Celebratory

In two days, I will be completely surrounded by my loved ones.

In what my favorite (non-related to me, ahem) child Emi has dubbed my “Awake Wake”, people from literally across the United States are gathering for a celebration. For me. I am throwing what I hope to be a grand party, to see all of my oldest and dearest friends and my newer beloveds, before this disease takes my ability to speak, to embrace them. To throw one grand shindig and see everyone I love. A funeral in which the deceased has not quite shuffled off this mortal coil.

I blatantly stole the idea from my friends Chad and Dawni. You should blatantly steal this idea too.

In four days, I turn 42.

Each birthday is precious, regardless of your circumstances. Each of mine is especially dear to me, because I don’t know how many more I’m going to be able to celebrate by eating delicious food with friends. Sushi becomes less special when the only way you can ingest it is through a tube, you know? Each day matters. I’ve been laid up with a mild to moderate ligament tear/sprain, and I feel the loss of each mobility day more keenly than I otherwise would. My days on my feet are already limited, and I feel them slipping away. Worst timing ever; my friends are already arriving, and I want to see them as much as possible, I want to show them around this amazing city I live in, want to tell them absolutely everything I never had the nerve to, before. I’ll be celebrating my birthday by going to Clinic, but hopefully that evening we’ll do something fun and delicious.

I’m excited to see everyone. Nervous, because for some of them it’s been just about 20 years. I’m the fattest I’ve ever been; under doctor’s orders, but still my vanity aches a little that after all this time, they’re seeing me like THIS. But it’s important to me that they see me like THIS, and not an emaciated meatbot, unable to do anything but meet their eyes and drool as they talk to me. For now, I can still exchange horrible jokes, still hug like a bear, still tell my friends how much I love them, how each of them shaped who I am. How I am so much better for knowing every single one of them.

Because I am, without doubt, better for knowing every. Single. One.

My life has been stupid charmed by the amount of amazing people in it. And I am grateful than when I said, I’m throwing a party – please come? They are coming. From far and wide. To say hello and goodbye and I love you and maybe play with some stickers and eat some cupcakes. Crying will come later, but for now there are memories to exchange and stories to tell and so much laughter.

I can’t wait.

Bruising for a Cruising

Okay, I have to tell you about this stupid thing that happened, because then I can focus on the good parts, and also tell you something good that came of it all.

TL;DR: ALS RUINS EVERYTHING EXCEPT MAYBE DRAMATIC ENTRANCES.

So, I went on a cruise. I’d arbitrarily decided I wanted to do that, last year, as a bucket list thing. Cruises seemed cool, and at the time I was envisioning myself spending a week on the ocean, cruising to Alaska, taking the time to mentally collect myself and write all of my goodbye letters and look at the water. My friend Beth has been trying to get me to go on this one geeky cruise, but it was in Mexico and I’m not a tropical person. At all. And then, well, my hands stopped working so well, so it was less important that I have all the alone time, and then the geek cruise announced that Zoe Keating was going to be one of the performers and suddenly I am going on that fucking cruise, you’d better believe it.

It’s this one: https://jococruise.com/

One week of music and comedy and geekery. Puce, Lance, and Tam came with me, and we were gonna have a hell of a time and I was going to work up the nerve to say hello and thank you to Zoe Keating, and I was going to look at the water for hours and maybe have a cocktail and perhaps see a whale. And I did all those things and so so so many more. It was incredible.

…Except for this one thing.

From the start, I had concerns about accessibility. I can’t do without the walker, these days. I use a cane to get from the car to the grocery store where I can use a cart to lean on, or I’m using my walker. I wasn’t terribly concerned about the ship itself, though, I mean, these things are practically built for old people, right? I had a quick look at the cabin floor plan and realized with one week to go until the cruise that the bathroom was not even a little bit accessible. I sent a very apologetic and frantic email to the amazing planner people, who totally came through and switched me to an accessible cabin with grab bars and everything and it was all saved and glorious! (HOORAY FOR THO) ..Except for the shore excursions, I was still wary of them. Now, I realize fully well that the A in ADA is for Americans, and the rest of the world is not exactly accessible, which is why I’ve become reluctant to do a lot of traveling. But I completely intended to make do, so long as they could get me to shore, which they promised they could. And I tentatively believed them and didn’t worry about it at all until the day before the first one.

We were going to stop for the most of a day in Cabo. Unfortunately, there was a thing on the ship I wanted to do, right in the middle of the day, so we stopped by the front desk to ask how the disembarking would go down, to see if the hassle was going to be worth it for just a couple of hours. The town was too small to dock in, so they were offloading people by tender, which is a small boat, the woman with a delightful German accent explained. There wasn’t a rail, and there was a small gap between the ship and the tender that would wobble with the waves. Due to liability issues, they could not carry me in, but there were people on both sides to give me a hand. She assured me it would probably be fine. I had my doubts.

We skipped Cabo, and the event I wanted to go to was postponed til Friday, so I wound up spending the whole day on the ship, drinking fake mojitos and staring at the water and having a nap. SO HORRIBLE, YOU GUYS, SUCH MISERY WOW. CRUISES ARE THE WORST. The next day was Loreto, though, and not only a local food festival but an all night concert (Ted Leo will indeed rock your face off, so there was no way I was missing that). I vowed to get my ass ashore and do some sightseeing come Hell or high water – and yes the irony of that is not at all lost on me. The morning came, and so did my apprehension. Again, too small to dock so we were using tenders to get ashore. Lance went to the launch site to see how hard it would be to get me on the boat, and he assured me that it was a little gap, the water was calm, easy-peasy. They’d be there the whole time to help, and I knew they absolutely would. It wound up truly not being that difficult, even though I can’t step up a curb anymore, just a little gap and a lot of helping hands. HOORAY FOR THAT.

