Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Times, They Are A Changin'

A brief recap since August of last year, when I last wrote:

1. Still married! Darling Husband and I adopted a female dog, née Sara, who we renamed Ginger. She and Fred are inseparable. When she wants to play but Fred is ignoring her, she sits on his head until he gets so annoyed he stands up, and then she goes in for the kill. She's a mischievous little thing.

2. I started a website - Curated Houston - and just as quickly shut it down when I realized the workload required wasn't congruent with the migraines I have. In theory, it would have featured profiles of Houston (and surrounding) interiors shops, educational articles ('What to Look For When Buying A Farm Table', for instance. Real hard-hitting gritty realism stuff), and musings/adventures in interior design.  Even at one article per week, I was struggling, and I realized I couldn't keep up with it. So I have written a "farewell message" and posted it on the website, but the posts are still available if you want to read them (

3. Darling Husband and I are searching for a house, and I believe we've found one. It's farther from downtown, so his commutes will be longer, but he's planning to drive out that way, Tuesday morning, SUPER DUPER early to see just how long the commute will be. If it isn't a Donner Party situation - trapped on Interstate 10, eating his own shoes and car upholstery for sustenance as the days pass - we will most likely put in an offer on the house. 

And here's the best part: I dragged him to the house. He didn't want to go AT ALL, but I slipped it onto the list of houses anyways. We both walked in and thought "This feels like a home," and to be honest, even the kitchen - which hasn't been updated since the early 1990s - feels homey and perfect, for now. Eventually, we'll renovate, but for now, it's adorable. I have a lifetime of "I told you so" to deliver, in other words.

4. I might get to go to New York City for the first time in my life. Darling Husband has to attend an awards dinner thingy, and he would be flying back on Friday except I subtly suggested I go with him and we make it a weekend. I AM SO EXCITED. Hopefully no wrenches will find their way into the works to prevent me from going (unless that wrench is us moving into our house, in which case, bring on the wrenches!!!).

5. I've begun "bullet journaling", and it's everything an OCDesigner could want: neatly organized lists and schedules, the opportunity to color and decorate the lists and schedules, etc. It takes a little time, but that time is fairly meditative, so I have no problems with that.

6. Oh, and I'm officially considered 'Disabled' by the US Government and the State of Texas, now. It's one of those 'Good News/Bad News' deals: The Good News is, I receive a disability check every month to help defray the costs of healthcare. The Bad News is, I receive a disability check every month because I'm incapable of working.

I'm trying to decide what to do to give my days more structure, something like researching and writing a biography, etc. I like to set my sights low, as you well know, Dear Reader. In the meantime, I do house-wifey things (on days I'm able): buy groceries, drop off/pick up dry cleaning, pay bills, take the dogs to vet appointments, do laundry and iron clothes, etc...

And crossword puzzles. I work a lot of Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles.

That's it, so far. I'm excited by and still obsessive about design in all its forms, possibly more so than before, now that I have the chance to realize my obsessions in physical form. And, oh, Dear Reader! I hope the dream designs turn out to be as wonderful in person as they are in my mind!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

You'll Never Guess Where You Can Get a Migraine

A few weeks ago, I went to an Ear/Nose/Throat doctor on the advice of one of the other members of my Stable O' Docs. The ENT seemed a bit confused when I told him why I was there - minor sinus discomfort in my left sinuses and chronic migraines - because he'd never had someone come in to see him for migraines.

So he looked at my sinuses, and informed me that the inside of my sinuses was completely clear*, but they looked dry. So, no infection (which I'd suspected, because: no drainage). He sat and looked at me with his head cocked to one side, but instead of smiling (and resembling a dog expecting a treat) he frowned.

"Chronic migraines? Hm. I think you're having a migraine in your sinuses."

Wait, I'm what?!?!?!

Apparently, the trigeminal nerve (which is often incriminated in migraines) splits and runs down your face alongside your sinuses and into your jaw: thus the reason a lot of migraineurs have TMJ. But it can ALSO cause pain in your sinuses, and is, in fact, part of your migraine. Or, if it's a "mini migraine" day, it can be the whole migraine.

So you now know something else about migraines, which I apparently experience in my nose, now.

As a way of helping me, the ENT told me to go buy a product called Ayr, which is a gel made specifically for use in and around the nose. So I did, and now I clean my nose in the morning with a Q-Tip, then use another Q-Tip to apply a coating of Ayr inside my nostrils.

The first time I did so, I didn't really check to make sure I applied it carefully - it was more of a dab and dash kind of thing.

The second time, however, I checked before I left the house, and then before I went to run errands post-breakfast.

