My Ear Problems Could Be Due To My Recent Decapitation. Who Knew?

Well, it's official. I've got Meniere's Diease, or, as I like to call it "Constant Diet of Extruded Corn Meal Covered In Dehydrated Cheese Powder" Disease.

It sounds all exotic and lethal, doesn't it? Meniere's Diease. I like to say it with an exaggerated French accent just so I can pull as much drama as possible out of having an inner ear imbalance caused by addiction to food the color of traffic cones. I don't mean to diminish the pain and suffering others have endured because of this disease; I feel deeply sympathetic. I've lived with this feeling of low grade nausea and discomfort for four years now and it is no picnic. It's just that now that I know how I came to acquire this disease (my own poor eating habits), I don't feel compelled to be all grave and serious when I talk about it. Which is surprising for me, because I usually know exactly when it is appropriate to take things seriously. Like when I need to ask a convenience store clerk if he carries a snack product with the word "Doodle" in its name.

Though the origins are debatable, most doctors think it's caused by an imbalance of sodium in the body. The symptoms range from vertigo, a fullness in one ear, dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss, and lovely little thing called nystagmus, a "jumping" in your eyeball when exposed to stimuli. And, in keeping with my fanaticism for collecting all things odd and rare, I've managed to add all these wonderfully uncomfortable items to my curio cabinet of health.

Two years ago, I started the process of trying to figure out why my ear hurt when I slept on my left side, and it has led me through a series of tests, including an Audiogram (in which I learned I had lost some of my hearing in my right ear) an MRI, an ECOG, and an ENG, and, most recently, it led me to the doctor who said I was exhibiting pretty classic symptoms of Meniere's Diease. I cannot relate in words how incredibly RELIEVING it is to finally have something to call this annoyance AND to have something to do about it.

Of course, though I am willing and ready to make the necessary adjustments in my life, I am none too happy about it. Plain and simple, I have to lower my salt intake. And, as my doctor pantomimed by shaking her hand in the air above an imaginary plate of food, it's not just the salt I put on my food I have to reduce. She said I would need to lower my intake of processed foods and prepackaged foods. And when she said this, I thought to myself, "Now wait a minute. I'm a most-of-the-time vegetarian who cooks for herself using mostly organic ingredients. I NEVER eat processed foods.... unless, of course... you count the metric tons of salty snacks I eat. mean, I guess you could consider the onion and corn pulp that's been dehydrated, salted, and flash fried into the shape of a ring "processed food". Oh. Wait a second. I eat METRIC TONS OF PROCESSED FOOD." Have you heard about my love for all things curled and cheesy and salty? It is an unnatural love. And I don't even want to tell you what I would do to get my hands on a certain brand of cheddar cheese goldfish crackers. Let's just say it might involve a criminal investigation.

The most recent visit to the doctor's office included an audiogram (wherein the lover-of-all-things-spreadsheet-able in me ignored the fact that the graph was of my own hearing loss and got all hot and bothered by seeing it mapped out on an x and y axis anyway). There was also the requisite wait in the lobby while I filled out an intake form.

And maybe it was because I was feeling extra grumpy that day because that morning I'd woken up with some more classic Meniere's Disease pain, or maybe it was because the receptionist gave me an incredulous "Are you nuts?" look when I told her no, I was no longer with Regence, that I don't have health insurance... but I felt I needed to correct the third grade vocabulary word spelling error on that intake form with a bit of vengeance.

The intake form was worded to determine whether or not my ear pain might have been caused by something like exposure to repetitive loud noises in the workplace, certain diseases, and/or trauma to the head. REALLY BAD trauma to the head.

I present to you now, compliments of my camera phone and the mood lighting in the doctor's office, the most specific question I have ever been asked on a medical intake form:

"Have you ever experienced the following: A sever blow to the head?"

My response, written in the margin? "I've never had my head severed".

I may have lost my hearing, Doc, but my eyesight is still pretty fucking sharp.

