3M, or Almost Famous: Part 2

3M: Menopause, MS and Metallica

Day 2 of our trip to Kansas City and hanging with my new best friends, Metallica. All our Bowie buddies had left the building and were on to the next stop on their itinerary. As I recall we didn’t do anything much that day prior to the show that night (CP if you’re reading this chime in anytime with your memories of this fun adventure!).

The relationship between Menopause and MS is a contentious one. Menopause initally calls the shots with a prickly heat or an out and out hot flash and that pisses MS off. MS in turn shows Menopause who’s boss by refusing to balance, walk straight or have strong muscles. This bratty behavior back and forth has gone on with me for years ~ I think I had my first hot flash back in 2002 and I’m STILL having them. Geez, can’t we all just get along? Apparently not, as was proven that night.

As was befitting ‘Friends Of The Band’, RT had procured amazing seats for us very far down and close to the stage. Our ‘almost famous’ status followed us as RT winked at CP from the stage and the people around us, who were winners of radio contest seats, looked at her like they wanted her to call them “Love”.

Seven years ago I was still mainly symptom free of MS. I avoided heat which caused everything to wobble a bit and I did have to sit more often than stand. Then there were always those pesky stairs.

So we’re sitting way down front in this older arena. I mention the age as the stairs were very steep and there was no railing (no ADA retrofitting here yet). CP and her boyfriend were very helpful in getting me settled in my seat. Adding insult to injury to this whole thing, I tend to be claustrophobic in crowded places without a direct and easy access out.

Of course, since my MS has been exacerbated by the stairs and the claustrophobia, Menopause decides to join the party with a vengeance. The show starts with some super loud, hard driving ROCK ‘N ROLL. The fans are going nuts, screaming and yelling. I’m sweating like a hog with it’s hair on fire. I’m feeling claustrophobic and trapped because how on earth am I going to get back up those stairs? And then…from 10 feet away, big columns of flames start shooting out of the stage in this huge extravaganza of pyrotechnics. Oh boy.

That does it. I crawl up the stairs back to the concession level where I sit out the entire show on the hard concrete floor. CP comes up to check on me now and again and I assure her I can hear the show just fine from this level. I confess. At this point I hate anything that has to do with the Metallica. I could care less about David Bowie. All I can do is wish for it to be over so I can get the hell out of there and back to civilization. A soft pillow. A good book. Silence.

I’d never thought I was really cut out to be Almost Famous and this proved it for me. Don’t get me wrong ~ we had a blast. Our night went on from there and this time included even more members of this iconic band and some glimpses of the types of behavior I’d been anticipating. Overall the entire weekend was sensational, and certainly one of my fondest rock ‘n roll memories. CP and CMcF were the perfect companions for this capriciousness and I’ll always be grateful to them for including me.

Since then though, no more Metallica for me. I wish I could just as easily turn off the other 2 Ms!

3M, or Almost Famous: Part 1

3M: Menopause, MS and Metallica

I had a friend stop by last night for dinner and for some reason I was chattering away like I’d been stranded on a desert island for a month. We were listening to music and I started reminiscing about my years in the audio industry and some of the more memorable experiences I’d had and thought I might as well write this one down lest I forget my trip to Kansas city back in 2004 (I think).

My friend and co-worker CP called me one day and asked me if I wanted to go to Kansas City to see Metallica with her and her then boyfriend (now husband). As you’ve no doubt gathered from past posts, my general response to any question like that is a resounding, Sure! The new bass player was a friend of CP’s boyfriend, and he thought it’d be fun if they came out to hang with the band, and bless CP’s heart, she thought to invite me along.

Now, my girls were about 17 and 19 at this time. Elizabeth was living at home, so when some of her classmates heard about this news they were duly impressed. “Dude! No way! That’s sick! You rock!” I was somewhat chagrined then to admit to them that I’d never even heard a Metallica song to my knowledge, and could someone lend me a CD?

