Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mundane and not so mundane adventures...... 

Watched "Rock Star: INXS" last night. The Wednesday night shows are short, less than half an hour sometimes. All they do is tell you which three singers got the least amount of votes (yes, I voted online Tuesday night), have the best one from the previous night do an encore, and let the three worst contestants each sing once more to try to redeem themselves before the band eliminates one of them. Except that this time, the band couldn't decide between two singers, so they eliminated both of them, which shocked everyone. The girl with the butterfly tatts that I didn't like on Tuesday wasn't any better on the new song tonight. She was interesting to look at, but her sound was all wrong for the band. So I didn't mind at all that she was one of the people eliminated.

Apparently, there is a thyroid med shortage nationally. I tried to refill my Cytomel only to find out that my pharmacy doesn't have any and doesn't know when they'll get more. The only other store in town that had Cytomel only had half the amount I needed, but I went ahead and grabbed the two weeks' worth because I was completely out today. This happened awhile back with my Armour thyroid. I think there must be a huge influx of docs switching their patients from synthetically made thyroid hormone back to the natural stuff. I know I'm not the only one who doesn't do well on Synthroid.

Got back from getting my prescription to discover that Chip had helped himself to the ktchen trash again. This time, placing a shake can (empty can filled with pennies what makes a horrible racket when tipped over) didn't stop him. He just knocked it on the floor and dove in. He was after an empty bag of doggie dental bones, which he duly took in the back yard and shredded. But he also got into an empty frozen food container, lots of papers, and somehow, cranberry sauce. Ugh. I collected pieces of trash from the back yard while Dan scrubbed cranberry sauce off the hardwood floor and the carpet. Oh, and then we found crranberry sauce in his fur! Needless to say, that dog isn't being left unattended with a trash can ever again.

Finally heard back from the disability insurance company. The benefits coordinator called me and told me that I've been approved for the duration of my short-term coverage, which ends August 1st. So they owe me three weeks coverage. She added that she has verified my eligibility for long-term coverage and has passed along my info to their long-term division. I'll be getting a new benefits coordinator who will call me in a few weeks for a very extensive phone interview. She said I'll probably have to repeat a lot of the info I've already given them since this will be like starting over. I hate phone interviews because I have a lot of trouble thinking straight during conversation. I'm hoping they'll set up a specific time and that I can go over some notes or something to help me out. Want to get this underway and get going on the SSDI as well. And get my vacation pay my employer owes me.

Still not feeling up to par. I went to make a phone call in the bedroom tonight and fell asleep for over an hour instead. And the 90 plus degree temperatures are back, which doesn't help.

Am back to going through my digital pix to gather images for photo albums. I'm a little over halfway through my Hawaii pix. I'll be getting prints of those plus my pix of my sister's wedding as soon as I have the money (as soon as I get my backpay from the insurance company).

Dan found out last night that the agency is "only" laying off 16 people in our department. They originally wanted 18. No word yet on whether me not coming back would be included in one of the 16. It could save someone their job. This whole thing is asinine because Dan's already doing the work of four people. How do they expect to get the newspapers out with even fewer people? Dan's very burned out and is hoping he finds another job soon.

I'm trying to convince myself to not go back to bed and to have my usual egg and cream of rice before it gets too late in the evening. I'm not sure this is what I'd really call having a life, but it will have to do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chillin' at long last..... 

After temperatures over 90 most of the summer and over 100 five days in a row last week, it has FINALLY cooled off! The high temperature was only 67 today. I got to turn off the ceiling fans for the first time since May....amazing how quiet it is without them running.

My poor bod really needed the break from the heat. My pain level dropped by about a third overnight, and I felt less drained during the first half of the day. I'm not back to my "normal" level of function, but this is a vast improvement over the past few days.

Felt good enough to drive myself to my appointment with my new therapist. I like her so far....she understood my wariness of the somatoform disorder label and how overwhelmed I am feeling about applying for disability. We mostly did background stuff today to get started, so I made an appointment to come back next week.

Have done next to nothing the rest of the day because I went back to being wiped out after the appointment. I think it is going to take me awhile before I feel as good as I did before my sister's wedding. My muscle spasms don't seem as severe as they were over the weekend, so maybe I'll get some good sleep tonight?

Did finally get around to watching "Rock Star: INXS" tonight for the first time. Basically, singers are competing for the chance to be the new lead singer for INXS. Gotta say, the contestants are GOOD! No one bad enough to get booed off the stage. There were a couple of misses, though: the guy who tried to sing "We Are the Champions" by Queen and the woman with the butterfly tatts who did "If It Makes You Happy" by Sheryl Crow. The first two ladies that sang were pretty decent: one did "Gimme Some Lovin'" and the other tackled Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". One guy that made a big impression was ballsy enough to sing "Lithium" by Nirvana in front of Dave Navarro, who is one of the judges! Didn't have the best voice, but the attitude and energy and charisma were all there. Sometimes the best rock performers don't have the best voices. Other "almosts" were the woman that did "Suffragette City" by David Bowie and the dude who sang "Tempted" by Squeeze. One real standout was the man who sang "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. Fantastic voice! My favorite, though, was the guy who did his own version of "Lola" by The Kinks. Had the voice, looks, moves AND enthusiasm! Ok, maybe I'm just a sucker for men with great bods who throw their shirts into the audience, heh heh. But I was thinking that since Michael Hutchence was so sexy, it wouldn't hurt to have an attractive replacement.

One real downfall of watching a CBS show is that my tv reception for that station is shitty. I got most of the snow out of the picture and the static out of the sound, but there are these huge thick lines slithering across the screen like snakes. Watching just one hour on that station doubled my headache and made me nauseous. So I think I'll limit my CBS watching to just that one show.

Have not heard back yet from the long-term disability insurance company. It has been over a week since they got the documentation from my rheumatologist. They have a website.....I think I'll see if I can find out anything online so I won't have to wait for business hours to call them.

Dan did me a humongous favor.....he weeded the back yard for me. I had been working on it last month, but when it started getting over 90 every single day, I couldn't go outside, and the weeds pretty much took over. It took him two days, but it would have taken me at least two weeks of being out there every single day to do the same amount of work.

Have been thinking about picking up the "Harry Potter" books. I think the hardbacks are $30 apiece, though, so maybe I should consider the library? I haven't set foot in the library in about seven years.

"I need you tonight, 'cause I'm not sleeping. There's something about you, girl, that makes me sweat."

Monday, July 25, 2005

To quote E.T.: "Ouuuuuuuuuch!" 

