Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Renaissance Faire is good for you. Seriously.

Okay, maybe the ren faire is just good for me. Whatever. You're here now, read on.

So, the past three weekends, we've gone to the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I love that place. Even when we're not doing anything, we're having fun. Sometimes the kid and I (and "the kid" is the 18 year old daughter) will put on our fake and horrible accents and carry on a conversation to the delight of passers-by (who actually think our voices are done well, go figure).

So far, every single two-day weekend (with the exception of last weekend, when we only went on Sunday because Ceej had a college thing on Saturday), I've taken my Vicodin with me (and Panadol) and I have not needed it. Not once. Sure, I hurt, but when I do, I find a place to sit down. At the faire, that isn't hard to do. Plenty of benches throughout the faire, shows to watch, (the joust to watch), so I can sit down nearly anywhere for an indefinite amount of time. I haven't needed any extra Vicodin at night or even extra muscle relaxers. (I'm still taking Cyclobenzaprine at night).

Oh, sure, on Monday I'm tired. Tuesday is usually the day it catches up to me and roundhouse kicks me Chuck Norris Style, but for the most part, I haven't felt any worse or better than usual. Well, "better" is sort of... I can't find the right word. Better isn't the right word, but I do feel less crappy. Today is Thursday and I had an awful day on Wednesday. A day full of stress and bullshit and by the end of the day, my muscles were wound so tight I felt like I was a slingshot that was loaded and ready to fire. Or, maybe I felt like Chuck Norris, wound up to kill someone with a roundhouse kick to the face, only to realize the person is a baby and Chuck Norris would never roundhouse kick a baby in the face.

But every Saturday and Sunday, I get up, I get dressed- in garb, no less- and I spend all day at the faire. We get there usually 20 to 30 minutes before opening (depending on traffic) because once there, I have to pull my laces tighter and put on some accessories and such. And I don't hurt much standing at the gate. I have a pair of Doc Martens that I go last October because they look like faire shoes.

They're called Shoreditch Ninjas and I had to get them in black because that's all the website had them in. A few months later, they got them in "cherry red" which is Doc Marten-speak for "dark distressed red". Which would have been AWESOME.

New Docs! A birthday gift to myself!

So, all this time, you're thinking, "How is the faire good for you, Patty?" and some of you are saying, "Wait, your name is Patty? How lame!" I know, it is lame. It'd be even lamer if you knew my last name.

Well, today, I had to go pick up some photo prints and stop into the store for a couple things (I'm making hamburgers for dinner and we forgot to get buns). I walked through the store without getting tired. Or winded. Or achy. Or sore. Or any one of those annoying things fibro does to me. So, my time at the faire, being upright, mobile, and sweating (the heat, I swear, that's the worst part) is good for me. Maybe next week, I'll start trying that upright, mobile, sweaty thing during the week. Maybe Tuesdays and Thursdays. That'll be four days a week total.

And now, since you've gotten this far, here are some links to my favorite part of the faire.

The Joust! For all the photos you see, I have at least that many that I didn't upload and share.

The Maxx and Mauldron Show- a Knight at the Opera These guys are great. And they joust, so yeah. There's that too.

And, The Fantastikals at the Bristol Renaissance Faire... they're amazing. That's a job I couldn't do because they don't talk. And if I had to do that job, I'd either die or get fired. Because if you know me, you know I talk. A lot. In fact, I'm usually hoarse for two days following faire. DON'T JUDGE ME!

ALL the faire photos- so if you're really bored...

So there you have it. The Faire is good for me. Probably for you too. If you don't know if there's a faire near where you live, just Google "[your state] ren faires" and you'll find them. Trust me. I'm hoping to keep up this momentum after faire season.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Judge People- a very long story to a short and simple point-

Today is Blog for Access Day. And since I live with- and spent many years as- a disabled person, I figured I'm a pretty good person to talk about it.

