Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Time to Debut the Latest Listings!

I've put up a number of new listings in the last couple of weeks, though I'm still behind. I have seven listings currently saved in draft mode, waiting for the day when my mind will become agile enough to write the listing description. You see, I don't just give the title and dimensions and call the listing done; no, I have taken it upon myself to give each listing a paragraph's worth of copy and I enjoy doing it when my brain is up to the work. According to my stats, I don't get many visits from these blog posts, though I still think they're worth doing in order to alert people to what's going into my shop. However, if you want to enjoy the full c.creativity experience, take a moment to enjoy my listing descriptions as well.

I'd also like to mention again that you can get 20% off purchases in the macro shop between now and February 14th by using the coupon code 20OFFCARDS. I have some beautiful floral cards available that would be very nice for Valentine's Day or, of course, you can use the coupon code to save on something for yourself!

This pink and red card is made from a photo I took of a Valentine's Day 
arrangement I made for my mother back when I was working as a florist!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Sound of Silence

I have a number of potential blog posts swimming around in my head, but none of them are getting written right now because of the remodelers. What do remodelers have to do with blog posts or lack there of? The remodelers are making me tired.

I'm not even really talking about the noise or having to keep Abbey from focusing on the fact that the house is full of strange men (though that is getting pretty old) or the periodic water and power shutoffs. It's their mere presence that makes me exhausted. It's just more stuff I have to attend to. On weekdays, I typically have the house to myself from 7-ish in the morning to 6-ish in the evening. Now I have remodelers from 8 to 3. It's not the remodelers' fault; having my family around on the weekends makes me tired, too, it's just that weekends are only two days out of seven and, after all, I do know them and like them. (My modus operandi with the remodeling crew is to pretend I don't exist, which is not a strategy I adopt with family members.) Other than trying to keep the dog from growling as men go in and out of the house and up and down the stairs, I'm not spending my time differently than I normally do, it's just that they're here, and that little bit of extra noise and just AWARENESS I have of them at all times is taxing. That stress, in addition to the general fatigue, is causing migraines, slowing down my thinking, and is responsible, I'm sure, for a mood drop I had the other day.

The advantage of being at home full-time is that I get to control my environment and since I function pretty well (at least in relative terms) when the house is completely silent and I have the lighting set up in my favor and my surroundings are familiar enough that I can tune them out a bit, I forget how busy and noisy and exhausting stimuli--which most people call the ordinary world and don't even notice--can be. On Monday, since I had some checks to deposit and thought it might be nice to get away from the house for a bit (the remodel was in the destructive phase that day), I went on a little outing to the bank and then to the post office to pick up some new postcard stamps. I think most people would agree that waiting in line at the post office is one of life's more mindless and boring activities; from my migraine brain's point of view, it's also so very BUSY. There's just so much to look at: the racks of cards and postal supplies, the center island with shipping forms, the people in line with their packages, the posters of stamps on the wall behind the counter, etc. The particular post office I went to has brick and wood paneling on one of the walls and I find brick and wood grain both to be visually exhausting. (And that, my friends, is why I never go in a grocery store if I can help it: when wood grain wears you out, shelves of brightly colored products will annihilate you!) Then there's the sound of customers making their purchases and the automatic door opening and closing and various clanks and bangs emanating from behind the scenes. I was second in line when some large cart was rolled across the floor offstage and BAM! I got a migraine. I'm sure the post office isn't on most people's list of places that are headache-inducingly noisy, but it's too wild and crazy of a place for my poor brain to handle.

All in all, now that the destructive phase is over, the remodelers are making less noise than there was to be had at the post office or even than my family makes when they are home on the weekends. It's just that compared to the silence that normally reigns during my weekdays, those men going up and down the stairs and in and out of the house and garage are an incredible distraction. For me, distractions are a stress that not only breaks my concentration, but physically exhausts me. For the ordinary person, it's probably comparable to having heavy-duty road construction--with lots of jackhammering--going on in your house.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my migraines are so debilitating. It's not the pain, though pain is decidedly tedious and, well, painful. I've managed to set up my life in ways that minimize the amount of pain I'm in. It's being so sensitive to any type of stimuli that I'm unable to manage even the PRESENCE of other people in my quiet zone that is where the real disability lies. My interaction with the remodeling crew over the last four days has been limited to saying "hi" to one of them in the hallway once, so it's not even the stress of interacting with strangers that's the problem; the problem is being aware that they are in the house and sometimes walking up and down the stairs.