Am trying to recuperate from this weekend's adventures. Woke up yesterday in so much pain I couldn't get out of bed without help. Literally hurt from head to toe....it even hurt my scalp to brush my hair.

Have had the muscle spasms from Hades. Couldn't get on the floor to do my regular streches yesterday, so I had to modify some and do them in bed. Finally got up for the day at 2pm.....at least I THOUGHT I was up for the day.

I made it as far as the couch and couldn't move any further. Sipped on a Boost protein shake to try to quell my queasy stomach. After an hour or so, I decided to go back upstairs to take a shower.

Unfortunately, that trip up the stairs wore me out so much that I just had to lie down for a minute. That minute turned into 2 hours. And then I had to lie down again after the shower.

Before I knew it, it was 6pm, I needed to eat but was too out of it to cook. Dan got me a burrito without the tortilla from a local Tex/Cal grill. That helped at first, but by the time I finished it, I was tired again.

So I became one with the couch until "Desperate Housewives" was over. I did some stuff on the computer, but I don't remember much of it because I was so out of it. I think I went back to bed about 1:30am.

Today, I vowed to go to aquacise as long as Dan drove me there. Good thing he drove....I couldn't turn my head and could barely even walk. I managed to loosen up some in the pool, but holy cow it HURT!

Tonight I can think of things I'd like to be doing, but I can't concentrate well enough to do them. I want sooooo badly to go back to bed, and I would if my digestion didn't depend on me staying upright. I wonder if I can comprehend a comedy on DVD?

I'm hoping if I can go to bed kinda early tonight, I'll feel better tomorrow. Haven't gotten a good night's sleep for awhile due to pain and muscle cramps. Really adds to the zombie factor.

Oof, I'm dozing off. I should at least go prop myself on the couch.

Fairytale wedding.... 

The socializing actually was set to begin on Friday with the rehearsal and dinner. The venue was inside a Victorian themed park on the western edge of town in the foothills with shops, a carousel, a ferris wheel, and a little train going around the park. My sister rented a building there with room indoors for 125 people, a large deck, and windows with a great view of the city.

The rehearsal got started a little late because there was a wildfire about five miles away causing traffic tie-ups and such. The temperature didn't help matters....it was 104 again I think. But we managed to get two quick run-throughs in before the next group showed up for their rehearsal.

We had dinner at a famous nearby bar and grill that had once briefly served as the state capitol. I sat across from the dad, stepmother and sisters of the groom. One of the sisters is quite young, about 6 or 7 I guess, but she is very bright, and I enjoyed watching her draw pictures of a party on the back of her kid's menu.

Unfortunately, because of the size of our party, the service was very slow, and they forgot to leave the croutons off my salad (I can't eat wheat), but I managed to get it straightened out without too much hassle. My hearing must be getting very bad because my dad was sitting fairly close to me, but I could only understand about a fourth of what he was saying to me. I just smiled and nodded a lot.

One thing I probably could have done without was that four people lit up cigarettes at the table. I happen to be sensitive to the smoke, and I developed a cough and a sore throat that bothered me the rest of the night. I have lots of friends and relatives that smoke, but all of them go outside to do that.

I think we got home about 9pm. I was surprisingly fatigued considering the big day was still to come, but I tried to take it as easy as I could before time for bed. I think the heat was partly to blame.

I had set aside enough time to get about 12 hours of rest before the festivities on Saturday, but I ended up getting very little sleep due to muscle cramps, alternating fevers and chills, and a migraine. I did my best to quell my symptoms with OTC remedies during the afternoon (prescription migraine meds don't work for me). At some point, adrenaline I didn't think I had kicked in, and I managed to get presentable and get out the door on time.

For once, the weather gave us a break. It still got to 102, but it was overcast, and the wind was cool. We got a few raindrops here and there but never enough to have to move everything inside.

We had to be at the venue an hour and a half before the ceremony for pix. It was actually pretty hilarious because even though there was a professional photographer on hand, just about every couple or family had their own camera as well. I dug out my 35mm for the occasion.

My sister looked absolutely regal in an ivory strapless gown with red trim. She had a tiara with a veil attached and her hair arranged around it. She had fire and ice roses in her bouquet.

Her fiance was in his Army dress uniform complete with hat. While he and my sister were having their photos taken, two rabbits hopped around the grass and flowers nearby. I wonder how many pix will have rabbits in them?

Dan kept a close eye on me because he knew how sick I'd been that morning. He guided me back into the building to where I was going to be playing the music for the ceremony. He talked me into getting a chair and resting while the opening music played.

The ceremony was in a large area with windows on three sides. They had exactly 125 chairs in there. Every single one of them was taken, and two people had to stand.

My sister is similar to me in termperament, both silly and sentimental. I had predicted she would both laugh and cry during the ceremony, and she did. And of course I did the same.

It was a beautiful ceremony. The only thing that could have made it better was if my mom were still alive to see it. My sister wore my mom's pearls, and I wore one of her rings.

Once the ceremony was over, the crowd spread out throughout the building and out onto the deck. And we took more pix. The photographer really had his hands full, trying to get shots of extended family and figuring out how to get 30 of us in the same shot.

Poor Dan was trying to get me to sit and rest because he could tell I was light-headed and wobbly, but I didn't want to miss any photo ops and kept going even though I was in horrible pain. The family is almost never all in the same place at once, and there were so many people I hadn't seen in years. When the caterer started serving dinner, though, I got in line fairly quickly because I knew my blood sugar was too low.

It is always difficult at a formal event for a celiac to be able to tell what contains wheat and what doesn't, so I gambled. I skipped the salad because of croutons and the chicken because it had a cream sauce, instead focusing on the beef, herbed potatoes and steamed veggies. Dan and I sat with some friends of the family, people I have known since I was in fourth grade.

While we were eating, my sister and her now husband disappeared for awhile. Boy, were we surprised to see them on the train riding around the park! It was sooooo cute.

The cake was gorgeous, four tiers with a blown glass top with swans whose necks formed a heart shape. Each tier was a different flavor cake. Naturally, I couldn't eat any, but I was told it was delicious.

After the cake cutting, the dj, who had set up on the deck, began cranking out the jams. They did all the traditional stuff, the toasts, the bouquet tossing (the groom's little sis caught it), the garter tossing, and dollar dances. They even did the Hokey Pokey and a polka but thankfully no Chicken Dance or Macarena.

