Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Time for my monthly post

I really did mean to get a post up yesterday, but I'm learning that living with Meniere's can throw a big ol' wrench in my plans.

Yesterday I posted a link on facebook to this site that gives a clear explanation of Meniere's. It seemed easier than trying to explain it myself in a forum characterized by its brevity of communication. But here on my blog I can be a bit more loquacious (I've always wanted to use that word). So settle in for a brief primer on the foibles of Meniere's...

In my case, the first symptom to appear was hearing loss. Which isn't much fun, especially on the days when my ear is completely plugged -- I feel like someone's great grandmaw who's always yelling "Huh?!" Combine that with the tinnitus that's occasionally so loud it seems hard to believe no one else can hear it, and well, let's just say my head starts feeling a bit crowded.

The sheer unpredictability of the attacks can make life challenging. Take Saturday. I did some painting in the morning, worked on laundry, cooked lunch, took care of some emails and paperwork. Just a normal day. Until around 6 p.m., when I started thinking about supper. I wanted to look up a recipe on the computer, which I'd left out in the garage while doing emails. On the short walk out there I began to feel dizzy. Within an hour the dizzy had turned into severe vertigo and the vomiting began. The next three hours weren't pretty, my friends.

Sunday was a complete wash, since I felt like a wrung out dishrag. You know it's bad when you're too tired to eat. Not much stands between me and a square meal, but Meniere's is doing a pretty good job of it. By Monday I was back on my feet, but not for long. I was sorting through boxes in the garage when I suddenly started feeling light-headed and nauseated.

I'd spent quite a bit of time online Sunday night, doing more research, so as soon as the dizzy started I marched myself back to the casita and plunked down on the couch with my Kindle. I didn't turn it on; it was just a prop to focus on. I'd known before about trying to focus on an object but in my reading I learned it needed to be no more than 18" from your face. Which might explain why focusing on a picture on the wall across the room hadn't really helped on Saturday. Anyway, I spent a long time focusing on that Kindle, about an hour and a half. But it helped. Eventually the dizzy and nausea subsided, leaving me feeling slightly light headed. That soon developed into a migraine, which is also common.

I never made it back out to the garage but I did manage to make a late lunch and then clean up the kitchen. Afraid to push it, I spent a quiet afternoon reading and trying to rest.

We see the ENT specialist again on Wednesday. I'm going to ask about vestibular rehabilitation therapy, and am praying there is someone trained in VRT within a reasonable driving distance. The anti-vertigo meds and diet changes don't seem to have made much of a difference, so I'm ready to move on to the next step and VRT sounds like a good option.

VRT "involves specific exercises that can eliminate or significantly reduce symptoms by promoting central nervous system compensation for inner-ear deficits." VRT includes a pretty broad spectrum of exercises and works best when the therapist tailors the exercises to that particular patient's needs, depending on their type of inner-ear disorder and associated symptoms. For instance, the canalith repositioning procedure (CRP) is a form of VRT prescribed for people suffering from BPPV but not Meniere's. Displaced canaliths (small crystals of calcium carbonate) send false signals to the brain that cause vertigo, and CRP moves the canaliths back into place. This procedure would not help someone with Meniere's because displaced canaliths are not the problem.

I'm going to need exercises that actually stimulate the dizziness, in order to desensitize my vestibular system. Sounds kind of crazy, right? Make me dizzy to help cure the dizzy. But they've found that this is actually a very effective form of treatment. I basically have to retrain my eyes/brain to circumvent the symptom of vertigo. I foresee good times ahead.


But I'm so ready to do more than pop an anti-vertigo pill, cut down on salt and give up my beloved cup of morning joe. I'm ready to get serious, people! So there Meniere's: Bring It ON!
canalith repositioning procedure

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tap, tap, tap...anybody there?

I wouldn't be surprised if nobody answers, since I've been so bad at blogging. In my defense, I have wanted to blog but super slow or non-existent internet prevented it. In the meantime, the ideas rolling around in my brain all spilled out and I can't find them any more. But honest, I had some! Ideas, I mean. The brains are debatable.

When you hear the word 'menopause', what's the first thing that pops into your head? Hot flashes, right? Well, let me tell you, hot flashes are nothing, NOTHING, compared to the insomnia and brain fades.

The brain fades have made me even more grateful for the iPhone our son and his wife gave me a couple years ago. Now that I can use it (Remember, it took a year to get everything straightened out to where I could use it here in Argentina. Oh, you don't remember? Are you going through menopause too?)...

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, now that I can use it, I have found my life returning to a bit of its former organized glory. As long as I remember to put an event into the calendar, or create a list on the Notes app, save photos from Facebook to the Photos app, forward links to my email... You get the idea. The ability to act on something right away has helped immeasurably in keeping me on task, and on track. No more missed appointments, no more forgotten items at the store, I'm always ready to show friends the latest photos of Simon, I can pull up the link to that article in a flash... Life is good.

