Hullo, hullo, hullo!
We are enjoying a lovely holiday season this year. Linc and Bill headed out to Seattle for the week before Christmas, so I had a chance to visit with some local folks, soak in the Korean spa, throw a ladies' holiday puzzle/ornament exchange party, finish knitting a gift, wrap and mail things to family, and generally laze about like a lump. We have started an annual tradition of hiring a cleaning service for a few hours in December, and this year I scheduled it for right before they left... so I had an entire week of an uncluttered, sparkling, decorated house. It was marvelous!
When they got back, we had a few more days of watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, wrapping gifts, and playing 12 Days all together. It was all quite cozy.
The boys let me sleep until almost 10 a.m. on Christmas morning, bless their hearts! Clay even got Julia and Mike up for a video chat, so I had all my kids with us that morning, which was really a magnificent feeling. I think everyone got some nice surprises, as well as the traditional books and t-shirts that I tend to fall back on, and I know I was gifted with some really terrific goodies (a snuggly little otter from my dad, a book of scrollwork from Clay, an amazing collection of family photos bound in a book from Julia, a Fiestaware serving set and a magnifying lamp from Bill, a tabletop version of Tetris from Cordell, a poem from Linc, and beautiful PURPLE Uggs from my sister!).
Bill's big gift from me this year was a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker, and he'll be taking it for a spin this weekend (using the book I got him as a guide). Smokin' in the snow, nom!
The last few days have been mostly quiet... we finally got a thin blanket of snow on Christmas day (breaking all kinds of Chicago weather records), and we've been all snuggling up to play with, read, and otherwise enjoy our gifts and each other. It's been a truly lovely week, and I'm so very grateful for all of it.
I've been feeling like doing more calligraphy and illumination lately, and will be doing my very first nose-to-tail scroll for the SCA in the next week or so (The Society for Creative Anachronism, at least in the area we live in, gives out handmade scrolls that are really more like certificates or diploma-type awards as acknowledgement of service rendered or honors given to their members). I've been slowly getting better at the scribal arts -- both calligraphy (the lettering) and illumination (the painted decorations) -- and so I'm going to take the plunge and do an entire award for the next event. I'm a little nervous... the bar is set a bit high, with the amazing level of talent in this area... but every one of these folks did their first scroll at some time, and so now it's my turn. I'll definitely take photos and post it once it's been given to its recipient (but until then, I've been warned that all information about the scroll is to be treated like a state secret). Wish me luck!
I've been working on trying to read more, too. I'm on Goodreads, if you want to connect there and share reviews.
One thing that's been pretty difficult for me during the holidays has been struggling with this ear infection. Somewhere in mid-November, I had an earache that wouldn't go away, and after about two weeks of trying to deal with it using home remedies, I finally dragged my butt into the doctor's office. I got a physician's assistant who took a quick peek and said, "Yup. It's infected," and wrote a scrip for ear drops. I asked if it was a bacterial or fungal infection, and he said it was bacterial, but that the drops he was prescribing would take care of both. I asked for him to debride the ear, but he seemed puzzled that I would ask and was unwilling to do so. So I took the drops, and the sharp pain abated somewhat (it was OK during the day but worse in the evenings and night), however the feeling of pressure gradually got worse.
About two weeks into December, I used a gentle Valsalva maneuver to try to clear the very stuffed ear (it had sometimes worked in the weeks before), and noticed that I had air coming through my ear! I stopped immediately, called the PA, went right in and got a referral to an ENT. The ENT couldn't see me until almost a week after that, and I had a few days of freaking out about using the CPAP with a perforated eardrum. It turns out that it's not optimal, but not as horrible as I thought it would be (it will slow healing, but not make things worse, which was what I was afraid of).
Once I finally got into the ENT, he extracted an unnervingly huge glob of black junk from the ear canal, confirmed otomycosis (a fungal infection), and not one but two ruptures of the tympanic membrane. He dumped in some gentian violet (which was not fun at all, but made sense... we use it to help moms and babies battling thrush, which is a candida or yeast infection, so using it against fungus seemed right). He has no experience with CPAP use and perforated eardrums, though, and had no other advice besides another scrip for eardrops and to use a blowdryer to dry the ear.
Once I got home, I read online that gentian violet is ototoxic and not to be used with a perforated eardrum... but I have no way of knowing if that made things worse or not. I was pretty upset at first, but there's no way to clean the middle ear or to undo what he did, now I'm just waiting for everything to heal so I know how much hearing I still have. I'm getting copies of my charts, though, just in case.
The ear has been partly to mostly deaf for most of the month, which has been really hard to deal with. Unfortunately, it's my "good" ear, so every time I try to hear something better, I unconsciously turn that side towards what I'm trying to listen to. I think both the bacterial (if it was ever there) and fungal infections have died down, but the ear is constantly moist, which is not good for healing the ruptures or getting rid of fungus. I've turned down the humidifier part of the CPAP machine, and might try removing it entirely, but all night I hear squeaks and crackles from the ear as air is forced through it... it was pretty disturbing at first, but now it's just annoying.