It took me about 10 seconds into one song to affirm my hunch as to why I wasn’t a Metallica fan previously. This was no cause to cancel the trip however, I mean come on, this was one of the most famous heavy metal bands of all time. I was ready to p-a-r-t-y! Or at the very least, be in for a rock and roll adventure.

The first thing we do is check into our hotel which is the local Marriott downtown. The band is staying at the ritzier Fairmont Hotel a few blocks away. CP starts looking in the local paper for what one can do in KC on a Monday night, and says ~ oh boy! David Bowie is in town, and playing the night before the Metallica show! Who knew! Armed with this seemingly trivial fact, we head over to the Fairmont to meet up with RT, the bass player.

We find a table in the lounge and order some drinks. We’re laughing and chatting and then CP says to me in a stage whisper through clenched teeth, “move the newspapers”. Huh? I look at her quizzically and then at the chair next to me that is piled with our newspapers (featuring the David Bowie info) as she repeats again, in the same stage whisper, “move the newspapers.” I do as I’m told and a rather lithe, nice man with curly hair proceeds to sit in the vacated chair.  I say hello and introduce myself. He looks a little surprised and introduces himself back as Kurt. “Hi Kurt” I say and then turn to see CP’s face.

She rather urgently pulls me aside and tells me that it’s KIRK as in Kirk Hammett one of THE most famous guitarist on the entire planet. And I’ve just called him Kurt. I feel awful ~ what a rube! I mumble an apology and take my seat, internally resolving to pay more attention and make no more faux pas’ that will further embarrass my friends.

The conversation turns to David Bowie again ~ one of the guys had seen him in the gym that morning. The gym!? Are you kidding me? These guys are supposed to be legendary rock stars ~ WHOO HOO!! Wait, the gym?

Well I had had a certain special friendship with the guitarist for Bowie’s band at that time that had ended rather abruptly about 2 years before (that’s a whole other story…) but CP and I decided that it was rather serendipitous that we were in Kansas City at the same time (what were the odds?), that I should let bygones be bygones etc., so I tracked down his number and gave him a call.

He was pleasantly surprised to hear from me and also thought it rather serendipitous that we were both in Kansas City at the same time (what were the odds?) and asked if we’d like to come by and see the Bowie show that next night. Yes! We would indeed! He promised us a couple of tickets (for CP and me ~ we reasoned that if Metallica couldn’t figure out how to get in on their own, then shame on their rock star asses!).

So with this new wrinkle ironed out, we head out to dinner. Yee haw! Now it’s going to be time to really see how the big boys play. I’m trying to decide how to politely decline the shots of tequila and lines of cocaine and stick to my wine, when the waiter comes to the table. One beer. Two wines. One carrot juice. Two sparkling waters. One Pepsi. That’s it. And the wine and the beer were me, CP and her boyfriend. WTF?

We proceed to have a very easy going conversation around the table about yoga, stock tips, stretching techniques, failing eyesight, organic gardening and so on. Just a bunch of semi middle aged professionals having dinner. Sheese. Some story to take to the folks back home.

The next day CP and I head over to the corporate offices of the big publishing firm we work for, located in KC. We breeze in and tell everyone how beat we are from being up all night partying DOWN with Metallica and and our plans to head to see Bowie that night (“those kooky Californians”….we had a reputation to uphold). La de da, indeed.

When it’s time to head over to the show which is way, way, way outside of town, we collectively take a cab ~ me, CP, her man, the bass player, the super famous guitar player, and the band’s head of security. We all get to the venue and us girls were on the list (“step right this way”) with like, Row 5 seats, and the Metallica guys were true to their rock star roots and got in no problem.

We stood around together (for some reason CP and I didn’t actually sit down in our seats) until the show was over. Then my new friend KIRK tells me that he’s never met any of the guys in Bowie’s band and would I please introduce him to my friend the lead guitar player? I agree and we wait outside for the musicians to shower and get organized and come outside.

