Exercise medicine: Workouts prescribed to treat disease - chicagotribune.com

Exercise medicine: Workouts prescribed to treat disease - chicagotribune.com

I have to say, I do feel better when I get in my morning exercise even though it's only about 15 minutes. It can be hard to push yourself to do it when you feel craptastic otherwise, but it's usually worth it.
The key, I think, especially for people who don't exercise regularly is to start very slow. I started out with just 5 minutes a day every day and have slowly built up from there. At the moment 15 minutes seems to be my max before I tire myself out for the day, but morning yoga and stretching with the Wii Fit loosens me up, helps with some of the stiffness and joint pain, and wakes my brain up.


Time flies and junk

Recumbent tricycle „Kettwiesel“ by Hase Spezia...Image via WikipediaI just realized it's been a week since my last post.
As expected, the NAMI walk did wear me out quite a bit. I spent most of Monday curled up in bed with Oreo and a book and even had a midday nap.
Tuesday was physical therapy which was harder than usual for me (still tired). And the trigger point injections were wearing off by then. My therapist was trying to do some range of motion and traction stuff with my neck and I just could not relax. The constant tension is a big issue for me in terms of posture and pain and migraine.
I forgot to mention last week that I had a chance to try out a recumbent tricycle last Saturday.  It was absolutely amazing.  I had a regular bicycle several years ago with the idea of using it to commute to campus.  I didn't want to admit it at the time, but I was afraid every time I rode it.  I didn't feel balanced or secure and I really wasn't comfortable turning and moving to look behind me.  So I quit riding for some time.  I thought maybe it was more the bike than me, so in 2008 Tom got a beautiful vintage Schwinn from a friend and we put rearview mirrors and wire panniers on it.  I rode it twice, terrified both times that I was falling/going to fall.  By the end of the second ride I was also in pain and exhausted.  We eventually sold it.  I occasionally look back on it with wistful regret - I love the sensation of riding, I was really hoping to get into touring (Dervla Murphy is a hero of mine) and riding used to be fun.
When I started physical therapy again, my therapist started having me warm up using their recumbent exercise bike. And it dawned on me that a recumbent bike or even better a trike might be something I could try to start riding again.
There was a sports fair nearby last weekend and a local bike store that sells adaptive bicycles had several bikes out. I tried an upright trike and it was okay, but not wonderful. I did feel much, much safer and more confident though. Then I tried the recumbent. It was amazing! Pedaling felt super efficient and wonderful and stretchy. My arms and hands were in a neutral position so there was no pain or tingling or numbness. I felt absolutely secure and far more confident of my ability to steer and be aware of things around me because I wasn't devoting so much attention to not falling or being afraid of falling. It felt a little like being in a go-cart. The only major problem was how low to the ground it was - which made it a challenge for me to get in and out of and made it a bit less visible. Nevertheless, I really fell in love with it. And there are models that are elevated a bit more to roughly the same eye level as a passenger car.
Unfortunately, they're fairly expensive, especially on our budget. But we're hoping to save up and maybe find something used or eventually squirrel away enough money. We're also hoping to go out to the bike shop one day to see if we can arrange a longer trail-ride for me to get a better idea of how I like it for longer than the 1/4 block or so I could ride at the sports fair.
I'm also planning on getting a pedal exerciser to work with while I'm on the couch or floor to build up some stamina in my legs and get some good stretching in.
In other news, the ArtFire opt-in drive got enough subscribers, including me, which means I will have an ArtFire Pro account for $5.95/month. I opt-ed in as a sort of "if it works, then I'll really buckle down and open shop." And it did. So, come November I hope to have at least a little something up and running. October is going to be entirely too busy for me to do it then - we're going to see my parents and my grandmother.
And, in less happy news, my Nana has esophageal cancer. She fortunately is not in any pain, but she is still having trouble eating despite having a stent put in to help expand the esophagus. Given her age and relative health she and her doctors have decided to forgo treatment and let nature take its course. I support her fully in this decision, and totally understand her desire to be as comfortable as possible in the time remaining rather than go through chemo or radiation and the side-effects related to them. It does mean, though, that it is just a matter of time until we say goodbye. I am, though, very grateful to have a bit of warning and the chance to prepare and say goodbye. I've been trying to talk to her at least once a week and she sounds fairly good. And, like I said, Tom and I are going to visit her mid-way through our trip out to see my parents.
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NAMIWalks Chicago 2010

On the lakefront
Today was the big walk. We had beautiful weather and a great turn-out. We got some fun photos too.
Oreo can't quite make a full 3 mile walk (the block is sometimes a challenge) so he had to sit this one out. Instead, our friends brought their dog, Yuki. She's sweet and fluffy and beautiful and had lots of admirers.  So I had good people and doggie friends to keep me company and help me out on the walk.

