Sunday, June 27, 2010

recuperating in the san juans

We came out to one of our favorite places in the San Juans for a long weekend which is much needed after my month of being sick and my husband hurting his back. He was pretty cranky by the time we got here Friday evening because sitting in the car made his back worse, but everyone is a lot more relaxed today.

The pitbull is still asleep on the couch this morning after her first hoorah here. It's a very rustic neighborhood with old fishing cabins interspersed between million-dollar vacation homes. But ever the people in their vacation homes glide by in their kayaks first thing in the morning and open their doors to let their dogs run wild all over the island.

When we got here on Friday there were some teenagers playing croquet in the field by our cabin and the pitbull got out of the car and started running in circles in the field like a mad dog and they all started laughing. I was worried at first and calling to her because if she did that in Seattle there would be hell to pay but the teens were laughing and yelling, "Willow? What a cute name! What a cute dog!" Then she found some other dogs who were wandering around and they played. In the morning we let her out and she ran and ran, then I threw balls for her into the Puget Sound and she swam around catching them and bringing in big cords of kelp. Unfortunately, she also ran so hard on the rocks that she cut up the pads on her feet a little bit. By afternoon she was flopped on her side on the grass and when a dog would run over to her to play she'd lift her head, or maybe even try to stand up, but then she'd fall back over and go back to sleep. By evening she was so stiff and sore she was waddling when she went out for last pee.

I took my daughter out in a kayak for the first time. She really liked it for a few minutes then she saw the new friends on the beach - ones who were staying down the way in another cabin - and decided she was "bored" and wanted to go play with them instead. I was really happy that she liked it at first though.

There are a lot of insects in our cabin. OK, maybe not a lot but more than I am comfortable with. Quite a few carpenter ants (the giant black ones) and some spiders. The first night I lied down to read my book in bed and saw something out of the corner of my eye and it was a big black bug stomping across my pillow toward my head. I saw up and saw it was a spider and that made me jump right out of bed. Last night there was a huge wolf spider on the wall next to the bed and after he killed it I said to my husband, "What if he had friends?" and my husband said, "These guys like to work alone," and I said, "You're just saying that," and my husband said, "No, they really do." And the couple times I woke up in the night I kept imagining I felt things crawl across my head. Of course at 4am I really did feel a pitbull jump on me to which I sleepily muttered, "Why is Willow jumping on us?" and my husband muttered, "Why does Willow do anything?" And we had to put our duffel bags against our bedroom door to keep her out.

There is also a pretty orange moth in the corner of the windowsill in the main room and it is surrounded by tiny, bright green pellets. Must look up what those are.

Lots of families were here yesterday so our daughter had lots of kids to run wild with. And that's pretty much what they did. I talked to one mom who has a 3 year old with Type I diabetes and celiac disease. He has to have an insulin pump permanently hooked up to him and she needs to wake up twice every night to check his blood sugar. I started thinking about how that might be harder to have a child with an autoimmune disease than to have one yourself. And she's probably lost a few friends in the last three years by disappointing them and not being there for them as much as they want too. I hope not - I hope she has friends that will stick by her and understand, but it made me feel better that I'm not the only one that struggles to function in a society that expects high performance and normalcy otherwise it expects you to be forgotten.

My daughter's first time in a kayak!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Feeling better ... hopefully ....

Today was the first day in about three weeks that I felt well enough to go up the stable by myself and actually ride my horse. I only rode for about 40 minutes and then was exhausted. I also didn't feel like I had my riding mojo going. Despite that Girl did really well and stayed pretty level and calm. I was talking to my instructor after my ride and she asked how I did and I said I didn't really feel like I had it going on because it's been three weeks since I last really rode, and she said she'd come down to look and the arena and see who was riding and that we looked pretty good - Girl was calm and not cantering off sideways and staying straight. So, that was a nice surprise to hear. I didn't even realize she was around while I was practicing.

I had hoped that I could train enough to enter a benefit show in August but it's already the end of June and I only got to take one lesson this month because I got sick on June 2nd and am just now starting to get back on my feet. Just like every month last winter. I have to admit there have been moments in the last month where I've thought, "I can't live like this." Not like I'm suicidal or anything, just that I can't live like this - constantly trying to act normal when I was probably not sick for a full three weeks (spread out over time) this school year. It made me think of my friend, Steve, who has muscular dystrophy and who could walk with extreme effort and a lot of work a few years ago, but after breaking a leg, realized that his life was much better in a wheelchair, not expending the majority of his energy trying to continue walking when it was so hard for him.