The ride to the port was nausea inducing, and the dock we wound up in was basically a narrow-ass pier maybe five feet wide, and then a steep as shit ramp to get up to the port. We had to step down from the tender using two wooden boxes made into stairs and yeah, you THINK you already know where this is going, but NO. I made it down the steps just fine with a lot of help from the crew and my friends, and walked across the narrow pier with no problems, and up the steep ramp without falling. You doubters. We made it to the city and looked around; it took forever for me because hey! No proper sidewalks and steep hills and cobblestone streets! Lance and Tam split off from Puce and I to do some shopping, while we looked at an ancient mission church and its museum of artifacts.

And then shit went sideways…literally. Without going into detail, I fell out of the walker and skinned the bejeesus out of my knees. As usual, the worst part was the strangers. It was right in the middle of the road, in front of a restaurant, so everybody and their mother pretended not to be watching but still managed to stare as we tried to get me up. A well meaning couple helped Puce out, and then overstayed their thanks by over-analyzing why I fell and how to prevent it from ever happening again while Puce and I both repeated YES THANK YOU and tried to move the fuck on with our lives. We limped to an ice cream shop, where I ate delicious ice cream from my childhood while trying to forget that it happened. Remarkably, my tights weren’t ruined, it turned out. Hooray! The day was not completely obliterated, but we agreed it should probably be a short day.

We did the food festival, delicious! and then stayed for the first act when the concert started. We decided to head back to the ship while there was still light to see. I was pretty wiped out by this point, but luckily there were taxis provided by the cruise organizers to get me back to the pier. And….again, I know what ADA stands for, but the van that showed up had a wheelchair symbol on it and yet was the most un-accessible van ever. He helpfully provided a little stepstool for me to get up into the seat with…which was a complete waste of effort because I don’t have the strength to lift my foot up that high to get ON the stool, much less step up with it into the the van. I managed, but it was not pretty and my tights were falling off by the time I was onboard. I discreetly hitched them back up when we got to the dock, I walked so, so carefully down that steep-ass ramp, navigated the narrow pier to the boat…

..and swore a lot because I’d completely forgotten about the fucking steps up to the boat.

Now, I can do a couple of steps if there is a sold handrail, because it’s basically using my arms to haul myself up. Without a hand rail, though, it’s fucking impossible. I quailed, but Puce assured me we would get this done. The diminutive crew took my walker on board, and then I slung my arm over Puce’s shoulder to try the steps. It failed instantly, and completely. I couldn’t help him get me up at all; I couldn’t lift my foot even, on to the first step. The crew tried to help, but they were small Asiatic men trying to assist a fat American giantess, and they were completely ineffective beside grabbing me under my arms and trying to put my feet on the stairs as though the only problem was getting my foot to touch the step. I asked to be allowed to sit for a moment, to catch my breath and rethink the problem. It took them all too much time to understand, this isn’t working, let me go.

I looked around, trying to think of a plan, and not allow myself to become a quivering, humiliated mass of tears. I noticed a line of people behind us and tried not to look at their faces. I noticed a cute girl with pink hair watching, similarly trying to think how to help. And then I noticed Anne Wheaton, one of the cruise’s celebrity guests. You probably would know her best as Wil Wheaton(the kid from Star Trek)’s wife, but she’s a geek in her own right and a fellow believer in the amazing power of googly eyes (for real though, google VandalEyes; the woman is one of my heroes) and was on the cruise doing a reading from her upcoming book. And she was watching me struggle with these ghetto-ass stairs on this unstable-ass boat and these little dudes hurting me while trying to help and I really, truly, just wanted to slip into the water and never come up. But that wasn’t an option.

I had just decided that the easiest thing would be to haul myself on to the boat and crawl over to the bench on my skinned knees like a fucking animal because surely my dignity could only suffer more if I managed to piss myself as well. That’s when the pink haired woman stood up and offered to help, assuring me that she was quite strong. I waved her off once, announcing that it was probably easier if I just crawled, but she repeated her claim of strength and voluntold another man to help her and Puce pick me up. I accepted with as much grace as I could pretend to have. Carrying 230 pounds of dead weight up what are effectively rickety fruit crates and on to a narrow moving boat is not an easy task. I think 8 people at one time were helping me, swiveling me successfully into a bench, and I tried to crawl inside my own skin as everyone else filed on board. Puce was amazingly supportive as always, and silently offered support while we rode back to the ship as I silently prayed for everyone to please forget this whole thing, and did my best to not completely lose my shit until I was alone. The pink haired cutie stayed behind to make sure I was able to get off the tender okay, and of course I could as there were no stairs involved. I thanked her a dozen times, we got back to our cabin, and I cried a lot.

I spent the rest of the cruise fervently pretending that the whole thing hadn’t happened. I had bruises under both my arms, my ego was shattered, but goddammit I had a good time for the rest of the trip pretending I hadn’t made a complete spectacle of myself in front of a boat full of strangers and Anne Wheaton. I mentally chalked it up as a lame-ass claim to fame and joked internally that she’d probably never forget the trip, for damn sure. And managed to forget it, mostly, specially when I got home. I knew I’d probably blog about it, but hopefully in a not-depressing way and try to find some positive angle on the whole ordeal, cause that’s how I fucking roll.

I’m off work for sabbatical now, so I slept late Monday. When I woke up, Puce asked me if I’d been on Facebook yet. That’s…never a good sign. I told him no, mentally wondering who died. He said I should check, and I got nervous and asked what was up. He asked if I wanted to find out myself, or should he tell me, and I didn’t feel like sorting through a time bomb of a timeline, and maybe Facebook’s stupid algorithms wouldn’t even decide to show me what he was talking about at all, anyway. I told him to tell me.

