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The Art of Asking

Trekkie loaned me an iPod that was loaded with the audiobook of Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. Since I live in a suburb, work in a rural school district, and run in and out of the city on a regular basis, I have a lot of driving time, so that's when I have mostly been listening to it. It's great, because it feels just like Amanda is sitting in the passenger seat with her ukelele telling me stories, and I love it! Have you ever been exposed to an internet personality and caught yourself thinking "I just want to be your BEST FRIEND!"? That's how I feel about Amanda Palmer right now.

Crawling back up

So, after two days of senseless panicking, I had what was probably a fairly obvious idea. Last spring, when I got hired on at The School That Must Not Be Named, I contacted the school district I had been subbing for, to let them know that I would no longer be available, because I had a position. That was the last they heard from me. When that job went south, I was so burnt out, I couldn't anything for a while, and then when I started looking for work, I felt like I couldn't face going back into the classroom, so I looked in other sectors (particularly libraries, and customer service.)

So, on Wednesday, I sent an email to the HR person at my former school division, asking if it would be possible for me to be reinstated as a substitute teacher for the division. She replied mid-morning yesterday that she had consulted with Sub Office Lady, and they would be delighted to have me back, so I drove up to the District Office to give them my most recent security clearance and fill out some paperwork yesterday. Spoke to Sub Office Lady in person (an event that has only happened once before, most of our communication being either via email or over the phone) and left with the idea that I might get called in to work as early as today.

Unfortunately, later I remembered that I actually have a therapy appointment booked for lunchtime today, and would need 24 hours' notice to cancel it, so I called when I got home from choir last night, just to let her know that I wouldn't actually be available until Monday.

My thinking is that even if I succeed in jumping through the medical hoops that my other work is requiring right now (and I still have no idea when that might happen) I should be able to keep both jobs. My other work was only giving me 2-3 three shifts a week, and the fact that those shifts are booked 3 weeks in advance, and the school district's online scheduling system, it should be easy for me to simply book those days off from subbing. I'm not sure why I didn't think of this sooner....


One thing after another

I am now effectively unemployed until further notice.

Shortly after I posted yesterday's blog I got a call from my store's assistant manager. They've taken me off the schedule until I can provide a doctor's note that says I'm "fit" to return to work. Which I take to mean that they basically want a guarantee that it won't happen again. I'm not sure that's even possible, but even if it was, there's another problem.

I called my doctor to make an appointment and was told that she is on medical leave and will not be back. They have a doctor coming in to take over her patients in mid-January, but until then, none of the other doctors at that clinic are taking on new patients. My sister, apparently, already knew that our doctor was planning retirement, but the timing of the replacement's arrival, and the fact that she is now on medical leave tells me that she hadn't actually intended on retiring until January.

I had My Sweetie call his family doctor to see if they might be able to fit me in, but nobody in that office is accepting new patients right now either. They were able to tell us of a newer clinic in town that is accepting new patients, so I called them. I had to go in to fill out an intake form, but now I have to wait for them to call me to set up an appointment. I have no idea how long this is going to take, and in the meantime, I'm off work.



My Sweetie's MRI came back clean. No sign of cancer or stroke, which were the two biggest fears. There are still a couple of symptoms not fully explained by a diagnosis of bell's palsy, but at this point they're treating him as if he had bell's palsy. This means prednisone, which is most commonly used as an asthma medication. It's a steroid, and the dosage is very high, so he's been extra-cranky, but pointing that out to him actually seems to help, so... yay?...

This past weekend was Pure Speculation, the geek festival that I help run. In the past few years, I have mostly been a slightly glorified attendee, who was available to pick up any slack that developed. This year was a bit different. First, our performer coordinator had emergency surgery just over a week before the event, so I stepped in to fill her responsibilities with very little idea of what I actually had to do. There was a lot of making it up as I went along, and asking panicked questions, which I think made at least one other member of the organizing committee feel like he was actually the one doing the job. There were also some tech issues that required a lot of running back and forth from one end of the hotel to the other (only to find out that the data projector I was running with had a lamp that liked to overheat so it would shut itself down every few minutes, so we needed to use a different projector anyway).

Then Flop decided to show up.

Three times. In three days.

The third was at work yesterday. I had originally had the day off (not because I was smart and BOOKED the day off, but since I'm only getting 2-3 shifts a week, it was a pretty safe bet that it would happen anyway) but on Friday as I was packing up to head to the hotel, I got a call and they asked if I would pick up a 2-10 shift. Since I AM only getting 2-3 shifts a week, I can't really afford to turn down work when it's offered to me, so I said yes, figuring that it was late enough in the day I would have a chance to sleep in and recover a bit from the weekend. I crashed out less than an hour into the shift, which was actually fortunate timing since it meant that Trekkie (whom I have mentioned before) hadn't left for the day yet.