I had something gray-ish blue on my face. I wiped it off, and it was sticky and kind of... gel-y.

Apparently, the Ayr doesn't stay exactly where you want it, but will migrate around, a bit, leaving you with the appearance of someone who stuck blueberries up her nose and is reaping what she sowed (or stowed or shoved).

So that's a new thing to be aware of.


*I also have a seriously deviated septum, which explains why I assumed my right nostril was constantly stopped up, and will probably require surgery in the near future, and may be contributing to the pain in my left nostril/sinus because of the increased volume of air flow passing through that one nostril.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's One of THOSE Days

Today has turned out to be one of "those" days.

One of "those" days when nothing quite seems to go right, yet it isn't so horrible that I can justify sitting down in the middle of the living room in a huff and crying.

It's tempting, but not justifiable.


I had an appointment this morning at 10:30 with one of my legions of doctors, and since I typically show up in gym clothes (intending to proceed there immediately after my appointment), I decided I would dress nicely today: J. Crew blue-&-white striped shirt, skinny jeans, sandals, jewelry.

Casual, but nice.

My hair disagreed with my planned outfit, however.

I didn't wash it last night, and I didn't plan to wash it this morning, because if I wash it more frequently than every other day, my scalp mutinies, and I have to appease it with lots of Benadryl.

I hoped I'd be able to spray it with a little dry shampoo and get it to obey my will.


By the time I realized my hair was a lost cause, it was too late to wash it and blow dry it and style it if I wanted to be able to eat breakfast before my appointment. I tried on a baseball cap with my planned outfit, but it just didn't work.

So the cute J. Crew shirt was jettisoned in favor of a chambray maxi dress, hoping I could pull it off with the baseball cap.

Chambray maxi dress had stains all down the front, that I apparently missed during the last laundry blitz, despite the fact that I specifically checked the dress for stains.

Finally, I tossed on one of my husband's cast-off T-shirts (which I've claimed, and wear more frequently than formerly due to my, um, well, my little belly. And love handles. Yay).

So now my doctor probably thinks I just run around in super-casual clothes all the time, rather than wearing more civilized, ladylike garb.


I ran a few errands, post-appointment, and came home. I took off my baseball cap.

My hair looked perfect.


Time to do laundry, bake, monitor the crock-pot, pay off the rest of the taxes the IRS claims we owe them, but that Turbo Tax said we didn't, and work on my Mystery Blog (with perfect hair).

Several items in the laundry needed stain treatment, so I applied Shout spray like a mad woman, and made sure to add OxyClean to the load, as well.

The load of lights finished washing, and I pulled out the clothes to toss them in the dryer, being sure to check each and every garment that was spot-treated before tossing it into the dryer.

All of the garments looked great, except - of course! - my favorite shirt, a white J. Crew button-down identical to today's intended blue-&-white shirt, which is the inspiration for my house-wife "uniform".

Of course, the spot on my favorite shirt - iced tea, a little tiny amount - was darker. And bigger.

What. THE. HELL?!?!?!?!?!?!

Lots of angry fuming, cursing, and stomping around the laundry room ensued (it's a huge laundry room, relative to the size of our house). I tried spraying more Shout on it and rubbing it with a white cloth.

No dice.

I rinsed out the Shout, and poured liquid OxyClean on it, waited 15 minutes, and then rubbed it with a white cloth.


I poured a leeeeeeeeeeeeettle bit of full-strength bleach onto it and let it sit a few minutes, then rubbed it gently with a white cloth.


So it's now sitting in a bucket filled with water and bleach, while I pray that my fairly expensive shirt isn't ruined forever.

I started working on my Mystery Blog, and was experimenting with different layouts/visual themes for the site. Unlike this personal blog, I want my Mystery Blog to be immaculately laid out and designed, because I intend to try to make money off of it, damn it.

I had one scheme I kind of liked, but wanted to look at another, so I wrote down what I thought was all the pertinent info, design-wise, and began monkeying with the font, text size, background color, etc.

At which point I realized I hadn't exactly written down all the pertinent info. Fortunately, I had taken a screen shot of the first design, so I was able to MacGuyver the information I needed, using PhotoShop and Apple Preview, but it was a tense few minutes, there, before I found the HTML color code converter I needed.


I also used a bit of Barkeeper's Friend to clean some rust of the washing machine interior (it's now going through its Clean Tub cycle to remove any residue), and I happened to get a tiny bit of the liquid cleanser on my thumb. No big deal. I rinsed it within 30 seconds.

