Budget Issues

There are a lot of difficult things with getting used to a condition that causes regular pain or chronic fatigue. Part of it is just getting used to the idea that there is no quick fix, that this is the New Normal in our lives.

Part of it is realising that medication and treatments will alleviate some of the pain, but that they don’t always eliminate it. Even if we’re not feeling horribly crappy, that doesn’t mean we can just blaze through the day like we used to. The reductions in overall capacity from tiring and/or painful conditions create additional problems that are not always easy to anticipate.

There are the social issues, of not wanting to sound whiney, but also of needing to advocate for ourselves, and either forgo doing some things or request accommodations for others. Meanwhile, everyone else is still working on the idea that relieving pain means making-it-go-away, and that “if you’re not in pain, then you can do everything just like normal”.

There are weighing issues of prioritising things. When we don’t fully adjust to this new normal, it can be partly denial, and partly not realising just how much the condition permeates things in life. It’s one thing to say, “I’m hurting, I’m not going to do this right now,” or “Doing that causes me too much wear and tear so I’m going to do this instead.”

But it’s quite another to realise that we can’t keep putting things off until “I have more energy” or “I have more time” or “When I’m feeling better in the afternoon”. In reality even though there are better times of day or just better days, and even though we find alternative means, what we find is that we still can’t do all those things.

We can do them, but we can only do some of them. When we’re having a good afternoon or a better day, we then find that we have a backlog of Things To Do. In truth, there was no way we could really could do all of them previously in our lives, which is why everyone has those long To do Lists in the first place!

There are budgeting issues of allotting energy. In the new normal, we not only can do less because we have fewer good time periods, but also because we have to pace ourselves. If we push ourselves too hard, then we crash and feel worse than we would have otherwise, and will just get even behinder. (And both the crashing and the getting behinder result in being grumpier, making us and everyone around us miserable.)

What makes pain such a bastard is not just the direct issue of hurting — a lot and frequently, or variably and all the time — but also the secondary issues of pain causes stress and stress aggravates pain and the dreadful feedback loops.

Chronic stress-pain loops can result in not having much appetite (so not eating regularly or nutritious foods), being more sensitive to the ordinary incidental pains in life as well as the chronic issues, getting more easily stuck in anxious, obsessive or depressive states, having depressed immune responses, and of course, it can create the whole horrible pain-bad sleep feedback loop. There’s nothing like chronic pain to make one realise just how inter-related psyche and soma really are.

Chronic issues mean not having much in the way of energy reserves. It can be really easy to fall into a bad habit of “cheating” the budgeting or pacing by relying upon crisis energy. Lots of people (especially those with AD/HD) rely upon the “salvation by deadline” to get them energised to do or complete a task. But this kind of crisis energy is really hard on the body because it relies upon the adrenaline from the sense of crisis. Once that adrenaline rush is past, we crash. It’s a way of pushing ourselves that is counter-productive in the long run.

People who are able to integrate the new normal successfully throughout their lives are those who do best with chronic issues. The novelty fades and the issue is simply another part of their life. Acceptance is not the same thing as giving up. We can accept that we have problems without abandoning efforts to find new ways of improving things.

Prioritising and budgeting energy are important components of the adjustment, just are various therapeutic approaches and regular stress management. Energy prioritising and budgeting are especially important because they are less about what we cannot do, and are more about enabling ourselves to do things that are important.

Whatever “important” gets re-defined as.

“But pain… seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?”
~Lois McMaster Bujold

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Piss-poor platitudes

There’s something about the intersection of the loss of a child and thoughtlessness that produces a dreadful lot of dreadful platitudes. But your child doesn’t even have to die — finding out that your child has an incurable disease or disabling condition can result in more horrible platitudes.

Some people will protest that, “Well, they mean well, so it’s really okay.” No. When someone says something cruel, or does something rude to another person, their “good intentions” don’t really amount to a hill of beans. Even using treacly god-talk doesn’t sugar-coat the insensitive words enough to make them palatable.

Finding out that you will have to learn how to do many things differently due to chronic illness or major disability involves some initial sense of loss for expectations of how life would be. But the situation is not analogous to having a child die. The parents have not “lost a normal child”. The child is not dead, but very much alive, and still loved. Furthermore, the child would not be “better off dead”.

Sometimes people pull out the platitudes because they want to “make things better”. But a few saccharine words is not going to help. The death of a child cannot be healed by the verbal equivalent of a bandage on a cut finger. When at a loss for words at the magnitude of someone’s grief, it’s okay to be honest and share that, “Oh, I’m SO sorry. I hardly know what to say.” And if you can’t think of anything further, then share a hug if these are hugging people.