This is important, because over the last few months, Trekkie has sort of become my honourary big brother. He also has a bit of experience with picking me up off the floor, which is not something most of my workmates have ever had to deal with. Apparently there was some dithering about what should be done when I went down, until one of the kids who works in the back was like "WHY hasn't somebody paged [Trekkie] yet???" So by the time I came around he was crouched over me in full-on protective-bear-mode, rather than a huddle of confused and panicky cashiers and managers.

My brain is now doing the thing where it feels like my field of vision is moving slightly, all the time, but especially when I move my head. Trekkie and My Sweetie did some vehicle shuffling last night so I wouldn't have to drive home. At this point, I don't work again until Thursday, I've passed off the rehearsal I was supposed to run tonight to a colleague, and I don't intend to do anything more energetic than load (and perhaps empty) the dishwasher today. Tomorrow I will play by ear.

Hospitals again


On Monday morning, My Sweetie woke up feeling like he was just coming out of dental freezing with the partial paralysis and lack of feeling to one half of his face. He went to work that day, but called his doctor and made an appointment for that afternoon. In the course of the day, he noticed that the hand on the same side was weak and slower than the other, and he was walking with a distinct hitch in his step.

There are two main possibilities in a case like this. There is a condition called bell's palsy, which is relatively benign and totally treatable, or there is stroke. Apparently bell's palsy doesn't actually explain all of My Sweetie's symptoms.

Doctor hit the panic button and wanted to call him an ambulance, but he convinced her to let me drive him instead, and he spent the rest of the day at the hospital. They ran a CT scan, an ECHO, and some blood work, and found nothing, so they referred him to neurology. The neurologist wanted to keep him overnight for observation, but the ER doctor said it shouldn't be necessary so long as he didn't eat or drink anything after midnight and was back at the hospital first thing in the morning.

So on Tuesday I dropped him off on my way to work. They eventually transferred him to a different hospital, and following lots more waiting, he found out that they want to give him an MRI, which means he does have to stay overnight.

Extra Life 2014

I am participating in the Extra Life gaming marathon to benefit the Children's Miracle Network again this year, with two major differences. First, I've actually done some offline fundraising, and second, I am not going to be sitting by myself playing videogames this year. Members of Team #KNIFESHOES will actually be getting together in person for a 24 hour extravaganza of board games and RPGs!

Last year, my fundraising literally consisted of posting the donation link in my social media. I posted at least one blog about it, and I think two YouTube videos, and then just sat back and waited to see who clicked. This year, I've actually printed off the offline donation form, and taken it out into the world. I've gotten donations from choirmates, workmates, and Family, and I'm feeling inordinately proud of myself.

If you feel willing/able to contribute, here is my donation link, or donate to any one of my teammates on Team #KNIFESHOES.

The Earliest of Birds

Those of you who know me offline will likely realize: I am not a morning person. I am not good at waking up early, and I am even worse at being pleasant when I've woken up early. However, as I settle in at my new job, I am coming to realize that I rather enjoy several of the things that happen in the morning, at work.

First of all, having now worked a couple of closing shifts (3-11) and a couple of openers (8-4), I have decided that I much prefer the openers! Although the first hour of the day and the last hour of the day are about equal in terms of boredom, the energy is very different in the morning. My Sweetie says that's because it comes at the beginning of an 8-hour shift, rather than at the end, but I really think there's more to it.

Then, yesterday, I had a new adventure: I had my first training shift on price change. The new flyer comes out on Fridays, so on Friday morning, the price change shift starts considerably before the store opens. We were clocked in by 4 am, and allowed to work in street clothes for the first 4 hours, until the store opened. We took our "lunch" break at that point, and then kept working until noon.

Price change was pretty much everything I love about reshelving library books. You're given a stack of price labels (total run for the week was over 8000, and there were 5 of us working on it) and what you have to do is find the item, remove the old price label, and hang the new one. Over and over and over again. For 8 hours. My friend Trekkie, who got me this job in the first place, and was the one training me yesterday, says that you don't have to be "a bit anal" to do the job, but it sure helps!

I'll be doing Friday morning price change for at least the next two Fridays.

For me, the biggest problem with the scheduling of Friday morning price change is that it immediately follows Thursday night, which is one of my choir nights, so I don't get home until close to 10:00....
Some of you may not know the story behind my username. The summer between first and second year university, I started fainting for apparently no reason. Because university students are notoriously sensitive people, I became known as Flop in many of my circles, for rather obvious reasons. There are still people who know me from that era, who have difficulty remembering my name, but if you refer to me as Flop, they know exactly who you are talking about. I saw many doctors, had many tests run on me, and was never able to get an explanation for the problem beyond "your blood pressure goes down sometimes."