So here I am in Kansas City in a parking lot “backstage” area, meeting up with an old flame I haven’t seen in 2 years and doing introductions between these two rock gods like I’m Artie Puffkin from Spinal Tap. I found some pretty ironic humor in that. My old friend asks if I’d like to join him and the rest of the Bowie band for dinner, and I say breezily “oh thanks, I’d love to, but I’m with the Metallica guys tonight”. Since when is my dance card being balanced between David Bowie and Metallica!!?!?!

So off they all go, and we head out into the parking lot to find a cab. Uh oh. Everyone from the show has left an hour ago, we’re out pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there isn’t a cab in sight. As we’re standing around formulating a plan, this big, white, very slick tour bus glides up to us and stops. The door magically and silently opens and a man steps out and says, “would you like to ride with Mr. Bowie back to the hotel?”.

Um, would we like to ride with Mr. Bowie back to the hotel? Hell yes, we’d like that! We board the bus and Mr. B welcomes CP and me and calls us “Love” (swoon), and then all the musician boys sit together and talk shop for the 20 minutes back to the hotel. When we arrive back DB again says something that involves calling us “Love” (swoon) and we all head inside. CP and I excuse ourselves to use the ladies room and tell the rest of the gang we’ll meet them upstairs.

You can picture us together: “David Bowie called us Love! We rode on his tour bus! He called us Love!”. We were definitely having a major Tiger Beat moment, but I mean really, how often do you get ride around KC with David Bowie? Even a pair of old jaded music industry gals like us were pretty impressed.

We breath deeply and slowly and then saunter casually upstairs to the lounge. After all, we can’t seem like a pair of jacked up groupies when we’re hanging with the coolest heavy metal band on the planet. So imagine our surprise when we sit down at the table and all these super famous, ultra cool guys are all saying, “We met David Bowie! We got a ride in his tour bus! We met David Bowie!”

Just goes to show that everyone has someone they look up to and admire, but I’m betting he didn’t call them”Love” (swoon).

And it’s Uno! Dos! Tres Strikes You’re Out!

Back in the fall of 2009, Lisa called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Nicaragua with her for a week. Yes! I wanted to go! I think she was a little surprised by how quickly I acquiesced, but believe it or not, Nicaragua had been on my bucket list of places to go. My ex Ken and I went to Peru back in the 80’s because all our friends were going to Italy – so unexceptional. No one went to South America (except us). Now the hot spot is Costa Rica…and no one goes to Nicaragua. That’s how it made my list.

I told my sister that based on the fact I was buying a condo in Arizona and the NAMM show was coming up, all things timing wise should fall nicely for us to leave at the end of January. This gave me plenty of time to pack, get the house fixed up and be ready for the tenant to move in on February 1. I would need a nice holiday post NAMM and I could return rested and meet my belongings in Arizona (which Elizabeth was spearheading) and start my new life.

The first little niggle came when I had to have the notary for my mortgage papers meet me in Anaheim at the NAMM show. I suggested we meet in my room at the Marriott. The poor dear. She drove from LA to Anaheim on a Friday night which took her over an hour in traffic. She had to park 4 blocks away and wade through some….let’s just say “festive”…. show attendees; a marching band outside; a drum circle in the lobby and a mariachi/trance band in the bar. You could still hear hints of this cacophony up in my room on the 9th floor.

She held it together as best she could as I signed ream after ream of paperwork. After about one hour, she took a deep breath and headed back out into the wilds of Anaheim on the first night of  NAMM. I’m sure she was happy to see the last of me. Little did she know.

Sunday night, post trade show I headed home and swapped suitcases. I had one packed with business clothes, and one packed with vacation clothes. Everything else was mostly packed up and ready for the movers on the following Tuesday (which as I mentioned, Liza was managing for me). The next morning, I get a call from my mortgage broker in Arizona telling me that all the papers had to be resigned and re-notarized. It turns out there was some discrepancy in the paperwork due to state laws of some sort. Whatever, I didn’t really care. My notary friend drove back over to my house and I signed reams and reams of paperwork, again. Another day through the system, and voila! the keys would be mine.