After the initial shock, share memories of the child with the grieving parents, rather than trying to make the social “problem” go away by ignoring it. Don’t suddenly drop the parents of disabled children from social groups, as though the family has contracted something horribly contagious.

But please, don’t pull out the insensitive platitudes:

Don’t be so selfish; you still have your other child.

You can always have another one.

Children are not interchangeable, replaceable units, like dolls.

Having another child won’t somehow magically make a family “complete” — the family isn’t defined by the number of members, but by who they are. There will always be a sense of loss for the missing person.

God wanted the child with him.

What kind of deity is so selfish as to deprive parents of their child? What, God couldn’t have enjoyed the child’s presence more by watching it grow up with its family?

God’s punishing you for putting your desire to have children ahead of Him.

Make that selfish and vengeful. Where’s the “loving deity”?

It was God’s Will.

And you know this because … how?

Your child’s in a better place.

How is an early death better than a full life?

God never gives people more than they can handle.

Nonsense; there are plenty of people who have cracked under the strain of grief, falling to depression or sometimes even violence.

Everything happens for a reason.

True, there are causes for everything. True, people can create extra purpose in their lives in reaction to events that happen to them. But I cannot accept that a deity required a child had to die for its parents’ moral improvement.

Think of the money you’ll save; having one kid is cheaper than twins.

Oh for ~~ one doesn’t have children for budgetary reasons!

Guess what — I’m pregnant! It’s like God’s making up for the baby you lost.

Let’s blame the maternity hormones for that incredibly tactless, thoughtless remark, and hope that she has a full recovery.

Haven’t you gotten over that yet? You just need to pray more / work harder / think about others.

Grieving for the death of a baby or child is not something over and done in a few days. Really, one grieves for the loss of a loved one the rest of their life — it’s just that the grief becomes tolerable, and the memories more wistful than painful.

You’re lucky the baby died early — it could have been handicapped.

Being disabled is not worse than death.

It’s for the best — she / he would have suffered from being, ‘you-know’ … Retarded. Crippled. Deaf. Blind. Palsied. (et cetera)

Being disabled is not a life sentence of suffering.

Well at least you have your other, healthy child(ren). You could even try again.

If I have a disabled child, I am not about to discard them, nor decide that I have not succeeded in getting the “perfect” child that I deserve.

God gave you a special child to teach you something.

We all learn things from our children, and many parents find they learn unexpected things from children who have different needs. But such a platitude smacks of begin given a special-needs child as a prescription or punishment for a moral failing.

It’s just as well; so many sick preemies survive nowadays, and there’s too many special-needs kids being a burden on society.

The social burden is not special-needs kids.

The social burden is people who feel they have some special hotline to heaven. The social burden is people who think that death and disability are divine punishment for sins. The social burden is people who can only see the disabled as those who are a useless waste of public resources. The social burden is people who imagine that a disabled person cannot have a happy, loving, productive or even [otherwise] healthy life.

Natural Therapy

Last night I was digging through a giant box full of 35mm transparencies (slides) looking for specific pictures for a new class I’m teaching in a couple of weeks. Naturally, the effort took far longer than I anticipated, partly because I kept finding other interesting pictures, such as vacation photos. I finally did find what I was looking for, but once again, it was after midnight before I got to sleep.

One picture was of me back in 2000 when I was building our backyard pond. Kitted out in a tank top, a pair of knee-length boy’s cargo shorts, a pair of leather gloves and my hiking boots, I was hardly a fashion plate. But boy was I buff. I had muscles, and it showed because I was holding a very large chunk of limestone up above waist level. The long rock was about six inches / fifteen centimeters thick and wide, and stood on end it would have reached my hip bone. The piece weighed about 90 pounds / 41 kilos, which is less than I’ve ever weighed as an adult, so hardly something braggable in the world of bench-pressing barbells, but it was still a respectable lunk of solid rock to be schlepping about.

Nowadays the arthritis slows down the yard work considerably. I can’t work as long, and it takes me longer to get going in the morning because I have to eat before taking my meds. Continuing to do some form of weight-bearing exercise is important to avoid the osteoporosis that runs through my maternal line. But I also have to take care to protect my joints against non-Tennis-playing Elbow and the stupid shoulder subluxation.

I have to force myself to work out at home or the gym during the winter. Frankly, this winter I’ve been especially lax in doing so, partly because by the time I get off work I’m so tired and achey I can’t bear to go to the gym.

