Back in the Saddle Again?

I am now woefully out of the habit of blogging – or writing of any kind for that matter. So, rather than set myself the task of delving into a complicated topic, I thought I’d make a few self-deprecating remarks about my own shiftlessness. Or maybe I’ll just whine a little bit? You see, I get myself into trouble sometimes by setting unrealistic expectations for my own perfection. My myriad character flaws, however, render perfection not merely unachievable but laughable in the extreme.

They say the devil is in the details, and if I may I will offer my own interpretation there. I think the devil can get you with the details. I have this nasty habit of not wanting to finish something if it’s not perfect, and unless I have someone else to answer to in that respect I often allow that trait to derail me. When I was in corporate work I had a direct supervisor, and since I do not like making excuses because I haven’t finished something on time, or it wasn’t done right, I simply made sure things were done and done well.

Writing isn’t like that if you’re freelance, when there’s no deadline to meet. I get ideas for things I want to write about, and some of them are good ones, but I somehow manage to put off starting a piece for another hour or two, which can turn into weeks unless I slap myself around a bit – and trust me, that really is as difficult to do as it sounds. It reminds me of the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar, where he kicks his own ass in the bathroom at the courthouse to try to get out of continuing. If you’ve seen the movie, you already know it didn’t do him any good, and left him in a lot of pain for no reason at all. Sort of like the misery I put myself through by procrastinating.

Okay, so if you’re reading this I have to assume you’re a bit curious as to what I’ve been up to. I would love to say I suddenly developed a life or something…except I didn’t. Being as brutally honest as I am, particularly with myself, I’m left with nothing but the truth. I’ve been bloody miserable, wanting nothing more than to crawl into a hole for a little while. Misery stems from multiple sources.

First, I’m in a lot of pain. My whole body is getting even with me these days. It’s not just the damage in my hip joints, but also what seems like a million other ghosts of old injuries. My knees would love to kick my ass for the damage I did to them when I was thirteen, except that it’s physically impossibly for them to do so. My left ankle is still mad about the skydiving accident from nearly twenty years ago. My left foot is spitting nails, and I don’t mean toenails, for the three bones I broke in it over twenty years ago. My back isn’t happy about something, and is being very passive-aggressive in that it won’t tell me why it’s so upset with me – the nerve damage shows up in an EMG, and every once in a while both my big toes go numb, but I still don’t know what that’s from.

A few weeks ago I developed an abscessed molar, too. I’ve been to the dentist and was put on antibiotics, but they were supposed to call me once the coverage for an extraction went through. Now I’m probably going to have to be put on another (stronger) course of antibiotics, seeing as I’ve taken every last one of them like a good girl, but still no call from the dentist’s office. Time to start nagging them.

Second, I was finally able to get myself a new laptop to replace one that’s been very much abused. As thrilled as I am to have one that isn’t six years out of date, I’m not so thrilled with having to set everything up. It’s worse than simply re-formatting my hard drive, because now I’m stuck with the latest and greatest disaster from Microsoft. Windows 8.1. It started with Windows 8, though, which was a lot worse, so I guess I should be grateful for small favours. I’m adapting from Vista which was unstable and terrible in the extreme, but at least I knew what I was doing with it. I always seem to skip over their best operating systems.

Moving my e-mail history was…um…interesting. I still haven’t set up all of my accounts in Outlook, but the major ones are done. My G-Mail has over 8,000 items in it. Outlook doesn’t like downloading them all at the same time. It only did a few hundred at a time, but I didn’t realize that at first. I kept wondering why the search function wasn’t bring things up for me – turned out it was because the items weren’t there yet. “Outlook has stopped working,” has become my least-favourite four-word sentence. “We need to talk,” is now second on the list.

Well, as much as I would like to continue whining until I’ve gone over everything, I know that if I don’t post this now I probably never will. So, hello again everyone. Giddy-up!

Oh Healthy Day! Crap, No More Excuses!!

Doing great people, doing great! I am now back to working it with the best of them. Well, okay, I’m not exactly perfect, but so darn close I’m doing a happy-dance (mentally so far, but give me another hour or two). No, I’m not as manic as I might sound, just so very happy to feel like I’m alive again. I have so many reasons to feel good right now. No narcotics, no anti-nauseants, very limited pain, no more acetaminophen impairing my liver function (which in turn was lowering my blood sugar to dangerous levels – I actually considered going to the hospital one day). My brain works for the first time in a while, and I’m no longer stuck in a bed because it hurt too much to sit up in a chair. I have a bunch of reasons to be happy, actually, some of which I can’t really talk about right now – some business, some personal.

What caused this fabulous change in my life? Well, I’m on the proper medication for pain. Gabapentin, the neuropathic pain reliever. Originally developed for epilepsy, but for some people it really does the trick for pain, and I happen to be one of them. The doctor tripled my dose the other day, and it’s still a bit too low, but I can live with it for the time being. They also use is to reduce the need for post-operative narcotics, and in my case the elimination of them. I do not want to be on codeine and oxycodone. I don’t actually get addicted to anything, so I’m not worried about that, but there is still a physical withdrawal period I can do without, on top of the fact that I’m sensitive to them and they make me throw up far too often.

Here’s the thing about pain. Most people have no idea what it’s like to live in constant agony. The fact that I maintained hope and the tiniest sense of humour is rather a miracle. I know people who will run off to bed with a little headache pain. Living 24/7 with pain beyond that which I dealt with during childbirth, is an entirely different story – and I gave birth without pain killers of any kind. It’s not easy to smile and be happy. It’s not easy to crawl out of bed and face the world. There’s no question that it causes severe situational depression in most people.

The fact is, I’m a damn tough woman. I know that about myself. I’ve got a very high pain tolerance, and I’ve lived with pain for most of my life. Generally I shrug it off, but this was different. Nobody can understand what it’s like to have this kind of pain, and then suddenly have it mostly lifted, unless they’ve lived it. It’s beyond exhilarating. A good friend of mine keeps wondering why it’s taken so long to deal with these issues, and though I’ve answered him rather obliquely, I haven’t given him the full story. I’ve got nothing to hide – it’s just a pretty long and detailed voyage I’ve been on. My medical file is gigantic. I lost track of the number of tests I had while they were trying to diagnose me. I’ve been to three orthopedic surgeons, and two or three other specialists that I can’t remember what their specialty was. I’ve had too many x-rays to count.

I had an EMG (electromyography) where they literally jab a bunch of needles into you in various locations, and then proceed to electrocute you – that was fun – it’s like having muscle spasms and then you have to actually push and flex against the spasm making it even worse. One friend of mine told me it was the worst thing she had ever felt in her life, and she’s had a kid, too. The test determines nerve damage, and it’s how I found out I had L5 nerve damage that had nothing to do with what was happening with my hip joints. They were also checking me for sciatica, which I knew it wasn’t. I get the occasional pinch of my sciatic nerve, and I know exactly what it feels like.

EMG Needle Electrode – Inserted in each nerve and muscle area of the leg, and then you get electrocuted with it. FUN!

Then I had some weird joint mobility test where the specialist basically took my legs and/or feet and twisted my legs all over the place. I just had to lie there, looking like a spasmodic frog, and it was no more painful than usual, but I’d never even heard of a test like that before. Very strange, but it became very obvious that my leg wasn’t rotating the way it was supposed to. It kept locking up like it hit a barricade or something. That was the doctor that actually pointed me in the right direction for researching what was wrong with me, telling me I needed an MRI and what the issue could potentially be. It was around that time I saw my second orthopedic surgeon who started talking about tendon issues in the front of my hip joint, but I hadn’t had any MRIs on my hip joints yet, so there was little he could tell me. He was pretty sure it was my tendons, however, and discussed physiotherapy with me. I told him it was painful to walk, and here’s where I discovered I was supposed to minimize walking around. I couldn’t stop walking completely, but every joint movement was only going to make things worse. Apparently the physiotherapy for that tendon problem involves something that doesn’t move the hip joint. However, I had my MRI after that and there was no longer anyone suggesting a problem with my tendons.

Making all of this a hell of a lot more difficult to diagnose was the fact that I had two issues going on. I had something called a dynamic coccyx (tailbone), so I could literally tell everyone I had a dynamic ass. Nobody said it had to look dynamic! With all of my pain and difficulties being located in the same general area of my body (my pelvis), it wasn’t being treated as two separate issues at first. They thought everything was caused by the same thing. I knew it wasn’t. I could feel the difference. Doctors will be doctors, though, and they tend to ignore everything a patient is telling them, thinking they can’t possibly know their own bodies or what they’re talking about. I soon had to get really firm with every one of my doctors. They needed to know I was intelligent enough, and aware of my body enough, that I could tell them a thing or two about what was going on. Maybe a lot of people don’t bother to learn anything about their own anatomy, or pay attention to the signals their bodies give them, but it’s disastrous to think that way.

If I hadn’t been proactive in my own care, my doctors might still be trying to figure out what was going on with my injuries. It pisses me off, quite frankly, that I understood it better than they did, but that’s becoming the case more and more often these days. The ability to do research is vital for anyone who has a medical issue. Doctors are so bogged down with bullshit paperwork and insurance issues that they no longer have time for professional development. They know very little about the drugs they’re prescribing, they’re not keeping up with the latest surgical techniques or treatments, and they know next to nothing about newly discovered illnesses or conditions. For example, my old family doctor had never heard of a dynamic or unstable coccyx. It’s real, but has to be dealt with by a specialist. Still, you’d think a severe curvature of the tailbone and extraneous movement causing pain, would be something a doctor would consider as a possibility if he or she bothered to spend two minutes considering the problem. If a tailbone hurts, there are very few issues that can cause that pain. Probably only two, actually. The other being a broken tailbone.