But I do have to be disciplined about doing stuff RIGHT AWAY. Because once it's gone, it's good and gone.

Hopefully the internet speed in our town will improve once the bulk of tourists depart the end of February. Meanwhile don't expect to see me on here very often. Today we are in another town, and although their internet is kinda slow too, we're here for the day so I have more time to play on my computer.

So whatcha been up to? Believe it or not, I've been reading many of your blogs on my iPhone but trying to comment MAKES ME CRAZY. I'll spend five to ten minutes slowly typing in a few sentences, my pudgy fingers making umpteen mistakes on those tiny screen letters, and then IT WON'T POST my comment. Aaargh! So I don't even bother trying any more.

I've been posting more on Facebook, which actually accepts my comments. Plus it's a good venue to quickly share another cute photo of Simon or a great post or article I've read. But I miss blogging! Make no mistake, my wordy self has gone through withdrawal symptoms from all the not writing.

I wonder if the stress of not being able to write is what precipitated another episode of Meniere's? Yes, that blasted condition is back. Not as bad as last time (in 2011) when I couldn't hear at all out of my right ear for over a month. This time the hearing comes and goes. A really bad case of vertigo hit about a month ago, but anti-vertigo meds had been helping tremendously until a few days ago.

I think I know what happened this past week, though, and hope to prevent it in the future. I worked really hard in the garage one day, getting the first coat of lime wash on the newly plastered wall, and ended up with a horrible migraine. The next day I spent the morning putting a second coat on half the wall before vertigo struck with a vengeance. Once the dizzy stopped, I read up more on the disease and found that migraines can be both a symptom and a trigger. Which makes me think the horrible migraine and pushing on through it was a trigger.

In fact, I'm wondering if this whole episode wasn't brought on by chronic migraines that I've been suffering since late December. Not sure what's causing them -- although they did commence with the really high temps of summer -- but I've pretty much had a headache every day since then, with some days being a lot worse than others.

Or could the migraines have been a symptom that the Meniere's was back even before the really bad vertigo a month ago? Because prior to that I had days here and there when my ear was somewhat plugged up, but never completely, so I just shrugged it off.

Who knows? 

Anyway, I'm understanding that this condition is likely to come and go for the rest of my life and I just have to learn to deal with it.

Enough with the depressing health stuff. Here's a funny for you. On one of his many repeat trips to the pharmacy to get more migraine medicine, Ivan snapped a photo of this guy:
Yep, that's a pretty close approximation of what it feels like when you have a migraine, nails pounding in from every side. Not sure about the pin in his nose though.

On a much, MUCH happier note -- and not that I'm counting or anything but -- in only 50 days we meet Simon in person!!!!

Meanwhile I'm thoroughly enjoying all the photos Kyle and Tina post on Facebook, and the glimpses we get when we manage to Skype. When I'm likely as not to snap quick screen photos like this one:
But you know it's not the same, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on that sweet little face!

There's another sweet face I'm looking forward to meeting too:
We're going to be grandparents a second time! Yessireebob, we are super excited that son Jon and wife Natalie are expecting a baby in August. Sadly we'll have already returned to Argentina by then, but you know I'm trying to figure out how soon I can go back to meet Baby Hoyt :) A really fun note: Jon and Nat discovered they were pregnant the same day Simon was born! How cool is that? And I love that Si and his little cousin will be close enough in age to be good buddies. Ivan and I have both been blessed with some wonderful cousins who are very dear friends, I know Jon and Tina have also enjoyed great friendships with their cousins, and we hope the same holds true for Si and Baby Hoyt.

I am lovin' this grandparent gig!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pretty Pictures of Snow Don't Make Me Feel Any Cooler

All over the internet -- the news, blogs and Facebook -- I'm seeing beautiful photos of snow piled high and ice covered lighthouses. You'd think merely looking at them would cool me off just a bit, wouldn't you? I really wish they did.
It's 91 degrees. And that's after a cooling rain! It was close to 100 degrees earlier.

I am very, VERY grateful for air conditioning. And ceiling fans. It was so hot when we got home from Cordoba yesterday that the a.c. alone wasn't cutting it, and I spread out on the bed underneath the ceiling fan. Completely wilted.

And thankful that I don't have to go back to the city for a while, since we took care of the bulk shopping that only has to be done about every three months. In fact, this should last us until our upcoming short furlough so I won't have to do that again until we get back in June.

I discovered today that I'm not the only one who sticks her oven out in the garage during the summer. We had lunch with friends, and they too have an oven out there, but theirs is a commercial size pizza oven rather than a small electric toaster oven like ours. They served a delicious meal of chicken in orange sauce, roasted potatoes and onions, and two kinds of salad. I took a fresh peach cobbler with real whipped cream for dessert.

