The Story So Far…

“In the beginning, the universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1979

Upon making the observation that I haven’t written a blog post in three years, and considering all that has occurred during that time and the number of people posing inquiries about all that has occurred during that time, I’m compelled to resurrect my long-abandoned site to summarize all that cannot be adequately captured in 280 characters or less.

blog.jpg

tl;dr version: I was able to completely eliminate, after 30 years of intractable epilepsy, all seizure activity and pharmaceuticals just by changing what I ate.

My first memories around what I later in life discovered was to be seizure activity began when I was twelve years old. This was around the time I hit puberty, which can be a common catalyst for people with congenital epilepsy.

It didn’t occur to me that what I was experiencing was anything abnormal. My only experience with epilepsy up to that time was my mother, who had her first seizure after becoming pregnant with me (hormones, anyone?) which presented as grand mals – she would have an aura followed by loss of consciousness, no convulsions or tremors. One our favorite family stories involves her sitting at the dining room table preparing what I think was meatloaf, talking on the phone with her best friend Linda, who was the one ultimately responsible for this becoming part of familial lore.
According to Linda, my mother went dead silent for a few moments, followed by a thunk as the phone hit the floor. (This was the 80’s, so the phone was one of those wall-mounted curly-corded varieties.)
Shortly afterwards, she hears a three year-old me over the line:
“Mommy?”
“You tired mommy?”
“Do you need a nap? Is it nap time?”
“I’m not tired, but I can nap with you…”

Once my mother began a treatment protocol of phenytoin, her symptoms were completely controlled and she has been relatively seziure-free for almost 40 years. They switched her to carbamazapine some time ago, with similar success.

Circling back to my own seizures, as I said, due to my only experience with epilepsy being my mother, I had no idea what my brain was doing. It was around this time I started journaling (back then it was more of a diary, with rainbows and unicorns and a completely useless lock on the side) where I would document these events. I referred to them as “dejà-vu” spells and was genuinely curious as to why people didn’t complain about them more often. Comparatively speaking, my seizures then were much milder forms than what I later experienced as an adult, but since I just thought that’s what a dejà-vu was, I never thought to mention it to my parents.

By the time I was 20 years old, they began occurring with increased severity and frequency.
It was around this time that my brother, five years my junior, had his first seizure.

Unfortunately for my brother, he has the type of seizures most people imagine when epilepsy is mentioned. Intense convulsions that have resulted in concussions, broken teeth, ruptured blood vessels in the eyes, etc. I’ve never witnessed one personally as I no longer lived at home when they set in, but from my mother’s description they’re positively nightmarish. The good news is, like my mother, his are 100% controlled by medication.

This was the point where I decided to mention these “episodes” to my primary care physician. Given the nature of my experiences in tandem with my family history, I was referred to a neurologist who, after performing an MRI and a sleep-deprivation EEG, diagnosed me with partial complex temporal lobe epilepsy and put me on a regimen of carbamazapine (Tegretol).

I was well into my college years at this point, and having married young (too young, as it would turn out) I was dealing with multiple stressors in my life: marriage, being recently diagnosed, a full course load, and working in the tutoring lab 35 hours per week. After beginning medication for my seizures, the increased stress and insomnia took its toll, and not only was the medication ineffective, but the frequency of my seizures increased making it very difficult to retain any information from lectures and studying. My grades took a hit, I developed panic attacks and would go several nights in a row with only a couple hours of sleep. I was on Topamax, Paxil, Ambien, and Xanax. I no longer recognized myself.

My neurologist ultimately agreed that this protocol wasn’t working and decided to add an additional anti-seizure med to the mix. I don’t remember which one – they all seem to blur together. This went on for years:

  1. Try a new medication
  2. Medication ineffective, increase dose
  3. Increased dose ineffective, add a second medication
  4. Added medication ineffective, increase dose
  5. Steps 1-4 ineffective, scrap ’em all and start over with a new medication

And on and on it goes.

It never occurred to me to question anything that was happening. It never occurred to me to investigate the success rate of the high-dose medications I was on, nor learn that with every new drug that is applied, it has an exponential drop in efficacy in controlling seizure activity:medication

I trusted that my neurologists knew best, this was my only option, and if I was patient that ultimately I would achieve seizure control once we found just the right medication.

Oh, how wrong I was.

In 2012 I was living near downtown Seattle and had yet another new neurologist. By this time, the internet was a much more resourceful tool (aside from WebMD claiming any symptom you had was cancer) and allowed me to do a much deeper dive into potential alternatives to medication avalanches.

Enter: the ketogenic diet.

