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Jun. 6th, 2015


Life in a HUD Apartment Building: Goodbye to my elderly neighbor Leslie who was unfairly evicted

Feeling a bit sad tonight about my former neighbor of 8 1/2 years, Leslie. No, she didn't pass away. She was evicted! The manager of our HUD building is a holy terror who rules by threats. My 8 1/2 year old carpet is still so clean you could eat off it; ditto for the walls. Yet, she cited me for a *dust bunny* next to one of my bureaus once. This is a HUD building, not the Waldorf, nutcake. My neighbor Leslie & I could not be more different: she is a very religious, uneducated black lady. So uneducated that one might think she is mildly retarded. I don't mean that in a mean way at all-- it's just the way it is. She was a bit annoying a few years ago when she used to bang on all our doors on Sunday morning to tell us that the church people were in the rec room to provide religious services. I finally had to post a note on my door for her not to disturb me. Yes, very different. Yet, she was my NEIGHBOR. I ran into her about a week ago outside & she told me that she was being evicted. I couldn't talk to her then, so I knocked on her door that night or so to see why she was being evicted & what I could do if anything. She said that the manager had accused her of being drunk. This is ridiculous. I have known this lady as a neighbor for 8 1/2 years & have never smelled alcohol on her. And I know, based on huge nos. of beer cans & people who look like they've aged 30 years in less than 10, that some of the people in the building are actual alcoholics. Well-- isn't everyone allowed to drink in their own home? Apparently not in these HUD places. The managers in these places are like 'tin-pot gods'-- little Hitlers who rule over the entire building. This lady's apartment had a clean-ish carpet, very clean walls, wasn't smelly, etc. Plus, she has lost about 50 pounds or more last year because she was very sick-- as far as I know she's still sick. It's we poor people-- esp. single women-- who are powerless because we have little access to legal services, etc. She was apparently poorly advised by legal aid. She's about 64 I think. She said she had a place to go & was glad she was leaving. But I just don't think it's right. Who is next on this mini-Hitler's list?-- I've certainly been on her radar myself, with my many books, videos, & DVDs (all neatly in bookshelves). The maintenance guy said to me once, 'Why do you need so many books?' I don't. I'm an educated person who has 2 1/2 bookshelves worth of books. Most of my peers-- educated folks-- have a room entirely dedicated to being a book library. Once I was shown an apartment here that was considered 'ideal'. They had forced the woman to give away most of her stuff. Her apartment-- the 'ideal'-- looked like a MOTEL ROOM. No books, DVDs, CDs, etc. No papers, I don't remember any plants, etc. etc. Completely sterile. They want these places to be inhabited by little old ladies who will be content to watch TV shows like 'The Price is Right' or sit outside on a bench & stare into space. The manager here doesn't care about her people: she has stated that she wants to win awards. I think this is horrible. That's why I eat incredibly cheaply & save every penny I can: I want to get out of here & find a small house somewhere where I can live out my elderly years in PEACE. You can't imagine how traumatizing it is to be threatened with eviction. Once another of these nut managers cited me for having what she called a 'filthy bathroom'. Whaaaat???? I always maintain a clean & shiny bathroom. The week before that particular inspection (they have them several times a year in these places)-- I had washed the floors, walls, even ceiling-- everything was sparkling as it usually is. I have a kitty litter but service it constantly so no odors, etc. I was so upset that I took a photo & went down to the office to ask why she said that. She pointed to my clothes hamper that had clothes that were slightly above the top of the hamper. What a frigging nut! They can say whatever they want! Now that I have turned 62, I have more options-- thank gawd. I have taken lots of photos of peeling paint in the hallways here, stinkbugs & dirt that remain unswept in the stairwells for weeks, recycling from our recycling bins on each floor that they are supposed to recycle that they just throw in the dumpster. If I am next on her list, gawd help her. I am very Internet-literate & well-connected to organizations who may be able to help me. But resources are limited to those organizations. As I said, the poor are at the bottom of the list for services, as we all know. Poverty usually means powerlessness. I want my own house somewhere! I am going to get it!!! Tonight I knocked on Leslie's door to give her a little plant as a goodbye / housewarming gift, but, sadly, a new lady answered the door, already moved in. Goodbye, Leslie-- I am sorry you were forced out of here, my Neighbor. I wonder who will be next?

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Sep. 26th, 2013


Up in the Middle of the Night

I woke up about an hour and a half ago. Am still tired & somewhat sleepy. After a bit of Facebook & online reading, I got up to make myself a tuna fish sandwich with sliced garlic-stuffed green olives. Played a bit of guitar after I had the sandwich.

