Leapin’ Lizards

I’m working on getting my house in order so I can put it in the rental pool here while I wait for it to sell. This entails decorating it in a Southwestern style and, being this close to Mexico, I figured I’d get some inexpensive, yet colorful, tin stars, suns, mirrors, etc. to brighten it up.

There are more than a few outdoor pottery and garden art shops here in Tubac. They work on the honor system: you find what you like, look at the price, figure out the tax, and then throw either money or a check in a slot by the door.  One such place called La Paloma has a clearance section outside, and I thought this might be just the ticket for my budget decorating needs.

In amongst a bunch of cracked plates, dented tin pots, hanging kokopelli silhouettes and fairly tacky wall hangings, I saw some mirrors that looked quite promising. I reached across the table, and pulled one out. AAGGHHH! Something jumped out of it! I threw it back down and held my breath. Nothing. Now, as a nearly native Arizonian (2 summers makes it so), I wasn’t about to get all squeamish and girly. I leaned gingerly in to see what it was and if it was gone. AGGGGHHH! The damn think jumped back out of the basket it was hiding in.

I leapt back and took two steps backward ~ but in my new backwards state I couldn’t catch my balance and down I went…. in the process knocking over a basket full of tin lizards (ironic).

So there I was again. Splayed on the ground, covered in tin lizards (better than cat shit!), with 2 men standing over me asking “Senora! Are you ok!?”

Of course my ego was bruised, but other than that I was fine. I didn’t buy a mirror, or a Kokopelli or even a tin lizard, for that matter. I think I might head to Home Goods after all.

Exacerbation Exasperation

Exacerbation: make (a problem, bad situation or negative feeling) worse

Exasperation: irritate intensely; infuriate

MS comes in several forms. The first and kindest is known as Relaxing-Remitting. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines it like this:

People with this type of MS experience clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks—which are called relapses, flare-ups, or exacerbations —are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which no disease progression occurs. Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

That one is a walk in the park as far as MS goes. I’ve had MS for over 25 years, and as evidenced by recent Facebook posts, some friends I’ve known for 30 years didn’t even realize there was an issue with my health. So what if I’d stagger around a little bit ~ it’s no secret I like my wine and perhaps they thought I’d had a tipple a little earlier than usual (really, 10 am? It was the music business, but anyway…).

Next comes Primary-Progressive. Apparently I opted to skip over this one completely.

This disease course is characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning—with no distinct relapses or remissions. The rate of progression may vary over time, with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements. 

Then we start into the big daddy part of the equation. Secondary-Progressive.

Following an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. 

My beloved neurologist Dr. S wrote a letter for me in support of my disability claim stating that I had moved from relapsing-remitting to secondary progressive. Silly me, I thought maybe he was just being nice and exaggerating my exasperating exacerbations for the benefit of my pending claim. On the inside, I knew better. Dr. S wouldn’t do that (be nice, yes; write an untruth, no).

Finally, there is Progressive-Relapsing. This one starts out bad, stays bad, and gets worse.

In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.

I thank my lucky stars daily that I am not further disabled. I still hirple around pretty good and manage on my own for the most part. Except. Except for the monsoons.

Spasticity is a common symptom of MS. Again, the NMSS: The word spasticity refers to involuntary muscle stiffness or spasms (sudden muscle contractions). In laymen’s terms, it means that (in my case) I either walk like Frankenstein, or my knees suddenly give out, or my foot drags and I trip. To give you a better idea, I recently visited my surrogate granddaughter who had just learned to walk 3 weeks earlier, and we walked just about the same. It also causes muscle weakness and it is wreaking hell on my gorgeous gams, I can tell you that.

Major triggers of spasticity are heat and humidity. (Southern Arizona! Good plan, Erika!) One of my favorite things about living here in Tubac are the monsoons. Big, huge, towering white spires of clouds that can bring wind, torrential rain, flash flooding, hail and magnificent thunder and lightening ~ it is a spectacle like no other. These storms are often followed within minutes by bright blue skies and enormous full bodied rainbows. It is magical.

But the humidity is hell. And wouldn’t you know that when I was in California last week, they had an unusual and unexpectedly hot and humid spell that brought…monsoons.  So for 2 weeks now, I have been staying inside, sleeping like 15 hours per day, and unable to walk more than 2 steps unassisted.

I realize my best bet might be a move to Siberia. Cool weather, hunky Slavs, vast lowlands and fluffy dogs. Instead, I’m heading moving back to Southern California this fall and leaving my little desert paradise. Hopefully the monsoons there were an anomaly this year and not an ongoing trend. That would really exasperate me!

