Catching up.

Many, MANY thanks for all the well wishes.  I am finally feeling normal again, thank GOD.  This episode was particularly bad.  Normally the dizziness lasts about a week, this time it was more like 10-11 days.  Being me (read DAMN STUBBORN) I basically try to do everything I normally would.  Which – being home most of the time – is usually o-kay.  I can rest between laundry, kids, pets, chores, etc.  When the spins get overwhelming, I lay down.  But Thanksgiving on spin cycle…?  What a trip.  I spent the day in the kitchen, of course.  WELL – It was that or… what?  Try finding a low sodium holiday meal anywhere on a NORMAL day, let alone one when everything is closed.  SO I PERSEVERED.  Being (as I mentioned) stubborn as hell – as well as halfway insane, it didn’t much matter how sh*tty I felt.  I was going to conquer Thanksgiving or die trying.  The results were divine.  I tried several new recipes this year, including a low sodium cornbread stuffing, baked squash & apples, and whipped sweet potatoes.  Which, if I get my act together, I’ll post on my other DAILY DISH.  Stop laughing.

SO. Before the pity fest, I’d been discussing our latest home improvement project.  Re-tiling the upstairs bath.   Here’s the before shot.

And the AFTER.

John & I delved headlong into the wonder that is TILE and within a week had completed the job.  For ease we stuck to the same mosaics we’d used in the downstairs bath.  Mostly b/c we couldn’t find ANY large black & white tiles that didn’t cost $6 each.  Regardless. we both love the mosaic and I think it lends a nice uniformity to the house.  I am giving us an A+.

We spent a lot of time this & last weekend working on projects – despite (or more like IN SPITE OF) the spins.  [Between you & me, I am SO freaking Angry at having this damn disease, I get maudlin, I cry, I sulk, I weep, and then I end up redoubling my efforts TO DO WHATEVER I WANT TO.  Which is not easy when you’re about to fall down, BUT I’D RATHER DIE TRYING]  SO.  Last weekend we lined our chimney (YES, BY OURSELVES).  Here is my husband up inside the bricks.

My contribution was more minimal to say the least.  I was not allowed on the roof (thank GOD) so I spent most of that day helping assemble the chimney liner.  No small task if you’ve ever done one.  It first entails unfurling this huge metal snake from its (shipped) coiled form.  In our case (b/c of the massive size of the flue) 8″ x 35 ft of the most unruliest, unwieldiest metal EVER.  It took FOREVER.  You have to treat this liner w/ kid gloves so it doesn’t break.  Which, oh by the way, happened the first time.  Thankfully Chimney Liner Depot is the BEST COMPANY EVER and sent us a free replacement literally w/in days.  WE LOVE YOU, CHIMNEY LINER DEPOT!   So after the thing is straightened, you have to insulate it.  Using insulation, spray glue and tape.  FUN!  Then you have to sheath it in wire mesh.  Then wrap more wire round that.  All the while being careful not to handle the RAZOR SHARP ENDS which will surely sever your flesh from bone.  The end result?  GORGEOUS.

After all that, which would likely do in lesser men, we had to rig a rope through the liner so we would be able to install it.  We decided in my spinny condition, it would be easier to lift the liner UP the chimney, rather than risk one of us falling off the roof whilst attempting to haul it up there and subsequently drop it down the flue.  See, we are smart.  SO, my husband tied fishing line to our dog’s kong ball, rolled it though the liner, then reattched the rope to the fishing line & gingerly pulled it through.  Genius!  We then had to shimmy the thing across the yard to the front door.  B/c remember, IN-STALL-ATION.  BTW.  Did I mention my husband is a superhero?  While I was holding onto walls, recovering from the liner assembly, he was sawing apart that steel damper plate in the hearth, getting everything ready.  Then he got up on the roof and HEAVED, while I hoed at the bottom, together managing to SHOVE THAT SUCKER RIGHT ON UP.  YAHHOOOOOOOOOOO!!

I am thrilled to tell you that our chimney is now lined.  My husband has replaced the metal plating (as well as insulating it), and our wood stove is (after a TWO MONTH WAIT) FINALLY IN!!  And blazing.  Did I mention how hot this thing gets?  We’re talking hell hot.  In fact, we now have to wear summer clothes in our living room b/c otherwise we are passing out.  Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic.  But for someone accustomed to being cold, this is taking some getting used to.  Our former house had FORCED AIR HEAT.  Surely, the worst kind of heating system in the history of mankind.  You’d turn it on, POoooooOOOoF, it’d blow out at you.. ahh, toasty warm.  Two minutes later, it shuts off, the air whistles out our 100 yr old windows and you are FREEEZING.  8 yrs in that house, each winter I’d wear long underwear, two sweaters and a hat.  In the house.  NOW.  We have moved to MAINE (cooooold), have bought an even older house (250 yrs) and I sit by my wood stove cooking.. Talk about crazy. PS.  I was super amused yesterday, looking out the window whist painting my older daughter’s bedroom, I noticed our neighbors across the street having their chimney lined.  By a team of 3-4 men.