I hadn't consumed alcohol in at least five years, but I decided to make an exception. I had a little champagne for the toasts, waited about two hours and then had an actual glass of it. I took care to drink plenty of water during the evening so the champagne wouldn't dehydrate me too much.

I wanted to dance soooooo badly! I did get Dan out on the floor for two slow songs at the beginning and the end, but he won't dance to the fast ones I like so much. I really should have taken a cue from the first song because I got leg cramps and hurt like someone was attacking me with a dagger, but I ignored it because I was having too much fun.

I mostly sat in my chair and tapped my feet during the fast songs, but there were a few occasions where I just had to get out and boogie. I was hurting too much to do any real dancing, but I was able to sway a little and move my arms around as long as I carefully planted my feet. Everyone could tell I was mentally jumping around like a maniac.

I wasn't able to do a lot of real conversing, but it was awesome to see a lot of old friends laughing and having a good time. There was one thing that I hope nobody caught onto....I'm having trouble recognizing people I should know. Several people came up to me and called me by name, and even though they looked familiar, I couldn't place them, so I just smiled and tried not to look puzzled.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this was one of them. Probably just as well....I developed a nasty case of vertigo during the second slow song and felt like I was spinning all the way home. Good thing Dan drove.

So now my sister and her husband have embarked upon their honeymoon, an Alaskan cruise. I think they'll need the change of scenery after all the months of wedding plans and things. And my sister promised she would take lots of pix.

Saying that I'm tired now is like saying the Pacific Ocean contains water.....woefully inadequate. I could have taken it easier on myself, but I believe certain occasions deserve going all out for. And I'll never forget last night.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Operation pre-crime..... 

Finally was able to watch "Minority Report" on DVD tonight. I had tried to watch it on July 4th but was extra foggy and couldn't make heads or tails out of it, which suprised me because i'm usually able to follow even complicated movie plots. But I've stayed indoors since yesterday afternoon and felt a bit better than I have the past two days (even though it got up to 104 degrees outside today), so I gave the DVD another chance. This time, I made sure I wasn't doing anything besides concentrating on the movie.....I think part of the reason I couldn't follow it last time was that I was working on some photo album pages at the same time. I still had to replay a couple of places where I got lost tonight, but I did get all the way through it and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I had actually wanted to see this movie when it was in the theatres, but I seldom had enough energy to sit through a movie when I was working. And this one's a bit long. It required two pee breaks and a break for dinner.

Plots that involve the notion of free will always fascinate me. I started thinking seriously about this when I was 12 and got into religious discussions about whether our future was already known by God or whether we chose what to do. Around that time, I was also having frequent dreams about the future, most of which came true. This of course made me wonder whether something had to happen just because I dreamed it would, or, if I warned the people involved, whether events could be changed in advance.

"Minority Report" asks the question: if you stop someone who was only thinking about murder before they actually did it, did that person commit a crime? "Pre-crime" is not as farfetched as it may sound. Right now, with the London bombings fresh in our minds in the US, you know someone's gotta be thinking that the only way to stop terrorism is to capture would-be perpetrators rather than wait for them to blow themselves and everything around them up. Some police departments use psychics to help them find criminals on cold cases. The logical next step would be to have psychics predict who was planning to commit a crime and arrest them before the damage is done. The biggest issue would be proving that a crime was going to take place....fairly easy if there are bombing materials in the home, less easy if, like in "Minority Report", the intended weapon is a common household item like a pair of scissors. We don't yet have captive precognitives who are forced to broadcast their predictions. But we do engage in racial profiling. How long before we start arresting people based on what we think they might do rather than what they have done?

Pre-crime is dangerous ground. Consider the fleeting thoughts in your own head every day. The vast majority of thoughts are like blips on a radar screen and are nothing you'd ever seriously entertain, just meaningless "chatter". I am willing to bet that most of us have had thoughts of violence against another person flash in our minds, but never in a million years would we act on those thoughts. I have an exceptionally vivid imagination.....does that mean I'm more likely to do any of the outrageous things that cross my mind? Of course not. Most people have consciences that prevent us from acting on temptation. That's what separates the mentally ill from the mentally healthy.....only the ill ones are completely unable to resist temptation.

I wonder how long it will take our society to cross the bridge from persecuting crimes of action to persecuting crimes of thought? Because that's the way I believe we are headed. In "Minority Report", one of the more sobering scenes is when small robotic eye scanners are deployed in an apartment building. Most of the residents just stop whatever they're doing and submit to the scan, perhaps grumbling about the inconvenience of it, but submitting nonetheless. Some security systems in the US already require thumbprint ID.....retina ID can't be far away. Either that, or we'll be implanted with bar codes just like pets from the animal shelters are. Sounds paranoid, yes, but so is the Patriot Act.

Betcha can't guess what I'm thinking right now....

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hella hot...... 

It was 105 degrees again today. It has NEVER been this hot here before. Chip won't even come upstairs, just stays on his dog bed under the ceiling fan.

The forecast says it's gonna be 100 on Saturday when my sister gets married. My long dress and pantyhose won't help. I will lug my water bottle everywhere to make sure I don't get dehydrated.

I am declaring tomorrow a do-nothing day. I'm going to rest as much as possible so I might have some energy for the rehearsal on Friday and the ceremony on Saturday. I'll probably watch some DVDs.

Looks like I might finish copying the medical records tonight. Haven't heard back from my rheumatologist's office, so I hope they've already sent the disability insurance company the office notes from my last appointment. If so, I should be getting a letter from the company stating whether they are continuing my coverage. I know they take their sweet time about these things, so I don't expect anything to arrive before next week. I don't know if I have to fill out additional paperwork to make the transition from short-term disablity to long, but I'll probably find out soon enough as my short-term coverage ends August 1st.

I wanted to thank those of you who have been sending e-mails of support and replies on this blog. It does help to know that I'm not on this journey alone. You don't see or read much about people who are housebound or mostly so....it's like we're a secret underground society, long forgotten by the world at large. I told someone over the weekend that I feel like I've become invisible, that if it weren't for my computer and going to movies once a month, I would only exist in the eyes of my doctors and my husband. Sounds a bit melodramatic, I know, but chronic illness is very isolating, and as I must tighten the budget and eliminate any social activity that costs money, I'll be isolated even more. Sometimes the isolation isn't intentional, it's just that even the fun activities require more energy than I possess. So when I do leave the house, it has to be for something worthwhile. For the chronically ill or the disabled, the computer may be the only portal to the "real" world outside the home. Thank goodness I have access to so many awesome people.

Gotta good downstairs and cool off. Wish I had some ice cream......

