A Hemodialysis Guide

**Before I get a dozen messages about how awful sugar is, let me say my mom is not diabetic, she’s not even pre-diabetic. Her pancreas is working great. Her and I are more likely to suffer bouts of low blood sugar than high, but neither of us have it bad enough to be considered hypoglycemic either.

The dialysis clinic where my mom does her treatment three times a week gave me a book titled “A Caregiver’s Guide To Hemodialysis.” It covers things such as diet and exercise for dialysis patients. Their counselor has also called me twice to see how things at home are going, which is nice. I’m learning I have to meal plan better as well as make more stuff from scratch. For instance, cake mixes often use phosphate preservatives and phosphorous is one of the things we have limit her intake of, but here’s the thing, dialysis doesn’t just remove water and toxins, it can remove protein from the blood and weight loss is a common side effect. To combat this they recommend dialysis patients consume more calories via things like white cakes and fruit pies.

I told the counselor during one of our calls when she mentioned making white cake without a cake mix that I’d learned to bake bread in the last few years and she told me I could bake anything, if I could bake edible bread. I have yet to make a cake from scratch, I don’t think it will be a huge problem, except… I found a recipe for blackberry marble cake in one of the dialysis cookbooks the clinic gave me. Mom and I both love blackberries and it looked very pretty and yummy , so I’ve set my sights on making it Friday. But as I read the end of the recipe I noticed something odd. It said to ice with homemade blackberry frosting, but didn’t have the frosting recipe and wait… I have to make my own frosting? I feel I am competent enough to make a cake from scratch, but frosting, I’m not sure about. This is partly because I don’t like frosting, I scrape it off pieces of cake or cupcakes I eat and put it on the side of my plate. And no, I really do dislike all frosting; I don’t like buttercream frosting, regular frosting, or cream cheese frosting. I will eat glaze and the reason J doesn’t like my cakes is because I will make fancy glazes (I make a cherry rum glaze that is amazing) for them, but I won’t put frosting on them and he doesn’t care for glaze.

Tuesday was Pi day, so I made an apple pie from scratch. I used homemade apple pie filling and made a butter based pie crust. It turned out well, which is something of a miracle because I struggle with pie crust (I have trouble getting it the right consistency).

I successfully made pie crust and I’ve successfully made cinnamon rolls and several types of bread, surely I can manage frosting… Especially for blackberry marble cupcakes…

In writing news, we are still trying to find a new routine in our house (for everything) and I’ve had much less time to write since my mom got sick. Adjusting to having acute and traumatic kidney failure has zapped her energy and she’s lacked the energy during the day to let me sit in my office uninterrupted to write while she takes care of our dogs. I’ve only managed a few thousand words this week as a result and am hopeful I can get a significant amount of time over the weekend to write.

In April, Lola has a biopsy. While my mom was in the hospital at the beginning of the month, I noticed a knot in the muscle of Lola’s right leg (this is the bad hip leg). She was scheduled for her yearly vaccinations the following week and the vet examined it to the best of her ability at that appointment and we scheduled Lola for a biopsy April 18th. If it’s a benign fatty tumor (which is our hope), the biopsy will turn into surgery to remove it, because it is deep in the muscle tissue of Lola’s leg it will prevent her from using that leg if we leave it. If the biopsy reveals it’s cancer, we’re looking at something totally different (and worse) based on it’s location.

Flushing Taxpayer Money Down the Drain

I always thought Republicans were trying to cut down on wasteful government spending, that’s why they oppose Medicaid, SSDI, and even SSI for the elderly. Apparently this is not true of Republicans in Florida who have decided they should waste taxpayer money silencing critics of government officials. I’m not going to discuss the violation of the First Amendment this bill proposes. Instead I want to discuss the costs, because this is going to get expensive fast.

The proposed bill requires bloggers to register with the state of Florida before they can write and publish blog posts about elected government officials in Florida. As of yet, the ambiguous term “blogger” is all that’s used without any criteria. So this could mean bloggers like me as well as professional journalism blogs like Fox News and CNN.

I don’t know how many blogs my readers follow, I follow about thirty and two of them are like mine, mostly about writing, but occasionally stuff about the world pops up. A few weeks ago one of them had a post on Putin’s rise to power in the Soviet Union/Russia that I enjoyed, but the following day the post was about homemade sugar cookies v. commercially produced ones. The point is, as it’s worded now, even my blog would be required to register with the state of Florida, because I might randomly decide to write a post about Florida elected officials taking on Disney.

Registering a blog is going to be like registering anything else; it’s going to generate lots of paperwork, and someone has to review/approve?/file all that paperwork. So now we need staff and lots of it, because there are hundreds of thousands of blogs, some like mine and some dedicated to politics and some just dedicated to news that will need to register with the State of Florida. Not to mention it is going to need to be the job of certain people to read all those thousands of daily blog posts, dedicated readers are now needed in the Office of Blogging Affairs. And because it’s an office and probable a division of state agency, it will need supervisors, managers, peons, and possibly in house legal counsel, because there are going to be a ton of legal issues that immediately spring up.

Also, the task of finding the blog posts can only be partially automated. Google Keyword monitoring is great, but for example if I don’t place tags on this blog post, it’s not going to get noticed by Google despite my using terms such as Florida Elected Officials. Meaning the office will need internet scrubbers who scour the internet looking for blog posts about Florida Elected Officials.

Now, we’ve found a blog post that mentions the Governor of Florida. Someone has to check the registry (this should be simple) to determine if the blog is registered with the state of Florida. If it is, what happens now? I mean several people have spent time scouring for this blog post about the Governor of Florida taking on Disney and it’s a known entity doing the writing, let’s say it’s unfavorable and the blogger clearly supports Disney’s right to autonomy (not unlike Vatican City in Italy)… Okay, what now? What was the point of all of this? Florida can’t fine a blogger for voicing their opinion that Disney has a right to autonomy regardless of how the Florida governor feels about it, so what was the point? The bill says “This will require all bloggers to expose their funding” … Yeah, right. The registered blogger says no one paid for the article and they do not directly earn income from their blog, not even from advertisements.

