The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for the ‘Alien Brains on Drugs’ Category

Tall Grass

I live in Oregon. For those of you who know Oregon, that probably says it all. Oregon is beautiful, lush, green.

And there is a reason for that.

It is not good karma. Like most states, Oregon is abusing its state workers to balance its budget, “weed” is the number one unregulated cash crop (jeez, can’t we just tax the shit out of the shit so the state workers can get paid?), and the weeds here are big and strong and totally indifferent to my wishes. Because of freaking rain!

Three days ago, I left my sick house (bronchitis being the primary object being passed around inside) to venture out into the sun. Yes. Oregon does get sun. In August.

Oh, the gods tempt us with moments of beauty, but they are fickle bastards, and we have to wait until they leave the state for their annual retreat on Olympus or wherever they go to to escape the heat before we can enjoy a moment of peace and sun.

No. Here in western Oregon, rain can be mind-numbing depression fodder. So, with great joy, I stepped out into the sun a few days ago. And was greeted by grass as high as my head.  Well, maybe it wasn’t QUITE that tall, but it was pretty damn close.

But the sun was shining, the warmth inspiring, and I said “PREPARE TO MEET THY DOOM” to my lawn. I planned a date with a weed whacker. Just as soon as I got back from my mammogram, an eye appointment, and some much-needed grocery shopping, not to mention the humiliation of having to send my car payment by Moneygram because my number problems finally caught up with me.

I looked at my car payment online, in early May, because I can never remember a) how much it is and b) what day it is due. It said 4/28. Great, I thought, I still have several weeks. You see the flaw, I suppose. Some people can actually see the problem here. Not me. Even when the guy from Wells Fargo called me and told me my payment was way past due. I blithely said, “No, it’s not due until 4/28.” He said, “Right. And that’s the problem.” I sweetly said, “But that’s still two weeks away.” Yep, it was. In the wrong direction.

Now, remember, from the post you probably haven’t read yet, that I had bronchitis a few weeks ago. I took heavy duty drugs because I have a tendency to break ribs if I cough too much, and I lost a week or so. I also lost control of all cognitive functioning and especially lost control of the part of my brain that is numerically challenged. He was right. I’d missed a whole month in terms of that dang car payment. Don’t ask me how. I don’t know. No, I don’t have early-onset Alzheimers. I’m just easily distracted by other things. Flash some bling or an aluminum can and I’m gone…

Anyway, the humiliation. Being poor in America must be a royal bitch. We’re solidly middle class, some might even argue that we’re borderline upper middle class by US standards, filthy rich by global standards. Sort of fits with being upper middle aged, I guess. I had never before had to make a payment by Moneygram. In fact, I had to go several places before someone at a bank pointed out that the Western Union form I’d completely filled out had NOTHING to do with Moneygram. But it gave me some new awareness.

First, the payment was late. So there were late fees and penalties and stuff. Because it was late, they wouldn’t let me pay on the website as I normally do. So, it cost me an additional $9.99 to send a freaking Moneygram, and I had to do it in Albertsons which was ridiculously noisy for a grocery store, and I had to do it over a phone with a guy in India that I couldn’t I understand and who refused to speak loud enough for me to hear him. So I kept saying, “What?” and practically yelling to make myself heard. All the while wondering what it must be like to have this be a regular occurrence. My calendrical error cost me over $50 more than the payment by the time I was done.

Obviously, there are so many things wrong with the last paragraph. Albertsons, alone, I could write a book on. Outsourcing of American jobs. My aging ears. Extortion. Banks. Extortion by Banks. Fees on the backs of the poor. The way we treat the poor.

