grrgoyl: (Vendetta V)
First order of business: I'd like you all to welcome my sister [ profile] amybrogna to the world of online journaling. You don't HAVE to friend her, but she's new and can use all the (virtual) friends she can get ;)

Second, my, my I've been busy. A few weekends ago I attended an Occupy Denver march with MyFriendDeb. It was inspirational and empowering, with about 2500 other Denverites joining us (couldn't find any official count anywhere). I made a sign which unfortunately no one understood and I had to explain to about four people:

The "53%" is the conservative counter-movement that appeared shortly after the 99% started really picking up. Their deal is that they are the 53% who actually work and pay taxes to make it possible for the lazy, dirty, welfare-sucking hippy 99% to sleep in parks and whine on sidewalks all day.

They haven't really caught on as quickly, as evidenced by their Facebook page likes in the 4 digits, while the original OWS FB page is in the 6 digits (because you're no one if nobody likes you on Facebook). You fail, 53%. You fail at social networking and you fail at life for continuing to buy into the fairytale that you might be in the 1% some day if you just work hard enough. Ain't gonna happen. I'll get to that later.

Fortunately I made another sign on the back that was much more popular:

Notice the highly relevant Banksy T-shirt as well

It was a lovely day for a march. The only low point came just after the march began. When we first arrived in the city we both had to pee badly (two old ladies with small bladders -- Wall Street better be shaking in its alligator skin boots). As we hurried downtown to catch up with the marchers, we passed a Portapotty left on the sidewalk for construction workers. It was open so I gladly availed myself. Deb though was too good for such humble facilities, so opted to wait -- until the march took us past one of the only public restrooms downtown, which is located way up behind the shops and set back in a service corridor of the open-air mall. She left to use it. I told her three times to be quick, then stood there helplessly as everyone marched past me. I gritted my teeth help me, if she put us at the back of the marchers....not quite, but I still wasn't terribly pleased. I'm not even going to teasingly ask you if you thought she apologized.

I was going to make a video of the day, set to the song "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums" by A Perfect Circle -- which is actually perfect lyrically, if a little intimidatingly heavyhanded musically -- but lost interest fairly quickly in this project. I did save an album of photos of some of my favorite signs from the day.

This was the highlight of the march -- construction workers stepped up to high-five us. I switched course just to be able to pass them. The photographer who took this shot annoyingly makes all his photos look like WWII propaganda posters

Excellent question, my good sir

HA. Take that Cain, you self-made pompous fuck

So, the Occupy movement. Still have no idea what it's all about and why people can't just shut up and go back to their homes like good little Americans? It's not your fault if you don't -- the mainstream news has stayed determinedly willfully ignorant about it (when not going out of their way to slander it). For you I offer an Occupy 101 Primer to debunk some of the corporate-controlled media's favorite lies about it (warning: There is a LOT of information back here, but I've done my best to sum up days' worth of reading).

::Artists use lies to tell the truth...:: )

I kind of feel like the Occupy protestors are the ones who took Morpheus's red pill in The Matrix, and the rest of America are the ones taking the blue pill and still naively believing our government is working for us and our best interests. After learning all that I've learned, I don't see how it's possible for anyone, liberal, conservative or other, to disagree with Occupy. At the very least you have to admit, OWS may not have all the answers, but at least someone is finally asking the right questions.


I think television programmers are trying to distract us. Remember a sitcom that came out last year called "Outsourced," about a wacky bunch of Indians trying to adapt to an American business model while taking over off-shore US jobs? Putting a human face on large percentages of Americans losing their livelihood to this practice. This year we have "2 Broke Girls," about a Paris Hilton with a heart of gold whose poor father was the victim of a Ponzi scheme. We're supposed to sympathize with her family falling from the 1% and being forced to slog it out down here with us.

Forget religion--sitcoms are the new opiate of the masses. And have you noticed how many ads there are for luxury cars lately? It seems like Madison Ave is almost as out of touch as Wall St.


In health news, well, ::I've been quite busy here as well:: )


::Halloween:: )


Last but not least: The next time I talk to you, I will have gone to New York to see Rickman on Broadway!
grrgoyl: (Satan's Energy Drink)
I've got this year's Parade of Homes on-deck, but frankly it was even more lackluster than last, and my heart just isn't in it. So first some smaller news:

The good news is I got a notice from a collection agency that I owed the remaining balance in full of nearly $200 on my hospital bill. This was confusing to me, as not only have I been paying them faithfully $50 a month, they've been taking it automatically so I KNOW I haven't missed any payments. I was even more confused because, by my reckoning, I actually owed them close to $500.

I reluctantly called the number to get to the bottom of it. Long story short, it's another case of "pay X amount now and we'll forgive the rest of it." Tery says sometimes they just want to "clean up their books" or something, though I can't see why anyone would walk away from money rightfully owed to them, particularly money that was actually being paid. But hey, pay $200 to save $300? Groupons never has deals so good.

So, another $86 to the ambulance company and I AM DONE. Maybe they'll tell me they'll settle for $20?


We have a new neighbor below us. Nice quiet nonsmoking Kara decided she wanted to live with her boyfriend (so she said; we think she was tired of listening to the still ongoing Feline Wars every morning at 3 am. For that matter, so are we).

It took surprisingly no time for her replacement to move in, considering how many other units seem to sit perpetually empty in the complex. I met him one morning returning from my bike ride -- Mike, a heavyset, 50ish, meek-looking guy. Not unlike the ill-fated Kent, of never making a peep before dropping dead of a heart attack fame.

Mike has been here about two weeks and so far I've been positively beastly to him. In our first conversation he won me over instantly by starting with "I haven't rented an apartment in about 20 years, so please let me know if I'm making too much noise." I asked him to do the same for us, explaining he really only had to contend with our cats racing around at all hours. "Oh, I have two golden retrievers back in my house in Pine Valley" (I think that's a housing community south of us). "If you have a house why are you renting an apartment?" I asked, a fair question I thought. He suddenly looked really uncomfortable and confessed, "My son just went to college and my wife, ummm, wanted to make the most of her empty nest syndrome."

Well, what the hell does THAT mean? I interpreted it as, "The kid's gone and I want the whole house to myself now." Without thinking I said to him, "That seems kind of harsh." He turned a deep red and we went our separate ways. I felt bad, it seemed a really embarrassing detail to share with someone you just met 30 seconds ago, but he needs to come up with a better cover story, it seems to me.

The next time I saw him we said hi, then for some reason I couldn't just drop it there. I said we had been admiring his satellite dish (a fancy 3-room jobbie with HD) -- and couldn't drop it THERE, adding, "Seems a bit excessive for such a small place." He blushed and shrugged helplessly, and closed his door. I simply shouldn't be allowed to speak to this man ever again.

Just tonight a new theory occurred to me: What if he's a serial killer, but also a really bad liar, and this "empty nest syndrome" was the best he could come up with on short notice? In which case I must be at the top of his list by now. Notify the authorities if I don't update within a week or two. But so far he is very quiet and doesn't smoke, so it's all good.


Suddenly fall is upon us. You're probably wondering what became of all my mountain biking adventures. I am too.

Tery's new Toyota suffered a crazy amount of hail damage in one of the last storms of monsoon season. Her car looked like a tinfoil Jiffy Pop cover, with thousands of little indentations. Fortunately insurance was covering it. Unfortunately we just went with the first shop they mentioned, a place called Global Collision.

My insurance company offered multiple times to set us up with a rental car, but Global said it would only take three days. We thought we could survive for three days using my car. Then three days turned into three weeks (Tery insists it might have even been a little longer). Every time she would call for an update she was told it would "hopefully" be ready by such-and-such a day. "Hopefully." As if she was their first client and they had no idea yet how long the process took. I don't know what game they were playing, but she was told on two completely different days a week apart it was "going to paint."

I was getting steadily more and more furious, but Tery hates confrontation so my fury never made it past her ears. We went together to pick it up FINALLY, and I sat and watched as she inspected their work and gratefully shook the salesman's hand as he gave her the keys. "You sure gave him a piece of your mind," I commented when we got home. "He never knew what hit him."

Thankfully she was a bit more honest when USAA called for a follow-up survey of her satisfaction. Which doesn't change the fact that GLOBAL COLLISION STOLE MY SUMMER.

Not helping the situation was the few times I made it to the mountains it was with Tery, who is still struggling to gain some confidence on the trail. I've been patient with her, god knows I didn't start out as the fearless daredevil I've become since last season, but it's really, really difficult to find a trail that doesn't have any technical sections (translation: rock pits, tree roots or anything else that might create a bump in the road) or steep hills to climb (these are still mountains, don't forget), and she ends up walking her bike almost the entire way.

We tried Elk Meadow ("It's a meadow. You can't ask for easier than a meadow" -- well, only a teeny tiny part of it is meadow. The rest is a lot of climbing and, of necessity, descending, which scares her the most). Last weekend we did Meyer Ranch in Conifer, parts of which she liked quite a lot. That was only 4 miles though, so we were going to also hit nearby Flying J Ranch (a trail which describes as "Adrenaline junkies should go past the first entrance, go past the second entrance and then just keep driving until you find a different ride" LOL) but opted to head home instead.

Meyer Ranch was actually a consolation prize from the previous weekend, when we set out in search of Buffalo Creek Trail in Pine, CO. Following the directions from my book "Bike With a View: Easy and Moderate Trails in Colorado" (published 1994) was our first mistake. We followed a sign for the Buffalo Creek Rec Center which sounded promising, but after driving for 20 minutes on what seemed to be an incredibly long, bumpy dirt road and seeing nothing, we stopped at a random trailhead, set out, and within ten minutes decided this particular trail was too difficult (for Tery. I still might have tried it on my own) and headed home -- after I stubbornly drove for another half an hour on the main road convinced that the stupid trail had to be just around the next bend.

(We didn't see "nothing" exactly -- we stopped to ask for guidance from a family setting up their campground. The parents were off doing something else, so I approached the grubby 9-year-old boy who just stepped off the Deliverance set. He looked wary of me, so I kept it brief. "Is there anything in that direction?" I pointed down the road. "Oh yeah, there's plenty down there" he answered. I thanked him and ran back to reassure Tery.

"Oh, I'm sure there's plenty," she snarked, "Plenty of bears, plenty of trees, plenty of..." I don't know why she was so snippy -- I saw plenty of what appeared to be biking trails disappearing off the sides of the road, but as I said, she can't handle just any trail.)

So Meyer Ranch was something we noticed on our very disappointed drive back to town and went back to a week later.

However, the first trailhead we saw upon turning onto the dirt road was called "Little Scraggy." We didn't want to risk exploring it at the time (still hoping for the Holy Grail of Buffalo Creek), but it did look intriguing to me; intriguing enough to want to return Monday on my own, which I damn well did.

WELL. As it turned out, this trail was exactly what I've been looking for for Tery. Super smooth, literally only two or three rock pits in the entire 8 miles I rode, and really gentle, no major elevation changes. One minor complaint would be that about 45% of it was covered with loose gravelly sand, but other than that an absolute dream ride. Little Scraggy was only the first section. It soon joined up with the Colorado Trail (I'm beginning to suspect every trail in the mountains does; it's apparently 483 miles long, according to Wiki), and farther along the branch I took, the Shinglemill Trail.

