Ghost (?) story

Gamma, a bit younger and healthier

Here’s a break from your regularly scheduled programming to tell a story that happened to me this week.

I have an old and sick cat named Gamma. He regularly hollers repeatedly if he wants something – or just because. The sweet old man was hollering in the hallway the other day, and I was trying to get him to come to me. He wouldn’t, so I shushed him a couple of times.The next time he hollered, I heard a shushing sound answering him. I didn’t do it and I was the only person at home. It kept up for about 6 hollers, and then the cat stopped.

I haven’t heard it since. I tell myself it was likely some outside noise that just happened by coincidence. But at the back of my mind, something in my house was shushing my cat. Perhaps the house itself even. What do you think?

Turning to cannabis for pain relief

Disclaimers. I am not a medical doctor – or anything medical. This is not to diagnose or treat anybody’s anything. Talk to your doctor. Do your research. Find what is best for you.

This is my own experience and my thoughts and research. I hope that this may be useful to other people who are making choices about taking care of chronic pain. I am not linking to any brands of anything, and am not making money off any referrals, sales, etc. In the past 20 years, I have only used products legally.

This will be a series of blog posts covering cannabis and pain-related topics that I find interesting. If you have requests for topics, let me know.

All right –

I started taking CBD (cannabidiol) for pain a couple of years ago. I found it helped, but certainly didn’t stop the pain or hugely lessen it. Recently, I started using combined CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which greatly reduced my pain. The pain is still there, but I have regained a lot of movement and the ability to focus on things for much longer. This combination has been close to miraculous for me.

I do not get high. I do not want to get high. I take low doses aimed solely at pain relief. (No offense to anyone who does. I do not judge you – do your thing and be happy.)

I do not smoke weed. I do not smoke anything. (I quit cigarettes in March 2008. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. And I cannot smoke anything without choking these days.)

I had heard of other people – many people getting relief through cannabis for pain and other problems. I wanted to try it because I will try almost anything if I can afford it. Pain has been my constant companion for 30 years and that is not the way I want to be living. I have tried a lot of remedies. Many work a little bit. Many do not work at all.

Before this started, I had wanted to try medical marijuana. I talked with my doctor about it and he did not prescribe. I started looking into getting a medical card in Illinois. The process was long and costly. Dispensaries were about an hour away. I did not know if it would work. I decided not to bother at that point.

When all this started, I began to see CBD mentioned online and in the news. I read up about it, learned that it worked for pain and anxiety in many people. I have both of those. I decided to try it out when I got a chance.

I got my chance when I went to Oregon to visit my brother. Oh, lovely Oregon. You are so progressive. Maybe one day I can visit you again. Cannabis was legal in Oregon. Every kind of cannabis.

We visited a dispensary and I was able to talk with a nice young man who agreed that CBD was what would help me best. I did not smoke or vape so edibles seemed the perfect thing for trying out different brands in small quantities.

I took the CBD as soon as I got back to my brother’s house. I started to learn that whenever I try a new cannabis product, it goes to my head. It does not matter if it has THC in it or not. It is only on the first try. No, I have no idea why this happens. I was very giggly. My brother made it worse by playing “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” I was useless that afternoon.

The second time I took it, we were going to see the Portland Timbers play soccer. I really, really do not like crowds. Or large noises. Or commotion. I do love soccer and particularly I love Diego Charra of the Portland Timbers. So, I popped a CBD and went along. This time I did not feel much and that was great. I was able to go the game in that huge, rowdy crowd and I felt nothing. I was able to sit for most of the game in ball-park seating. I was able, after the game, to go on a huge hike to find the restaurant he wanted to visit. No problem. And that was amazing!

Did I still hurt? Yes, but I hurt at a lower level. More importantly, CBD clicked something in my brain, and I stopped giving a rat’s furry butt about the pain. This was not being high. This was just not caring about things like pain and crowds and discomfort and movement that had plagued me for years. I do not know how this works. I have tried to find out, but this not giving a parrot’s tooty patootie was not mentioned in any of the articles. Folks (and I mean the government here), you need to open scholarly and medical studies on cannabis ASAP.