I hopped on a plane the next day at LAX and met up with my sister who was flying from Seattle, at the Houston airport. Yay! We’re on vacation! It’s coming together! Just as I am stepping on to the plane (literally) my phone rings and it’s my mortgage broker. I need to sign more paperwork. There are some signatures missing. No big deal. I am way ahead of him and have left a signed power of attorney giving Elizabeth signing authority.

No. If she signs on those four dotted lines, the WHOLE shebang needs to be resigned and notarized. Oh for heaven’s sake. I tell him that everything I own is being picked up by a moving truck the next day and is being shipped to Tubac (where I won’t be BTW, because I’m…on…my…way…to… NICARAGUA YOU FOOL!).

What can I do? I order a drink, fly with Lisa to Managua, and decide to deal with it the next day. We get to our final destination via what I remember as donkey, motorcycle, and wagon. This is in fact just how everyone around us is getting to their destination, we’re actually in a nice car compliments of Lisa’s friends.

We settle into an amazing house which we share with Max and Judith Bailey, replete with an indoor swimming pool. The Baileys are a wonderful couple from Seattle, parents of my sister’s friend that is our hostess in Nicaragua. The next morning we head over to Tamara and Jonathan’s  house where he miraculously has email, Skype, a scanner and high speed internet. I find out that none of the remaining 4 signatures need to be notarized, so I sign, send and pray. Either I will end up in Arizona in a home, or a dumpster. Fortunatley, we all know how that ended up.

After this crisis is averted, the BIG news is revealed. The Nicaraguan baseball World Series is taking place in Granada where we are staying: the Orientales de Granda vs. the Leones of Leon. We can get box seats for about $15 US per person – are we in? Are we in? Are you nuts!? Lisa and I and the rest of the gang can’t get to the stadium fast enough.

This is baseball like none of us have ever seen before. Holy shit! There are riot police in full regalia lining the infield.

There is food (I use the term lightly) being served that is like nothing I’ve ever seen before that is gray, gelatinous and being served in a banana leaf.  This picture doesn’t do it justice, this dish actually looked vaguely edible with identifiable fruit and chicken or something.

The stands are PACKED beyond belief with both sides chanting, pounding, screaming, threatening, pushing, taunting, drinking, shoving, singing, hollering ~ we are talking some serious team spirit here. Lisa and I kept wishing our brother Dave had been with us. He would have loved it!

So, of course, during the midst of all this mayhem and chaos, I have to pee. Lisa generously offers to come with me (have I made it clear before how much I adore my sister?) and together we somehow manage to conscript a policeman to escort us as we slog through the myriad of drunk and rabid fans to the….bathroom? No. Toilet? Maybe. Pit? We’re getting closer.

There is a line (ah, one thing seems universal in all cultures ~ the line to the “ladies room”). I stand there for about 15 minutes until I get to the front and am told via gestures, giggles, pointing and pantomime, that unless I cough up some córdobas for a scrap of toilet paper, I am out of luck. I of course, have left my purse brimming with cordobas up at the seat which is far, far, far away. The police escort is long gone.

I am directed to another line where the general consensus I take away is that they are a little more generous and I can just go pee after the appointed waiting period. Not so. By the time another 20 minutes has passed and I get to the front of that line, I get the same story – no cordoba, no paper, no pee. Oh My God. As if.

By now I’m doing the pee dance and ain’t no way I’m not getting past the paper squad and into the bathroom (I’m still naive enough at this point to think there are stalls – hah!). I start enunciating in my loudest, proudest American that I am from Los Angeles, California ~ an exotic and rare bird here in the wilds of the Granada national baseball stadium. It works. A piece of paper is actually gifted to me and finally! it’s my turn.

