyn Jenner deserve the Arthur Ashe award for Courage?

Well ... I'm not going to answer.  I'm just going to point out some facets of the debate.

What is courage?

So being the girl I am I do love words ... word roots or origins ... word meanings.  It makes it much easier to communicate when you actually know what you are saying ... and maybe more importantly, what the others in the conversation are saying.

From (slightly better than Wiki-anything)
c.1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) "heart, innermost feelings; temper," ... from Latin cor "heart"  which remainsa common metaphor for inner strength.

In Middle English, used broadly for "what is in one's mind or thoughts,"hence "bravery," but also "wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness," or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant "zeal, strength."
Did Caitlyn show courage?  If you answer no I would love to know your reasoning.

Standing in front of one person saying, "I am dealing with an issue you may not understand," takes incredible courage.  Standing in front of the world and exposing your innermost demons for all to criticize takes much more.

My therapist suggested I read a book by Brene Brown - "The power of vulnerability."

Wait!  Did you just admit you are still seeing a therapist?  Are you crazy?  How embarrassing!  I would never admit that.  I don't have any issues I cannot work out for myself.  You must be weak! 

Um, let me check ... ... Yep, I did.  Does this bother you?  Why should it?

When I went into Catharine's office just over three years ago I truly thought I was dealing with one issue - being transgender.  What I did not realize is this one issue was buried under and amongst so much pain and issues I have never talked about.  By exposing my deepest secret I also dug up many other emotional issues.

In essence, it's the difference between cutting a picture in half and making a jigsaw puzzle.  One can be easily repaired, even if you will always notice the cut.  The other ... well, sometimes you just cannot find all the pieces to make the picture whole again.

Anyway ...

Brene Brown speaks in very simple language on a very deep, emotional and personal issue (I watched a video ... more of an audible learner rather than a visual learner).  One of the things she said that caught my attention is that humans communicate through story.

Okay ... I initially guffawed at this because we don't tell stories ... ... or ... wait.  Do we?

What she says makes sense.  The earliest forms of communications were stories written in picture on walls.  Many cultures passed their heritage through many generations by way of story telling.  Modern history is told via story ... news reports are stories ... recipes are written with "directions" which tell the story of how the item is made.

So to show courage you are expressing your story with heart or inner strength.  You make your innermost feelings vulnerable to those who are listening.

But who is really listening?

Listening implies one is closely paying attention.  If someone is closely paying attention they can choose to show compassion ... to be empathetic to the person confiding in them or they can choose to ignore or reject the person.  They can believe that because they do not understand the other person's point of view that the two are no longer equal ... or maybe they always believed that the other was somehow inferior.

I find it interesting how someone can break their arm and so many are willing to help them.  "Can I carry that?"  "Let me open the door."  "Are you going to need physical therapy?"  "Call me if you need anything."  "Maybe I can go shopping for you."

When someone has cancer or other illness it becomes a little more difficult to know how to help, but so many are there to be supportive.  "I just wanted to visit."  "Call me if you need to talk."  "What kind of treatments are they using?"  "I'm here for you."  "I can't imagine how you feel."

But a person admits to mental issues, learning disabilities, personal issues regarding religion or sexuality or gender and suddenly so many become the expert ... or they disappear ... or they talk about the person behind their back.  "I choose to think happy thoughts so I don't get depression."  "If you try a little harder then ADHD won't be an issue."  "I don't know why you are choosing to be transgender."  "Anxiety never stopped me from doing anything."  "Those with addictions are mentally weak."  "I read an article that says depression doesn't exist.  It was created by the pharmaceutical industry."  "Dyslexia is just an excuse people use to not read or write."  "You can't possibly have PTSD.  Only people who suffered real trauma deal with that."

Where is the, "Call me if you need something."  "I'm here for you." comments?

Obviously this does not apply to everyone.  There are so many incredible people who do care ... who do understand ... who do listen without judging.  It's very sad that more people do not have these traits.

So ... Does Caitlyn Jenner deserve the Arthur Ashe award for courage?

She showed amazing courage.  She brought a very secret topic further into the mainstream.  She has generated conversation.  She has made herself very visible so others know they are not alone.  She has made herself ... her life very vulnerable.

She has shown great courage.

If you look at the list of previous winners, the majority are there for issues in their personal life.  All have dealt with adversity.  All are inspirational in some way.