SO.  WHat else have we been doing>>>?  This weekend John replaced the upstairs hall light

and rewired a downstairs circuit to accommodate exterior Christmas lights.  Which I LOVE.

Our weather has been rainy of late and our basement has been taking on water.  So we spent a great deal of time trying to rectify the situation in the short & long term.  Mostly I curse, while my husband takes action.  He bought a concrete chisel and has been hammering out channels for the water to make its way to the drain.  Did I mention my husband is a superhero.  And NO he is not available for housecalls (CURLY).

Well that’s it for now.  Except for one thing.  Could someone PLEASE tell me who left this basket of holiday cheer on our doorstep??  Fess up.  We found it several days ago.  SOme little elf has made us all very merry.  MANY THANKS~!

Living with Meniere’s

I get a lot of hits on this blog. Some of you visiting are my friends and family, but others of you are strangers desperate for answers.  Whether you’ve found me through a google search, or have clicked through from The Daily Dish, it is for you that I write this post.  You have been drawn here b/c you, like me, suffer from Meniere’s Disease.

I don’t talk about Meniere’s very often, mostly b/c it’s so damn depressing, but today I am breaking the silence.  Yesterday the dizziness came out of nowhere.  One minute I was fine, the next – nearly on the floor.  Why?  Good question.  It could be a myriad of things, from food to motion to emotion.  But often it’s simply a change in the weather.  Barometric pressure can do funny things to a girl.  And as fun as it might sound to be a human barometer, it’s really not.  Right now I am practically strapped to my chair.  I walk the hallway, steadying myself with the walls.  Living w/ Meniere’s Disease is a literal roller coaster, and most often I try to ignore it away.  But today I can’t.  On days like this, the best I can do is stay calm.

What is it like, one of these episodes? Well. For me, they vary. Take today. I feel dizzy. Unbelievably so. There’s an intense pressure in my head, which gets worse if I move a certain way, or stiffen up, or cough or sneeze or chew – or pretty much do anything. I feel like a top that’s been wound too tight, about to spiral off into the universe.  I am trapped inside my own body.  Like a prisoner, I have no control.  So here I sit. Feeling sorry for myself. I know these episodes pass. It’s not forever.  But it’s hard to reason w/ yourself when you’re feeling so bad. Today it’s the dizziness. Other times, it’s my hearing. First comes the pressure.  I try to coax my ear from its hissy fit.  With increasing desperation, I try to keep it open.  I pop it, over and over.. but it’s no use.  Soon my ear closes off to the world.  The tinnitus grows, my hearing recedes.  Once again, I am half-deaf.  I am alone again, inside.

The doctors try, but they can’t do anything for me. Really. It’s amazing how medicine has made such strides, but so much remains unknown.  I get very philosophical when I’m like this. Forgive me. But I can’t stop thinking about it all.

Lord of the Flies

When we returned home from the Midwest, the first thing I did was drag my sorry self upstairs to crash out in bed. After nearly 15 hours in the car, it was all I could do. But the first thing my husband did, being the amazing soul he is, was go through the entire house to make sure everything was just as we’d left it. And everything was fine. Save for the flies.

When we left John says he noticed one lone fly bzzzzing round an upstairs room. No big deal. He figured it’d be dead by the time the weekend was over.

HAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!!!!

Remember Cutie? My daughter’s runaway hamster?? Yes, I know I haven’t written about him in weeks. But that’s b/c we thought he was still on vacation. Well… he is, except it’s that reeeeeeeaaaalllly long vacation that never ends. Ugh. we can now state w/ fair certainty that Cutie has become banquet to 50,000 flies. So we’ve spent the better part of two days shooing, swatting and otherwise casting out these winged creatures from our happy home. And in tackling this new and vexing challenge, I have noticed something truly profound.

When a fly gets trapped inside, they follow a particular pattern. First, They zoom from room to room looking for an exit. Second, they find a window. They fly back and forth past the window, assessing the possibility of escape. In a last-ditch effort, they begin to fly into the window, over and over, as though their feeble crashes will at last force the glass and they will be free. Eventually, the exhausted fly succumbs to the inevitable, either crawling up into a ball and breathing its last, OR conversely, overcoming its initial aversion and fear and FINALLY allowing me to gently scoop it up and release it out into the world.