I was surprised to learn that not only did the diet have a high success rate in treating pediatric epilepsy, but that its development was for the sole purpose (at the time) for controlling seizures. I accumulated all the information that I could and went to my 6 month follow-up with my neurologist, excited at the prospect that simply changing what I ate could solve all my problems.

Alas, ’twas not meant to be.

My neurologist was aware of the diet, yes, but did not recommend it due to adverse health effects, such as elevated LDL along with kidney issues, and that the diet had a very “low adherence rate” (oh, how those words infuriate me) and that we should proceed with her recommendation for a VEEG study to pinpoint the focus of my seizures as brain surgery was now on the table.

My review of the VEEG study can be found here. It’s pretty amusing. Highly recommended.

By 2017, nothing had changed. I was now on Lamictal with the typical ineffectiveness and gradual dose increases. I had addressed keto a few more times with the same response from my neurologist. In January of that year, my seizure frequency and severity jumped again, and by this time I was experiencing tremors, severe amnesia, depersonalization, and lost consciousness once. It was recommended that we re-visit the topic of surgery and my medication was increased. Again. From 3500mg to 4000mg.

I was, to put it succinctly, done.

In early February I decided, with the guidance of online resources such as The Charlie Foundation, to try the ketogenic diet myself. Keto had hit a certain level of popularity at that point, so finding recipes was simple. My doctors didn’t seem to care that I weighed 287 lbs and feasted on Double Stuf Oreos and entire pans of cinnamon rolls, so eating a high-fat, low-carb diet could only be an improvement. I considered it a very low-risk gamble, particularly when weighed against brain surgery.

I decided to start with a two-day fast, then began day 3 with a pretty basic regimen of eggs scrambled with butter and heavy cream, avocados, olives, bacon…
Needless to say I did not feel deprived in any way.

By mid-March, I hadn’t had a single seizure.
April: Still, no seizures.
May: No seizures, and I was down 30 lbs.

I suddenly became aware of what it feels like to be normal.

My 6 month follow up with my neurologist was that August. I’d never been so excited for a doctor’s appointment in my life.

At this point I had been completely seizure and aura free for six months. Against medical advice (this is my general disclaimer as I am not a medical professional) I had begun tapering off of my medication as a sort of experiment, and possibly became a bit overly zealous in the endeavor, as I was down from six pills per day to one. That’s a drop from 3500mg/daily to 500mg/daily. Oops.

My appointment was with my neuro’s nurse practitioner who, to be fair, is a lovely and open-minded person. Appointment followed the usual pattern:

  1. Weight (oh, you’ve dropped quite a bit – that’s great!)
  2. Blood pressure (look at that, your BP went down as well, great work!)

She then asked me how things had been going, I told her I changed my diet, eliminated sugar and junk food, and had begun exercising. She praised me for my efforts.

“And how’s your seizure activity been?”
“Oh, I haven’t had a seizure since…well, it must be since March now.”
“Since March? That’s incredible – so the medication finally started working?”
“Oh, about that…I actually kinda stopped taking most of them…”
Her: *concern*
“Ok, can you tell me why?”
“Sure. I found that I was no longer having seizures after starting the ketogenic diet in February.”
Her: *puzzled*
“Ah, interesting, and you just…did it on your own?”
“Well, I had guidance from sources I found, but yes.”
“Ok, well, first let me say I’m very happy for you that you found something that works. However, when people go on the diet for epilepsy we usually recommend they be admitted to the hospital for guidance and supervision, especially before we begin to titrate medication.”
“Oh, I understand completely – but it was my understanding from (neurologist) that the diet wasn’t recommended, and that we should stick to medication, which is why I decided to try it on my own.”
“Ok, right…but, well, I mean if you’re having success on it, we should just stick with that. And the dose that you’re currently on isn’t even therapeutic so we can just take you off of it. I do want to make sure we keep an eye on your lipid and metabolic panels, so I’m going to refer you to a ketogenic nutritionist we have on staff – ”
Me: *OMG WHAT YOU HAVE ONE ON STAFF WHAT THE HELL (insert string of mental expletives here ______)*
” – and that way she can help you with food options and blood draws.”
“Sounds great, thanks.”
“Since your seizures are under control, we can probably only have you in every 18 months instead of 6, unless something comes up.”
“I’m ok with that.”