I could wax poetic on being poor in America (read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, if you haven’t. Should be required reading for all middle class folks) (also read the Bible, if you think this country is based on Biblical principles. It ain’t. Especially read the parts on how to treat the poor, usury, gleaning, Sabbath practice, and Jubilee years) (And don’t give me that “It’s OT” crap because JESUS, the main man according to Christians, has a lot to say about how we treat the poor as well. And NOTHING to say about homosexuals. Just saying.) (Then, if you want a real education, you might want to notice that the Qur’an teaches, and Muslims practice, giving money to care for the poor. Not just a box of $.39 Mac and Cheese on food bank Sundays).

This Great Depression Recession is being felt by a lot of us, even those of us who thought we were invincible due to education, training, jobs, unions, seniority, and all that. Here at the farmette, we’re feeling it from the cuts state workers have had to take in wages and benefits, and in the decreasing amount publishers are willing to pay for indexing. And we’re the lucky ones. We still have jobs. We still have options.  We still have health insurance to pay for the mammogram, eye glasses, and that stupid codeine that allows my ribs to stay in one piece.

Okay, so I’m ranting. But the way we treat people, especially vulnerable people, in this country is racking up some serious bad karma for this country.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the cause of the bad weather karma, though. Oregon just has a lot of rain. We don’t have big floods, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, raging wildfires. Well, we do, but they tend to be finite and well-contained and infrequent.

So, by the time my boobs had been mashed flat in a machine that repeatedly poked at my most recently broken rib until I was in tears, and my new eyeglasses were making me see the world just slightly “off,” and I’d been humiliated by some guy in India who probably has YOUR job if you’re now unemployed, I was in no mood to deal with the weeds in the front yard.

Besides, it was raining and has been ever since. The weeds now ARE as tall as I am. That would be 5’3-3/4″ tall. Unfortunately, we have several unemployed young people in our family. Guess it’s time to put some of them to work for a day or two whacking away at all the problems in the yard. Wish I could whack away at theirs.

Back In the Saddle: Getting Up Again

I live the dream. I’m self-employed, work in an office out of my home, have a lot of control over the work I do, make decent money, and, sometimes, it sucks. Yes. It sucks.

Some of you may have noticed a lack of blog posts from me. Blogging is a priority because, in addition to my “day” job, I’m also an author and publisher. But it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote. There is a reason.


No, this is not a post to elicit sympathy for my tortured lungs. It’s about what happens to those of us who live the dream when our body parts are overtaken by demons that force us to stay in bed and take drugs that not only prevent coughing fits, but also prevent moments of consciousness.

The bronchitis was about three weeks ago, and I’m just now catching up again. When I used to work in one of many cube farms, I had this amazing thing called sick leave. Accompanied by payment for being sick. Now, THAT is the true dream.

But, as a person who works freelance, I no longer have that lovely thing. So if I get sick for a week, I get two weeks or more behind. If I have a daily quota to earn, and I don’t earn it for a week, then I have several weeks of trying to make a quota and a half or more each week until I catch up. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

Now three weeks later, I’m still coughing a bit, but my ribs are no longer feeling the strain. The mind altering chemical solution is now back on the shelf where it belongs.  The cats are no longer afraid to come near me for fear I might explode in paroxysms of noise and fury.

I’m almost caught up on the day job which means the bills are starting to get paid again. I’m still behind on the publishing work, but it’s not overwhelming to think about. But I still have miles to go before the effects of a relatively minor illness are behind me.

Anyway, here I am. I’ll be more faithful until the next disaster hits.

Near-Death by Kittens

Okay, no excuses. I’ve been busy, I’ve been working, and I’ve been to the hospital twice. Yes, twice. This (see photo) has been trying to murder me.  Now, I am many things but I’m


reasonably sure I am not a cat tree. I am not made of wood. I am not covered with cheap carpet or sisal. I am not stationary.

But for some reason, this and his/her sibling (I can’t tell which one that is…but I think it’s Abby) has been making daily attempts to cause me to bleed out. With some modicum of success.

