Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Monday, November 28, 2011

Recent Listings

The major pre-holiday push is over, but I've still added a few new items to both shops over the last couple of weeks. Here's the rundown:

I also revamped my Oddities and Mouse Postcard Set, replacing three out of the five images that make up the pack.

And remember, I'm offering free shipping at both and all week long (11/28-12/4) in honor of the official one year anniversary of my Mouse store with the coupon code FREESHIPPING. And on Thursday, December 1st, all merchandise in my Mouse store is 36% off with the coupon code ONEYEAR.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Technology: You Gotta Love It!

The writer in position.
When you read this, it will look like any other blog post I've written. However, there is one very big difference. It just so happens that I am sitting some 10 feet away from my computer while I write this. How am I doing this? Well, I now have speech recognition software and a wireless headset that allows me to sit as far as 33 feet away from my computer screen. I hope that this new technology will enable me to write more, especially longer pieces that currently are too demanding on my eyes for me to undertake while sitting in front of the computer screen. I am finding as I write this that one of the biggest adjustments is remembering where I am in what I'm trying to say. So far the computer is doing a good job of recognizing what I'm trying to say, but it appears that it will take as much training on my part to adjust to using the technology. I suppose I may have to take notes before I start any long post as a way to help me keep track of where I am and what I'm saying. Still, I am hopeful that this tool would be very helpful to me and enable me to do more. This short post will just be a practice run, but I hope future posts will be dictated entirely from the comfort of the armchair in my study.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Autumn on the Wane

Most of the leaves have fallen, the nights grow ever longer and colder, and I have a hankering for poetry of an autumnal nature. Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking" is one of my favorites.

     My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
     Toward heaven still,
     And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
     Beside it, and there may be two or three
     Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
     But I am done with apple-picking now.
     Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
     The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
     I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
     I got from looking through a pane of glass
     I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
     And held against the world of hoary grass.
     It melted, and I let it fall and break.
     But I was well
     Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
     And I could tell
     What form my dreaming was about to take.
     Magnified apples appear and disappear,
     Stem end and blossom end,
     And every fleck of russet showing clear.
     My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
     It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
     I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
     And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
     The rumbling sound
     Of load on load of apples coming in.
     For I have had too much
     Of apple-picking: I am overtired
     Of the great harvest I myself desired.
     There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
     Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
     For all
     That struck the earth,
     No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
     Went surely to the cider-apple heap
     As of no worth.
     One can see what will trouble
     This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
     Were he not gone,
     The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
     Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
     Or just some human sleep.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Migraines: A Visual Handbook

One interesting characteristic of my migraines is that I can categorize them in terms of colored light. Migraines lower than a 5 out of 10 on my personal pain scale generally do not have a colors, but once the pain starts to climb, the migraines shift from best being described verbally to a pain that I understand as a visual experience. This is not to say that I literally see colored lights (blinking blue aura lights are a different matter entirely) or the visual distortions experienced by some migraine sufferers, but it's how I see the pain in my mind. This made it very hard to explain my migraine pain to doctors during my first couple years as a migraineur because it seemed silly, when asked to describe my headaches, to say that they felt like columns of green light, but it really was the best possible description and I have since read that seeing migraines this way is not unheard of. Just as the nature of my migraines have changed over time, I have found that my migraine colors have changed, too. I do not get green lights migraines anymore, but for my first year and of half as a migraine sufferer, it was green lights and nothing else. 

Those early migraines were monsters. They always lasted for three days and the pain was immense, averaging an 8 out of 10 on my personal pain scale. Once during this period I had a migraine so severe that I actually accepted death and gave myself permission to pass on if I needed to; it seemed impossible that you could be in so much pain and not die. I was horribly light sensitive, noise sensitive, and nauseated during those three days and so I would lie in bed as time melted away and watch my green lights for hours.