Florida decides said blogger must be lying. They can nicely ask for bank statements and tax returns, but there’s no way, I would turn over that information just because someone asked for it. The blogger is like me and refuses their request even though they asked nicely and offered to buy them a sundae with a cherry on top. This means the Office of Blogger Affairs has to work with the Florida Attorney General to get a subpoena for the blogger’s financial records and if said blogger lives in Florida that’s fairly easy and uncomplicated. But they don’t, they live in Seattle, Washington. Now, Florida has to submit paperwork to the state of Washington explaining their reasons for waiting said financial paperwork and then wait for Washington to decide whether to accept said paperwork and allow their own agencies to gather that information and give it to Florida.

Here’s the thing, Florida has no jurisdiction over citizens of Washington (or any other state), giving the State of Washington the discretion to serve or not serve said subpoena on one of their citizens; and given the entire basis of the subpoena violates the first amendment and that neither the crime or criminal is wanted for a violent offense, Washington may very well decide Florida has no basis for their subpoena and ignore it completely. Should that happen, the only recourse Florida has is to sue the state of Washington in federal court. However, given the autonomy of states in the US, even if Florida sues in federal court, they are likely to lose and still not gain access to those financial records, what they have done is waste a lot of time and money trying to prove that a 30 year old guy in the State of Washington is a paid subversive because he has an opinion that Florida’s governor is a tyrant.

Thousands, probably more like hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds have been spent trying to prove that Joe Blow in Seattle, Washington who dislikes the Florida governor is paid to dislike him and here’s the thing, he’s probably not. This bill makes me think Republicans only want to save tax dollars from beneficial programs to allow the money to be used to silence critics of the government, which is a constitutional right of every American.

Food Poisoning

The last couple of weeks have been very stressful. Emotionally and physically as we all adjust to a new routine now that my mom is going to dialysis several days a week (we hope to be able to cut back or even stop in the near future as her kidney post-stent is functioning well). As a result, I’ve been forced to eat more drive-thru meals than normal and stress lowers the immune system… Wednesday there was an incident. I dropped mom off at dialysis and came home and began fixing myself lunch and then mom called… twenty minutes into her dialysis appointment “I’m ready to go.” Uh, no… that’s impossible, even on a great day dialysis is a two hour ordeal. You, can’t be ready “ready to go.” So she put on the tech and the she explained they were unable to get any pull from Mom’s port, none, zero, zip, nadda, absolutely nothing. This happens from time to time. The tech is telling me this as I pull my lunch out of the air fryer and set it on the table. Hm… I guess I won’t be able to eat that. I run back into town, knowing that Thursday or Friday, there’s going to be outpatient surgery to fix the port issue. More stress.

I pick mom up and we run through a drive thru for a cheap burger, because it’s almost 1:30 pm and I’ve yet to eat lunch and I’m feeling a little off. I eat as I drive home. Not ideal, but at least my blood sugar and blood pressure will stabilize and I won’t pass out while driving. Get home and the nephrologist calls, they want to do blood work bright and early Thursday morning and the port replacement bright and early Friday morning. Got it.

Fast forward 14 hours… I wake up and it’s 3:36am… and I don’t know why I’m awake. I go check on mom, she’s snoring. Neither dog is moving about. And then I felt my stomach clench… I dash to the bathroom and barely make it over the toilet as my stomach clenches into the tightest ball it can manage. I spend most of the next three hours on my knees in front of the toilet as my stomach is determined to rid itself of everything I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. At 6:30 am, I ask J, who has been dozing for the last three hours because even with the door closed and in another room, he can still hear me throwing up, if he thinks his mom would be willing to run my mom to get blood work done, because there’s no way I can manage and then I head back to the bathroom to expel all the bile that’s built up in the previous ten minutes of my life.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law is willing to take my mom to get bloodwork done. And I spend a few more hours going back and forth between lying in bed and being on my knees in front of the toilet. By 10:30 every muscle in my abdomen aches as does the corresponding muscles in my back and it’s shifted from my stomach to my intestines. By Thursday night, I don’t know whether I hurt more from lying in bed or from being sick, either way I am miserable… The very smell of food sends me rushing back to the bathroom. And by Friday morning, my digestive system had cleaned itself out so well I could have done a colonoscopy with no further prep necessary. But I feel a little better, until I try to eat a plain saltine cracker, which sends me back onto my knees in front of the toilet and then back to bed.

At 2:30 pm on Friday I call my doctor’s office and ask the nurse to call me back. By now, I’m positive I have food poisoning. The nurse calls and we discuss my symptoms and she says “yep, sounds like food poisoning…” But I’m the only one sick, so it had to be that stupid cheeseburger on Wednesday afternoon, because we all ate the same thing for dinner. If the diarrhea and vomiting continue into Sunday I need to go to Urgent Care and make sure it isn’t one of the big, bad forms of food poisoning… Friday afternoon, I’m lying in bed thinking I’m not going to live until Sunday, so that’s okay. She recommends I try drinking vanilla Ensure or Boost, so I have my sister bring me some after she picks up our mom from her port replacement procedure and then dialysis.

Wake up Saturday and I feel a little better and for the first time in days, my stomach growls. I get adventurous and eat about a third of a biscuit and immediately regret it. I keep it down, but I sure feel like I’m not going to. I open a Vanilla Ensure and I get about half of it down… then Lola flips her pan over, this is her sign that she wants food. The smell of even dry dog food is nauseating, but I manage to get both her and Kelly a little food and then I go lay down for a while. But I am feeling better and I’ve made no trips to the bathroom because of my digestive system thankfully.