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm melting.....melting..... 

If it gets any hotter here, I'm gonna catch fire! Today's reading of 105 is a record....the previous record for today was 100. And tomorrow, it's supposed to get to 102.

Unfortunately, I had to go out today to get an allergy shot. I feel all sluggish and weak. Maybe I should go take a nap in the freezer?

I'm hoping it will cool off some this weekend for my sister's wedding! Luckily, the chapel is air conditioned, but it will be standing room only. Thank goodness the ceremony will be at 6:30 and not mid-day.

Finally found myself a licensed clinical psychologist that takes my insurance. The first eight on my list were all out of network. I have an appointment with the new lady next week, which is good because I really need the help.

After that, my life will slow down considerably because I won't be going to any other new doctors, just doing checkups with my current docs. It will be the first time in several years that I won't have multiple weekly appointments. Dan will be happy to not have to chaffeur me as much.

"Pardon me while I burst into flames." --Incubus

Odds and ends that are my life..... 

My sister's wedding is coming up this weekend. Yayyyyyy! The rehearsal and dinner are Friday night, and the wedding begins Saturday at 6:30. I'm already planning to do absolutely nothing on Thursday so I can rest up for the festivities. I've got film in my 35mm camera, tried on my dress and shoes to make sure they still fit (I originally wore them to my high school reunion in 2002), even got my hair cut and colored (very dark brown, nothing flashy this time). I'm trying to take extra good care of myself this week, hoping I'll somehow come up with enough energy to really enjoy myself and maybe even get to dance at the reception.

Went to the opthalmologist today. Last Monday I embarrassed the hell out of myself by showing up for the appointment on the wrong day. The Restasis eye drops seem to be helping. There's only one place on one eye showing any damage from dryness, and it's where this ingrown eyelash keeps scraping against my eyeball. It has gotten too fine to pluck out with tweezers.....one of the times I tried, my shaky hand accidentally pulled the plug out of my eyelid instead. So the doc had to get out the forceps and magnifying glass and yank that eyelash out. I did a visual field test today to make sure the Plaquenil I'm taking hasn't affected my vision. It's a weird little test.....you stare at a steadily glowing yellow light, and whenever you see a small red dot flash somewhere on the screen, you press a button. I did fine.

Talked with my employer's human resources department. Apparently, if my manager agrees to it, I can arrange to have the unused vacation I earned paid to me to bridge me from my current reduced disability pay to a full paycheck for as long as that lasts. That could be a big help as I have 30 days of pay owed me. Also, since I have more than $5000 in my 401(K), I can leave it where it is for as long as I like (or until I need it to live on). And I might be able to borrow against it as a hardship loan rather than be forced to take it all out and have to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal tax. If that time comes, I'll have to contact the administrator to double check what they'll allow me to do. Just about everything else from here on out will be handled by the disability insurance company.

Speaking of which, my rheumatologist did not send the LTD guys "sufficient evidence to prove continued disability", so I had to leave a message with this office and ask him to fax more stuff to the company. I cannot be approved for further benefits until this is done. Gotta admit it was much easier just to go to work because I always knew I had a check coming that way.

I'm still copying medical records. Decided rather than picking and choosing what to send in, I'd adopt the theory that if you throw enough shit to the wall, something is bound to stick. So I'm going to give them everything I have and let them sort it all out. Haven't decided if I'll call Social Security as soon as I've finished copying the records or if I'll wait a few weeks until I've got the LTD started.

Am trying to not let this whole thing get to me and am not quite succeeding. I haven't ridden the depression roller coaster in at least five years, and frankly, I had forgotten how much it sucks. I've talked with enough people who have filed for disability to know it can really be a blow to the self-esteem, but there's a big difference about hearing about it and being in it. I haven't slipped to the depths I know are possible, but I'm finding it really difficult to keep my head above water.

I'm trying to find a proper therapist who takes my insurance; the one I interviewed on the phone today doesn't take any insurance at all. I will only go to a psychiatrist as a last resort, as most of them around here only throw pills at you, and I don't need any more brain damage. You'd think a decent licensed clinical psychologist would be easier to find, but I'm probably way too picky as I know more about psychology than the average person.

I know I won't go off the deep end; I think I've evolved too much as a person to go there again. But it is absolutely surreal to be 41 years old and suddenly have no idea what I am able to do with my life. Working for another 25 years was pretty much an assumption. And it's ironic that I always thought if I couldn't work, at least I'd have plenty of time to write and read, and here I am often unable to do either. Nature can have one cruel sense of humor.

Am supposed to help Dan apply for a job in Las Vegas tonight, but I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open. He might hear from the agency by the end of this week if there will be more layoffs and how many. His job is still pretty safe, but it is soooo stressful knowing your co-workers are going to be axed and having to come in to work like nothing's wrong.

Did finally finish my review of the Montel Williams book for But You Don't Look Sick. It will probably be posted after the webmistress gets back from vacation since I got it to her so late. Frustrating that something I was really looking forward to writing took me three days to do.

Ow, hand cramp. Later.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Yep, went to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" last night. Was quite curious to see what Tim Burton would do with Roald Dahl's 40-year-old morality tale. Am pleased to say the new version sticks more to the book than the 1971 edition.

Now, the version starring Gene Wilder was a cult classic, and I enjoy it immensely. But even when I was a child, I thought they made Charlie's story too sappy. The kid they've got in Burton's version is awesome, doesn't play for sympathy. The book originally was more about Charlie and less about the other kids, and the same is true here. We see him with both parents as well as the bedridden grandparents, in a crooked little house on the edge of town. The grandparents see the other kids that won on tv, and don't hold back their disdain. When Charlie unwraps the fateful fifth ticket, you're pleased because he's a nice kid, not because he's a hard luck case.

Augustus Gloop's character is no different than in the 1971 movie, except that he doesn't figure out he's won a golden ticket until he has taken a bite out of it. Veruca Salt is still a snob prancing about in a fur coat, but she is more strident and less pouty in this version. Violet Beauregarde's character got an update; she's an overachiever with a lookalike stage mom, although the bubble gum is still prominently featured. Mike Teavee got moved to Denver and is addicted to video games like Doom instead of shoot-em-up Westerns. Oddly enough, the kid who plays Mike looks and sounds very much the same as the kid in the 1971 classic.

The factory doesn't disappoint; Burton's signature is all over it. Cold and austere on the outside, it hides a funhouse. The first hint that the viewer may be in for a wild ride is the clockwork-type production of wax figures praising Willy Wonka. It's reminiscent of Disney's "Small World" but has the added bonus of catching fire. Wonka, played with delicious weirdness by Johnny Depp, appears suddenly next to the ticket winners and their guests.