Stand-to-sit Coccyx Positioning

Dynamic Coccyx – See the difference?

So, once my coccyx was culled from the problem, accomplished through surgical removal, we were able to concentrate on what was going on with my hip joints. Once we finally ended up ordering the MRI for my hip, this was basically the result:

And I enjoy this condition in both hip joints! W00t! (Don’t make me hold up the sarcasm sign.)

As I said, it was a very long road of confusion, and it would have been even longer had I not decided to take control and do my own research. I found the site coccyx.org, and learned all about tailbone pain. I took my laptop in to my doctor to show him a bunch of the pages. He told me himself that he’d never heard of a dynamic coccyx. To his credit he sat down and looked at the whole thing. He listened to me when I told him what specialist I needed to see. The only delay there was when I discovered that the orthopedic surgeon he sent me to didn’t do tailbone work. It’s such a rare condition, and not very glamorous, so there are almost no orthopedic surgeons that perform the procedure I needed – a complete coccygectomy.

In an odd coincidence, the only doctor I’m aware of that performs the procedure in my province was actually in Burlington, Ontario, the city I happened to be living in at the time. He had patients from literally thousands of miles away (all the way from Alberta – Edmonton is about 3250 kilometers from Toronto – yes, Canada is a very large country), in no small part because he’s a very gifted surgeon. He was up on all the latest techniques. He injected a pre-emptive, long-acting local anesthetic around the surgical site to prevent pain signals being initiated (once pain signals are received by the brain they’re very hard to shut off). He also explained that he kept an extra length of bone membrane (a thin skin that covers our bones) and stitched it over the raw bone he sawed through (the raw bone being a part of my spine). It speeds healing of both the bone and membrane, because the membrane doesn’t have to regrow and then heal – it’s just the incision part that has to heal.

I was really impressed, because this surgeon had to be closing in on 90 years old. I’m not a great judge of age, but I kept wondering why the hell he hadn’t retired 20 years ago to enjoy his remaining years. Instead of retiring or becoming a relic, though, he totally kept up with all the new information – things I had researched and planned to ask him about (like the local anesthetic that cut several days off my recovery time), he was well aware of and used the techniques with every one of his surgeries. The guy is an amazing doctor and surgeon. A little gruff in his bedside manner, but I didn’t give a crap if he knew his stuff, and he really did. I found out on one of my visits to him that he hadn’t retired because there was no one else doing that surgery. In other words, he was worried about his patients. Good man.

I only had to see him two or three times before my surgery. I can’t really remember. He had to send me for a lumbar MRI, however, to be sure my pain wasn’t coming from my back. Of course, it turned out that wasn’t the cause at all, but I had disk scarring I was unaware of. Go figure. I mentioned the L5 nerve damage, and he said it was possible they were related because it was in the same general area. The funny thing is, he knew the second he looked at my x-ray that he was going to be removing my tailbone. My family doctor looked at it and saw nothing wrong. Generally they have to do a sitting/standing series to determine the severity of the curvature. In my case, lying on the x-rays table with no pressure on my tailbone, the curvature was already huge. When I looked at the x-rays on my laptop, even I could see there was something seriously wrong there. I began to wonder about my family doctor’s eyesight.

After my surgery I had to recover. I couldn’t really walk around too much, and wasn’t allowed to sit for a month. Full recovery took about 6 months, I think, but I could be remembering that wrong. One of my friends asked me what I sit on if I don’t have a tailbone, and the truth is I sit on the base of my spine. My position doesn’t look any different, but if I put my hand over it, it feels really strange – there’s no gradual tapering to the bone there anymore. (“Did she just grab her ass?” Why yes, I just might have.)

So, that was a huge delay to dealing with my hip joint issues, to say the least. I finally had MRI confirmation just over a year ago regarding the tearing. I was booked to see the orthopedic surgeon who did my tailbone, but had to cancel because I moved to a new city. I couldn’t continue the process with him, which was more than a little frustrating. Especially since it meant I was looking for a new family doctor, and they’re in rather short supply up here. There were only 5 of them accepting new patients in Hamilton (a city with about half a million people). I couldn’t afford to travel back and forth to Burlington on the bus, and certainly not in a cab, and I no longer have a car. I had no choice but to change doctors. There’s a ridiculous application process for a lot of family doctors here, too. One more obstacle for people who have a hard time getting to a doctor’s office in the first place.

Now, of course, I can’t even take the bus to my family doctor. The routes are funky, and I have to take two separate buses for a relatively short trip. Thus making me feel like a lazy idiot for getting on just to go a few stops – twice. Instead I walk, something that causes me further damage every time. Not to mention a lot of pain. So, with every visit to my doctor being more than a little inconvenient, I will often put off going for a week or two. I know it delays the day I’ll have my next surgery, but there’s a limit to my endurance and pain tolerance. I can only move as fast as I’m going, basically. Being temporarily hindered means it takes longer to become unhindered. Just one of those painful lessons we learn in life. I think I moved three times, too, so that certainly caused some delays.However, just being able to live a semi-normal life definitely has its benefits.

Well, I’ve managed to gradate to doing a happy-dance in my chair this morning, so I think I’ll commence my own intimate little party. As one of my friends says when she’s happy, “Squeeeeeeeee!!”

Keeping An Open Heart with a Flipped Switch

Everyone seems, myself included, to focus on an open mind being the most important thing in life. It occurred to me today, when I woke up from a particularly painful dream, that my mind is never the problem. It’s my heart. I think this is true of everyone. In fact, I’m almost certain of it.

There are very few things we hate as toddlers. As Denis Leary says about the subject, “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” The same can be said for gender and sexuality. Does a two-year-old care that uncle Frank has a boyfriend? Hardly.

As we get older, not only are we taught to hate anything that might be different than we are, we also lose empathy through our own life experiences. Basically we get our hearts broken. I don’t mean the romantic version, either, although that also applies. No, we get hurt by people all around us, over and over. For that matter, it isn’t just people that hurt us. We lose things in life along the way. Those things can build up a little more scar tissue each time, until there’s just no way through the damage.

We get so hardened by life that we lose our ability to keep opening up our hearts. Once the heart becomes closed, the mind doesn’t stand a chance. We no longer risk getting hurt, because there’s just no feeling there anymore. The problem, of course, is that it’s the loneliest, coldest existence imaginable. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there. It’s not loneliness based on whether or not you have people around you. It’s a loneliness that nothing can penetrate, and that there’s no help for. At its core, it’s emptiness of the purest form. Every once in a while I go back to that place, and it’s a giant struggle to pull free of it.

I have to wonder if many therapists would mistake that place for depression. The clinical symptoms are similar. I very strongly believe they’re entirely different things, however. Just like there’s a difference between chemical and situational depression, so too is there a difference between depression and real life damage. The difference in my mind is that real life damage is like a learned behaviour, rather than emotions that are simply too painful to bear so we repress them. It’s conditioning similar to that of Pavlov’s dogs. The dinner bell rings and we react by drooling. Depression would be more like we just stop eating.

Compare that to human life. Let’s say you have a friend that has a tendency to betray you – not much of a friend, obviously, but sometimes people have difficulty letting go of the negative people in their lives. Now, every time something goes wrong in your life and you’re looking for a friend to talk to, you go to this friend. Every single time you try to confide in them, they turn around and tell everyone else in your circle of friends. Now, I’d bet it doesn’t take long for you to catch on that they’re doing this, and realize that you no longer wish to confide in them. Unless you’re a sucker for punishment, you stop confiding in them. Or at least you sit down and have a chat with them about it, and then give them some time to grow up before you try it again. That would be the conditioned response.

The depressive response would be more along the lines of feeling betrayed, but the pain from the betrayal is too much to bear so you repress those feelings and pretend everything is okay. Not only do you stop confiding painful secrets to that friend, but you stop talking to anyone at all about your vulnerabilities.

This is why there’s hope with conditioned responses, whereas depressive responses tend to be more along the lines of people just giving up. Dogs can be re-trained to drool at a different sound, or not drool at all to the sound of a bell, if they hear it often enough where it’s not associated with food, particularly if they start associating it with painful stimulus. We can re-learn our associations in life, and that includes keeping an open heart.

Luckily, I don’t think I’ve ever had a ‘friend’ like the fictional person mentioned above. I’ve had friends that have hurt me, sure. Relationships can be painful. I’ve given people second and third chances, too, which is a huge struggle for me, and brings me back to the main point of trying to keep an open heart. This is a very, very difficult thing for me. I have switches or circuit breakers inside me somewhere, that get tripped when I get hurt. I won’t go into a lot of examples or anything, but suffice it to say that once someone has hurt me I have a very difficult time resetting that switch. I have to force it. Occasionally I lose the ability to do so with an individual. The one example I will give is my mother and father. By abandoning me as a child, not only did they flip the switch, but they blew the damn thing up. I was never able to love or trust them again. I can’t even bring myself to care if they’re alive or dead. It’s not anger that does that, it’s a lesson learned. It’s not repressed emotions, either. I just have no feelings for them.