I desperately need some peace in my life. I live in an apt. in a Section 8 building. We've had a new manager for about 6 months. She's nuts. She has been pressuring me since April, re-inspecting me now every two weeks. As much as I like the woods around the grounds of this building, the little peace I get from that plus the escape I get from PC games, etc. is beginning to be offset by the long-term stress of the pressure. I want to go somewhere, live on my own terms, even if it is a shack in a field somewhere. I want to have a garden, be able to lay outside on a lounge chair & read a book in the sunshine & feel relaxed, peaceful, & free. I really frigging need that. Doesn't everyone deserve to live their life on their own terms?

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Aug. 15th, 2012


People I'm Looking For

Hi All,

I am going to be updating this/adding to it. These are people I've lost touch with that I'd like to get in touch with again-- esp. on Facebook. If you are one of these people, write to me at SaturnCat at yahoo dot com, but you must give me details to prove that it's you. Um, I am not interested in getting in touch with past boyfriends. Thanks.

Updated 23 Dec 2012.

Teresa Grandy of Stanwood Ave. ca. 1969.
Nancy Hyatt of Stanwood Ave. ca. 1969.
Pat McGillan-- was in the 11th grade at Northern High when I was in the 12th grade-- ca. 1971.
Charlie Kraft-- Northern High School friend, ca. 1971.
Dusty Rhodes-- Northern High School friend, ca. 1971.
Timmy Morton-- Northern High School friend, ca. 1971.
Doug Ling-- person I worked with in Baltimore; went to Bellingham, WA in 1977.
Marlena Daniels-- worked with her at GWU ca. 1983.
Oliver ?-- worked with me at U of MD mid-80s.
Alison Roberts-- of GWU Anthro. Dept. got her PhD at Cambridge or Oxford.
Jan Gillis (I think that was her name)-- worked with on archaeological project abt. 1985.
Ukrainian guys I met in 1994 at Kamianets-Podilskyi/Kamenets-Podolsky/Kamianets-Podilsky/Kamenetz-Podolsk/Kamyanets-Podilsky/Kam’ianets’-Podil’s’kyi-- all except Vladimir, who went to Israel.
John Paul Shilton-- of Windsor, England, ca. 1996.
Brian Williams-- of LA, orig. from Philadelphia, encyclopedic music knowledge, likes DEVO, ca. 1998.
Carmen Stark-- Hole friend-- lost touch ca. 1999.

Again, don't post here-- just email me above & give me details to prove you are you. Thx.

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Jul. 19th, 2011


About To Out-live My Dad...

Welp, haven't posted on here in ages. I have very limited Internet access from home these days. (Still boycotting Comcast.)

Anyway, when I turned 58 a few months ago, it was a milestone for me cuz my Dad passed away at age 58 of natural causes (heart attack), so it is possible that I could actually die of natural causes, also. At least, such a milestone causes one to consider one's mortality. I've been thinking about it off & on these couple of months. I figured out this morning that my Dad lived 58 years, 11 weeks, & 5 days. Amazingly, today happened to be that very day for me: I am 58 years, 11 weeks, & 5 days old today. So, if I live out the day, I will officially have out-lived my Dad. Wish me luck, y'all!

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Apr. 14th, 2010


'A Glorious Dawn', featuring Carl Sagan, up for Webby Award

Hi Y'All,

This terrific video is up for a Webby Award. If you have a minute, please have a look-- it's one of the best things I've seen on YouTube.

Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Symphony of Science)

The video was done by Symphony of Science, aka John Boswell.

If you like it, pls vote via the link below, under category 'Video Remixes & Mashups'.

YouTube - TheWebbyAwards's Channel


And, don't forget, you can watch the entire 'Cosmos' series on Hulu for free:

Cosmos - Full Episodes and Clips streaming online for free - Hulu

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Mar. 27th, 2010


Is The Best Inspiration Enough?: Carl Sagan, My Possible Mini-Stroke, & Depression


Welp, that posted before I really even started-- I hit the 'Return' key when my finger was feelin' for the backspace key. Any readers out there: pls don't read this entry or comment until I'm done, which should be in an hour or so.