I'll not begrudge my parents' desire to make improvements to their poorly-designed master bathroom. That thing has been a mildew trap for the last thirty years and I fully support the end result! I knew that it wouldn't be easy on me, but I figured that noise would be the problem and that's what earplugs are for. I wasn't expecting to be so drained by the mere presence of people I don't interact with or even see.

It's nearly three in the afternoon, so the remodeling crew is cleaning up for the day and about to go home. I've used up all of my energy writing this post, so I expect that I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon in bed. I'm hoping that writing about these things will have some benefit to me, though, perhaps in helping to keep my mood up. If nothing else, I can look at this post as a concrete accomplishment! My to-do list has been woefully neglected this week; I have been unequal to doing much of anything aside from wishing that the internet could magically make everything better. I know that this remodel will not last forever and that I will recover once it is over. I just hadn't expected it to be quite this hard!

The house is silent now, a beautiful empty silence that is different to me than the silence of a house with others in it, no matter how quiet. Not so long ago, though in a very different life, I would have wanted to fill the void with music. Today, nothing seems more revitalizing than the velvety hush that has fallen at last over my migraine kingdom.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Wintry Week in Seattle

Winter snow is by no means a given in the lowlands of Seattle and it can seldom be depended upon to show up even when predicted. Some years we get none at all, others years just a half an inch one day that melts within 24 hours. On the other hand, we do get the occasional winter storm, like the one that kept the entire Seattle area blanketed with snow and sub-freezing temperatures for nearly two weeks a couple of years ago. This week, from the 14th to the 20th of January, we have received a whole slew of satisfyingly wintry weather.

My backyard, seen from my study window, on January 14th.

It began on Saturday. It should be noted that my house, located on top of a hill northeast of Seattle and on the southern-most edge of the Puget Sound Convergence Zone, tends to get snow if there is going to be snow. The Convergence Zone, for those of you who are not Seattle natives, is the weather phenomenon created by incoming weather systems being split by the Olympic Mountains that lie between the ocean and the sound. The point where they typically converge covers an area fifteen to twenty-five miles north of downtown Seattle and slightly to the east, which receives more snow, more rain, and often more wind than the rest of the Seattle metro area. This is why, while it snowed quite hard for a couple of hours at my house on Saturday, it was not snowing at all just a few miles to the south at my acupuncturist's. I had been hoping to take my new camera out into the snow to get some great macro snow photos (of which I had very few, since my old point-and-shoot was not great in the snow), but the weather warmed and by the time I got home from acupuncture, the snow was melting fast. I crossed my fingers that the possibility of more snow in the forecast would come true so I could get some snow photos this year!

Looking out at five inches of snow on the back deck on January 15th.

It turned out that I was in luck! It started snowing in late morning on the 15th and I went out into the white with my camera before I'd even had breakfast. I was not going to miss out on my snow photo opportunity! After examining my first round of photos, I adjusted my camera settings and set out again. During the hour or so when I was inside, the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees and it started snowing so hard that three inches accumulated in the course of an hour! I didn't stay out long, since the conditions were a bit cold for me and rather wet for my camera, but I managed to get some good pictures. All in all, we got five inches at my house, but that was thanks to the Convergence Zone. There were neighborhoods in Seattle that got none at all, and others just a dusting. After the afternoon snowing frenzy, the sky cleared, and so when my father and I ventured out to the grocery store that night, I was struck by the beauty of the black-and-white snow-draped conifers that seemed to glow against the inky blue-black of the star-speckled sky.

Looking up in my backyard as the snow falls.

Abbey, who loves the snow, gets a dusting.

And then it started snowing really hard!

The view from my study window, January 16th.
On Wednesday, it was cloudy and just above freezing. The snow was melting slightly, but there was certainly enough for Abbey and me to play a great game with her squeaky bone in the backyard! Abbey loves the snow so much that apparently she knows the sound of the drawer where I keep my snow pants being opened, because she came running in, wiggling with delight, before I even pulled them out of the drawer. She knew that if I was putting on my snow pants, we were almost certainly going outside to have a jolly game! We did, and she pounced and slid and romped about with her squeaky bone. The backyard snow was no long pristine when we were done with it! 