“So…………Will Wheaton’s wife posted to the JoCo Sea Monkey 2017 group about your…incident. It’s very nice, and sweet, and depressing…but she still posted about it, basically to give you support.”

FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK.

“Then Beth went and tagged you in comments.”

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

OK. Breathe. It’s cool. No big deal. It’s cool. Public humiliation part two. OH MY GOD THIS IS NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY IS IT. I braced myself for the worst and checked the group. And the post was obvious.

“To the young Sea Monkey who was using a walker on the cruise-”

Wincing, I read her account of the incident, mortified that my emotions were so transparent and I was completely casting a shadow on what should have been an awesome night. I hate that my disease is depressing as hell to everyone around me. I try to keep my shit in check for this reason alone. “What I wanted to do was get up and come over to you to tell you not to feel stupid for your body failing you, but it’s not my place to tell you how to feel,” she wrote.

..Holy fuck, this woman gets it, I thought in surprise. Being told not to feel dumb or weak or sad is never helpful. It makes me angry, if anything. And she understood, and elected not to intrude on my struggle like some Feel Good Fairy Godmother with useless words of non-comfort. I wanted to hug her for that. She continued to tell me that she noticed that not one person behind us waiting to get on the boat was irritated or impatient, just standing by not knowing how to help. And..I was relieved. And instantly didn’t mind at all that she posted this story semi-publicly. Was grateful, even. Because of course my brain told me that everyone was watching, feeling sorry or being mad that I was Officially Ruining Everything. She understood how I felt enough to make a point to tell me this. Which was amazing. She gracefully relieved me of any obligation to respond or identify myself, and concluded:

“Just remember, you are not your body. You are an incredible human being facing a really shitty situation who chose to go on a cruise and live life to the fullest. You are an example of perseverance we should all be so lucky to witness.”

I’m…not entirely sure that’s so, of course. I’m just some dumb girl with a fucking ridiculous disease that ruins everything. I didn’t really decide to go despite my disease. Zoe was gonna be there and thus, so was I. The end. But Anne’s words were amazing and timely as shit and I felt immediately better about the whole thing, and I replied with a simple thanks on the post but sent her a more detailed reply in a Facebook message, including a request to pass my thanks to her pink-haired rescue goddess friend who was indeed super strong. She told me why it hit her so hard, and hoped I’d be back next year. I told her I’d like that, but maybe I’d skip the port of call next time (heh), and asked if I could use her words when I inevitably posted about this whole thing. She said okay and she’d be sure to pass on my regards.

And now I have. So, a super shitty thing happened, but as usual, there was a moment of grace in it that gives the incident some worth. I’m only sorry I didn’t get to hear this from her in person so I could hug her. And then show her the googly eyes on my JoCo badge.

ALS:FTS Video Blog Thingy Numba Seven: EXCITING NEWS YO

Clinic Day! Also, should you send me that article about ALS? (Spoiler alert: yes you should) Promising research! How my disease is progressing. And some VERY EXCITING NEWS. Like, I am nearly in tears for pretty much this entire video because I am going to lose my shit I swear to God you guys.

LOLitics

A coworker is at the entrance of my cube, talking to me about politics. I hate politics, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to think about it, and try to avoid them at all costs. I don’t watch the news, I don’t read news sites, I actively do not pay attention to any of that. I get more than enough from my facebook feed, thanks, and I have a policy even there of, “if your last five posts were all political, welcome to the Ignore List.”

Willful ignorance for the win, I guess? There’s that saying, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” and it’s true, but some of us have better things to do than be outraged all the damn time. I certainly have OPINIONS about a lot of things, don’t get me wrong, but seriously shut up. You’re not saving the world with your opinions on gun control or abortion or whatever the flavor of the month at 31 Outrages is. Terrible Situation is Terrible, but sitting in your office writing vitriolic screeds and stressing about it without DOING anything about it solves NOTHING.

Ranting in your facebook does one of two things: Alienate People Who Don’t Agree With You, or Preach To The Choir. You’re not changing anyone’s minds or calling anyone to action. You’re just yelling about TERRIBLE THING with no specific call to action and no change as result, and it is actively depressing/infuriating/frustrating to read this over and over and over. I don’t give a SHIT about an article about a protest or a war or a new policy or whatever, facebook is where I go to find out how the fuck you are doing. Where you AT the protest where the cops tear-gassed the protesters? No? Then WHY ARE YOU POSTING THIS. Are you seriously expecting to sway someone’s vote with your clever little infographic about gun control? Seriously? HAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHHAHAHAHA oh man. That’s a good one. Ok but really you know you’re not, right? And you DID run that article through Snopes or FactCheck or PolitiFact or Hoax-Slayer or something before posting it, right? And not just shared it because it agreed with you before making sure it was true? No? Sigh. Okay. Yeah. This is why we can’t have nice things, people. Check your facts or better yet, just don’t post that. Post pictures of your cats. That’s important. That actually tells me about your life. I want to know how your breakfast was, not about some philandering politician or your stance on abortion or some insipid inspirational wabbajabba picture of a sunset with a misattributed quote.

I don’t give a shit about your politics, I often like you in SPITE of them.

There was a point to this. …Where was I.

Oh right. Coworker. Cube. He’s talking about the Republican party and the possibility of Trump as president and blah blah blah, and I find myself cheerfully saying, “You know sometimes, I’m GRATEFUL that I’m checking out early so I don’t have to DEAL with this shit.”

And he gets quiet.

And that is the end of THAT conversation.

I win.

Phrasing

We went to lunch today, my friend and I, and an elderly woman with a cane was leaving the restaurant as we were entering. She saw mine, and good-naturedly welcomed me to the Cane Club. Her companion, an elderly man also with a cane, came through the door as my friend held it for him. “He’s had his for 2 years, I’ve had mine for one.”

“I’m coming on I think nine months,” I told her, smiling.