Depp's Wonka is an eccentric social outcast with a nervous laugh who acknowledges nothing outside his factory and his love of chocolate. He launches the golden ticket contest only because he suddenly becomes aware of his own mortality. His fear and loathing of adults is actually a key theme shared by Dahl in his book, so I enjoyed seeing Depp play this to the hilt. All the kids except Charlie mistrust and dislike Wonka fairly early on because they can't even fathom him. Charlie, though, while somewhat puzzled, is still up for the adventure and is the only one who tries to really communicate with this strange man in a top hat, loud suit and purple latex gloves. Grandpa Joe gets kudos for being the only adult who enjoys the tour.

The chocolate room is yummy, a Burton-esque edible garden with the requisite chocolate waterfall and river. The CG Oompa Loompas were a bit of a surprise, one real man duplicated dozens of times over and much smaller than the ones portrayed in the '71 version. They still sang cautionary songs, but these were very much in the style of Broadway musicals. I thought they were hilarious with their allusions to Esther Williams, the Beatles, heavy metal and other stylings.

The best part of the film was when Veruca Salt gets what's coming to her. Not being content with her menagerie of pets at home, she covets one of the squirrels shelling walnuts for Wonka. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that the squirrels give Veruca and her daddy appropriate send-offs.

My next favorite part was the Wonkavision segment. In a bizarre tribute to "2001", a monolith-sized Wonka bar is transmitted into a television set, where it comes out regular-sized. Then Mike Teavee transmits himself in a similar fashion into a hilarious Oompa Loompa production number in which he finds himself fighting Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and the like.

The ending of Burton's film is very different than the 1971 version. We spy each of the other kids leaving the factory so Charlie can see for himself that they are changed but are probably wiser (in the book he was concerned about their welfare). What makes Charlie different from the other kids is his proper upbringing and love of his family. He has much to teach Willy Wonka, and Wonka eventually responds.

I'm never going to look at an army of squirrels the same way again....

Friday, July 15, 2005

Foggy mental breakdown...... 

I was trying my best to stay positive and do what I needed to do on the disability stuff, but I broke down anyway. I don't know how anyone files for SSDI without getting depressed.

I was copying medical records last night. At first, I was reading them before I copied them and learned about some stuff on there that none of my docs had told me about. But the more of them I copied, the more it was bumming me out, so I tried to focus on something else.

I started working on a review of the Montel Williams bio even though I didn't really feel up to doing it. I had a horrible time getting the right words on the screen even though in my head I knew what I wanted to say. It should have been easy to write, but I got stuck over and over until I couldn't dredge up any more.

So I gave up on the article and picked up a book I liked. But I had trouble understanding the words, even though I had read it maybe a month ago. That was the last straw....I started crying and couldn't stop.

Giving up my job is bad enough. Not being able to communicate is unacceptable to me. It's like part of me has died.

I hate crying because it is so very physically painful to me. The muscles in my chest sieze up to the point where I can hardly breathe, my head aches for sometimes days after, even my TMJ gets into the act. I cried for about an hour last night, and afterward, I hurt so bad that the pain made me cry more.

Ended up taking a Dilaudid finally so I could knock the pain down enough to sleep. Didn't sleep well, though....I've been having nightmares nearly every night for the past week and a half. Seems a Herculean effort to get myself into a positive frame of mind.

I know I need professional help, so I called the number of a licensed clinical psychologist who works in the same office as my endocrinologist. No answer, but I left a message so I can find out if she's taking new patients and accepts my insurance. I hope I can set something up next week.

Consciously, I know I'm going to be all right. But subconsciously, I'm a nervous wreck. This is so not like me.

I will go back to copying medical records tonight because it needs to be done. But I will also try to take a break sometime this weekend and go see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" even if it is agony to sit in the theatre. I figure I deserve a little escapism.

I want an Oompa Loompa NOW.......

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Leadfoot busted..... 

I'm a self-confessed speed demon when I'm driving in non-residental areas. I live in a city where you'll be run over if you do the speed limit. I typically do 5 to 10 over the limit on a 55mph road.

I should have had Dan drive me around today, but I wanted to give him a break, so I drove myself to the chiropractor and then to two of my other docs' offices to drop off requests for records from my disability insurance company. All three are south of me, but aren't very close to one another, so it was more fatiguing than I was expecting. Plus, the extreme heat was getting to me.

So I wasn't quite as sharp as I should have been. I was on a road I don't travel on all that often. I thought all of it was a 55mph road, but it turns out I was wrong.

There's a section of that road that's only 45mph, and that's where the speed trap was. Two motorcycle cops were sitting at the entrance to a state park with their radar guns, and two more were hiding on a side road. I saw them well in advance and took my foot off the accelerator, but one had already clocked me going 60.

I was so surprised to find out I was going 15 mph over the limit and not just 5! The cop sort of smirked when he pointed out that the 55mph posting began a block south of where I was pulled over. Oh, well, I bet the driver of the semi in the lane next to me that was pulled over was surprised too.

I grumbled about this to the receptionist at the doc's office, and she told me the exact same thing had happened to her on the same stretch of road about a month ago. She got a notice in the mail letting her plea bargain the points on her license because she had a clean record. That might happen to me too since the last ticket I got was in 1993.

Dan wasn't quite as angry with me as I was expecting. He really doesn't like how fast I drive, and I know we really don't need the extra expense of a fine, either. But maybe I'll let him drive more often now.

Soooooo tired.......

This is the first week of the rest of my life..... 

Well, I just finished putting together info for section 5 of the Social Security Disability form, and I don't feel like starting another section tonight. But it's too early to go to bed because Dan called right after I made supper and I didn't get to eat it until 10pm (I have to stay up at least 3 to 4 hours after a meal). So I'm gonna kill time by playing "catch up" on this here blog.

This is my first full week of life as a permanently disabled person. Not that I'm much different from previous weeks, but now I'm officially without a career or a living wage. I only have a vague notion of what the hell I'm gonna do with the rest of my life. I guess that's something I'll have to take up with a therapist, should I find one. Today, I did grab the business card of a licensed clinical psychologist who shares an office with my endocrinologist. If I don't hear back from my previous therapist before I get done dealing with human resources and the disability insurance company, I will see if the new lady takes my health insurance.