When it comes to the world in general, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain openhearted. We get stepped on, dirt kicked in our faces, and disrespected every single day. Many of us get to the point where we might as well have FTW tattooed on our bodies (meaning, “F**k the world,” in case you’ve never hung out with that sort of crowd). We simply can’t bring ourselves to give a crap about anything but our self-centric world, because life has taught us through conditioning that there is just no point. However, that’s where it slides into the depression part if you let it. Once you throw up your hands, giving up on everything rather than concentrating on the things you can still change or control, you are now officially in the land of depression.

If, however, you keep struggling to hold onto the things that give you hope, opening up your heart just one more time, seeing the possibilities that are there for you just one more time, that’s not depression. Sure, you’re hurting and lonely, but you’re not depressed. If you can feel pain, allowing yourself those emotions, you’re not depressed. Depression isn’t what the vast majority of people think it is, anyway. Most people equate it with being sad. It’s not. Depression literally means your feelings are depressed (or repressed). They are shoved down so you don’t feel them, making sadness irrelevant. Sadness is not synonymous with depression. They are two completely different things.

The dream I mentioned I woke up from had to do with my ferret, Stimpy. Dreaming about him is the only place where I can have him back again, so even though it’s painful and I wake up crying, I would gladly take on that pain to be able to spend that time with him. He may not be there in the dream with me, but it makes be feel better to know I’ve spent the time thinking about him, and that I haven’t just forgotten him. In his case, because his death was so devastating to me, I could have allowed depression to take hold. It would have meant letting him go in a way that was unacceptable to me, though. I need him to be a part of the life I’ve had, both the joy and the pain. I could also have chosen to close my heart to that kind of hurt in the future, but I have another ferret who needs me to love him, and there are others out there in shelters that need to be loved, too, so when the time is right I will adopt another ferret, possible a couple more.

When it comes to the romantic end of things, throughout my life I have certainly fallen in love with people I knew better than to fall in love with. Not necessarily because they were bad people, or even wrong for me, but in some cases I simply knew they didn’t feel the same towards me. When I do love someone, I don’t usually stop loving them entirely, either, but I am quite capable of distancing myself from them emotionally. The thing is, I know what it’s like to not be able to feel the hope of loving someone. The empty loneliness I spoke of earlier is a very cold place to be.

In a lot of ways I’ve had to learn to embrace this place as I’ve damn near taken up residence here these last few years. There have been temporary relocations, kind of like staying in a foreign country overnight, but for the most part this is where I live. I came to the conclusion a while ago that I didn’t really want to live here, but you know what they say about tangos. Instead I’m doing a Billy Idol impersonation and dancing with myself. Emotions are such tricky things, too. Nobody can be forced to feel them, myself included, and it’s pretty damn difficult to force yourself not to feel them, either.

Aside from my personal life, or lack thereof, there’s my life out in the world, too. I would really like to be able to say I’ve given more to this world than I’ve taken from it. To that end I’m always trying to resolve issues that I see. An open heart is very much required, and the more hurt I see people causing in the world, the more difficult it is to retain that open heart and not simply give up on people altogether. There are days when I just have to leave it alone. I have to walk away from everything I’m doing or I know there will come a point where I simply break. If I can’t continue at least trying to make this world a better place, then something very fundamental to my personality will be lost. I have been speaking out for human rights and animal rights since I was about thirteen – twenty-nine years ago. That’s almost three-quarters of my life. It’s an intrinsic part of my personality at this point, and to lose it would be devastating to who I am at a core level.

No, the only way I can subsist in this world is if I keep opening myself up, over and over again. If I don’t, I’m no longer “me,” I’m a shadow of my former self. I’m the “me” that’s given up on life. That’s not a way I’m willing to live. Whether that means falling in love with people who will hurt me, or fighting a losing battle for the rights of humans or animals, in the words of Popeye, I am what I am. With an open heart, the open mind will automatically follow. It takes courage to love. It takes courage to open your heart in any way, because it leaves us vulnerable to pain. I honestly can’t imagine living with a closed heart, though. To me there just wouldn’t be any point in drawing my next breath.

Procreation – Right, Duty or Privilege

There’s an ongoing debate in the world about who should or should not have children. Quite often those debates are directed at women, simply because women happen to be the physical bearers of offspring – for better or worse. The abortion debate focuses on women rather than men, and the outcome of any such debate will probably always be felt more strongly by women. Religious extremists keep spouting rhetoric about it being a woman’s duty to procreate and populate the world, and that no child should ever be aborted, regardless of the risks to the mother or any other factors. Far left-wing liberals are of the opinion that anyone should be allowed to have abortions for any reason, at any time.

Another area of the debate comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Recently (July 2013) it was revealed that California prisons were illegally sterilizing female inmates. However, it hasn’t always been illegally done, either. I remember in the late nineties when a Canadian woman sued the Alberta provincial government for enforced sterilization. Anyone with an IQ of less than 70 was subject to the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta. As we should all realize, however, the law was applied rather indiscriminately.

“Specifically, the Act was disproportionately applied to those in socially vulnerable positions, including: females, children, unemployed persons, domestics, rural citizens, unmarried, institutionalized persons, Roman and Greek Catholics, persons of Ukrainian, Native and M├ętis ethnicity.” Wikipedia entry.

There is a constant Dr. Dolittle Pushmi-Pullyu thing happening with women here. It boils down to constantly being told what to do, whatever the mood swing happens to be at that moment, and then being expected to do it in that moment, but then being castigated later for making the choice that was lauded initially. Case in point – when women are expected to give birth no matter what their financial ability, and then are forced to seek assistance, they’re called welfare queens.

It’s not just about women and their choices, though. Or even men for that matter.

I would imagine that most people don’t ever really stop to think about it, but our planet has something called a carrying capacity. Basically what it means is that there is a maximum population that the earth can sustain. Even for those who do stop to think about it, it’s unlikely they know what that capacity is. Well, I’ll happily answer that question to the best of my ability, by telling you that it’s approximately 9 to 10 billion. Surprised? I bet you didn’t realize how close we were to hitting that maximum. What’s more shocking is that there is evidence to support the possibility we’ve already exceeded our carrying capacity.

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, has said: “It would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our present level of consumption. Environmentally, the world is in an overshoot mode.”‘ Wikipedia entry.

Our carrying capacity is determined by consumption levels in multiple areas. It’s not just our food supply, but that’s a place to start. If we all became vegetarians our food supply could support ten million people. Feeding livestock to, in turn, feed ourselves, is a much less efficient way of doing things. By remaining omnivores we’re able to feed fewer people. Other issues affecting our planetary capacity are clean water and something called the nitrogen cycle. Our planet can only filter so much water, and create so much breathable nitrogen. Of course, the nitrogen cycle is also affected by human-created issues, such as fossil fuel consumption and agricultural inputs. (In case you failed science class, nitrogen comprises approximately 78% of the air that we breathe, so it’s more than a little necessary to our existence.)

This means we’re left with a huge moral dilemma. Every choice we make with regard to procreation leads to unwanted consequences and massive doubt and debate.

If we tell people they should have children we can overload the planet in a very short period of time. Never mind the economic strain of people having children they cannot afford, and the fact that we’re demanding that people do what some don’t want to do. Not everyone wants kids. Forcing people who don’t want them to have them will always be a recipe for disaster, and those children will suffer greatly for it. Children born in poverty already suffer for it. Anyone raised in poverty can tell you that financial strain increases stress factors in the home. Increased stress levels result in proportionately higher percentages of abuse and neglect. In other words, if we’re happy people, we’re much more likely to be happy parents and treat our children better.

On the flip-side, if we tell people they shouldn’t have children, we’re taking away their natural-given rights and/or abilities to do so. Yet, a big part of me understands why certain things aren’t necessarily welcome in the gene pool. I’ve certainly looked at people and wished they would stop procreating because I felt there was no way they should be allowed to be parents. At the very least, anyone who has been convicted of violence toward children should be barred from producing them. I have stronger opinions there, but they’re only semi-related to the topic at hand, so I’ll leave them alone for now.

Maybe there should be a test or application process. The problem is, humanity as a whole is far too lacking in intelligence to make up a test to properly determine who should be parents and who should not. Possibly we should all undergo a type of temporary sterilization until such time as we’re able to afford to have it reversed and we’ve gone through parenting training of some kind. It would guarantee we’re at a financially stable point in our life and can afford to bear children, and it would help to prepare us for doing so. Of course, under those restrictions my daughter would never have been born, so maybe I should just stop talking now.

Wherein the Twain Shall Meet – ‘Thar Be Souls Matey!

What the hell is a soul? Damned if I know. Like most people I try to answer that question for myself, but the fact is, nobody has a clue and despite the fact that we’re all struggling to find the answer, none of us has. After all, if one person could truly show everyone what a soul was, there would no longer be a debate about its composition and/or existence. Sure, there are those who believe in the religious aspects of a soul – most of the world’s population, in fact – but even they would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what it is, and when exactly it becomes a part of our physical beings. Nobody can tell you what it consists of, or where it sits while waiting for a body to embed itself in.