It’s funny though, how if you have a physical impairment, what would ordinarily be getting exercise somehow gets turned into Receiving Therapy after its trip through the “disability grinder”.

The last time I visited the “Physical Terrorist” was a few years ago when I went to the university clinic for something-or-another. I left with some over-photocopied handouts describing exercises, and a prize (better than any shiny piece of costume jewelry from the dentist’s “treasure chest”), my beloved rice sock for re-heating and draping across sore places.

The PT encouraged me to come back for more therapy, but I found the exercises to be sufficiently effective on my own. I’m not keen on people manipulating my body. Other people think that if my joints can move within the normal range of motion, that I must be okay. But in truth it means that I’m actually injured and stiff because they are reduced in range of motion from my usual hypermobile state. It’s also hard to convince them that I normally have oddly-placed or large bruises about my body, and that I really can’t remember getting them, and that “No, nobody is abusing me, thanks for asking.”

Any kind of therapeutic exercise is more fun, easier to do, more beneficial, and more likely to be engaged in and maintained if it is combined with one’s daily activities, rather than done strictly as PT or gym exercises. I continue to schlep my briefcase or luggage-size tote with my teaching references around campus (frequently switching which side I’m carrying it on), and try to get in as many staircases as the routes require during the day.

The turnabout is that even dull exercises can be more inspired or inspiring if I think of them as antecedants for doing the fun stuff. I need to start stretching out and doing dumbbell reps again, because spring lurks around the corner.

The daffodils are poking up through the mud and leaf litter, reminding me that I need to rake. And once gardening season starts, I can get in lots of stretching, range of motion exercise, weight-lifting, deep knee bends et cetera, just from fun things like turning over and hauling compost, digging, planting, weeding, deadheading and all those other fun “chores”.

I’ll just be doing them for an hour at a time now, instead of eight hours solid. I hear it’s warmish and sunny tomorrow …

Pain “All-Sorts”

Damn anthocyanins!

See what a college education does for you? It allows you to cuss using polysyllabic words.

This morning I awoke with an “icepick headache” type migraine as well as stiff arthritic joints. Then as I was pulling my large, soupy bowl of near-boiling oatmeal-with-blueberries from the microwave, I spilt it all over my hand and wrist, the shelf, and of course, the cream-colored carpeting. After running cold water on my hand for a couple minutes (it’s fine, if tender — I’m not wearing my watch for a couple of days), I had to go back and swab up the spill. The purple anthocyanin stains from the dried-then-rehydrated blueberries will be quite the test of my carpet-cleaning spray.

Meanwhile, the physical pain of ice-pick migraine has bugged me off and on all morning. The good news is that although it’s horrible and intense, it lasts no more than a minute. The bad news is that it tends to repeat periodically through the day. Made a point to take some more medication before my exam tonight.

~//~

Glancing through newsbits was less entertaining — there’s a reason why I usually read blogs in the morning and news in the evening. (I do glance over the headlines in the morning, just in case western California decides to crumble into the Pacific or something.)

Oh the conceptual pain … it’s sort of thing that Stephen Kuusisto calls, “the neurological equivalent of a foot cramp”. This is from Time magazine, “Huckabee’s Texas Evolution” (hyperlink is to single-page, text-only version), which describes US Republican presidential candidate Huckabee and his support for intelligent design, and the upcoming Texas State Board of Ed elections (emphasis mine):

Republican Barney Maddox, a urologist and ardent supporter of creationism. … Maddox, who declines media interview requests, has posted his writings on the web at sites like the Institute for Creation Research and has called Charles Darwin’s work “pre-Civil War fairy tales.”

Now there’s some irony as heavy as a falling Acme anvil.

https://i0.wp.com/img186.imageshack.us/img186/4171/anvil1cq2.gif

Sorry — I didn’t realise the clipping was an animation — hit your ESCAPE key to freeze the action.

(Picture description: this is a pop culture reference to Roadrunner cartoons. Wile E. Coyote was always trying to do in the Roadrunner, including dropping an Acme brand anvil on him. In this cartoon clipping, there’s a pile of birdseed in the middle of a road, with a sign stuck into it saying “Free”. The road runs underneath a natural stone arch somewhere in the US desert Southwest, and hanging below the apex of the arch is a heavy iron anvil. Presumably the unseen Coyote has a hold of the rope tied to the anvil, and is waiting for the likewise unseen Roadrunner to come running by. Of course, Coyote never succeeds, as Roadrunner is way to smart for him. Beep-beep! )

~//~

Just to complete this triad of pains for the day, I realised that I was wearing a new turtleneck for the first time. Normally when I get new clothing I remove the sewn-in brand name, size and laundering tags. Clothes-tag irritation is not as much a strict dermal irritation (there’s no rash), but rather is a constant hypersensitivity, a small but chronic sensory pain.