This trail winds through the site of the Buffalo Creek wildfire, which I remember happened in 1996, the year we moved to Colorado (we're pleading the fifth). The area is slowly recovering, but still very much characterized by blighted acres of blackened fallen trees, which sounds horrific but actually is kind of beautiful in its own way. Definitely makes for great biking as you can see in every direction for miles upon miles.

Unfortunately this trail goes downhill first, which means you're lured into going much farther than you probably should before remembering what goes down must come up. I never wanted it to end, it was so incredibly fun coasting down the mountain on twisty, rollercoaster-like turns (Tery could do it I was sure, just maybe not at my speed). But I eventually hit the dirt road at the bottom and reluctantly decided to turn back.

No, up wasn't as fun, but it was really just lung-busting more than difficult. I could ride the whole way, but had to stop often to catch my breath. It being a Monday, I was the only one out there, and it was so eerily quiet. There was no wildlife living in the burned out valley. No black devil squirrels crossing my path, no birds, not even any insects really. I forgot how much I enjoyed being so utterly alone.

By the time I got back to my car I had gone 8 miles in about 2 hours (the slow return climb had made it seem much longer than that). I headed back to town exhilarated in the knowledge that I had found my new favorite trail -- just in time for the end of the season (also just received my last batch of cycling jerseys from an eBay seller in England yesterday, naturally. Guess these puppies will have to wait for next year to see any action).

I bring photos. This one is my favorite, I think.

::+7:: )
grrgoyl: (Dr. Horrible)
Nothing big happened this week. However, lots of little things happened instead. Have some bite-sized updates, plus some movie reviews.

I was driving home from work this weekend at 5 am when suddenly I noticed my car sounded a lot worse than it did a second before. It was quite alarming, but seemed to be operating fine. I prayed for it to just get me home (I had about 2 miles to go at this point). I eventually pieced together the engine that now sounded like a motorcycle with a peculiar dragging noise: obviously my muffler had fallen/was falling off. Whew, at least not an engine malfunction.

When I arrived I looked closer: Got it in one. Unfortunately it wasn't the back part hanging down but the front, meaning it was scooping forward like a bulldozer rather than pulling behind.

Tery told me how a similar thing had happened to her first car. She had put off fixing it for about a week, and was told when she finally got it in that she was missing her oil cover and the muffler had been throwing up sparks like crazy -- she had essentially been driving around a Molotov cocktail. She shouldn't be alive.

I got a couple of hours of sleep and then called Firestone. It just figures I was literally a month from paying off my last maintenance visit with them and looking forward to having that extra money in my pocket again. Still cheaper than a car payment, I told myself yet again.

They took me in immediately, which is why I love them. I gingerly drove the two miles or so, my car in obvious distress. At a stop light a guy shouted out his window, "Hey, your tailpipe is dragging!" I toyed with an ultra-sarcastic response, "REALLY? Is THAT the godawful scraping noise I've been trying to drown out with my radio?" But he was only trying to be helpful, so I assured him I was on top of the situation.

At Firestone the guy offered to top off my fluids for free, making it sound like he was doing me a real favor. I was really more concerned about this huge metal thing hanging off my engine, but sure, why not. Tery wondered if "fluids" included gas (of course not).

$650 later and I was on my way. At least it happened after I bought my bike, or else I wouldn't have been nearly so impulsive to get Mamba.


Ah, Mamba. She has already brought me much pleasure, but I have had my first crash, a much more traumatic event than any damage to my car that doesn't even have a name.

I put pedals with toe clips on her this week. I had these once before and hated them, but that was actually on Rogue Leader and putting toe clips on a mountain bike is a symptom of insanity, even if I had the experience back then that I do now.

The maiden voyage went off without a hitch, and I loved the workout they gave my quads that was previously missing without them. Then on day two I was stopped at an intersection waiting for two cars to pass. A cool parlor trick I do on the bike is balance on the pedals while at almost a complete stop.

Well, as I learned this day, I can do this for one car but not two. I started wavering. I got my right foot out in time but not my left, and WHAM! I went straight down on my left side, exactly like I did that time with the poison ivy. It happened so quickly I actually banged my head on the pavement, so three cheers for wearing a helmet.

I blame the clips (and user error) about 40%; mostly I blame other bikers who ignore traffic rules and barrel through every intersection without a care, so now motorists act like every cyclist is a deer that might unexpectedly leap in front of them (so they drive too cautiously and slowly for my parlor trick).

I took a huge gouge out of the handlebar tape on that side -- this is why I hate buying new things. But fortunately my body bore the brunt of the rest of the fall and nothing else was damaged. Abrasions and bruises heal: a scratched paint job or bent component isn't so easily cured.

And I did have my eye on some awesome handlebar tape, black with tiny white spirals, for the mixte anyway. Maybe it was meant to be after all.


In not so good news, Tery's friend is dying of end-stage liver failure.

Kristy was Tery's best friend from the bar she used to go to. Kristy worked as a waitress, was more or less an alcoholic (she says less; Tery says more. It looks like Tery was right), and her life was a mess back before Tery had to stop hanging out with her because she simply couldn't socialize outside of the bar setting.

Tery heard she was in the hospital through a mutual friend on Facebook -- also through Kristy, but Kristy is one of those Facebookers who loves to post cryptic, tantalizing hints of news that force everyone to comment, "OMG What's wrong???" (so VERY EXTREMELY annoying and a pathetic attempt to trick people into giving you attention, BTW, any of you who happen to Facebook). Kristy posted things like "in the hospital, guess I'll have to call in sick to work haha" and then "in ICU, now I'm worried. sad face"

Tery went to visit her before her 2-week vacation back home, and reckons Kristy won't live to see her return. She says she's horrifically emaciated with a distended belly full of ascites, and her lungs are filling with fluid as well. They can't give her pain meds because with 20% liver function she can't metabolize them. It's said to be one of the most painful ways to die. She was so disoriented no one told her she's dying; she thinks she'll be going home, going back to the bar and waiting a few months for her liver transplant (so she can get back to her party lifestyle. Even if she did survive this week, they don't waste organ transplants on people who refuse to change their ways) -- hence her flippant, coy little Facebook posts.

Kristy is 32 years old.

Tery is taking it extremely well, considering how close they used to be. Tery desperately wanted her to escape the bar life when she got out, but Kristy was stuck fast. A small irony is Kristy's father died of liver cancer in his early 40's, refusing to quit drinking even at the end. She was so furious with him, and look at her now.

Me, I have even less sympathy. As the mutual friend said, you don't wake up one morning with 20% liver function and go to the ICU. Kristy has had problems for awhile now, vomiting blood, etc. but refused to heed the warnings. At the risk of sounding smug, one night in the ER was all it took for me to change my entire life, and my problem wasn't even that life-threatening. How many times would you vomit blood before suspecting maybe something wasn't right?

With all the uproar about whether or not to legalize pot, I ask why the hell is alcohol legal when it's just as, if not more, dangerous? I guarantee it's destroyed more lives, even without a death involved.

So, yeah, pre-emptive RIP Kristy.


Dammit, I guess I'm just incapable of keeping my news truly "bite-sized."

Movie reviews!

::The Twilight Saga: Eclipse:: )

Did I say reviews? This one took far too long, I'm quitting while I'm ahead. But just you wait until next time....THEN you'll get it.


Last but absolutely not least: Got your package today, [ profile] velmaneuwirth. You are the sweetest EVER. So much goodness crammed into such a tiny envelope! I can't wait to give Tery her medals, she's going to LOVE them. Andandand you gave me Rickman! (sort of) And BANKSY! LOVE LOVE LOVE that graphic! Thank you so much!! :D (also loved seeing your handwriting. More personal than words typed on a computer :)
grrgoyl: (Dylan parka)
I'm suffering the aftermath of my spectacular fall at Audubon last weekend. When I say "aftermath," I mean a poison ivy rash that quickly spread down the entire right side of my body, covering my arm, leg and right buttock. I was sitting in the bushes for a good minute or two while struggling to get the bike off me; still, I can't account for the presence of a rash on my ass. I swear I was wearing pants.

I took over 60 pictures, but it was surprisingly difficult to get the angle and lighting right to convey how horrific my rash is. I wanted you to itch just looking at it. Sorry, there will be no pics of my ass

You would think your ass would be the worst imaginable place, and it's no picnic, but I've discovered the most annoying location is actually on your elbow, which I had never noticed before comes into contact with so many surfaces.

If you have never had poison ivy, let me be the first to tell you it is positively SINFUL how good it feels to scratch, when that's the absolute worst thing you can do. I would say it's better than sex, except I never have such huge feelings of regret a minute after finishing sex.

When you have poison ivy, it makes you nervous to scratch any part of your body, even bits you know are unaffected. And I sort of miss the days when my biggest worry was some scrapes and an elbow that wouldn't bend.

So I'm never going to heal because I can't resist scratching. Nor can I resist picking at the little fluid blisters. I've always been a picker, so I know I'm doomed. Lacking any other medicine, I started with Gold Bond powder which provided relief that was transient in the extreme. Now I've moved on to antibiotic and triamcinolone (steroid) ointment. When you reach in the drawer for a tube of toothpaste in my house, you'd better make damn sure of your selection.


I'm starting to think my outings with Gerry are hazardous to my health.

Wednesday he suggested meeting me and going to Cherry Creek, where allegedly there was a path leading under the highway that had off-road trails beyond. I was doubtful, but I went anyway.

He was correct. What's more, he opened up a whole new route to me where Cherry Creek connects with all sorts of major roadways that will certainly make getting about much easier should I ever need to rely more heavily on two-wheeled transportation.

He led me to a single-track path that was almost as enjoyable as Audubon, except much more overgrown and unfortunately running a good part of the time along the High Line Canal, meaning sheer drop-offs into raging water (okay, "raging" might be much. But I can't think of anyone who wants to plummet into a canal while bike riding). And all the overgrowth meant poor visibility of the trail and a few very hairy spots I'm frankly amazed didn't end in my demise.

My luck ran out at one spot where I misjudged a turn, plowing straight on into a bush/weed the size of a small tree. The bush/weed fought back and I lost, going partially over my handlebars in a very gradual faceplant.

I promise I'm not doing anything special while riding with him. Just plain bad luck, I guess.

Once again I was unhurt (dairy-based Adamantium comes through for me again!), though once again my handlebars were cock-eyed; only 15 degrees off this time, not the whole 90. This time Ger was behind me and saw the whole thing. I don't know if that was a comfort.

I didn't get any photos (one of the bad things about riding with someone else). The path snaked around behind some industrial parts of the city, uniformly non-scenic. "Gee, Ger," I joked, "you sure show a girl the purty parts of town." No kidding: At one point we even passed through a patch of cacti -- I didn't know we had any in these parts. No sooner had I finished picking all the needles out of my hands, he turned around and made me go back through it. I suspect he has a small sadistic streak.

Speaking of snakes (the noun, not the verb), we saw a huge one stretched across the path basking in the sun. I would have got a photo if Gerry hadn't kept poking at it to see if it was a rattler (it wasn't, fortunately for Gerry). It slithered off in annoyance before my camera app loaded on my phone. Gerry ruins EVERYTHING.

I felt more comfortable sticking to the high road on the way back. Not Ger, who consistently took the turns closer to the water. So I laughed at him when he went hurtling over a blind hill, only to (barely) come to a screeching halt when it deposited him at the edge of a drop-off down to the canal. Serves him right, dragging me through cactus and scaring off my snake.