“I see so many young people with them lately,” she lamented, kindly. “It’s a terrible shame. I really hope you’re done with yours soon.”

“I will be,” I nodded and assured her, “eventually.”

And I walked in to the restaurant, my friend was slightly flummoxed. “That’s uh…a different way to look at it.”

“Was I wrong?” I demanded, laughing. “I didn’t LIE.”

“….No. No you did not,” he conceded.

Sometimes it’s just in how you phrase things.

Noise

When I was younger and cooler and far more existentially miserable, I wore soft leather boots and flowing skirts and metal belts with chains and coins and bells that made a lot of noise. Not so many as my friend Bascha – you could hear her coming a mile away. But the chains around my waist and the handcuffs through the epaulets on my jacket and the many metal bracelets around my wrists and the key earring clanging against the rest of the rings told you I was around. I loved the weight around my hips like a hug, the bright glint of the lights catching everywhere. And when I danced, I’m sure they all made a wonderful clatter. I delighted in jogging down the stairs, listening to the pinging and the rattling sounds that I made.

Hi, I’m Strange, listen to my wonderful assortment of spanglery. I don’t actually want to be noticed, so much, I don’t want to have to interact with you, but I want you to be aware that I’m here, with my jangling cacophony of industrial noise. I had my own joyous soundtrack of chains and bits and keys and bells, shaking rhythmically to my own walk. I don’t march to a different beat, I am the drummer*.

I have a new soundtrack now, a more subtle one. I have new shoes and they make a lot of noise, because they’re not broken in yet. Creak-creak-creak of the fake leather. It goes with the skrtch skrtch scrtch of the Velcro on my braces. And the soft click, click, click of the cane. And the near constant ‘ahrm’ clearing of my throat due to whatever medication is causing that. It’s not such a joyful soundtrack, but it is my noise nonetheless. A song of medicine instead of industry.

Necessity drives this noise instead of a penchant for collecting shining metal bits, and the undertone is the same. I don’t want to be gawked at but I want you to be aware that I’m here, please don’t back in to me. This isn’t music I chose, but it’s not a bad one. I’m glad it’s not accentuated by the rustling of adult diapers or the scree scree scree of dragging an IV stand around. And not the vshhh vshhh vshh of assisted breathing. Not yet.

I am not so young. Not so cool. Not nearly so miserable, despite it all, and I wonder what my younger, noisier self would have thought about that. She’d be crushed we can’t dance anymore. She’d be confused why I’m so much more content than she is, all things considered. And I’d show her the support these medical noises bring, and the emotional support the medical need has brought, and I think she’d agree I have it better of the two of us.

It isn’t stopping me from thinking about buying a chain belt, though.

*All credit for that line goes to my dear friend Linnea, who uttered that bit of brilliance as we sat in my room as malcontented freaklet teens. I don’t think she ever knew how much that phrase inspired me and cemented my complete adoration of her.

Wakey Wakey

A friend of mine, the one recently diagnosed stage 4, had a Celebration of Life party a couple of weeks ago. It was like a wake, only he was there.

I think that’s the coolest thing ever.

Wakes are always awesome in theory, you don’t mope and mourn, you throw a party! And talk about the good times! Yay! But there’s always a little regret; “Why didn’t I tell them this while they were alive”. And the cheer is forced, a bit. WE ARE TOTALLY HAVING A GOOD TIME BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT HE WANTED EVEN THOUGH I AM LEGIT SAD AND THIS IS SHITTY AND LOOKING AT ALL OF YOU TRYING TO KEEP YOUR SHIT TOGETHER IS MAKING IT WORSE. Or the “HOW CAN YOU BE HAPPY WHEN OUR LOVED ONE IS DEAD” crowd that just sit in the corner and sigh. They’re miserable at other parties, too. But the idea of a wake is excellent. Yes. Talk about the good times. Talk about how this person changed your life. Talk about the stupid way they used to sit in a chair and lean allllll the way back until you swore they would fall but they never did. Until that one time. And remember that laugh? Oh god. We got in SO MUCH TROUBLE that night. And allow yourself to miss them, and be sad, and be okay with it, but celebrate who they were, and be thankful that your paths crossed for awhile.

The idea is rad. So why don’t we do this while people are still alive? Someone is diagnosed with something awful, someone is going through a really shitty experience, something happens that is changing their life forever in a bad way, then help it all by throwing a party for the people that love them, invite them all to come and drink and talk about how amazing this person is.

Chad’s party was a little weird at first, like you’d expect. It’s a wake? But he’s here? Um. Wow. Okay. So we just…um. Wow, I don’t know a lot of these people. But we played a game, and they did a really awesome thing with the game to remember us all by, and it was fun. We got to talk, we got to eat, and it was a really, really fantastic excuse to get people to go out of their way for an evening to come and say hello. And for Chad it was probably awesome to have all the visits done in one shot – I know for me, anyway, coordinating visits with people is tiring, and the visits are exhausting, but you really, really love them so it’s worth it. But it would be fantastic to just show up somewhere for a couple hours and have people able to come over to you instead of scheduling ten million things and cancel some of them at the last minute because there’s no spoons or shit happened, or whatever.

So yes. Do that for your people. Divorce, diagnosis, moving far away, whatever. Uplift and encourage. WHILE THEY ARE AROUND TO APPRECIATE IT. It’s better to say this stuff to them while they’re still alive, still present, still able to have their entire day made by a kind word.

When I was diagnosed, and this amazing community sprang up around me, I listened and read while my friends told each other about how they came to meet me, how important I was, how awesome I am. As expected? Total ego boost. But I learned a lot of things I don’t think I’d ever have known. A friend of mine credited me with getting her into our social scene, because I was the only one of the CreepyKids who came over to say hello, so she was encouraged that we all didn’t hate her and it was okay for her to be among us. Which is weird to me, because I didn’t consider myself really IN that crowd, and it would never have occurred to me that I might ever be a gatekeeper to such a thing. But she said I was, and I did, and she never forgot. And I would never have known that.