When Jerry- my husband, the disabled guy- became disabled, it was sudden and it was shocking. He literally fell down when he had the stroke. He was unloading the back of his truck (he was a long-haul trucker) with another guy and he was carrying a box. He staggered, dropped the box and the guy he was with- who I am forever thankful was there- asked if he was okay, then caught him as he fell. From that "fall", all he ended up with was a scraped knee. He could have broken a bone, his hip or his arm. Even cracked his head on the metal floor. Or, he could have had that stroke while he was asleep in the sleeper part of the truck cab. But he didn't. He was with that huge, muscle-bound guy wearing a weight belt.

Our early days were spent dealing with many complicated things. Medical things, physical therapy. Big words, long explanations and lots of questions. The smallest thing that concerned me was the easiest thing to get- a handicapped parking permit. With that blue placard on my review mirror, I could park almost anywhere. If the handicapped spaces were full at the physical therapy clinic, I could park in the no-parking zone, unload him, walk him inside, and go park the vehicle. But, I could leave it there, in that no-parking zone, without worry. Nobody would ticket someone who was dropping of a handicapped person.

As he was only twenty-eight years old, his placard was marked as "temporary". In six months' time, we could get it renewed and it would be more permanent (I think a year at the time). But, when that six months was over, he threw it away. "I don't need it." he said. He can walk. He can walk for miles if he has to and he has. He refuses to accept handicapped parking because, even though he's disabled, he says he doesn't need it. And he really doesn't.

In my mid-to-late-thirties, I became disabled. It happened slowly. What we didn't know at the time was that I was showing signs for what would eventually be diagnosed as Fibromyalgia. Honestly, I thought fibro was a made-up disease. Just one of those things they label a person with to shut them up. About a year after I started my slow decline, I injured my knee- again. The first time I injured my right knee, I was eighteen years old (I was eighteen all of a few weeks' time). I was running in a snowball fight (we lived in Alaska) and I blew out my knee like a football quarterback. So, this final knee injury- it was my eighth or ninth in twenty years.

I ended up on crutches, of course. Then a cane. And after a year or so my left knee started to hurt and I ended up having to use two canes. I had to use two canes for over a year. I looked like some kind of demented cyborg with two matched canes. One of my son's martial arts masters thought I was brilliant. I actually thought he was being facetious when he exclaimed his surprise at my two canes. But he went on to say how much coordination it takes to walk as quickly as I did, using two canes for support as I obviously was doing. I have to admit, when he said it would be the perfect "disguise" for a martial artist, I was kind of proud. Nobody would suspect the gimpy housewife.

Did I get a handicapped placard?

I did not.

My problem caused me great pain. Walking hurt and walking a lot hurt a lot. I had to plan my days by how much walking I was going to do and how much Vicodin I'd need to get through it, versus the amount of time I had to drive. My doctor kept telling me I didn't need a placard. Except that I did need one. My left knee, from its twenty or so years of compensating for the right knee had gone to bone-on-bone. That doctor strung me along for almost three years- even telling me there was nothing wrong with me that "losing weight and a little exercise" couldn't help. Except that everything started to go bad before I put on the weight. He was a jackass.

Jerry wouldn't request one for himself so I could use it either. I tried to get him to see how it wouldn't matter for him, but it would help me in a huge way. But, he didn't want one and he wasn't going to get one.

The high school where my kids attended over the course of eight whole years (three kids) was handicapped compliant with ramps and such, but to a person walking with two canes, ramps are not easy to maneuver. And during the course of that eight years, they changed the point of entry for parent/teacher conferences- sometimes multiple times a year. And with me being in that "plan my outing to match the amount of walking/pain" stage of my life, I would try to park near where the entry was or at least, midway between entry and exit. I would end up walking too far just to get into the building. And the staff would treat me like I was insane when I asked why they changed the entry point. "OH, we've always been at this door." No, you haven't. And I know you haven't. And despite all that pain, I never missed a single parent/teacher conference. Not even when I got out of the hospital on a Tuesday at noon and conferences were on Thursday at 4:00 PM. That was the ONE time I didn't use the proper entry point. Because I was in a wheelchair and unassisted (that was following my manipulation under anesthesia five weeks after my knee replacement surgery).