Our team raised $500 (thanks to all our donors!!!!)

I am stiff and sore and very tired, but I think it was well worth it!
No idea why Tom took this
Start of the walk

I don't think we managed to get a full team photo without at least one of us looking weird

Tom in front of the Ram in Chinatown


Just What Is Progress, Anyway?

injections [616]Image by brianjmatis via FlickrI had a follow-up appointment with my neurologist this afternoon.  She is blown away by how much better my walking is now than in was a few months ago.  And it dawned on me - she's right.  And that's good.
Now let me try to explain why that's a bit of an epiphany for me.
For so long, I was trying so hard to convince doctors and myself and other people that something was wrong that hearing "that's better" or "well, that doesn't seem to be happening now" or "that's not too bad" was infuriating. Intended or not those reactions were often tinged with more than a hint of "and you're wasting my time" or "there's nothing wrong." And so I've been resistant to "you're looking better" because I had started just automatically assuming the stubborn mindset of "no, jackass, there is something wrong and just because I happen to be having a good day today does not mean that every day is like this one.
I've also started to realize that while some of my problems are interrelated or come as a set, others don't. I think it's taken me a little by surprise that my walking has improved because other things haven't. I don't have a lot more energy or strength or stamina. I still need my cane. But I can walk fairly well without the cane without weaving all over or tripping over my own feet or starting/stopping or having my lower back and pelvis moving all over the place.
And I do feel better between my daily Wii Fit and weekly PT. Not "cured" not "100%" but better. Baby steps. And so I still balance between frustration and acceptance on a daily basis. The fatigue and weakness and general ick are things that I'm increasingly thinking I'll just have to live with. I need to not lose sight of the progress I make on the things I can actually make progress on like walking and basic fitness and (hopefully) migraines.
Today's appointment also wound up with me getting novacaine injections into some trigger points in my neck and shoulders in the hope that will help my migraines.
According to my PT, because my shoulders are usually rounded and I carry my head too far forward, I'm overstraining the muscles in my neck and shoulders, which is not helping me in general, but can definitely be contributing to my migraines.  So, we're going to continue working on that.  Suggestions are welcome - I would be thrilled to get rid of the permanent aching knots in my neck and shoulders, especially the ones that make it feel like my shoulder is going to wind up in my ear during the worst of my migraines.
We're also upping the does of my preventative med to see if we can get it to work. I'll be very happy if I can quit with the 4 or 5 migraines a week. They're bad enough when they suck up two or three days a month but most of a week is just too much.
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NAMIWalks Chicago - Team T-Shirts

As I've mentioned before my husband, some friends and I are walking for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Chicago this coming Sunday. (There is a link on the right side-bar of my blog for those who'd like to donate/sponsor us.)
NAMI has encouraged teams to get t-shirts. Tom and I decided we'd screenprint our own.

I wanted an Old West sort of font for the team name, since we're the James Gang and crossed canes.

Tom was nice enough to turn a photo of an ergonomic cane like the one I prefer to use into a silhouette in Illustrator. I did the rest in Inkscape (there was a lot of swearing while I was figuring out how to get text to arch).

I spent most of yesterday painting out the negative space in my screen - a quilting hoop holding some old sheer curtains. I mixed a bit of white acrylic paint with Mod Podge to paint out the negative space (the paint was so it was easier to see where I'd painted).

Tonight we pulled prints using fabric paint rather than proper screenprinting ink because netiher of us felt like going across the city to get proper screenprinting ink.

Pretty cool, huh?
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ArtFire Group Deal - $5.95 Per Month - Limited Time Offer

ArtFire Group Deal - $5.95 Per Month - Limited Time Offer

ArtFire, for those who don't know, is one of the major competitors of Etsy. Like Etsy, they provide an online marketplace for handmade and/or vintage goods. Unlike Etsy, rather than have a per item surcharge for each listing, you can either have a limited account which allows you to post and sell a limited number items for sale for free or you can have an account that you pay for per month with an unlimited number of sales. ArtFire does not take a percentage of sales either - the flat-rate monthly fee is it. (Don't forget, though, that services like PayPal may charge fees for transactions).

ArtFire offers importing of Etsy listings so you can switch over entirely or maintain shops on both sites.