I don’t know that I’ll ever have such a party, but of course there will be a wake sort of thing. And while talking to Danielle this morning, we determined there’s going to be party favor bags. With a pair of my socks, some stickers, a tiny Japanese thing, and a container of sprinkles. All things I have too many of. All things I adore. All little pieces of me, who I am, and what I like. I think that’s an awesome idea. Once upon a time I made a Happy Box Exchange, and I made little boxes full of things that made me happy. Music, stickers, little toys, sprinkles, candy, delicious scents. Things like that. I didn’t get all of the participants to respond back in kind, but the ones that did, came in FORCE. A baking care package. Another box in kind of all kinds of music and stickers and things. It was a really uplifting experience. Happy surprises.

So imagine that, only instead of stickers and candy, it’s memories and feelings. That would be the best thing ever.

You should do it.

Clearing Out

We had a huge moving/charity thingy sale last weekend. We could NOT have asked for better weather for it. It was warm, sunny, and beautiful. In the course of our three day sale, I learned some things:

1. People like slowly driving by sales and magically determining that your sale has nothing to offer. And sometimes even if they stop, they don’t bother turning the car off.
2. People will haggle over a $1 item, even at a charity sale.
3. If I had a dollar for everyone who inquired if my ladder were for sale, I could have bought a new one.
4. Dude who offered me “like, around twenny bux” for a $300 collectible KNOWS about Masterworks Replicas, man. He KNOWS.

Also, I was shown, yet again, that I have an amazing support network. Folks I haven’t seen in person in years showed up. People I’ve only known online showed up. Friends donated things to the sale AND bought stuff. After three days, we were exhausted and done and a little bit richer and a lot lighter in stuff.

In between the chaos and crowds, I watched things that used to belong to me become someone else’s. And rather than melancholy, it made me happy. It made me happy to see my Wishbone plushie go to a girl who knew who he was. It made me happy to watch a kid’s face light up when his mom said, yes, he can have that. To watch a woman buy a set of manga – in Japanese! – that I was sure no one else would want. At the end of each day, I looked at the garage, less full, and looked at my friend Danielle, running the show and doing ALL THE THINGS, and was so, so grateful.

The sale was born of grief and hardship. It is to offset the upcoming cost of a horrible thing, and to lighten my load for the move(s) to come. It was hard – SO HARD – to go through my things and decide if didn’t need that thing anymore, with the added implication of, “I don’t want someone to have to deal with this when I die so I’ll get rid of it now.” And I gave up some of my treasures because I knew they were useless treasures to me anymore, and they might become someone else’s. A new life instead of shoved in a box until my brother goes through my stuff when I’m dead. And so I let things go.

And I watched the teenager walk away, hugging Wishbone, and was content with my choices.

Learning New Can’ts.

Every day is a voyage of discovery.

I have recently discovered that I can no longer stand up from a seated position without either swinging my arms wildly in front of me for counterbalance, or using my hands to lift my butt off the seat and pitch forward. I have also discovered that I can’t go in to my backyard when it’s muddy anymore, not even to close the shed door because it’s raining hard and the floor inside is getting soaked, because I WILL fall in the mud and bend my umbrella and muddy the hell out of my hands and knees AND lose the freaking key for the shed lock somewhere in the grass. I have also discovered that I can’t step over the threshold of my house without pulling myself up on the door frame or something. Stairs are becoming akin to mountain climbing.

I’ve had two proper falls since the last Amtrak one. I fell on a wet inclined driveway with mulch while getting out of a car. That didn’t hurt too badly except for very nearly ripping my middle fingernail off. That really sucked. And then I had a fall in my driveway while carrying things inside the house. It was my own fault, I was carrying things with both hands and I have recently discovered that well, I should not be doing that. The fall wasn’t horrible, I didn’t break anything, just skinned the hell out of my elbow and landed on my foot wrong enough that my big toe was a solid bruise for a few days.

Lessons learned.

On the plus side? My arms are fucking BUFF now.

I had my follow up appointment with Doctor Goslin last Wednesday. We mostly talked about meds, new insurance, and stupid administrative crap. She checked my strength in my thighs and hands and arms and was satisfied with the rate of decline – there wasn’t any. My calves, though, are basically devoid of useful muscle now and my feet are done. When I don’t wear shoes in the house, my feet just drop on the floor with each step – I call it froggy feet. I don’t walk down the stairs so much as clomp.

The last time I saw her, she recommended a sleep study to see if maybe my exhaustion was in part because I don’t sleep well. The sleep study found mild sleep apnea – no surprise, it runs heavily in my family – but nothing to explain the lack of energy. I’ve got a follow up study on Valentines Day, how romantic! And I’ve been referred to a pulmonologist to see if they have any recommendations about that, but I’ll probably be getting a CPAP machine. It will help with keeping my lungs strong, if nothing else, she said. I can see that. I have no idea how the cats are going to handle it. It doesn’t make so much noise once it’s on your face, but still.

Today, we start the voyage of discovery that is med changes. I was out of Nuvigil about a week before I had my appointment with her, and OH MY GOD the difference. I went straight back to sleeping 18 hours on the weekends and nearly falling asleep at my desk all the time. I went home from work and crawled in to bed with my laptop and passed out at like 9, those nights. Because this is a new year, new insurance, she tried to prescribe me adderall again, and gave me samples of Nuvigil just in case.

Insurance denied the adderall. But not a blanket denial! Just..she had prescribed one to two a day, and they only covered one. It’s the second to lowest dose of it, and I was only ever going to take one anyway, but it took a couple of days to sort it out. And by couple of days, I mean I just got it yesterday. Today’s the first day, we’ll see what happens.