She ran a lipid panel as elevated LDL was a concern for her, made apparent by her notes on my test results:

notes.png

That was 19 months ago. I reached out, with no follow up.
I’ve been ghosted by my neurologist. 😂

Summary:
In two years and two months, I have eliminated all seizure activity, lost 145lbs, increased my fitness level via long-distance hiking and powerlifting, and am no longer on any medication, prescription or otherwise.
I have so many questions about why the ketogenic diet is so discouraged and even prosecuted by the medical community, while simultaneously feeling I don’t really want the answers. I fear it has nothing to do with what’s best for the patient.

Lessons learned:

  • Whereas most of the time it’s wise to listen to your physicians, there are times where you need to be your own advocate.
  • Because nutrition policy is so fundamentally flawed, most medical professionals are basing their decisions on these guidelines. In the past two years, I feel I’ve accrued more data on nutrition and diet than any physician I’ve had to date.
  • Do your homework. There is an entire community of academics and medical professionals out there working tirelessly to promote dietary approaches to chronic disease. Find them, learn from them, reach out. I have a curated list on Twitter of good resources here.

I recently did a podcast with Dr. Brian Lenzkes and Dr. Tro Kalayjian. Feel free to have a listen. I also have one coming up with Ivor Cummins, and will update this post with a link.

What do you do when an epileptic falls in your garden?”
“Seizure salad.”

 

Adventures In Neuroscience

This actually took place four years ago, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it since then, but life happens and you get distracted.  I’ve been needing a break from drawing to get my creative juices flowing again, so I figured now is a good time.  Enjoy.

A bit of backstory:

I’ve had temporal lobe epilepsy since I was about 12 years old. Now, before you imagine me flopping on the floor and biting off my tongue – those aren’t the type of seizures I have. Mine are more the absence variety, where I go mentally AWOL for several minutes then develop a sort of short-term amnesia until I’m able to sleep it off and my brain can do a hard reboot. It fortunately doesn’t keep me from holding a steady job, but it does keep me from being able to drive per state requirements as my seizures are what’s known as “intractible”. Intractible is just medical jargon for “doctors haven’t thrown a drug at me that works yet.” I’ve had quite a few thrown my way – about fourteen, to my recollection. Most of them with none too pleasant side effects. One left me unable to speak for two days, another left me with the inability to remember words like “artichoke”.

If anything has taught me that medical science has a long way to go in the area of neuroscience, it’s been dealing with neurologists for over two decades.

In an attempt to pinpoint the exact location of my seizures, my neurologist decided it would be a good idea for me to undergo a VEEG (Video Electroencephalogram) study. This involves removing me from all of my anti-seizure medications, admitting me to the hospital for no less than five days, hooking my brain up to a computer, and then wait for me to seize so they can immediately take a high-contrast MRI of my brain. So, that’s what we did. I wasn’t too excited about this enterprise, but I was determined to make the best of it.

First, I got me some stylin’ hospital booties and some kick-ass pajamas which sadly I don’t have a photographic evidence of.

My awesome friends drove me to the hospital in my my new seizure booties and pajamas. I was OWNING IT.

They checked me in, took me to my room which had an unintentionally humorous sign I stole when I left:

sign

…and even had a lovely street view (which I’m sure my insurance paid handsomely for.)

I was informed of my new sleep schedule:
Asleep at: 2:00 am
Awake at: 6:00 am
(Sleep deprivation is a seizure trigger as well as a Niff rage trigger – I don’t think they realized this at the outset.)

I was then prepared for the electrodes – this involved copious amounts of alcohol applied to my scalp. The red cross on my forehead is a marker for an electrode, just in case you thought I was being exorcised.

clean

Once they were done completely dehydrating my scalp, they used the equivalent of airplane glue to attach the electrodes with mesh so they would remain intact for the duration of my stay.

electrodes

(A friend of mine was kind enough to turn me into a meme, which I love her for):

meme

My head was then wrapped in gauze, over which I applied a snazzy headband because I was unwilling to look as if I’d had part of my skull removed for an entire week in case I had any cute orderlies:

headband

My brain was now live, with a video camera on me 24/7. That’s me in the lower right, taking a picture of me taking a picture.  Infinite regression with an EEG bonus.

live

After a long day of going through procedures, IV insertions, introductions to my medical team, and other hospital rigamarole they finally let me go to sleep at 2am, after giving me an injection of heparin (an anti-clotting agent, as I was forbidden from leaving my bed except to use the restroom) IN MY STOMACH (holy shit OUCH!), only to wake me an hour later to relocate my IV line. This ritual would continue for the next five days. I was perpetually covered in cotton balls and medical tape.