From the look of it, ArtFire may have some better, low-cost options for advertising and other marketing tools.

As I slowly consider opening shop I've looked at ArtFire and Etsy and have yet to decide which service to go with or whether to use both. Etsy has a huge following already, but ArtFire seems more flexible and depending on sales, etc., less expensive to manage.

In the interests of full disclosure, ArtFire is currently running a contest offering a table-top photo studio setup to anyone who blogs about the limited $5.95/month offer, so that is part of why I've written this post. But I also wanted to get the word out to my fellow crafters who already are selling online or who are contemplating doing so.


30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness(es) I live with are: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, Functional Movement Disorder, Sleep Apnea, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, Migraine, Mitral Valve Prolapse, Depression, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: Heh - a lot of the diagnoses came in 2008/9; some like the MVP well before that
3. But I had symptoms since:  my mid-to-late teens, so about 15 years
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is:  No longer being able to bounce back from illness or overwork or push past exhaustion or pain
5. Most people assume:  That I'm "just tired," or that I only became ill very recently and don't realize I was coping with symptoms increasing in number and frequency over a long period of time.
6. The hardest part about mornings are:  Getting going and trying to figure out how much energy I'll have for the day and how best to use it.
7. My favorite medical TV show is:  MASH
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is:  My cane.  Seriously, my cane means freedom and independence for me even on the days when my depth perception is shot and I have vertigo or my legs don't seem to want to function properly.
9. The hardest part about nights are:  Getting to sleep, especially when I'm in too much pain to ignore it.
10. Each day I take __ pills daily (No comments, please) 9, assuming I don't take any "as needed" meds for pain or allergies, like Aleve, ibuprofen, Klonopin, Benadryl, etc.  It's usually more than 9.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I:  I do careful research and look for clinical studies and other information about certain treatments, in particular herbs and supplements, make sure there isn't a risk of interaction with any existing meds or illness, check with the appropriate doctor, and give it a try.  My basic philosophy is that if it isn't hurting you in some way or interfering with evidence-based medical treatment and it makes you feel better, that's all to the good.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I don't think I can make that choice.
13. Regarding working and career:  I chose to give up my career as an Egyptologist because I simply couldn't manage finishing my PhD and then go on to try for a faculty position or do field work in my current condition and because I didn't think I could find an adequate balance of stress and health.  But I have found ways to keep busy.  I'm working part-time in a relatively low-stress position.  I'm also slowly working on developing a home-based craft business.  My entire perspective has shifted from living to work to working to live (cliched though that may sound).
14. People would be surprised to know:   I think it depends on the person and how they think they know me.  Some people would be surprised to know that I've accepted the reality of my illness and am, for the most part happy in spite of it all.  Other people would be surprised to know that there are days when I sob over not being able to lift a milk jug because it reminds me of all I can't or find hard to do.  Anyone who really knows me though, probably wouldn't be surprised at all to know that after the sobbing, I pull myself together and figure out a way to get the milk I wanted and then laugh at myself for getting all emo.
I doubt many people know or guessed that there were days when I felt so alone, so agonized, so guilty, so much a burden, and so hopeless that I wanted to die, because that would somehow be easier for me and everyone around me.
I don't know how many people know that when we were waiting for my Huntington's Disease test to come back (it was negative) my first thought was how horrible it would be for my husband to watch me decline and die and my second thought was wondering, if the test came back positive, what that would mean for my parents, half-brothers, and nephews and niece.
I don't know if anyone knows that there are days when I feel like a lazy, melodramatic, wimpy fraud.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been:  I have limits and I cannot predict how I'll feel from day to day.  That some people just will not believe me or come even close to understanding what my life is like now.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was:  Go out by myself further than just to doctor's appointments
17. The commercials about my illness:  There are commercials?  I don't have regular TV anymore - have they finally opened Cripples R Us?
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is:  Running, riding a bike, driving, digging
19. It was really hard to have to give up:  Driving, but I don't feel safe and I can't bring myself to put other people at risk if my attention wanders or I have a weird muscle spasm or my depth perception is totally off.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is:  Crochet, Knitting, Sewing, Polymer Clay
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would:  Dance
22. My illness has taught me:  Patience, the value of friendship, the value of family, ingenuity
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is:  I can't limit this to just one.  "Oh, yeah, I'm tired too.  We're all tired."  And "You should get out more."  And "It's all in your head."  And "If you'd just try harder."  And "But you're so young."  And "But you don't look sick/in pain/tired."  And "Have they figured out what's wrong (and fixed it) yet?"
24. But I love it when people:  Ask if I need help, anticipate that I may not be able to handle certain things, genuinely try to understand what my life and illness are like now.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is:  You're never given a burden heavier than you can carry, no matter how much it may seem otherwise.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them:  What you feel is real, your health is real, and your needs are real.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Learn to set limits and remember that because so many of your symptoms are invisible, you have to tell people how you feel.  They aren't mind-readers.  It will help you and the people around you adapt so much faster is they really know what's going on.  Telling people "I'm in pain" or "I don't think I can do that" is not the same as complaining.  It's being proactive.
Also, give serious consideration to exploring mental health counseling or therapy.  The right therapist and program can help immensely with coming to terms with your health, coping with feelings of grief and guilt, and learning how to relate to the people around you.  It doesn't mean you're "crazy" or that your illness is "all in your head" - it means that you're taking all the measures you can to keep yourself as healthy as possible and to learn as many coping skills as possible.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is:  How quickly I've learned to cope.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was:  Being there and supportive and undemanding
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because:  I think it's important to add my voice and my experience to increase awareness of "invisible" illnesses - their existence and the experience of living them.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel:  Grateful.