I keep getting asked “how did you get food poisoning from Place X.” 364 out of 365 days of the year, that cheeseburger does not make me sick. Chances are if J had eaten it, he would not have gotten sick. Wednesday was week 2 of dialysis for my mom, that is stressful. We are all out of our routine, that is stressful. I have an anxiety disorder and tend to internalize stress badly even on good days. Add to it the fact that there was something wrong with Mom’s dialysis port and there’s a little more out of the norm stress. In the previous week, we’d eaten a lot of “on the go meals” as we made trips to the hospital and I was being forced to alter medication taking allowing me to drive and driving is painful, forcing all my internal systems out of whack. Someone asked if I was going to report them to the health department… Probably not. I looked up my city’s health rating system and they consistently make good grades and as I write this on Sunday, I know that part of the food poisoning was my own body’s inability to fight off an infection due to external and internal stress and that had I eaten that burger two days earlier or a week later, it’s unlikely I would have gotten sick.

I do feel better; proving it wasn’t one of the “big, bad ones” such as salmonella, e. coli, or botulism. Besides, to prove food poisoning from a restaurant means going to the doctor and giving samples. I once told my primary care physician if a stool sample was required of me, they’d have to knock me out and go into my intestines and take it. I’m fine with blood and gore, but regular/common bodily excretions, even my own, not so much. I can pee in the cup on demand and I can change a baby’s wet diaper, but I gag thinking about anything besides urine. In the last seven years, I’ve gotten better at dealing with baby spit up, but when my nephews were young, if they spit up and I saw it, I’d have to run for a bathroom because my stomach would empty itself.

The timing of this bout of food poisoning was atrocious. I mean there’s never a good time for it, but I’d just learned the following two days were going to be busy. Mom needed bloodwork done and then there was the port replacement procedure on Friday morning followed by dialysis and I was too sick to deal with either. Also, my sibling was out of town on Thursday which is why we needed to rely on my mother-in-law to take my own mother to dialysis. I am so very thankful she wasn’t busy and was willing. My sister rushed back on Thursday morning so she could take mom to her procedure and then dialysis on Friday.

A stent and life changes

After eight days, the hospital released my mom on Saturday.

Wednesday of last week, the doctors (the nephrologist lobbied for it) put a stent into the arterial branch that feeds blood to my mom’s kidney and within twelve hours it was functioning again. Even the cardiac surgeon was shocked the stent helped, because there was only a tiny occlusion (blockage). However, it did work and she regained partial function in her solitary kidney.

There will still be dialysis with an unknown frequency or duration. Dialysis will help with the physical stress on that kidney. The hope is she will only need dialysis once a week and it could be for several months or the rest of her life.

All this means big changes for the household as we all adjust to my mom’s new limitations.

And Just Like That…

Four hours ago, I sat in an ER waiting room texting my husband a complaint about the fact that there were 2 TVs and both were tuned to WWF Friday Night Smackdown. I was there because I’d taken my mom to urgent care earlier for either a muscle strain or a kidney infection and because mom couldn’t produce urine for their cup to test, they sent her to the ER because it could also be a kidney stone and they were unequipped to deal with a kidney stone.

And so we waited and I watched wrestling while texting my minor annoyances about being in the ER. They triaged my mom and got her back into a room where a nurse informed my mom they would need to insert a catheter. So she’s prepping for the catheter and a doctor rushes into the room “Ms. Mom how long have you been in full renal failure!?” Uh… what the fuck?

No, no, that’s not possible. I talked to a nurse yesterday about her symptoms…. renal failure was not on the list of possible issues…. So let’s back up to Monday.

Mom has a check up with her nephrologist, because she does have one kidney that no longer functions and the remaining one gets monitored fairly closely. Her numbers were high, but they always are because she has hereditary renal disease and there’s minor damage to the remaining kidney. But while elevated, the numbers were not in the “Holy shit, we have an emergency” range they were in the “the remaining kidney is having to work extra hard and you need to make sure we continue to monitor it” range. Tuesday mom begins prep for a colonoscopy on Wednesday. The prep makes her seriously sick; intense vomiting… we call the colonoscopy center and they tell us “Sometimes that happens, go ahead and come in as scheduled on Wednesday morning.” We do. She has the colonoscopy and there’s a polyp where her appendix attaches to the intestines, but it’s been there for the last 2 colonoscopies and it’s not cancerous. The appendix tried to rupture once when she was young and her mom froze it, because that’s what you did back then and there was damage to the appendix and they didn’t remove it. Now they are going to set up with a surgeon to go ahead and remove the appendix and the polyp, just because. Other than that, the colonoscopy is great. She comes home and she’s still sick on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday the center calls to check up on her and I talk to them. I tell her she woke up with some lower back pain on Thursday morning, she’s still nauseous, having trouble eating, and drinking. The nurse tells me the back pain is probably muscle strain from the intense vomiting, it should be better on Friday. Keep her hydrated and try to get her to eat, sometimes the intense laxatives cause illness for several days afterwards, the big thing is keeping her hydrated. I threatened her Thursday, if you don’t start consuming more fluids, I’m going to take you to the ER. She groaned and rolled her eyes at me. But really, this is not an emergency, it’s not even urgent considering I’ve talked to the nurse and she says this happens and it could last three to four days.

Friday morning, the back pain isn’t getting better and she’s starting to complain the muscle is spasming. Okay, a pulled muscle will spasm on occasion. The day wears on… she’s not feeling better, the spams are becoming more frequent. I tell her “I think you should go to urgent care, maybe they can do something for your back if nothing else.” At which point she also tells me she’s having some trouble urinating, she feels like she needs to pee, but she only dribbles when she tries.” Well, that sounds like a UTI, you haven’t been complaining enough for a kidney infection or stone. “Yep. Let’s go to urgent care and get you looked at. Most likely, you’ll get some antibiotics and some extra bed rest, but it will ease all our minds to double check.” And we went from there to a doctor rushing in to tell us she was in full renal failure in the space of six hours.