So before I washed this turtleneck I used my seam-ripper to carefully pick out the threads holding the labels at the collar seam. But by this mid-morning I realised that I had missed a tag, a big long one with laundry instructions that was unexpectedly sewn to the seam just below my ribs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the spare time to sit around partially-disrobed in a toilet stall and employ my Swiss Army Knife scissors to the task of snipping a line of tiny stitches.

You would think that after a little while my brain would habituate to the sensory input and I would forget all about the silly tag. Well, it does, for a few minutes. But then I twist to do something, and I notice the annoyance all over again. Repeatedly, all day long. ARRGH!

~//~

Well, it’s time for me to wrap up my day soon. The icepick headache hasn’t shown up for a while. My wrist is less tender. It was wonderful to yank off the turtleneck and put on my soft, old honeybee pyjamas.

I aced my test this evening. And the last fix-it job I did on the dishwasher seems to have worked — we have machine-cleaned dishes, and I didn’t have to pay someone to come out and fix it, nor “hold vigil” for a repair person who would supposedly arrive “between the hours of eight and four”.

Oh joy, there’s the tinnitus popped back on again. And I’m getting another canker sore in my mouth. Well, can’t win ’em all.

Random bits from bed (thoughts before arising)

I tossed and turned all night.

Well, not really. Tossing and turning implies far more bounciness and energetic mobility than I had. Rather, I woke up every couple hours when it was time to shift to another sleeping position. There were no comfortable positions to be had (there never really are), but with enough pyjama-straightening to remove the deadly little wrinkles pinned under my hips and shoulders, by shifting the spare pillows to completely pad between my bony knees and feet, and plumping up my head pillow again, I could reach a level of acceptable discomfort and fall asleep again.

I get plenty of REM sleep; in fact, it seems like all I do is dream because any disturbance wakes me from a dream. (An article in Scientific American describes just how more interrupted sleep results in longer and more intense dream periods.) I just don’t know that I’m getting enough deep, restful sleep. When I’m sick I’ll be in bed for eight to ten hours more-or-less sleeping, but I still seem generally stuck at six-hour nights. I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night, but it was several years ago.

The good news is that Read the rest of this entry »

OMG Teh LOLCats!

Wow, lotsa busy stuff happening over here!

Getting the Carnival of the Spineless knocked together (it’ll be out soon; ran into a technical glitch).

Meanwhile, if you’re aching for some good strategies or inspiration, go visit the January Pain-Blog Carnival at “How to Cope with Pain” blog. (This one happens during the last week of each month; the next one deals with pain & Valentine’s Day.)

Podblack Cat has put up the “The 79th Skeptic’s Circle – Rollin With Teh Lol-ling”. What a clever cat; she has linked to special LOLCat pix for each contributor! Too funny, plus, lots of great skeptical blogging.

And if you still have time to waste, go check out the Planarity game (hat-tip to the Kid). Starts out nice and easy, letting you figure out the untangling algorithms, and progresses reasonably. I got up to level 16, but found that much of anything past level 10 is really way too many nodes to make distinguishing or handling easy, so I just refresh at 10.

For children now gone

For the past three days I have been trying to think of something to say about the tragedies. I cannot really find the words to describe the incredible wrongness of such pointless losses. Even worse, there is the lack of reportage about such news (in Brent’s case), or the reportage of support for the murderer (in Katie’s case). I wish I could say that such events were unheard of, but horribly, they are not freak singularities, simply unheard-of by being under-reported. Children with disabilities are murdered more often than anyone wants to realise.

The first story is of a young man, Brent Martin. He was beaten to death by a gang three guys who punched him in the head 18 times, just for a £5 bet. Brent was targeted because he had an intellectual disability. He never even fought back. Dave Hingsburger has initiated a black armband campaign in his memory.

The other story is of a little girl, Katie. Her mother Karen McCarron suffocated her with a plastic garbage bag because she couldn’t stand the fact that her three-year old daughter was autistic. The rest of Katie’s family misses her terribly.

Katie’s favorite color was pink, so here are some Pinks flowers. The black-banded tiger swallowtail butterfly is for Brent.

Go give your children hugs and tell them how much you love them.