There is a stall of sorts. 3 raw concrete walls and a square concrete pit. Let’s not forget that I must catheter in order to pee at all. Holy cripes. This is a challenge even for an old pro like me. I gingerly lean my hand on the wall, do my business, and get the hell out of there. I take advantage of a plastic oil barrel filled with cold water to wash in.

Agghh!! I feet like I’d passed some sort of test ~ a nightmare pee test. The oddest thing of it though, is that all the women in there were funny, friendly, joking, curious, kind and helpful. Despite the crude conditions and lack of privacy there was the same old female bathroom camaraderie that you might find at an airport, a theater or Dodger stadium. Just a bunch of cordoba packing, beer drinking, gelatinous-banana-leaf-wrapped eating gals enjoying a game.

Although this isn’t something you’d find in too many tour books, going to the World Series in Nicaragua with my sister is one of my fondest memories in life to date. And best of all, the home team won ~ go Granada!

Weather…or Not

One of my absolute favorite things about moving to Tubac has been the invitation to join one of the several book clubs that exist here. The Tubac Bookies as we’re called, consists of 12 women: Karen (our leader), Sue, Germaine, Nancie, Pam, Nan, Bernadette, Veronica, Tina, Sharon, Dianne and me.

This eclectic band of women come from all over the place and are all smart, creative, witty and sassy. We meet on the first Wednesday of every month and take turns hosting. While we’re getting together, the significant others of the ladies also meet at someone’s house where they eat hot dogs, drink scotch and I imagine, grunt together. They affectionately call themselves The Illiterates.

All these women have beautiful homes. Whoever is hosting trots out an amazing spread of food and wine on a beautifully laid table. We’ve had fresh seafood, homemade soup, French roasted lamb, authentic Brazilian dishes, deserts…I could go on and on, but I’m getting hungry. The food and the presentation is always as individual and amazing as the women who serve it.

Yesterday morning dawned like any other, until I tried to get out of bed. That turned out to be a slow go. My limbs felt like they had somehow become enmeshed in the fabric of the sheets during the night and did not wish to be parted. I wish they’d felt like that between 3 and 5 a.m. when I was tossing around like a landed fish.

My bed and my legs finally extricated, I went out to become one with the fabric of my kitchen, mainly the coffee pot. Coffee, injection, vitamins, oatmeal and fruit usually leave me feeling pretty chipper and ready to go. Not so much yesterday. I looked outside and there they were ~ clouds.

A few clouds…big whoop you say! I agree ~ generally no big deal. But something in that combination of barometric pressure, heat, wind and cloudiness took the feeling of having any blood in my body away. This was going to be a couch day, no doubt about it.

I figured though that by 5:30 it would cool down enough to ease my feelings of malaise so that I would be able to go partake in some lively conversation, amazing food and stellar company, but alas, no. I was still a drained noodle with tingling skin. (Good visual, yeah?)

Now you all know how much I love food, wine and company. It was with a heavy heart that I had to cancel at the last minute. My wonderful friends reached out with concern, good wishes, offers of  help of any kind ~ a kinder group of friends would be hard to come by.

Next month is my turn to host. I’m excited to have everyone over, but this will be the true test of friendship with my girls. My house is tiny in comparison to all theirs, and my energy can be limited by unforeseen events like clouds in the sky. I know this bunch though, and I can guarantee that they will be just fine smashed into my living room and eating pizza hot pockets if that is all I can muster up.

P.S. Bookies if you’re reading this ~ I’ve never made or eaten a pizza hot pocket in my life, and don’t intend to start now, so it’ll be safe to come over….

Phase 2

I filed all the paperwork myself for the second round of SSD as I mentioned before. I’ve been feeling confident and a little smug because I finally got the info from Dr. S who has been my primary MS doctor for 11 years and truly knows the course of my condition. He sent about 30 pages of back up to go along with his initial letter supporting my claim, so I’m thinking YES! No problem from here.

I thought it might be a good plan to read this medical tome that he had sent along detailing the progression of my MS over the last 11 years. It was not. Denial has been a key component in my personal MS treatment, and this sent a bit of a shock wave through the old denial pond.