Quoted from Wikipedia:
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award (sometimes called the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage or Arthur Ashe for Courage Award) is an award that is part of the ESPY Awards. Although it is a sport-oriented award, it is not limited to sports-related people or actions, as it is presented annually to individuals whose contributions "transcend sports". Often these transcendent figures are also athletes who have been at the top of their sport, such as Muhammad Ali, Dean Smith, and Cathy Freeman.
1993 Jim Valvano (College basketball coach - died of cancer)
1994 Steve Palermo
1995 Howard Cosell
1996 Loretta Claiborne (Special Olympics Athlete)
1997 Muhammad Ali (Boxer - suffers from Parkinson's)
1998 Dean Smith
1999 Billie Jean King (Tennis player - openly gay)
2000 William David Sanders (posthumously) (teacher killed at Columbine)
2001 Cathy Freeman
2002 Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett, and Jeremy Glick (posthumously) (All were passengers on flight 93 on 9/11)
2003 Pat Tillman and Kevin Tillman  (NFL players - Pat killed in Afghanistan)
2004 George Weah (Passenger on flight 63 on 9/11)
2005 Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Jim MacLaren
2006 Roia Ahmad and Shamila Kohestani
2007 Trevor Ringland and David Cullen from Peace Players International
2008 Tommie Smith and John Carlos
2009 Nelson Mandela (You may have heard of him)
2010 Family of Ed Thomas
2011 Dewey Bozella
2012 Pat Summitt
2013 Robin Roberts  (TV personality - breast cancer survivor)
2014 Michael Sam  (First openly gay NFL player)
2015 Caitlyn Jenner  (Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon - came out as transgender)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A little bit of everything

So I'm sticking with my plethora of disconnected rambling thoughts theme.

Really there is nothing specific to tell you about ... it's more like a bunch of thoughts and issues that all seem to happen at the wrong time.

I will start off with my 2 week progesterone update.

I am really not as moody as I thought might happen, or like others have encountered ... well ... I am moody, but I think it is caused by so many other things that are going on at the same time,

What I have noticed physically ...

 Hold on.  I know some people don't want too much personal information, so plug your ears for a minute or so.  Well, I guess, you need to plug your eyes ...

Whatever ...

I have gained 12 pounds in just over 2 weeks.  A big part of this is the fact that I find myself craving certain foods that are neither healthy or low calorie.  I am not shoveling buckets of food in my mouth, but I am definitely dealing with a different level of , OH MY GOD!!  I HAVE TO HAVE THAT!!!" that I have never experienced before.

The extra weight is obvious when I step on the scale because ... well, because the number is higher.  The extra weight seems to be collecting more in my boobs and butt rather than just on my belly.

And when one of the side effects of progesterone says, "May cause breast tenderness" this is an understatement.  It needs to say, "They will become so tender that you will feel it if somebody looks at them for too long."

I'm sure things will get back to normal as my body adjusts.

So why am I moody?

Where do I start?

Pam's front tire went flat last week.  This caused a sequence of events that made my one remaining nerve begin to fray.

- Fighting with the spare tire to dislodge it from the trunk.  I mean ... I broke a freakin' nail, had a small laceration on my forearm and aggravated my elbow which has been sore anyway.  Then, while planning on how to get the car to the tire shop because the stupid spare is in bad condition it was like Pam and I were suddenly speaking different languages.  We were saying the same thing about needing to tow the car and I drive her to the shop, but we just weren't grasping what the other was saying

The tire fiasco set us back somewhere around $200.  I won't add the "Your front axle needs to be repaired" amount.

- My tooth has been bothering me for a while ...

Well, I have more than one tooth ...

It would be better to say that I have a tooth that has been bugging me for a while.  Somewhere just before Pam's tire gave up my tooth decided to try harder to get my attention.

We have wanted to switch dentists since our last visit 3 or 4 years ago.  I went to the list and decided to search for a female dentist.  No particular reason ... well, I do feel a little more comfortable talking to women even on dental issues.

When I called to make the appointment I gave all my legal information, then I said, "There's one more little thing ... "  It is so cool that everything on my records refer to Tiffanie rather than him.  My legal name does have to be on certain documents, but there is no awkward adjustment period going to a new doctor.

It is a bit of a plus that she is kind of good looking, but that did not play into my decision.

And why is it that most dentists and optometrists seem to be less than average looking?  It's like they are thinking, "I'm going to get into a job where I'll spend most of my time mere inches from someone's face so they have to look at me."

I don't want some faces that close to my eyeballs ... I don't like anyone that close to me, but if they have to be can't it at least be someone halfway decent looking?

So I find out that the last (and only) cavity I had filled was very close to the gums.  There is now some decay working under the filling causing my pain.