A green lights migraine.
What I saw was a theater of sorts for my headache: the dark stage represented my skull and the backdrop was a velvety blackness of unknown depth. As I watched, columns of green light would swell forth from my skull, slowly rising and falling, blooming and fading. I had the sense that the interior of my skull was bursting with utterly sickening and blindingly bright green light, but all that I saw of it were these shafts of light that pierced the surface. It's difficult to precisely convey the brilliance and terrible luminosity of this green light; to reach for another metaphor, it was like watching an aurora borealis of pain. I also had the sense that a low, roiling, icy fog of pain constantly blew through this landscape of green columns, a pain that was different from the pain of the lights, a pain so cold that it cut my brain like a razor blade. I must have occasionally eaten a little during those three-day migraines, and surely slept, and sometimes daylight must have seeped into my room, but all I remember is watching this endless light show: the bloom
and fade of the columns as they rose and fell, the sickening pain of the blowing fog as it passed through the illuminating shafts of light, the blackness against which the the lights put on their show, and the total silence of the dead, black air in that space. It was beautiful, this pain, green and translucent and haunting and complete, and when the lights faded at last after three days, I would have a sense of emerging from the underworld.

The first time I had a migraine without the green lights, I initially insisted that it wasn't one. When asked at the ER if I would characterize it as the worst headache I'd ever had (for those who've never had a migraine, this is a standard diagnostic question; if you answer "yes," there's an excellent chance that you're suffering from a migraine), I explained that I'd had migraines before, but this headache was totally different. It had no colors and it burned right on the surface of the scalp. It was my first "transformed" migraine, too: it lasted for fourteen days before finally succumbing to a regimen of anti-inflammatory injections given every six hours for two days. While I would have many more migraines, lasting for longer and longer periods of time, I would not experience a migraine in terms of color again until the onset of chronic migraines two years ago.

A blue lights migraine with beams, cracks, blotches, and patches.

These days, when I have a migraine severe enough to shift into colors mode, the light is almost always blue. Think, perhaps, of the blue flames emitted by a gas burner when imagining the color and translucency, though a blue migraine is not a burning one. The shafts of light are much smaller than those of a green lights migraine, more beams than columns, and more irregularly scattered across the stage that is my skull, and tend to rise and fall less dramatically. Sometimes these beams of blue light are located along glowing fault lines of blue, but sometimes a crack emitting blue light will appear without any shafts of light emanating from it. Patches and blotches of luminous blue pain that seem to hover just above the surface of my skull may also appear with or without the presence of blue beams. In the parlance of my migraines, a blotch is a area of pain generally not much larger than a quarter and sometimes much smaller, while patches can be as large as the palm of my hand. Blue beams only appear out of the top of my head, while patches are generally located only on the back and sides. A really bad blue lights migraine may morph into a twin mohawks migraine, where either spikes or hundreds of painful pinpoint beams will shoot out in parallel lines running across the top and partway down the back of my head. The pain of a blue lights migraine is similar to that of a green lights migraine, but, like the shafts of light themselves, somehow thinner.

A blue twin mohawks migraine.
I also get red lights migraines, which are different from blue light migraines because the pain stays close to the head and is more of a burn than an ethereal agony. Most often a red lights migraine (which, to be specific, is an orangish-red rather than a true red) closely resembles the element from a toaster: a red-hot crinkly wire that casts a reddish-orange glow of pain around it. Red lights migraines can also form large smoldering patches.

A red lights migraine "element" and patch.
Just as a blue lights migraine has a worst form, the twin mohawks, a red lights migraine can transform into a dreaded brain-in-flames migraine. This is a migraine where the burning sensation covers the entire surface of the scalp and has reached an intensity that makes it feel like a match has been touched to the highly flammable lining of the brain. Rather than a bright blaze, a brain-in-flames migraine is a low, hot fire, nearly translucent, with a blue base to the small orange flames that never rise more than an inch or two above the head. Virtually the only way to get rid of a brain-in-flames migraine is to sleep it off, though sleep can be hard to come by when one's brain is on fire.

A brain-in-flames migraine.
Patches occur in both red and blue migraines, though the sensations are quite different. A "horns" migraine can be composed of either red or blue light and has a similar sensation in both colors. In short, it feels like an evil, painful pair of devil horns has sprouted from the temples. A horns migraine is a very bad one, not quite as bad as a twin mohawks migraine, but blue horns are sometimes the precursor to those terrible spikes and dreadful enough even if it doesn't make that final transformation.

A red horns migraine.
All of the migraines I have so far described are translucent, thin, glowing, and emanate outward from the head or, in the case of patches and elements, hover just above the scalp. While there is the occasional "verbal-only" migraine that can be described as a paper cut on the surface of the brain (other "verbal-only" migraines, or migraines without color, include the somewhat inward oriented "tightening scalp" and "collapsing eye" type pains), all of the rest of the migraines project outward at various speeds, distances, and intensities. It was not until I had my head injury this summer that I encountered a new sort of migraine: a thick, opaque, yellow-orange headache of a decidedly inward orientation.