Whatever it was, it worked for me. I used CBD for the rest of a great trip. And came home to Illinois where it was still illegal. And waited a couple of years.

I first saw CBD at the Neighborhood Co-Op health food store. It cost nearly $100. And I mentally sorted it into the big pile of treatments I cannot afford. I talked about it with my husband and he was excited about it. He thought I should try the CBD and we could figure out how to afford it.

So, I bought it. And it worked some. Not as good as the Oregon CBD, but ok. I have since found that there are different types of CBD and different brands can be quite different. (I will write an entire blog on this later.) It took me a while to find a brand that worked well, but I did. And I was good with using CBD for a couple of years.

The only good thing of 2020 happened on January 1 when recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois.  We drove to the hour to see the dispensary. There was a line of people fully around the building. In January. Every time we drove by it was just as busy. Even with the CBD, my legs cannot stand in line for that long.

I waited. Covid-19 struck. I was stuck at home ALL the time now and getting tremendously grouchy with my pain and everything else. I learned that the dispensary now had a program where you ordered online and went to the dispensary at a designated time to pick up your order. I could do that.

I did that. Showed up for my appointment with my mask and gloves. Got my ID checked. Went into a waiting room, took a socially-distanced chair, and waited, looking around at the 8 other people in the room both masked and unmasked. A masked person opened the door, calling out “next!” A man got up and walked with them. I had no idea how he realized he was next. They didn’t give us numbers. I started to pay really good attention to who was in the room and who was coming in at that point.

Eventually, I figured out that I might be next and went inside to pick up my order of three types of small-dose THC and CBD/THC blended edibles. I wanted to take it in the car. But I did not do that because it is illegal. I got home, took my first THC dose, and a little while later somebody just turned the dial down on the pain.

They turned the dial WAY down. I could still feel it a little. (And I do still have bad days.) I would notice it. But the pain was not getting in my way. And with the CBD I didn’t give a flipping cartwheel about things that used to bother me. Life is suddenly better, much better. I can live with this level of pain.

Over the next month, I kept moving more and better. I could stand up to chop vegetables at the kitchen counter. I could bend over and pick something up off the floor. I could sit down and stand up without additional pain. I am not playing dodgeball or anything crazy, but I am moving. And moving more and better all the time.

That is my basic story. I plan to write a round of other blog articles: different cannabinoids, other ingredients like terpenes, micro-dosing, different delivery methods, avoiding the high, how to tell if your cannabis is quality, and more.

Malaise – I’ve got it

Making myself try to write is not working. I’ve gone down pretty hard. My body and mind want to do as little as possible. Things I have to do are not getting done, let alone things I want to do.

Yesterday, I sat staring at the shelf where I keep my beads for about an hour. I thought about making a pretty necklace for myself, which is something fun that I like doing. And I just sat there and thought until I finally forgot about making the necklace.

Who is here with me? I know this virus is doing strange things to people. My best friend is not sleeping. My husband’s anxiety is high and he is trying to micro-manage the cats. (Cats resist micromanagement pretty well.)

Every day, I try to break out of it. But it is so hard to get up and do something – or even sit here and do something in the case of writing.

I want to:

  • Write
  • Go outside and garden
  • Plant the mail-order plants that are sitting around my house
  • Go outside and sit in one spot and pick up all the gumballs within my reach
  • Make banana bread
  • Make that necklace
  • Eat food that I do not grab as a single piece from the kitchen
  • Wash the windows so I can look at outside without thinking what a louse housekeeper I am
  • Look up the Netflix password so I can watch Netflix after the system reset itself when I had the cable disconnected
  • Paint my nails
  • Shower
  • Crochet
  • Cross Stitch

The bar is not high.