Abbey and her squeaky bone on the back deck's trampled snow after our game.

And then, on Tuesday, it melted. Well, a lot of the snow melted. It snowed a bit and rained a bit and then even the sun was out for a while. Our front yard, which is protected in part by a large douglas-fir, was nearly bare by Tuesday night. However, an epic snow storm was in the forecast. There was even talk of double digits! Ultimately, the worst of the snow hit south of Seattle. Still, by Wednesday at 1:00, we had six inches out on the bench on our back deck. A friend of mine was in town and we initially cancelled our plans, but then my dad, who likes to drive in the snow, volunteered to be the chauffeur. I attempted to take a picture of a phalanx of snow plows on the freeway on my way to meet her because I'd never seen snow plows on the freeway before and thought it was pretty cool! We don't have many snow plows out here (seeing as there is not usually much snow) and so it was exciting from my perspective to a) see snow plows in formation on the freeway and b) have enough snow on the freeway to plow! When I returned from my social outing that evening, the freeway was completely covered.

Snow plows on the freeway on January 18th.

And a word to all those out there who mock the snow-driving abilities of Seattle's fair citizens: don't knock us until you've tried it. Snow here is different than the snow that falls on most of the rest of the country. It's very, very wet. It also doesn't tend to be very cold when it snows, so the ground is not frozen and the initial snow that falls melts on contact. When it finally gets cold enough to freeze, this melted layer turns to ice. Quite often it will get just above freezing during the day, softening the snow/ice on the roads, but then drop below freezing overnight, turning anything that melted into ice. What ends up covering the streets is so-called "Seattle cement," a compacted mixture of ice and wet snow that provides minimal traction. There simply aren't enough plows and de-icers and sanders to handle more than a tiny fraction of the streets, so most roads are left in their natural state. And then there are the hills. The whole Seattle metropolitan area is built on hills, many of them very steep. When you mix ice and inclines, physics take over and it doesn't matter how good of a driver you are. This isn't the Midwest, where the snow is dry enough that it can be blown and the land is flat. So unless you're some kind of superhuman who has the power to stop a car from sliding on a steep hill covered in what looks like snow but is really ice, cut the kidding, okay?  

Snow falling on the back deck on January 19th.

The forecast had called for a warm front to move in on Thursday, but instead we had freezing rain most of the night and then snow in the morning. The temperature remained solid at 29 degrees all day long as the snow came steadily down. By the late afternoon, we'd amassed between seven and eight inches out on the back deck (it had compacted some during the night). The dog was not keen on playing in snow that had a crust of ice from the freezing rain below the surface--she didn't like how she'd break through to the softer snow underneath--so we stayed indoors and watched the snow come down all day long.

The air is hazy with the falling snow that continues to coat the trees.

A nice icicle hanging from the eves.

The plant that sits below that large icicle was covered in ice as well.

Abbey and I appreciated the snow from inside the house.

The sodden snow as seen on the back deck, January 20th.

And today, at long last, the temperature has finally crept above freezing and the rain has begun. The trees have been shedding the snow that had piled up on their branches all day long with great plops, but it's taking a long time for the built-up snow on the deck to dwindle. The once pristine expanses of snow are now pock-marked and discolored.

The snow is melting out from underneath the iciest layer on the chair, leaving a shell behind.

All in all, though, it's been a great winter storm from a weather enthusiast's perspective. Multiple days of snow are so rare here! And, of course, I got some snow photos! Spring is now welcome to come if it wishes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Abbey at Play

Abbey loves nothing better than a jolly game. She likes to have one after dinner and sometimes will request a weekend morning game or a I've-just-been-outside-hurray! game in the afternoon. There's a certain ritual involved and chances are she won't play unless you get it right.

The game always starts out with the tennis ball. The tennis ball is kept in a cabinet in the family room where she is not free to take it in and out at will. We didn't like her chewing on the ball until it gets soft and sodden. When the ball is removed from the cupboard, the person who is playing the game with Abbey stands on the far side of the family room and bounces the ball hard on the floor and Abbey tries to jump and catch it after the bounce. Sometimes she is very good at it and will turn 360s and barrel rolls and grunt like a female tennis player while making her catches and other times she misses and has a good time chasing the ricocheting ball around the room. When returning the ball, she will sometimes attempt to toss or kick it to you, rather than just dropping it at your feet.

