Seafaring!

We (Dit & Dah) live in SE Wisconsin, near enough to Milwaukee to frequent events in the area quite often, and take advantage of many good deals! One of which is the annual bike donation deal put on by Milwaukee Bike Coalition, in partnership with the Lake Express ferry, which, for those who don’t know, travels between Milwaukee, WI and Muskegon, MI across Lake Michigan several times a day except in late fall and winter.

In exchange for donating a bicycle to their bike drive, the Lake Express mails out vouchers for a round trip voyage on the ferry. I took this trip solo last year, donating a bike I wasn’t using just to make room in my garage. Since Dah and I had met early in May, that was my plan all along, to take a day trip alone. Just me. I was single and determined to not let lack of a partner keep me from enjoying life.

Of course, then I met Dah the week after and we hit the ground running, joyously hand-in-hand, in our new relationship, consistently finding fun things (or not so fun things – see previous post) to do to spend time together. At the end of summer I’d almost exhausted my calendar of possibilities for such travel, so I booked my voyage the day before my kid went back to school, and rode to MI like a nautical hitchhiker. Then I made my way around MI by bus, and, in part, as a literal hitchhiker! In fact, when the bus I was waiting for at the  beach didn’t come as planned, I would have missed the boat home if it weren’t for flagging down the people I’d sat next to and made conversation with at the beach-side restaurant. Notably, my first ride was offered right out of the gate when we got in, by the aunt of a dancer/choreographer from my home town, Oak Creek, who had recently had a television appearance, and it was legit – I looked it up later.

Anyway, during the winter Dah and I had acquired junior size pink bikes from a thrift store that was closing its doors, which we purchased with the express intent of donating to the bike drive should it indeed come around again the next Spring, so that we could then transverse Lake Michigan together. Sure enough, as Earth Day rolled around, I heard about the bike collection, and Dah and I took our tiny kid’s bikes down to the ferry yard, turned them in, and in exchange we received our Lake Express vouchers a couple weeks after.

We were thinking of going at the height of summer, but there never seemed to be a good time. We had a lot else to do – especially since Dah is an avid follower of HAM radio events, and almost every weekend during summer there was something going on. Before we knew it, it was August already, and my daughter’s school had upped the start date by a few weeks, so we ran out of opportunities to go on a weekday before she went back. (I have to drive her to and from school, so I had to plan around that.) Then there was the Labor Day weekend, and we wanted to avoid the crowds. So we settled on going the weekend after.

We had done plenty of research about things to do in Muskegon, even found a supposedly haunted AirBNB, but then because we had to choose a time when the room was available, our trip got pushed beyond the tourist season, and it didn’t occur to me that then the bus wouldn’t be running along the Muskegon shore. Since most everything was located near where we were staying, we had decided not to rent a car, or pay to take one along on the ferry.

Another thing we hadn’t planned for was the possibility that the ride might not go as smoothly as I had experienced the year before. When we arrived at the depot, we were offered complimentary Dramamine, in anticipation of the boat experiencing 3-5 foot waves that morning. It didn’t sound like much, but we figured if they were offering us seasickness pills, maybe we should take them. Dah has said since then that he took them just in case they’d help, even though he knew they probably wouldn’t. But he and I are both suckers for anything that’s free.

It was really weird arriving there, pre-dawn, being carded and going through a brief baggage search and then being offered pills. But I enjoyed the off-center sci-fi vibe, and anyway I’m a pushover for experimenting with OTC medication for fun, so I swallowed it down in good humor.

The humor didn’t last too long though once we got on the boat and realized how much it was rocking! I had been on boats before and never got even a hint of wooziness, but, Holy Shit! I was feeling the sickness well up as soon as we boarded. Prayed and prayed but knew that I wasn’t going to be able to win that one mind over matter.

It didn’t help either that I’d decided to finish a crochet project that I intended to give to Faith, the Wiccan host of our AirBNB. I had acquired a free spice blend from Penzey’s Spices and wanted to give it to her in a little pouch. There wasn’t much left to be done with it, but trying to concentrate on repeatedly pushing a hook through small holes is probably the last thing you wanna do when the floor is churning. I finished it, but in retrospect I wish I hadn’t.