I'm supposed to be getting paperwork in the mail from my (previous) employer's human resources department, but it isn't here yet. It only takes two days to mail, yet I've been waiting six. Not that I'm anxious to complete more paperwork, but I need to find out things like how to get paid for the 30 days of vacation I've earned and what becomes of my 401(K). Plus I want to make sure I get proper credit for the 1 month of short-term disability I still have coming and get properly enrolled in the long-term disability next month.

The LTD company has been trying to reach me by phone, but I've been avoiding them while I'm still trying to get things squared away with HR. This company uses every trick in the book to avoid paying claims, so I'd rather not have to talk to them any more than necessary. I did find a letter sent to me in April that stated if I didn't go back to work last week I'd have to get medical records sent to them from evey doc I've seen since April 15. So I've sent copies of the letter to my rheumatologist and endocrinologist and will get copies to my gastroenterologist and ENT tomorrow. Maybe after I've done that I'll be ready to talk to the annoying LTD rep on the phone.

One very annoying thing I found out is that I'm nowhere near as prepared for filing for SSDI as I thought I was. I had downloaded an "Adult Statrter Kit" from Social Security that supposedly tells you all the info you'll need to file and had that ready to go, but then I got a hold of the actual disabilty form and found out they left a shitload of things out on that "starter kit". For instance, the kit says to list your treating providers and their contact info, but the form wants ALL the docs you've seen since you got sick, even non-traditional practitioners like chiropractors. Plus, for each provider, they want to know WHY you saw them and what treatments were provided. So the 15 docs I had listed per the kit turned into 27 docs I had to list per the form. Another example is that the kit says to list your prescription meds, but the form wants EVERYTHING you take including supplements and over the counter meds. So my list of 16 meds turned into 34 once I added all my vitamins, eyedrops and dry mouth products. As I mentioned, I just finished section five on the form, which means I'm finally over the halfway point! I started working on this thing last Wednesday. Then when I'm done info gathering, I need to make copies of ALL of the medical records I have in my possession. That will take awhile as I've acquired quite a few in the past eight years.

So my application will end up being a mile thick, but I don't know if it will help my case or make things worse. The first three years I was sick, no one was able to figure out what was wrong with me, so I have incorrect diagnoses like conversion disorder and generalized anxiety. That's gonna make the present day stuff seem like an exaggeration. But they have to give my rheumatologist's opinion the most weight, and he's the one who wanted me to go on disability. Plus I have been going to him for five years, and maybe that will negate the earlier stuff?

The irony isn't lost on me how things have changed. For eight years, I've been doing my utmost to keep myself well enough to work. Now all of a sudden I have to present as much evidence as possible that I'm too ill to work and will likely stay that way. If that doesn't f---- up your self image, I don't know what will.

But this business of putting together my application info has at least given me some immediate goals and has kept me getting out of bed each day when I would much rather hide from the world. So I haven't gotten quite as depressed as I was expecting, and I have managed to stay in decent spirits, at least consciously. Sub-consciously, though, I am a mess. I'm having repeated nightmares about what my future holds. Most of these are worries about money....for example, I'll dream that someone totals the car and Dan ends up in the hospital unable to work. Others are dreams of me completely unable to walk or communicate, ignored by the world at large. And the restless sleep is being accompanied by an ever-increasing pain level, which of course makes it even harder to sleep. Grumble.

There's more to all of this, but my hands will not allow much further typing, so I'll stop for now.

"I know God doesn't give me anything I can't handle, but sometimes I wish he didn't trust me so much." --Mother Teresa

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Got high yesterday..... 

I'm talking about elevation above sea level. Of course. What did you think I meant?

After seeing a friend's beautiful mountain pix of a recent trip, I got the irrepressible urge to head for the hills. Problem is, I have too much hand pain and fatigue to drive a solid hour to my favorite getaway spot. So I had to enlist Dan's help even though he is not fond of heights.

After a promise of lunch out, I got him to agree to drive me. He got to pick out the cassette tapes we brought along because we can't pick up radio in the mountains. And we did Starbucks on the way home.

It was a gorgeous day once we got out of the 90 plus degree heat of the city. And once we saw the foothills, I felt like I was on a mini vacation. Even Dan had to agree it was a nice break from the routine.

We made a few wrong turns as I was navigating from memory and I was foggy, but we never got lost. Dan gave me a dubious look, though, when we turned off the highway and onto a dirt road to get to a mountain pass he had never heard of. I've sent him down many a poorly maintained road in my time to his dismay.

He was convinced I was nuts, though, when I instructed him to turn onto a steep grade one-laner. My assurance that I had driven it myself many times when I was healthy didn't make him feel any better. The road leads to a pass that is 11,600 feet above sea level and is puntuated with a glacier and other gorgeous sights, but Dan was convinced the car was gonna meet its demise, so he insisted that we turn around before we'd even traveled a mile (we had another 10 or so to go).

I did get him to stop on a small shelf that served as a turnaround area. I got out with my 35mm camera and took pix of the snow-covered peaks behind us. There was more rainfall in the mountains than usual this year, so there were rare wildflowers for me to photograph as well.

We headed back down the pass, and since Dan had seen how much fun I'd had taking pictures, he volunteered to pull over anywhere I liked once we were back on the level road. I saw a field full of mostly purple wildflowers next to a nearly overflowing creek, so I had him stop there. I twisted my ankle and my back and walked entirely too far, but I was having so much fun I didn't care.

So I didn't see the glacier or the lake meadows on the pass or any wildlife, but I still got to have a vacation, and the flowers were beautiful. And I had an iced green tea sweetened with melon syrup from Starbucks, which helped make the hometown heat more bearable. I'm very lucky I only have to drive an hour to get away from it all.

When I win the lottery, I'm getting a Jeep Wrangler, and I'll somehow bribe Dan to take me all the way up that pass.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Christmas jammin'??? 

The best thing about fibrofog is that I can be an unintentional comedian. You know how you are thinking one thing but blurt out something completely different? I did that tonight.

Dan and I were watching "Jeopardy", which is one of my all-time favorite shows. We try to yell out the answers before the contestants get them. I get a lot more answers wrong now than I did before I got sick, but I still play along to try to keep my brain engaged.

They had this category where the answers all had the name "Bob" in them. They asked who the clerk was in "A Christmas Carol". When the show was on yesterday, they asked a question about Scrooge's old partner, Marley, so that was on my mind.

So even though I knew the answer was Bob Cratchett, I blurted out, "Bob Marley"! Dan started giggling, and I gave him a puzzled look. Then when the contestant said the correct name, I realized I'd given the name of the reggae singer!

