Ghost in the Machine

In the mid-1980s, one of the selling points that got me hired in my first position as a paralegal was my computer knowledge.  This was back in the days of DOS based word processing programs and syntax errors.

Whether it was my lack of fear of computers or some unexplained electrical impulse within my fingers, Boris, as he was dubbed by my first boss, became the ghost in my machine.

Boris has followed me from computer to computer.  Work computers only and only mine.  Boris was, at first, a minor irritation.  Computers were relatively new in offices, at least in my small town.    Boris would do the oddest things.   Freeze, lose things, not save changes…IT person after IT person had user error excuses every time.  I type too fast.  I must have clicked this that or the other thing.  I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault at times.  I am ridiculously impatient and hate the dreaded hourglass.  But Boris is real.  

 Boris is afraid of especially talented IT people.   Two in my 30 years in this field have put the fear into him.  John, who was Nigerian and had a very thick accent, would just have to answer my phone call and Boris SNAPPED back into shape.  Literally, our phone conversations consisted of me calling him directly, “Hello, this is John speaking” in his thick accent, and I would say, “ah…he’s working now, thanks John” and he would reply “no problem” and hang up.  Now there is Ethan.   I am new to Ethan, having only been at this job a few months.  But from day one, Boris has been determined to try Ethan’s patience.   If Ethan logged on to “fix” (you can’t fix Boris) issues, the issue would not recreate.  Nor were there any error logs.  Documents I didn’t check out were checked out and nothing I could say could adequately describe to Ethan what Boris was doing.  Lindsey, Ethan’s coworker, is not a threat to Boris. She has witnessed his antics but has been unable to make it stop.   She can log on and watch it freeze and lose things, but never find an error log.  She would type a ticket for Ethan but you have to understand that these things Boris does do not make sense.  They are deep down weird issues.

Friday, after seriously trying everything IT-ably possible, the decision was made to completely strip my PC down and reinstall all programs, profiles, etc.  (Been there done that in other jobs…waste of time.). Anyway, in order to do that, my monitor was connected to a new, barebones laptop so I could work while my PC went back to the shop for its overhaul.   Ethan went to the server room for other things and in 10 minutes I called him back to watch as Boris spelled-checked a document and midway through decided to switch to spell check in what I believe was Portuguese.  He hasn’t done that since I lived in Washington.  He has occasionally decided to spell check in French, but Portuguese seems to be his native tongue. Ethan was speechless.  There was nothing I could have done to corrupt Microsoft Office that quickly.   Boris was angry being tampered with and made his presence known.  

Boris likes to take me though all the steps to save and profile a document, only to never save and profile the document and lock up claiming to save a document I never even checked out.  He likes to OCR documents and decide there is a random “font error” only on my computer.   Others have no problem OCRing the same document.  And, my personal favorite, it after several months of working for this firm, Boris has apparently unauthenticated (is that a word?) me from properly profiling documents.  Truly a head scratcher.

Boris is real.  His demon presence has been acknowledged by IT professionals but I’m really tired…30 years tired…of his antics.

Pepper Jelly, Puppy and Persnickity Partner

Someone at work brought in homegrown jalapeños and Serrano peppers.  A bag full.  I had a few habanero and 1 bell pepper so I made 8 jars of pepper jelly.  The dog, cats and husbands whined and complained because the odor of extracting peppers took your breath away.  I’m used to working with peppers so I know how to breathe through the capsicum steam.   I still have half the bag of jalapeño/Serrano pepper mix and I think I’ll can some salsa.  Not today tho.  I need to rest before starting on the rest of the to do list.  Lasagne to ready for baking tomorrow.   Couscous to go with lamb tangine tonight.  Writing on the birthday boy’s ice cream cake.  And court rules to attempt to summarize <– like not going to happen today.

Crush, the puppy, is doing a bit better with becoming housebroken.  We have graduated his kennel from the garage to the living room.  He whined at bedtime, but only until 2 a.m.  🙄

Crush is my constant shadow.   I’m not sure why.   My husband and SOMH care for him more than I do.  I don’t feed him food scraps like I do my cats (long story, bad choice, but too late to change).  But if I do dishes, he lies across my feet.   If I turn to stir food on the stove, he schooches over to lay on my feet.  If I sit, he holds my leg.  If I sit on the floor, he lies across my lap.