All I can think is “holy fuck”… Her number was 1.5 on Monday, high but definitely not at failure level and now it’s 11.7. What the…. I should have been more insistent Thursday that she go to urgent care… Except, I get my stubbornness from my mom. Unless I tied her up and had J carry her to the car and strap her in, she wouldn’t have gone on Thursday. I keep thinking, I knew something was wrong… I didn’t know what and my mind actually wasn’t on her kidneys… but I was sure there was something amiss beyond just a reaction to the laxative. I read an article recently about vomiting rupturing aortic aneurysms and my mom has one in her lower abdomen. I thought a couple of times, maybe she’s so tired because it’s leaking. I kept asking her is there any tenderness in your abdomen? Any feeling of increased pressure in that area? She told me no every time… apparently what I should have asked is “are you completely emptying your bladder every time you urinate?”

On Tuesday as she was doing prep for the colonoscopy she joked she wasn’t going to survive it. And holy fuck…

The majority of the test results won’t come back until tomorrow (Saturday), but no one seemed to think she was in immediate danger. They were admitting her to the hospital and talking about the possibility that they may have to do emergency dialysis and I’ve known people who lived decades on dialysis… that’s when she kicked me out. She told me to go home because if I left, they would turn out the light over her bed in the ER cubby and she could get a little sleep. I debated going into the waiting room and staying. But the nurse told me there was nothing I could do there and they were just waiting on a room for her upstairs. And my mom is a mom. With me there, she was worrying about me because I’d driven her to urgent care and then the ER, so I wasn’t taking my medication and was forced to sit in uncomfortable chairs. She’d already asked me three times about my pain levels. I decided it would probably be easier for her if I went home. But holy fuck…

Now I’m home and stress wired. I’m tired, but I also feel wide awake.

The Recipe Blog

A few weeks ago, my best friend was watching a TV show in which cinnamon pie was mentioned. She texted me to see if I’d heard of it… I had not, but it’s cinnamon and pie, so I can definitely see myself enjoying it. I went looking for a recipe… Seven recipes later I’d learned there were two versions of cinnamon pie and I’d remembered how much I despise recipe blogs.

The initial recipe I picked, I loaded up and hit print and my printer informed me the recipe was 17 pages long, because apparently that particular blogger had not made it possible to remove the extremely long story about how they were introduced to cinnamon pie via their ex-husband’s great aunt on his mother’s side twice removed who got it from her mother’s nanny, who got it from a Hessian soldier during the Revolutionary War or something absurd like that.

Since I refused to print that story along with the recipe, I went looking for another one. Cinnamon Pie as I mentioned, seems to have two versions; one is a meringue style and the other is more like cheesecake. I’m not a huge meringue fan, so I went looking for the more cheesecake-like cinnamon pie. I found a second recipe and at the very top, above the long story about their life experience with cinnamon pie and dog walkers who swap recipes or whatever was a button that allowed me to “jump to the recipe.” And because I couldn’t care less about her insights on cinnamon pie or the story of her introduction to the delectable pie, I hit the button.

There it was, the recipe, gleaming at me from the screen as if it were the Holy Grail! Print! Recipe printed on actual paper, I hit print a second time, because if I enjoy cinnamon pie, I’m going to make it again and I don’t want to skim through three dozen recipe blogs looking for it, so the second time I saved it as a PDF. Yay!

I don’t know why all recipe blogs do not create that handy little button of skip to recipe, but it should be mandatory. I’m sure some people want all that backstory about the blogger and the recipe, but I’m not one of them. And since I’m an avid cooker, I reference a large number of recipe blogs. However, I only bookmark or save recipes from Bloggers who do not force their life story on me before I can get to the recipe.

There is another type of blogger in this forcing their life story on me that is even more annoying. I found a crockpot recipe last fall and thought “Yes, I need to try that!” I began the scrolling to find the actual recipe within the story and found it… or thought I had. I had an ingredients list at any rate… No print button though next to the ingredient list, so I scrolled down a little more and started reading… a story about potato varieties…. four paragraphs of information about potato varieties… four paragraphs I didn’t need. After the lecture on potatoes, I found the directions. But no print button. Uh, without a print button, I have to print the entire post, including the lecture on potatoes that I don’t want. After several minutes, I passed on the recipe and went to find something else.

It worked out because the other potato recipe I found I loved. It printed without the story, but wasn’t formatted very well, so it turned out to be three pages because part of page two was a three inch block of white space…. but at least I didn’t have to wade through the story to get to the recipe.

I know plenty of people love the story behind the recipe. I’m just not one of them, so giving me the option to skip it, increases the chances I’m going to use the recipe. One recipe blogger I found also has an Etsy store associated with it where they sell bundles of digital recipes formatted to fit on recipe cards that can be printed using Avery Recipe Cards. I dislike recipe cards almost as much as the stories behind the recipes, so that doesn’t help me… if they ever decide to format them for full page printing and sell those as bundles, I would be okay paying a dollar for 25 potato recipes. And part of this is because as I type this, I can’t think of even fifteen ways I fix potatoes, this bundle has the potential to increase my potato recipe knowledge as a result (also I don’t like potatoes much, which is why I can’t think of more than fifteen ways to fix potatoes at this moment: fries, chips, tator tots, mashed, au gratin, scalloped, baked, and I’m out… so not even ten recipes come to me…). I have looked through all their bundles of recipes though, because you never know… maybe they have 25 ways to cook brussels sprouts for a dollar… I love brussels sprouts, but they are easy to screw up, so I only have a few recipes I use and I don’t look for recipes outside my comfort zone with them. But for well formatted recipes, it would be worth a dollar. They did not offer any brussels sprout recipes though that I could find.