I'm not sure what my analogy for that would be since it's basically either I can function kind of, or my health declines to the point where I can't function at all. My priorities are first - being a mom, and second, keeping my job, and third, trying to be there for my friends. Unfortunately, it seems like the third priority ends up losing out a lot because I am so emotionally and physically depleted by being sick all the time. Now I've got a friend who seems to have either written me off or is giving me the cold shoulder because I'm not following through enough and it has brought about a kind of crisis of re-thinking how I'm living. Do I need to figure out what my "wheelchair" is with my life and stop trying to pretend I am 100% fully functional like the majority of my friends?

The truth is, I am never not in pain. I have no idea what it is like to not be in pain anymore because for the last six years since the worst bout of rheumatoid arthritis hit right after my daughter was born, I've been in physical pain ever since to some degree or another. When I get a cold I don't just get stuffed up, my back feels like its broken, my knees swell to twice their size and my hands stiffen up so it's hard to make a fist. Then like last year I end up on antibiotics over and over again because my immune system is so shot I keep getting bacterial infections. I have a headache every day to some degree or another, I take ungodly large amounts of ibuprofen just so I can function and often by 6pm in the evening my feet and ankles ache so badly I don't want to stand up. I wake up exhausted every morning and roll out of bed praying that a cup of coffee will lift some of the fatigue and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't and more often than I'd like I have to just call in sick and go back to bed. And it frustrates me when people say "Oh, I have rheumatoid arthritis and I just changed my diet a little and now I'm healthier than ever. You just need to get off those toxic drugs." But if I go off those toxic drugs I'm crippled. And I don't have any cartilage left in some of my joints (literally - no cartilage). There is a difference between a non-carcinogenic melanoma and full-on cancer and there is a difference between having early stage rheumatoid arthritis in remission and severe late-stage rheumatoid arthritis with on-going permanent damage. I think I need to really admit that to myself and stop expecting too much of myself.

So, maybe my "wheelchair" is giving up on friendships with people who need normal, healthy friends. Because that is not me. I have lived in complete denial of my health problems for years now and powered through expecting full functioning from myself and constantly being disappointed and I think maybe that's not as healthy of an attitude as I'd thought. Maybe I need to make it clear to my friends that I can only do what I can do and it's not going to be as much as their physically healthy friends. And if that's not ok, then guess they'll just have to move on because I've pushed myself too hard the last few years and I can't do it anymore. I'm just not up to going out to shows very often because by evening I'm sore and exhausted. I'm not up to consistently driving cross town especially in the evenings, I forget things when I'm overwhelmed even if I don't mean to and most of the time I'm hanging by a thread just making it to work and being there for my daughter.

And the only thing that keeps from getting depressed is spending time with my horse. I swear sometimes I just want to build a loft over her stall and live out there with her because riding is really the only thing that is emotionally holding me together. Well, that and my family and a couple close friends who understand what's really going on with me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Today is one of those days when I had bouts of feeling very depressed about my health (or lack thereof). I'm still not completely feeling better after last weekend's ear infection/nasty vertigo. I didn't feel up to driving all the way out to the stable by myself but my husband got home later than expected so we didn't make it out to the stable at the right time for me to ride my horse. We got out there right when the jumping lesson started which lasted the hour that we had alotted for me to be out there.

I just feel very frustrated because I didn't feel well enough to go out and ride my horse for two weeks and I'm still not feeling so great. It's been really hard to get stuff done these last two weeks and some of that time I've had to just stay in bed and not to do anything. Dragging my ass to work has been difficult and stressful. It really is true - if you don't have your health nothing else feels like it matters. I thought I was done with the endless back-to-back illnesses now that summer is here but I am apparently not. I've tried everything I can think of to make myself healthier (gone to every kind of doctor, take the medications they prescribe, take a million supplements, get exercise when I'm not too sick to, eat spicy foods and lots of healthy organic food ... etc. etc.) But it doesn't seem to change that I have a chronic illness and compromised immune system. That seems to always win out. Grumble.

On a happier note, at least it cheered me up to be out at the stable. I brought Girlfriend in from the pasture to at least groom her and spend some time with her and when I did, her pasture mate Ziggy freaked out. I used to bring in Girl all the time by herself when she was pasture mates with Doc and it never bothered him, but Ziggy has been getting progressively more and more upset if they're separated. Girl was a little upset at first and called to him a few times, but calmed down as soon as I started grooming her and Ilana (the teenager that rides her when I can't get out there) and a friend of hers were doting on her.