We enjoyed four hours of conversation around the table, and I was once again reminded how different the culture is from the U.S. where we eat-and-run more often than not. The last time I remember a long leisurely meal with friends in the U.S. (that we weren't staying with) was when we had dinner with missionary friends serving in Guatemala who happened to be stateside at the same time we were, and are accustomed to a similar Latin American culture.

Ivan called Telecom again this morning. This is the company that we are waiting to connect us to both the phone system and internet. Do you remember when we moved? September 2012. It is now January 2014 and we are still waiting. This last round of waiting began when we returned from the states in the fall and Ivan got us back on the list yet again. They were supposed to have connected us by mid December. Then they said for sure by January 6. When he called this morning, they said to give them 72 hours. Any bets that nothing will happen by Friday morning? Yeah, easy money.

Even if we do get it, we're not expecting any great service. Our neighbor's internet has been down more often than it's up, and ALL internet, no matter the provider, slowed to a crawl on January 1. That's when the tourists arrived en masse, overburdening an already inadequate system. We can expect that to continue through March. It sure would be nice to sit in the casita and use the internet. We had been able to do that on a limited basis, using our phones (that have 3G) as a hotspot. But since January 1 and the slowdown, that's been impossible.

I continue to enjoy the photos of Simon that Kyle and Tina post on Facebook or send us via email. I've saved most of them to my computer and Ivan keeps coming in to find me with the computer open, just gazing at the photos. I'm completely smitten. We enjoyed Skyping with Tina on Sunday, although Simon decided that was a good time to take a nap and zonked out for most of it. Still, just seeing his precious little face was sufficient for this Nona.

We had hoped to get TanĂ­ and his crew to get started on the exterior wall of the garage that needs to be done before we paint the inside. But it turns out TanĂ­ went to Paraguay to visit family and we're not sure when he's getting back. So that project is on hold, unless we can track down his son, Guillermo, who didn't go (we don't think). So far we haven't been successful in finding him though.

But we did talk to the drywall guy about getting started on the portion of the garage ceiling that he can reach. Which isn't much, just one sheet across, but going all the way back, on the side that just got plastered.

Poco a poco.

I found it interesting that it was colder today in Atlanta, Georgia, than in Anchorage, Alaska -- or Moscow! I'm sure our friends in the south are not enjoying the blast of arctic air, since most are not prepared for that kind of cold. Even our family and friends in the north can't be thrilled with the extreme weather conditions. Just stay warm and stay safe, people!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Meanderings

Being a grandmother is the best! I'm loving all the photos of precious little Simon, and can hardly wait to hold him.

91 days and counting.

Tina's taking weekly photos to document his growth.
I'm grateful for technology that allows me to see photos as soon as she posts them, and then turn around and share them with other friends and family. It makes it a little easier being so far away.

A little.

But to be honest, this is THE HARDEST PART of being a missionary. I knew it would be tough, but I didn't realize how tough.

Christmastime in Argentina is quite different from what we were used to in the U.S. But we enjoyed the sweet fellowship of friends who invited us to join them for the holiday. Here the big meal is on Christmas Eve. Instead of turkey or ham with all the trimmings, we feasted on suckling pig and massive amounts of beef grilled outdoors. We ate outside too, starting at 11:30 p.m. with a variety of salads before moving on to the meat and then finishing with fruit salad and a cousin to fruit cake called pan dulce. At midnight the fireworks began.

Christmas Day we had leftovers for lunch with our friends, and went swimming to cool off. It hit 104 degrees that afternoon, so we really appreciated the pool. Not sure I'll ever get used to Christmas being in summer.

After three straight nights of thunderstorms, we realized the newly plastered wall in the garage had wet spots. So instead of prepping and painting like we'd planned, we're going to wait until we can get the exterior part of that wall completely finished. Poco a poco.

The heat makes me crave salad. Cold, refreshing salad. So yesterday I spent an hour looking up new recipes to try. I hope they taste as good as they sound -- and look in the pretty pictures. Do you have any especially good salad recipes you'd like to share?

I've quit believing the weather forecast. We have consistently blown right past the projected highest temperature. Like today. It was supposed to reach 91. It's 99 right now. This has happened every.single.day for weeks now. Is it that hard to get it right once in a while?

I would like to send some of our heat to you, in exchange for some of your cold. Okay?

How are you bringing in the new year? New Year's here is like the 4th of July in the states, with massive amounts of fireworks. Only they don't start until midnight.

This year we're going to celebrate with friends from church and their extended families. Guess what I plan to take for my contribution to the food table? Salads!

And yes, I'm sure it will be like Christmas Eve with dinner starting late. Just because it's not how we do things in the U.S. doesn't make it wrong. Just different.

Have you made any New Year resolutions? Nah, me neither.