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The Parabola

I am the .1 percent that makes the parabola possible. I am that weirdo.

My doctor saw my blood pressure rising precipitously over a couple of months this fall and decided to put me on a blood pressure medication. I was too tired to argue. I’d hoped to avoid new medication trials, and new doctors, until the end of graduate school, but clearly the emergency lights were flashing, so I took the medication and a referral to a cardiologist.

At first I just felt dizzy and even more tired than usual and kind of nauseous, but my blood pressure was going down (I had to check it at home twice a day). I went to the cardiologist for a work up anyway, like the good obedient girl I am, and suffered through lots of tests, and history taking, and quizzical looks about my long term lack of a diagnosis for such a crazy list of odd and debilitating symptoms. Each test and appointment was physically exhausting, and then the cardiologist decided that I would need to see another pulmonologist, and another rheumatologist, and consider changing this or that medication that could be the culprit for my rising blood pressure (high dose NSAIDs in particular can raise blood pressure and I’ve been on one for years now).


“I’m exhausted just thinking about it.”

I wish I could act like Cricket does at her doctor visits, and bite and scratch and hide under tables, but it doesn’t go over as well with the doctors for humans. So I accepted the needles and the stickers and the probes and the treadmills, with all of the inherent humiliation of being treated like a science experiment, and I smiled and kept my mouth shut so I could get out as quickly as possible, limping down the hallway after one more person told me I seemed fine.


“No one can make me go to the doctor!”

And then, one morning, my lips were swollen to three times their normal size. They were itching and hurting and I thought there must be a secret hive of bees under my pillow, but no, it was an allergic reaction to the blood pressure medication. It’s a well-known reaction, though not well known to me, because doctors think that if they warn me about possible side effects I will decide to have all of them. The doctor took me off the medication and said we’d wait for the reaction to wear off before trying something else, with no advice on how to make the swelling go down, or a time frame for how long this would be going on. I sat in front of the TV with ice on my lips for hours so that I could be moderately presentable for a few hours at my internship, and then I came home and watched my lips blow up again. I took Benadryl at night, and daytime allergy meds during the day, but the swelling kept rising and falling unpredictably.

A week after the original allergic reaction, my lips blew up even bigger than before. We called the pharmacy and they said to go to an urgent care center and get an epi pen, to which I said Nooooooooooo, mostly because I didn’t want to have to get dressed and deal with people. We called the doctor, and he said to take Benadryl four times a day, which meant that I would be mostly unconscious until the allergic reaction wore out. So I did that. It took another week for my lips to resemble their previous selves, though they are still not quite back to normal. For quite a while there, I’m pretty sure people assumed I was getting collagen shots.

No one believes me when I tell them that I tend to have all of the side effects and few of the positive effects of medication, and have a habit of getting paradoxical responses to medication (biological medication meant to resolve psoriasis led to the skin flaying off of my fingers, seriously). No one believes me when I tell them that I am the patient that makes the bell curve possible. But I am that person.

Cricket paid no attention to any of it. She is immune to changes in how I look. She only notices when I change my clothes, because that’s what’s important to her. Pajamas are good, work clothes are evil, sneakers and jeans could be either/or.


“Mommy can’t go anywhere without this.”

I have doctors’ appointments scheduled for the foreseeable future, and most likely more medication trials, and more exhaustion, and more people who think I’m being melodramatic until they realize that I’m just bizarre. None of this is normal. I’m not supposed to be exhausted and in pain all the time. I’m not supposed to have all kinds of weird auto immune reactions and connective tissue disorders. I’m not supposed to need so much pain medication that it leads to even more health problems that bring on even more medications. People my age are supposed to work full-time, raise children, and have social lives, not work their asses off just to make it through part time hours, with no energy left to do the food shopping.

Cricket thinks the problem is that I don’t spend enough time scratching her, and walking her, and if I devoted myself solely to those activities at least one of us would be happy.


“When I’m happy, everyone is happy.”

I feel like I’m holding the parabola in place single handed lately, and there’s no Olympic medal for that. For every one who is safely in the middle of the parabola, with normal reactions to medications, and diseases that can be accurately diagnosed, you’re welcome.

The Sounds of Spring


Allergy season has been blinding me. I go outside into a fog of loose green flying things, and the dogs take advantage and drag me where they will.


Cricket is very proud of herself.

But it’s made me more sensitive to the noises all around me. For example, there is a woodpecker somewhere in the backyard who sounds like he’s using a jackhammer to knock down all of the trees, at seven o’clock in the morning! The woodpecker’s name seems small for the sound he makes. His job is to peck at the wood to find bugs to eat, but I wonder, sometimes, if he’s got a megaphone attached to the side of his beak, to make himself sound more impressive, or maybe woodpeckers really have started to use power tools, just to mess with our minds.

My nose hurts in sympathy whenever I hear that woodpecker, but I’ve never seen him. My idea of a woodpecker is probably distorted, though, because I’ve only ever seen one animated in cartoons, so I may have seen him without realizing it.

woody woodpecker

I have not seen anyone looking like this.

Butterfly loves to stand still and listen to the noises all around her. She’s equally intrigued by a beautiful bird song, the sound of the wind through the trees, and an airplane flying way too low over our heads. The only sound she specifically dislikes is the bus that stops on our corner, and the mechanized female voice that announces each location.


Butterfly in listening pose.

There are some odd creatures out in the woods. I don’t know which animal makes the strangled baby noise, but the first time I heard it, I thought it was actually a baby, being strangled, and I looked everywhere to try and find it. There’s also an animal out there with a smoker’s cough, though that could actually be one of my neighbors hiding in the woods, choking to death. I can’t be sure.