Still, there's talk of meeting yet again tomorrow, possibly to ride the Lair o' the Bear trail. I've scoped it on YouTube and it looks like fun, except for another nicknamed landmark called "The Waterfall" that only looks half accurate to me. Riders with more ego than sense hurl themselves down it. Not me. It's all I can do to make it home just riding on smooth level ground.
grrgoyl: (Dylan parka)
No new adventures to report this week -- I know, one week in and I'm already a failure. Stupid me put off leaving too long and the sun looked too brutal to go anywhere. Of course, it's easy to forget that sometimes it's 10 degrees cooler outside than inside our condo.

I did attend a party at Chris and Liana's. We had sort of fallen out of vogue at the parties when Tery quit drinking. We went to Halloween and she claimed the temptation was too great -- though I personally failed to see what she thought she was missing watching everyone else get progressively stupider and more obnoxious (perhaps she missed the numbing effects that made the stupidity and obnoxiousness more bearable).

So we just haven't been invited, until this weekend. Which means no one has seen me and my 50-pound weight loss. They all marveled appropriately (and I won't be modest, it is a marvel; I never thought I'd see the downside of 190 before my deathbed). For once I was skinnier than even Laura, the big party flirt, who in her defense is happy in a new relationship, and that always packs on the pounds.

I was a bad girl and ate more fatty foods than I've ever dared since my ER visit, though still less than once upon a time: I only sampled one each of the crab cheese mushrooms and cheddar cheese bruschetta (EVERYTHING had cheese on it), and one whole Omaha steak. I was okay at the time, but later that night I felt a shadow of the chest pain, just a friendly reminder that Mr. Gallstone was still along for the ride, my Dark Passenger.

Still, I've realized that if I could have the surgery today and go back to eating whatever I wanted, I wouldn't do it. I like my life (and how I look) too much this way. I know, I'm sickening, aren't I?

Another of my agendas for attending was to hopefully plan some bike riding with Chris and Liana (it's all about the bike with me). They're pretty serious too, taking frequent trips into the mountains and even once or twice to Alaska to ride. They acted pretty gung-ho about going with me to their local park, and so was I, until I learned that not only does Chris not believe in helmets, he fills his water bottle with a vodka mix before barreling down the mountain at 40 mph -- without a helmet. I was nervous enough with Ryan bare-headed but at least stone cold sober in our little Cherry Creek park. I don't know how I'd handle Suicide Man.

It's okay; if there's one thing I've noticed about parties, it's that people spend a lot of time sitting around making all sorts of grand plans that never amount to anything. Which isn't always a bad thing.


Ahh, Rogue Leader. We've had our ups and downs. I've been getting mysterious chronic flats, always on the rear tire of course (much harder to change). Always after a lovely afternoon of riding, I'd come back, put him back on his rack, and by morning the tire would be almost completely flat. No visible punctures and nothing obvious causing the damage.

I went through three tubes and decided I'd had enough. I brought the tire into Bicycle Village to ask the opinion of their service department. I showed it to a big burly blonde guy who spent most of the conversation staring off over my head, obviously happier dealing with spokes and chains than human beings (not that I can point fingers). He gave it the most cursory of looks, said, "I don't know what to tell you," set me up with a new tube (that he impressively stuck on, tire casing and all, in about 30 seconds with barely a glance) and sent me on my way, free of charge at least.

This tube lasted a total of three days before going flat, a personal worst. Whut. I didn't relish the thought of facing Blondie's cold stare again, so I determinedly plunked down with a flashlight and went over every inch of the inside of the tire. I found the teeniest tiny bit of a wire sticking out of it, no larger than a grain of sand, but certainly sharp. Knock on wood, it might have been the culprit. Blondie might be quick with his hands, but not so good with attention to detail.

Funnily enough, this was one of the first suggestions I found when I searched Yahoo Answers for my problem. God, I hope it was the problem. To be extra sure, I went back to Bicycle Village and ponied up three times the dinars for a thorn-resistant tube, because I'm really, really, REALLY tired of changing tubes. My rear wheel now weighs more than Tery's entire bike, but I don't care if I can get longer than a week's use out of it.

(ADDENDUM: Today was the maiden voyage of my new tube. Definitely feel a difference -- have to work harder to maintain momentum, etc. But good exercise, right? I expect soon my thighs will be so powerful I'll have to start dragging cinder blocks behind me to get any sort of challenge.)

On the plus side, I'm now pretty damn good at changing tires (not Blondie good, but at least I can look people in the eye). And I've got a collection of partially inflated tubes that's the talk of the town.

But when Rogue Leader is up, I'm the happiest girl in the world. The other day I was racing down a big straight-away hill, my iPod rocking the bagpipe solo in "Under the Milky Way Tonight," and, at that moment, that was all I wanted out of life.


Here's a silver lining to the whole iTunes debacle: My hospital debtor who insisted on a $78 payment plan waited until about two days after my account had been cleaned out to take their money, so the payment bounced. I did the right thing, called the bank and called the debtor to explain. I was told they would just re-bill the account after the money was returned.

There the $78 sat for another month. I dutifully recorded the charge in my Quicken so there were no unpleasant surprises when it suddenly disappeared, but still there it sat. I forgot about it, thinking they were waiting for next month to try again. And there it sat.

Then I started getting daily calls from an unidentified number. I picked up one day and it was them -- which I didn't realize until halfway through the conversation. They started going through the spiel of "Can you pay the balance ($820) today?" "No I can't." "Can you pay X?" "No, I've been paying you $50 a month and that's all I can handle for now." Blah blah, on it went, until it dawned on me they were the $78 people.

You know what would make this less confusing? Consolidating into one big bill. Yeah, revolutionary thinking, that's me.

"I already set up a payment plan with you," I told him.

"I was wondering. The notes are sort of confusing on here," he said.

I explained my whole sad tale. He commiserated, and offered to reinstate my plan. Since he had seemed happy with $50, I confessed that I was really more comfortable with that than $78. He said that was fine. I wondered aloud then why the first person would only settle for $78. He just chuckled knowingly and made it happen.

If they hadn't tried to change the deal on me in the first place, I wouldn't have missed two months and they would have been $100 richer by now. But no, they couldn't be happy with a regular payment every month. Let's just all do things my way and no one will get hurt.


Some photos. First I noticed the cats were playing with a moth in the kitchen. Kitten to Logan: "No way, YOU like chasing moths? I DO TOO."

I thought nothing of it, until I saw the moth and realized it was MothRA. It looked like a damn sparrow in our kitchen.

Tery's so brave. She scooped it up and put it outside without even flinching. My hero

Logan has reverted back to Homeless Cat, loves sleeping in a tent made out of my overhanging bed sheets. So much so that one day I forgot to put it down and he yelled at me until I did. Crazy boy.

Can you spot the cat in this picture?

Just a little one of me and Rogue Leader. If I don't look very happy, it's because off-road biking takes a lot more concentration
grrgoyl: (sirius black)
Remember that time when I thought the hospital was haunted? Something else happened this weekend.

I had walked the dogs, was blissfully sweeping the floor when I heard it: Voices coming from the heating vent in the ceiling. Loud enough, in fact, that I heard them through my iPod earbuds. I listened to them for a minute, quietly freaking out.

The hospital is a freestanding building. There are no adjacent office spaces that might share the vents. I went upstairs, thinking perhaps the breakroom TV had been left on and I had somehow missed that fact in my initial security sweep that I make every night when I arrive. No dice.

I went back downstairs and still heard them, so I called Tery.

Me: Why am I hearing voices in the ceiling vent?
Tery: You are??
Me: Yeah. It's a guy and a girl. I can't hear what they're saying, but the girl was crying a minute ago.
Me: Well how do you think I feel being here??
Tery: Maybe they're ghosts of people whose dog died here...
Me: And then they died here too??
Me: You aren't doing a good job of reassuring me.
Tery: Maybe the workmen disturbed some spirits... (the hospital is being remodeled currently)
Me: Nope, still not reassuring.

Once she got over her paralyzing terror, she reasoned I must have been picking up a conversation from the next door gas station parking lot; the vents open up on that side of the building. It continued for another minute or two and then went silent. Kind of bizarre that in almost four years working here this is the first I've noticed it, but it's not like I hang out at that end of the building all night.


Speaking of supernatural, I have a bit of an addendum to my "Twilight" review. In it I stated that Michael Sheen were about the least frightening group of actors to ever play vamps, completely forgetting that this isn't Sheen's first run-in with a fantasy franchise -- I actually first saw him as the werewolf leader Lucian in the "Underworld" series.

Vamps and wolves are also mortal enemies in those movies (minus a truce). He was a lot hairier and more buffed out, and a lot more convincing as a wolf, kind of like Sirius Black's younger brother (Harry Potter interlude there). Of course, those movies at least agree that vamps have no business being in sunlight, even if they play a little looser with the rules of lycanthropy. I think I don't mind those liberties as much because there's no ultra-dreamy vamp making teenage girls lose their minds the world over, with a ludicrous Mary Sue plot -- although there is a Romeo and Juliet-ish romance between Lucian and the vamp leader's vamp daughter Sonja.

(Sort of unrelated squeeing: Just saw on IMDb there's a "rumored" Underworld 4, holy crap. ALSO that Bill Nighy (vamp leader, I think Underworld is actually the first movie I ever saw him in) is going to be Rufus Scrimgeour in Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter interlude) ZOMG YOU GUYS)


But the Wii is gone

I got a notice from Netflix that they now offered streaming online videos through my Wii player. That's made of all kinds of awesome so I hooked my Wii to the internet to get onboard. The first thing it asked was if I wanted to update; seeing no harm, I did.

By the time it finished updating I had lost interest in the whole Netflix thing (mild ADD?) and wanted to play a game instead. Unfortunately suddenly I was getting an error message after about two minutes of playing. I don't know why I didn't see a connection with the update thing, and in fact there may not be -- I was gripped by mind-freezing panic, especially when I got the message with every single game.

Once I calmed down, I turned to my source for all information, YahooAnswers. Some said it was either a problem with the lens or the hard drive, but most recommended sending it to Nintendo for service.

I'm not really comfortable with the whole manufacturer's repair scenario, since I bought it used -- not that there's anything illegal about buying it used, I just didn't know where that left me in terms of a warranty. According to Nintendo's site, out of warranty repairs were $75 plus shipping. SKATCHAMAGOWZA. But they at least promised to replace it with a refurb if it were unfixable.

Always trying to save a few bucks (a habit that almost always backfires on me), I searched for other options. There seemed to be some local game shops selling repair services on Craigslist for around $60, and some even cheaper on eBay. The thought of not having to ship was appealing, not to mention that savings of $25.

Ultimately I decided to call Nintendo and see what they said. Maybe I'd luck out and there'd be an easy fix someone could offer by phone.

This didn't turn out to be the case, however, they do have an "out of warranty no-cost repair service" that I liked the sound of very much. They opened a ticket for me, sent me a prepaid FedEx shipping label, and that was that. She warned it could take 6-8 weeks, but since it was free I wasn't about to complain.