But my skin doesn't care. My skin is angry. It is livid. Specifically, it is a livid shade of red, and it itches, because it's a primadonna.

And I haven't eaten lunch, yet.

So I'm going to go throw myself onto my sofa, now, with a slice of coconut-flour pound cake and a handful of cashews - which I'm calling "lunch" - and I'm going to watch Parks and Rec on Hulu while I finish my niece's Christmas stocking.

Because I'm obviously not meant to succeed at being a housewife today.

Unless that housewifeliness involves sabotaging my diet, because the pound cake turned out perfectly.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Life With a Little More "Life"

I've been completely off of opiate pain medications for a few weeks, now. So far, I'm happy about it. I feel different without the constant haze of brain-fug I experienced (unknowingly, mostly) for the previous four years of my life.

I wake up, now, when the sun's brightness wakes me up - usually around 7:30-8:00 - as nature intended, instead of sleeping until noon because my body responded to when the drugs wore off. I have a true circadian rhythm to my life that I previously lacked.

Wikimedia Commons
When I sleep, my sleep is more restful, and I'm dreaming more often - and remembering more of my dreams - and having more pleasant dreams, as opposed to nightmarish head trips that prevented me from sleeping soundly. Some of these nightmares were probably hallucinations, in truth, rather than me actually sleeping and dreaming.

You know those commercials for medications to treat opiate-induced constipation, known as OIC, apparently, because giving a disorder an acronym makes it less embarrassing? Yeah, so good old OIC is a serious issue for people on pain medications for chronic illness. Even more so when the migraines - for which you take opioids - is also a source of, um, "C" (see above OIC, and just remove the C, because: acronyms). Though it isn't exactly happening quickly, the gastrointestinal effects of constant opiate use are slowly working themselves out.

I'm not living in fear of the medication completely working its way out of my system all at once, leaving me with a shock of pain bad enough to make me writhe around, incapable of relaxing and resting. The anxiety of running out of opiates is also gone; the government's strict controls and occasional drug shortages rendered this a serious concern, especially if a new patient began filling a prescription for the same drugs and the pharmacy wasn't prepared for it.

Psychologically, I'm dealing with the migraines better. I'm taking very little in the way of medication, just some muscle relaxants when it's really bad, and maybe a couple of Tylenol. I'll also pop on the good old Cephaly if it's bad and I can stand to have something on my head. In Europe, the device is marketed as an "acute" treatment, instead of simply preventative, so it's worth a shot, right? And it did seem to help, that first time I tried it, when I caught the migraine early enough, so...

The only downside I've noticed so far has left me with mixed feelings.

I'm having difficulty with creative endeavors.

I used to write for an hour or two each day, most days, typically at night once my pain medications kicked in, or in the afternoon if I had to take them to get me through a particularly rough spot. About 30 or 45 minutes after taking the drugs, I'd feel a surge of creative energy and feel as if I simply had to write. Now.

That's gone, the creative urge evaporating into the ether, so to speak.
Or into a Photoshop gradient. One of those two, definitely.
Ever since I kicked the habit, the books I was working on - all those ideas, fictional and non-fictional - have dried up. I don't feel the same inspiration that I previously felt.

It's unnerving.

I used to believe that real artists didn't require chemical assistance to create masterpieces. I'm less sure of that, now, mostly because to accept that my writing was mostly the product of a opiate-induced fever-dream would force me to see it as less valuable.


For now, I'm trying not to think about the significant drop in "creating" that I'm experiencing.

To distract myself, I watch stand up comedians and comediennes on Hulu and NetFlix, or take quizzes on Sporcle, both very productive.

I go to Whole Foods and buy groceries to feed my husband and myself, because eating at home is healthier than eat at our favorite local fast food joint, El Rey (even though their Havana Plate is so f!&#ing delicious).

Bayou City Bites
I'm also mentally caching ideas for a new blog - one that would relate to my professional field instead of a personal blog - and trying to come up with a name for it.

On Monday, I'll start doing a bit of contract work for my dad, editing photos of his products for brochures and website use. This will most likely take place at a Starbucks, because only suckers work from home when they can go to Starbucks and pretend to be cool, hip, self-employed graphic designers that totally have a thriving business and aren't just doing some work for their dads since they have some time on their hands.

And I'll mentally wrestle with whether I want to pick up my Montblanc, again, and continue writing that fantasy novel, or maybe start researching that history of the British in Kenya once more.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Get Your Trek On

It's 6:30 am on a Friday morning, and I have yet to fall asleep.

This happens occasionally - once every two or three weeks - and I'm fine with that. I will sleep exceptionally well, tonight - Friday night - and be ready to "go get 'em" Saturday.