Reality, "Negativity," and Acceptance - A repost from 2009 in honor of Invisible Disability Awareness Week

This post originally appeared here in April of 2009.  Over a year later, I find I have a lot of the same feelings and experiences and wanted to share this for Invisible Illness Awareness Week

Being or becoming disabled requires a lot of adjustments. Some of these are obvious – changes in lifestyle, in jobs, in relationships, in daily activities. It requires a pretty major mental adjustment, too, one that often isn't obvious, or at least wasn't for me. My illness has been gradual in some ways – increasing fatigue and weakness over the span of years – and quite rapid in others – the onset of movement disorders, major increases in fatigue, etc. At first, I went into this with the idea that my doctors would figure out what the problem was, fix it, or at least figure out a way for me to compensate, and I would go on my merry way. Over the past year, it became pretty clear that that isn't going to happen. Realizing that not only is it extraordinarily unlikely that I'm going to wake up one day and be fine, but that my whole life now needed to change was, to put it mildly, intense. Accepting it was even harder.
Part of the issue is that I think we are taught to approach all sickness as something to be defeated or gotten over. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – there seems to evidence that mindset plays an enormous role in recovery from thing like cancer. A lot of us, and I definitely was (and to an extent, still am) one of these people, are also taught to “walk it off” or “push past it” and to hide or deny our symptoms. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing – fear of embarrassment, concern over keeping a job, avoiding making others uncomfortable, etc., are all good reasons to try to hide symptoms or deny that there is a problem. Unfortunately, it can also be very counterproductive.
I finally accepted that I am disabled, am likely to be so for the rest of my life, and that there is a chance my condition may decline a few months ago. I found it enormously liberating. Instead of feeling like my entire life was on hold until I was “well,” of being afraid to undertake new projects, of not knowing what I was going to do next, I could finally start looking ahead. I now plan based on how I feel now, not how I felt a year ago or 5 years ago, or how I wish I felt. That means that I have to set the bar quite a bit lower, but it also means that I have realistic goals and that I'm not constantly frustrated and depressed because I can't do x, y, or z. I've also come to see the silver-lining in getting sick – I've come to appreciate my family and friends, most especially my husband, even more, I'm under far less stress than I was as a graduate student, I'm less likely to feel guilty for spending time on things that I enjoy (I'm still working on this one), I'm more in touch with my creativity. In short, I'm much happier. I'd like to still be able to walk several miles without even breaking a sweat, or work full-out on a research paper for hours on end without getting utterly lost, but I realize that I can't and I've stopped feeling guilty and bad about it. Instead, I try for a few blocks a day and a few easy paragraphs on the blog. I won't go so far as to say the trade was worth it, but it could be much, much worse. The majority of my various doctors and specialists agree that my new mindset is much healthier and better for me and realistic. 
The downside to this can be in relationships with other people. Most of my family and friends also agree that accepting my disability and working forward from it as good things and they've been wonderful about helping me cope. Unfortunately, there are a few people who don't see it that way. Like I discussed a little bit above, I think many people view illness or disability as something to be overcome and/or denied. So, for these people, I think that my acceptance looks like defeat or negativity. Some people have been very direct about saying this and I prefer that, because it's easier to have a discussion and explain how I think acceptance is very different from negativity or defeat. With other people, it can be much harder as it tends to be clear only from their actions or implied in their words that they feel it's negativity. I suspect being unfamiliar with the details of my situation probably contributes as well – on a good day I look like a relatively attractive, healthy young woman who happens to have a cane. Pain doesn't advertise, I've learned to compensate for or hide my tremors unless I'm having a particularly bad day, and my balance problems are also fairly hard for others to notice.   My fairly direct manner may also contribute - if I'm having a bad day, I say so.  If my hands are shaking badly, I say so.  How is anyone going to know that I need help going down those stairs or opening that bottle if I don't say so?  And I tend to crack jokes about it too.  The "negativity reaction"  is something that still bothers me, however, even though I know I probably shouldn't let it.   I'm tempted at times to snap at people "I'm not freakin' negative, you jackass, I'm a realist, and that's different.  Stagger a mile in my shoes!"  Obviously that would be counterproductive.  Instead I fume a bit and then go find something distracting.
I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem, but I wanted to put it out there for others to see, those with and without disabilities. Obviously, not everyone approaches their health in the same way and what has worked for me may not work for other people, but I think keeping these things in mind can be helpful in basic, everyday interactions for everyone. I hope anyone with any thoughts will feel free to post here if they'd like.