What I am doing:

  • Reading (a lot)
  • Playing World of Warcraft (64th level elven hunter)
  • Teaching my best friends kids 3 mornings a week
  • Sleeping
  • Petting the cats
  • Doing fake cross-stitch on my Kindle
  • Creating clothes-mountain
  • Cleaned the toilet
  • Going on drives to nowhere just so I can see different things
  • Reading more news about Covid-19 than is probably healthy

But know, if you are going through this, you are not alone. I know it is trauma but it sure doesn’t feel like traumas in the past. This is the slow creeping trauma. Trauma that whispers from the deeps like an Elder God in a Lovecraft story. By the time we see it for what it is, it has been already happening for a long while. It’s settled into our bodies and our homes without us realizing it.

Now that it’s in, it is harder to remove. If we could have seen it coming, we could have actively stopped it. But we could not see it coming. It entered in a tendril here, a puff there, a news article, a Facebook post, one twisting bit of dread at a time.

At least I am not my neighbor who is fanatically and constantly mowing his lawn. I think that would be worse – but he is at least getting some exercise.

A day of quiet

I took today to do nothing and it feels great.

I’ve actually been busier than normal during the times of self isolation. I’ve been going over to my best friend’s house and helping homeschool her kids – so she and her husband can get work done. The girls are great and we are having a lot of fun. But, still, it’s exhausting and I come home from that and tend to collapse.

Now, we are working into a schedule where I come over on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. As today is Wednesday – I took it for me. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing. Instead, I’ve been doing nothing useful. I’ve read a book, a magazine, and things on the computer. Cuddled with the cats. Played World of Warcraft. Worked on a D&D character. Breathed. Showered. Painted my nails (spring-green). Ate ice cream. Saw a new sparrow at the bird feeder. So, nothing.

Gamma is doing nothing so thoroughly that we can stack stuff on him.
I aim for that level of slack.

What I didn’t do: cook, clean, plan lessons, write (other than this), or get anything done I was supposed to do. I didn’t even do my crossword puzzle. This is what I was hoping for in a scary-virus quarantine time.

I love a blank day. I know so many people who are going nuts because they can’t go out and do. They can’t work, or have to do partial and odd work at home. (My husband is doing the partial and odd.) No shopping, no movies, no sports. No meaningful contact with non-family humans. And I get it that those things can be trying.

But I’m a Gen-Xer. I know how to slack. There is an art to doing nothing and I urge you to study it.

What am I going to do next? Sit on the sofa. Maybe watch some ghost-hunter television shows. (Our newest addiction) Crack some Brazil nuts. Eat popcorn for dinner. Look at a bead catalog. Join me, I promise it will be fun.

In which I wear out with all the excitement

I’m dealing with my ouches. The funny thing about a time when everyone is supposed to be bunkering in and doing less – it wears me out. Just thinking about Covid=19 takes up a good amount of energy. Add to that, I’m trying to understand what is going on. I’m reading as much as I can from reputable sources. But a constantly changing and mutating virus with a 2-week mutation lag and 2-week exposure to confirmation lag is impossible.

On Thursday, my tummy gave out and started shooting acid up my throat. Then waves of pain started to return, as I had been unable to refill my CBD and the last of it was working its way out of my system. Today, Saturday, I can’t move much without hurting. (I did order more CBD online with a credit card I promised myself not to use anymore.)

Meanwhile, my schedule is just getting busier. The president has a press conference at noon daily. The governor at 3 daily. I wake up to a whole set of new articles in the New York Times. And thoughts and responses from my friends who are suddenly more on Facebook than ever before.

Sometimes I can escape when reading a book, watching a show, or crocheting. These, more than sleep, are the times when I really get to rest. But then the virus appears out of the corner of my eye and I’m pulled back into reality.

Today, I slept in until 8 am. That was as late as Gamma (my cat) could stand to wait before he woke me for his morning cuddles. I did precious little before crawling back into bed a 1 pm to wake at 3 pm. I do hurt a little less now. And that’s a good thing.

The governor’s shelter in place order begins at 5 pm today. I’m helping make homemade pizza – and have a bunch of pizza dough up the arm of my black sweater. This means there will be pizza soon.

Cat picture tax – Gamma, my snuggle boy

Hitchhiker

I was leaving J. and K.’s house when a young woman walked up to me and asked me if I could give her a ride home, just south of the grocery store a couple of miles away. Of course, I said yes. That’s the normal and human thing to do. I cleared my bags out of the front seat and she got in.