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Wherein My Demands For Lightheartedness Confuse Serious Young Children

I can't explain my compulsion to anthropomorphize every object I own. I just know that I name nearly every piece of tchatchki that comes into my life the way a pet owner might her beloved litter of puppies. Don't dare refer to my reading chair as "that dingy thing you got for half price at Pier One". That's Chairy. And she can hear you when you talk about her that way. And that battery powered chewing-action kimono lizard we acquired during our toy-buying dot com days? Well, that's Karl. And he would greatly appreciate it if you didn't pick him up by his meaty rubber tail like that.

If there was ever a reason to want to be monitored by the CIA, I've got as good a reason as any. Between the weird alien language that CLH and I have cultivated to talk cute to one another in, and my drooling idiot names for common household objects, I'd say I'd be able to give any code cracker a good run for his money.

This habit is so out of control that I've actually got my friends calling my possessions by the inane names I've given them. The roomies now call the 100 pounds of acrylic and wool I crocheted for CLH one Christmas "Blankie". Our 24 inch long oversized wooden ladle? Well, that's non other than "Brunhilda". And then there's our longtime favorite, Sugar Chicken.

Sugar Chicken is a re-purposed jelly bean bowl that now houses our sugar. She came to me from a friend who'd received it as a gift from her grandma. It was on its way to Goodwill when I spotted it in my friend's donation box. I took one look at her smoky lime green glass, her chipped midsection, her hollowed out middle still harboring a jelly bean or two, and I decided she would make the perfect sugar bowl. I took her home (my friend incredulous that I would take such googly-eyed delight in the worst America had to offer in home decor) and filled her up.

Something happened with Sugar Chicken that didn't happen with all the other stuff I've assigned names to. Sugar Chicken compelled me to sing a song when I used her. Specifically, I started singing "Sugar Sugar" from the Archies. Only, instead of singing "Sugar Sugar", I sang "Sugar Chicken....dunh dunh DUNH dunh dunh-dunh.... Oh, honey honey... You are my sugar BO-O-O-O-WL, and you've got me wanting y-o-u-u-u-u-u".

And somehow, this tradition of singing the sugar bowl open became unwritten law in our house. No one, not even guests, could use the sugar bowl without first singing the first lines of "Sugar Sugar". Of course, I was more than happy to get them started.... and once they saw the deranged pleasure I took in singing to a glass bowl, they were free to spoon the sugar into their coffees (and make a mental note to bring their own sweetener to the next brunch I hosted.)

The institutionalization of this custom became very real in our house just a few weeks ago when our friend Jodi and her 5 year old son, Sage, came to spend the night. The night they arrived, we sat around drinking coffee, sweetened, naturally, by Sugar Chicken. CLH informed Sage, in a mock serious tone, that we never EVER open up Sugar Chicken without first singing the Sugar Chicken song. We all then commenced singing the Sugar Chicken song. Sage took in the scene of five grown adults gathered around a chicken-shaped bowl singing a 1960s pop song and I imagine he stored it in the part of his brain labeled "Cult Experiences I Had As A Child That Now Prevent Me From Eating Chicken And Sugar".

The next morning, Josh came downstairs and found Sage hard at work herding all the slugs in our front yard into a new "home" constructed of leaves and twigs. Sage had been up for a while before any of the other adults were out of bed. He came in to the kitchen to chat with Josh while Josh prepared breakfast. As Josh was getting the coffee going, Sage stopped him and said, with deadly seriousness in his voice, "Um, you don't need to sing the Sugar Chicken song this morning because I already did".

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the legacy I will be leaving to our youth.

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Hallelujah, He Is RAWKING HARD!

Is it sacrilege to be thinking about the writing material a hymnal offers while you're attending a Jewish ceremony for a friend inside a Christian church? Because, if it's not, then I at least broke the commandment that states, "Thou shalt not find humor in the song title 'Eternal Christ, You Rule'".

The roomies invited me to their synagogue tonight to celebrate the recent conversion of our good friend. (Congrats, Josh!) And while I was able to follow the Hebrew along for most of the ceremony (the phonetic pronunciations were mercifully printed below the Hebrew letters in the booklet), my mind started to wander there at the end of the ceremony when I lost track of what page we were supposed to be on. Instead of nudging CLH and asking where we were, I picked up a hymnal tucked into the back of the pew in front of us and started thumbing through it. And, lo, there came upon me the most incredible hymn titles I had ever seen in print.