Having watched this scenario play out OH SO MANY times over the past couple days, I have been struck by the similarity between humans and flies. These flies leave you wondering. WHAT THE HELL??!! ARE YOU REALLY SO DAMN STUPID?? I AM HERE – ARE YOU BLIND?! MY HAND! It is GUIDING YOU OUT – SEE THERE!! THE OPEN WINDOW!!!! IT’S RIGHT THEEERRRRRREEE!! I AM TRYING TO SAVE YOU, YOU MORON!!!

When a human becomes trapped – and here I am speaking rather metaphorically – so by this I could mean a myriad of things. But when a human becomes similarly “trapped” w/ no hope of escape, their response is very much like the fly. We are stubborn. We are STUPID. We do not want Help. We don’t NEED HELP. Instead we rush round looking for a means of escape. OH! And there it is. But it’s not, not really. No, it’s an impenetrable hurdle. So we bang out heads against the proverbial glass, frustrating ourselves and every conceivable attempt at freedom. And when that *Great Hand from the Sky* reaches down to help, what do we do?? We fail to see it. Or if we do, we RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Sometimes life presents you w/ a metaphor that you just can’t help but notice. I do not profess to be any more in tune w/ the great Cosmos than the next guy, but I can tell you this whole FLY THING has gotten my attention. The past several days have been pretty hard for me. I do not like vertigo. Yes, it is BAD. Having to steady myself constantly against the rotational force of the planet, whilst everyone else goes about their daily business blissfully unencumbered SUCKS. Feeling shitty always puts me in a slightly philosophical frame of mind. SO. Feeling this way, I would just like to say HEY. HEY BIG GUY. If you are up there, pitying me or watching me with amusement, FEEL FREE TO HELP. I am here, just smacking my head against the glass, so You just FEEL FREE to stick that big ol’ mitt out for me already. As long as you’re not going to smash me dead, I_am_YOURS.

I’m BACK!

I would ASK if you all missed me, but those butterscotch-sweet comments speak for themselves. You guys are the BEST! Thank you for making me feel like the belle of the ball. Unfortunately, in real life I am feeling a lot more like the Ty-D-Bol Man caught in a perpetual flush. This weekend was F-U-N with a capital F, but the 30 hour car ride has left me reeling. With my head on spin cycle, I am ever-so-slowly rejoining reality. It’s almost 8 PM. I am still in my PJs, I have not brushed my hair, but I did this morning brush my teeth. Things are looking up.

We left Thursday morning for the reunion, and drove straight through to Davenport, Iowa. The family had reserved a block of rooms at a local hotel, and upon arrival John & I discovered we’d been given the “Honeymoon Suite.” Sweeeeet. Well, it would have been, were we not also sharing it with our two children. Oh well. We joked about the mirrored ceiling the rest of the weekend, and instead of a seductive soak in our massive jacuzzi, the ladies and I took a pre-party bath together. As my younger daughter said, a little weird, but still fun.

We spent much of the weekend partying b/c THAT is what my family does best. Some families drink to escape, but us, we drink to further enhance our feelings of good will. We are one fun loving bunch. We played games, swam in the indoor pool and spent a boatload in the arcade. We ate. We are SCHOLFIELDS after all. We ordered pizza from 2 different Midwestern chains, with specialty pies called The Inferno, The BLT, and The Taco Joe. I had never seen a pizza covered in Doritos before, but now I have. Not quite as strange as seeing that pizza with a whole fried egg on top like I did in France, but. strange nonetheless.

The weather was cold and rainy for much of our stay, making Philly seem positively balmy by comparison. On Friday, a hotel employee came round to announce a *Tornado Warning* until 5 PM, saying we might have to evacuate to the basement. WOW. Getting my drunk on in a darkened basement might not have been my first choice, but I’m always game for something new. The wind shook the building, and the rain came down in buckets – actually leaking through the roof in places – but that was it. No evacuation. Perhaps next time.

Saturday was the formal luncheon at Deere Run, the John Deere golf club. It’s a lovely place and seemed a particularly fitting choice for the event, given that my grandfather worked for them most of his life. After eating, we took turns lining up for posed portraits, which although slightly tedious was still sort of fun and of course much appreciated by G-ma. It’s amazing how little everyone has changed in 10 years. My cousins, aunts & uncles all pretty much look the same. If it weren’t for the kids, we could still be back in 1998. I will keep telling myself that anyway.