In fact, they eventually "diagnosed" me with neuro-cardiac dysfunction with predominately vaso-depressor responses. Which literally means "your blood pressure goes down sometimes" with a nod towards the fact that the problem probably has something to do with either the heart, the brain, or both. The cardiologist I saw said he saw no cardiac irregularities but wanted to put me on beta-blockers anyway. The neurologist realized quickly that it wasn't a neurological issue, but took the time to find us a different specialist who might be able to help.

I eventually saw an endocrinologist, who prescribed me a medication intended to slightly raise my ambient blood pressure, so that if and when it dropped, it was less likely to bottom out completely and land me on the floor. However, when I gained a bit of weight, my ambient blood pressure rose on its own, and it became a concern that we might actually send it too high, so I don't take that medication anymore. Fortunately, when I gained a bit of weight and my blood pressure rose, I started passing out less frequently as well, so we took that as a win.

Over the past ten years or so, incidences of flopping have dropped from most days out of the week, to less than a dozen times a year, but there's something I've noticed. There seems to be a corellation between my depression and instances of flopping. I have no idea if this is a causal relationship, but it's been a thing for a while.

Events of the past two weeks or so have caused me to revisit what little I know about my condition, and something has occured to me. I have had many ECGs in my life, and there is something that has only be noticed twice, the first time by an over-eager cardiac intern in the emergency room, and the second time just a year ago by a paramedic: I have a very slight arrhythmia. Now, when I say very slight, I mean slight enough that although both of these medical professionals mentioned it, it was dismissively, with the tacit assumption that it couldn't possible explain the problem I'm having. But here's the thing, obviously the problem is intermittent, and they've only ever checked my heart AFTER I had an episode (obvs). So what I would be very interested to know is what my heart is doing BEFORE I have an episode.

To be fair, they did try to find out once. In about third year I had something called a 24 hour holter monitor, which involves electrodes and a little electronic doohickey that you carry around with you in a satchel for a 24 hour period. And wouldn't you know it, when I had the thing, I had a good day, so they had nothing to analyse.

The joys of being a medical mystery. 


Hello darkness, my old friend

The initial high of having a fairly steady job that I am good at and enjoy has worn off, and I am back to feeling like a burden, to the point that I had to force myself to go to work yesterday. I seem to be having trouble with the logical fallacy of believing work would rather I not come in, when in fact my not coming in forces them to scramble to find someone to replace me. But then, my brainweasels insist, at least they would have someone good working. Not me.

Brainweasels are assholes.

Yes, goldjadeocean, I totally stole that term from you. It's perfect! <3

Anyway, I think on some level I expected depression to be easier to deal with when I recognized it for what it was. I spent so many years not really understanding that I was depressed, thinking that boredom and apathy were just things that happened sometimes, but now I will find myself having thoughts that I can look at objectively and tell myself "that's the depression talking" but it doesn't change the fact that I believe those thoughts. Sometimes I can get out from under the cloud far enough to actually tell someone "I need you to explicitly tell me you want me to come" because otherwise I'm likely to bail on commitments. Not always, though.


Here I Stand
Having been unemployed since April, I was forced to lower my expectations, and eventually (about three weeks ago) got a job as a cashier at a grocery store. I've always been good at customer service, and in the time I've been there, I've managed to impress every manager I've got.

Last night, I auditioned for a musical. The last time I sang an audition was a good five years ago, and the last time I sang a successful audition was about twice that, but I think this one went well. Of course, it didn't hurt that I've known the two people I was auditioning for since I was about 8 years old! One was a girl I used to dance with, back in the day, at the Edmonton School of Ballet (which I dropped when I blew out a knee in grade 7), and the other was her mother!

For my audition piece I decided to sing "You're Not Alone" from Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, a show I've had a bit of a love affair with since I saw a Fringe production of it early in my first degree. I posted on Facebook that I would be fine, so long as I could remember what order the words went in. This, of course, prompted a bit of joking, but I'm not even kidding.

Brel was a Belgian musician who wrote most of his music in French, and although the translations used in the musical are very good, there are still problems inherent in poetic translation. Also, Brel himself was something of an eccentric lyricist and composer. Every stanza except two starts with the same words, the stanzas themselves are of varying lengths, and although the song is made up of about 8 individual stanzas, the music is written in only two verses of four stanzas each.

I was looking for a reasonable YouTube video to include with this post (because there's a lot of crap ones!) and I found this gem, where they turned it into an ensemble piece. Glorious!

In the time it took me to write this post, I received my callback email, so obviously yesterday went well. :)
Apparently the callbacks are going to be mostly movement, so that will be interesting. My friend The Maestro also auditioned and also got a callback. Here's hoping we get to work together on this!