Day one: I quickly learned that there was an alarm that shrieks “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at full volume in shrill MIDI-style whenever my fellow neurology ward neighbor got out of his bed. Judging from the frequency with this this occurred, this dude did NOT wanna be there.
I, on the other hand, was ready to tie him down with my IV line. “Doodoodoodoodoodoodoo…”

Now, this study happened to take place during the 2012 presidential election. Unfortunately, the only option I had with channels on the TV in my room was news coverage. The EEG tech took pity on me and would pretty much bring me bacon whenever I wanted, which I felt was a well-deserved consolation prize. Out of sheer boredom I began conducting science experiments. I soon learned my brain reacted more positively to bacon than to election coverage:

baconpolitics

Don’t judge me.  It was FOR SCIENCE.

Day two: Still no seizures, though I had a few auras. An aura is like a “mini seizure”, similar to the feeling you have when you think you’re going to sneeze but never have the satisfaction of a full-blown sneeze. Yeah. Kinda like that. Unfortunately whenever these happened, neither the EEG techs nor the neurologists were around to witness them. It was around this time I came up with the The Physician Proximity Principle:
The appearance of an anomaly is inversely Proportional to the Proximity of the Physician.

Day three: It is at this point I begin subjecting my EEG tech babysitter to Eddie Izzard.

As punishment for the Eddie Izzard (though they claim its due to my increased aura activity) they hook me up with radioactive isotopes in a syringe to my IV line. The goal here is so when I finally do have a seizure, they depress the plunger, the isotopes go zooming into my temporal lobe and they can shove me into the MRI. That’s the goal, anyway. I looked like a cyborg:

isotops

Lunchtime:
Me: *pick* *pick* *pick*
Nurse: “Want me to bring some glue remover so we can get that stuff off of your forehead?”
Me: *pick* *pick* “Nah, it’s giving me something to do. *pick* *pick*…

Day four: friends visit. Karla brings her hedgehog, Durian, per my request.
EEG tech: “Did the nurse say you could do that?”
Me: “I didn’t ask.”
EEG tech: “Can I hold him??”

hedgehogs

Day four and a half: If one more person asks me, “Will __________ make you seize?” I’m gonna go all Code Gray on them. O_o
(Code Gray: (1) A combative person with no obvious weapon. (2) Real or perceived act of terrorism from conventional, nuclear, biological or chemical agents, or other security emergency.)

Day Five: I FINALLY FUCKING SEIZED. I’ve never been so happy to have a seizure in my life. Isotopes in, off to the MRI. Don’t remember much after that.

Day six:
The recurring phrase coming from down the hall:
“No, sir, you have to keep your pants on…”
Fortunately my departure is imminent. I don’t know if I can stay in a place with such strict regulations.

Mercifully, they had the courtesy of removing the electrodes for me. (I assure you, that is glue, not dandruff…)

remove

Here’s what my brain looks like, in case you were curious:

mri

What did we learn?
Inconclusive.

Yep, that’s right folks. After six days, only 24 hours of sleep total, 35 needle pokes, nonstop election coverage, and crazy ward patients with no pants, we learned nothing.

A couple of months later, my neurologist suggested I come in for an intracranial EEG. This involves the same process as above, only they saw a window out of my skull and place the electrodes directly onto my brain. 

I declined.

 

Happy 11th Birthday to Niff.Dot

Ah, Ed Sheeran.  I’ve been listening to his catalog of music for a couple of days now.  I’m fairly certain The Boy is pretty sick of hearing the Crooning British Ginger by now.

I keep forgetting I have a latte over here.  It’s gone beyond cold.  Still, I drink it for utilitarian purposes.  And I’ve also forgotten to take my vitamins and epilepsy meds.  They’re organized in a nice little pile next to my Wacom.  I’ll get around to them eventually.  Or save them until tomorrow. I can’t be expected to make such decisions right now.

Resurrecting my real blog as I have been so immersed in coloring book craziness I often neglect my self-care.  I’ve had this blog for 11 years and have come to realize this is a necessity towards such efforts, even if the only person who reads it is me.  And I do, quite often.  I’m a nostalgia junkie – what can I say?

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 1.17.00 PMCurrently I am at the tail end of a three and a half week excursion to Florida to spend the holidays with The Boy’s family.  Most of it has been spent working on proposals and art editing for my upcoming books while The Boy shrieks and screams at the TV. (College football.)  Shrieking and screaming does not mesh well with art editing, I’ve found.  Headphones have become a requirement.

The population of the condo building is primarily retired senior citizens who are obviously so familiar with each other’s existence that any strangers in their midst are cause for alarm and concern.  Whenever I encounter one by the elevator, immediately after I say “hello” I’m interrogated as to whom I’m a guest of, where I’m from, how long I’m here. When I say, “my boyfriend’s father…” they want to know who that is.  I’m surprised they don’t ask for identification and a blood sample.  Next time I’ll just say I’m a representative of a major developer in Tampa who is considering purchasing the entire property and leveling it to make way for a golf course. Or a hyperspace bypass.