Abbey's toy box and crate.
Sometimes, Abbey will want to play a nice long ball game, but other times she will return the ball only once or not at all before she goes running to choose something new from her toy box. The tennis ball rule must be observed, though. If you take one of her toys out of her toy box and try to start a game that way, chances are she won't play. SHE'S the one that chooses what the game will be, not you! I get a kick out of the way that she'll stand for a moment with the ball in her mouth, give you an evaluative look, and then she'll run to her toy box, kept beside her crate, to make her selection. All that can be seen of her (from the ball-bouncer's perspective) is her wagging tail as she rummages through the toys to pick just the right one!

Quite often, the right toy will turn out to be her squeaky bone. We keep a whole sack of these around because they are a great toy. The bone bounces wildly and erratically, it has a nice cheerful squeak that isn't too strident, and because of her muzzle shape and the shape of the bone, she can't hold on to it if you try to take it away, so there's no tug-of-war possible. A squeaky bone game is very fast-moving. There is a little bit of chasing, but mostly it's about the bone being thrown low so that it skitters and hops at high speed across the carpet with Abbey skittering and hopping after it. Sometimes she'll be chasing after it so fast that she'll slam into the wall! If we're really in a groove, she may actually toss the bone to me as she runs toward me in a nifty little handoff maneuver. It involves the most crazy running of any of her games.

This toy, which goes by the name "twirly-whirly'" at our house, is a fairly recent edition. The game that is played with the twirly-whirly, however, is not. Abbey used to always have Big Mean Kitties, but they stopped carrying them at our local pet stores. After I bought this toy, I introduced it to Abbey as a substitute for the Big Mean Kitty game, and it has done a great job in that role, better, in fact, than the slightly more fragile kitties did. The twirly-whirly game involves some tossing and fetching, but there's also a component where she likes to be chased and to have you try to take it away, and then to have a little bit of tug-of-war before surrendering it for another round of fetch-chase-tug. There is usually a lot of spinning and other fancy keep-away moves as well as playful growling when you try to steal it from her. Those twirly-whirly arms have squeakers in them and are great for both the dog and the human player to hold on to.

Abbey leaping after a Big Mean Kitty. Note the red version of the
squeaky bone visible in the background.

One of Abbey's other favorite toys is her "puppy."  Some members of the family will call it her squeaky ball, but to my mind, the squeaky ball is the ball that is only used when she is off-leash, either swimming or running in a park. It might seem strange to call this a puppy, but that was Abbey's conclusion, not ours! The very first time she ever heard this toy squeak, she immediately started treating it like a puppy. She carried it around the house, only leaving it unattended if it was resting in some special place like her bed or on the study couch, and even tucked it in bed with me one time when I was taking a nap. It seemed like it was stressing her out to have to take care of this "puppy," though, so we took it away from her for a few years. When we gave it back to her, she once again treated it like a puppy--at least for the first few days. She liked to place it directly behind my desk chair, so I'd scoot away from my desk and roll over the "baby," causing it to squeal, and Momma Dog would come running! Her puppy's potential as a great toy was not lost on her, however, and after a few days of struggling with the ethics (not to say the morality) of chasing one's own puppy for sport, she mentally shifted this nubby ball into toy category. The squeaker is nearly disabled now, so it no longer emits puppy distress calls even when being played with. The game that goes with Abbey's puppy is one that is primarily enjoyed by Abbey and no one else, since it is almost entirely a game of keep-away, with lots of play growls and a few pirouettes. She can hold on to this toy and I am the only family member who is wholly undaunted by her play growls and willing to actually wrestle it from her. I don't find that very fun and no one else likes to play what amounts to a long game of "drop it."

Abbey and her puppy. Apparently, the baby takes after the father.

My parents bought this crown-shaped dog toy as a last-minute souvenir for Abbey when they were in London a couple of years ago. She thinks it's pretty fun! The crown game is similar to the puppy game, except unlike the puppy, the crown is hard to hold onto! I usually get down on my hands and knees for crown games and make an effort to bat the crown away. It rolls erratically, which always enhances the pleasure of chasing an object! Abbey's got a pretty fierce prey drive, so any toy that goes shooting off at unexpected angles and must be pounced on is a good game in her book!