And that “well formatted” label is another issue with recipe blogs. Even the blogs that allow you to jump to the recipe or print it without the story, doesn’t always have a well formatted printable recipe. I needed a green bean casserole recipe for Thanksgiving this year, I don’t like cream of anything soup, especially not cream of mushroom, but the niece wanted green bean casserole instead of my standard garlic, onion green beans. I found one and hit print… Thank goodness for print preview. The ingredients printed on one page (there were a lot, plus a picture). Yay! The directions, well, that was another story, each step printed on it’s own page. Even the line “preheat oven to 350 degrees” printed alone on a page. What?! No. that can’t be correct. There are ten steps to this recipe. I’m not printing eleven pages to get a green bean casserole recipe. I went looking for one that was similar and found it… two pages, that I will print. I printed. It looked fine on print preview and it was just 2 pages, so one sheet of paper (front and back)… woohoo! Print!! Uh… what!? It printed in landscape. What? No. I must have done something wrong. I pulled print preview back up. Nope, it is written so that the default printing style is landscape? That’s just weird. My niece liked the casserole, I thought it was nasty. She wanted the recipe, I sent her the link and warned her if she was going to print it, she might want to change it to portrait for aesthetic reasons. She did. It cut off lines. Why? If I decide to keep this recipe in a binder, I’m going to have to rewrite it, so that it will print portrait like most standard freaking cookbooks. I did not want to keep the recipe, so I have not rewritten to put it into a recipe binder in the correct direction.

I know the concept of “well formatted” seems trivial, but it matters. There is a standard way to read a recipe and when it’s not in the standard format, it makes it more difficult. I once printed off a recipe to find that the printed version had the ingredients list last… and it was a “table” that didn’t fit in the space provided so the measurements were on their own page. WTH? “Whisk flour, milk, and softened butter in a large bowl.” Absolutely, I can do that… wait, how much of each? Oh, it’s on the last page? Fine. This is box six on this page, so it lines up with box six on the next page, correct? Wait, it wants me to add 4 cups of eggs? How many eggs is in a cup, let alone 4 cups? Or are they estimating each egg is one cup? And that brings me to my final pet peeve about recipe blogs.

I’m fine with European measurements. Add six grams of bacon or 275 milliliters of white wine. But sometimes, it seems people just randomly make up measurements for their recipes. I had a recipe once that called for 2 cups of eggs. Uh, so I’m measuring out the eggs to get two cups, since that’s abnormal phrasing for measuring eggs, is it the entire egg or just two cups of egg whites or two cups of egg yolks. Or hell, maybe I’m supposed to use the pourable eggs? It doesn’t say that on the ingredient list, it says 2 cups of eggs, not pourable eggs, not egg whites, not egg yolks. Is there a difference between eggs in the shells and pourable eggs that is going to affect the finished recipe? Now, I’m confused. Yep, I’m not making this recipe.

Bam! Just Like That….

I’ve been struggling to write D&R because I couldn’t get in the head of the last three killers I created. As a result, it would take hours to write a single paragraph and the book just wasn’t moving along. I scrapped two of those three killers and put the book ideas on “in progress but waiting” status.

One night last week, I was lying in bed playing a game on my phone and listening to an audiobook called Quackery by Lydia Kang. The book is non-fiction history of medicine (it’s very good, I highly recommend if you like history). I was not thinking about D&R at all. As a matter of fact, I’d spent the day writing on NN7… Anyway I swapped two gems in the game to make a powerup and bam; there it was….

At 12:27 am, I got out of bed and returned to my office; booted the laptop because just like that, I was in the head of the killer. I wrote until 1:39 am… and I’d written 3,083 words in that hour and I had the first killer chapter plus some of the first Marshals chapter plus an outline of what I needed to write the next morning.

The following day I added another 8,000 words; it’s moving right along now.

Reactionary Laws

A Missouri legislator has decided cross dressing is inherently sexual and created a bill placing restrictions on cross dressing and drag shows in Missouri. I was discussing this with a friend, because frankly I was mystified, by the proposed bill and she told me there was another state trying to get a similar bill passed and that based on the wording letting a child watch the Disney movies of Mulan would be a crime, because Mulan dresses up and pretends to be a boy in it.

Uh, what? I loved Mulan. My nephews loved Mulan. My niece loved Mulan. At that point I decided to find the proposed bill going through the political mechanism in Missouri and I have serious concerns. This bill is in reaction to an event held on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia in January. In celebration of MLK Day, Columbia Public Schools and their students participated in a “celebration of diversity” event on the MU campus and there were drag queens at the breakfast. And apparently some people were pissed that their children were exposed to drag queens (I guess RuPaul is definitely not allowed to be watched in their house or the movie Hairspray {I loved John Travolta in that movie})

Anyway the law is very vague. We have a bar in Columbia that is known for their amazing drag shows, that bar would have to register with the state of Missouri as a sex club, meaning because men dress up as women and parade themselves around, it would need the same licensing as a strip club. I have issues with that, because a man in drag is not the same as a nude woman accepting tips from customers who like seeing women with pasties over their nipples (the women in the strip clubs in my town are not allowed to be nude, they must cover their nipples and interior downstairs lady bits – meaning strippers where I live are just very skimpily dressed dancers – surprisingly we still have 2 strip clubs in my town).