But, about 10 days ago, my leg suddenly got hot, bright red, and blew up to piano leg proportions. We have a box grand piano, with elephantine legs, so that’s pretty damn big. And it hurt like hell. Jenny decided that a trip to Urgency Care was in order. I had pretty much decided that I’d cracked my tibia/fibia (always get those two mixed up…the little one) when I slipped on wet leaves the week before. So I reluctantly agreed.

Diagnosis: Cellulitis caused by cat scratch. Okay, fine. Sounds tame. Then they start jabbering about necrotizing fasciaitis and other things that sound nasty and are.  They natter, Jenny panics, I’m just hoping there’s some good drugs involved. We go home with heavy duty antibiotics and by the next day, a miracle! I’m worse! The leg is redder, parts of it are turning purple, and it hurts like hell. I call the advice nurse and her advice, after consulting a physician, is get to the ER IMMEDIATELY.

Which we do. (Well, we did eat dinner but it was already cooked and we were hungry so make that Immediately plus 10 minutes.) We are members of Kaiser and mostly that’s a good thing. But on a Monday night (or any night for that matter if staff are to be believed) it is a freaking zoo. I get in line and am second in line. The line moves and I am first in line. It is about 8:15 pm.

The line grinds to a halt. A triage nurse, the only triage nurse it seems, is using the check in counter to do, well, triage. So the person who checks us in can’t because of HIPAA laws. So I’m standing there, getting purpler, and swollen, and the triage nurse yells at me and about 20 other people to BACK UP. BEHIND THE LINE. FOR CONFIDENTIALITY. We’re already behind the line but we back up. Which forces some people out the automatic doors. Which start opening and closing. Which causes the triage nurse to yell at them  to stop playing with the doors. Which they aren’t but what do I know. I stand there for close to an hour. I am not happy.

Finally, it’s my turn to check in. It is now after 9 pm. I’m told to go sit down and that I will be seen soon. Only if soon means five hours later. We sit across the room and can STILL hear the triage nurse asking personal HIPAA-covered questions to people at the desk. That dang line is so damned effective!

Finally, after a couple hours, I get called into a room where I am weighed and my blood pressure is taken. Then I am sent back to the waiting room but not until I’ve found out (being a former newsy and all) that the ER has 43 rooms, 4 doctors, and 8 nurses, and that some REAL emergencies have been waiting over 2 hours. And that the triage nurse, who should be in the little room talking to people in private because of HIPAA LAWS, has been told to do triage at the front desk by Kaiser management. Which means people can’t be checked in while she’s doing triage. Following that? My Kaiser dollars at work.

If I decide to try to die in some particularly dramatic way, I ain’t going to Kaiser Sunnyside.

Two more hours pass. I am returned to the little room for another blood pressure check. I am not weighed although I’m sure I’ve lost a couple pounds waiting. My blood pressure is up but I’m one of those folks who has low blood pressure so up for me is normal for you.

Then the triage nurse wants me again. Just to see if I’m worse. She wants to know what’s changed since we came in. I tell her my leg is now swollen up like a giant oak and she says, no, what is new. I say that is new. It wasn’t swollen when we got there because I was following doctor’s orders and elevating it. I’m sent back to my seat for insolence.

Then Jenny  gets bugged enough to go up and talk to the nurse. Finally, I am taken to the exam room. The doctor comes in, draws around the infection with a pen, mumbles MRSA, and prescribes Clindamycin. Look it up. It’s nasty. Better than being admitted for an IV but still nasty. My favorite side effect is that it may cause nasty side effects in my lower GI tract SIX MONTHS after I finish taking it. Not that it isn’t causing them already. YOGURT IS GOD.

Anyway, we got home after 3 am. It’s now been ten days and I am on the mend. Nothing is eating my flesh. My left leg will stay attached. No tubes are coming out my arm. I will live. The kittens are still using their claws on me. They will live too.

My new prophylactic treatment is water aerobics. I figure the chemicals in the water will cancel out cat slobber and other stuff. Don’t tell me otherwise. Some of us require our fantasy lives to survive. And Vicodin.