As the boat pulled away from the Milwaukee shore, the waves got worse. Dah seemed to be all right. By appearances, anyway, at least at first. I, on the other hand, was not handling it very well. At a point not long after, a cheery young lad in a skipper suit came by with a basket of Gin-Gin mints and puke bags, the former to supposedly help settle our stomachs, and the later for when they didn’t work.

To compound all this misery, I had to use the bathroom. Like, abuse the bathroom. I got up and struggled to find a footing, as the floor was tilting back and forth enough to throw people around. Eventually I shuffled ahead and intentionally hugged the wall then crawled along it for support until I came across the handicap bathroom. The women’s bathroom was just a short way down from it, but I didn’t feel I could make it that far. Thus began the intimate battle to balance face time and ass time on the head, a.k.a. boat’s toilet. It was not easy. Nothing about that trip over was.

After I made it back to our seats, Dah said he also had to use the bathroom. I warned him about it not being easy to walk. Still, he looked ok. While he was up, the family next to us seemed to be pitting to move closer to where we were sitting so their kids could have a better view of Finding Dory, which was the moving playing on the boat ride over. I heard the mom suggest that then saw her look over to me right as I peeled the puke bag open and unleashed a dragon hurl into it with perfect timing. The family moved farther away.

Dah returned from the men’s room looking pale as the dead and as if he had covered his face and shoulders in a bucket of water, which turned out to be sweat. A woman we took to be a second mate on the ship came over to see if he was all right. I was between fits of vomiting so somewhat capable of conversation. She was very concerned about how he looked, but commented that I was just fine, my color was good. To which I replied with a fit of dry heaving then a new round of vomit that must have been sourced from some previously undiscovered reservoir somewhere deep inside.

Thankfully, albeit likely because of the immense physical exhaustion, and by some miracle, both Dah and I managed to fall asleep in our seats, truncating part of the exhausting effort to withstand the ordeal of that trip. Dah even ventured outside on the sun deck as we approached Muskegon. I was kind of in a coma, but responded to his touch when asked to wake up, grab my shit, and mercifully depart.

 

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Delinquent, Part 2

The ER was a trip! Right around the corner from the Radiology wing, as luck would have it. Someone from the ER came over to lead me there. I was surprised that they didn’t wheel me over as a matter of protocol, as hospitals do. But I was fine, I could walk.

Yeah, I was fine. Ha! I was itching all over. But not panicking at all, since I wasn’t breathing hard or anything (they were worried that my throat might close) and I had Dah there with me, which is a great bonus through anything but ultimately most comforting when something unexpected like this happens.

He had offered to be there “just in case” and I guess this is the case in which it’s good that he was! Of course, we thought that the most that could happen was getting a late breakfast together after my appointment, for which I had fasted. Then we’d see where the day took us. Apparently the day had more in store for us that we could have imagined.

I had been tagged with a wrist band upon checking into Radiology for the scan, and still had that ID on, so when I got to the ER they put another one on the other arm. There’s a first. Two admissions in one day, different departments, as the story unfolds. I had just had a catheter in my left forearm to get saline and the contrast dye shot into me for the CT, so the ER placed an IV in the other arm. They pumped me full of prednisone and followed it with a chaser of benedryl. I had never had steroids before, at least not like that. Cortisone cream maybe, and a shot of it into my foot leading to the inevitable surgery, just to see if by chance that would work, which it did not. So I didn’t know what to expect of that. I’m diabetic, so they warned me of high blood sugars. I had heard of that happening, and though, ok, I can watch more closely, it shouldn’t be that hard.

Yeah, right. I’m skipping ahead with this, but I was also given a three-day course of prednisone to take after leaving the ER, and what ensued was a week of inescapable, unmanageable extremely high blood sugars. Like, my blood sugar was higher than my bank account. But this was expected, and though I couldn’t seem to get a hold on it, I was more fearful of insulin overdose. As with routine insulin management, it was touch and go. Just more extreme than figuring out your average dose relative to meal plan. I ended up going to Urgent Care and mentioned it then, but the most reassuring answer I found was, of course, on the Internet, where several forum answers, some supposedly written by doctors, pointed out that in a case where it’s absolutely necessary to use steroids short-term, the high sugars for a short time are worth it. Stated plainly, having extremely high blood sugar for a very short time won’t immediately kill you, but anaphylaxis certainly might. Better to wait out the high BG than to risk having your throat close.