I already have an appointment to get a crown.  Personally I would prefer a tiara *rolls eyes*  This is another $600 that we don't have.

So as of right now my "Get my name and gender changed" fund has gone from $0.00 to negative $800.  This is not the most frustrating aspect of the issue, but it is just another obstacle between me and a goal that I truly want.

- All of this has been exacerbated by an environmental study being done at my bus yard.  This group is drilling 10,563 holes and taking soil samples to test for  ... well, I probably don't want to know what they are testing for.

So every day I am hearing this extra noise on top of the noises from shop, the airplanes taking off from the airport and the other businesses in the complex.

The last few days the drilling, jack hammering, and all the other heavy machinery was just outside my office wall.

It has been a week of sensory overload beyond comprehension.

This may actually be a part of why my tooth has hurt so much more this week ... I have been clenching my jaw so much that everything is sore from my navel up to the top of my head.

I did get a chuckle when the lead worker told us that he had a probe stuck in one of his holes and didn't want a bus hitting it.

On the brighter side.  My brother and sister in law stopped by for a visit.  It was nice to have a visit that doesn't include family emergencies or other frantic events that have everyone on edge.  They brought down the Christmas gifts ... yeah, it's been that long since their schedule has been calm enough to manage a trip here.

My brother is running a marathon tomorrow.  I hope it goes well for him.

*** Epilogue ***

The bulk of this entry was written Saturday evening.  I do know my brother finished his marathon.

Today I went for a walk in a local botanical garden while Pam visited her mom.  The walk was nice, but proved to me that my assessment of my fitness level was spot-on.  The effort of walking up even a small hill on a half mile loop killed my legs and bothered my knee a bit.  The stress was enough to get me wheezing the same way that running did a few years ago.  My pulse never raced and I didn't get winded, so all is not beyond hope.

Pam's mom wants to know why I didn't come in and visit afterward.  Until a few weeks ago she did not know about me being transgender.  After the Bruce Jenner interview Pam found a moment in a conversation to tell her about me.

I will need to visit her.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Born this way ...

Breakfast of champions
So I will tell you upfront that some of the things I am going to say may not be popular opinions.

My thoughts, my ramblings, my observations are just that ... mine.  And no, this isn't a huge LGBT advocacy spiel.

Well ... not really.

If you remember I did say that I've had a lot of random disconnected thoughts recently ... I may be proving that here.

When people tell me that I see things differently, or I think about things in an awkward way or whatever, I just shrug.  This is me ... it is the only way I have ever thought so it is normal to me.

A long time ago I began joking that I had ADHD.  I joked about it because somewhere in me I knew it was true.  A year or so ago I was tested and pretty much pegged the scale on the attention deficit aspect of the test, not so much on the hyperactive portion.

In short, I was born this way.

Does this make me a different person than you knew a few minutes ago?  ... a few months ago? ... years?

The creativity and imagination that distracted me during my school days are the same attributes that have moved me forward in life.  These are the same quirks that allow me to see things from different angles and find solutions that others cannot see.

Back in the 70s most people called ADHD hyperactive ... others called it spoiled or out of control kids.  It was not as common to give medication for these conditions.  Teachers, principals, parents, so many others did not understand that we weren't intentionally looking for excuses to break the rules or not complete our work

Much of the time they would say things like ...

Try a little harder ...

Behave like the others ...

Just focus ...

Apply yourself ...

Sneaking in through the fence
In other words, change who we are to fit in.  Alter how we feel and act to please others.

It is a little ironic that so many people don't hesitate to say things like, "He's a natural at his sport," ... "She was born to dance," ... "Music runs in their family."

Whatever ...

We don't ever seem to question these God given talents ...

They were born to do this ...

Anything positive is said to be a gift from God.

I don't hear many people say "She is blessed to be on the autism spectrum." ... "His gift is severe anxiety and depression." ... "He was born to have muscular dystrophy, or Parkinson's, or dementia."

Life is life ... it is what we make of it.

Now here I am saying that God has set me on this path of transitioning to female.  I am positive something good will come from this.

There are many who tell me that I am not truly female, that I have chosen to pretend to be something I am not ...

I am lying to myself ...

I have turned my back on God ...

I am an unrepentant sinner ...

In other words, I am supposed to change who I am to fit in.  Alter how I feel and act to please others.

beautiful flowers
outside the house
All I can do is shrug.  This is me ... it is how I have felt my entire life so it is normal to me.  I am at peace, I am happy and I have grown closer to God.  I know what my path is, and I don't expect anyone to truly understand.