I ran out to FedEx that day with everything boxed up in the very conspicuous white Wii box. I was a little nervous because the young guy behind the counter seemed like the exact age of someone who wouldn't mind risking their crappy retail job for the chance to steal a Wii -- people have done it for far less (true story: once worked with a stoner who got caught stealing a Grateful Dead cassette tape on the job and got fired). He promised to put it in another box for shipping and take care of everything. Oh, I'll just bet he would take care of everything.

My fears weren't allayed when the next morning I decided to check my tracking number on the site, to discover it belonged to a package that had been delivered to someone in New York in March 2009. What the....? I was sure he had pulled a bait and switch on me. I called the store in a panic. The woman who answered said she didn't have any information in her system regarding the tracking number (oh, GREAT) but that the package was still sitting there waiting to go out. Yes, but was there anything in the box? I didn't ask her. I agreed to put my trust in them.

Looking more closely, it appeared that the tracking number was in fact generated by Nintendo, so I guess they recycle numbers. The next day the site had refreshed and there my tracking info appeared, so I relaxed.

I thought being a "no-cost" repair my unit would sit on the back of a shelf for a few weeks first, but not the case. Nintendo received it, repaired it on the same day, and sent it back out again the following morning. I expect its return on Tuesday. So the point of this whole boring story is major kudos to Nintendo for their customer service (that and a reminder to self that trying to save a few bucks is sometimes a mistake). It almost makes up for the way they gouge you by selling every single bleeding accessory separately for top dollar.


I have this thing about security. I don't know where it comes from, my house has never been broken into (although two cars have). I'm just convinced everyone is a potential crook eyeballing my stuff.

With summer nearly upon us and no gym membership, I'm stepping up my bike use. My bike is nothing special -- Specialized Hard Rock, but it's over ten years old. The only recent upgrades have been a Cloud 9 seat for my tender, easily bruised derriere and a set of hybrid semi-slick tires (flat on the inside, knobby on the outside, go from paved road to dirt tracks -- LOVE THEM).

And truthfully the bike is hardly ever out of my sight apart from the occasional grocery trip (which I hope to do more frequently this season). Yet I feel the need to lock down every inch of it as if I lived in East LA.

First I looked for a lock. I focused on the Kryptonites since they come the highest recommended. They rock, if only for the fact they have a "New York" line with the word "fahgettaboudit" printed on the side. Would have been all over those if they didn't look like they weighed about ten pounds and cost almost $100. I settled on a midline model instead.

Then my tires started bugging me with their quick release (i.e. quick steal) skewers, so I looked for a set of locking (screw-in) skewers. When I found those I discovered they also make a seat post skewer as well.

I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

Tery reckons I can now get work as a bike messenger delivering crack cocaine on Colfax Ave -- she, like many of you, thinks I'm being a little ridiculous.

Am I though? On its maiden voyage to the grocery store, I pulled up to the sidewalk and noticed a guy standing at the end of the building. As I chained my bike to the rack, he sidled up to stand directly in front of me. What's THAT all about? Either he was trying to appear threatening or volunteering to guard it for me. You can guess which I chose to believe.


The medical bill craziness continues. After receiving another threatening invoice from someone I've been paying regularly, I gave them a call this morning, with the dread of being forced on another payment plan just slightly more than I could afford.

Me: I'm calling about this threatening letter you sent me despite me paying you every month.
Customer Service: We want you to be aware you have a current balance of $320.
Me: I am aware. I'm keeping very careful track of all my bills every month, and making sure to pay everyone. You have to understand I'm trying to pay like four people back.
CS: I understand. Can I get you on a payment plan? (here we go)
Me: How much more would I be paying a month?
CS: We can stretch it out for 9 months, which would come to $35 a month.
Me: ???
Me: But I'm paying you $50 now!
CS: Yes, and we appreciate that. But right now you will receive a letter threatening to send you to collections every three months you have a balance, and collections is a very ugly situation. If you were on a payment plan the letters wouldn't be sent.
Me: Fine. If you're happy with $35 a month then I am too.
CS: You are free to pay more, but $35 would be the minimum. And may I remind you there will never be finance or interest charges on your balance.

Well $35 is all they're getting, since with no threat of finance charges I don't really have any motivation to pay more -- it almost makes up for the extra $28 I'm paying the other people.

Today I enrolled in my employer's insurance plan, so hopefully this is the last medical emergency where I'll have to go through this nonsense.


Last but not least, yesterday the satellite TV went out due to Tery not paying the bill. I wasn't all that surprised to learn she would rather stare at a blank TV and sulk than watch Avatar.


Oops, THIS is last but not least: HAPPY BIRTHDAY [ profile] kavieshana!!!!!! The big 4-0, huh?
grrgoyl: (Caduceus screw)
I thought I had the medical bill thing under control. I was paying everyone every month, only $50 but I figured that was better than nothing. Everyone was happy.

Then this weekend I received a letter from one of my debtors offering me a "hardship discount"; this was surprising, as I thought I had been rejected from any hardship eligibility. Basically the letter said they'd forgive $289 from my bill, leaving a balance of $110 that I had 30 days to pay. Well, I'd be a fool not to take this offer, and fully intended to do so come next paycheck. The beginning of the month is rough for me, as I'm sure it is for many of us, because that's when mortgage (and rent for other people) is due.

Then a week later I received what looked like a statement (from what I first assumed was a different company) showing all my payments, except it was stamped in ominous red letters "FINAL NOTICE" and included a little note at the bottom that read, "Despite our numerous attempts, you refuse to honor your debt. As such we have no choice but to refer your account to a collections agency unless you pay the balance in full." The balance, mind you, was $400, which would be a piece of cake if not for all these other people who also wanted to get paid.

I wished there was an actual person whose nose I could angrily thrust this paper under and point to the part showing all my payments. How am I "refusing to honor my debt" when I'm sending them money every month? If I wasn't giving them anything they would have every right to get their panties in a twist. But for god's sake, I'm doing the damn best I can.

Tery said they were probably used to people not paying them anything so their default strategy was heavyhanded scare tactics, but again I say I'm giving them money -- all the more reason I would think they'd be downright giddy even with just $50 a month.

I fully intended to say most of this to them when I called the next day, but as it turned out, the "We've had it with your stubborn refusal to pay us" people were one and the same as the "We're cutting you this fantastic break and taking all this money off your bill" people. Curiouser and curiouser.

So I talked to Gabriela, speaking in a stressed, defensive tone until I realized the above. "You have until April 26th to pay the $110," she said, as if today were the 27th.

"I realize that, and I intend to, but today's only the 5th!" I pointed out exasperatedly.

"Oh, right. Well, I'll put down in your file that you'll pay by April 26th. Disregard the second notice."

For the love of....

Then I got one from a different debtor (at least, I HOPE it's a different one or I just give up) insisting I call to either pay the balance in full (this one was $942, yeah, right) or set up a payment plan. Since I don't want to go through this rigamarole every single month, I called, even though I consider myself already ON a payment plan.

This operator did get to hear some of my choice thoughts, mainly because she was doing her level best to make me feel like a worthless piece of shit because I don't have $900 lying around I can shoot off to her.

"Can you pay the balance in full today?

"No," I said through gritted teeth.

"Can you pay half this month and half next month?"


"Can you pay it over three months?"

How long could we play this game? "I could, if I didn't also owe about four other people, and unfortunately everybody wants their money."

I know she's only doing her job. I know her job must really, really suck, if this conversation was any indication. But honestly, they make you feel like you're the only one in financial straits and why CAN'T you pay your bill right away like everyone else does? Like I'm singlehandedly sucking health care dry in this country.

So I let her talk me into a 12-month plan at $78 a month, just to get her off my back. Not as comfortable as $50, but since I'm saving all that money with the other people I actually just broke even. And that's about the best I can hope for, I guess.

Of course, that leaves three other companies that could produce fresh new threats any day now. We'll see.


In happier news, I can now keep this blog going for one more year thanks to the thoughtful and independently wealthy [ profile] kavieshana, who bought me LJ time! To pay her back I plan to steal a bunch of her icons.
grrgoyl: (pale man)
Well, no sooner was I going to report how well I've been doing with my new diet (lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks, even), when last night I had another attack just as bad as, and certainly lasting longer than, the one that landed me in the ER. Turns out Vicodin has almost no effect on me, so I might as well sell these useless pills for some profit.

It hit me about 8:30 pm. When the worst had passed I went to bed at 9, then woke up about three times in the next 7 hours to note the pain was still there. So I slept the whole night in a sitting position, since lying flat makes it ten times worse.

Tery's co-worker who had surgery informed her that the best I could hope was to delay the attacks. She said they'll go from one every 2-3 weeks to one a week, to the point where I'll be begging for surgery. Terrific.

I've filled out about three applications for assistance with my bills -- oh yeah, they've started pouring in. The highest so far is the ambulance ride for $1100. Plus $550 for my ER stay. $32 for lab tests and $57 for my x-ray (I can swing those). My sister the nurse says I can expect separate bills from the hospital (which I would think counts as the emergency room, but evidently not) as well as the doctor.

The good news is the people who sent those two big bills will take interest-free payments of $50 a month. My worry though is having to pay $50 to 4 or 5 people every month, depending who else crawls out of the woodwork with their hands out. That might become difficult.

So yes, help please. I don't qualify for Medicaid since I'm neither pregnant, unemployed, a veteran or making car payments -- no rewards for keeping my cost of living moderately under control. My beef is why can't I just sign up with one program as uninsured and have any assistance apply to all my bills, why so needlessly complicated? Well, I guess they aren't kidding when they say health care is in a sorry state in this country.

In light of this recent attack, I'm nervous about my plan to soldier through for a year until hopefully my employer's insurance will cover surgery. I don't know that I can stand this kind of pain once a week (or more often) for a year. And you're talking to a girl whose appendix almost ruptured because I only complained of "kind of a stomachache" to my parents for 3 days. Captain Stoic, that's me.


I still can't tell you if Logan is going to work out or not. He's extremely slowly warming up to me, and usually only if I feed him first. Only a cat has the nerve to hiss and swat at you while begging for food. I can actually pet him as long as Tery is nearby.

The problem isn't me -- the fact that the bird is still here is evidence of how much weight my opinion holds. No, unfortunately it's Francesca Sofia, who is learning how empty our promise is that she had the last word on his status.

The people who say getting two strange cats to eat together is a big step towards successful integration are full of crap. They eat together all the time. It doesn't stop the occasional fracas, which seems to depend largely on the time of day -- mostly my first hour of work in the morning, and at night when we're settling in for sleep.

We think Logan is just playing, but Kitten doesn't see it that way at all. She hunches down, ears flattened, making these hair-raising noises that sound like she's being raped and skinned alive simultaneously: truly one of the most horrible sounds you'll ever hear in your lifetime. Logan is tragically inept at interpreting this seemingly crystal clear body language.

Our sympathy has waned considerably when we realized that, in our 940-square foot condo, she pigheadedly repeatedly goes to find him instead of, I don't know, sticking to the 900+ feet of real estate where she can't see him. "AHA! I found you! And as a reminder...I STILL HATE YOU!"

The balcony, strangely, seems to be neutral ground

For now, he's keeping his bags packed just in case:

"Nobody knows the troubles I've seen...." The box isn't photoshopped in. He took to that like, well, a cat used to living in boxes

Best case scenario, we're going to end up with two diabetic cats with eating disorders: Logan because he's got a stray cat appetite, Kitten because she's stress eating.


Really quickly, why I can't use my new Windows 7 computer yet.