Good news is, the effect of the prednisone on my blood sugar tapered off and normalized (what’s normal for me) relativelyl soon after taking the last pill. I noticed some residual effects that I think might be related – like a beauty mark I had on my arm decided to leave me – but otherwise everything seemed all right, just a little off. I was worried that I might be more susceptible to colds and such, but, on the contrary, whatever I went through seems to have given me a measure of immunity. My daughter has been sick twice already since I went through all this, and I haven’t succumbed to either of the illnesses that she went through. That’s good.

As a lifelong allergy sufferer, I’ve taken quite a bit of benedryl. Not my drug of choice for anything but a guaranteed night’s sleep, and I’ve been avoiding it for fear of recently noted side effects (brain damage, dementia, etc.) but if that’s what they thought I needed, I let do what they thought best. They being the nice doctors and nurses of the ER who got me so loopy loo I thought the air was melting. I don’t do recreational drugs (usually) but do enjoy a good trip under controlled medical supervision, and this was one of the best. There was a brief moment of metallic taste, but then I was just fucking stoned.  I encouraged Dah to take a video, knowing I was like the Youtubers who post shit after just getting out of surgery, in that beautiful state of being awake yet gone. I did manage to sleep after a while, but it was totally wack, not restful, maybe not even sleep. I might have just been so out of it I couldn’t remember to keep my eyes open. Better than watching daytime TV.

They kept me in the ER about 3 hours, and by the end of it I was fighting hungry. Still slogging, Dah led me to the onsite pharmacy with my follow-up steroid and antihistimine orders, then took me to the cafeteria for soup and popcorn, and to keep an eye on me to make sure I really was OK before going home.

It seems strange to me now, but he did, in fact take me home, despite my having to be back in the area of the hospital to pick my daughter up from school not long after. We didn’t go directly home though. It was the last day of the month and we had Chik-Fil-A Cow Calendar coupon deals to cash out, so we got our free bowls of fruit there, then stopped at home, then he drove back up to the school with me sitting shotgun – I was way too groggy to drive at that point. I wasn’t even really trusting the ground I walked on to be quite solid, and I remember closing my eyes in the car and thinking we were on a runway in a plane!

So, it does pay to have a friend or loved one go along with you “just in case” when you have routine medical things done. Certainly was a help that I had Dah with me through this adventure!

Delinquent, Part 1

It’s been way too long since I’ve taken the time to write something here! To be honest, I’ve been avoiding writing in general. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve just been lazy, giving myself excuses not to think so hard. Anyway, let’s go over some key points from the last couple months.

School started early this year. To put that in better context, I (Dit) have a kid in high school, and since the end of the 2016-2017 school year, the district where she attends school implemented a revised schedule where rather than start around Labor Day in Sept. like they usually would, they pushed it ahead a few weeks. She started back Aug. 14, about a week after my birthday.

Since I’m a Leo, my birthday is a huge affair, to me anyways. Generally it has been the summer vacation landmark, where after it’s done we begin the slide back to Back-to-School time. Usually we have more than a week after my birthday to do that. This time, it was an abrupt return, executed in what felt like a grueling and untimely fashion. But we did it. It went fine. The worst part of it is that her school, like many, lacks any form of air conditioning, so going back in the height of summer posed that problem. Contributing to the overheating, my kid only goes anywhere wearing a large zippered hoodie, no matter if it’s -10 or 100 degrees. Usually in the winter I can convince her to put another hoodie on over it to keep her warm. In the scorching heat of summer, she still refuses to take it off. So it was physically uncomfortable for her, and emotionally uncomfortable for our family in general.

Anyhow, I had spent most of July house-sitting for my brother, who went to China on a whim with a woman he met while divorcing his second wife. The plan had been for him to go along to chaperone a 10-year-old boy who is a family friend of this woman. Her mom owns and operates a Chinese/sushi restaurant near my house that he frequents. That is how he got involved.

The woman had been visiting her friend the restaurant owner and was returning to China. The restaurant owner intended for her son to go along, but then needed someone to accompany him to travel back to the US after a three-week stay. So they asked my brother. Later, the son decided not to go along, which changed the dynamic.