Furthermore after reading the law, I have some questions about it’s scope. By my reading, if you are a man who dresses as a women and goes out in public, say shopping, you can be arrested and/or fined. Parents who expose their children to cross dressing through videos or activities can also be arrested. Wait… does this mean as a woman, I am no longer allowed to wear jeans and slacks in public since they are traditionally male attire? On occasion, I have been known to wear my husband’s shirts which is, cross dressing by definition, could I be fined if I forget I’m wearing it and go grocery shopping? Or if he gives me his coat because I’m cold and he’s not and I didn’t bring my coat? Also, if Jude the Great Nephew and Kilian the great Nephew want to watch Mulan while they are at my house and I allow it and they tell someone they’ve seen it, can I be arrested for child abuse or endangering the welfare of a child or hell, would it count as sexual abuse of a child since cross dressing is inherently sexual?

The laws being introduced are meant to “protect children” from something… I’m not sure what they need protecting from that makes men in women’s clothes illegal and so am giving it the term gender bending for the rest of this post… so we are enacting these laws to protect children from gender bending (like it’s the 1850s all over again), but there are far reaching implications. As a woman, who likes to wear T-shirts and jeans, clothing I consider gender neutral, am I at risk of breaking the law because not everyone feels that jeans and T-shirt are appropriate attire for women? And before you think I’m being ridiculous, but at the end of 2022, this legislature passed a LAW defining appropriate attire for female legislators.

Okay, so in order to protect children from gender bending, the government is going to tell people what they can and cannot wear? The wording is “dressing in clothing of the opposite gender and going into public.” I have some flannels that belonged to my father and my father-in-law, that I wear often… sometimes I wear them as a jacket and sometimes I wear them as a shirt, that is an obvious case of “dressing as the opposite gender and going into public” especially since I am coupling them with jeans and because of my hip issue, boots. Now, I wear a size 6 1/2 in women’s shoes/boots, so I am not buying and wearing men’s boots…. but I have been known to buy men’s jeans for myself, because they have a slightly different cut than women’s. I need to know, if this law passes, will I be fined or arrested for inappropriate dress if I go out in public in a flannel shirt, jeans, and boots? Or does this law specifically target men who dress “inappropriately”? I know a few dart players who buy women’s jeans, because they prefer the cut of them. Will that become gender inappropriate attire for a man in public?

Also, what is the enforcement plan for this? The I-70 corridor through Missouri is known as a popular route for trafficking illegal guns, drugs, and people, it’s a contributing factor to why my town struggles with such a high crime rate. Should we pull law enforcement off patrolling I-70 so they can wander around shopping centers handing out tickets to people who fail to meet gender appropriate attire restrictions? Or is it going to be a citizen call in thing? Imagine the fun when citizens are calling 911 to report things such as a man wearing a woman’s shirt in Dillard’s (I use this because I once saw a man in a midriff cut off blouse in Dillard’s, he was shopping with a girl I suspected was his teenaged daughter – it was the 1990s and I think he might have been trying to make a point, because their shirts matched). My town already lacks the ability to handle crime (this is a totally separate blog post though), adding this to the list of laws to enforce creates issues.

See the first news report I read on this proposed legislation made it sound as if it were specifically targeting bars that held drag shows, but no bill is that simplistic. This was not an exception, it does target bars that hold drag shows, but it doesn’t end there and encompasses all gender inappropriate dress… but that is such a vague statement. To me, it sounds as if Dillard’s could be fined for allowing people to buy gender inappropriate dress…. Is the state of Missouri going to start pursuing criminal cases against establishments such as Amazon, Dillard’s, and Walmart for allowing men to buy women’s clothing and vice versa? Also, we literally just approved legalized recreational marijuana, so if you are over 21 you can go buy a half pound of pot, and if you are a parent you can smoke it in your house where your minor children live, but you cannot cross dress. One of those things is more damaging to the development of mental function in minors than the other… The thing is, I don’t care about legal marijuana. I voted in support of it. I think of it no differently than alcohol consumption, but in the real world, exposing children to a contact high is far worse than exposing them to Mulan or a dad who likes to wear dresses. Also, I need my local police to focus on real problems like the high murder rate (we are averaging 2 murders a month in a town of 150,000 people – that gives us a higher murder rate per capita than the three larger cities in Missouri) and massive amounts of fentanyl laced meth amphetamines in town than a guy who is wearing women’s skinny jeans or a woman wearing a men’s flannel shirt or the club south of town who hosts a drag show every weekend… Oh and guess what, that club south of town with the drag shows does not experience even a fraction of the crime as the clubs in downtown who experience near monthly shootings inside or directly outside of them.

Homemade Body Butter and Dry Skin

I’ve mentioned before that I have seriously intense dry skin. It is so extreme that I go through several bottles/jars of lotion a month and I still scratch my skin in my sleep until it bleeds. Last week, I decided to try something different. I’ve been doing the barrels of lotion thing for years without relief. I think I’ve tried every brand on the market and even tried prescription lotions. Someone last year suggested I try body butter. I’d never heard of that so I began investigating it. From what I could tell body butter was just thicker lotion with an outrageous price tag. Then I started searching for all natural body butter brands… and wow, the all natural body butters are not just thicker lotion, they are thickened oils such as shea, mango, avocado, and cocoa. I bit the bullet and tried one that was shea butter based and $24 for 5 ounces.

Five ounces won’t do my entire body and I need it from the ears to the tips of my toes. It did give some relief to the shoulders which is all the 5 ounces covered. I read the ingredients and it was shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado butter, beeswax, and a few other things that acted as emulsifiers, preservatives, and thickeners, plus a fragrance oil. Wait, really? I paid $24 for this? I can make this and it will only cost me about ten cents an ounce. Over the weekend, I decided to make some using shea butter, avocado oil, grape seed oil, olive oil, beeswax, a touch of coconut oil, and my own fun essential oils (for scent), plus aloe and vitamin E. I had a little trouble getting it to its (semi) solid state, which is why I added about two tablespoons of coconut oil. But Saturday night, it was a solid and I was able to put it in jars.