Think how different "A Christmas Carol" would be if it featured Bob Marley instead of Bob Cratchett! My sides hurt from laughing about that.

Yes, I'm easily amused.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Hell on wheels...... 

Ok, I had only been to the grocery store once in the past three months for regular shopping. Just couldn't walk that far, so Dan had to do it for me. But now that I will no longer be working, I need to compare prices so save some money, so I decided it was time to put in an appearance.

Instead of going at night like usual when they're stocking shelves, I went in the middle of the afternoon because I wanted to have someone around to tell me how the electric carts worked. Yep, I've been wanting to use one for months, but was afraid if I asked for assistance, I might get that "but you don't look sick" lecture. Besides, I wasn't very confident about my cart-driving ability.

I lucked out when I entered the store right behind someone who was parking one of the carts. She saw how slowly I was walking and asked me if I needed the cart. I said yes but that I wasn't sure how they worked, and she told me how to make it go.

I was still nervous, but took a deep breath and pushed the lever. The cart moved way slower than I was expecting and had a tight turning radius, so I actually got the hang of it while I was still in the produce section (I always go there first).

The only thing I didn't know was that it had two speeds. I found that out after my hand started hurting from holding the left hand lever and I decided to try the right and started speeding down the aisle! So when I had gotten what I wanted from a particular aisle, I could zip on over to the next one if I watched carefully for oncoming pedestrians.

One major disadvantage is that the cart is low to the ground, making it very difficult to reach anything on a high shelf, and for some reason, a lot of the gluten free products are up high. So I still need Dan with me to put the groceries in a regular cart and to lift stuff like gallon jugs. But now I don't have to skip whole sections of the store to save energy: I can shop in every aisle if I want to and even backtrack easily if I forgot something.

Amazingly, I didn't smack into anything until I tried to park before I left the store. There were a few occasions where people would leave their shopping carts unattended in the middle of an aisle and Dan would have to move them for me, but most people gave me enough room. And I got a few odd looks, I guess because most people are expecting to see someone elderly driving these things, but I just smiled at them and usually got a smile back.

The best part, though, was that aside from increased pain in my hands from operating the levers, I still had energy when I left the store! I was able to broil some fish for lunch when I got home. I should have started using these carts a lonnnnnng time ago.

So now that I've conquered the grocery store, I'm psyched enough to try Target next. I promise I won't pop any wheelies. But I've gotta admit I REALLY like the fast speed on the cart.....wheeeeeeee!

Maybe for my next trip I should get some aviator goggles and a long scarf? Or maybe a leather biker outfit. Yeah, I could see me dressed all in black, revving my cart like a motorcycle.

At any rate, it's good for me to have a means to get around those gigantic stores.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

And the tummy continues to turn..... 

Went to the gastroenterologist today about the abdominal attacks I've been having. She said it's very unlikely that I have an ulcer because I've been on Nexium for two years. I may, however, have a problem in the bile duct.

She told me that even though I had my gallbladder removed six years ago, sometimes, tiny bits of would-be gallstones might have migrated out of the gallbladder prior to its removal. One of these only has to be the size of a grain of sand to cause painful spasms. So I'm going to have an abdominal ultrasound on Friday to make sure I don't have an enlarged bile duct.

If that comes back normal, I will have to wait for another attack before I can have bloodwork that might point to the problem. Apparently, it has to be within 24 hours of an attack. She wrote me a script to have the testing done so that when an attack happens I can just go to a local lab without seeing a doc first.

I'm hoping either that I never have another attack or that if a problem is found, it's very minor. I'd rather avoid further surgery if possible. At least I probably don't have an ulcer.

In other news, got up this morning and saw that Dan had cleaned out my desk at work for me. He had everything in a box on the kitchen table. It made me want to cry, seeing the remnants of a ten year job and knowing it was over.

I have to talk to my disability insurance company tomorrow and probably my union rep and human resources. I'm nervous, as if stating that I am not returning to work is pronouncing my doom or something. I can see why some people drag their feet about applying for disability as it is somewhat intimidating.

So I suspect my mourning period will go on for a bit longer. Not to be melodramatic, but it does feel a bit like something in my life has died. As brave as I like to be, certain types of change do inspire fear.

I know I'll get through this ok. But I also know enough about grief to know that I must acknowledge its existence before I am able to change my life for the better. That's just how I operate best.

The people that say anyone collecting Social Security is just lazy really have no clue. Why would I put myself through this if I didn't need to? Why would I choose to give up a job with excellent pay and benefits in favor of accepting one-fourth of that amount from the federal government? Call me materialistic if you wish, but, hey, I'd much rather be collecting the big fat paycheck I had grown so accustomed to, because the work itself wasn't difficult, had I not gotten sick. I'm trying like crazy not to feel like a bum, trying to ignore the fact that some people will see me as one when they find out I'm not going back to work.

Yep, adjusting is gonna take some time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

D-Day: "D" stands for disability..... 

Went to the rheumatologist today, and we agreed that it's time for me to file for disability with Social Security. I've been off work five months and am sicker now than I was in February. I've been trying to get better for eight years now and have stumped two rheumys and two neuro docs and finally realize there is nothing new left for me to try.

I've known for over a year that I might be heading toward disability, but now it seems very surreal. And scary. And depressing.

I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone today trying to find out what I have to do via my union and human resources to begin the claim process for long term disability (I have insurance). I am the first one in my department to actually use the stuff. I understand that the insurance company will require me to file for Social Security, so I'll start the necessary process for that very soon.

I feel as though I'm teetering on the edge of the Grand Canyon, the canyon being depression. I'm feebly fighting off urges to hide under the covers indefinitely or to eat myself into a coma, neither of which is actually gonna make me feel any better. I would love to hop in the car and spend some time in the mountains, but I can't drive that far, and Dan needs the car for work anyway.

And I keep apologizing to Dan because now we have to both rely on his ability to work to keep us financially solvent. I have not relied on anyone for financial support since I graduated from college 20 years ago. It simply is not true that two can live as cheaply as one, at least not where I live.

I know I'll get through this, but at the moment it's extremely hard to accept. I want so much to undo this decision even though I know in my heart there's no way I can do a competent job with any employer. It's just that I fear the uphill battle of proving disability much more than faking competency at work and risking getting fired with every mistake that I make.

Anyone got a Grand Canyon-sized ladder? Sigh.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine..... 

Went to see "War of the Worlds" tonight with a friend. We picked a theatre that tends to be a little less crowded because it's near the edge of town. The theatre had lots of people but wasn't completely full, which is the way I like it.