We drove to her house, chatting on the way. I let her out and she thanked me. And normally that would be the end of it. But these are not normal times. My brain started to churn.

What if she has the virus? I know no cases have been confirmed in our county yet – but we know for certain that there are many unconfirmed cases out there. I’m trying to self-quarantine, because of my messed up immune system. Could I be taking this back to J. – who also has an immune disorder? To the kids? Have I done wrong when I mean to do good? These are not questions that I should ever be asking myself. Nor should anyone else.

Our times have grown twisted and strange. But I still have to believe in the good of people and of myself. The school bus is driving past all the kids’ houses offering a bagged lunch for every student. People are posting announcements online when they find milk, meat, or toilet paper at a store. But it is hard to help when having to be separated. When connection brings threat.

On the happier side, here are a few great things that friends have shared online:

A huge Highland bull is delivered to a farm. The big guy shows up at 11:30, but you can meet the cows before that.

My friend Bucky with Columbus Ghost Tours has put some of his tours and storytelling online (for free.)

Beautiful art from Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio Online Store Drawing the Line for Social Justice – free digital download of What to do in a pandemic animal prints

This one is my favorite

Strangest Election Day

I voted around 11:30 am. We had to work a time around S’s online meetings and avoiding lines (so – not at noon). We drove to the polling place and there were only three cars in the lot – all belonging to the pollworkers. Not another person in sight except for a small family having a picnic at the gazebo across the street.

I did.

I armored up – put on my latex gloves, grabbed a pen from home and headed in. It was as empty inside as it looked outside. Four poll workers and a sleepy beagle named Bella. (Our neighbors are poll workers and we know Bella well – she is a terrific dog.) The poll workers were very chatty – a combination of dead-bored and not paid enough. After we cast our ballots we were hung up a while. We finally got to go out when we heard another couple heading in to vote.

An that was it. That and hoping that my messed-up immune system didn’t catch the coronavirus. It is hard to deal with this massive uncertainty. My brother contacted me and said he didn’t want me to go vote, that the risks were too high and it was only a primary. (He is the worrier in the family, but I know its from love.) Him saying that brought something home deep in my gut.

This is where I vote – in a semi-derelict building that used to be the Parks and Rec Office.

How much risk is too much? Ohio postponed its primary after a set of last-minute court cases. Several other states have done so as well. But I don’t know when they will be rescheduled. Many people seem to think this thing will only last two weeks. Others say we are looking at a couple of months. Still others say longer. What if there is no other good time to hold it before the general elections? What if the general election cannot be held? (I can’t even deal with that image.)

Then I have to ask what my vote is worth. If turnout is very low, it might be worth more than I think it is. And there were a couple of contested local primaries to remove incumbents for potential corruption or other problems. I know my vote was important in those.

I wonder how many people were kept away from voting because of their immune systems or abilities? How many people has the coronavirus disenfranchised?

I’m getting glum. I’m off to read for a while – that should cheer me up.

No gatherings over 50 people

This morning, the CDC has recommended a ban on gatherings over 50 people. Europe is shutting its borders, and Germany and some other European countries are shutting borders around their countries. Canada has blocked all but Canadians, permanent residents, and Americans.

Local reports have Kroger and other stores selling out of many items including most ready-to eat things (deli, bread, etc.) The local hhas asset up a hotline to call in if you have Covid-19 symptoms – but we are not supposed to go to the emergency room. The Boys and Girls club is shut down – but will offer take-away meals. There are eight places in our school district offering take-away school lunches (and breakfasts in some) plus a set of busses running routes to take food to students who need it.

Illinois has tested 1000 people and 100 of them have shown positive. I hear we’ve had our first case in the southern half of the state. But I don’t know where. The credit union is now drive-through only. The closed library is offering a curbside pickup where they put your books on the bench out in front of the library.

