I'm watching "Dance Moms" right now (just for background noise), and I can't believe what I'm seeing. These little girls are regularly decked out in more makeup than most women wear on a normal basis, and it just doesn't look right. The cast and crew are just setting things up for drama after drama, and these girls are caught in the cross fire. I feel so sorry for them. And there is just so much grumping, grousing, picking apart, and negativity. I would absolutely wither in such an environment, no matter what the situation. Those little girls are damn good dancers, though. I envy them their strength and vitality.

On February 6, we lost Cortes. I glanced outside just in time to see him looking up from lapping up a puddle of antifreeze that had leaked out of Corey's truck. I rushed him to the nearest vet that would take him, the first being too full and busy, but the second vet that took him in was amazing, so I'm glad we went there. They pumped his stomach and gave him charcoal, but the tests following that showed that he still had 3 times the fatal amount of antifreeze in his bloodstream, and what happens with antifreeze poisoning is that it mixes with the calcium in the cat's body and creates a kind of sticky, cloggy mess that clogs up their kidneys and induces kidney failure, which is a horribly painful and drawn out way to die. I couldn't let that happen to Cortes so I chose euthanasia, which was the right choice but horribly painful for me. I had time with him to hold him and say goodbye, I held him during the procedure, and then they gave me as much time as I needed afterward to hold him and just cry. I couldn't afford the cremation and urn and I didn't want his body to bring home and bury, so I opted for the "mass cremation" (cremated with whatever other animals and disposed of however they do it) and the clay plaque with an imprint of his forepaws with his name imprinted below the prints. They did a phenomenal job with the clay plaque, crimping the edges and making the prints and the words clear and legible. I was thrilled. I plan to paint it and hang it in the living room along with a favorite picture of Cortes in the frame given to me by a good friend specifically for that purpose. A week after Cortes's death, I received a card in the mail from the vet's office expressing their sympathy and signed by all the employees.

Corey and I are both bummed. Cortes was his favorite, and I, of course, love all of my animal babies fiercely. I don't have children, my womb refuses to house them, and the way things stand with my medications and diseases I won't bear children myself. This means that my maternal instinct is funneled into channels it might not otherwise be so present, and that means that my fur babies mean as much to me as anyone's human babies mean to me. SeƱor Drogo doesn't feel the same way that I do, but he cared for Cortes and misses him a lot.

About a week ago, we took in a new cat that needed a home. She's a calico, about 3 years old, such a love sponge and a purring machine. She will start purring, loudly, if I so much as start talking to her! I have a vet's appointment for her in a week because she has a really bad case of ear mites, one ear being entirely full of gross crusty brown stuff, the poor poor baby. Oh, her name is "Fancy". She was a pound kitty before the previous owners got her, and now she's in what appears to be her forever home. I have better pictures on my cell phone, but haven't been able to get them on the computer yet.

Things have calmed down, at least within me. I've had a lot of blows one after another for some time, but things seem to be slowing down and settling, at least temporarily. I have been beading more lately, trying to work up some sort of an inventory to start my Etsy store with. Just the prospect of doing something solid and with a purpose is exciting and fills me with giddiness. I miss that. Being in the house all day and frequently on the couch or in bed is really kind of dreary after a while. I want to go backpacking and antiquing and run errands and all the good old things I did before! I suppose I'll just have to think of ways to adapt them to my current physical abilities. Backpacking probably is out of the question, though, as I learned recently for a disability appeal form that I can only walk about 300 yards unassisted, and that's without carrying any weight at all. Hey, maybe someone will rig up a Bran and Hodor type situation and carry me on their back in a basket?! Hehehehe…

Besides beading, though, and being generally crafty, I'm working on another project to get my medical bills organized and keep track of how much I owe on each one. The idea is that I'll send in incremental amounts regularly rather than waiting until I have the whole amount at once, which will never happen. Ten dollars here, thirty bucks there… that much money can easily be spent on superfluous things, so why not put those bucks to good use? I'm going to use my old dry erase board calendar with the cork strip along the bottom to write out the company/office I owe money to, the balance owed, and at the bottom I'll pin the paper bills, to be discarded when the bill is paid off entirely. I think it's a good plan, one that will help me greatly. I'm more of a visual, touchy person and just having a stack of bills that I can't pay all at once has done me no good, and will continue to do me no good. (Guilty confession time: I've taken to throwing medical bills into a pile, unopened, because I just don't want to see the numbers that would simply ramp up my agitation. What I don't know can't hurt me… right? lol)