Well, last weekend was something of a life-changing weekend for me. On March 21, interestingly, on the historically celebrated, if not actual, first day of Spring, I discovered this amazing video while I was wandering around YouTube:

Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Symphony of Science)

I posted it to my Facebook page at 3:27 P. It's a video made by John Boswell, a musician from Washington state, & he uses bits from Carl Sagan's 1980 series, Cosmos. He used an 'Auto-Tune' to change Dr. Sagan's spoken words into a sort of melody & he used loops from Carl imitating whale song as a musical beat background. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw it for the first time.

Less than 8 hours later, about 11:15 P, I was online (as usual), lying here in bed (as usual), when I suddenly felt weird. I was very confused-- I didn't know if I was awake or asleep; I had no sense of time-- it was like I was only aware of the present & had no conception of the past or the future. Very weird. Since I was online, I looked up symptoms for stroke-- cuz I knew that confusion is one of the symptoms. Some things on the listings seemed to suggest I was having a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack, or 'mini-stroke'), but most suggested that I wasn't. I called my bro, who was at work & has had paramedic training. He thought I should go to the hospital. We talked a little while, but he had some work to finish up, so we stopped. I decided not to go to the hospital cuz it would have required getting up, showering, & driving out in the dark. (I have a 20 year-old car on its last legs.) Welp, the following day, I did get it together to go up to the next town & go to the ER. They did tests, incl. a CAT scan, but didn't find anything. But they did diagnose my 'attack' as a TIA, based on my symptoms. (Um, in case any family member reads this: obviously, don't tell Mom about my possible TIA.)

So, the two experiences combined in me. This inspiration I got from watching the Carl Sagan video & the kind of wake up call, 'Hey, this could be the beginning of the end of your life.' from the possible TIA attack. I thought: am I going to just continue to fade away here, just twittering away my time, let all my considerable archaeological knowledge & experience eventually just die with me? That's been my great dilemma for about 8 years now, since my back became really bad in 2002. I thought: no! I'm going to get my PhD. I've thought about it off & on-- mostly off. Getting my M.A. was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Not academically-- logistically. I had to work full-time at the university I got my degree at-- if you do that you get a thing called 'tuition remission', in which the college or university pays for your tuition if you work full-time. I had to commute 3 hours each day round trip on the buses & subways. One of my professors gave us 500 pages of reading each week. She said, 'Just skim it.' But you can't really skim technical and/or theoretical information-- you really have to read it. Anyway, the whole experience those couple of years was so overwhelming, it's left a sort of Pavlovian reaction residue in me against going for my PhD. I did pursue the idea around 1996 or 1997-- I applied to UCLA. But they said that there was no one there who could be my advisor: I specialize in the science side of archaeology (archaeometry), which includes things such as dating techniques, chemical & physical analyses of materials, etc. They were going to give me Willard Libby's old lab-- the guy who came up w/ Carbon-14 dating. Cool!

Since that idea, I've gone up & down depression-wise. Of course, when I get more depressed, the energy necessary to pursue such an-- admittedly-- energy-requiring thing such as getting a PhD, begins to evaporate. Right now, I am ebbing rather low.

I wonder how I managed to get my Master's when I was very depressed. Well, I was diagnosed with 'mixed state' manic depression at one or more points. Meaning you can have both depression & mania at the same time. But for the most part, I have had depression all my life. The state of my back-- where sometimes it's even difficult to take a walk, do shopping, etc., is, for the most part, what has been preventing me from continuing to do my archaeological fieldwork.

But, the long & short of all this is that I will continue to do as I have been doing, trying to slowly claw my way out of this deep hole I've been in-- really since I hurt my back doing archaeology in Ireland in 1996. At least now I've trimmed my expenses here & there to where I can afford to eat decent food. And this is the first winter since I moved here over 3 years ago that I've been able to keep the heat on. I'm in a job program for seniors which has a possible job lined up for me. It's not archaeology, but it means that I will be able to afford to replace my dying car. Which then will mean that I'll be able to pursue other things. One other thing I plan to do is to volunteer for the local archaeology dig this spring. Horribly enough, I haven't done fieldwork for *10* years now. So, whether it puts me on greater amounts of pain pills or not, I'm gonna do it. (As long as I don't pass out.)

This new health care reform should help too. I am going to pursue finding out more about my back. I haven't had MRI's or X-rays since around 2003 or so. It's ridiculous! This country should invest in its workers, not ignore them until their health problems increase to the point that they are not 'fixable'. Now, hopefully, I can look into doing something about my back.