I like the swish of the wind and the traditional birdsong, a little tweet here, a little twitter there, but the variety certainly does keep things interesting.

And then there are the two feral cats, Hershey and Gimpy (named by the human residents, not by themselves) who take up zones at opposite ends of the yard and avoid each other religiously. Hershey likes to climb the retaining wall and look down on her fiefdom. Gimpy likes to hide in the manicured bushes and climb through hollowed out trees.


Hershey, on guard.

One day I saw Gimpy leaning against my mom’s temporary green house (like a pup tent, but for plants) trying to steal some warmth on a chilly day.

The girls have been taking advantage of my frequent need to stop and sneeze. Cricket has been eating extra grass and sniffing extra smells, and Butterfly has been doing her sound meditations, letting the wind curve the sound around her ears in a new way each time.

pix from eos 012

Butterfly listening from another direction.

But at least they don’t seem to mind that I use their poopie bags to collect my used tissues, so that I don’t have to stuff them back into my jacket pocket after use. Maybe they remember that day, early in the season, when I had forgotten to fill my pockets with fresh tissues and had to sneeze into my t-shirt. Cricket looked at me funny when that happened, which is rich, given that she actually eats tissues filled with snot. Harrumph.


“I can hear you, Mommy.”


The Tissue Thief


Cricket is a tissue thief. Cricket used to stalk a tissue like it was a wild beast. She’d lower herself into a bow, like she was about to play a very serious game of twister. Then she’d grab the tissue with her teeth and run to a safe place to dismantle it. She could have been sleeping when the sound of a tissue being pulled from the box woke her up. And if she couldn’t get the tissue directly from my hand, she’d jump off the bed and try to get the tissue on its way to the garbage can.

The thing is, it has to be a used tissue, and I have allergies, so Cricket has a lot of used tissues to choose from. Sometimes I am lazy and leave a couple of tissues on my bedside table before forcing myself to sit up and throw them all away in a clump. Cricket can’t reach the top of the bedside table, but she can leap off the bed, walk slowly between the bed and the table and gradually rise up on her toes to see where the tissues went and calculate whether she can reach them with her teeth before she loses her balance.

In my room, the garbage can is two feet tall and elevated on a file box another foot in the air, so that Cricket can’t shove her paws through the top and remove stray tissues. But it doesn’t stop her from trying.

The garbage can in the living room even has a locking mechanism on it.

Some time in Cricket’s first year, after I’d been thinking that for sure she was devouring the tissues whole, we discovered her stash behind the TV. There wasn’t just a tissue or two back there. There were dozens, maybe a hundred tissues, piled together where I couldn’t see them as I walked past. And yes, I’m sure I should have been a better housekeeper, pulling the TV center forward to dust behind it more than once a year, but I didn’t, and Cricket was skinny enough to squeeze herself back there and secrete her treasures there for later use.

It’s the same way she buries crackers or bones or pieces of cheese in various corners of chairs and couches and under beds, certain she’ll find a use for them later.

Cricket is a hoarder, that’s what I’m trying to say.

My mother is stubborn. She has kept her two short, open-topped, garbage cans, one plastic and one wicker, in her bedroom. Predictably, any time a tissue is used and dropped into either garbage can, Cricket jumps off the bed, pushes her nose inside and pulls out the tissue with her teeth. Then she’ll either jump back onto the bed with her treasure, or slink under the bed to her “apartment” where no human can disturb her.

There are times, not many, when it is safe to blow my nose. These are the times when she is too exhausted to even lift her head, and she closes her eyes and just dreams of the all the tissues she’d like to eat. I can only imagine the magical tower of tissue boxes she climbs in her dreams. She is a very happy puppy.

The Scratchy Glutton

Cricket requires pretty significant scratching sessions every day. She jumps onto my chest while I’m sleeping or reading, and stands tall on all four legs, and if I don’t get the message quickly enough, she paws or noses my face or my hand to get things started.

Usually, just because I think I’ve been thorough does not mean the session is over. And she lets me know I’ve been precipitate by scratching at my hand or face again, climbing off my chest to find the errant hand if necessary. She seems to know that extra scratchies make her brain feel better and make her whole self more relaxed.

She makes a point of moving around to make different points available. First, her face itches. She has allergies, so under her eyes and around her nose and near her ears all need extensive scratching. Then the top of her head and around her neck. Then she’ll lie back and lift one arm so her chest is available to be scratched. She does not like her feet touched. This is an important rule.  Her back and sides need scratching next. Then I stretch her ears and rotate them a bit. I stretch her arms up and do some hamstring and quad stretches. She can go forty five minutes, at last count, though it’s been a while since I’ve had the patience to do such a thorough job. If she’s standing on her own four feet, she tends to walk forward, about an inch at a time, like she’s walking though a car wash to make sure every inch gets thoroughly scratched.

Cricket would be a perfect candidate for a full on massage session, with candles and oils and soft music, as long as no one goes near her toes or her ears or tries to remove poop or eye goop.

I worry that Cricket is especially itchy. She gets a runny nose during allergy season and scratches her head on my sheets while making a kind of desperate foghorn sort of noise. It’s almost as if she’s sneezing and barking and crying all at once, and I can hear her paws scratching fiendishly. I’m surprised my sheets have lasted so well, really, with all the time she spends trying to dig through to the mattress.

I never had a dog who sat on my lap and asked for scratchies this much. Sometimes I think she’s very attached to her people, and in need of a lot of love and affection from us, but then other times, I think she’s just damned itchy and looking for some relief.