Oh yes, there's also the small matter of my oral surgery this Wednesday. I'll be put under and all three of my wisdom teeth will be removed at once because of serious impaction. (I am simply "missing" one wisdom tooth. Guess it never grew.) I'm going to have to eat nothing but soft, mushy foods for an unknown period of time, as I heal slower than the average person. The oral surgeon has seen many patients with chronic pain and autoimmune diseases, which is a relief to me, and he predicts that my healing time will probably be about double that of a normal person, which is to say three weeks to a month, possibly more. I wonder at what point I'll be able to switch from baby food type meals to a more solid diet? Well, if nothing else, at least I'll lose some more weight over this incident. I can almost guarantee it.

I'm reading The Swiss Family Robinson again, and I notice that every time I do my turns and phrases of speech alter slightly and become a little more old fashioned, as they are in the book. I'm still uncertain as to whether it's really a fictional account or true, but I don't have the heart to look it up because I'd liked to believe it's more of a survival manual than an interesting tale. Seriously, though, that family would break the bank if they played Jeopardy! It seems like they know every friggin' thing to do with nature or animals from all over the world. All. over. If I were stranded on a "desert" (I think they are using "desert" as an archaic term for "deserted", as it's really a subtropical island near the equator) I would rather have the father or the older brother with me than anyone else in the world because I believe that they would increase my chances of survival so greatly. Give the book a brief perusal; you'll see what I mean.

The next few days I intend to spend packing and preparing for a stay of a few days at my grandparent's home after my surgery, and I'd like to get some more beading done as well. I bought a bead/findings organizer last week and setting it up will be quite a chore but so worth it in the end. Lately it seems I've been doing nothing but sleeping or reading, sometimes crafting and all times petting and playing with the cats. It's not so bad of a life, what I've got going on, but still… it does get a bit monotonous and irritating after a while. I still don't know what to do with the fact that my pain is a life-long load I must bear, so for now I've tucked that thought away and out of sight. If I don't, it threatens to become overwhelming and drag me right back into the depression I have so recently escaped from.

For now though, it is, as my mom used to say, "bedtime for bonzos"! Or "Shadrach, Meshach, and Tobedwego!" (That's a joke based on the name of Daniel's companions in the Bible.)
Yes, I've been quite the absentee. What a difference from the days of old when I was pouring my heart out practically on a daily basis. That was back when I had so much to figure out, so many feelings swirling and whirling and trying to feel my way through the hard stuff of bellying right up to my trauma and trying to walk past with my head held high. There were all these relationships with other people to navigate and they didn't fit any normal sort of blueprint that I'd ever encountered. They were all their own special type of dysfunctional that I'd not encountered before. I'm used to full blown abusive, not such passive aggressive stuff. But anyway, I digress.

The past few months have been hard for me, really hard, and I'm not just talking physical symptoms. (Those have sucked too, though; seems that the pain does nothing but increase month by month and I don't understand that at all.) I've had tons of doctor's appointments and tests and I'm burning through money like crazy just trying to get to the appointments and pay the current copays, not even catching up on back payments. That is a discouraging thing to have hanging over your head, especially when you know just how many zeroes are tacked onto the end of that storm cloud. If it weren't for my dad, I'd be completely out of the game by now-- no tests, no diagnoses, no traveling, no nothing. He's a lifesaver. In addition to that, several others have given me a few hundred total this past week and that makes such a huge difference. It makes me think that paying all those bills off might even be possible!

So to the new news that had me so down… I've got an official dx as of a week and a half, two weeks ago, and it's that I'm dealing with EDS for sure. The nice geneticist woman put me on the border between Classic and Type 3 "Hypermobile", but really it's just a matter of clinical fiddling one way or the other, so I guess I'm Classic with hypermobility? Yeah, either way it's a shitty thing to have to deal with. I don't doubt that the rheumatologist's decree of arthritis is wrong, either, because I'm feeling it more and more as time wears on. The weather affects me so drastically now in my joints that I could claim to be elderly if I weren't so young and hot on the outside. Heh. But oh, speaking of young and hot, I'm losing weight! It's visible and noticeable, not only to myself but to others. I'm so relieved and gratified to see that the efforts that I'm able to make are finally paying off.