My employer's software doesn't work with Windows 7. So I jumped through all these hoops and installed Win 7 Professional to be able to set up a WinXP virtual mode. Which runs the software perfectly.

HOWEVER. Since my life is never simple, this isn't the end of the story. Also critical to my work is a foot pedal for controlling the dictations (which can also be done with keyboard commands, but that would be so ponderous and difficult my production rate would be halved). Despite plugging in with a USB connection, apparently the pedal is considered an HID (human interface device), which, naturally, isn't recognized by the virtual environment. HA!

So we have a really expensive Facebook-checking tool for now. On the bright side, perhaps by the time my employer becomes Win7 friendly, Microsoft will have worked out the surprising number of incompatibilities I've already encountered in my few short hours playing around.

Which begs the question: Where does Microsoft get off releasing software that doesn't recognize technology that's been working fine for years?


Now for some movie reviews (as always, cut for possible spoilers):

::Where the Wild Things Are:: )

The movie features the creature work of Jim Henson's Workshop, with CGI facial animation so seamless I couldn't see it. Max Records has the face of a boyish angel, but the truly rambunctious streak of a wild thing. The script has the vaguely nonsensical quality of a fairy tale, and evokes the aching sadness of the last summer of childhood before the first awareness of responsibility sets in.

4 out of 5 stars. Oh, and I totally want an adult-sized Max wolf suit.

::Avatar:: )

I left the theater the minute the credits started to roll, because this is a slam dunk Blu-ray purchase.

Naturally I spent today reading what others thought on Overwhelmingly favorable, but a few critics just couldn't get past the derivative plot ("Dances with Wolves in space") or the "environmentalist tree-hugging" message. They pooh-poohed the groundbreaking technology used, said it was overrated and that the movie wouldn't stand up to repeat viewings. I was made uncomfortable by the movie's defenders calling it the Star Wars of our time. That's what they said about The Fifth Element and that seemed to sort of fizzle out.

Of course let's not forget the blatantly obvious similarities to Iraq, or Vietnam, or the pilgrims on the Mayflower, or any other situation in our history when people with superior military force bulldozed over the weaker indigenous population.

I loved the movie because it was escapism at its purest (plus I hated Dances with Wolves and think it can only be improved upon, mainly by using anyone besides Kevin Costner) -- when I left the theater, I felt a wave of sadness that I had to go back to stupid old Earth. I wanted to live on Pandora, and better yet be a 10-foot tall, feline, graceful, fierce Na'vi. Experiencing that feeling is what movies were invented for, if you ask me.

4.5 out of 5 stars
grrgoyl: (Dr. Horrible)
Christmas (and at this point New Year's) is over for another year. Whereas last year we celebrated two days early, this year we did it two days late, which was again rather surreal but ended up working out well when one of Tery's last minute presents for me arrived in the mail Saturday. My scrooge of an employer not only made me work my regular shift (which I expected), they asked for overtime! Which I worked since it was just another Friday for me. Consequently when they extended the request to Sunday, I felt free to ignore that one. Let all the people with families who slacked off Friday take care of that.

ADDENDUM: Today, Jan 2, the backlog is finally gone and work is scarce. This is the time all the people who said "screw work, it's the holidays" are looking around saying "where'd all the work go?" Ah, revenge is sweet.

I got a good haul, again mostly thanks to Tery. My family? Oh no. They kept up the long tradition of ignoring my wish list in favor of kitschy crafty shit that invariably goes to my local Goodwill. Except this year instead of crap from the streets of Mexico it was crap from the streets of Hawaii, where my older sister went to work for a few weeks. It was also wrapped in Hawaiian newspapers, so either she went that extra length to give it an authentic, local flavor or it was literally bought, wrapped and mailed from a Hawaiian convenience store.

Do I sound bitter? Only because I go to such pains to get as much as I can afford on their wish lists. Every year I'm driven by some bizarre sense of guilt, and every year Tery tries to remind me how upset their lack of reciprocation made me the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that. Hell, right up until the moment I landed in the ER up to my eyeballs in medical bills I was still planning to send an Omaha steak package on Christmas day.

None of this applies to my mom. She got me one thing off my list, which is all I've ever said: I would be happier with one thing I asked for than ten things I didn't (specifically, ten things that seem to have been chosen for a Yankee swap party, not hand selected with me in mind).

My mom got me a Wii game, "Need for Speed II: Nitro!" You street race bad-ass muscle cars and try to keep the cops off your back. Kind of like "Grand Theft Auto" without killing prostitutes. I guess my Need for Speed wasn't that great initially, because I spent every race consistently in last place. Cracking open the instruction book to see what I was doing wrong, it suggested drafting other cars for style points. "There are other cars?" I thought, because I'd never seen a single one. Tery sat and watched and chuckled and called me "granny," all the while refusing to pick up a controller herself.

Then I worked out how to start the race without stalling out and the fine art of "drifting" (tearing around corners by braking while accelerating and steering hard in the opposite direction), and before long I was scraping along walls and slamming cops out of my way. Oh, it's great fun.

While customizing my car (in the game) I blew my nose (in real life) and got a nosebleed (the game is JUST THAT intense) and was trying to clean up. All Tery heard was a bunch of snorting noises from upstairs and asked, "Did the game come with a dime bag of cocaine?" She's so funny.

Just as fun though a bit tamer and a lot sillier (and not so many cops) is "MarioKart," which Tery gave me. Also "Band Hero," which contains a dismaying number of Taylor Swift songs but is still more fun than "Rock Band: Beatles."

Also the first two Harry Potter Ultimate Edition Blu-rays which are AWESOME and I'm not wasting a cent on any more of the regular versions (also have to sell my existing ones just to fit these two on the shelf). The packaging is a bit deceptive, the same height as standard DVDs, and I'll admit I had a bit of stress thinking she had tried to save money with those instead of the Blu-ray, and how was I going to feign happiness. I know, evidently Christmas is all about me, me, me, me, me.

Between the Harry Potters and the Wii games, Tery said it was like shopping for her 15-year-old son.

Let's see: Boondock Saints unrated DVD. The AFI CD "Crash Love." "Pushing Daisies" Season 2 Blu-ray. And my big big present: one free visit to this place -- indoor skydiving! Looks very, very fun, and we're both glad it wasn't my heart failing that weekend.

She wasn't the only one who did good: [ profile] meamjeffyjeff got me the "Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta" graphic novels, to round out my education. There's no promise of hot gay sex anywhere in them, but I'm giving them a look anyway.

Unfortunately my loved ones have yet to fulfill my dearest Christmas wish, that someone toss a steak laced with antifreeze onto Tracey's porch for her dogs. And I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

Speaking of "that weekend" (dun dun DUN), hopefully some of you care enough to wonder maybe how I'm getting on.

Since gallstones are exacerbated by fatty foods, I almost immediately set about cutting as much fat from my diet as I could -- not a happy activity, but then neither was grabbing my chest and swimming through fever, chills and nausea. One of Tery's techs actually had the surgery at age 20 and recommended a daily limit of 30 grams.

If you read the sides of most food products, the first thing you notice is that 30 grams is not a lot and can easily be consumed very quickly if you aren't paying attention (which I never have before now). Like, two teaspoons of peanut butter is 16, and that's half your allowance gone! The second thing you notice is that even foods that claim to be low fat only get that way because the serving size is about one-quarter what I was eating.

Let me tell you, when you only eat one piece of chocolate a week (I can't possibly give it up entirely), it's the best damn tasting chocolate you've had in your whole life. Of course, I'm not wasting that one moment of indulgence on cheap Hershey's products: Tery got me two bags of Lindor for stocking stuffers that at this rate will last until my birthday.

So, portion control. Portion control and no more 2% milk (which is pretty much my only reason for living. Well, that and now my Need for Speed!) I've struck on a satisfactory substitute in mixing Silk with nonfat milk. Silk straight up is too thick and nonfat too watery. Plus cutting the Silk with very cheap nonfat is more economical too. I also only have it with breakfast, I drink water the rest of the day. Never has a milk product survived so long in our fridge.

It's really not so terrible, except I'm STARVING all the time. Lean Cuisine frozen meals are quite tasty, I just feel like I need to eat two to get a complete serving. My stomach is slowly shrinking, but I swear I can feel it every hour of the day. Only just in the last 48 hours have I stopped feeling ravenous from the minute I wake up to the moment I fall asleep.

But the good news is not a lick of pain either. For all I know I could eat more than 30 grams, or even go back to regular milk, but my discharge instuctions forbid it and I always feel a wave of unsympathy when I type a report of a patient pigheadedly noncompliant with recommendations. I've got this Vicodin prescription sitting in my medicine cabinet, which MyFriendDeb joked I should try selling on the black market to pay for my ambulance ride.

I visited the internist this past Monday, a jovial Nigerian guy named Dr. Obinnah -- well, I suppose I'd be jovial too if I got paid $120 for less than 30 minutes of my time, which is what he got from insurance-less me. He at least seemed a bit more sympathetic to my plight, and joked, "Maybe for you Obama's plan will come through, yes?"

He said I didn't need surgery, could probably manage through diet (which was good news apart from the wanting to eat the waiting room furniture). He also said I needed to exercise, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth after going to the gym three times a week for nine months. He was probably using the BMI scale (Body Mass Index) which, stupidly in my opinion, only considers height and weight and no concession made for muscle content. The BMI classifies me as "obese" which I absolutely am not. In fact I think I look pretty good as long as I keep my clothes on. On the bright side cutting all this fat out of my diet should start producing some real results.

He determined all this from talking to me and poking at my abdomen. Maybe the easiest 120 bucks ever.

Not out of the woods yet: my liver numbers are elevated, which could mean either inflammation from the gallstones or hepatitis. Fingers crossed for the first. Back in a month to recheck. (He asked me if I was SURE I didn't drink. Well, unless I drink SO MUCH that I completely black out any memory of it...which, sadly given the state of my memory on a good day, isn't as wackadoo as it sounds...)

So I broke down and got insurance. Truthfully, for all my bitching the primary reason I didn't have it before was because I think the insurance companies are a bunch of greedy crooks that are more interested in increasing their profit margin than taking care of their clients. But I'm only basing this on letters I type for doctors begging them to reconsider denying a patient's (seemingly perfectly valid) claim. My one consolation was I wasn't giving my money to those vultures. Maybe my employer's insurance is one of the good guys. We'll see. With the very real possibility of surgery looming for me, I guess I can't afford the luxury of principles anymore.


So, 2009 in review:

This was the year of the Blu-ray.
It was also the year of the Wii.
Tery bought a new car.
She also got a DUI and lost her license.
We both got gym memberships and radical lifestyle changes.
My niece Jane was born.
Our cat Alsatia died at 17 years old.
We adopted cat Logan (status still pending -- he attacked the bird twice this weekend and Frances is still very much on the fence about his residency)
Ferret Washburn had $1500 surgery for an obstruction.
I bought a new computer I can't use (oh yeah, still gotta tell you guys about that)
I went to the ER with gallstones.
I was forced to abandon my principles.

Bring it on, 2010.
grrgoyl: (Monarch)
Sunday afternoon Tery and I were having a fine time watching the Twilight edition of Rifftrax. I was LMFAO and feeling smug because the guys were mocking all the things I found mockworthy about the movie, and eating some delicious Christmas cookies our new neighbor downstairs made us.