When I was a child, I was a big fan of Mad magazine. I especially liked the marginalia, that hysterically funny stuff they hid in the margins. Guess I’ve always been marginalized. Anyway, the only good way to do marginalia on a blog is in the tags. Just thought I’d let you know.

Fibro Report…As If You Wanted to Know

People talk about having “raw nerves” and that’s as apt a description of fibromyalgia as I can think of.  Your nerves are so raw that, instead of being nice little insular beings,  they are able to talk to each other in a neuromuscular game of telephone. The message sent is seldom the message received. A nerve starts a conversation saying “ouch” and by the time it hits the optic nerve it says “close me.” Hence today’s problem. I am stiff, sore, can barely move, and all I want to do is close my eyes. Good thing I only had to go to the post office, less than 1/2 mile away. There is no way I could have walked it, just too much pain and too much rain. But I was able to drive there and back and keep my eyes open, barely. It’s not that I’m tired, although there is that as well. It’s just that when I get this bad, the eyes flat out refuse to take in sensory information. As I write, I find myself typing by touch with my eyes closed. And I have to struggle to make my eyes focus to read anything. Which is sad as I have a new book.  My guess is there is “no knitting for you” at my meeting tonight, too. Bummer.

All this because of the convergence of working really hard for the party this past weekend with the rain and cold I woke to today. The brain is such a funny thing. It clops along, doing all the things it should, day in and day out, for many years. Then it starts to go. In my case, it was my first death that did me in. I died on the operating table, minor surgery, and my brain was oxygen deprived for a short time while they jump started me and then forced me to learn to breathe on my own again over the next several hours.  Just long enough to do minor damage. I lost my sense of direction and I got this lovely parting gift of fibromyalgia. So now I have no sense of where I am in space but it hurts to be here anyway.  I can now get lost finding my way home from church but I seldom feel like leaving the house so it really doesn’t matter a lot. I have Jenny, she-who-will-drive-anywhere, as my personal chauffeur and I work in a home office. I can shop on the internet, I have both a cell phone and a landline to keep me connected, and I am an introvert. The furthest I need to go for most of my social life is about 10 minutes from here. For the most part, I do well.

And there are drugs. It’s odd, just like fibro is odd, that many of the drugs are really drugs for other things. Treating it is a matter of treating symptoms, sometimes with drugs meant to treat other things. Example: I take Parkinsons drugs to treat one of the sleep disorders, anti-psychotics to treat another, and an anti-depressant to treat the pain. It’s like the whole brain turned into fried noodles and now nothing, including the drugs, works the way it should.

But some days, like today, remind me that the suicide rate is quite high for folks with this crap. Now don’t freak. I’m not suicidal. But on days like today it’s hard to take it one day at a time. This is one of those shitty days when I am reminded that a) fibro won’t kill me and b) sometimes I wish it would. And, unfortunately, it will never go away. Although I look forward to summer because it’s almost like being remission for a few months.

A friend says I should try living gluten- and corn- free. I think I’m going to give it a try. This is ridiculous.

Football, A Theological Perspective

I spent the day with friends today and we watched football.

I hate football. I don’t understand football. Here’s what I know about football.


My history with football started in high school. I never missed a football game. I was there to watch the cheerleaders and smoke under the bleachers. I was there to go to the dance after the game. I was there to get out of the house. I was not there to watch football. I knew the object of the game was to carry the ball down the field to the goal place and that other people tried to knock the person with the ball down. Mud was part of the game. As was rain which caused the mud. But, from the bleachers, I could never find the ball. Never. Once in awhile, I would see some guy run down the field, chased by other guys, and I assumed he had the ball. Then he would end up in the mud and the cheerleaders would yell this:

“First in ten, do it again, we like it.” Huh? But they were cute when they did it and I was there, after all, to watch them. Did I mention I’m a lesbian? So when the cheerleaders said it, so did I.