Later in the evening, we met at the hotel-cum-retirement home where my grandmother lives. This rendezvous was for a very special event. The Wearing of the Scholfield Family Reunion T-Shirts. This tradition states that all family members as well as Guests (and yes, we do provide t-shirts for them as well) must don an Official Scholfield Family Reunion T-Shirt for a prescribed length of time, during which many photographs will be taken for posterity. This tradition seems to divide our family into one of two vocal groups: The Lovers of the T-Shirts and The Loathers of the T-Shirts. These white tees are emblazoned with emblems from all of our past reunions, and on the back is written your name and a catchy slogan. I will not tell you mine b/c it is a FAMILY SECRET, but this year there were some new winners. For instance, my cousin’s new husband from Down Under got, “Lawrence: Australian for Scholfield”. Yes, We ARE CLEVER. These t-shirts switch hands every so often, as a new person is elected to produce the new batch of emblems. At this reunion I requested that my Aunt send them to me next. This may or may not have something to do w/ the fact that my mail service is so PISS POOR I’ll likely never receive them. Oops. No need to confess where I stand on this most precious family tradition.

This weekend was a trip. It was a physical haul, driving straight through from Philly to Davenport, Iowa. BOTH WAYS, With only 2 DAYS of heavy drinking in between. I of course have vertigo. again. Which makes me almost as depressed as leaving my family. I have lived my whole life so far away from my relatives. And now my parents and my only sister also live 800 miles away. When we parted on Sunday, I was sobbing like a baby. But worse. I love my family. They are GREAT in every sense of the word. Fun. Full of life. Even my 95 year old grandmother. Now that I am home again, I miss them terribly. I know scores of people who long to escape from their relatives, but not me. I only wish we lived closer.

Today is my grandmother’s 95th birthday. It’s hard to believe. 95 years is a damn long time. 90 years longer than my younger daughter has lived. 60 years longer than I have been around. A whole lifetime of time. And although her body is failing, her mind is still strong. She dishes her guilt with almost surgical precision. She may have a brain tumor impinging on her thoughts at times and occasionally garbling her meaning, but she is still very much with it. So she’s confined to a wheelchair, she gets around. And even has a BOYFRIEND. My 95 year old grandma, as frail as she is, is one tough old bird. God bless her.

What’s the first thing you notice about someone?

A friend once sent me one of those email quizzes where you have to answer a long list of personal questions. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of these yourself? I see quite a few of them posted on other people’s blogs, and I think they’re sort of interesting. Anyway, these quizzes tend to ask many of the same questions (mostly about favorites, what you’re wearing, listening to, etc.), but the one my friend sent also had the question: What is the first thing you notice about someone?

Vertigo is a little something like my friend’s quiz – a semi-illuminating answer that only hints at what’s below. I can describe to you what it feels like, but until you experience it firsthand, you’ll never really understand. Up until a week ago, I had a really good hold on my Meniere’s symptoms and had the feeling that I was in control of the disease. I don’t know what being on that boat did to me – whether it was the food, the motion, or some combination thereof, but this past week has shown me that control is an illusion. We simply can’t control much of what happens to and around us.

Yesterday evening, 2 teenagers with a sawed-off shotgun assaulted a man right around the corner from my home. They tried to rob him, but he didn’t have any money or valuables, and that really pissed them off – so they blew an enormous hole in his leg. His blood is still pooled on the front steps of the house behind mine. It made me think of my husband’s response to the same quiz question I listed above: What is the first thing you notice about someone? Whether they’re packing [heat].

I guess that’s life as we know it in Philadelphia, November 11, 2007.

Not funny at all.

We can’t control much of what happens in our lives, but we can all make choices. Today I am well enough to be out of bed – and I’m making the choice to share with others something I learned this week.

If you’re waiting until everything is *just so* in your life before allowing yourself to really live and be happy, you’re destined to be one sad sack. Things will likely never be perfect. So do the best you can with what you’ve got – because I can guarantee there are people who have it way worse than you. And surprisingly, many of those people have a better attitude. When terrible things happen, don’t look to the heavens, shaking your fist at God and wondering why you’ve been cursed. Look inside, believe in yourself, and understand there are things beyond your control. We may never understand why horrible things happen, but I do believe there is a greater plan. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it, don’t sit around complaining that things suck. Fight against injustice, DON’T be a part of the problem. And always, always, embrace the positive. Love and respect yourself and those around you. And for the love of God, get over yourself already (No, it’s NOT really “all about you”), take time to share and be a servant to the world, rather than expect everyone to bow down before your sorry ass. Despite what your tee-shirt says, you are NOT royalty.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of my post. Well, I guess in my own roundabout way I’m trying to make a point. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Is it their eyes? Their crutches? The gun pointed at your face? What do we see when we look at others? What do we see when we look inside ourselves?

I was about as low as I’ve been this week, but illness is not necessarily a bad thing if it renders you a wiser, humbler, and more appreciative person. If you can laugh at pain and hold strong in times of fear, then you’re no longer captive to either. And that is a worthy goal.