Ziggy continued to scream and call for her, sounding progressively more and more panicked and I wondered if I should've brought him in, but I didn't want to over-step the routine for someone else's horse. Finally Sheryl (the stable owner) came out of the lesson and asked me to bring him in because a neighbor had just called to complain about all the noise he was making.

Ilana and her friend walked out to the pasture with me and Ziggy was galloping up and down the pasture, shaking his head and jumping up and down at the gate. When I got to the gate his eyes look wild and panicked and he was sweating and the veins all over his body were sticking up. As soon as I walked into the pasture he calmed down a little. I gave him a couple pieces of carrot and put his lead rope on. Then as soon as we walked out of the gate he tried to bolt and I quickly pulled back on the lead rope and said, "Ho!" and for a second I thought he was going to rear. Then he just pranced the rest of the way to the barn, starting to try and run so that I needed to pull back on the lead rope and say "Ho!" and then his butt would swing out to the side and he would dance a little, but at least stay at a fast, prancing walk. He's a big thoroughbred too - at least a hand taller than Girl. So, I'm glad he didn't give me as much trouble as I thought he might. I don't like leading him to and from the pasture. I'd rather lead Atlas the wild Mustang off the BLM land, or Tyee the two year old who Juan always refers to as "the loco one". But they aren't kind of ... neurotic in a psycho way like Ziggy. He's beautiful and I've heard he's well trained for riding (I've never seen him ridden so I don't know) but he's so high strung and impulsive it makes me nervous. And I can't be nervous when I'm working with horses so I have to push it all away when I'm with him, but before I'm with him I get really nervous and afterward I can let all the nervousness out and think, "Ok - didn't go as bad as it could've!"

As soon as he got up to the barn he let out a call to Girlfriend and she answered him, and his whole body relaxed. Once I got him in his stall he had that look of someone who was calming down but had been extremely traumatized. I don't know what it is about Girlfriend - the other horse she lived with at her old farm would act like that too.

The jumping lesson ended in time for me to literally ride five minutes before my husband showed up to pick me up to go home and pick up our daughter. Even five minutes is better than nothing. And Ilana took over and rode her as soon as we left so she got to get a workout hopefully.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

cowgirl goes to another trendy bar

I went out with the husband last night to see a band that I've liked since 1993 but have never seen live. Unfortunately, since I'm still tired from being sick with this sinus/ear infection I didn't stay for their full set. But we used a little better foresight and called to find out when they were going on and I took my knitting and the husband took his drawing pad. Plus, it wasn't so loud that I couldn't talk to random strangers between bands which I always enjoy.

The first band was the drummer's daughter's band and although they were incredibly cute little kids who were actually quite good, due to my ears still not being totally back to normal and a lingering sinus headache I couldn't handle loud Black Sabbath covers. I went outside to hide from the loudness and amused myself for awhile trying to send a text message to my friend Beth saying, "I'm hiding outside a bar ..." but that got frustrating because I'm old and it takes me forever to write out a text on my phone. I saw Mike, who is in the headlining band and who used to work at Adagio, a cafe where I hung out hundreds of years ago (ok, seventeen years ago). We said hello and then next thing I knew we had whipped out our cell phones and were showing each other photos of our kids. That was pretty cool.

Much later that evening as I was getting ready for bed I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and had this weird moment where I felt like I was a kid seeing myself as a grown-up and for a split-second I felt that shock of "This is what I look like middle-aged" and I suddenly realized that I am exactly who I had hoped I would be when I grew up. I had my doubts and there were times that I truly believed I would never be the person I wanted to be, but somehow I've pulled it off (after lots and lots of efforts by the way).

Despite that revelation I was still kind of a neurotic mess this morning. This was the first day I've had to drive downtown by myself after last weekend's horrible ear-infection/vertigo-from-hell episode and I was still feeling traumatized and scared of it hitting me again. Logically, I know that the fluid has drained out of my ears and I'm fine and I would have plenty of warning if the inflammation were to mysteriously come back in my ears (despite that my cold is gone) so I could pull over before crashing my car because I'd lost all sense of up and down. But emotionally, I wasn't doing very well getting rid of those fears. So, I may be who I want to be, but I'm still kind of a mess. Oh well.

Being at work really cheered me up though because it got my mind back on something far more important than my post-trauma fears. My boss explained to me today what alpha, beta and gamma particles are in a nutshell and that made me realize that I want to get back to my study of physics. When my daughter was first born I had some cd's and a dvd on basic quantum mechanics and calculus that I was learning. And my friend forwarded some lectures to me from MIT on physics. I need to get back into that.