I did get a temporary, 90-day placard. That was when I had my knee replaced.

What I did get a lot, during those three years that I was getting sicker and sicker and in more and more pain was people telling me I was too young to be disabled. I was too young to be in this much pain. (I was thirty-nine when I had the knee replacement and I was forty when I was diagnosed with fibro). I was even told I was making it up or just outright lying.

Turns out, I wasn't. I knew I wasn't. My friends knew I wasn't. I'd say my family knew, but I got the whole, "We KNOW you don't feel good, you TELL us all the time" bit one too many times from them.

So, when you see someone who looks young and not visibly disabled with a placard or even just using a cane, you might want to rethink your attitude. There is no such thing as "too young for a stroke". There is no such thing as "too young" for a disability.

And we are not "lucky" when we get all those great parking spaces.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend two at the ren faire was not so bad...

I was tired from the activity, but the pain didn't kill me like it did the week before. Saturday was fun and we saw friends and met new ones. I even met a Facebook friend I had not met in person yet. He even took a photo of me and the daughter (and if you read the disabled guy blog, I shared it there).

Sunday, Ceej- the daughter in question- convinced me to go in regular clothes ("mundanes") instead of garb. What happened was a hot, sweaty, and surreal experience. Because Ceej is young and thin and hawt (not to be confused with "hot"), she wore shorts and a halter top. Me, being older, fat and not-so-hawt wore my usual clothes- jeans, Docs (boots) and a tank top with a gauzy-fabric overshirt. Turns out that three layers of garb is cooler than a pair of jeans.

The surreal part was that we kept slipping into our ren-faire speak. And nobody took us seriously. And by "nobody", I mean the people who were tourists. If we overheard people looking for something, we'd stop and tell them where it was, because we know these things. They'd look at us weird because that's when we'd slip into those fake English accented voices and say something like, "The flushies are just beyond the Pig and Whistle Tavern, m'lady." (flushies being, you know, flushable restrooms and not port-a-johns). Then we'd say, "Uh, we're usually in garb..." Then we started prefacing everything we said with: "Usually we wear garb..." There was even a lady who gave us a dirty look and rolled her eyes at us. I surely hope we're not that judgmental of folks who go to faire in regular clothes. (I can state that we are not. We don't care if you're in regular clothes. Garb is expensive! The people I have a problem with are the ones who have decent garb, but wear it with a T-shirt or a tank top. I mean, come on, you've got the entire kit going on here and you throw in a Megadeath tour T-shirt? Why?).

We've decided we will never do that again. The best part was that our friends still recognized us and we were called "naked" more than once. Jane the Phoole saw us and her jaw dropped and she exclaimed: "Ladies! You're naked! Where are your clothes!?"

I had hoped to wear my hair down, because that's how I prefer to wear it and at faire, its almost a requirement to wear it up, but less than ten minutes into the faire and I had to put it up. Despite the heat and the surrealism of being in normal clothes, we managed to have fun. And today, I'm missing faire because Ceej had a college thing. She got to meet her roommate, too, so there's that.

We'll go tomorrow and that'll be fun, because we'll be all garbed-up.

Today, though, I'm having a typical achy day with the weather. The humidity and rainstorms have conspired to cause a flareup of my shoulder pain. That's one of those things I'm not sure is a fibro thing or not. Either way, it hurts. But, so far, the extra activity is seemingly helping. I'm definitely sleeping good on those two or three nights, so that's something. (but damn this weather! I hope its done by tomorrow...)

This is a quadtych I did for Saturday- Me and the crowd outside the gates, then inside the gates and then with Cameron from Barely Balanced and with the daughter.

153 365/2- Quadtych of the Faire

And, look who I met at the faire last Sunday.
154 of 365/2- Guess WHO I met at the Bristol Renaissance Faire today!

Yeah, a time traveler!