Depression is the most difficult part of all this, though. I had been relatively OK for a while last year. But then in December my younger sister posted a nasty (probably drunken) comment on my Facebook page-- something that all my friends-- & at least one archaeological colleague-- could see. I was staying at my Mom's for Christmas week & she also saw it, when I was online with her. My sister revised it a couple of times-- making it slightly less nasty, but not deleting it-- but the damage had been done, with the original version visible on my Facebook page, as well as having been read by my Mom & me. It put a damper on Christmas, with my Mom saying on Christmas morning, 'The worst thing that can happen to a Mother is when her children are estranged.' I thought I was gettin' over it, but the next day, after I came down to have breakfast w/ my Mom, I went in another room & cried my eyeballs out-- in spite of tryin' not to do that in front of my Mom. My sister's nastiness threw me into a depressive episode which lasted about 2 months & caused near-continuous migraines for about 2 1/2 months. I really need to avoid people like that-- but with your family it's difficult. One would think that she'd be sensitive towards people who have depression, instead of the opposite, since her daughter has or had uni-polar depression (depression-only). I guess she never researched it when she was bringing up her daughter-- my niece. Anyway, I think I'm finally-- 3 months later-- over that. So, now, if I make some progress in helping myself out physically, then it will open up more opportunities, then hopefully my susceptibility towards depression will lessen.

It's funny cuz I've read-- in Carl Sagan-related groups, blogs, etc., about how much Carl & his Cosmos series inspired people-- some became scientists because of him. For me, I've really always been a scientist, or scientific thinker, from as far back as I can remember-- from when I was 5 years old & used to theorize whether plants breathe when I saw condensation in the jars over my Grandfather's plants. But I also was already a professional scientist when Cosmos came out-- my 1st archaeological job was in Sept. 1979; Cosmos 1st aired about a year after that, in Sept. 1980. I loved the series & thereafter Carl Sagan has been one of my life's greatest heroes. But, now, really due to stumbling upon that video of Carl, I am re-watching the Cosmos series on Hulu after nearly 30 years! And it *is* inspiring. So, perhaps this extra inspiration I get from Carl Sagan will-- this time round-- help me to get myself back into my archaeological career.

Here's the link to viewing Cosmos on Hulu:

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Mar. 4th, 2010


Writer's Block: What is your life sentence?

How would you describe your life so far in a six-word sentence? How often would your 'life sentence' change?

My life in six words (missed the "so far" in the question when I posted this):

Life sux in a big bucket.

How often would this change, you ask? Not often! I am 56, disabled & likely to remain so: a combo of my pain level, depression, migraines, & the seeming complete inability to cope with anything negative keeps me from living my life, & has done so for the past 9 years! (In spite of this, those six words are about 25% tongue-in-cheek: I do manage to retain some sense of humor.)

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Oct. 18th, 2009


Doctor Who: Suggestions for Future Companions

Hi All,

This is going to be another one of my 'open' Doctor Who pages, one that I will probably add to at later points.


The consideration of casting an actor/actress as a companion for The Doctor should first be that often elusive factor, their 'chemistry'.


Billie Piper/Rose

Personally, I think it's immoral for a 900 year-old man (well, Gallifreyan) to get romantically involved with a much younger human. That's one reservation I had about the shifting in the relationship of Billie Piper's Rose & The Doctor to one of romantic love. I just think it's wrong. Remember how The Doctor looked in 'Last of the Time Lords'? Picture him walking hand-in-hand with Rose-- wouldn't seem right, or appropriate, would it? So, for me, though I liked Billy Piper & Rose a lot (I grew up in housing projects, so that part of me related to that part of Rose), I always felt that the character was too young to *actually* be in a relationship with The Doctor. The version of The Doctor that grew out of the hand in 'Journey's End'? Well, that managed to squeak past my reservations cuz he was, in some sense, a 'newborn'.

Catherine Tate/Donna Noble

I thought that someone who was comparable to the age of the actor who played The Doctor-- in this case, David Tennant, would be OK, tho. Even tho Catherine Tate/Donna Noble would fit this age range, I liked that things stayed platonic between them. I liked Catherine Tate & the Donna Noble character a lot-- I think I like her more than I liked Rose, actually. Her character was 'feisty' but wonderfully kind & compassionate. But, for whatever reason, there didn't seem to be a spark-- even a potential for one-- between Donna & The Doctor.

Martha Jones

Martha Jones fit into this 'OK' age range too, tho I never felt a spark/chemistry between Martha & The Doc. Nothing against the actress Freema A., of course, & I liked the Martha character. Just didn't see a potential romantic chemistry there.