I was raised Catholic, in a very small church. I would not say I was raised in a church. I was raised by my Catholic parents who felt it was their duty to drag their four unwilling children away from their Sunday morning Abbot-&-Costello-on-public-television-routines to go to church, probably so they could be imbued by the priest with some sense of right and wrong (umm.... sorry that backfired so horribly, mom and dad). I can probably count on one hand the number of hymns I can remember being sung in church. And I say "being sung" because if there was anything worse than being dragged to an eerily lit, cold, cavernous building on Sunday when all you wanted to do was eat scrambled eggs and stay in your pajamas till three in the afternoon, it was having to sing in that eerily lit, cold, cavernous building. Singing was for the single old ladies at the back of the church... and Vicki's mom, whose singing God could probably hear from Heaven, it was that loud.

The hymns I remember were the ones we had to memorize for First Holy Communion... hymns like "Here I Am, Lord", and also the ones we sang during the mass like "Let There Be Peace On Earth". Stuff that sounded like, when accompanied by the slow pipe organ about a mile above us in the balcony, mules in their death throes.

The one that always made my heart catch in my throat, even as a young kid, was "Ave Maria". Maybe it was that I'd made the connection between the organ-led drudgery that was our church's version and the final chapter of Disney's "Fantasia"... when I understood, for the first time in my life, how songs can have multiple interpretations... or maybe it was that my mother's eyes glazed over and she smiled a little every time she heard it, and it was the only time in my life I ever really saw her in a state of silent reverence... or maybe it was that, after mindlessly following along in the hymnal for so many years, at age 15 (having passed Latin I in high school) I could finally understand that "Ave Maria" meant "praise for Mary" and not "Maria Street"... but that song always brought me to tears. Of course, most of the other hymns brought me to tears too, but that was because I was so bored at church, crying seemed like a good alternative to crushing my feet for fun in the hinge of the kneeler.

The hymns I found in the hymnal tonight were actual songs of praise. They seemed like something someone might sing when excited about their god. Definitely not the obligatory "wearecatholicandwesingbecausethisisthepartofthemasswherewesiiii-iiiiing" songs. The titles of these things were amazing. At one point, I mistook the words "eternal splendor" for "eternal spider" and I almost asked out loud, "WHERE HAVE THESE SONGS BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE?"

There were so many songs from different countries, too! Spanish songs, and South African songs, and one from Japan, titled "Ah What Shame I Have To Bear".

After I'd cleared out of my head the image of a giant arachnid seated at the Right Hand of The Father, I stumbled upon my favorite: "Behold The Host All Robed In Light". I don't want to admit just how spiritually bankrupt I am, but I think the fact that I thought of, first, a dinner party I throw where I am wearing nothing but light, and secondly, a parasite making its victim all glow-y, might indicate that I have lost my religion entirely.

When I really think about it, I guess still believe in the basic tenets of Catholicism. I didn't really know I still believed in them until just recently when I had the opportunity to really compare them to the belief systems of other types of Christianity; but the guiding principals of my life (do unto others as you would have done unto you, love thy neighbor as thyself) are still actively guiding my adult decisions. What the Catholic church is going through right now with the sex scandals is horrific and understandably devastating. But, I never (thank Flying Spaghetti Monster) had any inappropriate experiences with priests... nor do I really identify with the guilt that most folks associate with Catholicism, nor was I taught to snub any of the other religions out there. My Catholicism was pretty kind, and humble, and considerate, above all, of others.

I don't go to church, and I don't do much else on Christian holidays but eat candy, but I am thankful for the groundwork my parents laid for me. I have to believe that all those years of having to endure Vicki's mom belting out "Hallelujah" into the stratosphere, and missing the Sunday Early Movie left me with some moral fiber. Just not the kind that considers snickering at hymnal titles in church a sin.