In fairness I have to say that not many Christians are holier than thou, hate filled bigots.  The ones that are ruin the reputation for everyone.  To those who are adamant that my life is a conscious choice to live in sin, I have a question.

Were you born Christian?
John 3:18 (NIV)Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 
Romans 10:13 (NIV)
for, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 
Being Christian is a choice ... a lifestyle.  The Bible states it takes a conscious decision to become Christian.  It is not how anyone is born.

I can imagine dozens of people not reading to this sentence while screaming, "Here's another atheist, bleeding heart, left wing liberal spewing anti Christian sentiment to justify her sinning lifestyle."

Well ... wrong, wrong ... and wrong.

I am relatively conservative thinking, although libertarian leaning.  I think the constitution has a lot to say if everyone on both sides of the aisle stop creating interpretations that include their personal agendas.

I am Christian ... I just don't feel the need to yell and scream at everybody I feel is not acting the way the Bible and Jesus has said we should.  I prove more with the way I treat others than by quoting verses and judging other people's actions.
Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
A little blue sky
peeking through
the clouds
What cracks me up is when these few defend their comments by saying, "I'm not attacking you personally ..."

Just to enlighten you, words like disgusting, abomination, atrocity, repugnant, vile, vulgar, repulsive, revolting and similar words are a tad bit hostile and are usually taken a little personally.

I do wonder why so many these Christians yell and scream and protest the LGBT community but don't feel the same acrimony toward other issues.

Why aren't there groups of angry Christians at every bar or club protesting those moral values or holding signs with I Samuel 1:14 on it
“How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
Why are there no marches at Islamic centers, Pagan festivals or other non-Christian celebrations?  Why don't they wave signs with Exodus 20:3?
"You shall have no other gods before me"
I am not saying people are not entitled to their opinions.  We all have our own perspectives ... our likes and dislikes, and talking to others in a civil an open manner is often a means to come to an understanding or a level of mutual respect with many people or groups.

Intentionally singling out a group to exclude them from one thing or another is called bigotry, discrimination, fanaticism.

To makes comments like, "We don't allow gays in our church." is just announcing your disregard for a person's spiritual  well being.

And how do you know there are no gays in your church?  Are you flirting with people of the same gender to see who is interested?

And if you are right and we are all doomed to hell shouldn't you be wanting us to be there?

Is this not like a hospital saying, "We don't treat the sick or injured ... only healthy people are welcome here."

A restaurant owner saying, "We will only serve those who have already eaten.  Hungry people don't belong here."

A homeless shelter only allowing people with proper identification and proof of residence or an address in for assistance.

A barber shop who only will accept naturally bald patrons.

A college not accepting an application because the person has not already earned their degree.

Wow ... I could run this list for several pages, but I think I've made the point.

We all live in one world.  We were all born with our strengths and weaknesses.  It is not for any of us to question what or why people are the way they are ... we just need to be there for them.
John 15:12  (NIV)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you
I am not trying to change the world ... not even my little corner of it.  I am trying to understand why so many have trouble sharing it.

Another flower with
fresh droplets of water
from today's rain
If you are not Christian, I hope you realize that not all of us are the screaming radicals the television media show.  I have too many friends who practice other religions ... or o religions.  I have learned much about love and acceptance from you ... especially self-acceptance.

If you are Christian, this post is not aimed at everyone.  I have too many friends that do not fall into the category of hateful, small minded bigot that I get so frustrated with.

I generally do not engage in political or religious discussions.  I just had to get this off my chest.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

There's a madness to my method

The M^M universe
Will likely redo this photo
I have had a plethora of strange and disconnected thoughts over the past few weeks.  This in and of itself is not unusual ...

There are so many times throughout my life I've been told that the way I do things isn't the right way.

- I hold the golf club wrong ... but yet I can out drive so many and have pretty good accuracy.

- I don't know the proper way to throw a bowling ball ... but my average was the highest in my jr. league, and I beat everyone of my coaches when I went to the adult leagues.

- The way I hold chopsticks is strange ... but I can use them better than most people.  I've even eaten cake and ice cream with chopsticks because I was challenged.

- I do not hold a pencil or pen properly ... well ... okay, my writing sucks and always has.  Holding the pencil differently never made my writing better.

Organized my earrings
The point is that I figured out what worked for me.  It may look unorthodox to other people, but what difference does that make.  The world would be very boring if everyone did everything exactly the same way.  If this was the case we would never have seen any of the technological advancements we all enjoy today ... nobody would have thought to do something differently.

I seriously doubt anybody is horribly offended or mortified that I do so many things in my own unique way.  It is highly unlikely that a Facebook friend will see that I hold my chopsticks wrong and unfriend me for being socially unacceptable.