A thick, opaque, yellow-orange migraine.
A yellow-orange migraine appears to me as a fat scribble on the brain, as if someone took a blunt oil pastel (which is thicker and greasier than a crayon) and made a vicious doodle. Because of the association between this migraine and the head injury, it is located as shown in the illustration above, starting roughly at the hairline above the right eye and extending more or less along a line that passes over the injury site, which was on the right side of the crown of my head about as far back as my ear. While the thick, opaque, yellow-orange scribble itself does not seem to penetrate the brain, it is accompanied by the sensation of having one's head smashed in by a baseball bat or large, blunt ax or of the brain being violently attacked by chain or circular saw. While the luminous light migraines have an otherworldly sort of awfulness, I find this opaque migraine more disturbing. It may just be because it is associated with the extreme nausea, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, and fatigue that went with the concussion or that I'm so used to having translucent migraines, but when I had an opaque, thick, yellow-orange migraine last week for the first time since those weeks following the head injury, there was something very nasty and just wrong about it. I work hard to prevent my headaches from escalating to the twin mohawks or brain-in-flames point, but I'd prefer to have either of those over a yellow-orange migraine!

And that, in short, is the lexicon of my "visual" migraines: green lights, blue lights, red lights, and opaque yellow-orange scrawls. I hope that this illustrated guide is illuminating for those who have never had a migraine or who suffer from a different kind of migraine, offering a glimpse into the world of colored pain that lurks inside my head.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Farewell to Benny

Benny basking on the back deck and reaching out his paw to ask me for more petting!

For the past seven years, I have been cat-sitting a positively ancient white and marmalade feline whenever his owners go out of town. Despite the fact that Benny was painfully thin, increasingly greasy, possessed the world's crabbiest-sounding meow, and that I'm much more of a dog person than a cat person, the Ancient Kitty and I developed a definite rapport over the years, no doubt because whenever I came over, Benny was in for a couple of hours of concentrated kitty massage! So it is with some sadness that I must announced that on Tuesday evening, November 8th, 2011, at the grand old age of 18 years and 8 months, Benny parted ways with this world.

Me and the Ancient Kitty
Our routine went something like this: when I was taking care of Benny, I'd come by in the morning to freshen his food, say hello, and bring in the newspaper, occasionally letting him out to spend the day on the back deck if the weather was fine, and then in the evenings I'd come back to feed him again (including giving him his dinner treat, which over the years varied from a couple of shrimp to little pieces of pork chop; he never ate much, so there was always the hope that something special might induce him to consume a few more calories), and then settle down to watch TV and pet him for a couple of hours. During the early years of our acquaintance, Benny would sit on my lap for the petting sessions, but as his arthritis worsened and it became harder--and then impossible--for him to jump up on my lap, I took to sitting on the floor with him. He loved that. He had the somewhat unfortunately tendency to drool when he was happy, so he'd purr and drool while I pet him, whether it was on my lap or snuggled up against my leg while I sat on the floor. He always ate better after a vigorous massaging session and I may have in fact prolonged his life with all that attention! He liked to be pet anywhere except on the stomach and especially delighted in being rubbed under the chin. He was always skin and bones during the years that I knew him, so it wasn't all that pleasant to touch him, but he loved it so much that it made it worth my while to make him so happy.

The King of the Couch back in the days when he could still jump up on it.
Benny was a cat of simple pleasures. By the time I got to know him, he had pretty much outgrown toys, though he occasionally indulged in a bit of catnip over the years and I understand he had something of a leather shoe fetish. What he loved best of all was lying in the sun and to his last days he enjoyed a good roll in the dirt. He wasn't a particularly social cat, but whenever he heard me come in through the front door, he'd yowl hello and want to get right to the snuggling.

Benny spent hours warming his old bones in the sun.

He was also of the opinion that there was nothing so fine as a good roll in the dirt!