The condo itself is a bit peculiar.  It’s owned by The Boy’s father who bought it from a woman who inherited it when her parents died.  As she didn’t want to deal with all the furniture and belongings, she left everything in here.  Which explains all of the 1980’s decor.  The book and VHS collection is pretty impressive; decent amount of Chuck Palahniuk and Barbara Kingsolver but what in the bloody hell is up with all of the Twilight books?

headThe wife was apparently a ceramicist and there is a sculpture of her dead husband’s head on top of the bookcases.  Pardon the grainy photo, as I was perched precariously on the edge of a structurally un-sound futon in order to capture the image of a very heavy-looking head.  I was fine until The Boy told me the story of The Head.  Now I feel like it’s watching me when I’m getting dressed.  That shit’s creepy.

I seriously don’t know what items in this bizarre place belong to the now-deceased couple or The Boy’s dad.  There’s decades-old sewing supplies, tools, *really* awful art, a first-generation iPod, a bouquet of seashells on sticks (yeah, I don’t know either) – it’s like staying in a sad museum of sorts.  I didn’t even realize people still used wallpaper.

One awesome thing about it is that that there is a large dining room table with a very bright adjustable lamp which accommodates my portable studio and then some.  Very roomy.

Currently most of my socialization has been limited to social media, which isn’t healthy for anyone.  I think I might take a break from the ole Facebook and Twitter (except my professional pages) as a sort of mental detox.  I’ll write more.  Get out more – see more friends.  Regain my dissolved social life. 🙂

Not to mention, getting out more means I have more blog fodder.  Seattle, you’ve been warned. Buahahaha…

 

*boing* *boing* *boing*

I do not know the developer who was responsible for the dock icon animation for program updates in OSX.  Mac users are aware of what I speak.  When Adobe Acrobat has an update, for example, the icon for the program will magically elbow its way into your Dock’s real estate, usually at the end between your open programs and your downloads.  Once it’s established itself, it begins its proud, happy, never-ending job of bouncing (boing, boing, boing) at the bottom of your desktop until you either 1) force-quit the program, or 2) acquiesce to its demands.  I usually opt for the former, as I prefer to update on my own timetable.  Which is why I have been clicking on “remind me tomorrow” when I get the Yosemite updates notification popup in the upper right quadrant of my screen for several weeks now.  I suspect Yosemite will take matters into its own hands very soon as I cannot be trusted.

At any rate, the reason I bring this up is that I am oftentimes amazed at its persistence.  It will, literally, bounce for days. Nonstop.  Someone programmed them that way.  Some mad, sadistic developer knew that we could not just let icons bounce incessantly at the bottom of the screen and have the wherewithal to pay it no mind, as could easily be done with a small red notification icon.  Sneaky.

 

#Florida, Man…

And a happy new year to all. Welcome to 2015, folks. The year of flying cars and hoverboards. Robert Zemeckis owes us an explanation.

The last three weeks have been spent in the lush, green, mystical land known as Gainesville, Florida. Being from Seattle, visiting (what I consider to be) the deep south requires a bit of a cultural adjustment. I have a feeling Floridians would be miffed at the idea of being considered a part of the “I do declare, Miss Scarlett” demographic, but meh. ‘Ts what ’tis.

In my three weeks here, I’ve found myself taking note of the distinct differences between circumstances here versus their counterparts at home.  Some items of note:

  1. People here are nice.  As in genuinely, pleasantly, amazingly, cordial-level nice.  They are so nice that when I return to Seattle, everyone will be utter and complete assholes by comparison.
  2. People walk *very* slowly here.  This I find to be simultaneously frustrating and admirable – I think all of us could benefit from slowing down a bit.  Life is way too hurried these days.  At least mine is.
  3. You can buy as many fireworks as you want on New Year’s Eve.
  4. Helmets are not required by law for cyclists nor mopeds.  Initially I reacted with concern, as in, “they’re going to be fined!” until it was explained to me that in Florida, people are permitted to exercise free will.  No one died (in my observation), and I also noticed that fewer (i.e., zero) people wore helmets when not mandated by law.  Seattle, you are the helicopter parent of the northwest.
  5. Motorists on the freeway have learned how to drive expeditiously and rapidly in a cooperative, cohesive fashion.  The same volume of cars on the freeways from Tampa to Gainesville would have, in Seattle, resulted in a four-mile backup and droves of WSDOT tweets.  In Florida?  Everyone sailed along at the same pace like a school of fish.  Smooth like buttah.  Again, Seattle: take note.
  6. The public transit system does, however, leave little to be desired.  I did note that several buses advertised “Walmart” as their main destination selling point and that Walmart did indeed have several bus stops dedicated to transporting people from BFE to lower prices.  Another phenomenon I witness was that, much like the S.L.U.T. in Seattle, Sarasota is not without its own embarrassing naming conventions.  
  7. Recycling:  Unlike the totalitarian recycling regime adopted by the northwest, Florida rarely has recycling bins and if they do, they don’t have the recycling police rummaging through your refuse in an attempt to fine you for some compostable indiscretion.  Again, metropolitan helicopter parenting.
  8. Lizards:  There are many.  They are adorable.  I did manage to catch one, but he opted for a suicide attempt instead of embarking on our burgeoning friendship.  Sad.
  9. Humidity.  I hates it.
  10. Blue Bell Ice Cream:  Oh dear universe thank you for having this sweet, sweet bit of high school nostalgia available to me for the holidays…
  11. THIS is not Christmas weather.  =/  
  12. Thunderstorms.  Never do I sleep as well.  
  13. I have no idea what these bugs are.  All I know is that my first impulse was to KILL THEM WITH FIRE!!  
  14. God is big here.  Like, huge.  During our stay in St. Augustine, while in the hotel, 75% of all stations on the television were some sort of evangelical programming.  En route to aforementioned St. Augustine, we passed a sign that read, “Welcome to Hastings:  where GOD is GOD and SIN is SIN.  In other words – “we’re watching you…”
  15. The University of Florida is Gainesville.  Everything is Gator-related.  Half the town is hosed in blue and orange.
  16. License plates:  Never have I seen a state with more specialty license plates.  I honestly don’t know how the police keep track.  

That’s all I have for now.  I’m fairly certain more will occur to me on the plane.  It’s been a nice break from the insanity of Seattle, and spending time with my boyfriend and his siblings and their kids and their dogs and their friends has been much needed and appreciated.  I don’t often take vacations and often forget how much a reboot is needed from time to time.  I’m taking notes.  🙂

Adventures in Mass Transit – Continued.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I utilize public transit to get to-and-from work. I live in Seattle, work in Bellevue. Hence the bus. If I had to drive in this traffic, I’m fairly certain attempted vehicular manslaughter would be a rather unfortunate by-product. But I didn’t come here to talk about the traffic.

One phenomenon I have been privy to is the “commuting bag lady” syndrome.

Allow me to explain.

Imagine a woman…say, late 20’s to mid 30’s. Hair well-coiffed. Expensive shoes. Immaculate eyeliner. Likely a gel manicure with an oversized diamond adorning the left ring finger. The color of the manicure was most likely selected due to the complimentary nature of the rock.

Bag #1 – On her right shoulder. Large-ish. Bulky. Indeterminate contents, densely packed.
Bag #2 – On the same shoulder, intermittently colliding and becoming entangled with Bag #1. More on the slender side. Squarish. Approximately 20″ or so in width. Kevlar or nylon material.
Bag #3 – On the opposing shoulder (or carried in her hand): A smaller bag. Italian leather. Obviously designer. This bag deserves its own shoulder due to aforementioned colliding and entangling.

Theories, hypotheses, and blatant stereotypes:

Bag #1: Gym bag. Contents: Gym shoes, three pairs of yoga pants, three moisture-wicking tank tops (matching the light peach hue of the gym shoes). Moisturizer. Shampoo. Leave-in conditioner. Straight iron. Deodorant, perfumed hand lotion, perhaps a bottle of 5-Hour Energy, with a bit of “desperation to be a size zero” thrown in for color.

Bag #2: Laptop bag. Contents: Laptop. Either a MacBook Air or a Lenovo 13″ touchscreen. Charger. Bluetooth mouse. Business cards in a flashy Swarovski-crystal encrusted case.

Bag #3: THE purse. The bag she never leaves the house without. The only item she wants to be buried with. Brand: Either Michael Kors, Fendi, Kate Spade, Burberry or Marc Jacobs. Contents: iPhone, charger, powder, lipstick, eyeliner, tampons, the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, keys, mascara, travel-size hairspray, Band Aids, wallet (matching the handbag), ibuprofen, perhaps some condoms. Cuz ya never know.