(At basketball games they said “Get it on the rebound, rebound, rebound” and I knew what that meant. But “First in ten, do it again, we like it?” WTF were they talking about?)

Aside:  I graduated from high school in 1969. When I was twelve I went through confirmation classes in the Episcopal Church. I knew that the fact I would graduate in 1969 was funny for some reason but had no idea why.  What I learned in confirmation classes was this:

  • Parts of the prayer book did not really exist (The 39 articles. Have you ever seen them? I thought not.)
  • The Holy Spirit would descend on me when I was confirmed.
  • After that I could eat the body and blood of Christ which was actually fish food and wine.

So I get confirmed. Bishop Carmen had some sort of palsy and when he laid his hands on your head it felt like you were being attacked by a blender on high. Your whole head shook and then you were confirmed. For a long time I thought the Holy Spirit was part kitchen appliance, part bird. Then, after he finished shaking all our heads, he gave us a verse. The point of the verse was this: When we saw him, we were to say the verse and he would know which year he had confirmed us. (Stay with me. We will get back to football after this brief half-time show).

Now, remember this. We are twelve, so sixth grade. The girls had brand new breasts, the boys were still short, we were all, basically, morons. We already know there is something funny about the fact that we will graduate in 1969 but we have no idea what and our older siblings and friends refuse to tell us.  And Bishop Carmen gives us this verse: “Whatsoever he saith unto you do it.” But, he wants to make it easy and tells us we just have to come up to him and say, “Do it, Bishop Carmen.” Although we are not quite sure about the mechanics, we do know that “Do it” means sex. We also suspect that 1969 has something to do with sex and we find this quite funny. We spend the next several years looking for excuses to tell the bishop “Do it, Bishop Carmen.” Hell, we were twelve, we amused easily, especially if it had to do with sex, which we only understood in a clinical 5th grade health class sort of way.

Now back to football. By the time I was in high school I had a better idea about the whole concept of “doing it” and I even had an inkling about what made 1969 so dang funny. And there are the cheerleaders, for no reason I can understand, yelling “First in ten, do it again, we like it.” One of them is my next door neighbor whom I have had a crush on for years. She was four years older than I was, a senior when I was freshman, and beautiful. She moved like the dancer she was (she went pro with SF Ballet) and I have always had a thing for dancers.  So, between smoking under the bleachers and watching the cheerleaders, I’m pretty sure this particular cheer has something to do with sex. That whole “First in ten” thing is a freaking mystery and remains so for my entire high school career. But I was sort of getting behind the whole sex idea and if it involved the cheerleader next door, I was all for it. So I was pretty sincere on the whole “Do it again, we like it” although at that point I had no idea if I would like it or not.

Fast forward. I never went to a single game in college because I was too busy being a hippy and doing that whole sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll thing. Yes, I did it. And I liked it. After college, I went to a New Year’s Day party some college friends still hold today, some 30 years later, and we played an annual game of flag football. However, since these were mixed teams, flag meant the guys tackled the girls into the mud. Sort of as if we were still in sixth grade only in our late 20s. Morons. Some guy on my team tackled me. You read that right. ON MY TEAM. And my glasses broke so I had to sit out. I am blind without them. That is the only time I ever played football, I was tackled in the first 30 seconds, and couldn’t even see the rest of the game. If I remember correctly, there was a bong involved.

Another fast forward. I meet the beloved Jenny who actually likes football. I make it clear that I will not watch football with her and she decides that she will watch only the Super Bowl. Or maybe the Rose Bowl. I get those two mixed up. So once a year she goes butch on me, watches a football game complete with yelling at the TV which I patiently explain cannot hear her, and I go in the office and do something else.  For about 13 years this works just fine. Then our kid, the Divine Miss M, decides to be a cheerleader. She makes the squad freshman year and by senior year is star of the show and team captain. Suddenly I have to go to football games. All the time.