We're still waiting to hear if the bank will accept our offer on Woodinville house. Sigh. They have until September 1st to let us know so we may be waiting a long time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cat in the chicken coop!

I passed by the back window this morning and noticed that Woodia seemed a lot bigger sitting next to the food dish in the chicken coop. I did a double take and realized it was a huge gray cat! Grrrr ... So, we let the pitbull outside to chase him away but th pitbull had been fast asleep under our blankets in our bed and was protesting being put outside and didn't even see the cat. Luckily, the cat saw the pitbull and ran away.

It's interesting how difficult domestic animals can be. Our dog pees all around the chicken coop and run so we can leave the chickens out all day and the raccoons never come in our yard. I know they're usually sleeping, but urban raccoons will wake up for some easy, gourmet food like urban chickens. As was pointed out last year in one of the first posts in this blog when the riff raff appeared within two hours of bringing home the chickens.

But domestic cats could care less about dogs marking their territory. We have two that just swagger in and stalk the chickens. So far they haven't actually tried to kill the chickens and because they are domestic cats I'm not sure they even could. I know Christmas Kitten tried to pounce on one when she first came here and the chicken squawked really loud and puffed itself up and the kitten freaked out and ran inside shaking. Still, it's interesting the extreme difference in behavior between domestic animals and feral animals. It's as if the domestic cats have lots all sense of natural instinct. Much like humans ... hmmmm ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

just a little traumatized

I've been having health problems again the last couple weeks. I had a stomach virus then a bad cold that was causing me a lot of pressure and pain in my ears. Friday night the pressure moved to my inner ear and I became very dizzy. It got to the point where I couldn't move without everything spinning and I would lose my sense of what was up or down. It was really awful. At one point I was huddled in a ball crying, "Make it stop ... make it stop ..." I took some meclazine which was supposed to help with dizziness but it didn't do anything so the on-call doctor called in some valium which is supposed to help lessen dizziness, but also made it easier to deal with how terrifying it is to have such awful vertigo.

I slept propped up on a bunch of pillows and had dreams of being dizzy. By morning the dizziness had gone down quite a bit and on the doctor's suggestion I took lots of sudafed and flonase to try and get my ears to drain. By this morning the dizziness was all gone but I have been exhausted all day. I feel kind of traumatized by it to be honest. So yesterday and today I've spent a lot of time resting and taking it easy. I had to go into work today for an hour to get some reports done that my boss needed to take on a business trip this evening but I had my husband drive me just because I'm not feeling completely balanced yet.

Needless to say I have not seen my horse since last Wednesday. I went out to the stable with my mom because we were both going to take a riding lesson, but I was feeling too tired and fatigued from the cold. I rode my horse for about twenty minutes to warm up before my lesson, but then said I wasn't up for it and needed to cancel. So, as it was I ended up watching my mom's lesson.

It's very interesting watching other people's dressage lessons because I'm starting to learn what they should look like in order to be riding well. I still have a long ways to go but I am starting to recognize when the rider's form is off and I'm slowly starting to be able to recognize good conformation in a horse. I could just read and learn about this stuff every minute of the day, but then most of my friends would never want to talk to me again because then I really would have nothing to talk about except horses.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sittin' in limbo

I just thought of that phrase then remembered a song I don't think I've heard in twenty years. That brings back some memories.

We're in limbo regarding the house we want to buy because we have to wait for lots of paperwork, "what will the bank say" type of stuff. But in case it all works out I'm continuing to research the area and the schools and where my daughter can take ballet and piano lessons and all that. I had a two day break from being super excited about all this because I caught a stomach bug that was going around my daughter's school and didn't feel well enough to feel much of anything except angst.

Being that sick is historically very hard for me because my normal state of being for so many years has been to be constantly moving and doing stuff. I've had problems with insomnia for most of my adult life and I'm trying to change that but it is slow going. The last couple days I actually did better just lying in bed not forcing myself to get up and "do chores" even though I was too sick to do that. I think I may have actually started to get over that hump and get to the point where I can actually spend a little time "not doing anything". That may not sound like an accomplish to anyone else but it is to me.

One of the things I thought about while lying still enough to hopefully lessen nausea was: how are we going to move the chicken coop and run without sending the chickens somewhere else for a couple days? There are not only raccoons at the new place but hawks, eagles and coyotes so we'll have to reconstruct a chicken Alcatraz all over again - digging a couple feet down under the run and filling it in with rocks and making sure all the walls and ceilings of chicken wire are secured. I'm wondering if I measure before hand I can dig the trenches for the run walls one day and then get it moved and put up the next day and then we won't have to farm the chickens out somewhere.