Not everyone believes in a soul, of course. It’s rather an ephemeral thing having more to do with a belief that there’s something beyond our corporeal existence. I can’t imagine atheists believing in a soul of any kind, as it goes against all the basic principles of atheism. I’m not saying that makes them immoral. Morality is based on our actions, not our beliefs – a stance too few people seem to take while they spout religious doctrine in loud voices at the nearest passersby.

Many believe that life begins at conception, and it seems logical to them that the soul would be there from that moment. Well, wait a minute. Let’s take a look at the logistics of that. For what it’s worth, I’ll share my opinion on the topic. This particular blog posting springs rather naturally from my previous one on the pro-choice/anti-choice debates on abortion and reproductive rights. A friend made a comment on it that I felt I had to address, but it turned into such a long response I’ve chosen to put it here instead.

Personally, I don’t think we’re viable as human beings until we are capable of thought. It’s not so much the pain issue for me, although that’s a concern, too. In my opinion, once we are sentient, we’re a valid life form. I mean, most people have that outlook if they look closely at their beliefs. If you have a relative who is on life support, and you know they’re brain-dead, eventually almost everyone chooses to remove life support. Granted, that’s with the belief that they will never again become sentient creatures and there’s no hope. Still, (for me anyway,) until something is capable of its own thought processes, I have a hard time regarding it as a living creature. No more so than I would bacteria, I suppose. There are far too many living, sentient, suffering creatures out there already – human or otherwise – and they have my sympathies and my empathy far more readily than what amounts to nothing more than a cell cluster that isn’t suffering in the least. (This all coming from a woman who has a hard time killing a fly – literally – and will do so as quickly and humanely as possible.)

I find that most people who feel life begins at conception have a religious/spiritual slant to the belief – a belief in a soul basically. I believe in a soul, but probably not in the same way a lot of people do. I’m not conflicted by it, as I think they need a brain to latch onto. The reason I feel that way might be because of what I think about paranormal stuff in general. I believe it’s all scientific, involving a great many electrical impulses. Those are already present in the human body in spades, and I can see our spiritual energy being physically attracted (similar to how magnetic attraction works) to our physical nervous system once it’s developed enough to start sending out the electrical impulses that force our hearts to beat, and our lungs to expand.

Now, assuming I’m wrong (and that happens *gasp*) and our soul is there right from the moment sperm meets egg, if you believe in past lives/multiple lives, then the soul will simply find another clump of cells to inhabit if a pregnancy doesn’t continue. If you believe in an afterlife, it goes there to be forever happy. I don’t see a problem with any of that. With the sperm-meets-egg concept, though, I find it confusing. I mean, sperm and ova are life forms, too. Short-lived ones, of course, but therein lies the problem with the whole “personhood” debate. If we define life as anything that isn’t organically dead, sperm and egg are life. So my question there is, do they have a soul? If they do, what happens when they merge into a single being? They each have their own chromosomes. Each contributes half of the chromosomes required in order to grow a human being.

This naturally leads into the definition of what a human being is really comprised of. Are we nothing more than a group of cells, or is there something else there? Obviously we’re capable of sentient thought, whether we all choose to take advantage of the capability or not, but then so are all animals. Dogs gets excited when their human companion comes home from work. Cats get pissed off and take a crap in your shoe if you go on vacation. (Yes, it really is that deliberate.) Ferrets will climb all over you if you’ve been gone for a while. All of these things I know from personal experience with the animals I’ve shared my life with. They obviously have feelings, as they notice a loss when we’re not there. These emotions show us there’s an intelligence there. So, I would go so far as to say, if we have a soul, then so do the animals of this world. This isn’t even something we have to teach animals, as it happens in wildlife in pack animals as well. They already have, and use, the capacity to feel emotion.

Some of you may feel as though I’m missing the point when I avoid biblical references, but the fact is I do not believe in the bible. I believe it’s a collection of stories, possibly loosely based on real events, but when even the Vatican admits that the stories about Jesus were written fifty years after his death, by someone who wasn’t there at the time, it amounts to nothing more than hearsay. If you’ve ever played the sociology gossip game, or even heard about it, you can see why I put little faith in hearsay. Basically you tell someone a ‘secret’ and then wait to see what it turns into by the time it gets back to you. I’ve heard of (yes, that’s hearsay) it being used as a sociology experiment/project in universities and colleges, but have no real-life experience with it other than regular gossip. I’ve heard some pretty interesting stories about myself, for that matter, that made me wish I’d done half the things I was purported to have done. The threesome one (with two guys no less) was iffy on my bucket list.

The point is simply that any rumour that goes around usually comes back as something completely unrecognizable. So, how is it that the stories of Jesus or Moses would be any different? Humans certainly weren’t any more truthful back then, than they are now – not if the bible is to be believed. God supposedly destroyed everything except Noah and his family at one time, and then smote Gomorrah at another, and all for the various “sins” inherent in human beings. Nothing has changed there apparently, except that we’re destroying ourselves without any help from a higher being, and that was probably what happened back then, too. There was a great flood according to scientists, and quite frankly it looks like there will be again. This time created by humans and global warming. That’s another article altogether, however.

So, what is a soul? When do we become real human beings? Is it from the moment we’re conceived in amongst all the lustful grappling? I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of an “ick” factor for me. I’m not sure why, but it is. I have my quirks. So be it. Are we something like the beings that Plato describes, where we spend eternity looking for our other half, but in reality the other half is either a sperm or an egg? That would certainly throw people for a curve. I mean, so many people talk about romance and their other half, when really, we were in two halves. We started out that way as sperm and ova. We became whole at the moment of conception. This is assuming that our souls are present within the sperm and egg, however.

Of course, I don’t believe in the romantic aspects of having an ‘other half’ of myself. When I was young and far more neurotic than I am today, with no confidence and belief in myself, sure I ate up that whole idea with a spoon. I grew up.

(That spoon thing may not be the best analogy when talking about sperm and eggs, I’m thinking. “I do not like my eggs and sperm. I do not like them, Sam I Am. I would not, could not in a boat. I would not, could not on a goat.” Okay, that brings up some very disturbing imagery for me, however it might amuse me. I wonder what Dr. Seuss would think. After all, I’m pretty sure he had to be fairly disturbed to write some of that stuff. Kind of like me, I suppose.)

Maybe the debate is more about what truly gives us the right to a life. I don’t mean the term ‘right to life’ as it necessarily applies to abortion debates, but as a question regarding what makes us worthy of being allowed to exist in the first place. Are human being so sacrosanct that every little blob is sacred? Are we so fantastic that the universe guarantees us an unquestioned right to live? I have to say, based on some of the crap I’ve seen us do, I’m pretty sure the universe could do quite well without us. We’re certainly not doing anything to improve it. We’re an infinitesimal piece of a ginormous quilt, and we have a tendency to rip out the stitches holding our little piece in place.

That being said, as a whole I think there’s hope for us. I just think we need to get our priorities straight. We need to protect what we have already. Whether that’s our planet, the people living on it, or the other living creatures that inhabit it. Until we’re assured that those things are taken care of, and that we’re responsible and well-behaved as a species, continuing the infestation of our planet should really be further down on the list. If we truly do have a soul, that’s probably our best way of saving it.

The Texan Tampon Missile Crisis – Why I’m Pro-Choice

(Note: Trigger warning for a scene regarding rape and incest.)

You know something strange is happening in the state of Texas when tampons are banned as potential missiles, but concealed handguns and bullets are okay. Yup, they confiscated women’s tampons, among other things, during the big abortion debates, prior to the voting. Think it’s ridiculous? Don’t believe me? Check out this article on HuffPost. Apparently sanitary napkins (yup, they took those, too) make us ‘armed and dangerous’ even more so than a Beretta or a Ruger.

Until now I’ve sort of steered clear of any personal remarks about the abortion rights debate for a few reasons. One of the biggest reasons, though, is that I wanted to be certain anything I said was exactly what I meant. I need to be very clear on my feelings about it, lest I be misinterpreted. I’m actually nowhere near as open-minded about abortion as people might think I’d be. I come from a country where abortion is allowed, and is paid for by our healthcare system, up to and including third trimester abortions. I’m perfectly fine with that, despite my personal opinion on the matter. I believe in choice.

So, why do I say I’m not open-minded? Well, I’m not open-minded about people using it as a form of birth control – I’m pretty judgmental about it, actually. When I say that, I’m referring to women and men indiscriminately banging one another without regard for using pregnancy prevention of any sort, and then having to terminate multiple pregnancies because they didn’t learn their lesson the first time. Heat-of-the-moment sex, drunken sex, whatever you want to call it, there are plenty of options for birth control out there, so there’s really no excuse for not using them. I think it’s irresponsible and cruel to have an unprotected sex party and then just turn around to have an abortion to “get rid of” the consequences of idiotic and impulsive actions. Take a pill, use a condom. Even in the most restrictive environments in the United States, I’m pretty sure condoms are available for sale. If they’re not, I apologize in advance for my ignorance. I do understand there are places where doctors are pushing anti-choice beliefs on their patients, and that makes things a hell of a lot more difficult, but as long as there are condoms available, people should at least make an effort not to conceive if they don’t want to have a child.

That being said, even the most effective birth control isn’t 100% protection. If you’ve tried your best, that’s all you can do – well, aside from not having sex at all. Yeah, like that’s going to happen in this world, right? In places where HIV is rampant, people are still having all kinds of sex, and you have to think there’s some knowledge there that it’s potentially a death sentence. If HIV doesn’t stop people from having sex, I really can’t see what will. Humans are animals, no matter what the religious nuts try to tell you. Scientifically speaking we are still Kingdom of animalia, Class of mammalia, Order of primates. It is what it is, and we are what we are.