Dammit, I just remembered, this is costume contest weekend and I'm bloody well missing it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I did this to myself.

I went to the faire last weekend and I knew it would do me in. I just wanted to have fun! And I did. Even my hour-long debacle involving dehydration and unlacing my overdress wasn't all bad. I learned a lesson- that is more to the point, I reminded myself of how it feels and I shan't forget again. (the last time I was that dehydrated, I was pregnant with my second child. It involved a trip to the ER and two bags of saline for me to feel better).

Monday, I went shoeless because I had blisters on the arches of my feet. Tuesday was okay, Wednesday I went shoeless again because I wasn't going anywhere. (It happens to be Thursday as I type this). Wednesday, my muscles still ached in that tired-like-I-chopped-wood-and-plowed-the-field kind of what. Except I didn't do all that. I went outside, walked around, sat as upright as I could in a tight, laced-up dress in the almost-90° heat and watched handsome men on horseback try and knock each other off those horses. (also, I'm still a little hoarse from cheering).

I'm trying not to complain about it too much. I don't want to whine and seek sympathy because I did it to myself. I didn't have to go to faire. Well, technically, I did have to go, because I have a season pass and it would be a total waste not to use it. Even though I did this to myself, it still hurts. I still hurt. It feels like I'm being punished for trying to have fun. How dare you have fun! You have an invisible, yet debilitating illness! You are supposed to just sit around and lament on missing all the fun! People like you are not allowed to have fun or do anything for yourself!

Now, you go sit in a dimly-lit room and stare at that blank wall till you realize what you did was your own fault! And I don't want to hear a peep out of you till you're ready to say: "I will never, ever, ever do that again! I swear!"


I gotta get going... I need to iron my ren faire overskirt and make sure my asthma inhaler is in my belt pouch. I have a season pass!

And you don't want me to miss this do you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Faire Thee Well, Fine Lords and Ladies!!

Lady Pahz of the Boobshelf did quite well on opening weekend at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! HUZZAH! And, for now, she shall stop speaking of herself in the third person because it annoys her!

So yeah, there we have it. Despite being a bit achy, I did all right. In the middle of the day, though, I had a bout of what I thought was a "fibro thing". I felt suddenly very weak and exhausted. I actually loosened my dress laces out in the open. Unheard of! Unlady-like! Oh my! My friends from Texas came up for opening weekend and were quite wonderful through the whole thing. They walked me up to the medical area and made sure I wouldn't fall flat on my face. Because, you know, falling flat on one's face with one's laces loosened is so not cool.

At the first aid building, medical area, whatever- they have air conditioning and Gatorade and towels in a large basin of ice water. They fed me Gatorade in small cups (so I wouldn't guzzle it) and draped an iced towel over my shoulders. Over my hair. I couldn't even feel it. That's how thick my hair is. Anyway, I lifted my hair, enjoyed the iced towel and Gatorade. After about an hour, I started to feel better.

And just how I could tell I felt better- I started to talk more. And those of you who know me... well, you know something has to be wrong if I'm not talking.

If you're not on my Facebook, then you missed my update. My status was: "My weekend at the faire in a nutshell... that is, if by 'nutshell' we mean 'first comment'..."

And here's my comment:
I took around 200 photos on the first day. Angus and Beth were fantastic and made sure I didn't fall on my face when I got dehydrated on the first day. The ambulance service that Bristol employs is full of helpful and wonderful people. They see so many heat-exhausted people that when someone comes in with a scrape or cut, its a refreshing change for them.

At the first joust on the second day (around noon), my camera battery's "low" light started flashing. So I tried to conserve my battery for only those photos that I thought were most important.

I managed to take over 130 photos before my camera died completely at 530 PM.

So, it will take me a little while to get through all these photos.

I've lost my voice (from talking to people and screaming at the joust).