Maybe it is because Ajax follows me everywhere and this is some sort of power struggle between the feline and the canine.   Ajax uses his bully tactics to get my attention and Crush uses his cuteness, playfulness to get it from me.  

The persnickety partner…what can I say.  I can’t seem to do anything right this weekend.  I know he doesn’t feel well but he’s not a complainer so he’s just…persnickety.   He’s a man so making suggestions is futile.  He was in an accident several months ago and saw a quack of a chiro and he’s worse off now.  He’s a bit gunshy to try again so he suffers.  Chronic headache, body ache, ill temper.  I hurt for him.  

Post-Anxiety Guilt

Does anyone else go through this?

This vicious circle.

I’m trying too hard.  Trying to stop it before it happens.

It’s never obvious to me that it is “simply” an anxiety attack.

This time it was nausea over the weekend.  Then, yesterday, I had what can only be described as an adrenaline rush.  The trigger…our new puppy peed on the floor.  Did I bend over to clean I too fast and get a headrush?  Regardless, my adrenaline was pumping.  I remember feeling that.  Wanting to call my husband to tell him about it, then negotiating in my head that that would be stupid, it can wait…and I think I managed to push those obsessive thoughts out of my head as I drove to work.   But the “rush” feeling never subsided.  It was a knot in the center of my chest.  Like I couldn’t breathe…but I could.  Like I was walking the edge of a panic attack, but not.  

The evening was better, but I was feeling unusually tired.  I think I slept well and only remember checking the time twice during the night.  Today, the day was going well.  Dog peed on the floor (he apparently has issues when I cook my SOMH breakfast) and no adrenaline rush.  About 1 hour into my day at work, for no reason, the knot returned.  My lips tingled.  My tongue felt too big for my mouth.  My ears were ringing.  

No big deal I think. I started cyclobenziprine two weeks ago and since it isn’t supposed to be taken with lexapro, I’ll just call and get the ok to stop it.  It isn’t helping the restless legs anyway. (Keep in mind I am on very low doses of both.)

Long story short…I’m told to come in.  I’m told to stop the cyclobenziprine-it’s not helping anyway.  Then, I’m told I’m having an anxiety attack.  No, I argue.  My anxiety manifests in aches and pains, not tightness in the chest and tingling lips…I’m slowing down…hearing myself say the symptoms out loud.  Danielle just smiles.  It ok, she says.  She’s awesome.  We talk.  We determine the trigger was probably the routine change now that we have the puppy.  Even though I planned for it.  

Then the guilt sets in.  I wasted her time for something I have dealt with all my life.  I left work early.  I worried my husband.  For…an…anxiety…attack.   Why can’t I have anxiety attacks, or depression, like they show on those television commercials.  Why do I feel “normal” but not?

Whether it is a bout of depression, anxiety, panic attack, whatever – I find it very hard to deal with the guilt.  I’m blessed.  So many others out there are suffering.  I shouldn’t be depressed…or anxious…or stressed.

Yes, I know it is a chemical imbalance that can’t be controlled (well, I mean, I can’t “tell” it to stop).  I know it’s nothing to feel guilty about.   But I do.  Am I alone with that post-anxiety side effect?

“Even Good Stress is Stress”

In my world, stress = pain.  In my world, stress doesn’t seem to exist.  At least in the frustrated ugh kinda way.  This is my cerebrum malfunction.  One of them anyway.

I follow and read quite a few blogs written by fellow sufferers and although I hate that others go through this, I take comfort in knowing I am not alone.

I saw my doctor (she’s not really a doctor, she’s a PA) two weeks ago to discuss my medication and such.  I was prepared with some questions. If anyone has read previous blogs, you may recall I desperately resisted medication.  I no longer feel that way.  The lexapro works very well and I am maintaining on a low dose.  But…(isn’t there always a ‘but’), I noticed that there are still times when the pain become unbearable. I can hardly stand or walk.  I cannot hold a pen in my hand.  But I’ve had “all the tests”, this pain is “in my head”.  Real, but not.  Nothing physical causes it.