Sunday afternoon, I needed a shower which I dread especially during the winter. When I got out, I tried out my new body butter. It was a bit greasier than the commercial product (but not as greasy as just rubbing straight oil on my skin – which I have done before), but it did melt to oil with body heat, and I was able to slather my entire body in it. I applied generously and waited. Lotion dries faster, which I knew and expected, but I wasn’t so greasy and oily that I couldn’t get dressed. I dressed and waited. Usually a few minutes after the lotion dries, I start to have dry skin itches all over. A half hour passed and I still didn’t itch. I didn’t itch at all Sunday evening.

Then came the real test: overnight. I can’t count the number of times I’ve awoken the morning after a shower with either long red scratch marks on my leg or worse, blood on my sheets (from my toenails gouging furrows in my legs). When I awoke Monday morning I had no new scratches. My legs were not irritated or red and it didn’t appear I had scratched my legs at all in my sleep. Wow. I don’t think that has ever happened during the winter. Now, as I write this, I’ve got a dry skin itch in the middle of my back, but it’s been 18 hours or so since I applied my homemade body butter.

I’m going to create a page on my blog with the recipe so that all my fellow dry skin sufferers can have the recipe, because I am seriously impressed with how well it has worked. And it is super easy to make. Also, I bought my avocado, grape seed, extra virgin olive oil, and organic coconut oil at Aldi’s, making them super cheap (the avocado oil was 50% less at Aldi’s than Kroger and 75% cheaper than at HyVee and Moser’s). The bottles I bought of these (16 ounces each) will make at least 4 batches of this body butter (I made a double batch that turned out to be a quadruple batch because I can’t do math).

The War on Drugs An Unusual Opinion

This blog post will be controversial. Some will immediately be angered and consider me a moron. Some will be triggered as they bare scars from our war on drugs. However, my opinion has been formed in stages over the course of my life and is based on both my historical knowledge and my personal experiences. My purpose in sharing this opinion is to stimulate thought in those that read it.

The ancient Egyptians recommended used opium to dull the senses before surgery and afterwards to ease pain as far back as 3000BCE. Pliny the Elder in Greece cautioned about overuse of opium a few thousand years later because it had an addictive quality. In South America tribes people were cultivating the coca plant for the medicinal stimulative effect of chewing coca leaves about 500 years after Pliny and by the time the Incan Empire rose in Peru the coca plant was in regular use by members of the Empire and we’ve ignored the fact that Spanish Conquistadors took back barrels of coca leaves as well as gold when they sailed back home. In Central America and North America the native empires of the Aztecs and Apache were using peyote for its medicinal properties as well as religious rituals and on the east coast of North America the native shamans used marijuana as medicine.

The point is, as long as human beings have had civilizations, they have used drugs. Naturally occurring drugs such as opium, cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol have long and storied histories. And we’ve known about addiction. The ancient Egyptians understood that opium use led to opium addiction. Incans knew the stimulative high derived from chewing coca (this is the root of cocaine) was addictive. The Mohawk understood the difference between physical addiction and mental addiction and limited the use of both marijuana and tobacco because of it.

Now, 3000 years after a Greek physician wrote about withdraw in opium eaters and smokers, we are still struggling with drugs. We also have problems he never dreamed would exist. He couldn’t have predicted organized crime syndicates would murder tens of thousands of people a year to protect their crops, shipments, and profits.

About a decade ago, I began to think the war on drugs was backwards. We’ve been fighting it since the 1980s when the US government instituted D.A.R.E. programs across the nation in elementary schools. I am still in contact with the police officer who served as my DARE officer (1987-1989). The more restrictive society and government becomes with drugs the more overdoses and addicts we have. According to the CDC 140,000 people a year die in the US as a result of alcohol use (these are suicides, diseases related to alcohol abuse such as cirrhosis, cancer, overdose, and accidents caused by over consumption). Yet, we have not banned alcohol sale and consumption in the US because we know what a disaster that is.

The Temperance Movement began in the early 1800s and culminated in triumph when the Volstead Act was passed by congress in 1919. January 17, 1920 the 18th Amendment banning the manufacturing, sale, and consumption of alcohol in the US went into effect. This directly led to the rise of the gangster, organized crime, illegal moonshine, and later, the creation of the drug cartels in Central and South America. Prohibition didn’t just outlaw alcohol, it would eventually outlaw cocaine (and force Coca-Cola to change it’s recipe), peyote, and marijuana in the US and limited the sale, manufacturing, and consumption of opium derivatives to medicinal only. When the 18th amendment was repealed in the 1930s, only the alcohol prohibition portion was repealed leaving the above mentioned drugs illegal.

What we discovered during the 1920s was that making something illegal didn’t limit its consumption. It increased it! Even as moonshine killed drinkers with poisons such as wood grain alcohol, people continued to drink it and its usage skyrocketed, as did alcoholism. Unfortunately, statistics on addiction to drugs were not reported and we don’t know the number of people addicted to things like cocaine and Laudanum (a concoction made of opium and alcohol), but most historians believe the number of opium and cocaine users increased alongside the increase of alcohol consumption.

We do know that in the 1950s and 1960s the demand for cocaine increased, giving rise to the first “drug cartel” which began trafficking in cocaine in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Amphetamines, a stimulant, available over the counter in the US were in high demand from 1920-1959 and they were not being used by the poor but by the middle class and use was dominated by women. They provided “extra energy” to ensure a woman could work all day, come home clean, take care of the children, make dinner for the husband, and still have the energy for any sexual demands after the lights went out. But cocaine provided more of a boost (this was true until the creation of meth amphetamine). The use of stimulants led to an increase in the use of cocaine, nature’s most potent stimulant.