Grown Up Doctor

How refreshing. Yesterday I went to see the doctor assigned to me for the 2nd round of my SS disability claim. Unlike Dr. Flintstone, she actually gave me a quasi neurological exam! She asked what meds I take, what characteristics my symptoms took on and not once, did she ask me if my children were married or why I lived in Tubac. Hooray! I feel like I might actually have a chance this time. At the very least, I feel the information she submits to the powers that be up on the big SS disability judgement thrones might actually reflect what is going on. Fingers crossed!

Trials and Tribulations

There isn’t anyone, anywhere that would argue that swimming and pool exercises are probably good for someone with MS. The gentle support of the water, the cooling effect on a hot day, all the ducks are in a row. I discovered something though ~ I don’t really like being in the water.

There are several reasons. If I even so much at put my toe in the water, I get water in my ears for 12 hours which is extremely annoying.  Since I can’t work out like the old days; am turning 54 in a few weeks; and have no plans to give up wine, my body doesn’t look so hot in a bathing suit anymore. I don’t like squeezing my substantial bits into some tight rouched (read slimming) slice of spandex. And then there is the hideous sensation of peeling the thing off post swim ~ yuck.

Also high on the list is the whole shaving thing. I’ve never actually met a woman who enjoys shaving, but it is another one of those seemingly no brainer tasks that becomes quite challenging with MS.

I assume I can thank my Scandinavian heritage for the fact that I am pelted like Sasquatch. The fact that I am single and unemployed, precludes the outlay of cash for waxing. The nether regions are safe from view with the exception of the rare occasion when I actually do don the tortuous bathing suit, and of course I live in shorts because I live in the desert. Consequently, I need to tackle the project of shaving at least once per week.

Oh sure, big deal. Lather up, scrape it off, have a Pepsi. Not so. I’m constantly thinking up clever ways to get the task accomplished. I swing one leg up and hang on to the shower bar with a death grip until I start to fall over. I just lean down like the old days and get so dizzy I think I’m going to pass out. I sit on the toilet and put a towel down on the floor. The best practice seems to be to go outside (this is when I’m thankful it’s a zillion degrees here), pull up a chair, a razor, some cream and the garden hose. Oh sure, the cold water sends my legs into fits of spasticity, but the net result is doubled: freshly shaven legs and a freshly watered garden.

Now, that is multitasking!

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….

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.

Is It A Little Warm In Here?

It’s been exactly one year since I moved to Tubac from LA. My, how time flies! When I first moved out here I don’t know that I was intending to stay permanently ~ my best friends were in LA, my girls were in LA, my clients were mainly in LA,  there is sushi in LA…..oh, and did I mention I hated the desert and the heat?

The number one question we all ask upon meeting someone new is “What brought you to Tubac?” (or, as Dr. G put it when I told him I was relocating, “Why the f@*& are you moving out there!?”). In my case, I have some very dear and long time friends (note: I didn’t say “old”, guys if you’re reading this) that I thought were nuts to leave the stunning California coast of Santa Barbara and relocate to the middle of NOWHERE. Nonetheless, I came to visit them and saw how beautiful it actually was out in Tubac and thought…are they nuts? It’s in the middle of NOWHERE!

My company was in the middle stages of despair and starting to require that we took unpaid furloughs in 2009. I knew if I stayed in my home office I’d just mope, so I came out to Tubac again to see my buddies. And again. And again. I got the whim that I should buy a condo out here, rent my place in LA and move to the desert.

I discussed with my girls, got the thumbs up from friends and family (the change will do you good) and went to Nicaragua with my sis. The whole escrow/closing/moving thing was a nightmare ~ I landed in a 3rd world country without final closing docs and everything I owned on a truck headed out to the middle of nowhere (that I was about to call home). Fast forward ~ everything worked out by a hair’s breadth, my friend Kate and I packed up the cats and voila! I moved to Tubac.

Now if you have or know someone who has MS, you know heat is not our friend. Hmmmm you’re thinking, then why did you move to the desert? Now there’s a good question. Well, LA gets hot. I mean, come on, how bad can it be? Well I’m here to tell you. It can be bad. I haven’t yet broached the subject on this blog of one other condition in my life: menopause. I was totally lulled into comfort during the spring months by the most spectacular sunrises, wildflowers, blue skies, mountain vistas and sunsets. The hot flashes every 20 minutes were tempered by the cool evenings and mornings and dips in the pool during the hot afternoons.

And then came summer. Honestly, I thought I was never going to be cool again in my entire life. Temperatures soared well into the 100s. The breezes stopped blowing. My body was a soggy, irate, dishrag 24 hours per day. I started drinking tequila which I hadn’t touched in 37 years (one of those old high school “to-kill-ya” stories) as a margarita now and again does seem to dull the heat prostration.

I’m happy to report I lived. I am now happily ensconced out here in the middle of nowhere with a wonderful support system of amazing friends celebrating my one year anniversary. Apparently, since I made through the summer I am now considered a native. Temperatures have cooled down considerably, by about, oh, 100 degrees. No one ever warned me about the winters here!