The tug is the one other toy that is kept in the cabinet with the ball because Abbey would play nothing BUT tug if given the opportunity (and then would chew the tug up) and at fifty pounds, she's a bit heavy to lug around all the time. (You may notice I was unable to get a picture of the tug without Abbey in it.) And I say "lug" because when Abbey plays tug, she doesn't brace herself and resist you, like most dogs or anyone else playing tug-of-war might do, no, Miss Abbey likes to flop down on her side and be dragged in circles on the carpet. It's very funny, especially the way she wags her tail the whole time as she's sliding across the floor and how she lifts her front legs high to make sure they don't interfere with the dragging. She only wants to be dragged on the area rug in our family room (it is smoother, after all), so playing tug with Abbey requires not only dragging her in circles, but dragging her in TIGHT circles. It's ridiculous and she'd love to do it more often, but tug is a game that happens on OUR terms.

I am also in control of the hoop jumping. If she seems like she's got a lot of energy to burn off and is indecisive about her toys, I'll bust out the hoop. I trained her to jump through the hoop using Cheerios and so now she thinks she ought to get Cheerios for jumping through it, but I can usually get a half a dozen jumps or so out of Abbey before she demands a prize. She doesn't get one; the hoop just goes away. It's a fun trick, though, and she's a good jumper!

Abbey is puzzled. Why did I get her toys out of the toy box? Choosing the toys is her job!

So, other than the tug and the hoop jump, the games we play are in her control and she usually likes to pick at least two per session. Lately, there's a been new game that she's wanting to play (I first eluded to it in this blog post) and unlike the other games, it doesn't revolve around a toy in her box. I personally don't consider it a game, but she insists that SHE gets to choose the game and the game that she wants to play is Abbey Goes in Her Crate and Gets Treats! I suppose I should be grateful that she's enjoying the crate retraining so much that she considers it a game that could be tacked on to the evening revelry, but I like her to be able to burn off a little energy when she plays, not get snacks! Sometimes she will refuse to play a game at all if she doesn't get to play the Treats in the Crate game. It does seem like it helps if I do some general obedience training plus crate training during the day; if she's already had her fix of fun in the crate, she's more likely stick to the fun that can be found in her toy box in the evening. Believe me, though, if we do play the Treats in the Crate game, Abbey has to work for her rewards! It's just so funny to me that she has put Treats in the Crate in the same mental category as doing barrel rolls in the air as she catches a ball or being dragged across the rug by a rope held in her teeth. I guess games, in her mind, are about the fun, not the exercise, and sometimes there's just nothing more fun than getting Treats in the Crate!

Here Abbey is playing a fun game of "Go In Your House" AND "Leave It!"
You can see the row of Cheerios she's nicely ignoring on the sill of the crate door.

She makes me laugh, my Abbey does, whether she is eagerly flopping down on the pillow in her house in hopes of getting a snack or noisily rearranging the contents of the toy box as she seeks the perfect toy for how she feels like playing right this moment. I love to watch her skittering, bounding, bouncing, zooming, jumping, twirling, leaping, whirling, pouncing, prancing, wagging, growling, bowing, bucking, spinning, rolling, and running. She is joy in motion when she plays, unless, of course, the game is Treats in the Crate, in which case she embodies joy at rest.

The whirling blur of Abbey at play.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Darkest Evening of the Year

Whether we think about it or not, we all go through our lives referring to several different calendars. There is the official calendar, of course, the one with the days of the weeks, marked with national and religious holidays, that we use to map out our lives from day to day. There is a second calendar, unique to each person but gladly shared, that contains the birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and other joyful occasions that we celebrate together. However, most of us also have a third calendar, a deeply private one, whose dates are never written down because they are written on our hearts with scars, a calendar of pain.

This is the calendar that records the anniversaries of our sorrows: the deaths of loved ones, painful partings, debilitating injuries, and the endings of eras. Some of these "holidays," so to speak, lose importance over time. For me, the second week of October, once a time of year hallowed by death, is now the time when I celebrate the anniversary of bringing Abbey home. And it was only after the fact this year that I realized I had forgotten all about having a day of observance on the 1st of December. Eight years ago, and in many of the years that followed, the notion that I might someday cease to recall that painful holiday would've been unthinkable. I am thankful that December 1st need no longer be an important date on my third calendar. However, I thought that I might recognize instead the no-less-minor observance of the Second Week of January.