It seems I have turned a corner. For the past 10 years I have been chronicled and duly noted as fine, stable, optimistic, slightly overweight (not by Dr S. but by a 2nd opinion man ~ bastard!), strong, and with all kinds of messy medical notated bits regarding the old spinal column and brain.

Somewhere mid 2010, the notes start to suggest some progression (finally some good news!) from primary-progressive MS to secondary-progressive (Oh. Shit. Not a good kind of progression at all). You are no doubt asking the same question I did: Well, what’s the difference?

According to my #1 go to resource the National MS Society (www.nmss.org):

The name for this disease course comes from the fact that it follows after the relapsing-remitting course. Of the 85% of people who are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), most will eventually transition to SPMS, which means that the disease will begin to progress more steadily (although not necessarily more quickly), with or without any relapses(also called attacks or exacerbations).

Well isn’t that special. Additionally, I found a hidden gem stating that based on the level of my demyelination, it’s amazing that I get along as well as I do. Another question as to what that means:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.  In MS, the body’s white blood cells attack tissue called myelin sheath.  Myelin sheaths are the protective covering for nerve fibers in the brain.  Much like an electric wire is insulated with rubber or plastic, the myelin sheaths cover nerve fibers as they transmit nerve impulses within the brain.

When a myelin sheath is worn down or destroyed, the process is called demyelination. Demyelination causes the nerve fiber to be exposed.  The exposed nerve fiber is less able to transmit nerve impulses.  As a result, messages between different parts of the body are not transmitted as effectively. After the myelin is destroyed, scar tissue called sclerosis is left behind in the damaged areas, which are referred to as lesions or plaques.

Lots of demyelination = lots of of scar tissue called sclerosis = multiple sclerosis!

Damn! I should have kept my Nosy-Parker-Gladys-Kravitz self out of those notes. In reality though, it doesn’t really make much difference to me. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel – Oh! so demyelinized! Some days I feel OK. The pictures show my nerves looking like stars, that I can see reflected off the surface of my day to day life. One sclerosis at a time.

 

Get Off the Couch, We’re Going to Bisbee!

Being the people person that I am, I was delighted several years ago to discover Couch Surfing (www.couchsurfing.org). The basic premise here is that you register with this social media site and detail your hosting availability (be it meet for a cup of coffee or the offer of a few nights on the ‘couch’). There’s only a little bit more to it than that (some safety features for example) but once you’re signed up you can surf for couches to sleep on all over the world.

This is right up my alley. I LOVE meeting new people. Although the stars have yet to align for me to sleep on couches when I am traveling, I have hosted several times, both here and in California. My friend Nick from Manchester, England walked across America (yes, you read that right ~ from Times Square to Santa Monica); Ben came from England via Florida to buy a motorcycle in LA; Megan and Josh came from Michigan to help with the Floating Stone Spa relaunch here in Tubac; and most recently, Gail from Derby, England stopped by for a night and stayed for three.

Generally when visiting a new place you go to a hotel, sight see a bit, go back to the hotel, eat dinner, sleep. Repeat. Ok, maybe not all that mundane, but you get the idea. What makes CS so cool is that you actually get the opportunity to experience a place from the inside. Eat where the locals eat, avoid cheesy tourist traps, meet the natives. In Ben’s case, I put him to work in my garden  and then took him to a spa opening where he drank pink martinis and was fawned over by the ladies ~ he loved it! Can’t get that in a guide book.

So last week my newest surfer Gail showed up. Gail is my age and from England. She is surfing across the US from Florida. She is full of beans and we hit it off like a house on fire. Her plan was to head to San Diego from Tubac, but I convinced her a trip to Bisbee was in order, and she agreed.