I should state before I go any further, that I had an abortion at sixteen. I wasn’t using birth control. To be fair, I was madly in love with my boyfriend, I wanted to have his baby and get married, and it devastated me to discover that we weren’t at all on the same page. Hey, I was sixteen and a hopeless romantic. I wanted nothing more than to have a family of my own, and to be a wife and mother. It comes with being raised in a dysfunctional family that isn’t a family at all – more like sharks circling to figure out the most tender place to bite you.

When it came to the situation with my then-boyfriend, he basically gave a very clear impression that I either get an abortion or we break up. Looking back I see things a bit differently, but hindsight is 20/20. Looking back it was obvious we were going to break up anyway. We were kids, and we were idiots, always looking for drama and excitement in our relationship. Well, there was certainly no shortage of either.

That drama led to major drama with my mother and step-father, of course, because they were dead set against me getting an abortion. They didn’t have the legal power to deny me the actual abortion, but they could refuse to sign the papers allowing me to have anesthesia. Otherwise I’d have just gone ahead with or without their permission. I had the biggest fight with them that I ever had, and I never forgot when my mother said it was my own fault she always chose her men over me. It was an odd segue, but a long time coming.

I was really young (age-wise at least) to actually want to have a child, but I did want one. The thing is, I wanted a child with someone I loved, and I wanted them to want to have a child with me. Discovering that it was not going to happen under those circumstances with that boyfriend, took away all my joy at the notion of having his baby. After we broke up, which turned out to be while I was still groggy from the anesthesia from the abortion (I’m not kidding – it was literally the same night), I was devastated and felt cheated, but eventually moved on to someone I thought would be a better companion in life. I was wrong about that, too, but he did at least turn out to want to have a child with me. My daughter is the result of that union.

Now we get to the part about debunking some myths about the whole process. For one thing, I have no regrets about having my abortion, which is the opposite of what the anti-choice people will tell you. It was the way my life was meant to be. Do I feel sadness about it? Well, years ago I would have dreams about my unknown children (yes, plural, as I also had three miscarriages), and there was definitely a sadness there. However, it wasn’t the kind of sadness that made me say, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” If I hadn’t done it, I would not have the child I have today. I’d have had a different child altogether. Wishing I hadn’t had an abortion would be tantamount to saying I wish I’d had a different kid. You see, I was pregnant with my daughter before my aborted child would have been born. Therefore it would have been impossible for her to exist, and she’s the child I was meant to raise. My life is the way it was meant to be, as is her existence.

As for the second misconception (no pun intended) with abortion, I’ll start by saying that mine took place during the first trimester. I knew I was pregnant, and I made my decision early enough that it wasn’t a political thing. I’d seen the videos by a group called “Birthright” about second trimester abortions, and was properly horrified by the footage. Of course, the videos were really slanted, and were in fact third trimester abortions if my memory serves me correctly. They showed a fetus basically being decapitated in order to remove it from its mother’s womb. Not an image a teenager is likely to forget, and sadly I was not at an age where critical thinking was necessarily a part of my mental processes. I just believed it to be true.

Continuing on in that vein of thought, the fact is that most abortions performed for women who become accidentally pregnant, are done in the early stages of pregnancy. Most women are pretty in tune with their bodies, so they know when they’re pregnant. Occasionally there’s some denial involved there, so there can be a bit of a delay, but that’s not really the norm. The anti-choice advocates would like people to think that everyone is killing fully-formed babies that are in agonizing pain, which isn’t at all true. Approximately 1.5% of terminations occur after twenty weeks. (This link automatically downloads a PDF file from NARAL, regarding abortion bans at twenty weeks.) This means that 98.5% of pregnancies are terminated before twenty weeks.

That leads me to the third myth about abortion that’s being bandied about by those against it. Pain is a very specific process in the human body. A fetus doesn’t even have the precursors of organs until the tenth week of gestational age (which is taken from the date the last menstrual period began, approximately two weeks before conception, so ten weeks’ gestational age, is actually 8 weeks after fertilization takes place). The central nervous system, on the other hand, takes much longer to develop – 27 weeks, actually.

If you know anything about pain signals, you will already know that they are sent from the body to the brain by way of the nerves (ergo, the central nervous system is a requirement). However, the part of the central nervous system that actually registers pain does not connect to those nerves until approximately 24 weeks’ gestation, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Basically when it comes down to fetal pain and abortion, what’s being showcased in the media is a load of horror stories and drivel – typical of mainstream media, but disheartening and harmful to say the least.

Here’s the thing. There are as many reasons for women having abortions, as there are abortions being performed. This is an issue that cannot be simplified and narrowed down. This is an issue where not a single person in the world has an answer as to exactly what to do in every circumstance. Take for instance the story shared in the middle of this article on Salon about a husband and wife who wanted to have their baby. They were eighteen weeks into the pregnancy when they were told the child would need multiple heart surgeries to survive after it was born. They chose to continue with the pregnancy. At twenty-one weeks they were given further, devastating news, that other organs were affected and a good outcome was unlikely. That’s when they decided on an abortion, as there was risk of infection and other complications with the mother. As rare as these conditions are, they’re not found until a pregnancy is in its advanced stages.

Of course, one of the more infuriating things about the new legislation being passed in various states, Texas included, is that they refuse to allow exceptions for incest and rape. Now, picture this:

A fourteen-year-old girl is being raped, repeatedly, by her father. Because she lives in an area where sex education isn’t mandatory, and her parents refused to sign the permission form on ‘religious and moral grounds,’ this girl has no idea why she bleeds every month (other than that it’s Eve’s sin causing it), much less why she’s stopped bleeding suddenly and gets sick all the time. She hides her body in baggy clothing, because she’s trying to disguise her attractiveness, hoping her father will leave her alone. Nobody notices when her belly starts to expand, and the girl thinks she’s just getting fat. Or maybe she knows the reason. Maybe she’s terrified and ashamed. Maybe she’s got a new reason to hide her body. The last thing she wants is for anyone to find out what her daddy’s been doing to her. They won’t believe her, he said. They’ll blame her, he said. It’s all her fault, he said, and if she tells she’s going to get in trouble. Or maybe he threatened her. Maybe he told her he would kill her, or kill her mother.

Finally, one day a teacher sees that her student is ‘walking funny’ and she starts to observe her more closely. As far as she’s aware, there’s no boyfriend in the picture, and even if there is it doesn’t matter, so she reports it to the authorities – in many areas they’re bound by law to report anything they think might be abuse of any kind (or possibly statutory rape from an older boyfriend). So, finally this girl’s secret isn’t a secret anymore. She’s pregnant. It’s her father’s baby. Now she’s heading into the third trimester of her pregnancy. According to the laws that have been passed, she now has to go through with the pregnancy.
Can you imagine that scenario? Because I certainly can. It happens more often than people think. It’s not a George Orwell view that laws such as this could pass. They already have – in several states. Here’s some of the craziness I see with this scenario, beyond the fact that the father needs to be neutered the hard way. First, the child stands a very good chance of fetal abnormalities because it was incestuously conceived. Second, it was conceived through rape, and the girl has already gone through more than enough trauma for one lifetime. Third, we’re talking about a fourteen-year-old girl here, whose body has yet to develop completely, which means she’s a much higher maternal mortality risk than a woman whose reproductive system is full developed.
Here’s a final “point to ponder” as they say: What about the menz? Yes, what about the gender that was there in the first place, enjoying the act quite a bit (and statistically speaking they were more likely to enjoy it than the participating females, as male orgasms are far more common and easily attained), and had no compunction about blasting off a few spermatozoa at a high rate of velocity? Sure, there are some men that are fighting for a say in what happens to their progeny. There are some that are fighting to keep their girlfriends, wives, lovers and friends-with-benefits, from aborting what would grow to be their offspring. Okay, well, I have to say something to them first, and then I’ll move on to the ones who don’t give a rat’s ass about the consequences. Here it is:
“If you want your partner to carry your child, you should probably partner with someone who wants to have a child in the first place.”
I mean, really! Is it so hard to check on compatibility there? Is it so hard to have a conversation with someone before that momentous occasion, where you actually ask them, “On the off chance we should conceive, how should we handle it?” I guess that’s asking a bit much that we be at least that responsible when we make the decision to have sex with someone. Then again, if we’re incapable of that level of responsibility and open communication, what does that say about their ability to be parents?
As for the ones who party and move on to greener pastures, I’d really like to know why it is that the legislation is only covering the women who are pregnant, and not the fathers of those children.
Sure, we have legislation regarding child support. We don’t, however, have legislation regarding ‘time support’ of any kind. They aren’t stuck with 2 A. M. feedings, diaper changes, and screaming toddlers like the female usually is. They aren’t forced to take on the physical responsibilities that start with the birth of a child. A woman could give up her baby for adoption, but when forced to follow through on a pregnancy, that’s usually not something a woman finds herself willing to do. Once there’s a bond between mother and child, the woman is usually set on the path of raising her offspring for better or worse. So, she’s faced with utter exhaustion and a life that is likely filled with hardship as a single mother.
I’m a practical person, but I generally feel a great deal of empathy. I won’t always agree with women who choose to terminate their pregnancies, because a lot of times I disagree with their reasons. However, that’s strictly a my-own-opinion thing, and I’m educated enough to know when a fetus is likely to be viable outside the womb. I understand that there is unlikely to be any thoughts when there is no brain to have them. And I know there can be no pain when the signals aren’t being receive by that brain. We are what we think. If we can’t (or don’t) think, we aren’t anything at all. Sadly I think that applies to far too many grown people on this planet, and not just embryos and fetuses. Too many people are believing the hype from the anti-choice crowd. They’re not pro-life in the slightest. They have no interest in what happens to a pregnant woman, or the risks she runs by carrying a child to term. It doesn’t matter to them if it’s a high-risk pregnancy, and that the woman has been told by her doctor that she’s going to die if she doesn’t terminate her pregnancy.
Such was the case in Ireland until the law was very recently changed. A woman named Savita Halappanavar died in October of 2012, when she was denied an abortion, causing Ireland to review its abortion laws. The thing is, the anti-choice legislation being passed these days is being pushed through by zealots who care nothing about subtleties. They simply want to ban the option under all circumstance, no matter the consequences. Well, the consequences are coming sooner than they think. Women will die because they go for back-alley abortions, and children will be born that are unwanted. The economy will suffer.