It’s a world of flux and change, even if I have the answers. I know I’m going to lose my ability to walk, but it’s a question of when, and discovering daily the new can’ts. I discovered that I can’t function without some sort of energy med. I don’t have an answer why not, yet, but it’s a new can’t.

But sometimes can’ts are not a bad thing. I can’t do this on my own, because I have people who love me and won’t LET me. I can’t stop moving forward, even through all of the can’ts, because I have so many people carrying me.

I can’t stop believing things are okay, because I know they will be. They’re gonna SUCK and be full of more can’ts than I could ever imagine, but somehow, it’ll be alright. Things will work out.

It can’t happen any other way.

“Privileges”

I joke a lot about “membership has its privileges” when I get some special attention over my disease. Closer parking spaces. People holding the door for you longer than they normally would. Things like that. I definitely notice I’m getting special treatment, the more debilitated I get, and “privileges” is becoming kind of a tired joke, but I’m learning daily how differently people get treated when they’re “less than perfect”.

I went through Security Theater this morning, to get on a plane to come to New Orleans for a vacation. (Hello from New Orleans!) Megan and Colin were my partners on this venture, and Colin did a fantastic job of running interference for me. We researched what was needed for someone to go through security with a cane and braces, and Colin was marvelous at stepping up and informing the various security peeps of what was expected.

Sidenote: Post 9/11, this was the most pleasant TSA experience I’ve had.

I didn’t have to remove my braces, they swapped my metal cane with a wooden one so I could walk through the metal detector, and then had me (try to) stand in the imaging machine – not backscatter, it turned out, some other technology. Megan’s going to research that. I wobbled. They patted me down a lot and swabbed my hands and shoes for explosives, and then a really nice TSA officer collected my things for me and led me to a chair to wait for the other two.

My cane and braces got us in the fast track through security. My cane and braces got us boarded first. Pre-boarding, bitches! My cane and braces get me more attention and consideration than I’ve ever had. It is just weird to me still, to be granted privilege and special status because my body is betraying me. “Here, you have less time, literally, than the rest of us. To the front of the line, please.” I’m grateful for the consideration, it sincerely does make my life easier. But it feels weird and alien still, because there’s that edge of “I don’t deserve special treatment” and “I don’t NEED special treatment” and on either side of that chasm is a yawning abyss of “Shut up, yes you do.”

I’m not sure what the point of this is. I guess part of me is a little appalled that it takes something like a terminal disease for people to notice and be nice to you. And I’m just as guilty of it. I’m far more likely to smile at a total stranger with some sort of affliction, like – hey, you’re okay, man, you’re cool. I’m on the other side of that now and… it’s not insulting at all, but it’s a little sad. Like, why wouldn’t you hold the doors for that dude but you’ll hold them for me?

And I joke about “membership has its privileges” but..really, it seems only fair that the universe dishes out SOME gentle allowances to soften the blows. Even if it’s only in letting me on the plane 20 minutes before everyone else. For every fall, there’s someone to help me back up. I’m happy to be in New Orleans on someone else’s dime, and I honestly couldn’t ask for two more considerate and compassionate travel companions who are on point and looking out for ways to make my life easier. (They were always there, though. ALS didn’t do SHIT for me on that front.) So I guess, if the universe is saying “Sorry bout your terminal disease, have everyone letting you on the plane first as a consolation” isn’t that bad. At least it comes with something. And I am grateful for those little mercies. They really do soften the blows, and make things just a bit easier.

I’m privileged to have those small mercies.

Thrown Off, and Thankful

I don’t say this nearly enough. I am grateful. SO SO SO (imagine about a hundred more SOs here) GRATEFUL for the people in my life that have stepped up to show their love, to see how they could help, to not bother asking how but just doing something.

I’m going to New Orleans this month, for a week, on Megan’s dime. Because she loves me and wants to travel with me and I love that city. We’re going to eat ALL the things. I’m going to Disney World next year, which Danielle and I had been planning for our 40th birthday celebration for awhile, but Danielle has just taken the reins of this thing, asked me what I wanted to do, and planned everything out. She’s even fundraising so that I don’t have to pay for all of it. My dear friend Melody came to visit for a week, all the way from New Hampshire. Just to spend time with me. The lovely Linnea, my first best friend/partner in crime, is coming this weekend.

Dying makes you pretty popular, it seems.

And I always thought of myself as not that special, I mean – sure, nice person, okay, but extraordinary? Hardly. And here are all these people taking me places and coming from far to spend time with me, telling me without words that I AM kind of awesome, shut up.

It’s amazing, and overwhelming, and yeah. I’ve probably said it all a hundred times, and I’ll say it a hundred more. I love everyone in my life. I love the people who have made an effort to visit, I love the people who couldn’t quite get it together to do so, but wanted to. I love the people taking me to real places, I love the people who have gone to imaginary places with me.

This isn’t an easy journey for you guys. I know damned well. It’s easier to ignore me and hope I’ll quietly go away (SPOILER: I am going, but sure as SHIT not quietly). It’s hard to have the conversations with me, it’s hard to hear the jokes. It’s hard to know someone who is dying, and not let that depress the shit out of you or chase you away. Some of you will drop off the line when things get really horrible, and that’s okay. I’m grateful you are staying for as long as you can. Because I know that it’s hard. It’s one thing to say, “I have a friend dying of ALS” in conversation, and it’s another to admit to yourself in the small hours of the night that someone you know is going away and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You’re so incredibly strong for dealing with this. For doling out what kindnesses you can. I did not expect you to, and I’m grateful you stayed. You’re amazing people. Each one of you.

So thank you. For being a point of light, for being a celestial body in my universe. The cosmos is infinitely brighter with you in it.