Suddenly I felt a pain in the middle of my chest, a squeezing sort of pressure pain. Over the next 15 minutes or so it grew to such intensity that I broke out in a sweat and became nauseous. Lying down flat made it worse; taking deep slow breaths made it better. Tery ate a cookie as well to see if they were poisoned. That there is true love, folks.

Tery was understandably a bit concerned, as was I; after all, 32-year-old Brittany Murphy had died just that morning of a heart attack, or so they said. As an elderly 40-year-old, I couldn't afford to shrug this off.

But that's just what I did at first. We finished the movie (laughing considerably less) and I fell into a deep sleep (I had been sleepy all day after working overnight, so this in itself wasn't unusual). When I woke the pain seemed on the verge of returning, now as a dull but undeniably present ache over that same spot in the middle of my chest. My sister the nurse thought I should get it checked out (although as an Oncology nurse, the extent of her helpfulness was the comment "It probably isn't cancer"), as did Tery. Ever the obstinate one, I insisted on starting my transcription shift at 8 p.m. to see how it went.

My bravado lasted for all of 30 minutes before I had to admit that it just wasn't going away and, lack of insurance or no, I'd better get my ass to a doctor.

Since Tery still is without a license, MyFriendDeb very generously and unhesitatingly agreed to drive us to the Urgent Care. They saw me immediately (they take chest pain a bit more seriously than the silly H1N1 virus). I had an EKG that came back mildly abnormal, "mildly" but apparently concerning enough to summon paramedics to transfer me to the emergency room.

This all had me quietly freaking out, mostly because as I said I have no insurance and ambulance rides, never mind ER visits, aren't cheap. But this all seemed to be decided in a matter of seconds, and I certainly didn't want to argue with the doctor.

The ambulance ride was terribly exciting: I had three medics working on me, placing an IV, sticking oxygen tubes in my nose (just like the soap opera characters that end up hospitalized for weeks wearing the damn things), and generally bustling about to attend to me. One of them asked if I had clothes when I came in (I had to change into a too-small blousy shirt thing for the EKG); never too ill for sarcasm, I quipped, "No, I always keep a hospital gown on-hand to wear to emergencies like these." They all laughed. They also couldn't believe all the scratches on my arms from my lion-taming career.

They brought me to the ER a block and a half away, a ride that will probably cost me $2,000. They wheeled me into an exam room and hoisted me onto a gurney (the hoisting was the most thrilling part. Those guys are pretty damn strong).

The doctor was kind of a pill. He interviewed me and informed me from what he could tell, my only risk factor for cardiac problems was being alive. "Oh. Not much I can do about that," I joked. Crickets, I tell you. Don't ask me why I was trying so hard to entertain the doctor, when it seemed to me he should have been the one trying to put me at ease. He asked what I had been doing at the time of the pain (Tery had warned me "Don't say we were watching Twilight. That will end up in your medical report somewhere"), whether I was sitting there "quietly fuming" about something. Tery could have told him my style runs more toward "brutally blunt outbursts." I never "quietly fume" about anything.

He said he wanted me to stay overnight for observation and a stress test in the morning. I wasn't thrilled with this plan, and thought this might be a good time to mention the no insurance thing. He said my other option was to see a cardiologist as an outpatient which would cost even more. Guess I was stuck there for the night.

They took me for a chest x-ray, stopping for a urine sample on the way back. The nurse had given me this tiny little cup to collect it. Being a girl, aiming my pee isn't the easiest task, so when I noticed a small stack of pink boxes that looked like miniature cat litter pans, I assumed they were there to provide an easier target. I peed into it and poured it into the cup (which is how we obtain urine samples at the vet's). Only then did I look up and see the very detailed instructions on the wall, and no mention of using the litter pan. Oops. I explained my error to the nurse and asked if it would affect any tests they wanted. "I have no idea. Guess we'll find out," she said flatly. A more humorless bunch you're not likely to find anywhere.

It turns out they did nothing with the urine, although my primary nurse (a nice guy who talked about his dogs when he found out I work at a vet's) did chastise me a bit stridently about the dark color of it, indicating dehydration. "Your cardiac markers came back fine, but THIS" he used a folded-up piece of paper to shove the cup distastefully towards me on the counter, "is RIDICULOUS." As if I deliberately dehydrated myself just to piss him off. He then proceeded to beat me about the face and chest, because I don't have insurance so they can do anything they want to me (no, not really).

Then I was left alone for a very long time. Thankfully Tery had changed my TV channel to Adult Swim from some sports channel, but that was about my only comfort. One arm had a blood pressure cuff that automatically went off every 10 minutes, but not the sort of feels kind of good when a human pumps it up to just a little over what's comfortable, this was a machine pumping it up a good deal beyond comfortable, to almost unbearable. The other arm had an IV needle in (not hooked to fluids at least, my grumpy nurse had just given me a bottle of water to drink instead. A bottle of water that will cost me $15) that I was acutely aware of being embedded in my flesh no matter what position I put my arm in. On top of all this, the gurney was none too soft and my ass went totally numb, until they took me for an ultrasound and I was laid flat, which was better.

Thank god for Adult Swim. First was "The Mighty Boosh" that I had no idea they played, then the "Family Guy" spoof of Star Wars that was actually pretty hilarious, the "Robot Chicken" spoof of same that was even funnier, then "The Venture Bros.", which felt like an old friend coming to visit me in the hospital.

I dozed fitfully, partly because I was positioned right in front of the highly trafficked reception area, partly because I was afraid if I fell completely asleep they'd have important news but would hesitate to wake me because I looked like a little angel.

Finally at 2 a.m. the jerk of a doctor reappeared. The good news was my heart looked "great." The bad news was he suspected gallstones, very large gallstones. He referred me to an internist to see if I need surgery and a low-income clinic and sent me on my way. I can't tell you how badly I wanted to get out of there. Between his diagnosis and someone coming to unhook me from the machines, the asshole blood pressure cuff got one last squeeze in.

Not the most pleasant of experiences, but I did find it kind of fascinating to see my transcription career from the other side. Maybe when my medical bills bankrupt me I can be held up as an example of the failure of the current health care system to help Barack get his bill passed, so something good comes of my tragedy.

I called a taxi since neither Tery nor Deb were an option, and got a driver who freely shared with me his feelings about pulling all our troops out of the Middle East completely, let those fuckers solve their own problems, we don't need their oil because we've got Alaska, etc. He seemed blissfully unaware of how much his own career depends on oil. I just wanted to get the hell home so pretended to enthusiastically agree with him.

So, change of diet for me. Basically anything I enjoy eating is bad for me. I'm somewhat encouraged that my mom said she had her gallbladder removed at my age and she still ate whatever she wanted except sausages. I hate sausages so that will work out well.

Ah, if it isn't my old nemesis, Mr. Fluid Pump
grrgoyl: (Office Poop)

Shit-tooth Redux

It's months like this I wish I could see into the future. If I could, I woudn't have dropped $500 on my car (all of it maintenance work on a day I was feeling particularly affectionate towards my Honda, that never gives me a moment's trouble despite only receiving the cheapest gas I can find by way of service), if I knew my dental bridge was going to fall out this week.

Looking back, I know the exact moment it happened -- my lunch seemed a bit crunchier than it should have been. But it wasn't until I brushed my teeth before bed that I noticed the huge gap. "Oh, damn. Now I'VE got a shit tooth," I told Tery. I'd like to point out my reaction was substantially subdued compared to her total wig-out upon noticing her tooth missing ("You're not flying to see your family in the morning," she pointed out. I maintained that it made no difference, since even if I were my family would never notice it). Then she said, "I can't be married to a shit-tooth." Ouch. (Although if you look closely you'll see it's not really a shit-tooth so much as a cyborg plate inserted over a socket of completely dead nerve endings, not nearly so gross to look at.)

Thank god my dentist office still remembers me. I loved my dentist, whom I visited extensively back when I had insurance. I suspect I won't love him nearly so much when I go back sans coverage, but at least he still has my x-rays.

So that expense is hanging over my head. I shouldn't have been surprised then when Equus tickets went on sale this week. $150 for cheap seats, on top of $250 just to fly to New York. Suddenly the event I would have killed to attend last year is looking a lot more...optional. I simply can't justify it, despite Tery's attempts to talk me into it. Her brother lives in New York and probably would go with me. But a.) for that amount of money I want to go with someone who would be every bit as excited as me, b.) with my luck Daniel Radcliffe would be sick or something the night I went and, c.) the cheap seats look really far from the stage on the map. There are just too many things that could go wrong, and for that amount of money I'm not willing to risk it.

It's a source of irritation to me, not only that I have to miss such an exciting show, but that in general most Broadway plays aren't available on DVD. Some argue that ticket sales would drop if people knew they could just buy the DVD later. I disagree. I think a live performance is an entirely different experience and the people who can feasibly indulge will continue to. But in the absence of a commercially produced DVD, I will seek out a bootleg and give my money to someone not connected with the production. Is that right? I don't think it is, but what other choice do I have? As I read on someone's blog, for most of us Broadway isn't just a few stops away on the subway, and I highly doubt Dan Radcliffe will be touring in Denver.


Finally, I weep for our educational system. I'd like to make it clear that I'm not exactly a geography wiz. But it still pained me when someone on the transcription board the other day asked "Are Japanese and Asian the same thing?" (the doc had used both terms to describe the same patient) Are you kidding me? I answered, a tad snarkily, "Ummmmm, Japan's a country and Asia is the continent that includes Japan, so yes." No response. A few others tried rephrasing it, but it wasn't until someone wrote "All Japanese are Asian, but not all Asian are Japanese" that this Einstein replied, "Thank you! That was confusing me below." Did the word "continent" throw you off? It frightens me that this person is responsible for medical documents.
grrgoyl: (Default)
I had already had an exhausting night Friday. Three animals on fluids, four on medications, a heap of laundry to wash and surgical packs to make, and a filthy, filthy hospital to clean: I barely got in a half-hour nap the whole night. I had a poodle who had undergone massive surgery, mastectomy/hysterectomy, who whined pitifully all night, plus a dachshund on seizure watch, Buster, so I couldn't really leave Recovery for any length of time.

I went in Saturday night praying it would be easier. The poodle was gone but Buster was still hanging out. I thought things wouldn't be so bad, and then I walked the boarders.

The last one out was Brownie, a Llasa apso with freaky blue eyes. Brownie had been perfectly normal Friday. But Saturday he got to the top of the stairs and suddenly froze. He shook his head and began foaming at the mouth. What the...? I thought. Then he dashed madly into the center of the yard, ducking and looking around frantically like a pterodactyl was after him, then flopped over on his side twitching violently.

Oh god.

I ran through the hospital faster than I've ever run in my entire life. Grabbed my cell to call Tery, who was at a party nearby with most of the hospital staff.

"DOG SEIZING" I gasped. Instantly she handed me off to Dr. K, who must have been standing right there.

"Just give him a little Valium in his IV," she instructed casually. She was obviously referring to Buster.

"No, Brownie!" I clarified.

"Brownie? Who's Brownie?"

I'll spare you the full comedy of errors. Long story short, I was supposed to administer 2 cc of Valium to Brownie rectally. But if you think it's easy to find a dog's little bumhole while it's flailing on the ground, think again. Also my brain locked up and I gave 0.2 instead. Fortunately by the time I got back out to him, the seizure was mostly over.