False Dilemmas: How to Sell Pain

This post is a part of Blogging Against Aversives 1-14-08

When a business tries to sell a product or service that no one else has, they might be on the cutting edge of invention or they might have something that no one else wants to sell.

There is only one place in the United States where electrical shocks are doled out repeatedly throughout the day to residents (many of whom are school-age children) as a means of punishment. These two-second shocks are described as feeling like a bee sting, and people to whom this is prescribed must wear the equipment through their waking hours, so such stings to their torso or limbs are unavoidable. According to a recent article in Mother Jones:

Of the 234 current residents, about half are wired to receive shocks, including some as young as nine or ten. Nearly 60 percent come from New York, a quarter from Massachusetts, the rest from six other states and Washington, D.C. The Rotenberg Center, which has 900 employees and annual revenues exceeding $56 million, charges $220,000 a year for each student. States and school districts pick up the tab.

The Rotenberg Center is the only facility in the country that disciplines students by shocking them, a form of punishment not inflicted on serial killers or child molesters or any of the 2.2 million inmates now incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons. Over its 36-year history, six children have died in its care, prompting numerous lawsuits and government investigations.

JRC is called a “special needs school” because the student-age residents sit at computers every day to do instructional programs. Many of the residents have a variety of psychiatric or learning difficulties, including autism, cognitive disabilities, ADHD, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia or other problems. No psychiatric medications are allowed, and counselling is minimal; whatever the sources of the resident’s problems, the treatment is the same.

The problem inherent in such a single-solution scheme is that it does not address the causes of the resident’s problems, just the inappropriate behavior that results from them. It’s no small wonder that even when people leave, the root problems are not solved, and they continue to have difficulties. Therapeutic approaches need to be individualised — what works for a child with depression and OCD is going to be different than what works for a student with Asperger’s and ADHD. Treatments cannot be designed by diagnostic labels (which are generally descriptive rather than prescriptive) but more by what their individual problems are, and how those problems developed.

The Rotenberg Center does not sell something cutting edge; pain aversives were first trialled in the 1960’s, but have not been used by anyone else, and has been considered to be not within “best practice” for years. Even by the 1980’s, Dr Skinner had an about-face on the use of aversives, and declared that they are not beneficial; although they may temporarily stop a problem behavior, they are not effective in the long term, and the recipient responds by escaping, attacking back, or sinking into the apathy of learned helplessness.

Centers like JRC that bill themselves as solutions for intractable children play upon parents’ fears, and describe problems in exaggerated terms. The premise — and promise — is based upon a giant false dilemma, that there are no other options, it’s the place of last resort, and it’s use their methods or else the child will simply go wild. Parents who have not previously found an effective solution are willing to hand their children over because they are desperate.

JRC is unique because they have cornered the market on a service that no one else wants to sell. That does not make it a good or a necessary thing. I find the whole concept utterly horrifying.

Other posts on JRC:

A Very Painful Problem Certainly, zapping someone with unavoidable, painful electrical stings on bare skin will stop them in their tracks. It stops the self-injury by that default. Punishment will stop people from doing something, at least while the threat of punishment still exists. But it doesn’t help us figure out why the person was hurting themself. It doesn’t teach them how to identify when they are stressed, and to learn different, effective, safe ways of dealing with those stresses. There are students who have been incarcerated at the Judge Rotenberg Center for years past their legal majority. That system does not provide them much in the way of tools to live successfully outside of the institutional environment. …

If hurting yourself is bad, and hurting others is bad, how is it then okay to use intensely painful aversives on someone? We don’t even use things like this in prisons. Why is it deemed “okay” by school districts and courts for children with learning disabilities and emotional problems to be subjected to this kind of treatment? People who injure themselves have a very painful set of problems. But we as a society have an even greater problem. Allowing such treatment to happen and continue is unconscionable.

I Didn’t Ask for That Situations like these really aren’t choices; given more than one option, they are dilemmas or predicaments between bad option and worse option or intolerable option. Some “option” indeed. Sometimes the situation is couched in the language of “choice”, but has nothing to do with the person choosing for their self.

The Crime of Punishment Aversives in the form or corporal punishment (such as the electroshock apparatus used at JRC) teach both the giver and the recipient that aggression and inflicting pain are acceptable and appropriate ways of responding to people when they don’t do what someone else wants them to do. Unfortunately, lots of people have learned this “lesson” all too well … Not only does punishment as behaviour modification set up and maintain coercive power systems, but it also distances teachers and others from their students, and puts them into antagonistic roles, rather than as partners in education (contrary to what many school districts’ mission statements assert).