It isn’t the least bit surprising that in the vast majority of cases, the more religious and restrictive a place is, the worse their economy. This can easily be seen when viewing the statistics for the various states. Well, lack of abortion means more kids born to those who cannot properly care for them. If they had that kind of money, they could go out of state to have an abortion, so obviously there are going to be poor people who are stuck with another mouth to feed. More welfare recipients, more food stamps, more people without proper health care, more children going hungry, less money from state taxes to pay for proper educational institutions because the funds are going to social programs instead. In the end this means more down-on-their-luck people, and the problem only gets worse with time. It should only take about twenty years for them to see how big the mistake really was, and it will be reflected in their sheets – their balance sheets, that is.

Spank the Bad Blogger, but She’s Back and Boogieing!

I’m a terrible, terrible blogger, I know! I left y’all in the lurch. I have a post partially written, but it’s a complicated one that’s about a very sensitive subject. I want to make sure I say what I mean in the most precise way possible. However, seeing as I’ve been totally distracted of late, I haven’t trusted myself to do the topic justice, so rather than writing about the other things going on in my life, I didn’t write anything at all. I promise, though, to those that are waiting for my blog about abortion, I have not forgotten. Quite possibly just post this will kick my lazy butt into gear on that one. I need to get back in the habit of writing again.

So, what has been going on? Well, as my regular readers are aware, I’ve been working on +The Kovacs Literary Perspective for a few months, doing the website, having a contest, etc. Well, we announced our contest winner a little over a month ago – Lee Bullen, who wrote the novel Beset that was based on his personal experiences with his son being diagnosed as autistic and being in the midst of a divorce, all while in the midst of the global economic crisis. He literally felt beset by everything that was happening in his life, and thankfully chose to share the experience through his novel. We had some other really great entries, but this one stood out as a clear winner.

Lee won a 15-minute promotional vodcast interview, and so we’ve been recording the interview. Outside of that, we’ve been testing the various programs for viability for doing worldwide interviews. Skype is fast fading from favour with us, so we needed another option. We finally discovered another video chat program that gave us everything we needed in one tiny package. Having never done serious editing work with video files, however, I was dealing with an intensive, self-taught crash course. I’d mucked about with them before, so I knew I’d be okay with it, but getting down to the finer details was rapidly becoming a necessity.

The end result of playing in the muddy world of muxing (yes, that’s a word), turned out to be pretty darn great, though, if I do say so myself. Admittedly, I had to have the material to work with, and the heart of the whole video is the interview itself which was really, really good. +Steve Kovacs did an amazing job, as usual, but then he’s a professional with a lot of experience interviewing people. You should really watch the interview with Lee Bullen. available in both widescreen or in standard format. For future reference, though, you might want to just subscribe to our YouTube channel and make things easier on yourself. It looks like we’ve got another interview coming up very soon, so we’ll be letting you know all about that.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with all this, I have to say. As much work as it’s been, I’ve been learning a lot, and I’m always at my happiest when I’m in the midst of challenging jobs. I’ve managed to do some things that were really cool, and I had no idea they were even possible. I’m going to be doing a lot of mud-playing in my near future, me thinks!

On top of the satisfaction of a job well done, (or at least I’m going to pat myself on the back for it anyway,) is the happiness I’ve been given with a successful visit to a new family doctor today. I was so leery about this one. I’d read great reviews about her, and I’d read terrible ones, so I had no idea what to expect when I went into her office. However, even the building was a surprise. It was huge, clean, up-to-date, and had every facility imaginable under one roof for a primary caregiver. It seems to be a pretty comprehensive medical care centre, so that made me happy. Then her nurse was really good. She came in to do a preliminary interview with me, and we chatted about a mutual health issue once we’d gone through the necessary stuff. I was feeling a lot better by the time the doctor came in, and then I felt even better once we started to talk.

What was so great about her? Well, she listened to me, for one thing. She didn’t write me off as ‘just the patient’ who couldn’t possibly know anything valuable. She asked about the pain reliever I was currently taking (Tylenol Ones), and what my previous doctor had me on. I think she liked me in part because I specifically told her I did not want to be put back on Percocet, or any other narcotics for that matter, and I wanted to get away from the Tylenol because of the damage to my liver. As soon as I asked her to put me on Gabapentin she nodded her head and started doing up the prescription. It’s a neuropathic pain reliever that more doctors are trying to get their patients on to keep them away from narcotics. It’s similar to Lyrica, which more people have heard of, but Lyrica isn’t covered by a lot of drug plans. I would guess that it’s not available in generic form yet, but I could be wrong about that.

Sadly my previous doctor didn’t want to put me on Gabapentin. He was too lazy to do any research about it, and I actually went in for three separate visits with him saying he was going to put me on it, but then he never did. It was just easier for him to keep me on Percocet. I wasn’t thrilled. I don’t need the damage from narcotics. Never mind the fact that they make me sick as a dog and turn me into a zombie.

The best part of the visit, aside from the fact that she didn’t make me feel like she had one foot out the door the whole time, is the fact that she’s going to send me to the orthopedic surgeon for my hip surgery as soon as she has my MRI result. It looks like the time-wasting is over now. I have to go back in a month. It takes time for everything to get sent over, and she wants to see how I’m doing on the medication. So, all in all, I’m a very happy camper with all that.

I finally managed to use my gift certificate towards a new tattoo on Tuesday, as well, and I’m thrilled with the results. Tyler at Rockstar Ink here in Hamilton did the work, and he improved on the original image I e-mailed to him.

Stimpy Memorial Tattoo

Now, this was taken about an hour after it was finished, so you can see that it’s still bleeding a bit, but it’s healing well and I’ll take another picture in about three weeks to show the final product to everyone. The purple awareness ribbon is for pancreatic cancer, which is presumed to be what killed my ferret, and I asked him to add the green section for kidney cancer awareness, as he also had that. I had it done on my forearm/inner arm area, right near the inside of my elbow, so that I could see it at all times. It’s not that I’d ever forget my “Angel Boy” as I liked to call him, but this makes me feel a lot closer to him, like he’s still in my arms.

My social life may be improving, too, but for now that’s all I’m willing to say on that subject. I’m getting out of the house more these days anyway, and walking far more than I should be. Today it was over three kilometres (almost two miles), Wednesday it was over a kilometre, and Tuesday I walked a kilometre and a half. I’m not supposed to be walking at all, really, but necessity required it of me. Buses might be great, but they’re not perfect, and today I didn’t even have any tickets, so walking was my only option. There was no way I was missing that doctor’s appointment, and I’m so glad I didn’t. You know, I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Life Begins at 42…in August…42 is Always the Answer

What is it about the number 42? According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is the ultimate answer to life, the universe…and everything. Based on Arthur Dent’s suppositions, along with the lyrics of Bob Dylan, it could be the number of roads a man (or woman in this case) must walk down. Of course, in the case of a woman, most of them don’t actually want to be called a man, but being called a woman will suffice. Then there are the mathematical questions, such as, “What is six times seven, or three times fourteen?”

In my case the number 42 seems to apply to restarting my life. Finally. So, what’s the big deal you ask? Well, I’m 42 years old now, and I’m finally off to see a new family doctor. This was my third referral, on top of multiple personal efforts to find a new family doctor. Now I’ve got an appointment!! The huge shortage of family doctors in this country (thank you, United States, for that one) is the biggest downfall of the health care system here. They all migrated south amid promises of better pay and less paperwork (yeah, right – less paperwork in a doctor’s office – those were some gullible physicians), and so some of the best-trained doctors in the world are now ex-patriots – who stand a far greater chance of being sued for malpractice. (We’re not quite so litigious up here.)

Now that I’ve latched onto a new doctor in the city in which I currently reside – it took me less than a year, which is better than what some people face, believe it or not – I’m probably going to fly through the rest of my stuff. There are a lot more specialists than there are family doctors, and they’re happy to get new patients…as long as you have a referral from your general practitioner. Aargh! Well, the hurdle has been leapt, despite my physical inability to leap hurdles at the moment – I have to use my hands to drag my leg over a motorcycle seat these days, but not for long!