My self-isolating game is strong today. My husband is attending online meetings in the bedroom – and all the cats have followed him in there. It’s cool and rainy and I’m not really tempted to go out into the garden. I do want to plant lettuce, radishes, peas, and poppies. And put the plants I got in the mail today (mostly ferns and hostas) into the ground.

The weather is getting me bad. I’m on the sofa and haven’t moved much. I’ve done SalonPas and am getting ready to break out the heating pad. So the temptation to see other people is not strong at all.

Things I have done:

  1. Painted my nails – pink with gold sprinkles
  2. Read The Season by Kristen Richardson – history of the debutante phenomenon and what is says about women and marriage
  3. Photocopied an article to send to my brother
  4. Got my pills ready for the week
  5. Taped some pictures by my nieces up on the wall. This includes the picture of the killer unicorn with blood dripping from it’s horn by E. who is both obsessed with unicorns and a little goth.
  6. Cleared away a good deal of crap from places it shouldn’t be
  7. Read part of Consumer Reports Magazine
  8. Spent a bunch of time on Facebook – sent out hopeful messages on Facebook and Twitter
  9. Read a bunch of Covid-19 articles online – mainly from the NY Times
  10. Received a package of live plants from FedEx – 16 bulbs, corms, and bare roots
  11. Studied Spanish with Duolingo

Not so bad, now that I see it written out. Not so bad at all.

Restaurants close

Tbe governor of Illinois has just orders all restaurants and bars to close. They are allowed to do curbside pickup and delivery still. He said the federal government was not doing enough to protect us so the state had to.

S. (my husband) did a Walmart run. Things sold out: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, eggs, kitty litter, and meat. He said people were just filling their carts from the freezer section. He talked to one of the clerks who said yesterday was terrible. People were just coming in and dumping things in their carts and running to the checkout. Then they would load their cars and return.

My day was quiet. It seems like the world is going crazy while I sit on my computer writing, stopping occasionally to pet cats. I watched birds at the feeder and saw a pretty little wren. Started putting away the groceries S. got. By the way, we are totally prepared with roasted red peppers and cat treats.

We came over to visit J. (my best friend) and K. (her husband) again. The girls are bored and going stir crazy. Last week was Spring Break and they are missing school – before an actual day of school has been missed. I am going to help teaching them, so we are trying to get a schedule together. I’ll likely help out a lot with math, which luckily they both love.

What happens when the girls get bored.

The guys are making risotto for dinner and I’m in the comfy chair under strict orders from J. to stay put. I ran out of CBD a few days ago (and we can’t afford to get more. Between that and the low pressure rolling through my pain has been higher than normal.

And it’s Covid-19

The world has been changing quickly – especially in terms of health. My life hasn’t changed much. I was rather self-isolated in the first place, unable to do work other than writing from home. And then stuck in the house because we’re low income and my husband has to take the car to work. I’ve been watching the world through my computer screen. I see more and more people facing down a life like I live.

People are stocking up on toilet paper and hand-sanitizer to the point where there are none in the stores. I have friends in other areas going to Walmart and taking pictures of empty shelves. Meanwhile, the CEO of Walmart takes a press conference with the president of the US stating that he will gladly give up part of some parking lots to fight Covid-19. How strange. I assume the government is setting up testing centers there, but that wasn’t made entirely clear.

I do have company at home – three big orange cats. This is Gamma.

Last week, I went to see one of my doctors. It went normal, except there were bottles of hand-sanitizer all over the place and after she was done seeing me, she washed her hands for a really long time. Most things around here seem normal. But, then, I haven’t gone to Walmart. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot.

My husband is going to start working from home – teaching a class and doing counseling sessions online. All the schools are closed for the count. Which means my best friend is teaching online from home – but she might go into her office because she has not yet been blocked from doing so. Her husband is at community college and their classes are moved online. The girls will be home from school as well. I offered to help home-school them during this time. We went over to their house a couple of times. I figure our homes will still be connected until someone in them gets the virus.

We went to the library this morning and took out about 20 books between the two of us. I hear from my friends about libraries starting to close down all over the place. If I’m stuck at home for a long time, at least I will be stuck at home with books.

Keep safe. Wash your hands. My love to you.