The Walk to Defeat ALS

Overwhelmed. In the BEST of ways.

I’ve gone on and on before about how grateful I am for the support I’ve gotten, how much I appreciate the support I’ve been given, how blown away at the love I’ve been shown. It’s probably become a little bit tiresome.

Well, suck it. There’s a lot more coming.

I admit I totally got press-ganged into doing the Walk in the first place. The Veterans Resource Group had a table in the cafe at work. I stopped by to chat, and met another person who ALSO had ALS for the first time. (I’ve met a fair few since then. We’re a small crew, but we run – or hobble or ride – in the same circles.) Part of the table’s purpose, besides awareness, was to recruit people for the Walk to Defeat ALS. “You should form a team,” I was told. “I bet you’d get a lot of support.”

I was of two opinions on that. On the one hand, it’s asking for something. I’m not good at that. On the other hand, a tiny irrational fear, ‘what if I form a team and no one shows up?’ While I was debating this in my head, a coworker walked up to the table to see what I was up to.

“Vashti’s making a walk team, do you want to join her?”

He looked at me, “You are?”

“I…uh. Apparently!”

And that’s how it started. I put up a poster outside my cube, I wore the red wristband, I talked openly and honestly about the diagnosis when I was asked, but I felt really weird about asking my friends to come over in support of me. I caved and asked my friends to help me name the team at least. We had a lot of really good suggestions, but in the end, The Godzilla Squad won out. On the 16th, I posted my team link.

On the 17th of August – the next DAY, for those of you playing at home – I was at 17 members and over $1000 raised.

To say I was overwhelmed is a gross understatement. So, fun fact! I’d never cried for joy before. I always thought it would be kind of cool if something like that happened to me, but I am not sentimental in the right ways, I guess, so it never happened. Until then.

The Ice Bucket Challenge gained serious momentum, and so did my team. On the 26th, I was at $3k and 26 people. A dear friend of mine in Sacramento also started a team in my name, Team Dinsdale. We met online waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy back in the day, before the Internet was a thing, when you had to dial directly in to someone’s computer and leave messages on a digital bulletin board. In the BBS days, my first handle was Dinsdale.

Life continued its usual frantic pace, there was a lot happening, and before I knew it, it was the final weekend. I had four people staying at my house to attend, and one flew in from Sacramento to be here for me. I was spoiled absolutely ROTTEN that weekend, with homemade Ethiopian food of amazingness, fancyface ice cream and donuts for dessert, and the best company a girl could ever ask for.

And then, Walk Day. This is my team:

Because ALS isn't going to stomp itself out.
Because ALS isn’t going to stomp itself out.

Amazing people, every one.

We gathered in a spot that was strategic and awesome until the live band started playing. Right. Bloody. There. But we were VERY easily distinguishable in the crowd with the hoodies (OMG SO AMAZING LEENDAH I LOVE YOU) and Danielle, my main babe, had printed out the kitten-vs-Godzilla picture I’d been using for my Walk page, and attached them to an umbrella. And Matt. Oh my golly Matt. He had commissioned a mighty cape of DOOM and a head cover for his staff:

Matt the Majestic

IS THAT NOT AWESOME.

Yes of course it is, don’t even bother answering.

There were a LOT of people there. Oh my god so many. I’m really glad I had my team around me so I was constantly distracted by OH MY GOD HI I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN FOREVER instead of ..holy crap I am in the biggest of big crowds and this sucks. We borrowed wheelchairs,Danielle and I, because I can walk a mile, but it sucks, and I think three is out of the question. Danielle had to borrow one because her foot is borked and it hurts her a lot to be on her feet at ALL and walking three miles is similarly out of the question.

It was a FANTASTIC walk. Well. Roll. I got pushed. The chair was surprisingly easy to wheel myself around in, but I had a lot of people willing to help me out. There’d been cold and rain suddenly, but it cleared up in time to be LOVELY for the walk day. Even a little too warm to wear the hoodies all day, for they were made of fleece and are SO COMFY AND WARM but maybe not the best when standing for a while in direct sunlight. Megan was the smart one, she held the umbrella. Some surprise faces showed up – I didn’t expect my older brother there, he told me he had to work but then didn’t have to! – and met a couple new friend-of-friend faces and did not at ALL have time to introduce everybody to everybody. We walked a really pleasant stroll along the waterfront, and groups connected and drifted as we walked.

We finished, exultant, and some of us stayed for a picnic, and some of us had to get back on the road.

I am so. so. so incredibly grateful. I am grateful to everyone who came. Everyone who couldn’t come but donated. Everyone who couldn’t come OR donate, but thought about me.

In the end, my team was 49 members strong, more than 35 of whom showed up to walk, and $5460 raised.

I’ve always strived to be the kind of person someone would care deeply about, and like having around. I …I guess I managed that, if the support and love I’ve been shown is ANY kind of indicator.

I love you all. You’re amazing and the world is lucky to have you in it.

Calling Cards of AWESOME.

Speaking of cards!! You may remember a conversation I had with my dear friend Megan about playing the “I’m dying” card, and she decided to needed to make me actual cards with various demands.

GUESS WHAT.

SHE MADE ME THE CARDS.

I can play this card whenever I want!
I can play this card whenever I want!

She and her fantastic husband Colin actually made me the cards. They are a physical thing. They are sparkly embossed and amazing. They ALSO gave me the Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie figurines you see (and I heart them SO HARD) and the black heart decoration which does not at ALL show up in this picture. But it is soft and awesome.

Megan is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She once made me a little box of lip cutouts that she’d kissed with lipstick on, for when I need smooches and she is not there to give them. I can’t tell you how amazing she is. Her husband Colin, who I’ve known just as long, is also amazing and full of love. He is the perfect partner in crime for her and I love them more than I can ever possibly tell you.