I saw him again yesterday, and while he did suction out more crap (sorry if this is TMI), he changed the eardrops and told me to come back in three weeks. I'm a little surprised that this is his protocol (from what I am reading, frequent clearing of the site is paramount to eradication; three weeks seems like a long time to leave crap in there), but after the beginning of the year, I'll be in a better position to choose my own care providers and will reassess whether to continue with his practice or not. He did confirm that the infection cultured as Aspergillus niger, which is pretty common and definitely associated with perforations. When I asked about diet changes or supplements to help fight this off, he barely stopped short of laughing out loud and scoffed, "Save your money." (I don't think it was a laughable question. Caprylic acid, found in coconut oil and ginger, and garlic are pretty potent antifungal substances, for example, and people with chronic yeast problems respond well to cutting sugar from their diets; would aspergillus react to this kind of diet modification as well? I did get some validation from the nurse, who commented, "She's asking some really good questions!" and who earned a dirty look from the doc.)
So, tl;dr... currently in a holding pattern with the ear. Ow.
I've known for years that I do better physically and mentally when I am regularly practicing yoga, meditation, Nia or some other regular exercise, and especially deep hot-water soaks. I am also in a bad place financially where I can't pay to do any of these things right now, and I really really suck at self-motivation for doing them here by myself at home (especially since I have no dedicated place to do them without being exposed to the chaos and curious eyes of other family members, unless I get up at a crazy early hour).
What I would love (besides winning a lottery) is a neighbor or friend who lives close to me who would like to work on these things together, but that's not possible in this neighborhood. At this point, I just need to hang on until we CAN move, and then be VERY VERY picky about where we move to, making sure we have a tub (or place to put one), friends close by to walk/exercise with, access to a studio that offers yoga and Nia, and maybe a meditation center. Until then... gah. I do some of these things very sporadically, but I'm at a loss as to how to get myself to do them regularly enough to make a difference.
The gluten-free diet has been helping, thank goodness. My wonderful mother-in-law helped me stock up on some gf supplies for cooking and baking, and that's been a huge help. So the worst of the joint aches have subsided (unless I backslide) and that is a blessing indeed. I've also isolated asparagus as the (so far) sole culprit for my gouty finger, and that's easy enough to avoid, thankfully.
With the new PPO health plan, I'm hoping to find a health care provider who is also an integrative medicine practitioner (like Jane Murray in Kansas City), who will help me find my way back to a place where I'm not susceptible to these awful bacterial and fungal infections anymore, and help me deal with this whole fibromyalgia mess. There's also a possibility of finding some kind of medical prescription for some kind of in-home water therapy, or maybe a referral to a facility close by (I haven't found one, though, and I've been looking). I also need to call the closest YMCA that offers Nia and see if the PPO will cover membership (the HMO did not), so I can start doing that again (it's five miles away, though, and getting there and back in Chicago traffic can take longer than the class itself, which is a huge disincentive; also, Linc has aged out of their childcare program, so I'd need to deal with him as well).
Everyone else seems to be doing pretty well. Cordell and Clay both got straight As and were on the dean's honor list (Julia got an A in her organic chemistry class, too!). Cord did a bunch of tutoring, both at DePaul and for some homeschoolers. Clay is still a lifeguard for Wright Community College. I think they'll both continue those jobs into 2013. Clay has been spending a lot of time in Kansas City in December (yay, cheap Megabus), but when he's here, things have been going really well. In fact, both Cord and Clay have really stepped up to help with things around the house, and I'm incredibly grateful for it.
Bill got a paper accepted for publication in November, which is awesome, and has a lot on his plate in the lab. His class for next semester got cut due to low enrollment, so he'll have even more time to devote to research and writing. He's been really supportive through this whole ear odyssey, thank goodness. I'm really glad he got to go to Seattle this year; I know he misses his friends and family there a lot, and I wish we could get him back there more often. But he made the most of this visit, and it seemed to do him good. He's been baking less (mostly due to my dumb gluten issues, darn it) but mixing up some yummy things at the bar in the last few months. I'm really looking forward to his experiments with the smoker! He's been trying to shake the cold he picked up in Seattle... his lungs are his weak spot, and it's going to take a while to clear out, but I think he's over the worst of it.
Linc is all about Minecraft these days (we have a full-time server up, so if you or your kid would like to join us, let me know your player name and we'll whitelist you). He also is constantly drawing comic books (Swordsman Jack is his main protagonist) and "training" with his boffers. He has made the most out of the dinky amount of snow we've gotten, but would really like to do some sledding before winter is over. He has had some issues that has made me think he might have a sensory processing difficulty, and I'm reading The Out-of-Sync Child in order to find out more about it. He's really loved the regular homeschool days at the local trampoline facility, so I'm looking into a regular weekly homeschool gymnastics/trampoline program as well. He's a voracious reader, and takes a few books to bed with him each night. Wolves are his favorite animal, green is his favorite color, gum is his favorite treat, and pizza is his favorite food. He has had a few colds this month (well, so did his brothers and dad; somehow I've managed to dodge them, thankfully), but in general seems to be a healthy, happy kiddo.
So Bill will be eligible to apply for a sabbatical next academic year, and if he gets it, I want to think about a way that we can celebrate our Big Birthdays next spring (I'll be 50, and he'll be 40). Even though it would almost certainly require us to go into more debt, I am hoping that we can pull off some kind of big trip together... Europe, Japan, Thailand, Australia are all potential destinations. The idea of doing one of the Thai food tours seems tantalizing beyond words. We are just starting to talk about it, but I know we will do SOMETHING big together next year.
Yikes, that's a lot. I think I'll wrap it up for now. (Maybe if I wrote more than once a month, I wouldn't have to do these huge novels. I'll work on it!)
Here's hoping you and those close to your heart have a warm and wonderful 2013 ahead of you!