What follows is the post-ictal state, where the dog's pupils are dilated, they are temporarily blind, understandably panicked and more than a little "loopy," as K. put it. K. left the party immediately to come put an IV catheter in for ease of future injections, but until she arrived it was up to me to calm the dog down. This involved crawling into the cage with Brownie and sitting with him, stroking him and talking to him soothingly. The dog meanwhile was covered in pee, foam and the usual dog slobber. I didn't pay it any mind -- this is why I wear scrubs (Tabby laughed at me last weekend when they stopped in to check on a patient. She said she'd wear jeans and a T-shirt if she worked third shift).

K. put the catheter in, told me what a terrific job I did, and was on her way.

Consequently I handled the second seizure with far greater aplomb. It was the weirdest thing: All night the dog was fine. Then come morning I took him outside again and the minute the cold air hit him, he seized again, in the exact same pattern. It was easier to give the Valium via the catheter (the right amount this time) and I'd like to think it was over much quicker because of my actions. I called K. back who had to come in to relieve me, because the dog obviously couldn't be left alone. Back to sitting in the cage petting him, lather, rinse, repeat. So I had to get a picture of Brownie, the dog whose life I may or may not have saved:

You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie! is perversely all I could think
Still post-ictal, so not at his prettiest

Exciting. And now that I've experienced it, hopefully not as nerve-wracking next time. As K. said, your first seizure can be terrifying. Maybe someday I'll be as jaded and blasé about it as K. is.

There were other dogs there of course. I had Honus, who now has a little brother, Travis. Surprisingly, having a younger beagle nearby has cured Honus of his assholiness more than chemical sedation ever could.

Honus y Travis
Travis had an ear infection when very young, and ever since has had this little head tilt giving him a perpetually quizzical look

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you the BEST dog that ever lived:

A dog I would consider stealing
Willie, my love

Willie is a Basenji mix, a breed from Africa that doesn't bark (the first thing I love about him). In case you can't be arsed to check out the Wikipedia article, they also share some traits with cats, i.e. fastidious hygiene and high intelligence. Willie is every bit as soft as he looks, and very loyal to even me, who he sees two nights very infrequently. For example, I was a little freaked out when I walked him in the morning and noticed a palette propped in front of the back shed to keep the dogs out was knocked over. As I tiptoed around trying to investigate, he stuck unwaveringly to my leg throughout. And when I offer him a treat for "kenneling up," he takes it from my hand so gingerly and slowly, taking exquisite care not to bite by accident. Yes, if ever there were a dog I would consider kidnapping, Willie would be the one.

On the way home I pass a 24-hour McDonald's, and on Sunday morning, though there wasn't yet a hint of a sunrise, I decided I bloody well deserved a break today.
grrgoyl: (heroine addict)
Tery has been complaining lately about me having "old man breath," something I live in morbid fear of. It's gotten so she can't even kiss me without screwing up her face a tiny bit. This morning she admitted it has crossed into casual conversation distance. Yikes. I traced the culprit back to my Sonicare toothbrush head, well over 3 months overdue to be changed (they are rather expensive). I at first was going to go my usual route and get a new one off eBay, but decided this was an emergency situation, too urgent to try to save a few bucks or indulge in my psychopathic need to have something to look forward to in the mail. I went down to Target and would you believe EVERY SINGLE HOOK (count them, 6 of them) was empty. Not a single Sonicare head to be seen. I grabbed the nearest employee and demanded she check the backstock (sheer desperation had driven me to be uncharacteristically pushy). Thankfully I didn't have to go so far as to breathe on the poor woman as evidence of the critical importance of this purchase. They had one single head left, kind of a rip-off as the single pack is $14.69 whereas the double pack is $22.59, but hey, I had old man breath and therefore not a moment to waste. I took the single head and raced home and used it immediately, and plan to use it again at least 3 more times today. But HOW is it possible that no one noticed 6 EMPTY HOOKS in the aisle? You can't tell me someone came and bought them all up in one day, or even in one week. Time for a RGIS inventory, stat.
grrgoyl: (Default)
"The clouds will part and the sky cracks open
and God Himself will reach his fucking arm through
just to push you down, just to hold you down"


First, an addendum to "California 2003": Amy had bought a small bag of jellybeans for the road, and it wasn't until we were in Utah that she noticed they were missing. As I had packed the cooler she naturally blamed me. She asked if I had gotten everything out of the refrigerator; I said yes but who the hell puts jellybeans in the refrigerator? That is like putting peanuts in the fridge in my book. Not expecting to find jellybeans in there, I obviously skipped over them. Later talking to Tery by phone I learned that I wasn't to blame after all. The jellybeans had been left in the grocery bag on the floor, and in the night my girl ferret, Griffyn, had stolen the bag of beans and dragged it under the bureau (it was still tied shut, however. My theory on ferret thought processes is they think if they can steal the food and get it hidden, they then had the rest of their lives to figure out how to get the bag open).

Despite this naughtiness, she is still the best little girl I could ask for. If you don't believe me, see for yourself what a little angel she is:

Anyway, my sister ended up getting much better jellybeans (of the Jelly Belly variety) in CA, so it was all good.

In other news, I have been seriously OD'ing on Alan lately. First I got this scrumptious Nightcrawler pic --------> which inspired me to change some aspects of my journal from the default stuff, and I am very pleased with the result. The real descent into madness began when I stayed up until 5 a.m. Sat-night-into-Sun converting my "Design for Living" videotape to DVD (after cutting out all the non-Alan bits (because really, who cares what happens when he is not on screen?) it fit exactly into the time/space requirements for the disc. This thrilled me to no end). I finished that actually at about 3 a.m., then stayed up another 2 hours to write about my trip. Just as I was finishing Tery shuffled past on her way to the bathroom, blearily poking her head in and exclaiming, "You're still up!? I've been asleep 6 hours already!!" (I believe I have previously mentioned somewhere my compulsive need to stay up all night on the few occasions I don't have to work in the morning. I have been up as late as 7 a.m. before due to this.) Then last night I spent 4 hours or so putting together what I would like to think is the Ultimate Cabaret DVD, with just his bits from the London show, plus his appearance on Rosie, PLUS his Tony win including the behind-the-scenes spots during the pre-show and of course the Tony performance of "Wilkommen." I practically orgasmed when I held the finished product in my hands (but consequently, for now at least, feel like if I hear "Wilkommen" even one more time I very well might scream). Did I mention that while editing all these tapes I listened to my audiobook of "The Vampire's Assistant" read by Alan? (Those Frappuccinos do wonders for my multitasking skills.) It felt indulgently obsessive to watch him cavorting about on stage while listening to his voice so intimately in my headphones. After such intense repeated exposure to Alan's Emcee (who causes fantasies of ambushing him backstage, pinning him against a wall by those sweaty suspenders, and having my delicious way with him....for some reason I feel like he could be a bottom in this role despite his brazenness) I felt sure I would dream about him, but didn't.

I also managed to sneak in some time to rent David Cronenberg's latest film, Spider, with Ralph Fiennes and Gabriel Byrne. I started to describe this to someone as a dark, psychological piece when I realized how extremely redundant that sounded. David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch) is not exactly known for his frisky romantic comedies (Crash comes close, if you happen to be Marilyn Manson). It is very dark, but it has complex layers that I suspect will make it richer with multiple viewings. Both Ralph and Gabriel were outstanding in roles outside their usual fare (as a mumbling schizophrenic (wait a sec...forgot about Red Dragon, sorry) and an abusive, philandering father respectively). It reminded me most of all of Pink Floyd The Wall (sans the excellent soundtrack) because of the mental illness theme. I tried to watch it again with commentary but this proved impossible on the little sleep I got the night before.

In my final update, I went in for my mammogram and ultrasound the day after returning from my trip. It was quite uneventful (which is why I all but forgot about it) and, happily, I was diagnosed with only benign breast cysts. The doctor said they could aspirate them but they would most likely grow back. I said as long as they didn't kill me, I was fine leaving them be. The strange part was after all my angst while trying to find a doctor when I felt sure I had cancer (see my 8/20/2003 entry below for more if you care), as I lay on the examining table awaiting my diagnosis and imagining the worst, I felt oddly detached, like I was watching someone else's life. Very strange, and good to know how I react to stressful situations. Is this what extreme denial does to a person? I guess it is what it does to me. At any rate, it was a happy ending so I suppose it is all moot now.

That does it. Now we return to my life, already in progress.....

grrgoyl: (Default)
Well, here it is, my first entry on my new (to me) laptop. Of course as is everything in my life, all is not perfect. The internal modem is inexplicably fucked up but I am working on it. Guess I shouldn't complain, at such a bargain price I half expected the thing to not even turn on. But how utterly blissful to type in my journal stretched out on the couch rather than in that stinky "ass chair" as Tery and I have dubbed it.

But that isn't what I wanted to talk about. No, I have a new chapter in my quest for medical attention for my lump (I have named it "Marla" lovingly after the line in Fight Club, you know, "If I had a tumor, I would name it Marla." There are so many choice quotes in that movie I am glad I finally get to use one. Not that this is a tumor (yet) but somehow the word "lump" sounds just as ugly.)

Well against my better judgment I traveled halfway across town through rush hour traffic to the surgeon's office. I hit an unexpected snag when the receptionist asked me questions such as when and where exactly my last mammogram was performed. Now as I have been blessed most of my life with exceptional health (barring an emergency appendectomy at the age of 10 which I am told saved my life, as my useless, ungrateful appendix was on the verge of bursting) I am a miserable historian when it comes to my medical care. I am aware this makes me look like an idiot when questioned by medical personnel such as this lady, but there we are. In my defense I had attempted to look this information up when I first embarked on this foray into the world of medicine, however the few relevant papers I found regarding the procedure were only insurance documents which didn't mention the location.

So there I was, sheepishly admitting to the receptionist that I had no idea where I had my mammogram done. I will be the first to bitch about the stupidity of some customer service personnel, so in this case I absolutely have to give this lady her props...she somehow managed to track down the facility based solely on the nearest major intersection, which is all I could give her (and which, like most medical buildings in a large city, is surrounded by many other medical buildings handling different specialties. The medical industry is almost as convenient as a McDonald's drive-thru in that respect). I was duly impressed but she was too irritated to notice.

So after this unpleasantness was resolved I was brought to an examining room and told to don what I can only describe as a paper banquet napkin with armholes. It seemed less humiliating to just remain topless. After changing into this hideous garment (for lack of a better term) I got bored and took out my copy of Order of the Phoenix (yes, I am still reading it. Tery gloats that her nephew finished it in about 3 days, to which I wistfully expressed a wish for the free time of a 10-year-old.) The surgeon entered the room, glanced at it quickly, and told me what a good book it was despite its lack of a jacket with which he could identify it. I wondered if he always made such small talk to help the patient forget the ridiculous clothing they were being forced to wear. If that was what it was, it failed spectacularly.