I admit freely that some of this can be leveraged from my own personal experience. Some of it is from my observations of women getting ready for work on the bus. (I have to confess a certain level of envy for those who can apply liquid liner while barreling down 520).
I personally prefer to have just my awesome Brenthaven backpack. To be fair, I will disclose its contents. Pot, kettle, all that.

– Laptop
– Moisturizer
– Protein shake blender cup
– Band Aids
– Neosporin
– Phone
– Chargers
– Powder
– 5 to 6 tubes of lip gloss (to understand the lip gloss issue please look here).
– Several tubes of Nuun. Usually Kona Cola or Strawberry Lemonade.
– Safety pins
– Barrettes
– Wallet/phone case
– Extra pair of socks (because ya never know)
– Binder clips
– Earbuds
– A plastic grocery bag full of mysterious unknown contents. Maybe it’s cold pizza. Maybe it’s rotten vegetables. Or maybe it’s the shattered pieces of my former life.

So there ya go. Theories, stereotypes, excessive use of hyperlinks, Oxford commas, and personal information all in one blog post.

Share and Enjoy.

Coby, Carl, Construction, and (Oxford) Commas.

See what I did there?

I think the alliteration was also a nice touch.

My office has the great fortune of being virtually right across the street from a Trader Joe’s.  This is ultimately convenient as I often neglect to pack a lunch and am thus able to score some fairly decent grub for under $5.

…like I did today.

Browsing the prepared food section, debating between hummus and a turkey wrap, I eventually decided upon the turkey and headed to checkout.  There’s no “15 Items or Fewer” line, so it usually ends up being a bit of a judgment call.

I picked the one with the friendly-looking older gentleman as he looked the most conversational.

Intuition, in most cases, serves me well.

Carl (or so his name tag read; wasn’t sure if he was pulling a Fight Club on me):  “Well hey there!  How’s your day treating you?”

–  “Not too bad, ” I replied.  “Enjoying the walk outside.  How about you?”

– “Oh, I can’t complain.”  He points to my work badge pinned to my shirt.  “Looks like you have a job too, eh?”

– “Oh yes. ”

– “Work at Microsoft?”

– “No, but I do a lot of work with Microsoft.”

– “Ah, see; I’ve always admired you folks.  I was dumb and got my degree in English.  See how that turned out…”

– “Oh, excuse me good sir,” I said.  “I got my degree in painting of all things.  I think that’s actually one step above and English degree in terms of practicality.”

The look on his face mirrored what I imagine a college guy’s face looks like when the girl he’s sleeping with tells him she missed her period.

– “No, what?!”

– “Yessir.  With a minor in Art History, even.”

– “How long have you been doing your current job?”

– “Ummm…three years, now?  I was in QA before.”

– “And you’ve always been doing this?”

– “Oh heavens no.  Before all this I was a waitress.  And worked in daycare.”

He then proceeds to step out around the register to grab my hand and shake it.

– “You – you have given me so much hope – and I’m 70!  Thank you!  You – please, come back anytime; every day!  And make sure you come to my line!  Oh, this is so exciting; thank you!”

Not used to being a compelling, inspirational force in the lives of others during a lunch run, I humbly thank him and tell him I will definitely visit him again.

– “Wow…” he says.  “What a great day.  You have a fantastic weekend, young lady!”

I smiled and wished him the same.  Except for the “young lady” part, for obvious reasons.

We live in a culture where more often than not, women base their self-esteem on how they look, compliments they receive, men who flirt with them, earning the envy of others; and as a result they find themselves in constant mental competition with each other, based solely on superficiality.  As I’ve gotten older (and subsequently come to accept with the aching joints, crow’s feet, and gray hair) I’ve made it a point to remind to myself that who I am is not how I look.  Who I am is the sum of my experience, my accomplishments, the people and love I have in my life, and what I give back to the world.

It’s good confidence strategy, I feel.

Oh, and then there’s Coby.  Coby is a Puggle.  He was tethered to a signpost outside Trader Joe’s.  He had the sun in his eyes, hence the squinting.  His dad says he’s a spoiled brat.  Given that I set aside 10 minutes of my lunch to play with him, I believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

Or something like that…

There is a woman on the bus. Mid twenties maybe? Has one of those voices that makes you wonder how she has any friends.
Speaking of her friends, I think she must have called every single one of them during the trip from Bellevue to Seattle.
Because she is sitting right next to me, her screeching voice on a repetitive loop in my ear. I think something has ruptured in my skull.
I’ve had fantasies of grabbing her pink encased iPhone and tossing it out the window. Or cracking the screen and handing it back to her with a non-apologetic, “oh, I think you dropped this…”
Her phone deserves the reprieve. I would estimate that her friends do as well.
She says “or something like that” at the end of every sentence. Every.sentence.
…or something like that.
After making the entire population of Sound Transit 550 aware of her weekend plans, her cousin’s job, all the clients she has. Her sister’s kids…she did take a break from shrieking in order to liberally apply perfume.
Perfume.
On the bus, people.
The 550 now smells like a baby prostitute.