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Artful Bitching and How To Realize When Your Body Is Telling You Something

Internet, I've been away, and I apologize. Typing has been extremely painful these last few days, so I have been resting my hands. I have a finger injury. Okay, it's more like a fingernail injury. I can't actually tell what it is because (if you're squeamish, now would be a good time to just skip to paragraph two) every time I try to trim back the cuticle around the middle finger of my right hand, blood and pus come oozing out, blocking my view of the wound site. CLH thought it might be a splinter, but I argued that a splinter should not make your finger ooze, nor should it make it numb. Plus, I should be able to see a splinter. And all I can see at this point is layer upon layer of ragged skin around my nail where I have been tearing away with my manicurist's tools for the past few days. That, and some dried blood. This is now the third or so mystery injury that I've sustained on the right side of my body. And if you think I take these kinds of things lightly, well then you have me mistaken for someone who is not ultra sensitive to every little thing and not just a little bit woo-woo.

The past few days have been odd and great.

I made an appointment to see a cranio-sacral therapist to help out with my ear stuff. CLH has been hounding me about making an appointment with this therapist for probably more than a year now, but I have been resisting. I didn't want anymore turtle-shell rattle-waving in my general direction from another "alternative therapist" before I went to a western MD and had my head x-ray'd for this ear issue. You'd think I would be a little more open to the turtle-shell rattle folks, being practically married to someone who does alternative healing for a living. But, I can't help but have a bad taste in my mouth. After my original cranio sacral therapist all but kicked me to the curb two years ago, giving me the excuse that she just didn't think we should work together anymore... and after the naturopath I saw dismissed me after five minutes of consultation, I didn't want anything but a big, deadly machine to tell me what was wrong with my ears. Unfortunately, the stress of trying to rent this house has really exacerbated this ear thing lately, so, I decided to give in and see this illustrious Dr. Pat CLH has been raving about.

And, man alive, am I glad I did. She is everything CLH said she would be.

A little background: cranio sacral therapy is a healing modality in which the therapist, by subtly manipulating the plates of the skull, allows for the movement of cerebrospinal fluid within the head and spine. The general effect is that the patient feels relaxed, relieved, and maybe a little lightheaded. That's my scientific understanding of it, anyway. I'm sure a quick Google search will reveal that lots of people think it's pure quackery. To me, though, all medicine is just Dumbo's magic feather in a labcoat. And I say, whatever modality gets you feeling like you're at your optimum, go for it. I do things like accupuncture and craniosacral because I can physically feel the results, and the results are generally awesome. I am fully willing to admit that it might just be me convincing myself that it's working, but who cares? I'm of the belief that a little bit of positive thinking never hurt a healing process. Anywho, I could actually FEEL the effects of Dr. Pat's work. Not only could I feel the intended movement in my head, which left me feeling slightly nauseous but happy that SOMEthing was unsticking itself up there, I had some intense visualizations that were deeply moving.

Now, as if giving a woman $70 to gently rock my head back and forth doesn't sound desperate-for-relief and turtle shell rattle-y enough, my visualizations were pretty damned outta-this-world, too. My visualizations during my therapy sessions are always revealing in this profound sort of way, and what I saw while I was laying on Dr. Pat's table was nothing short of THE GREATEST METAPHOR IN MY LIFE EVER. I saw with my mind's eye that the inside of the left side of my head was all pink and plump and juicy- it looked kind of like what a healthy intestinal tract might look like, or maybe a healthy brain- all squiggly and bunched together, teeming with blood vessels and shiny with some deep-inside-the-body lubricant. The right side (the side where my throbbing, aching ear lives) looked like something out of a Hollywood set. It was a old tin box, irregularly shaped, and lining its insides was fuzzy grey mold. I had the sensation of old age, and neglect, and a little bit of Boo Radley's house. Then I had the feeling that Dr. Pat was reaching in there- I could see hands gently scooping out that mold. And I was grateful- grateful that someone wasn't grossed out by the state of my head, and grateful that she was brave enough to get in there and clean some of the crap out.

And that was all at 10 am that day.