I had a group of people tell me my "accent" was really good. That is, my fake British mashup of an accent. I had a very excited man walk up to me after the Queen's Joust and ask if he could take a picture with me and his name turned out to be Oleg and he was visiting from Russia. On day two, more than five people thought I worked there. I've got bruises on my feet (from my slightly custom orthotics), every part of my body is screaming in pain (I know, I know, I did this to myself!), I've got a ren-faire sunburn ever so slightly on my shoulders and neck (I wore my hair up on day two and sunscreen does not work when you sweat as much as I did on both days). Also, on day one, I had to seek relief and assistance at the medical building where they have AC, iced towels and Gatorade.

Oh, and Ceej and I were involved in an interaction with two of the Fantastikals. (that's the troupe of awesome dancers/models who are the fairies at Bristol. They almost always only interact with children). I don't know what this troupe of people in black cloaks are called. Someone told me once, but I can't recall. They came marching through and all the Fantastikals that were there became "frightened" and hid behind trees and people. One of the Fantastikals hid behind me and Ceej as the troupe went through. I said, "That's right, hide behind the fat sweaty one, they'll never find you!" He smiled at me. And a few minutes after that, Puck and that guy got into a fairie standoff of some kind (Ceej has a photo on her Blackberry I have to get from her because my camera was long-dead by then) and when they stopped and Puck started to walk away I asked, "Did you win!?" He smiled and gave me a sly glance.

Of course, the jousts were all wonderful. The Queen's Joust where they set up for the Joust to the Death was awesome. And the Joust to the Death was even better than I remembered from last year. AND, Maxx and Mauldron's Show did not disappoint! Handsome and hilarious!

At the end of the day, I was tired and my feet were screaming, but I did the whole day without Vicodin. And I did the second day- with more walking- without Vicodin. I stayed hydrated though, I made sure of it (I also wore my hair up, which helped some and I hate wearing my hair up). I do have a reason for letting myself get dehydrated. Back in the day, I used to ride my bike twenty-six miles a day. And more recently, I used to walk four miles a day and end that with a half-hour of yoga. And even more recently, I haven't been very active at all. Now, back in the days of my physical activity, I stayed hydrated because I knew I needed it. I was physically exerting myself and I knew it. Well, after these past four, five years of medically-induced sedentary-ness, I'd forgotten how it feels.

From the moment I stepped out of my truck and tightened up my bodice, I started sweating. I sweated nonstop the entire day- till I got back into my truck and flipped on the AC. I should have known from simple common sense that I would need to drink more. But, in my now-sedentary brain, I thought: "I'm not exercising, I don't need to keep drinking."

Stupid fat person brain. What the hell, right?

Day two of the faire, I ended a little more sore than day one, but that's sort of what I expected. Waking up this morning was an experiment in sheer agonizing pain. Nothing like a few hot tears to be your wake up call. But at least I earned it!

I completed my "tasks" for this weekend. I wanted to see some friends. I wanted to meet some in person for the first time. And, I had to get photos of the joust. All-in-all, I took over 200 photos on day one and over 130 photos on day two. Why the drop? Around noon, my "low-battery" light came on. I managed to keep the battery power going through the sheer power of my mind (okay, by being more selective in my subjects, sort of) till 540 PM. Right at the start of the Joust to the Death.

I KNOW! I was so pissed off! It was fantastically violent, dramatically theatrical, and bloody. Not Tarantino bloody, but excitingly bloody. But enough about that... total, we have 312 photos in the Bristol Renaissance Faire Photo Set on Flickr. You will notice, in the joust photos that I had to get more photos of one particular knight. That would be Sir Mauldron. What I lacked in quality, I made up for in quantity!

Today, as it is almost 11 PM, my body aches and I'm stiff, just like I expected. This morning, I took two Vicodin upon venturing down the stairs. It helped a little. I have bruises on my feet from my boots (or, more to the point, the insides of my boots) and I had some blisters (they're gone for the most part). My foot pain isn't necessarily related to my fibro pain, but it isn't too far a leap to assume they are.

I leave you with this- two videos I did while driving to the faire.