I have made no secret of my bipolar II disorder. I am adamant that it is nothing to be ashamed of and that by being open about the realities of living with mental illness is what I can do to help destigmatize psychiatric disorders and perhaps help others. That said, nearly all of the dates on my calendar of sorrows relate to mental health crises.

December 1, 2003 was momentous because that was the day when I reached the point where I could no longer cope and found myself in a psychiatric hospital. As strange as it may sound to someone who has never suffered from profound depression or any other aspect of a serious mental illness, in many ways it was a relief to be in the hospital. It was there that I first understood that I was dealing not with a flawed personality, as I had assumed, but a physical illness. It was such a relief to learn that my inability to be happy or at ease was caused by a major imbalance in my brain chemistry. I'm not saying it was easy for a nice, timid, little white girl from the suburbs to be mixed in with the schizophrenic crack-addicts that comprised part of that downtown Chicago hospital's patient population, but I cannot emphasize enough how relieved I was to finally understand what was wrong with me and to know that I was finally going to get help. I was discharged from the hospital after 12 days. My doctors were reluctant to do this, as I was still very sick, but my insurance coverage had run out. I had been started on Zoloft and I was to check back in with the outpatient arm of the psych hospital after Christmas.

I made it through Christmas okay and returned to Chicago, where I had been going to grad school, and checked in with the outpatient intake doctor. He assessed how I was doing, set me up to see a therapist and a medication doctor through the clinic, and advised me to increase my dose of Zoloft.

It was only a short time later that antidepressants would get a black box warning that teens and adults in their early 20s, such as I was, could suffer adverse effects when dosages were raised. At the time, however, all I knew was that I was soon depression-sleeping 15 hours a day. Most of my progress and all of my momentum had been lost. Finally, on some day during the second week of January (I have forgotten which one), my mother, who was concerned, talked to the intake doctor, the two of them talked to me, and it was determined that I needed to go back to the hospital.

As helpful as the hospital had been, I had assumed that having been diagnosed and started on treatment, I would never be back there again. It was so disheartening to hear that a little more than a month later that I was hospital-bound again. The first time I went, a school counselor had taken me there in a taxi. This time, because my boyfriend wasn't getting off work until 10:30 that night, I had to take myself.

In my memory, the second hospitalization was just plain hard. I spent nine days on the psych unit, discouraged and emotionally overwhelmed. There was a much more volatile mix of other patients this time, and unlike the last time, when there had been three other patients I'd become friends with, there was no one I felt quite as comfortable with as I'd felt with them. Hardest of all was the presence of a woman who was suffering from rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. It's a hellish form of the disease that causes the sufferer to whip back and forth between depression and mania every few hours. Her room was next to mine and she was on 24-hour observation, so she was usually in my vicinity and taking up much of the attention of the staff. She was a nice enough person, but in my emotionally vulnerable state, the intensity of her frequently fluctuating moods was exhausting. She also felt particularly close to the mental health worker I liked best, monopolizing his time. It was rough. But despite many low moments, it's the memory of my solo trip to the hospital that remains the most haunting.

I was living in Logan Square at the time, the Chicago neighborhood just past Wicker Park on the Blue Line. To get to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, located off the Magnificent Mile, I had to take the Blue Line downtown, transfer to the Red Line, and ride one stop north to Grand, the same route I took if I went to meet my boyfriend when he got off work. I recall it being roughly 5 o'clock on a dark and bitterly cold evening when I started out. I wore my long and ugly sleeping bag-like coat against the January chill and I remember thinking, during the 20 minute ride from Logan Square to downtown Chicago, that I was undoubtedly the only passenger on the train on her way to voluntarily commit herself to a locked psychiatric unit. It seemed utterly dispiriting. And yet, I could think of no better alternative, because as much as I loathed to go, I knew it was where I needed to be, that I would be safe there. It was with these low thoughts that I searched the dark and empty streets away from the bright lights and shops and crowds of the Magnificent Mile for the ER. I knew the address of the building that housed the psych units, and, as a side note, the hospital's maternity wards, and I thought it would be easy enough to locate the ER from there, but seemed to last forever, that slow slog through the dark streets, like a slow-motion fall from a fatal height. My long down coat seemed to offer little protection against the icy wind blowing off the lake just a few blocks away and I was equally cold and lost inside. There were other dark hours during that first year of instability that were far more terrible and terrifying, but none that were nearly so demoralizing, which is a quiet but potent poison of its own. At last I found the brightly lit emergency room and surrendered myself to the long process of admittance to the psych unit and what seemed like a sentence of unending mental illness.