I had an incidence of this pain in August.  It was the worst it had been since on the medication.  I was beating myself up…what could have me so depressed?  So depressed I couldn’t even go up and down the stairs in my home without tears.  I have literally nothing…not a damn thing…to be depressed about.   I am blessed  with healthy, intelligent, beautiful children; a loving soulmate; beautiful grandsons; good health (realitvely speaking); a good job that I enjoy.  My oldest daughter has an excellent way of putting things into perspective and I got over my WTF pity party and prepared the questions for my doctor.

It all made sense to me.  My body is having a delayed reaction to stress.  In July, I quit my job, went to AZ to help my daughter and SOMH welcome their second child, and move to a two bedroom apartment.  I came home and started a new job.  Two weeks later…excruciating pain.  I believe that I am not depressed but rather the receptors in my brain are depressed.  The cortisol hormone that is released when stressed isn’t being absorbed/processed by the depressed receptors in my brain.  Hence the delayed reaction.  

My daughter, her husband and her two children (age 1 yr. 8 mo. and 3 mo.) visited for a week.  My dad drove in from Illinois. We had a houseful.  I had my children here to cook for.  I had my grandsons here to cuddle with, play with and have water play with.  I had my dad here to meet his great-grandchildren for the first time.  But this was all an upheavals in my routine…stress.  I was bracing myself for the inevitable pain.  Knowing this was on the horizon, I arranged to see the doctor right before they leave.   My intention was to share my delayed dealing with cortisol epiphany with her and get her blessing to increase my meds for two weeks until that excess crap was absorbed.  

Not only did she debunk that theory, she asked me when I wanted to wean off the meds. 😳. She is certainly against me increasing since I have one side effect.  Restless legs.

I can’t be normal and actually feel stress.   No, I have to wait until my conscious brain sleeps and the subconscious takes over.  Then that “stress” decides to tense my entire body up.  I clench my jaw.  (I know this because surgery I had years ago has left me without 80% of my parotid gland, so I often wake with my jaw locked.)

She sent me home with low dose of cyclobenzaprine which I have to take nightly.  It’s supposed to help with tenseness at night, and may ease the restless legs.  (Not so far 😔)

I am to lose weight.  No more carbs.  Effective immediately. (Tiramisu doesn’t have carbs, right?)

I am to accept the fact that I am NOT 25 anymore and that my body can’t do the things I used to do.  This was the knife in my back, because I was doing those things…in February…of THIS year.

Its possibly the beginning of osteoarthritis.  I am to try Osteo-BioFlex for three months.

And stress happens.  It cannot be avoided. Even GOOD STRESS is stress.

New Addition

So we brought home a beautiful light yellow lab and named him Crush.  As expected, the other two furry family members are none to pleased.  Ajax, the gray tabby, quickly asserted his dominance by swatting at the puppy.  His displeasure grew whenever I was tending to the puppy.  (I belong to Ajax and have since I brought him home 11 yrs ago.)

Leo, the black tuxedo tabby, puffs up like black tumbleweed and tiptoes around him.  He’s tiptoeing closer and closer and hissed once.  He is otherwise disinterested in the dog.

By day two, Crush was having none of Ajax’s swatting and decided to use his voice.  Two puppy-barks and Ajax backed down.  Foolishly I thought this would be the end of it, but Ajax was just giving Crush a false sense of superiority.  Crush decided he would leap toward Ajax and entice him to play.  Ajax delivered four swats before Crush could even blink.  Ajax was back on top.  Today…day four…is Saturday. We are all home and Crush is having the full family experience.  He follows me around like … well, like a puppy.  So does Ajax.  Ajax was becoming tired of my new companion and Crush must have sensed it because he turned and barked at Ajax.  Crush was back on top.

As of this moment, after a full day of new noises, sounds and routines, both cats and the dog are asleep on the floor among the scattered chew toys, bones and empty water bottles.

Although I am not a dog person, and prefer cats, I must say Crush is very cute.  He will be 100% cuter when he is fully housebroken.  I’m calling him Mr. Piddlepuss.  And why…WHY when they drink water do they splash it all over the place.  

Welcome home baby.