I really enjoyed the movie, more than I was expecting to. Spielberg always does a good job of making you feel like you're with real people in the midst of something extraordinary. I mean, when this odd "thunderstorm" starts up, I would have been one of the curiosity seekers standing in my yard watching it approach. And, knowing me, like a tard, I'd probably end up struck by lightning because I'd be so fascinated.

When Tom Cruise leaves his house to find out what's going on, you feel like you're there on the street with him and his New Jersey neighbors. The chaos that ensues is actually very understandable, because no one knows what exactly is happening, so they have no idea what to do in response. When they scatter and run in blind panic, you really can't blame them.

The effects are spectacular in part because they're unpredictable. Tom Cruise's character manages to grab his kids and hop into the only working vehicle in his neighborhood (it works because someone replaced a burned out solenoid, which none of the other drivers thought to do). Like during any catastrophe, logic doesn't really factor much in the decisions made.....mainly people just react to the urge to get as far away from danger as quickly as possible. But because Tom's character is basically selfish at heart, all he can think to do is to dump off the kids at his ex-wife's house, even though she had very clearly told him she was going to Boston for the weekend.

There is one excellent jab at the media: at one point, Tom's character is standing near the wreckage of a crashed plane, and a reporter asks him if he had been a passenger. He says no, and she replies, "Too bad. That would have made a good story".

There is also a scene which exemplifies mob mentality perfectly. Driving a van into a city street full of people nearly ends in the main characters' demise because the vehicle symbolizes hope in the form of a means to escape the aliens. Frantic, panicked people will do just about anything to save themselves.

There is one scene I thought was funny. The young girl, too scared to sleep, asks her dad to sing her a lullaby to sleep. He doesn't know any lullabies, so he sings her the only song he can think of: "Little Deuce Coupe".

I would not recommend taking kids to this movie. "E.T" it ain't. There are people being vaporized, having the blood sucked out of them and other unpleasant sights. Not excessively gory, but the suggestion of people coming to a horrible end is definitely there.

Dan thinks he might want to see this. If he decides to go, I'll might see it again. It might not have quite the same jolt as the first viewing, but I bet I'd still like it.

One word of warning: if you have autoimmune fatigue, do NOT go see this movie if you are already tired, because it will WIPE YOU OUT. Honestly: I haven't been this much of a zombie after a movie since "Return of the King"'s Shelob scene. It's that much of a roller coaster ride. I didn't mind a bit, but let's just say it's a good thing I don't have any big plans for tomorrow.

She's my little deuce coupe, you don't know what I got.....

Friday, July 01, 2005

What would YOU do to survive? 

Hadn't intended to, but tonight I ended up watching an interview with Aron Ralston, the rock climber who had to amputate his own arm to save his life. The initial story got big coverage here because his parents live here. The show was actually a two-hour special during which he wnet back to the canyon where he'd been trapped and showed exactly what happened.

It's pretty much a miracle that he survived. He drove to Utah on a spur of the moment desire to hike someplace quiet and out of the way. He didn't tell a sole where he was headed, which was nearly a fatal mistake. He chose a remote slot canyon in a park where the opening between the rocks was barely wide enough for a human to slip through. It was a 15 foot drop into a sliver of a crevasse just to enter Blue John Canyon. But I could see the appeal of the place......the layers of rock curved smooth by water were quite stunning and could only be viewed from inside the canyon. He had hiked seven miles from his truck to the opening of the canyon with just enough supplies for a couple of hours. Little did he know.....

In order to navigate the canyon, one must climb over or crawl over boulders that have fallen from above and have become wedged in there. One of these boulders that he scrambled over was not stable. It slipped down between the walls of the canyon, pinning his right hand and wrist. He could not move the boulder, and he was at least 20 miles from the nearest paved road. Certainly no one was close enough to hear him yell for help.

He had hiked on a Saturday, and was not due back to work until Tuesday, so he was not missed for three days. His boss became alarmed enough to file a missing persons report on Wednesday. Aron was stuck in that crevasse all that time. He had drunk all his water, his food, and he was dehydrated, on the verge of hypothermia from the night-time cold, and he was hallucinating from lack of sleep. He had a dull knife with him, and had attempted to cut his arm with it. He stopped when he realized it was not sharp enough to cut through the bones above his wrist. He was certain he would die right where he was.

Amazingly, he had brought a video camera. He used it to film a diary of his experience and farewell messages to his family. Only the first day of video was aired for the interview.....the images from subsequent days were too upsetting for him or his family to view. But they did air the audio, which was haunting. You could hear how weak he was, how despondent. You could hear him fading away, which gave me chills.

Aron's decision to sever his arm came almost by accident. He had been chipping away at the boulder for days, more for something to do rather than out of any real hope he could free himself. Then he slipped and to his surpise, the blade reached his thumb and went in. He finally realized that he could probably cut through his arm as long as he didn't have to slice through bone. So he made the brave decision to break his arm and then slice through the rest. Fortunately, he was able to break both the bones in the same place, a little above the wrist. I honestly don't know, even if I had thought of doing it, if I would have been able to go completely through with it. His description of it was particularly creepy given that he was back in the canyon and you could still see the blood stains from where he'd done it.

Almost more amazing than the amputation, though, was that even after he cut himself free, he had to get out of that canyon, bleeding and weak from dehydration. He lost something like 45 pounds during the six days he'd been stuck. He couldn't get back out the way he'd come in, so he hiked the remainder of the canyon, which ends with a drop of approximately six stories! He had to rappel that distance with one hand. Fortunately, he was discovered before he had to go the seven miles to his truck, or he would not have survived.

Aron now has an artificial limb, but that has hardly slowed him down at all. He goes downhill skiing, kayaking, and of course still climbs mountains. I was amused to see him ice climbing with an axe attached to his right arm. The return to the scene of the accident was an emotional one for him, but memories of that haven't deterred him from living his life fully.

While I am aware that Aron was an althlete in peak form with plenty of outdoor survival experience, I still have to wonder at what I could manage do to in a life or death situation. I probably have a reasonably strong will to live, but just how far could I go? Makes me wonder if I let too much in my life slow me down. Probably one of the more exasperating things about chronic illness is the necessity of avoiding risk to preserve health. I so much want to hike and explore and take pictures of amazing things in amazing places. But leaving my house is too much of a challenge some days.

But I'll never be trapped literally between a rock and a hard place like Aron Ralston was. I suppose I should count my blessings.

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