I was right, on that cold evening, that treating my mental illness would turn out to be a long, hard, slow process. It would also prove to be just one of several more hospitalizations, but none of them were as hard as that second time. What I couldn't know, at the end of the second week of January in 2004, is that I would ultimately find just the right medication and just the right therapy and would achieve levels of happiness and balance that I was utterly incapable of even imagining, much less consider possible, before my diagnosis and treatment. It's turned out that my migraines, not the bipolar disorder, are what has disabled me. Oh, the mental illness certainly complicates the treatment of the migraines, and it is absolutely essential I take medication every day for the rest of my life to keep my brain chemistry balanced, but those desperate days as 2003 drew to a close and 2004 feebly dawned were not failings, as you might imagine psychiatric hospitalizations to be, but rather the first fragile but essential roots of my recovery.

My bipolar II disorder is currently stable. These days, all I need are three 15-minute check-in appointments with my psychiatrist a year and perhaps a phone chat every six months or so with my therapist. But despite how well I'm doing, and for how long, in some ways it's hard to believe that it's already been eight years since I can still so vividly remember the way I was before. Time will continue to pass, though, so one reason I wish to keep the 1st of December and the Second Week in January on my unspoken calendar is not to relive the pain, but to honor what I went through and how far I've come. By never forgetting that cold, dark, lonely night, I will also never lose sight of how amazing it is to live in a place where it is light and warm.

You can read about my first hospitalization here and my third hospitalization here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Well, another one of life's little unexpected mishaps has come my way. Yesterday evening, on the way home from my physical therapy session, I reached into the back seat in an effort to control my dog, who is going ballistic, grabbed on to her collar, and had my hand painfully wrenched and twisted. I instantly knew something was gravely injured and spent rest of the evening icing the wounded hand, which was swollen and very painful to the touch. I temporarily splinted it using a tennis ball and sock to keep the hand largely immobilized during the night, which was helpful, no doubt, but while the swelling had gone down some this morning, it was clear that a doctor's visit was in order.

Pouting over my inconvenient injury.
So, I swung by doctor's office this afternoon where they gently and sympathetically poked and prodded and determined that an x-ray was definitely a good idea to rule out a possible fracture. The x-rays came back looking great, so what I am in possession of is a very nasty hand sprain. This is somewhat awkward because it is my right hand and I am severely right-handed. I am very clumsy doing even very simple tasks with my left hand, such as eating or brushing my teeth, so for the next few days at least, until the less severely sprained middle finger heals, it looks like I will be spending most my time writing with the help of my headset. The 1st joint of my pinky finger is the most damaged, but fortunately, once I have my index and middle finger working again, I may be able to resume some of my normal activities..

Why were you so worked up, pup?
Abbey behaving in a perfectly mellow way earlier in the day.

One of the things I will be doing this week is keeping a close eye on the dog. Her behavior in the car yesterday was very strange. She had been suspicious of small children on the sidewalk, growled at people sitting in their cars and not even looking at her, and overly upset by people walking by the car. It's perhaps not so unusual for her to be worked up up the sight of a large German Shepherd being walked next to the car, but her reaction was really quite extreme, seeing as she is not a dog that goes ricocheting around the backseat even when she is excited by the sight of another dog, which is why I tried to grab her. I don't know if she wasn't feeling well, if there has been some change in my behavior that is making her feel more protective, or if she has been feeling bored and has become frustrated, but I have decided to increase the amount of training I'm giving her, which will be good for mental stimulation, fun, and reinforcing my position as a leader who doesn't need to be protected.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The New Year's Newest Listings!

It's been a while, but with the arrival of 2012, I'm putting some new listings up at last! There are lots of beautiful photos and cards in this latest bunch, including the first wave of photos I took when I visited the flower shop in December!

At the moment the only new listing in the Mouse shop is for the 2012 Mouse calendar (there are two left!), though I have at least one new listing planned for the near future.

I have more floral cards to list (Valentine's Day is coming!) and no shortage of great flower photos to add, but this is a great start for the new year!