We proceeded with the exam, which consisted of him squeezing my breasts while staring fixedly at the ceiling. This created an attitude of embarrassment that made me more uncomfortable than if he had just looked at me. I wondered as he did this if feeling women's breasts at work all day affected his sex life, if his poor wife was neglected because if he had to look at one more breast he was going to scream (yes I have strange thoughts sometimes....and the lucky readers of my journal get to hear all about them). Well, good news or bad remains to be seen, but he did find a matching Marla in the right breast. I don't know if the Planned Parenthood doctor somehow missed it or if it sprang up during the 3-day interval between visits. The surgeon speculated that since I was symmetric perhaps it was just a "normal variant," but he couldn't tell anything without a mammogram. Which is exactly what I suspected he would say back in my previous entry. He DIDN'T have a magic wand, making this visit in my view completely superfluous and a waste of my time. But if it made the grant people happy I would do it. Speaking of the grant, as I was leaving and talking to the Wonder Woman receptionist, she seemed unsure as to whether this visit would be covered by it as she thought the cutoff date was Aug 18. My life is typically ironic enough that it wouldn't surprise me if I had to pay for a visit I saw no need to go to in the first place.

But I lied. So as to make the trip more worth my while, I had also planned to visit the County DMV building which inexplicably is located well over the line into the next county. You see, when I renewed my registration and put my new sticker on my plate, I suffered a moment of confusion and put the year sticker over the month side, making both sides inaccurate. I didn't even notice it until a few days later; I was sitting on the couch, minding my own business, when it came to me out of the blue in a classic forehead-slapping moment. Tery said I should just leave it and if I got pulled over for expired plates I could explain the mistake. I didn't like this solution because with my luck I would be pulled over precisely when I was running late for work or at the worst imaginable, inconvenient time (is there ever a GOOD time to get pulled over, though?) so I wanted to get it fixed, and naturally it could only be done at the County Building, not my friendly neighborhood DMV.

The DMV lady was very nice about it and assured me people did it all the time. This made me feel a little better until I got the envelope with the new stickers home and discovered that not only had she circled the little diagram designed to help motorists avoid this error, but she had written in large red numbers on the bottom "8" on the left side and "04" on the right, just to make ABSOLUTELY SURE I knew what I was doing this time. That bitch!! I am not an idiot and there is no faster way to my bad side than to assume I am and treat me as one. Boy is she lucky she is clear on the other side of town!!!!

grrgoyl: (Default)
Well, for those among you who care about such things, I had my doctor's appointment yesterday.

And let me tell you how out of place I felt in the Planned Parenthood waiting room amongst all those breeders and (in some cases) their boyfriends. As I filled out my paperwork, I imagined them all staring at me, somehow instinctively knowing I didn't belong there. Or maybe they were just tired of looking at the condom endorsements featuring lovely young women facing off against amorous-looking men that hung on every wall. That waiting room was more provocative than the local adult toy shop!

My appointment was fairly uneventful. Despite indicating at every possible turn my (predominantly) lesbian status on the paperwork (there was a question "do you have sex with: men women both" but I didn't see any need to cloud the issue since I haven't technically been with a man in 11 years (sexual fantasies notwithstanding)), the nurse still asked in the interview my method of birth control. My response made her and her assistant laugh: "I have a female partner. The best birth control there is!"

I made it through the preliminaries and at last in to see the doctor. We chatted briefly, then she felt me up a little (believe me, no more titillating (no pun intended) to me than it would be to a straight girl....although later I couldn't resist joking to Tery "That was the most action these ladies have seen in a long time!") and before I knew it, it was over.

Just as I suspected, she couldn't tell me anything right there and then other than I needed a mammogram. She did want to take blood for some thyroid tests which turned into a mini-adventure all its own. The person chosen to take my blood was the assistant, still obviously in training, as she did so only amid many false starts and much screwing up of her face in uncertainty and concentration (which, like the incompetent mailbox man, did nothing to inspire confidence). The longer she took, the more of a production it became, and the more nervous I got. My only stipulation was to please not move the needle once it was in my vein, which happened to me once while I was donating blood and hurt like a sonofabitch (the technician claimed my vein had "moved." It was all I could do to keep from smacking him, hard). But she finally got her nerve up and did great (I made sure to tell her so, build up her confidence and whatnot).

The most pleasant surprise came at the end of the appointment. When I had first arrived I told the receptionist I had no insurance (hell, the question was the first words out of her mouth practically before "Hello, can I help you?") and she said the visit would cost about $60. Having expected to pay over $100, I told her that was fine. The doctor discussed some kind of grant with me and gave me a couple of referrals where I could use this grant. But still I never expected the final bill, which was only $46 for the lab work...the rest of the visit was free! I was thrilled and silently took back all the cursing I had done of President Bush and The System in general.

I took all my paperwork home, which consisted of one page with a list of imaging centers for a mammogram and said clearly across the top "Komen Grant" and another with a list of doctors that didn't mention the grant at all. I called to make an appointment with an imaging center on the Komen list for Oct 8, and put the phone down with a sigh of relief, satisfied that I had done all I could for now. This relief quickly changed to confusion, however, when the doctor called me back today. She first told me all my blood work had been totally normal, which naturally made me happy. But then she asked if I had made the appointmentS (emphasis on the plural) from the referral sheets. I said I had scheduled the mammogram and didn't realize there was more involved. She explained I also had to go see a surgeon from the other referral sheet. I hung up thoroughly nonplussed.

WHY would I need to go see a surgeon rather than just get a mammogram? Wasn't the surgeon just going to feel me up too and tell me I needed a mammogram? My faith in The System was shattered anew. First I called Tery for advice, thinking as she works for a vet she is vaguely associated with the medical profession. Unhelpfully she pointed out that our cat, Alsatia, has undergone more operative procedures than she has and I might be better off asking her. Alsatia, though, could not be reached for comment, being as she was deep in the throes of her after-breakfast before-noon nap. I next called my little sister, the nurse in Boston, who seemed similarly mystified. I called the surgeon to schedule an appointment, figuring I could always cancel if I got to the bottom of this, and I asked the scheduler if she knew why I needed to see the surgeon. "Well, so he can rule out the need for any surgery," she replied, her tone clearly indicating this answer was as plain as the nose on my face. I was too defeated to ask how he could do that without diagnostic tools such as a mammogram. Maybe he had a magic wand or something. After hanging up from that, it still nagged at me though. When I could stand it no more I called the imaging center and asked them if THEY knew why I needed to see a surgeon. The best they could come up with was if Planned Parenthood said to do it, I should do it. I am just assuming these are the hoops I will have to jump through to be eligible for this Komen grant. Like I said before, everyone wants a piece of the check, and there is no getting around The System. This is also probably why insurance is so expensive and complicated. I wonder if I will ever be able to make sense of it......

The good news is, I have a surprise coming soon shhhhhhh don't tell Tery: No Tery allowed! )
grrgoyl: (Default)
I have a lump in my breast.

Wow, not a great beginning, but hey, journals are for the bad times as well as the good.

I had been denying its presence for about a week now, writing it off as a glandular thing, but last night I finally had Tery feel it and she instantly, unhesitatingly declared, "Yep. That's a lump." When I immediately started to come unglued, she tried to offer consolation, which did not make me feel one bit better. My grandmother died of breast cancer, so I have no reason to believe this is anything not to worry about. I despised my emotionality even as I wept, because I am a big believer in "there is no sense worrying about things you have no control over"...but it seems this statement only applies to things like realizing at 2 a.m. that you forgot to get your sister a birthday present.

I thought it was unnecessarily complicated to find a doctor back when I HAD insurance. I am discovering this morning that it is virtually impossible to get a mammogram without insurance and without a doctor's referral, which in my opinion is bullshit. You don't need either to get an eye exam and glasses, which is 300 times less life-threatening and crucial than dealing with possible breast cancer.

It did amuse me to see how my priorities changed the more phone calls I had to make. I started out in search of an "affordable" mammogram, so I got a number to a "sliding scale" facility. The problem there was that not only was their next available appointment at least 2 months down the road (ummmm, I could be dead by then, lady) but you first had to go through a financial screening to make sure you weren't ripping off the system (and I just know with my luck in life I would be hovering right on the cusp of qualifying financial status and get turned down anyway, just because I am not a single mother of 3. Because no one gives a shit about a single lesbian (bisexual) trying to make ends meet without freeloading off the system). But they helpfully gave me 2 or 3 other numbers to try if I couldn't jump through their hoops.

Thus I slowly changed my priorities as I realized that people without insurance and people without regular doctors are not entitled to the same treatment as the Chosen of Society. Hey, it's not for lack of trying....I work two jobs, remember, I am just unlucky enough that neither of them offer insurance and I have been told that individual health insurance is so expensive you are better off saving your money for emergencies like this one (also, the irony was not lost on me that one of my jobs, medical transcription, involves dealing with doctor's visits and medical issues all day....and I couldn't even get a bloody appointment for myself).

To further complicate my quest, one of my best hopes said they were not accepting new patients. After hanging up from this call, I burst into tears. WHY was it so fucking hard just to get an appointment? It seems like it might be less stressful just to face breast cancer. It also seems like this much stress and anxiety is supremely against the best interests of someone who might be sick (and believe me, I am not generally prone to drama, but it is terrifyingly easy to imagine the worst and feel exquisitely sorry for myself without even having any definitive bad news.) I wanted to scream at every apathetic and unhelpful receptionist, "Be nice to me! I have a lump in my breast!" I wished (not for the first time) that I lived in England or Canada, countries where you can walk in to a doctor anytime, anywhere and be taken care of free of charge (my friend's girlfriend had a lesion on her face removed in this way, no problems, no stacks of paperwork, no red tape and bureaucratic bullshit. Meanwhile I might drop dead just waiting to get seen by someone. See what I mean about drama?)

As I regrouped and considered my options, part of me pointed out that I had no problem a month before dropping $1000 on a new computer, so why was I being so stingy with my own health? Okay, change of priorities....I abandoned my quest for "affordable," so now I just had to find someone who wouldn't care about my lack of insurance and not need a doctor's referral (because, I reasoned, a doctor's visit on top of a mammogram would certainly cost more than just a mammogram, plus I didn't need to pay some fucking doctor $125 to tell me I had a lump and needed a mammogram, it was pretty plainly obvious to me all on my own for free). No cigar, of course. The medical system is absolutely set up as a "you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" entity. We don't want Dr. What's-His-Name to miss a boat payment because of know-it-all patients trying to circumvent the system, do we?

I fell into such depths of despair and self-pity (and bitterness, if that much isn't obvious) I had to have Tery start calling for me. She spoke to the American Cancer Society again (I had been able only to get an answering machine) who gave her the number of a clinic that supposedly did an exam AND a mammogram for you. Terrific! She couldn't find an address for it, but I didn't care....I said I would drive to freaking Wyoming if I had to at this point. So I called them, and surprise! more hoops. They said that if I was a "worst-case scenario" (just hearing the receptionist use those words in reference to me made fresh tears spring to my eyes) I would not qualify for their grants to pay for future procedures unless I was referred by a doctor. She suggested I call Planned Parenthood for an exam and then have them refer me back to the clinic. Which I did, and was told by that receptionist that they had run out of money in their blah-blah grant for clinical exams. It was only after a round or two of "who's on first" that I realized that she was saying there was no more funding for free doctor's visits, which I certainly never expected in the first place. I told her in short, easy-to-understand sentences, "I have a lump in my breast. I am very worried about it. I want to do something about it as soon as possible. At this point money is not an issue. Can I please have an appointment?" Once I made it clear I was possibly dying she happily made the appointment.

Is health care reform anywhere CLOSE to President Bush's agenda?


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December 2011

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