Later on that same day, I had a great talk with my friend Tracy about writing. She's an aspiring writer, and she works part time for a non-profit that I do the books for. She's such an inspiration to me. She just up and decided one day that she'd had enough of her own excuse making, so she applied to a graduate program for creative writing, and now, two years and a degree later, she's got a mostly finished manuscript for a play she's written that's ready for production. She's been trying to talk me into signing up for this same program for some time now. Always curious about her process, and excited about her nearing graduation, I asked her to tell me the greatest lesson she's learned about her writing. And she told me that, prior to her program, she never made time for her writing. Even when she finally learned to schedule time to do it daily, she would double and triple book herself with appointments so she could avoid the computer. Now that she's gone through the program, she's learned that she needs to treat writing like the daily exercise/job it is. I cannot thank her enough for sharing that little nugget of wisdom. While she was talking, I thought about how much I needed to learn about making regular time for my writing. I shared the image of the musty tin box on my right side with her... and suddenly my brain made a synaptic jump. The right side of my body... the side that scientists say is the impetuous, artsy, feeling side... is starting to mold from disuse. The left side, the one that does math and science, the one that balances my checkbook, and the checkbooks of my clients, is alive and well. The mysterious bug bite that has taken a chunk out of my right leg... the fingernail injury... the ear.... all on my right side. All right side, right brain, art brain functionality experiencing a major breakdown. It was like my right side was just screaming at me to DO SOMETHING already. I'm a FREAKING BOX OF MOLD, FOR GOD'S SAKE. It was saying that I needed to replace that box with something vibrant, something pulsating with life and creativity! Something worthy of the right side of my brain, the side that writes and dreams and drifts off into plot lines all day long.

Well, damn. That little revelation was well worth $70.

That night, feeling still slightly queasy from my session with Dr. Pat, I decided to take a nap before heading out to see Lindsay perform her burlesque routine (which was AWESOME!). I couldn't sleep, though, because aside from the general grunting and laughing noise that was coming from the backyard full of CLH's friends through the windows, it sounded like someone was hammering on the pipes DIRECTLY underneath my bedroom floor. You see, we've found someone to live in and pay rent for the basement. It's a small step to getting this place full of money paying renters. She's been moving in for the past few weeks and it has suddenly been made very clear to me that there is NO NOISE BARRIER between the basement and the two rooms in the house I spend the most time in. I can hear EVERYthing from below. So, in a rage at not being able to get one moment's peace in my own home, I took off for the show early. And I drove to the coffeehouse that sells my favorite coffee and I hunkered down with a book and an americano for an hour before the show.

Of course, it never fails. Whenever I am by myself in public, I attract all sorts. An older man sat down next to my table and asked me what time the place closed. Now, I've heard ALL kinds of come-on lines... everything from "I like your hair" to "Do you know of a good place to dance around this city? 'Cause I was thinking you could show me some time..." This guy, though, wasn't trying to guess my sign. He was actually interested in the time. And when I told him, he followed up by asking if this coffee shop had always been a coffee shop. I closed my book, turned to him and the dog eared stack of papers he was holding in his lap and settled in a for a long conversation with another member of the I-Am-Weird-So-I-Will-Talk-To-YOU-Pretty-Accommodating-Lady club.

Thing is, though, he wasn't weird. On the contrary. He was one of the most interesting strangers I have ever met. He was a screenplay writer. That rumpled stack of paper in his lap that looked like it was covered in Klingon was actually a work in progress. Some of his screenplays had been turned into movies that were being shown at Seattle's International Film Festival! And he seemed genuinely interested in my writing when I said I was experimenting with this blog. He wanted to know what my message was. What it was I saying in my blog. And because "contemplative musings about mostly nothing" or "artful bitching" seemed a little too vague, I said I wasn't quite sure yet. That I was still trying to figure it out. Mostly my writing is exactly what a blog was designed for: diary entries about my chronic ear and intestinal blockages and also a place to moan about how much it sucks to shop at the health food store. And since that sounded incredibly self indulgent and not just a little lame as hell, I decided I would spend more time thinking about it over the next few days.

I haven't quite reached any decisions yet about anything. I am just so grateful for this new awareness in my life. so I am going to sit with it for a few days while my finger heals.