Anyway, I was staying at his house to take care of his cats. It wasn’t an easy stay, as he had requested that his estranged wife come collect her things while he was out of the country. He viewed this an an amicable arrangement, trusting her to not take things that weren’t more hers than his, but really it was more so that they wouldn’t have to see each other.

Sounds fine, but the way that played out was that I would leave during the day after staying the night, to make way for her to move her stuff out. Most of her things were packed into the downstairs front room of the duplex they own. I was staying upstairs, but there was more to be sorted and taken from the attic loft, so if I were there she’d be in and out. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to see her either. My role in all this was to take care of the cats, at least until the last day of my stay when she also took the remaining cats with her.

I say “remaining” cats because during my stay the elderly black cat, Doc, took a turn for the worse and ended up being put down. I felt death approach too, in the form of a foreboding visitor that came to me in a dream, making me kneel on the kitchen floor in the same spot where I’d find Doc a few days later, fading fast and howling for help. But I don’t want to think of that unpleasantness too much.

While eating breakfast on the balcony one of the days I was staying there, I bit down onto a bite of leftover curry rice and felt the left side of my face swell up. I knew what this was, because I’d been through it before, about a year and a half prior, on New Year’s Eve leading into 2016. At that time, it was a piece of cold Wong’s Wok friend chicken I bit into, and felt the same tension immediately. It turned out to be a blocked salivary gland. The parotid gland, which stretches behind and just under my left ear. When it gets blocked, that side of my face swells up because the spit can’t flow from the gland through the ducts that lead to my mouth. It feels like someone hit me with a baseball bat, without the external strike.

The cure for parotid gland blockage is to suck on hard candies to try to get as much flow as possible, to unclog the duct. Doesn’t sound that bad, but I spent the first week of 2016 eating nothing but Christmas clearance Xreme Sour Airheads candy canes and globby Lemon Drops, and if I never had to eat either one again in my life, that would be just fine. The other intervention is to take a course of antibiotics, because when something’s damming up the saliva flow through your face, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll end up with an infection.

So when this happened to me again in July, I started on sour candies, and got in to see my ENT as soon as I could. He has been hesitant to advise a more aggressive approach, because that would mean removal of the parotid gland and possibly partial facial paralysis. Yeah, I don’t want that. But he did think that since this wasn’t just a one-off deal that I ought to get a CT scan to see what’s going on. I’ll cut to the results of that and say that after the scan was done, the report back was that everything was totally fine. I just have a wonky spit gland that is tender and sore and makes my face swell up sometimes. It’s not cancer, that’s good.

It was supposed to be about a week before I heard the results from that test, but I ended up hearing from that doctor later the same day and the since the results were already in, he shared them with me, and said to cancel the follow-up appointment I had made for the next week. He had called me that afternoon because the ER paged him to let him know that I’d had an unexpected but serious reaction to the contrast dye.

Yep, turns out I’m allergic to IV iodine. Who know? The scan itself went fine, drug dripping in a good way, in fact. I went from feeling numb and tingly and cold to warm and like I’d pissed myself (the technician warned me of that, and assured me it hadn’t really happened, but just felt that way.) Quite the Willy Wonka adventure of licking the metaphorical wallpaper meal, but in IV form, under controlled conditions. I actually liked it.

After the scan, I realized I was feeling wonky. The tech said that’s totally normal and I should just sit for a while and get up when I felt like my head was less fuzzy, so I did that. During that wait, I had a terrible itch on my right temple. Scratched it and though, wow, how strange that a mosquito got me while I was getting a CT scan done. But I guess you can’t keep them out of anywhere in summer.

I realized soon that I was itching on my left hip, then on the other side of my face. And I started to suspect something was going on. The tech was gone, so I left the room and stopped in a bathroom down the hall. I could literally see hives appear on my face as I looked in the mirror. So I went back to the admissions desk and let them know that I thought I might be reacting to something. The woman went pale, and called for help immediately. A minute later, I was in the ER.

(To Be Continued…)

Exes and Ohs

It’s been too long since I wrote anything here so I thought I ought to. We’ve had a good summer, with one slight hiccup. Busy though. I spent most of July house sitting then it was back to school for my little one, and school started a few weeks early this year because the district changed things up.