Making Sense of Rules Being given absolute rules circumvents the learning process, and later when they need to adapt to novel situations, leaves the learner in the lurch, stranded without the knowledge of how to devise new strategies. They only have a limited number of tools in their social toolbox, and little knowledge of how to build new kinds of tools. If we go telling children what to do for their entire lives, then we shouldn’t wonder that they become young adults without the ability to think for themselves and to be responsible without someone monitoring their actions.

Being Unruly People who are heavily invested in punishment and reward systems, invested ego-wise, security-wise, and/or financially-wise (such as the JRC), will try to assert that not using the punishment and rewards to control behaviour will result in gross misbehaviour and chaos. This is a false dilemma; there are other ways of teaching our children.

Bread and Circuses

Just a couple of quickies here while I’m busy preparing for some new classes.

Firstly, the 77th edition of the Skeptic’s Circle is up at WhiteCoat Underground, with a rather humorous post by PalMD, “The Overmedicalized Edition“. I love reading these circus posts because it’s a good way to find great new blogs!

Secondly, there’s the “December Pain-Blog Carnival” at the How to Cope With Pain blog, also run by a physician blogger.

And for the “bread” part of this post, here’s a recipe that was a big hit last week, home-made waffles! Yes, it’s a bit more work than buying the frozen sort and throwing them into the toaster, but I guarantee that these tasted a helluva lot better than the frozen sort. The guys couldn’t even tell they were gluten-free, THAT’S how good they were! (All the frozen GF waffles I’ve ever tried were as dry as Styrofoam.)

Because I’m an ADHD-forgetful sort of cook and clumsy and somewhat arthritic, this recipe comes with assorted tips, including some in case you’re not used to making home-made waffles. Read through directions for tips before cooking.

WONDERFUL WAFFLES (GLUTEN-FREE)

Special equipment: waffle iron, mixer to whip egg whites, and if you have one, a blender and a towel. If you don’t have a blender you can use the mixer, BUT beat the egg whites before mixing the other ingredients, so the beaters are clean and dry for the whites.

  1. Inspect the mixer and blender to ensure nothing has fallen into the bowl or pitcher, that the bottom is securely screwed onto the blender pitcher, and that you have the lid to the blender.
  2. Make sure you have all the ingredients on hand before you start cracking:
  3. 4 large eggs, separated
    1 ½ cups milk (360 ml)
    ¼ cup oil (60 ml)
    1 1/2 cups GF flour mix (about 150 g, depending upon blend)
    5 teaspoons baking powder (25 ml)
    1 tablespoon sugar (15 ml)
    1/2 teaspoon salt (2 ml)

  4. Find the no-stick spray to use on the waffle-iron plates, even if it’s supposed to be a “no-stick” surface. If you don’t have no-stick spray, pour a little vegetable oil into a drinking glass, and use a clean 1.5″ (4 cm) wide natural bristle or heat-resistant barbecuing brush, as synthetic bristles may melt or scrunch up — YCIHIKT (You Can Imagine How I Know That). I put the oil into a drinking glass so I can stand the brush upright in the glass, rather than having it constantly fall off the edge of the wee bowl of oil, thus making another mess for me to clean off the counter.
  5. Clear some space on the kitchen counter, and plug in the waffle iron for it to heat up while you’re doing the mixing. The plates should be shut while it’s heating, for safety and efficiency.
  6. Crack 4 eggs, separating them into yolks and whites. The yolks go into the blender, and the whites go into the mixer bowl. Fresher eggs have “bouncier” yolks and separate more easily (just so you know; it’s not like you’re really going to have both fresher eggs and older eggs sitting around). Eggs will crack in half more easily and neatly if you knock them on a sharp, thin edge (table knife) than a wide, blunt edge (rimmed bowl). TIP: if this is an iffy task for you, then crack each egg over a small (separate) bowl so you can fish out the bits of shell before adding to the other yolks and whites. There are also egg-separater gizmos one can purchase — get one that you do not have to hold onto to use.
  7. Use the mixer to whip egg whites to soft peaks. I like my KitchenAid stand-mixer because it can do its own thing without me holding the mixer up in the air (vibration is hard on my joints). Yes, the beast cost more, but it has outlasted three hand-mixers, and it kneads dough, too! It’s worth buying something like this because it enables more cookery.
  8. Use blender to mix the milk, oil, egg yolks, and dry ingredients. If you put the wet ingredients into the blender before the dry ingredients, the batter is less likely to end lumpy. I still have to stop and scrape powder off the top edges once during the blending, but that’s pretty minor. TIP: to reduce the awful blender racket, put a folded towel between the blender bottom and the countertop; this reduces the cabinet-as-acoustic-chamber for the motor vibration.
  9. [Remove the mixer bowl from the stand.] Pour batter from the blender down the side of the mixer bowl so it slides underneath the egg whites. Tilt the bowl to a comfortable angle, and use a rubber spatula or spoon to fold the ingredients together. “Fold” means to stir the ingredients together slowly and gently in vertical circles; the batter will have the consistency of almost-melted ice cream.
  10. Spray both plates of the waffle iron with no-stick spray just before pouring in the batter. Re-spray before cooking each waffle. Even if your waffle iron is so miraculously non-stick that you didn’t need to do this for traditional waffles, you will need to do it for GF waffles; YCIHIKT.
  11. This is enough batter to make several waffles. Pour in just enough batter to fill the bottom plate, and then wait several seconds for bubbles to start forming before closing down the top plate. This allows the batter to partially “set” so you won’t have a bunch of goo oozing off the edges that will have to be scraped off later on; YCIHIKT.
  12. Bake until the signal light shuts off (if your iron has one) or until the waffles are appropriately crispy. TIP: our family likes to warm up the syrup(s) so the waffles don’t cool as fast while we’re eating them.