The Comedy 🙄 that is my Life

My brain is exploding with the words I want to get out, but I know, no matter how detailed I get, no one can understand.  It is comedic, scary, sad and victorious…all at the same time.  But I have to try or I am sure my head will explode.

Today my sister in law (SIL) and I took my mother in law (mom) to an event put on by her graduating class of 1964.  My SIL has anxiety.   Not the same sort of anxiety as I have, but rather hers shows in her actions.  I internalize mine to the point of physical pain.  My SIL and I have been friends since I was 14 and she was 12.  My SIL is paranoid and questions everything.  I’m trusting to a fault.  If you pass her on the road and don’t honk and wave, you have some serious ‘splainin’ to do.  I don’t even see you when you do honk and flash lights.  But nevertheless we have been good friends and then sisters in law and I love her dearly.

In the weeks leading up to this event…no, I mean in the months leading up to this event, my SIL contacted mom’s classmate organizers multiple times to confirm times, schedule of events, so on.  She had every detail down.  She made a poster of her family (both mom and dad graduated in 1964-high school sweethearts, just like me and my husband).  She asked me repeatedly what I was wearing (pants or a skirt), did I think it would be hot or cold (hell, it’s PA in late September…your guess is as good as mine), and would I please ask my husband to dig up some old pictures of the time they went to Graceland when he was 5.  

I desperately did not want to go to this event.  In February, when my SIL asked me if we could take mom, it seemed so far off and I was sure I could get my head around it in plenty of time.  See, my anxiety builds internally. It was terrible trying to get moving this morning, and I vocalized my dread to my still-sleeping husband. So don’t go, my husband said.  He doesn’t get it.  It was my duty to go.  And that is what moved my dragging feet.   I got to the home early, but sat in my car for 10 minutes, trying to force myself to move.   I put on “that” face and off I went.  Not because I didn’t want to be with mom and my SIL, but because today I had to be places I don’t know, around people I never met, listening to chaotic noises.

Mom is confined to a nursing home, wheelchair bound and has to be manually transferred. She will stand if told to and as I call it, dance, to move from chair to car and back again, but my SIL can’t do it alone.  I am physically stronger than I look so I transfer mom.  Mom has had several strokes and has little controlled use of her hands.  She has progressive dementia and despite a shunt in her brain, she has little balance and often agitates easily.  But, my SIL insists she enjoys the events.  I suspect she has little, if any, memory of it within hours of attending.   It is still good to get her out and I love my talks with her.  She has known me since I was 14 and her son (my husband) and I are responsible for those silver hairs on her head.

Today’s event started with a memorial service at a small chapel on the local military base.  In addition to honoring the 87 classmates who have passed away – my father in law being one of them – they honored the military veterans both deceased and living from the class of 1964.  Again, my father in law being one for them.  The service was very nice and concluded with the singing of God Bless America.  Mom’s voice was the loudest and most beautiful.  So many people remember mom and Dad R.  Mom struggled to remember them.  

Next stop was the picnic at the fire hall.  I’ve attended many a wedding reception at that fire hall.  Lots of old memories for me.  Mom recently has had difficulty eating solid food so she is on a smushed food diet.  We brought some ham salad for her and started her eating right away so she would take her meds.  (Fought like a toddler when med time came.). Mom wanted to know why I wasn’t feeding the man across from us some ham salad and I told her he was waiting for the chicken.  Stupid, stupid me.  Needless to say, mom wouldn’t eat the ham salad anymore…well, not for about 15 minutes.  Then she forgot about the chicken.  Whew.  I am trying to make myself small at this point sitting by a pole trying to be invisible and just tending to mom.  Food took longer than expected and then it was a mad dash to the buffet line.   Of course we were right by the line so the noise became unbearable.  For me and mom.   Mom started getting agitated.   She yelled at my SIL’s chair.  She was not there.  I talked to her about the VW she had in high school and she calmed down.   SIL came back with the food.   I got in at the end of the line.  People talk to me.  Why?  I thought I was invisible.  Who am I?   Mom only had one daughter.   I’m married to her son.  Her son?  I don’t think we have met him.   No, likely not, he is…quiet.   (All the while my head is screaming he’s an introvert like me…but I’m here because duty called…please leave me alone.).  But that “face” is still on.   I get my styrofoam plate of fried chicken, coleslaw and potato salad…grab a cookie and a piece of pineapple upside down cake and crawl back to my corner in the center of the activity.  My SIL, who stays in touch with mom’s friends and knows many of them (she has worked at the same place for 25 years), is now “over” her anxiety.  She’s chatting and taking pictures.  Mom is tired.  She’s agitated.   It’s getting late.  Past nap time.  Mom has a hold of my hand.   Jerks it across her chest and the yells for my SIL to let her go.  I whisper “that’s my hand mom”.  She doesn’t want to hear it.  I give my SIL a pleading look.  They start calling off the raffle winners.  Mom wants a prize.  Did I win?  No, not yet.   I never win anything. Ugh.  Finally, she wins the mums centerpiece.  Whew.  We can leave.  