We're going out to the house on Monday for the official inspection and I am going to take the time to go down the paths in the woods to see where they go. I tried checking it out with the bird's eye view on google maps but there were too many trees (which is a good thing). I wonder if there are deer in the woods? I would love to have deer-proofing my garden be one of my problems in life. Yes, I know, in a year from now when I'm so irritated by the deer eating my plants I will look back on this blog entry and scoff - but for now it sounds like a lovely problem!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's not the middle of nowhere but it's a start

Yesterday we sat down with our real estate agent and signed a bunch of papers and put in an offer on a "house in the woods". It's not out in the middle of nowhere by any means but it *is* in the woods and quite beautiful. It's in a town outside of Seattle called Woodinville, which many now say are the suburbs but we like it out there so even if it is the suburbs, I don't think this particular house will feel like the suburbs we can't stand - manicured lawns, cookie-cutter houses, sterile, dull plants and faux-nature.

It doesn't have enough land for us to keep horses, but it's close to where I board my horse so that is fine with me. We'd need at least 5 acres for me to comfortably keep horses and we can't afford that unless we go up to Skagit County. And it is a compromise because if we moved out to Skagit County or unincorporated Snohomish County above Monroe my husband would not be able to keep his current job because the commute to downtown Seattle would be too horrid. It's really very exciting. As in so exciting I've been feeling like shaking like one of those little min-pins for the last 24 hours.

I realize to many that it is absolutely insane to move out of such a "cool" city that "has so much" as Seattle, to a town that no one outside of Western WA would have even heard of, but we're actually very happy about it. For us, Woodinville has a lot more than our neighborhood in Seattle. It has trails through the woods, a salmon spawning creek in our backyard, wildlife (hawks, eagles, deer, coyote, etc), cleaning air, way less crime and way better schools.

Sunday I went out to ride my horse with my friend, Megan and Rocky and their horses. We were going to go on a trail ride but nobody who wanted to go has a trailer so we wouldn't have to ride the horses out on the road and my horse is just not a safe horse to have out on the road. She is so jiggy and won't stand still, I know it's a huge gamble that she wouldn't jig her way right into a passing car. Especially because there are no "bike lanes" up that far north so you have to share the lane with the passing cars. The other horses probably would've been fine, in fact Rocky road her horse a mile or so on the roads to meet us, but her horse just walked and stood quietly and was much safer.

As it was, we rode our horses out to the pasture and to the dead-end rode on the other side of the farm to see how far I could take Girlfriend. She was prancing and trotting the whole time even though I wanted her to walk and if we all stopped she would start turning circles and dancing sideways. Thus proving she is totally not safe on a road with a cars. So, we went to the end of the road to see Rocky off before she rode home and everyone's horse was standing around in a circle and Girl kept jigging and circling and backing up and jumping up and down. At one point Rocky said, "She's so amped up but you're so calm," and I said, "Well, what choice do I have?" So, it showed that I've gotten better at staying calm in a tense situation where getting stressed out would only make it worse.

Part of her being so riled up is she's in her Spring heat. But in general I think the nice weather and other horses just made her excited and want to run and play. When we got back to the arena we played musical horses and Megan and another girl at the stable, Bella took turns riding Girlfriend. I rode Bella's horse Kadie but she was just wearing a halter and lead rope so since I didn't know her it was hard to steer her. I could do it but we didn't have the communication built up for it to work for us to ride with just a halter.

I also rode Megan's horse, Atlas, which was really cool. Seven months ago he was a wild Mustang out on the range in Oregon so he is by far the greenest horse I've ever ridden. At first it wasn't going so well because after a few minutes he got mad at me and just stood his ground. All half-ton of him rooted into the ground with an irritated intent of not moving a muscle. Sheryl happened to come out to see what we were doing and coached me through how to get him going again which ended up working out well. After her suggestions he was actually pretty easy to ride. It was also exciting that I am only the third person in Atlas's life that has ever ridden him. Bella was the second, just before me. I almost didn't ride him because I didn't think I had enough experience but with a little coaching from Sheryl I actually did pretty well!

Atlas is definitely my favorite horse at the barn next to Girlfriend. And I think it's because he is so sensitive because he was feral for his first 3.5 years. Even though Girlfriend was domestically bred as a race (rodeo racing) horse they both have the same extreme sensitivity, nuzzly affectionate nature and they both have a wild streak. Megan thinks for my next horse that I should get a wild Mustang but lately I've thinking for my next horse I'll get an off-the-track Thoroughbred because I am so used to riding a hot horse. And they don't come much hotter than mine.