We spent a lovely day in that funny little town. We drove around and looked at many of the famous stairs that are featured in the Bisbee 1000 race (http://www.bisbee1000.org); had a hamburger at the Copper Queen Hotel; met an old geezer in a period costume at the visitor’s center who told us about Pancho Villa and his purported German connections; and finally wended our way over to Douglas, AZ, a dot of a town seemingly half frozen in the 1950s.

The following day I took Gail up to Morning Star Ranch where my friends R & A live. They have a magnificent home on 36 acres of pristine Sonoran desert, which the average visitor from Derby, UK doesn’t usually get to see. We had a fantastic lunch and then a ramble through the ranch in a Jeepy type vehicle. I took a tired but happy Gail home where she quickly fell out of favor by kicking my ASS in Scrabble, twice.

Gail moved from Arizona on to Hawaii for a week, then she’s off to San Francisco for a week and then back to England later this month. I’ve forgiven her the Scrabble trouncing and I look forward to seeing my friend either here or there again in the near future.

Welcome To The Neighborhood

The housing area that I live in consists of 108 units and only about 15 or so permanent residents. Of those 93 units, many are in a rental pool for snowbirds, border patrol or just used sporadically by their owners. Consequently, there is always a lot of activity as people from all over the US and Canada come and go on a regular basis. You can always tell which ones are the Canadians ~ they’re the ones out by the pool when us locals are still wearing sweatshirts.

As I live in an end unit, right across from the pool, I have a pretty good view of what’s going on if I care to. I admit, my inner Gladys Kravitz does sometimes rear her ugly head, and I sit and look out the window at the comings and goings of the people around me.

A couple of days ago, I had just finished cleaning the cat’s litter box and had a bag full of, well, cat shit that I was taking out to the trash can. I opened the gate and noticed some people unpacking their car across the street. Naturally, I very nonchalantly sauntered out down the path all the while spying on what they were doing. Naturally, I wasn’t paying attention to my feet (which require quite a bit of focused guidance) and naturally I stepped off the path onto the gravel and started to lose my balance.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear before that balance is no longer one of my strong suits. One tiny misstep and there is no going back. I’m sure my arms flailed and I may have grunted or cried out in some fashion, but next thing I know I’m lying on the ground with a rock lodged in my hip, my elbow bleeding and the bag of cat shit broken open and splayed all around me.

There is something about falling down that cracks me (and most people) up. I think it’s a combination of embarrassment and an element of buffoonery. There is also something scary about falling down (am I hurt?). And of course everyone’s very first reaction: “Did anyone see me do that!?”

So I’m laying there slightly giggling, with a few tears stinging my eyes, surrounded by cat doo, trying to assess the damage when I look up to see the new neighbor that I’d been staring at offer me her hand. What could I say? “I’m ok, really, thank you, I’m ok. I’m Gladys Kravitz, welcome to the neighborhood!”

Alrighty then…bring it on!

The last few weeks have been overwhelming to say the least. So many details and forms and appointments and meetings and STUFF to do. But!

  1. Taxes prepared and ready to be filed ~ check
  2. Forms filed for SSD reconsideration, including letters needed and supplied from doctors and me (with assistance from legal friend) ~ check
  3. Botox treatment ~ check
  4. New windshield in car ~ check
  5. AZ Dept of Economic Security paperwork and back-up ~ check
  6. Wild salmon thawing for dinner ~ check

Whew! So now I wait until Uncle Sam and Aunt Jan Brewer decide my financial fate. This leaves only one thing left to do. Wait 4 more minutes until it’s 5:00 and celebrate the finalization of all this stuff with a martini. Onward and upward!

 

Roller coaster…

I haven’t posted in some time due to house guests, another trip to CA, taxes, etc. but I think the main reason is I’ve been processing ~ deeply processing.

You see, after I got turned down for disability I did a bunch of research on things. The unhappy statistics I uncovered included that first time applicants were turned down something like 60% of the time, and 2nd time reconsideration applications were turned down 85% of the time. Shit. Not good odds.