A classmate, whose son graduated with me, comes up to me.  I am such a good daughter in law for tending to mom.  She sees how I care for her.  What do I say to that?  Should I be insulted?  Mom is deserving of all of my respect and kindness as are all of our parents.  I am not doing any more or less than I would expect my kids to do.   But I say she makes being her daughter easy and smile.   Please let me be invisible. 

I get mom transferred to the car.  Its hot.  We get mom to the home.  I transfer her to her wheelchair.  I have her hug me, then 1-2-3 stand…ok, let’s dance.  Not the tango.  Mom you’re on my foot.  She laughs. How about the twist.  I cringe.  There goes my back for the next week.  She’s in her chair.  Get to her ward.  I say my goodbyes.   I go home.   Is it with my husband and SOMH, and then retreat to the silence of my bedroom.

I am blessed with an awesome family and I thank God for my time with them.  I made it.  I lived.  The stress of this day will manifest itself in aches and pains in a week or so, but I know it’s coming.   I’ll be ready.  


Ballpark tour continued…

This year has not been great for knocking ballparks off our list.  My SOMH had a summer job, I started a new job and my daughter had her 2nd child so our attentions were focused elsewhere.  However, the boys did manage to take in a day trip to PNC Park in Pittsburgh and we tackled the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati over the Labor Day weekend.

Our Cincinnati trip ended up being 100% about baseball.  The drive to Cincinnati went much faster than expected so we were able to check into our hotel a day earlier.  I am an early riser so I was up and out wandering the streets in search of a Starbucks by 6 a.m.  I have an app and it provided me with a map to the closest Starbucks (.2 mile) but seriously, was I really expected to be able to follow the purple line on the map BEFORE coffee?  I went the wrong way and ended up finding a Starbucks about a mile later.  Lovely walk however.  Fortunately I had made a very large city square in my search so I was able to get the boys frapps and make it back to the hotel before they melted.   Interestingly enough I was laughing about my journey with the concierge who then advised me the closest Starbucks was actually in the Hyatt lobby directly across the street.  😑

The boys were ready when I got back and we headed to fountain square to join a walking tour discussing the 1919 World Series.   It was a fascinating talk about mobsters, gambling and shady dealings.

After the tour, we took a trip to the top of Carew Tower and then headed along the river walk toward the ballpark.  Absolutely beautiful.

We had a great time at the game – St. Louis Cardinals vs Cincinnati Reds.  Reds won so there were fireworks at the end of the game.   We walked back to fountain square and had a late dinner at Rock Bottom, which, although quite tasty, was no where nearly as good as the Rock Bottom in Lynnwood, WA.  We then waited 45 minutes for Graeters ice cream, amusing ourselves with eye rolling and gasps as the child in front of us touched, dropped, or broke anything and everything within her reach.  Then, we stayed in the square for about an hour listening to bluegrass/country performances.

Sunday, we headed over to Kentucky for a tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum.   My SOMH said it was one of the best tours he was ever on.  That makes the trip perfect.  After souvenirs were purchased, we drove the 8 hours home through the beautiful Kentucky-West Virginia-Pennsylvania countryside.

Best memory of the trip:  Graeters salted caramel ice cream and bluegrass music.

Least favorite:  the ongoing battle between Jane Waze and my beloved husband.