The skinny kitty.
There was no getting around the fact that the Ancient Kitty was OLD. I thought for sure he was a goner as far back as the summer of 2006, when he was 14. Each time I came over, I braced for what seemed like the inevitability of finding that he'd died during the interval since I'd seen him last. I knew what to do in that event; his hold on life seemed tenuous enough that his owners and I had discussed that possibility and they always left a bag to store his body in until their return when they went out of town. And yet, Benny just kept living and living and living. His arthritis got so bad over the years that his paws were deformed and he had to walk on his tiptoes, causing frequent carpet snags, and his back was permanently hunched. He cleaned himself less and less over the last year or two, so his fur was often greasy and his increasing stiffness meant that eventually he couldn't reach his back at all, resulting in mats of fur along his spine. I've mentioned that he ate very little; I discovered that he preferred pates over chunks when it came to his wet food, but even then, the best you could hope for was that he'd eat a few mouthfuls. Constantly refilling his wet food one spoonful at a time with a rotating variety flavors was the best way to tempt his appetite and he could be relied upon to eat a little bit of dry food daily, but he was positively skeletal. Yet he continued to live and live and live, basking in the sun, until he finally stopped eating altogether and his owners saw that the time had finally come to put him down.

It may seem strange that someone such as myself who is so particular about tactile sensations would be willing to devote many hours to running my hands over a cat who was unpleasant to touch, but I do so love to pet animals, and I also really loved making Benny happy. What he wanted was so simple and so easy for me to give. He was old, he wouldn't live much longer (though he lived longer than anyone ever imagined!), and all I had to do to fill him with bliss was to rub his body. How could I refuse to do this for him? All of us become less pleasant in our final years and I felt, somehow, that massaging Benny even when he wasn't so nice to touch was a way of saying that we remain deserving of love (and of pleasure) even when we are old, and me giving this love to Benny, even though I hadn't known him since he was a kitten, was also a way of being hopeful that someday, when I'm old, there will be people who care for me even though they did not know me when I was young and fun and beautiful.

I'm very glad that the last time I saw him, exactly one month before he died, I gave him a wonderful spa weekend. He'd ceased cleaning himself entirely by that point and his fur was in a horrible state. I spent the first evening cutting and working the mats out of his fur during our TV time. I was in agreement with his owners that a bath would kill him and I was worried that even wiping him with a damp towel would be too chilling since he had no body fat left, but I really wanted to clean him somehow. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, I found that cornstarch can be used as a dry shampoo for a cat's coat and I rushed right over to give it a try. The method of sprinkling the cornstarch on his fur, massaging it in, and brushing it out worked like a charm! He absolutely loved it, since having me thoroughly rub through every bit of fur on his entire body essentially amounted to the mother of all kitty massages. Two hours later his fur was considerably whiter and soft and non-greasy to the touch. He was one happy cat! The next night I did a follow-up round of searching and working out every last mat and bit of cornstarch as well as some general petting. Benny was very happy and his owners reported that it was like getting a whole new cat and that he seemed considerably less depressed to be so fresh and clean!

Benny doing his best sphinx imitation and purring like mad after his cornstarch bath.

And so Benny has moved on. This is not a sad thing. I've been expecting his death for four years now and am astonished that he lived as long as he did. It was time for him to go. I will miss him, though, and his cantankerous meow and his love of being petted and our evenings spent on the floor together watching "Lock-Up" on TV. I feel like Benny has made me a better person, more giving and less judgmental, and gave me an opportunity to better understand and honor the aged.  So thank you, Ancient Kitty, and rest in peace.

March 1993 - November 2011

It wasn't always easy to photograph Benny because, unlike my dog, he wouldn't hold still for the camera! However, Benny did have the opportunity to meet Mouse a few summers ago and one of the resulting photographs is available for sale in my store! This is one way in which he will continue to live on. 5x7 Cat and Mouse - Sun Enough for Everyone

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tidbits: The Color-Coordinating Collie

I have no shortage of things to be writing about and do plenty of writing about them in my head, especially when I am awake in the night, but as of late, my waking computer hours have been dedicated to other pursuits, such as stocking my shops. I have more new listings to report, but for something a little different, here's one of my favorite pictures of Mr. Gorgeous, the collie:

Friday, November 4, 2011

More Listings!

This is a rundown of items I've put up in my store (other than cards, which I covered in this post a few days ago) since the last round-up. If it seems like a lot, it's because I had the goal of fully stocking my macro store by the first week of November!

Three other listings, which I had posted on my Facebook page ( but not in a "Latest Listings" blog post:

I have several more very cool listings waiting in the wings, but migraines dictate, as always, how much work I can do, and they are currently prescribing I take it easy!