I’m so tremendously excited, amidst being scared to death of the actual surgical stuff – the anesthesia, not the surgery part. I mean, sure, they’ll most likely be dislocating my legs to pull my hips out of their sockets, which would make anyone squeamish, not to mention scraping out the torn tissue and reshaping the joint. Fun stuff. However, I plan to be completely unconscious for that. I believe general anesthesia is optional, but as much as I fear the anesthesia, there is just no way I’m up for feeling my whole body jerk while they literally yank out my leg. Ugh! (Gives new meaning to the term pulling my leg, doesn’t it?) I’d be heaving so fast I’d knock the anesthetist into a wall with my projectile vomiting. There’s only so much mutilation I can take when I’m awake for it. This coming from a woman who has no problem viewing autopsy videos. Go figure.

So…my own version of the Hokey Pokey:

They’ll yank my left leg out,
Then put it right back in.
I’ll recover for a while,
but then they’ll do it all again.

Yanking my right leg out,
just to put it back in.
Living life is what it’s all about!

I’m not much of a poet, I don’t think, but, “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.” Pig in a poke…hokey pokey. Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon, and bacon comes from pigs. Yes, I have the most bizarre thought processes, I know. I like to think it makes me interesting. Well, I find myself interesting anyway, but then I tend to be a bit egocentric. It’s probably a flaw that I should work on in order to become a better person…but I won’t! Writers need to be egocentric, particularly if they want to promote their own work.

So, I will choose my writing over my humanity, I guess. I’ve been doing that lately anyway. I’ve veered away from writing non-fiction. I’ll be getting back to it, but it won’t be the same as a lot of what I was publishing before. I decided fairly recently that I’ve gone severely off-course with it. My main intent has always been to write fiction. I like writing articles, but I was getting too deep into a world that was looking more and more like a very dark pit of despair. I’ve pulled back for a bit of re-tooling, so to speak. I’m sure I’ll still have plenty to say about certain issues, but it will be said with my own voice rather than the voice of the extremists. I will speak on the things that make me personally angry, and not the things I feel I should be upset about yet I’m really not.

I’ve avoided working on my book for some time, as well as writing erotica. Part of it has been the level of pain I experience on a daily basis. It makes it difficult to get into the writing zone I need to occupy with my fiction. It’s not just my hip joints that’s the problem there. I have flare-ups of occipital neuralgia (massive pain on both sides of my head). In my case it’s nerve damage (along the occipital nerves) that was caused by coughing brought on by an allergy to a feather pillow. The coughing was really bad, and basically caused the same kind of damage people experience with whiplash when they get into car accidents.

I need to go for an MRI – yes, on my head as well as my neck – feel free to make all the jokes you want there. Once they’re certain there are no other issues (ha ha), all they have to do is permanently deaden the occipital nerves. I will never have that blinding pain in my head again. Every time I get a cold and start coughing, I’m hit with massive pain in my head. It’s the kind of pain that will actually make me throw up, similar to what happens with a migraine – except that migraine medications didn’t work on me, and they ended up giving me IV morphine instead.

Once my hips and my head are taken care of, I might even get my wrist surgery done. It would certainly be nice to have myself repaired and back to my fully-functioning self again. I feel like I’ve aged twenty years in the last five, though. It’s going to take time to get back into shape, but after living so long in physical misery, and having absolutely no life, I’m looking forward to taking on the challenge again.

One of the best parts about having a doctor again, will be getting on the proper pain medication finally. My last doctor was far too happy to prescribe narcotics for me, which is the last thing I want. I’m going to request gabapentin, which is a neuropathic pain reliever. I was on it for a couple of weeks once, and it was amazingly effective for me. I actually had my life back during that time. I was getting things done that I’d been putting off. I wasn’t taking the narcotics (and the anti-nauseants I had to take because of the narcotics), which meant I had brain function again. My pain was severely limited, too. I still had some, but nothing like my usual level.

The thing about pain that most people will (hopefully) never understand, is that it will ruin your life. Think about what it’s like for you while you’re in pain. Do you feel like getting up to cook dinner? Do you really want to go out with your friends and hang out in public places while you’re hurting? Probably not. Now stop and think for a minute what that would be like if you lived with it every single second of your life. I’m not talking about mild pain that we can tune out, either. Living with chronic, intense pain, means that you spend every second of your life not wanting to do the things that make up a normal life. You never want to get out of bed, or your chair, to cook a meal. You never want to talk to people and carry on conversations. You never want to be out in public.

I mean, if you spend your life on the verge of whimpering or even sobbing, most of us get to a point where we don’t want to keep sharing our misery with others. We’re all too well aware that nobody wants to hear us complain every minute of every day, about how much pain we’re always in. So, unless we’re completely lacking in awareness regarding our effect on others, we eventually stop whining about it. It doesn’t mean the misery has gone away. It just means no one else is hearing about it. Resentment can build up, in part because of having to keep our mouths shut, but also in part because everyone else seems to be doing so much better than we are. They get to live a full life that those of us suffering from chronic pain can only dream of.

Pain also changes who we are, personality-wise. We’re no longer carefree individuals. We stop socializing. We get inordinately cranky. There are major psychological ramifications to chronic pain that are almost never discussed. Now, in my case with my issues being long-term yet still temporary, I have to wonder if those negative changes are permanent. I’ve done my best to look into the future and tell myself that it’ll eventually stop, and that one day I will be able to live again, but I know I’ve changed. Will I be able to get back some of my old self once the pain is no longer a part of my daily life? Will I want to get that person back at all? After all, everything we live through marks us in one way or another. I feel I’m a better person than I was five years ago, and the obstacles I’ve overcome have everything to do with who I am now.

Well, it hardly matters, since life will move forward. I’m certainly not going to stop my progress because of a few philosophical questions. I don’t consider myself any kind of philosopher, and have little patience with it. I’m just an egocentric rambler. I ponder the things that have a direct impact on my life, and the things that matter to me. Kind of like the number 42. It might be the ultimate answer, but we still haven’t figured out the ultimate question, now have we? Personally I liked the bowl of petunias. Having read the books I had to laugh when the answer was revealed as to why it said, “Not again,” as it was plummeting to the planet’s surface. Life really is quite strange, no matter which one you’re living, or what dimension your existence happens to be in.

The ultimate question is probably different for everyone. In my case I think the question is, “When will my life begin?” The answer? 42.

To Flirt or Not to Flirt

Flirting is a bizarre factor in the dating ritual. Not only does everyone respond to flirting differently, but we all tend to mean something different by doing it. I had one recent incident, which I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog, where a guy took the mildest of flirting to mean that I was going to have sex with him. Considering he’d been the one who was doing the actual flirting, I was unsurprisingly surprised by this. I could have understood if I had been the one trying to ‘charm’ him, but I wasn’t. I was having a simple conversation, or so I thought. That’s probably a really bizarre example, but it does illustrate intent and meaning in a very obvious way.

Now, I’m the type of person who does not flirt with a bunch of people. If I’m flirted with by someone who is not the current object of my affections or attention I will respond very mildly, and then steer the conversation to safer shores. I’m pretty rigid about it. Partially because I’m uncomfortable with it, and that has a lot to do with my childhood I’m sure. I’m rather finicky about physical contact with people, too. The only person I want to touch with any consistency is someone I might want to have a sexual relationship with. Beyond that the words, “You’re violating my territorial bubble,” want to pop out of my mouth when someone tries to be affectionate with me. I know people who like to hug. I’m not one of them. I have some good friends I will hug if I see them for the first time in years, and then there’s my daughter. We hug on birthdays and Mother’s Day, and for the rest of the year we stay in our own bubbles. I raised her with lots of hugs, but she grew up like me anyway.

I’ve known many people who will flirt with almost anyone, and it’s all fun and games until someone gets poked in the ego – then it’s a sport. Unless both people flirting are the type to flirt unashamedly, without  it meaning anything, someone is probably taking it seriously. Now, if you flirt with everyone, you’re certainly going to end up flirting with a few that do take it seriously, and while it may be unintentional, it can still be hurtful. Or in the case of someone who just wants to get laid, it can be a tad disappointing. On a more serious note, people can get raped that way. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is what it is. Some people refuse to take no for an answer, particularly if they feel they’ve been led on (whether they were or not, it hardly matters – no means no). That’s obviously a part of my reluctance to flirt with anyone I’m not planning to sleep with. Also, I don’t want anyone led on emotionally, either. I don’t like hurting anyone’s feelings.

Now, when it comes to the dating pool, and you’re casting in your line to catch another fish that is supposedly so plentiful in number, there’s a bit of a conundrum there. If you choose to flirt with someone, you run the risk of them thinking you’re ready to hop into bed at the drop of a zipper. Now, decent people are not going to make that assumption, because relationships should evolve to that point when they’re ready to go there, but in the dating pool there are no guarantees you’re going to run into decent people. In my experience I’ve run into a number of men who, when flirted with, are pushing for the next step, which is apparently video masturbation.