Photo from here. Yes, I am incredibly immature. You should all know this by now.


Animation of the cortical spreading depressionImage via WikipediaSo even after 6 weeks on nortriptyline my migraines don't seem to be improving.  I've had 4 this week and no less than 2 each week since I started the nortriptyline.  Some of them I've been able to cope with.  Others have been really awful.
This has led to me slacking off on doing Wii and my PT exercises at home.  Not good.  Working on that.

I did, however, discover that if I really feel like I shouldn't do the Wii (as opposed to just being a bit lazy) I probably shouldn't do the Wii.  I had a migraine Friday but though "oh, well, if I just do some of the standing yoga poses so I'm not moving too much or lowering my head (that makes stuff hurt worse) it'll be fine and maybe I won't feel so stiff and sore."  I did the Warrior pose, the Palm Tree, and the Chair.  Half-way through the Warrior pose I started to sweat and shake, with the Palm Tree is was practically vibrating and started getting nauseous, and the Chair I nearly fell over and actually soaked through my shirt with sweat in a few places.  This was a 6 minute long workout.  I usually do 15 minutes and don't break a sweat even if it's a bit warm.  So,  yeah.

My involuntary movements have made a come-back as well, usually on the same day as a migraine.  Fun times.  I've been really, really stiff lately too - mostly muscles rather than joints from right after I get out of bed.  Yoga with the Wii helps a bit, so does a warm shower, but if I stay in the same spot too long, my back stiffens up.
My shoulders and neck are permanently tense again which is part of the migraine feedback loop.  And my sciatica or whatever the hell it is that makes it feel like someone is pinching my ass from the inside or sending laser beams from my ass down to my heel is flaring  up.

Anyway, I have a neuro appointment this coming Friday.  We'll see what else we can do with the migraines, I plan to ask about a specialist.  I've done some reading about vertiginous migraine which is sort of interesting and might help explain some of my balance problems.  Or not.  Whatever. I just want to stop having the damn things so often.  I feel like crap when I have them and can't get much of anything done, then I have the hangover, which sometimes lasts a whole day or more and then it seems like by the time I've recovered from one, another one shows up.  If I get too active too soon it can trigger another one (like last week when I had to hobble-run for a bus that didn't follow the proper route, missed it, and then had to haul ass for 2 blocks to make it to an appointment without being late; within an hour I had an aura coming on and within an hour of the aura the pain hit.)

I've also started having the occasional one on my left side.  In the past they were always on the right and even now are usually on the right.  So, maybe a specialist, maybe we'll up the dose of nortriptyline or try something else.  I might also see if it's worthwhile to have another sleep study to see if my apnea has gotten worse and is maybe contributing. 

The image is of cortical spreading depression, which is one of the models for explaining visual aura in migraines.


Ancient Nubians Drank Antibiotic-Laced Beer : Discovery News

A beer jar, made from fired Nile silt. RC 193Image via WikipediaAncient Nubians Drank Antibiotic-Laced Beer : Discovery News: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
Very interesting, especially as they seem to have adequately accounted for possible modern contamination.
A lot of grain storage in the Neolithic (well before this) was in pits, sometimes inside large clay vessels in the pits, sometimes just in a pit. If this population was using a similar storage method, then the growth of Strep is fairly easily explained.
Pretty cool.
And another example of the vast amount of information you can get from burials if you know how to take advantage of them.