The Ehlers Danlos, though, just really hit me and left me… numb. Stunned. Pissed. I'm so angry that I have another thing to deal with, and it's something serious that I have to be very aware and wary of my entire life. I can't ever forget about it, because it could seriously kill me, if not just seriously injure me in a split second of carelessness or a mistake. And my dream of someday carrying children? I can kiss that goodbye, even if I weren't permanently on meds that made that a far-fetched notion. The hormones secreted in pregnancy relax the joints and make it possible for them to expand, but my connective tissues are already so loose and whacked out that I'd probably dislocate both hips just standing up and walking, if I didn't rupture something internally. Even before I started having serious pain problems and the other junk--you know, when it was just endocrine and food allergy probs-- I wasn't able to carry a pregnancy past a month or so. Long enough to know I was pregnant, and then they were gone. I know we can do a surrogate pregnancy, it's just… I wanted to experience that. I wanted to carry my husband's child, you know? It's not fair. I'm such a naturally maternal person, and I'm denied the first great joy of motherhood. Hell, I'm worried about creating a family at all anymore, since I know that the state of my health isn't likely to improve much. Oh sure, when we find the autoimmune diseases affecting me and treat those I will start to feel better, but this is a genetic disease and now that it's hit full force it's not likely to back off. For instance, just the other day I had some skin just split open on me. That's not an uncommon thing for me-- the bottoms of my toes used to split open frequently as a girl and into my early teen years. This time it was the skin under one of my breasts, so that was kinda weird, but it happens often to the creases on the side of my fingers as well. Anywhere there's already a crease on my body, it's likely that it'll split open at some point with varying degrees of severity. The split toes were rather deep and would always bleed, but the split under breast was just slight and raw, but very obviously a gap in the skin and painful. That's just part of having crappy connective tissues, I guess.

For anyone who wants a quick explanation of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and the symptoms, etc., check out these couple of sites. There are a ton of things out on the internet about EDS, but I just grabbed a few that I thought explained it the most clearly and succinctly.

- This is a good, easy summarized review, but definitely not in depth at all.

This one is more scientific, but gives a great, rather short explanation of all the facets. Thorough but concise. It even explains how it's inherited, which makes me less worried about Kelsey's chances to inherit it as well, since we have different dads.

And last but not least, here are some FAQ's from the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation itself.

Of course, I learned a bunch by reading through all the websites, though I hadn't bothered to read up on it much until the other day. I guess I was just stunned, kinda in denial. Ever since the rheumatologist in December, actually, I'd just been in a funk. Just knowing how friggin' serious all of this is… it's so much more than "just" fibromyalgia. But you know what? I learned that the difference between a syndrome and a disease is that the doctors and scientists know the origin of the disease and the likely course of progression. A syndrome simply means that its cause is unknown, so it's a collection of symptoms that could turn into something labeled a "disease" if more knowledge surfaces. That's all. So to those folks who write fibromyalgia off as "nothing", not a big deal, or something piddly because it's "just a syndrome" and "not really a disease", I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.

Right now I'm killing time until I head to Phoenix in a few hours for a sleep-deprivation EEG test and a meeting with my psychiatrist. I'm still having troubles with hearing voices, music, and seeing things despite the medication that I'm on. The EEG is to test for epilepsy in the twitches that I have primarily when tired and falling asleep, see what's going on with my darn brain waves. Yeah. I got all kinds of stuff going on. I tell you what, I have not been happy to be forcing myself to stay awake, especially since I've been needing anywhere from 8-16 hours of sleep a day for a couple of months now at least. So staying awake? Hah!

Sigh. Just making everyday life work has been tough, but that's what I am-- tough as nails. The Robot Corey and I are getting along well, plugging along and making ends meet as best as possible. We still have our days and moments, our struggles, but I doubt we'd be human if that weren't the case… especially considering the heavy stress we're constantly under. He has it in his head that he really, really wants a backyard forge, and I'm completely supportive. It'll take several hundred dollars to get all the materials together, and I am encouraging him to use whatever extra funds he can scrape together to do it. He needs a hobby, and he likes to make things. He just hasn't had the space or the money at the same time in order to get it rolling, but I think that now is a good time.

Ah, the time has nearly come for me to jump up and get dressed. The hardest part will be staying awake on the road-- I always fall asleep in moving vehicles!  Well, here's hoping for good news. I could sure use some after all of this craziness. I'll be back with a cheerful post one of these days, you mark my words. It just takes some time to get used to the hammer blows. Heck, it was a good week before I could even let myself think about the EDS diagnosis for more than a split second without tearing up and crying. As I said, though, I am tough as nails, and I'll get through this… pissed off, beat up, limping from cushioned seat to cushioned seat and scrubbing tears furiously from my face, but I'll still make it. Watch me.