Yet we have documented evidence that servants in the 1700s and 1800s were using cocaine in the Americas and Europe to assist with job performance. Cocaine was also a favorite among the creative types during this time and many of the centuries most prolific writers were also avid cocaine users, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde might be a fictionalized account of cocaine use with Hyde representing the cocaine addict) and most people did not consider cocaine use to be a problem. They even knew cocaine was addictive and still didn’t consider it an issue. Today, we all know cocaine has nasty side effects, but it’s still used and we know making it illegal didn’t curb its use.

That is really the point. Until a drug becomes illegal use and abuse is moderate. There will always be people who want to use cocaine, opium, or marijuana, it has been a historical fact. But rampant out of control use has always been tempered in the past and not by its status as an illegal or illicit drug, but by the societal repercussions of their abuse.

It’s time to strike down the remainder of the 18th amendment and go back to legalized drugs. Let’s put cocaine back in Coca-Cola and put Laudanum back on the shelves of our pharmacies, because cartels and illegal drug use is killing more people than legalized drug use ever did. Fentanyl overdoses continue to rise and it almost never turns out to be Fentanyl the person is abusing when they overdose; it’s cocaine or meth or scarily marijuana that’s been laced with Fentanyl for some reason.

Also, we should leave drug sales as a competitive business: let Bayer and Merck price battle over the cost of a bottle of cocaine infused water (or bring back the Original Coca-Cola, so that Bayer and Merck can battle the powerhouse of Coca-Cola over the price of their cocaine infused concoctions).

“HJ, think of the crime wave! Look at how much crime is fueled by drug addiction now.” I am thinking of drug related crime. If Bayer, Merck, and Coca-Cola are trying to underprice each other, cocaine becomes affordable, sex work to feed a $200 cocaine a day cocaine addiction is no longer necessary as $20 might buy a 12 pack of cocaine infused Coca-Cola. Neither are burglaries or hold-ups or car thefts. Also, the drug cartels lose the market for their blood drenched Fentanyl-laced cocaine. Drug dealers and gangs no longer need to battle over turf to sell the cartels’ cocaine. We could decrease meth use by reinstating milder amphetamines to the pharmacy counter and the era of the skinny housewife with the energy to do it all can return (amphetamine use is also not mentioned in the idealized 1950s when every woman was a housewife who stayed home and took care of the children and her husband fantasy that people harken us to return to… but it was rampant).

“HJ legalizing marijuana hasn’t stopped black market pot.” This is true and it’s because marijuana growth and sales are not competitive businesses. Government regulations prevent competitive marijuana business practices. Brand X is not competing with Brand Y for customers, driving up prices and there might be a bit of price fixing going on as well. A “dime bag” at a dispensary is going to cost you way more than $10 and that is an issue. Prescription drugs are treated the same way in the US and that’s why our prescription drug prices are outrageous – Yes, Bayer and Merck both make insulin, but your pharmacy decides which brand to use, so Merck and Bayer only need to seduce your pharmacy CEO or insurance company to get their products sold and do not need to directly compete with each other over the price of their medications.

The next argument against legalized drugs is the idea that addiction rates would soar. There was not a significant increase in alcoholics after the repeal of the Volstead Act. Many who argued against the repeal swore there would be a huge surge in alcohol addiction after the repeal. There wasn’t. In fact the opposite happened. Binge drinking at speakeasies and private parties dropped because alcohol was again legal and the mental aspect of knowing one could go back to having a few beers while watching the baseball game in one’s own home supplanted the need to over indulge during the one night a week someone could get out of the house for the sole purpose of getting drunk. I suspect responsible use of newly legalized drugs would eventually supplant the over-indulgence “abuse it while you can” mindset. Also, we know that making something illegal makes it more interesting. With the taboo of cocaine use gone, fewer teens and young adults would try it leading to lower addiction rates. We can also combat this by teaching people to understand their bodies. I have severe anxiety. Caffeine is the only stimulant I’ve ever been willing to try. I have never once thought I’d like to try cocaine – not because it’s illegal but because I imagine it would be hell on my anxiety. My resting heart rate is in the 90 beats per minute range even on wonderful days (we don’t know why my resting heart rate is so high, it’s been that way for as long as I can remember and a heart stress test showed it took serious exertion to raise it above 110, so I guess that’s good), cocaine would shoot it into the 140 beats per minute range I suspect, and that would be bad. Because I know my body, I know cocaine, meth amphetamines, and even mild amphetamines would be hard on me, so I’ve never considered trying them. This leads to the final argument against in a weird way as we move towards responsible drug use.

What about all the accidents: unfortunately, there have always been people who fail to use drugs and alcohol responsibly, not because of addiction but because of over confidence. I’m not a huge drinker, never have been, because I don’t like the sensation of being drunk. Having said that, I’ve been drunk more than once, which is how I know I don’t like the sensation. Not one of the two dozen times I’ve been drunk, have I driven a car, because I knew I couldn’t operate a motor vehicle safely. These days; I don’t drive as a general rule for two reasons. The first is that I find driving painful, however if that was the entire issue, I’d still do things like drive to the store when I desperately need something instead of waiting on J or my mom to get motivated to go. But… I take opioid pain medication for the daily pain in my hip and I won’t drive on them because it causes impairment. This makes me a responsible drug user. Unfortunately, there will always be impaired drivers, because most of us are over confident in our driving ability and driving impaired by drugs or alcohol is really no different than driving distracted by your cell phone. February 8, 2023 recreational marijuana use in my state becomes legal. I’ve seen a couple editorials proclaiming the accident rate will soar after that date because of the number of people who will get stoned and start driving around. Uh, what? People who recreationally smoke pot and drive under its influence isn’t going to change, because those people have been doing for years while it was illegal. And these are realistically probably the same people who routinely drive while intoxicated and compulsively text while driving.

In summary, I think legalizing drugs is the best way to combat them. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but history shows that drug use will always exist and when they are legal the negative ramifications are fewer to individuals and society as a whole.