Anyhow, some highlights include rummage sales and HAM fests, summer solstice at a homestead run by nuns, several poetry/music shows and Creative Mornings, and even a visit to a goat farm.

Dah’s expansive backyard yielded delicious mulberries in June and recently transitioned into pears and apples.

I also had a birthday, for which I baked a series of incredible desserts in a Japanese toaster oven I acquired in the days leading up to my birthday with my 25% off Goodwill birthday coupon. It’s got a US plug but is based on Celsius. I’ve been cooking with it a lot, mostly cakes and pizzas.

My enthusiasm for Toasty-chan, as my toaster oven is now known, must be contagious, because now Dah has bought a Toastmaster toaster oven for himself (his is in Fahrenheit) which, he explained, so far he has used to make something like a tomato pie.

On my birthday, Dah surprised me with the most extensive vintage kitchen appliance kit, made by Oster. It’s got a hopped up blender base that also converts to a food processor, stand mixer, and even a meat grinder if I want to try that!

After meeting at my house, we went out to yard sales and a nice walk by the Lake, sharing a cheeseburger at the snack pavilion.

All this month, I’ve been making use of various free birthday meal deals from an impressive list of rewards clubs I belong to. I signed up for these a few years ago, and at the end of July they start rolling in. Also, Panera has rewarded me with a free bagel each day, so I’ve been planning my life around that.

Coming up, Dah and I will be taking a vacation to Muskegon, MI on the high speed ferry. I took this voyage alone last year and am looking forward to doing it together this time.

I mentioned a hiccup – there was a point where there was some weirdness over the do’s and don’ts of meeting exes. I won’t get too far into it here, just to say I’m glad we talked through it and now we’re cool. I’m obviously more uncomfortable with these things and now he knows that. Oh so grateful to be with someone who is so smart and kind and attentive and capable of listening and working things out.

The last thing I’ll mention is that at the last radio meetup we went to last Saturday, after never winning anything before, both Dah and I won a door prize! We were not present to win, as the group had moved on to a restaurant for dinner and we chose not to join them. At first report, we thought I had won a Yaesu radio or some sort of accessory for one. The word “coaster” came up. Turned out it was more like a drink coaster with Yaesu printed on it. After further inspection, we realized it’s probably a cord keeper, with Velcro that makes it into a roll. I figure I can use it as a cozie for my insulin pen. Dah won a big heavy book that’s a guide to short wave raid that’s even autographed. I picked up our prizes from the hosts of the get-together, who live near me, since I had forgotten my water bottle at their house. They we’re glad to not have to shop that book.

– Dit

After the Party

Me: I want to wash my face as soon as I get home. I wore makeup tonight because I’m hiding a huge zit that’s healing on my cheek. So I’ll be going from Princess Me back to Ogre Me. You’ve been warned.

Him, chuckling: Well, personally I find the Ogre much more interesting.

– Dit

Broken

Dah checked out my gear shift tonight. “I’ve never heard of something like this happening and couldn’t imagine it from what you described, but it exactly like you said. It’s broken.”

Yep, I broke the car. I’ve had cars break down before, but not just break like this did. I’ve totalled cars, driven them to shit, scraped, dinged, dented. But this one is, simply put, just broken. 

I tried to shift it into reverse to parallel park it behind my other car – fortunate enough a location for a car to break down of identity going to – and something in the gear shift snapped and wouldn’t engage in changing gears for me anymore. Broken.

My mom was in the front yard trimming the bushes, so when I knew I needed help, I asked her to go get the neighbor. She and Carl pushed the car to the curb while I steered.

Luckily, where I live there are no nighttime parking restrictions until winter. So it’s going to sit there a while I. I’m not sure whether to get it fixed, or junk it, it what. So broken.

Like a shoe where the sole’s come completely unglued, like a zipper that’s lost it’s essential mechanism. Dammit

Broken.

– Dit

P.S. In better news, Dah picked me up at 6am and we spent the day trekking to the Lyons Ham Radio swap meet and hitting many rummage sales and thrift stores in between. It was a day of many free donuts. We had salad bar lunch at Gooseberries market and went out for burgers and macadamia nut custard at Kopp’s at sunset. I drove us around for a bit in Frankie, my other car.