Very Cool Ancient Writing Demonstrations Video

Facebook | Videos Posted by Oriental Institute- University of Chicago: Visible Language
As I've mentioned before, the next temporary exhibit at the Oriental Institute is "Visible Language" focusing on the development, spread, and use of writing in ancient Egypt and the Near East.
Even people who are not a part of Facebook should be able to view the video at the link above. If you can't, please let me know in the comments or via email and I will be sure to make other arrangements.
It's a great demonstration of how Egyptian hieroglyphs were written with reed pen and ink on papyrus and how cuneiform was impressed in soft substances like clay with a wedge-shaped stylus.

There isn't any commentary, but it's still a fabulous visual demonstration. The Egyptian is written by Ray Johnson, who is the director of the Epigraphic Survey in Egypt and the cuneiform is written by Theo van den Hout, who is a professor of Hittitology and currently the head of the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. They're both two of my favorite people around the OI (well, Ray is in Egypt 6 months of every year), so I'm especially happy to share the video.



Originally uploaded by shoveling_ferret
Apparently this photo I took at Saqqara won an award on Flickr. Cool.


NAMI Walks - 12 Days

I just wanted to remind all my readers that the Chicago charity walk for the National Alliance on Mental Illness is just 12 days away.

I will be participating in the 3 mile (!) walk with the help of my trusty cane and new, sparkly sneakers along with friends and family who have joined our walk team - the James Gang.

This is a big deal for me for several reasons:

  1. I've learned first hand the stigma that can go along with mental illness, not just in the general public but even among health care providers and want to fight it to improve treatment and access to treatment for everyone.  A huge part of that is helping people to realize that mental illness isn't a character flaw, isn't nothing to worry about, and can affect ANYONE at ANY TIME.
  2. This will be my very first charity walk.
  3. I care enough about this to walk 3 miles which for me with my various health issues is a fairly significant distance.
  4. I have awesome family and friends supporting me!
I really want to thank everyone who has already shown their support in various ways and want to encourage everyone who can to support us however you can.  I know things are tough for many people right now, but if you can spare even a little bit or pass this message on, it will help.


Really delayed gifts involving scorpions

Late one night in Sudan I was getting ready to go to bed. I headed off to the latrine with my trusty headlamp turned on, pulled the plastic tarp nailed to some boards that we euphemistically referred to as a "door" open and had my heart stop for a few seconds. Camped out right next to the toilet paper (on the ground) was a scorpion. A big one. Probably of the deathstalker variety.  It was late and I had been and continued to be sick and weak, so I went in search of someone with sufficient upper body strength and testicular fortitude to kill the nasty thing with a shovel.

Eventually most of the team wound up hanging around the latrine to peek at the scorpion.  Finally Tom wanders by along with another male member of the team - Scott.  A debate ensues regarding whether we should kill the scorpion, chase it off, or catch it and release it somewhere else.  Mostly, I really need to pee and I was almost asleep on my feet so I finally snarled something to the effect of "get it the hell out of there so I can pee, dammit."

Scott went off to fetch a tin can and somehow got the scorpion into it.  I got Tom to stand guard outside the latrine while I used it as though that would somehow protect me from scorpions.  Then I went to bed. 
Meanwhile, Scott was showing off his new friend, "Pinchy."
Pinchy!Image by shovelingtom via Flickr

After a while, Scott took Pinchy off into the desert and let him go.  The villagers were less than pleased by Pinchy's reprieve - scorpions are serious business.  While a scorpion sting usually kills only the very young, old, or sick, the pain is supposed to be horrific and nearly maddening and often there isn't much that can be done but wait it out.  Thus, they kill the little bastards on sight. 

Anyway, several months later after we'd all come home and Tom and I wound up moving to a different apartment, Scott sent us a lovely housewarming gift and I decided he needed to have a memento to remind him of Pinchy and his 2 months in the Sudanese desert with a bunch of crazy people.
So, I crocheted a scorpion.  I think I borrowed the claw pattern from a free lobster pattern and made up the rest as I went along.  And found a can to put it in.  And then let it sit on my desk for a year because procrastination is cool or something.

So, after staring at it and thinking "hrm, I should put together the package of stuff for Scott and mail it" for the thousandth time today, I decided to actually, you know, do it.  Yay!
I made sure to document Pinchy too.
Re-enactment of discovering Pinchy in the latrine
Recreation of Pinchy's temporary home.

Pinchy, hanging out where he blends in like the sneaky little bastard he is.
Close-up.  He can smell your fear.
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