You can also sprinkle some cinnamon into the waffle batter, which is nice if you are topping them with apple stuff. Some people like to add a teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract; I keep forgetting to do this. I’ve also tried almond extract, which made the waffles taste like holiday cookies, but hubby prefered traditional waffles.

TIP: if you want to add blueberries to your batter, use either fresh ones or still-frozen berries — thawed blueberries will “bleed” and turn the batter a pale teal-green color; YCIHIKT. They still taste good, but …

Weights and Balances

Today I joined hubby for a short visit to the health club. I’d not been in a large number of months, but decided that this would be a good opportunity to scope things out with regards to what they had. I need to get back into the habit of getting some regular exercise. I figured that scoping things out ahead of time and figuring out what I needed, and when I was going to go, would be a good way of easing back into the habit. Why wait until New Year’s Day to make a resolution?

There are a number of good reasons for me to get some exercise, but an equally weighty number of reasons why it’s been increasingly difficult to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Circling Over O’Hare

I am in the waiting place. Again. Still. It’s annoying.

I can be patient; I’ve spent hours waiting and watching for things to happen when doing outdoor photography, waiting for the sun to be covered by a cloud so the light is not so contrasty, waiting for the eternal wind to not blow so hard, waiting for an insect to alight somewhere, waiting for it to quit raining, et cetera.

But at the core, I like to operate and make my decisions based upon facts. A lack of (what feels like) sufficient or useful data leads me to milling around, stuck until I can figure out where or how to get the information I need. I also like to know what I’m going to be doing, so I can be prepared and plan around the other things in my life. One of the ways that I reduce stresses in my life is by limiting these free-floating anxieties.

Merely being in the limbo of putting things on hold because I’m stuck waiting is annoying, but I’m an adult. I can deal with feeling like I’m stuck on a dreary flight circling over O’Hare airport, waiting for a runway to free up. There’s no point in having a hissy fit because that won’t change anything. So why am I grousing? Read the rest of this entry »

Smack me upside the head

Now I remember why I used to thump my head on the wall.  Or smack my skull with the base of my hand.  Because sometimes doing so would interrupt the sudden, sharp feeling like I’d been axed in the right parietal bone (above the ear).  I’m not talking self-injurous episodes of head-bashing, just carefully-applied sudden pressure. The good news is that after several repeats of these episodes, I realised that for all its unexpected intensity, the Blitzkrieg of headaches is also brief and naturally passes after a minute.  The bad news is that the “ice-pick headache” variety of migraine will repeat a number of times during the course of a day (one can understand why trepanning seemed like a reasonable treatment once-upon-a-time).  Hot bath didn’t work. Time to crawl in bed. Better unpack an Imitrex from its devilish over-packaging in case things don’t improve. This better Go Away — I have a wall to finish painting, and other things to do on my first day off school.  Blargh.