The insomnia - being awake all night - is either a precursor to a developing migraine, or is the direct cause of a migraine. I tend to think it's the latter, due to the other migraine precursors that accompany it: thirst, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, etc.

For a couple of weeks, now, I've been trying to limit my caffeine intake. In some people, caffeine can apparently cause migraines rather than helping end them. Or so my migraine tracking/recording app tells me. So I've cut out caffeine: no iced tea , no coffee, no chai, no chocola-

Oh. I made pecan-flour brownies the other day. I've eaten one per day since Tuesday.


Okay, so after tomorrow, I'll be better about the whole "I'm not ingesting caffeine" trial. I promise.

Yesterday - Thursday, for those of you playing along at home - I began my application for government disability payments. Seeing as I'm unable to work, and my beloved husband is paying for everything, right now, including medical bills and student loans, money is growing ever tighter. At the least, I'd be able to pay down my loans and cover my own medical expenses, if I received Social Security Disability.

I'm conflicted about applying for benefits. On the one hand, my husband has a good salary. On the other hand, feeding both of us costs a lot of money, particularly as I can't just eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day. So food, medical bills, transportation to and from the doctors, etc., all adds up quickly, not to mention the joys of home ownership, where you "get" to pay someone to come repair your roof and a hole in the ceiling of the laundry room.

Regardless, it will be at least two months before my Disability Application is judged and either approved or denied.

In the meantime, I have a new device with which to experiment that is supposedly helpful for migraines. My dear aunt sent me information about a device called the Cefaly about a month ago, and I have since discussed it with my neurologist, who gave me her blessing to try it (she also gave me a prescription, because you can't just buy it without a doctor sprinkling the transaction with holy signatures and whatnot).

The Cefaly arrived last night, to my surprise - I thought it would arrive Friday - but I haven't tried it, yet. Its inaugural use will take place tonight, during which time I can role play a character of my own imagining from the Star Trek universe, because this is what it looks like:

That's just a couple of inches away from making the user look like Geordi La Forge's sister from another mister, right there. Seriously, lower it 2.5 inches, and BAM! Star Trek: The Next Generation, I'm ready for my walk-on role!

Supposedly, the Cefaly stimulates the trigeminal nerve running from your brain into your forehead, which decreases the number and severity of migraines. There's an electrode that's applied to the forehead before the Cefaly device is lowered into place. My electrodes are fancy blue hypoallergenic ones, because I'm a delicate flower, and also, blue is more futuristic and (I imagine) Trekkie approved.

There's a chance the thing might not work, of course, and if that's the case, I can return the device within 60 days for a full refund (except for the electrodes). It's a no-lose situation, the way I see it.

And maybe - just maybe! - this futuristic diadem will allow me to conquer my migraines once and for all.

Keep your fingers crossed, Dear Reader.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Drying Out

Houston has recently been inundated by sever storms, leaving parts of the city flooded. Three days ago, I watched on TV as civilians rescued their fellow Houstonians using their duck-hunting pirogues (flat-bottomed boats, for those not raised in the South).

I also saw the "most cowboy" thing possible for a cowboy to cowboy: roping a calf that was swimming desperately in deep water, pulling the calf into a boat, and hog-tying it so it wouldn't flail and capsize the boat. I tried to find video of the most amazingly cowboy thing ever, but failed. I have failed not only you, Dear Reader, but all the cowboys in the Houston area who spent the last several days roping cattle and horses in an effort to save them. They deserve to be viewed online and admired for their sheer... cowboyness.

Which is now a word.


I'm sure the OED will add it any day, now.

As the city of Houston attempts to dry out (hampered by the thunderstorm raging outside my house as I type), I'm also drying out, in a number of ways.

I'm drying out literally, because I had to take all of 6 steps from the car door to our front door in the pouring rain, after I went out for breakfast.

I'm also drying out metaphorically, because I've stopped taking the narcotic pain killers that have kept me going for the past few years.

About a year ago, I began thinking about it. I have a wonderful sister who is unable to take opiates (which we discovered after an emergency appendectomy back in 2008). They make her incredibly nauseated and ill. See as we have a lot of the same intolerances to foods, I began to wonder if, perhaps, we shared an intolerance to opiate pain medications.

"But, Ms. StrainedConsciousness," you say, "if you began considering this a year ago, why are you just now quitting the medicine?"

That's a good question, Dear Reader, and the answer is: fear.

I've been taking them because I feared pain, and was scared that quitting the pills would lead to an automatic resurgence in pain.