I mean ... we all have our quirks ... our own things that we do that are exclusive to us.  Isn't this what makes us individuals?

I am, and always have been self conscious about my weight.  In a society that sells size 2 women with double d breasts I am really out of place.  I get stressed out about my weight an looks at times ... the issue here is that I eat when I get stressed.

Can we say downward spiral.

My therapist mentioned a girl on Youtube ... the video was called "Fat Girl Dancing" and she has a television show about how she copes with her weight issues.

I got home and whipped out my Google ... Whitney Thore was thin and loved to dance when she was young.  She suffers from a medical condition that has caused her to gain a lot of weight.

She got tired of being treated like a non human just because of her weight.  She found a way to love and accept herself.

This all helped me realize that you can love yourself and embrace your differences.

I mean ... if the most horribly unacceptable thing about me is that I'm fat then I am doing pretty good.  I would rather spend time feeling good about the positive aspects of me and stop demeaning myself for that one issue.

Not that I am satisfied with being fat ... I will make adjustments to lose weight, it's just not *the* most important thing.

Ever since I stopped worrying so much about the number on the scale I've started losing weight.  Realistically I know I will never fit the super-model mold, but I don't need to.  I need to be happy.

Very recently my niece Andrea contacted me and said she wants to start our Saturday morning training again.

Images in the smoke
What do you see
Well, maybe not training.  More like walks ... slow and probably short walks as opposed to the 10 mile training runs we did in 2011.  Either way I am thrilled.  I do want to make sure my knee is ready for the additional stress a walk that includes slight hills and not perfectly even surfaces, but this is in our immediate future.  It is a step in the right direction for my weight and fitness goals.

I just don't understand why people treat others so horribly because they are different.

The poor child on the autism spectrum that catches hell daily because the other kids can't comprehend that his brain works differently.  The others probably don't realize that the one they are traumatizing can likely outperform them in many areas ... he just needs the chance and the right environment.

The kid that stutters, the kid with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia or any other learning disability ... these kids are often tormented by teachers and parents because they are not functioning as well as the rest of their class.  If they only apply themselves they might ...

They might what?  Become normal?? ... No, they might get more frustrated and learn to hate school.  So many of these kids have superior skills in other areas ... memory, math, learning by hearing or seeing, physical capabilities.  Why not appreciate what they do good.

The boy who acts feminine ...

The girl that is a tomboy (although a little more socially acceptable) ...

The kid that's too tall ... too short ... too fat ... to skinny ...

The daydreamer ...

The shy kid ... the one who would rather be home ...

The kid whose grades are too good, or they seem too smart ...

The kid who is not athletically inclined ...

The black kid in the class of whites ... the white kid in a class of Hispanics ...

Wait a minute ... wasn't I talking about adults and societal expectations?

Well ... yes.

More smoke
This mindset ... this bigotry starts somewhere, and that place is almost always childhood.  Kids are taught that people who are different than them  are ... well, different.  They are taught that what they are must be better, or at least more normal than what these different kids are.

This attitude will follow them into adulthood.  Often the attitudes become more intense ... so ingrained into their being that they look for differences in people so they can feel superior.  They want to make others feel bad about themselves.  They cannot tolerate anything that falls anywhere outside their narrow view of acceptable ... can we say Westboro Baptist Church?

Westboro is not the only hate group, but they are the first to come to mind.

Not all kids who pick on others carry their biases throughout their life.  So many learn to become accepting and see the value of people in spite ... or even because of their differences.

The kids that take the ridicule carry something as well.

We are shackled with doubt and low self esteem.  We begin to believe that we are not good enough ... that we will never be as good as ... that nobody will ever truly accept us.  We become our own worst enemy.  We cannot trust, so very few people ever get to see the real person inside.  We do not want to show what we might be able to do because we've been told it will never be good enough.

We become stuck ...

afraid to move ...

and not asking for help because we feel like we don't deserve it.

I'm sure there are some reading what I just said and are thinking, "This is a load of crap.  You're just making excuses for your failures.  Step up and take responsibility for your own shortcomings."

To you I will simply respond with this ... Thank you for proving my point.

Love my silly fur-babies
Maybe it's time to stop thinking others are not thin enough ... not smart enough ...not rich enough ... lack motivation ... don't do things the right way ... don't fit in.

There are so many ways that I am different than others.  There are so many things that I do not use "the proper technique."  There's a madness to my method, but it works for me.

It feels good to see what I have accomplished despite ... or maybe because of my unique processes.