(I’m blogging this as it occurs).

She is now using the reverse camera feature on her phone to preen her eyebrows and is – I swear to god – making a duckface.

I may have to kick her where she pees.

Next Stop: Infinity – and beyond!

As much as I enjoy messing with callous and entitled people, I can’t help but wonder if karma is gonna take a big ole chunk outta my ass someday.
Woke up way too early so figured I’d capitalize on the extra daylight and commute in a bit early.
Also to reduce the number of public transit anomalies, as the crazies typically don’t get up this early.

If anything, life reminds me to assume nothing. Regularly.

In the Westlake transit tunnel, waiting, as I had just missed the previous bus to Bellevue.
The train comes through, as well as the 101 (I always see that bus going to the convention center and that’s it. Seems like the most pointless route ever.)
Eventually, a stern-looking, rotund older woman stands next to me, staring at me as if I’d just thrown her cat under the aforementioned 101.

A moment passes. She pokes me on the arm.
Removing the earbuds I have in place to avoid people in these exact scenarios, I look down at her quizzically.

– “Yes…?”
– “Hey! Heeey. Did the train come already?!”

I then decide this woman spends her life in capslock mode.

– “Yes. Yes it did.”
There’s a perfunctory stomping of the foot, some profanity, then the inexplicable:

– “Well, why didn’t you TELL me??”

Praising my innate ability to be a smart-ass on the fly, it doesn’t take me long for this one.

– “I tried, but you never answer your phone”, I said, unapologetically.

I am presented with the look of confusion and borderline panic I was hoping for.

– “What?! Wait, how’d you get my phone number?”

I pulled out the business card for the orthopedist I was given at my appointment yesterday that was conveniently tucked into the side pocket of my backpack. I examined it.

– “Oh! This isn’t your card. Ha! That’s hilarious. My orthopedist is going to be confused by that voicemail…” I let out an “oh I’m just so silly!” giggle.

– “This place is full of fucking crazies!!” She hollers, trotting off.

Yes. Yes it is.

Dengue Rainin’ on My Ebola Parade. Havin’ Lhasa Fun With Plague, Inc.

Confession: I have been orchestrating a worldwide pandemic during my commutes to work.

Oh, don’t look surprised.  You had to be expecting this.

If you would like to taste the sweet, sweet flavor of genocide for yourself, feel free to check it out here.  Available on iOS and Steam for Mac and PC.  To be thorough, I have it installed on my iPhone, iPad and laptop.  You never know when you’ll be compelled to infect millions with a delirious fever and projectile vomiting at a moment’s notice.

My first attempt involved a concrete, intellectual strategy and was approached in all seriousness.  Think “The Hot Zone” or “Outbreak”.  After a few failed attempts (Greenland and Canada, looking at you) I decided to have some fun with it.  Because liquefying internal organs is, after all, hilarious.

 

Campaign 1:  “Douchebaggery”.

As I live in Seattle, I felt this was seemingly appropriate.
Douchebaggery, though successful in its ability to spread easily from one person to the next, ultimately proved to be non-lethal and the Canadians developed a cure.
Hipsters everywhere exhaled a sigh of relief.

Campaign 2:  “Stupidity”.

Stupidity seemed to have greater success.  Stupidity evolved much more quickly than Douchebaggery, had a much quicker transmission rate, becoming airborne and able to withstand extreme temperatures.
Unfortunatey, I was again faced with disappointment as the Germans developed a cure in 1,654 days.
I suspect subterfuge.

Campaign 3:  “Your Mom”.

Oh, what?

Oh, Yes.  Yes I did.
Somehow Your Mom managed to circumvent the failures of my previous two campaigns.  Your Mom spread quickly, evolved slowly, and after two years began to kill at an accelerating rate.

Your Mom was a diabolical force of nature and due to the symptomatic evolution of the disease managed to cause insanity, delirium, and ultimately, complete mental and physical collapse.

Eventually it because clear that there was simply no way to stop Your Mom.

Lessons learned:  Your Mom is far more deadly and ubiquitous than either Douchebaggery or Stupidity.

Postscript:  Thanks to the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, I find myself taking in news articles on containment measures being utilized by local governments and thinking to myself, “huh…so that’s why I failed to infect Greenland…”

O_o