So, Thank you, Tracy, for teaching me that it's okay to hang a sock on the door when I'm busy writing. Thank you, Lindsay, for showing me that you still need to practice your craft even when you don't think it's perfect. Thank you, strange dude at coffee shop, for forcing me to dig down deep for my message. And thank you, Dr. Pat, for revealing to me the rusty insides of my creative machinery... and for the hand in clearing out all that space to make room for more writing.

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Updates on Mostly Nothing

I've decided to take a break from responding to the morons who have inundated my inbox with requests to pay me rent via third party out of state checks to bring you this breaking news:

WAMU is now CHASE! (Cue the Darth Vader walking music...) Look at that evil octagonal corporate blue eyeball looking down on you. Doesn't it give you the willies? I think Chase got off easy - taking over a bank with a mostly blue logo. They certainly won't have to spend much on remodeling....which kinda makes me feel better about having a international behemoth take over my neighborhood bank; at least they have their priorities in order. They knew better than to take over a green colored bank, for instance. They've already done the math on the retrofitting costs! Step one to success! Outfitting hundreds of banks with ugly, color coordinated, itchy wool furniture costs MONEY, people. Money the good people at Chase have opted to SAVE by taking over a blue colored bank. Geniuses. All of them. Not like the brainiacs at WAMU. Sure, they got themselves all tangled up in the sub prime mortgage crisis. But we all know the REAL reason WAMU tanked. It was that stupid "Whoo Hoo!" ad campaign. That'll teach ALL the banks a thing or two about advertising. Take a hint, Capitol One. One more fucking ad involving Vikings and what's in my wallet, and you're toast.

In other news, insomnia amongst people who sleep in my bed is on the rise, our house isn't rented yet, and in sports, my right ear is still aching. I called the doctor this morning, explained that I still can't sleep comfortably on my left side because the eardrum of my right ear feels like it might sear a hole right through my brain and come out through my left nostril, it hurts that bad. I have an appointment in two weeks. I can't seem to convince anyone in the medical world that this pain should be taken seriously. I've learned that unless you are bleeding from your eyes, or threatening to kill yourself or others when you get inside a doctor's office, you get thrown into a metaphorical rubber room and told to wait out whatever's ailing you. Because the pain I've had wasn't affecting my ability to go to work or make an egg salad sandwich, I was pretty much dismissed by every doctor I saw. I was told, in effect, that there was nothing wrong with me. I was given prescriptions like "Don't eat dairy", and "brush your neck with this a stiff bristled brush to stimulate your lymphatic system." I am normally ALL ABOUT alternative methods of coping with illness. But I was feeling like this was something more than a dairy allergy. I was so miffed that, at one point, in a subsequent visit to yet another doctor, I actually had her draw a diagram of what she saw on my eardrum through her otoscope on a piece of paper so we could both see that I wasn't imagining the pain. (By the way, if you ever want to scare the hell out of yourself and/or marvel at how far we've come [or not come] since the Dark Ages, Google "medical instruments to look in ears". There's a tool called a "bayonet". I'm not even joking. It looks like it would fit on the tip of a very small rifle. And doctors use this tool, today, in 2009, to perform surgery on ears. Unreal.) Anywho, I have an appointment in two weeks with another doctor who is going to give me another audiogram to determine, for the second time in two years, that I can't hear so well out of my right ear. If nothing else, that first round of tests two years ago taught me that I need to be a little more demanding when I get to the doctor's office. This time, I'm going to try to get someone to x-ray the right side of my head. If they don't find the piece of lead I am sure is sitting on my cochlear nerve, or the 6 inch piece of the Rosetta Stone I'm sure is clogging my Eustachian tubes, I'll eat my hat.

And now for this week's weather. Forecast calls for a big middle finger being waved in my face from the North, indicating I am an idiot for thinking that it would actually be warm in May. There is a put-your-sundresses-away-until-August advisory in effect. Vitamin D levels are nearing precipitously low levels. Moodiness gaining strength on the western front.

Please, Internets. Send me some renters. Please keep the craigslist meth addicts from bargaining me down from $15 to $10 on a cheap wooden TV stand, and, for god's sake, send me some sun.

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