I’m confused. Maybe I’m old, but I don’t remember video masturbation ever being a part of normal dating rituals, particularly in the initial rounds or win, lose, or draw. To me that kind of thing is best left for a time when you’ve been carrying on a regular sex life with someone for a while, and maybe you want to spice things up a bit. I could understand phone sex, perhaps, particularly if you’re far away from a prospective partner and have yet to do the deed in person, and the frustration is building because you do have a connection. I don’t know about anyone else, but the first time someone actually sees me naked, I want it to be in person, and vice versa. There is just something utterly unromantic about watching someone play with themselves on camera. In fact, I would go so far as to call it private porn – again, something best left for a time when you actually need some extra zip beneath the zipper.

Chatting with one person I was asked if I would be willing to show off my assets (so to speak) on a webcam. A question which was met with an assertive, “No!” For two very simple reasons. First, that’s just bloody rude! Second, webcam feeds get hijacked and recorded by way of viruses. I don’t exactly want my ‘assets’ out there for the viewing public to ponder in whatever fashion they feel is necessary. I don’t do anything on my webcam that wouldn’t be fit for public consumption – okay maybe my ‘assets’ could be considered fit for it, but that doesn’t mean I want them out there, fit or not. I don’t say anything on webcam that would be something I wouldn’t want repeated, either. However, if you read this blog you already know there isn’t a lot that I won’t talk about publicly.

Back to the dating pool. So, the flip-side of flirting with someone, and running the risk of video masturbation requests, is not flirting. One would assume that’s pretty safe. Yeah, it sure can be. So, where’s the problem? Well, the risk in not flirting is the assumption from someone that you’re simply not interested, and that there’s no connection. You can carry on a two-hour conversation with someone, agreeing on everything from politics to religion, yet be told that there’s no connection. I’ve had it happen. In fact, I was talking to my ex about that, and his response was, “How would he know?” That’s exactly my point. It’s similar to that whole ‘friendzone’ bullshit thing. I’ve had friends turn into lovers, and lovers turn into friends. There are no limitations just because someone is currently a friend. The kind of relationship I’d want with someone, I’d want it to start with those long conversations. From the mental connection sometimes all it takes is a simple touch, or even a look, and the whole game changes.

I guess, though, that if someone thinks the zing needs to be there within the first heartbeat, it tells me they haven’t done a great deal of self-reflection. The zing is a lot more complicated than that. Sure, there’s lust at first sight, for both men and women, but it disappears really fast if the personality isn’t there to support it – unless of course the person feeling it is really shallow and they’re only looking at the six-pack abs, or whatever it is that attracts them visually.

I have to say, I’ll always be attracted to intelligence, and a person’s looks mean next to nothing to me. I’m also attracted to emotional connection, and the way someone treats me. A gentle hand touching my face, or fingers running through my hair, are far more sensual to me than pectorals. If I feel cherished, I’ll be a lot more likely to respond physically, just as I will if I’m mentally stimulated. You could call me a sapiophile, or say that I’m sapiosexual. Admittedly, it’s not just intelligence that does it for me, since I’m not turned on by intelligent women. Women don’t do a thing for me in that respect. Looks may not mean anything, but the various parts are somewhat important to me.

So, I guess I’ve answered my own question, really. Or, at least I have when it comes to my own choices. I’ll flirt when I’m damn good and ready to do so, and not a minute before. If someone is really that interested in me, they’ll stick around for the little bit of time it takes for us to get to know each other well enough that I feel comfortable showcasing all the goodies. If they’re not that interested in me, what the hell would I want them for anyway? No one who has any pride or self-respect would be willing to keep chasing after someone who doesn’t return their interest. I might actually have a little too much of both traits.

A Sad, Anniverary-Type Day

Stimpy’s DeMille Shot

Today marks exactly three months, (also exactly thirteen weeks,) since I lost Stimpy. At noon today my reminder went off on my BlackBerry so that I could take the time to mourn as I do almost every week. I think about him, talk to him, and look at pictures of him. And cry, of course. There’s no getting around that part. It’s cathartic. Losing him was, and is, so painful for me, that the only way I can handle it is to purposely give myself that focused period of mourning. I spent almost every moment with Stimpy, while he was alive and with me, so there’s a huge emptiness in my life now that he’s gone. I have Pepper, who helps me through it, but that will never negate the loss of Stimpy.

When I say I spent almost every moment with him, I mean it. I don’t leave the house a lot. I had to go out to Edmonton a few years ago, and I was gone for a week. It nearly killed me. When I was still running my business, I was running it from home, and if Stimpy was awake I was playing with him, or just paying attention to him. I think there was a part of me that just knew I wouldn’t have him for very long. He always seemed so delicate to me, and for the only time in my life I can honestly say that I completely cherished him and never once took him for granted. We do that with loved ones all the time, not thinking about the fact that we might not have them tomorrow. I didn’t do that with him. It’s something that comforts me a great deal, but it doesn’t make me miss him any less.

One mental picture and sensation that sticks in my mind is the Stimpy nose-bump. I’d be holding him in my arms, much like people hold human infants, and if my face was near his he would bump my nose with his. I remember so well the feel of his tiny, cold, wet nose touching mine, as he looked straight into my eyes. That was him telling me he loved me. I’ve mentioned this before, but he did it on the day he died, too. As weak as he was, he had a little accident and his backside got a bit messy. I knew he was going to go soon, so I debated whether or not to give him a bath, or just wipe it up as best I could. Well, I gave him a half-bath which seemed to liven him up a little bit, and was holding him in a towel in my arms. He leaned up to me and gave me not just one, but two, nose bumps. It was breaking my heart, but I knew then he was leaving me.

An hour later, Stimpy started to make noises from his bed. I picked him up again, knowing he had to be uncomfortable at this point. Thankfully, as hard as it was to lose him, he wasn’t in pain for long. I knew he had to go. I would never have wanted his suffering to be prolonged. At the same time I’m still so angry that nothing could be done to help him. Cancer is a terrible thing, whether it’s in humans or animals. In Stimpy’s case he had tumours in both kidneys, as well as his pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is deadly, particularly if you can’t provide treatment. I would have taken him for chemotherapy, no matter what it cost, had that been a viable option. It provides only an 11% survival rate, however, and in Stimpy’s case it wouldn’t have been that much even, as chemo adversely affects the kidneys. His were already double the normal size. The chemo would most likely have just killed him outright. Putting him through the torture of chemo wouldn’t have been worth it.

Once we finally knew what was really wrong with him, after well over a year of vet appointments and tests, the vet put him on prednisone. It gave him back a decent life for about three weeks, and I’m so grateful to have been given that time. He was playing again, and actually pretending to bite us during playtime. He was his old self again. We knew it couldn’t last, but we were thankful he had those last weeks of happiness.

My heart still breaks every damn day. I still talk to him and miss him all the time, but I don’t really focus on it emotionally or deeply, except for when I have my reminders set. I mean, I’d never forget about him in general, but I set the reminders so the time doesn’t pass unknowingly. We all have our grieving rituals, and this is mine. Part of me still doesn’t know what what to do without him, but I guess I’m already doing it. After three months I still picture him around the apartment.

Pepper now does all these weird little things that make him look identical to Stimpy, and they were actually nothing alike, personality-wise. Stimpy was gentle and Pepper is a total scamp. He likes to nip at my feet and scoot away backwards while making a laughing sound, and I’d swear that he is actually laughing, too. Even his expression, with his mouth open and his head wagging back and forth, looks like he laughing. It’s a really good thing he’s such a funny little brat, because I need that in my life right now. He was making me laugh the same day that Stimpy died, and he’s been doing it every day since. There’s just something special about that happy mischief.

Having given two ferrets a forever-home, as it’s called, I will be rescuing more as soon as possible. Once I’m assured that vet bills will be covered okay, I’ll be off to the closest ferret shelter – it’s in Mississauga. I’m going to ask them to give me the one(s) that are most desperately in need of a new home. I already know I’m going to love them, no matter what their personalities or difficulties, so there’s no need to be picky. I don’t care what colour they are, or if they’re deaf or blind – they’re getting a home. It’s not just for my sake, or even theirs, but for Pepper’s as well. He’s a ferret that needs companionship. He’s sleeping too much these days, and I can’t play like a ferret can. I do spend time playing with him every day, and my daughter does, too, but it’s not the same as a furry friend. Stimpy was perfectly content as a single ferret, but Pepper isn’t. He’s actually curling up and sleeping with the cats now, and he’s being a lot nicer to them when he tries to play with them. He needs another ferret, though, and so do we.

I’m sure a lot of people would say what I actually need is a social life, if I’m this fixated on my ferrets. I’m working on it, believe it or not. I’ve actually got plans to go out tonight, even if it’s just for coffee. I’ll be around human adults. My ex has finally moved into the other bedroom, but he’s still managing to be The Invisible Man, so we don’t spend a lot of time chatting. My daughter is on her computer as much as I am, which is saying something, so we don’t spend much time chatting either. Tonight I’ll be talking to a real, live human, possibly for hours. Considering the fact that I have a cold, and I’m not used to talking that much these days, we’ll see how long my voice holds up.

I did finally manage to do a load of laundry last night, so at least I’m not going out in my pajamas – or naked, as that would be so much worse…for everyone. I learned an irritating fact about the dryers in this building, however. One has an ‘out of order’ sign on it, and the other one doesn’t work at all. Interesting. I only did one load, so at least I was able to hang everything up right away to dry. I’ve got my clothes picked out for tonight. All that remains is to shower and do something with this cold so that I don’t look like a total zombie. I might actually have to resort to make-up. *shudder*