And THIS, THIS is how I survive with a smile. I am orbited by planets of awesome, and the pull of their gravity keeps me from collapsing in on myself.

I love these cards and I am looking forward to the looks on people’s faces when I actually use them. I love the people who made them. I love the people who gave suggestions for them. I love that I have such amazing people in my life. I love that my diagnosis has shown me exactly how loved I am, and how completely I am surrounded by the brightest and best people in the universe.

I love my life, ALS and all.

Walk This Way

I’ll be in a wheelchair someday.

 

This is just fact.  It isn’t sad or depressing, maybe frustrating because I’m powerless to do anything about my own impending powerlessness. For now, I’ve got braces on my legs.  Then probably a cane, and then probably those crutches that have the arm bands.  I’m sure there’s a medical name for them.  Hang on.  Lemme Google that.  They’re called “forearm crutches”.  Well, that’s disappointingly obvious.  There are some pretty cool looking ones tho.  ANYWAY.  Tangent.  Sorry.  After the crutches will be a wheelchair.  Maybe a manual one because my arms are still really good, and maybe not, but certainly, inevitably, an electric one.  Vrooooooom.

 

Even before my diagnosis, when I was losing the ability to walk, everyone told me “you’ll have the coolest wheelchair EVER” and “You’ll have the pimpenest cane EVER”.  And I really, really plan to.  I joke about cards in the spokes and streamers, but dammit, if I’m gonna sit in the fucking thing forever, I’m going to make it a comfortable and classy ride.  And if I’m going to carry something around with me everywhere I go, it IS going to be an awesome cane.

 

A dear friend of mine was having his own sudden health crisis, and he showed up to work with a cane.  He commented that it’s a lot harder to walk with than you’d think.  I don’t doubt it.  With every step of this progression, I am having to relearn how to walk.  I had to learn to be more conscious of my foot drop so I didn’t trip over things.  With the braces, I’m having to learn to trust them not to break and not feel like I have to stoop over when I walk so I don’t lean on them.  They’re so lightweight and springy I feel like they’ll snap, but carbon fiber’s pretty hardcore and as long as I don’t go all Portal with them, I’ll be fine.

 

In said friend’s post, a friend of his commented that he hopes my friend got a really cool cane.  And since my friend is a musician, he linked this one:

 

https://www.etsy.com/listing/93330041/custom-order-walking-cane-tenor-guitar

 

….WHICH IS FUCKING AWESOME.

 

And of course, because etsy is already one of my favorite wastes of time (as evidenced by the number of things from etsy on my Amazon wishlist (thank you very much Amazon for making that feature because it is awesome (okay I think that’s enough parentheses (no, we need to go deeper (ok seriously I’m done (let’s see if I correctly close them all out))))), I poked around on that sire awhile to see what kind of cane I’d buy for myself, if I needed one right now.  And I have a lot of options, just from etsy alone.  I’ve learned a couple of things.

 

  1. People on etsy make canes that would actually, physically HURT to use for their intended purpose.   I intend to wear gloves when I have to go this route so I don’t callus the shit out of my hand, but can you imagine having to trust your weight with your hand on this? http://etsy.me/1s3I1Jt
    1. SERIOUSLY.  http://etsy.me/1sIA2hu
    2. http://etsy.me/1r4zhSp  WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT, SIR.
  2. You can go out in to the woods, pick up a stick, put a rubber stopper on it and call it a cane.  And charge $60 for it.  http://etsy.me/1jkM0O8
    1. Or $69.  http://etsy.me/1nfS31E
    2. http://etsy.me/1r4zIvL  $87 ARE YOU KIDDING ME
    3. HOW IS THAT A CANE http://etsy.me/1s4UxaO THAT IS CLEARLY JUST A STICK THAT YOU FOUND.
  3. You can buy canes that are going to break the moment you put your weight on it.  http://etsy.me/1ory69e
    1. Or might look awesome but still look like they’ll break  http://etsy.me/1jinDuJ
    2. Seriously this one is awesome but it feels like it would snap instantly http://etsy.me/1q0FvBT
  1. And then there’s this fucking thing.  http://etsy.me/1oJr971  *makes Skeksis noises*  Channnnncellor!
  2. Also, there is such a thing as a cane cozy.  http://etsy.me/1oOK1kn  I can’t tell you how much that weirds me out.  Or explain why.  http://etsy.me/U6Ye16  Just..wow.

 

But there are really good ones out there.  A lot of solid, dependable, suited-to-the-purpose-without-being-medical-looking ones.  If I had to get one today, it’d probably be either http://etsy.me/1xErFHy or http://etsy.me/1qoL3Ds .  Or both.  One for dailies, one for Sunday best.  😀

Outfitting yourself with a cool accessory is a powerful coping mechanism, I’m finding.  I feel SO much better about my pills and pills and pills since I made the apothecary shelves with them.  OH!! I haven’t showed you that lately!  I have Apothecabinet Mark II now.  Separate post.  Yep.  It’s like consoling yourself to go through chemo by thinking about all the awesome wigs you can get and have a different hairstyle whenever you feel like it.  I have to take a lot of damned medicines, but I feel better about it dispensing them all from little awesome jars.  Yeah, I’ll have to walk with a cane eventually, but it’s gonna be an awesome accessory, besides being functional.

My chair will totally have metallic glitter paint and stickers.

BUHLEETED

Having a terminal disease means you can instantly delete all company mail about retirement advisers and road maps.

..I should probably look at my 401(k) and figure out how that’s going to figure in to disability and stuff when I can’t work anymore. I heard that there’s no early withdrawal penalties. But yeah, I’ll look that up.

It’d be nice, though, to still be working in 15 years or so. MY ADVICE FOR RETIREMENT PLANNING: PLAN TO RETIRE.