I also was counseled to look up attorneys on this certain website and see how they stacked up with peers and clients. So I Googled and researched and emailed and Googled until my poor numb fingers were like cold dead fish. The net result is I’m filing my appeal myself with the help of some great books (thanks Robin and Rudy!); some A-one letter writing coaching from a friend who has worked extensively in disability law (you know who you are); and lots of good advice from the National MS Society website.

I found an attorney here in Tucson who comes very highly rated by the lawyer/peer rating and also also by friends here who have used him. I figure if I have to take this one step further to a judge, I want someone local rather than some slicker from NJ.

That decision having been made, I hirpled down to the SS office in Nogales to get some application paperwork (the filing online website being inoperable for some reason). I met with a very nice lady who set me up with what I needed. In the course of the conversation, I asked her a question: If the state sees me as disabled (so no unemployment benefits) yet the Federal government does NOT see me as disabled (so no SS benefits) then what the fuck does she suggest I do for some income!? (Ok, that was my inside voice. I actually asked her very politely).

She suggested I head around the corner to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. This is where the pondering and the processing started.

I went in and grabbed an application. Apparently, with zero income, I am conceivably eligible for food stamps and state subsidized health care.

Hmmm…..let’s look at this for a minute.  I own 2 homes. I own a car (a BMW no less). I have money in the bank. I have a stock portfolio. I have no debt beyond my mortgages.I have MS. I have no income. I have limited physical energy resources. I hirple. I’ve paid into the system and played by all the rules for almost 40 years. I don’t think I should be forced into living in squalor before I get the help I believe I’m due.

Anyway. I take note of my surroundings and one very stark and striking fact becomes clear:  I am the only non-Hispanic person in the room. When I take my application up to the clerk she says to me, “is this for YOU?!” I assure her that it is, take my seat and jump on a roller coaster of emotions that, in no particular order, go like this:

Anger, humiliation, fear, righteousness, embarrassment, fury, shame, frustration, sadness, pity and mortification. That’s off the top of my head. At one point I wanted to scream. At one point I wanted to be deified. At one point I started to cry.

I’m not a big fan of “Why Me”, I mean, heck, “Why Not Me?”. This however was one major eye-opening experience. The gamut of emotions and thoughts that ran through my head included some that I am too ashamed of myself to admit here publicly. One big take away for me was this: every politician from your local rural mayor to Mr. Obama himself should all be required to enter into this system for even just an hour or so. It is extremely humbling, to say the very least.

God bless America, I think.

 

Cat Scratch Fever

Today I’m feeling just disconnected and at sea. Disability attorneys. Paperwork. CASDI. Doctor’s reports. Forms. SSDI. Health insurance. More forms. More paperwork. And really, what the hell do I know about hiring attorneys and filling out government forms? I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but it is b-o-r-i-n-g, to say the least. And extremely overwhelming, too. Blech.

Overseeing this endless computer drudge are Cleo and Clark. Now Clark likes to sit on my lap and look fabulous while I’m trying to type. Cleo on other hand, is a scrappy, bitter hag of a cat. She does this spooky staring thing that just creeps me out. She meows really loudly and persistently. If you try to touch her however, she hisses, growls, spits, scratches and basically is just one old grumpy gal. Considering she’s pushing 17 or so (what’s that in cat years, like 300?) I imagine I’d feel pretty bitter too.

One day she was boring holes into the back of my head when I was making bread using a mixer. I became so frazzled that I lifted the paddle out of the mixer while it was still powered on and bread dough went flying all over the kitchen ~ floors, ceiling, counters, cabinets.  This made me more than a little nuts, so I threw her outside where she proceeded to ensconce herself  on the doorstep of the glass paned door and STARE at me some more. I closed the shade and considered a shot of scotch. This cat unnerves me!

Cleo adores Kate. Whenever she comes to visit that cat is the nicest, sweetest little kitty you’ve ever met. I keep trying to get Kate to take her back to California which she declines to do, because I think deep down, my friend knows she really is possessed by demons.