It’s a Real Pain

Bath time. I steady my balance by holding the sides of the tub, and ease myself into the hot water. There I play “What’s My Bruise”, trying to figure out how I acquired all the motley souvenirs. There’s a large turquoise blodge shaped like Antarctica on the top of my right foot, a constellation of dark purple marks on my left knee, several random fading-green spots on my forearms, various dull plum-coloured dings on my thighs and calves, and a deep tissue olive-green zone the covers most of the fleshy area between my left thumb and the back of my hand. As usual, I have no idea how or when these happened. I bruise easily, and between my joint hypermobility and crappy proprioception I’m always bumping into things. There’s nothing to do about the bruises, but I monitor them to make sure that things do heal up and disappear within a couple of weeks (my mother had diabetes), and to watch for infections (like the ingrown toenail cellulitis for which I just finished a round of antibiotics). And so it goes.

Unless you have a rare CIP mutation (Cogenital Insensitivity to Pain), you’re familiar with aches. We’ve all experienced the ordinary headache, the run-of-the-mill bruised limb, the annoying paper cut. These “owie-boo-boos” are annoying and ephemeral. Many people experience severe but thankfully brief* pain with childbirth or traumatic events such as broken bones or appendicitis. Yet none of them begin to describe the issues faced by those with chronic pain problems such as arthritis or TMJ, or the re-occurring severe pain of migraines.

We tend to view pain as strictly a physical problem, treated with various analgesics and/or physiotherapies. You hurt, you take treatment, the pain goes away, your wound heals, the event stops. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and if it doesn’t, then you’re not doing it right. We even have child-birth classes to teach people the “right way” to have pain (yes, I say “people” because their partners are there to learn how to reinforce the appropriate responses during L&D).

But chronic and re-occurring severe pains don’t follow that socio-medical model. Read the rest of this entry »

Power surges and outtages

“Power surges” is the common joke phrase referring to having menopausal hot flashes.

Oh, yes. Because what’s life without something new to deal with? And naturally, it’s something inter-twined with everything else. Generally when women experience menopause, it’s because their hormones are going from the usual monthly oscillation to a damped oscillation, where the ups and downs get smaller and smaller. Mine aren’t — this is the thrill of quitting my HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that I’d been on after surgery five years ago. In a mere day’s time, I went from a low dose HRT to nothing. Klud.

First I had what my OB/GYN described as an ovarian cyst the size of an orange, which cyst+ovary she somehow managed to remove from a mere 1″ (2.5 cm) incision. (I suppose that pulling out large objects from narrow passages is the specialty of OB/GYNs.) Having been relieved of that painful annoyance, things went well for about a year, and then I started having the periods from hell again. They turned into the periods from hell with interperiods that were nearly as bad — now I had endometriosis.

That was bad enough, but the worse part wasn’t the surgical solution — Read the rest of this entry »

Small Comforts

“You know when you have a few good days and you begin to wonder whether the bad days could have possibly been as bad you imagined they were and then you have a few bad days and wonder how on Earth you ever were able to do the things you did on the good days? No? Well, I do.” ~ The Goldfish

It’s a pain. No, it’s many pains.

I’m getting over a migraine, which makes me just generally tired and gives me brief flashes of visual auras, pain twinges, inconsistent light sensitivity, and word retrieval problems when speaking. This rather much overshadows the arthritis business. I’m also trying to get a bunch of errands done and phone calls made prior to packing for a trip, which unto themselves are stressful activities. I also forgot to take my ADHD med this morning, so I’ve been in a what-was-I-going-to-do? fog all day long as well, above and beyond everything else. “Ain’t we got fun.”

But after I tracked down two cats and took them to the vet (putting the suddenly-hexadecimal cat into the carrier is always entertaining — picture here ), I went for my semi-annual tooth cleaning. I have no idea if I’ve had this particular dental hygienist before, having no memory at all for faces not seen daily, but she was nice enough to shut the window blinds for me on account of my migraine “hangover”. I was also due for some dental x-rays (roentgenograms), so the she draped me with the lead apron. Although having the bite-wings stuck inside my mouth is less than fun, I always enjoy the comforting pressure of the lead apron.

In fact, years ago when I realised that a lead apron was such a fabulous deep pressure aide, I got one from a retired dentist. When I stagger to bed with an incipient migraine, I compose myself in the dark room and drape it across my thorax. I’ve also used it on nights when I just can’t seem to settle down because I feel twitchy on the outside. The lead drape is one of several small comforts that I have found useful. Everyone deals with stress in their life, both the eustresses (the good sorts that help “push” us in beneficial ways) and the distresses (the bad sort, which need no further introduction). But we all differ in the things we are stressed by, and how those stresses affect us. My distress-reduction is accomplished by several means. Read the rest of this entry »

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