I no longer smoke, you can’t get under the bleachers anyway, and I’m still there to watch the cheerleaders. There is no bong involved although I wish there was. But Jenny is determined to teach me to like football. So start the endless repetition of the FACTS OF FOOTBALL, listed below:

  • There are two teams.
  • The home team wears white. This means that if we are at home, we’re the white guys, if we are not at home we are the blue guys. Except Maggie’s school always wears blue so one of my certainties flies right out the window.
  • Each team has two lineups, one for offense, one for defense (finally I know why there are always so many guys just standing around)
  • On the far side of the field, the one I can’t see because I am blind, are two, or maybe three or four, guys with orange numbers on sticks.
  • The number guys move around depending on where the ball lands and they flip the numbers to figure out many yards the ball went. This has something to do with the white lines on the ground if it isn’t too muddy.
  • There is still something called “First in ten” and I still don’t know what it means. Or maybe it’s “First and ten.” Either way it’s meaningless to me. Jenny explains it every game. And every game I forget. Did I mention the brain injury?
  • The game still consists of about 20 minutes of action and three and a half hours of standing around.

Every week she explains this (or something close to it) and every week I have no clue. (You have to know that one of my daughters played soccer year round for almost two decades and I never understood offsides either) (and, I find out, football has offsides as well but I have no idea what that means either) (However, I’m pretty sure that football offsides and soccer offsides are not the same but it doesn’t matter because I don’t understand either.) I watch the cheerleaders.

(Note: I am no longer interested in the cheerleaders in that way because they are now young enough to be my children. In fact, the one they keep tossing in the air is my child.  And that would be, well,  icky. Not too mention illegal. And I am married (although apparently that is not legal either since I’m married to a butch-wannabee named Jenny.) And, in case you forgot, my name is Susan which means we are both women. That whole lesbian thing. And don’t ask me which one of us the guy, you moron. The whole point: NO GUY!)

However, today I learned something about the mysteries of football. One problem with live football is that they run, they fall down, the stick guys move, and everybody huddles, slaps asses, and then they stand around until they do it again. Like I said, little action, lots of standing around. But in televised football they can fill the “standing around” time with instant replays. Endless instant replays. Endless instant replays of instant replays. So you can’t even figure out where the game ends and the replays begin. Makes it all so much clearer to me.

PS. The Divine Miss M is trying out for the PSU cheer squad in April. She will probably make it. I will have a few more years of chances to understand football. I just hope the cheerleaders are still cute.

Late Night Thinking

The hour or so before bed, when I should actually be sleeping, is the time I do most of my emotional thinking. Not profound thoughts, not witty thoughts, not intellectual thoughts,  just letting my emotions have full rein. I think about old grudges, new hurts, why I find it hard to say things I should say, whether I should take full revenge or forgive. That sort of stuff. Don’t know why it always comes up just before bed. Maybe it’s brain chemistry. Maybe it’s the “thinness of the veil”. Maybe it’s just the dark.
When do you do that sort of thinking?

Whether Report

It’s raining which means I won’t be riding my scooter today. I’m new to the whole motorized two-wheel thing so I don’t ride in the rain deliberately yet. I’m bummed.

So the choices are two: spin or work.

Spinning brought my brain back together after the brain injury. I just did it because I was stuck at home and had little to do but spin and watch TV. Little did I know that doing things with your hands repairs the brain. So my body knew what I needed and made me do it. I spin a lot: in the car, while visiting, watching TV, at meetings. Based on that, I have the healthiest brain around. Don’t you agree?

On the other hand, I have a 622 page book due to the publisher on Monday and am only on page 148. Yesterday was a mess because of computer glitches, a long unneeded trip to the Apple Store to see a “Genius”, and then I felt a desperate need to back everything up to everywhere even though I hadn’t really lost any data.

Guess I better get to work. I’d rather be spinning.

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