On the way to Bristol, for some reason, I thought it would be fun to shoot a video, through my windshield, as we drove and I tried to get Ceej to use a "ren faire voice"... You don't have to watch- just listen (unless you like to see the Wisconsin highway bathed in morning sunlight). My AC is blasting on full, so there's that.

Also, I was talking to a knight and the hardest-working-squire-in-​the-squire-business and used "ren faire voice"... that's when I realized nobody else calls it that. See, I have to use that term when describing it to the disabled guy. And I've been Stroke-Speak-Translating every day stuff for so long that I forgot that the entire world doesn't speak Stroke.

Well, there you go, gentlemen. I'm not all that much of a nut.

Warning- there's a little bit of swearing in this one. Because of my AC blasting in the background of the first video, we tried another. But they're both ridiculously funny so I decided to share them both. The town we're driving through in this video is Lake Geneva.

I hope you enjoy the videos. I'm taking my achy body to bed. For now, I'm saying it was worth it. We'll see how I feel in the morning.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Followup appointment update

Gee, I feel bad. I haven't updated this in a couple weeks. I usually try to be more on top of things. I'd like to say that I haven't updated it because I feel good, but that's not entirely true. So far, the muscle relaxers are doing their job and I'm sleeping at night. But I'm not entirely pain free.

Yesterday, I had my three-month followup appointment. Long-story-short, we're going to stay the course on the muscle relaxers and my doctor would like me to exercise more. She actually said that exercise and moving around is the best way to feel better and "I'm so glad you see this, because too many people don't."

It isn't that I see it that way, I just want to exercise because I can't lose weight unless I exercise. That I know. I don't ever expect to be a size 12 again and I don't ever expect to walk four miles a day, but I'd like to be closer to both of those numbers.

The good news for exercise is that this weekend is opening weekend at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, WI. And I've got a season pass. So, every Saturday and Sunday between now and Labor Day (that's September 5th to my non-celebrating friends), I'll be walking my fat ass around the faire.

Speaking of my fat ass, why do people take offense if someone calls themselves fat? I mean, especially if its true? I'm not thin. I know how much I weigh. I know what I look like. I'm not deluding myself in that I'm not overweight. I know how big I am. I'm wearing a size 24 in jeans. Sure, they're loose, but that would still put me at size 22. That's huge, people. I'm fat and I know it. Don't feel bad for me, it isn't your fault I'm fat. Of course, it isn't squarely my fault either, but that's not the point. The point is that I'm fat. I'm not chubby. I'm not "pleasantly plump". I'm fat. Let's move on.

Yesterday at the VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, I had to park in a car park on the opposite side of the hospital. They had a door right there to enter the hospital, but little else to guide a person back to the part of the hospital that looked familiar. I followed the signs for the UW hospital because I knew I'd eventually reach something that looked familiar. I did, after I trekked from one end of the VA hospital to the other- I ended up in radiology, which is the set of elevators I needed. Then I had to walk all the way back to the central elevators- which, I learned yesterday, were where I could have gone to go up the one floor as opposed to walking all the way down to where I did. But that's a moot point now. After I went to that office I have to go to before every visit, I had to go all the way back down to the elevators I'd just left to go up to the sixth floor Rheumatology clinic.

Surprisingly, I wasn't curled up on the floor in the waiting room when they called me back to the exam room. I actually felt pretty good. That gives me hope for this weekend at Faire.

And making it back to the car park wasn't even an issue. No, the issue came after I left the hospital. Turns out the street I take to get the hell out of Madison- actually, the street I take to get me to the street that I take to get the hell out of Madison was completely torn up with construction. I was zig-zagging through construction equipment and blockades like an Olympic skier during finals.

So, I did what anyone would do in that situation. I took photos. What? You wouldn't do that? Weird...


The street was like an obstacle course

Lane closed! So is the other one!


I think I can make it to the end!

Outta my way!

Am I close to the end yet?

Why are these lights even activated?

Almost free and clear!

And I get past all that construction... I turn right onto Park. I get a couple blocks down...


Traffic on Park Street