After a full year battling migraines, sciatica, and neuropathy stemming from the chemotherapy I had as a teenager, I decided to suck it up, and I found myself discussing the idea of quitting pain pills with my Pain Management doctor a week ago.

As a result of our discussion, she wrote me a prescription for 10 pills (as opposed to the usual scrip for 84), and told me how to wean myself off of them.

For the past week, I've decreased the amount taken: 1 pill per day for 3 days, then a half pill for 4 days, and finally, Tuesday night, no pills at all that day.

Before quitting the narcotics, I was typically taking a full pill every night before bed, and then sleeping for 9-11 hours. I'd wake up groggy, and usually fall back asleep for a couple of hours after 30-45 minutes of perusing the internet.

For the past two days, after not taking any pain medication the night before, I've awakened after 7-8 hours of sleep feeling refreshed and awake.

It's amazing.

I feel more lucid during the day, and I fall asleep more easily at night.

I'm still using muscle relaxants to help with spasms in my neck, shoulders, and piriformis, but mostly extended-release ones that don't make me groggy. Before I go to sleep at night - and if I have a migraine during the day - I'll take 1-2 of the "acute" muscle relaxants my doctor still prescribes (these render me unable to drive, as I'm considered impaired, so I try not to take them during the day, if I can help it).

The weather this past week has been a real challenge to my migraines, since rainy weather and high humidity tend to set them off. Despite the pain (and the fact that there isn't an acute migraine medication out there that works for me), I've managed to survive without taking pain meds during the day.

So far, so good.

There's the possibility that the withdrawal symptoms can continue to rear their ugly heads for the next two months, but I'm being vigilant, and also listening when my body says, "You know what? I know you really want to go for a walk with your husband and dog, but you can't. You're dizzy and your blood pressure just dropped. Go home, while you still can."

So for now, I'm waiting for my body and the weather to stop freaking out.

Hopefully sooner, rather than later.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A New Experience

On Sunday, April 3, 2016, I did something I never thought I'd do in a million years.

I went to the WWE's 2016 Wrestlemania in Arlington, TX at the AT&T Cowboys Stadium.

It lasted almost 7 hours.

It was pure insanity.

You might be thinking how I survived it, what with my migraines and all. I wondered how I'd survive it, before I went in. I imagine I lasted as long as I did because I was completely hopped up on adrenaline, the way I imagine soldiers are going into war. Also, I had pain medicine with me, so that had some bearing on the fact I'm not dead.

Since that occasion, my husband - without whom I wouldn't be interested in Wrestlemania in any way, shape, or form - have discussed why it is we weren't immediately agoraphobic upon entering the stadium, given that we dislike places like amusement parks (shudder) and rodeo fairgrounds. I finally settled on this answer, though I'm not sure if I should share it with the public:

The fans at Wrestlemania were "our people."

They're the same otherwise mature, responsible adults, who watch Monday Night RAW. They have decent-paying jobs (otherwise they can't afford the tickets) and enough to pay to travel to Arlington, Texas for a weekend, and most likely miss work on Monday.

I admit, I was nervous going into the whole thing. I considered claiming a migraine and not going. But I felt pretty good the day of the event, so I sucked it up and went. With a couple of pain pills in my pocket just in case all of the pyrotechnics took their toll. Which they eventually did.

Among the amazing, unexpected things I saw at Wrestlemania were:

Shaquille O'Neal wrestling in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (he didn't win).

Joan Lunden appearing, because she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Because of COURSE she was...

The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) came out to interfere in a brouhaha, ripped off his pants and shirt (no complaints here!), and wrestled a bit.

Three guys jumped out of an enormous cereal box while wearing unicorn horns on their heads.

Stephanie McMahon (Chief Brand Officer for WWE, daughter of WWE founder Vince McMahon, wife of Triple-H (HHH), who is the COO of WWE) appeared in what I like to imagine is her typical office attire. It involves a mask and a leotard...
Stephanie McMahon

Also Stephanie McMahon

Stephanie McMahon's husband, HHH, in typical office attire

The usual sort of thing you expect to see. Especially from multimillionaire business executives.

Around 9:30 pm, the large quantity of aforementioned pyrotechnics took their toll. I downed some medicine, along with a bit of cotton candy and some water.

Overall, it was more fun that I'd expected. I'd been anxious about wandering a stadium where grown men are dressed as deceased pro wrestlers, but it was amazingly entertaining. I walked behind one fellow dressed in full Macho Man regalia, and every fifth person shouted "Oh, yeah!", which earned an identical response from the costumed carouser.

I'll say one thing for Wrestlemania: it's a spectacle.