River Song

Of course, it was established in 'Silence in the Library' that archaeologist (yay!) River Song will be a future companion-- a very close one-- to The Doctor. Initially, I didn't like the actress or the character, but after several viewings of the 'Library' episodes, I like her fine now & hope that she re-appears in one of the remaining David Tennant eps. (It's mid-October: where the heck are they???) Though I didn't really feel a great chemistry between the characters here either. I also didn't like the implication of kinky sex with the mention of the handcuffs in the second 'Library' ep. I remember David Tennant saying once in an interview that he thought The Doctor was asexual, & I kinda agree. I think they'll get close perhaps when The Doctor is at a particularly low point emotionally & River, who seemed like a compassionate person, is especially kind to him. I totally don't see her getting together with the Matt Smith/Doc #11. The age difference between the actors is just too much.

Matt Smith?

That's why, again, I think that The Doctor is best played by an actor who is around 35. I think Matt Smith is way too young for the part of Doctor Who. I have observed on several occasions that Brits seem to view the show as primarily a kid's show, which I have always found baffling. Do Brits think Star Trek is a kid's show, too? I am going to give the Matt Smith Doctor a chance, but feel certain that I just won't bond with the character. It would just be too weird. I am 56; he is 26 or so: how am I supposed to relate to this kid? Because Matt Smith is so young, his companions are going to be young, too-- younger, probably, than Billie Piper when she first started as a companion. The Doctor, in essence, is becoming a 'dirty old man'-- yuck. I really love this character & now he's going to seem tainted, like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Also, how is a young actor supposed to reflect the wisdom of The Doctor? How is he-- this Doctor who looks like a kid-- supposed to stand up against the malevolent forces in the universe? I just don't think it's gonna work. And I think the whole thing is 'ageist'-- and sexist. It's like there is this glowing, golden 14 year-old 'fan boy' in the minds of the Doctor Who producers/writers that they write for. They seem to cast the companion(s) with that 14 year old boy in mind too. What about the much larger remaining segment of the audience? Now that the show is going more 'kiddie'-- I've seen a quote from Steve Moffat that he does view the show as a children's show-- they are going to lose a big part of their audience, I think. The purpose of the companion in the show is for us, the viewers, to put ourselves in their place & for us to be, vicariously, the Doctor's companion-- flying off to other fascinating times & places. But with both The Doctor & the companion being played by very young actors-- how are we supposed to identify with The Doctor or the companion? I think The Doctor should be played by someone who is around 35 & his companion be about the same age: then fans of all ages could relate to the characters.

John Barrowman/Captain Jack

I have stated before that I have always thought that John Barrowman's Captain Jack would be the perfect companion for The Doctor. There's all that sexual tension cuz The Captain is bi & admires The Doctor & The Doctor is *nearly* asexual. There isn't the problem of the much older Doctor getting involved with a much younger human. Actually, isn't Jack now technically about 1000 years older than The Doc, after his brother Grey caused him to go back in time 2000 years? I don't really want there to be a full-blown relationship between The Doc & The Captain. I think The Doctor will always view Captain Jack as a somewhat flawed person, someone beneath him, not equal to him, not as worldly or experienced. Kind of how Jack must have perceived Ianto. Much as I liked the Ianto character, I always felt that the Jack/Ianto romance was doomed because Ianto was just too young in experience for Jack. Jack had become fairly cynical due to his experiences (some bitter) over the years. (Tho I certainly didn't like them killing poor Ianto off.) But back to The Doc & Jack-- the old fun teasing between the Christopher Eccleston Doc & Jack was fun & harmless & cute. I do think there is a potentially great interaction between Doc #10 & Jack now tho-- post-Children of Earth. Because The Captain is now very wounded & vulnerable, & The Doc is as well: they're both emotionally compromised. Again, I'm not really looking for them to fall into one another's arms-- it would actually be more moving/poignant if their friendship could develop by them helping each other through the emotional turmoil they are each going through. (And I *still* wish they would pick up on my story idea of Jack being 'The First Time Lord'-- an elegant, paradoxical story where Jack, who got the Time Lords' time-vortex energy via Rose via The Tardis actually becomes the first Time Lord, the father of the Time Lord race. I think that would be a great story with David Tennant as The Doc: I don't see a similar chemistry between JB/Captain Jack & MS/Doc #11-- it's the age thing again: too weird.)

Entourage/Ensemble Cast

Actually, I liked 'Boom Town' best in terms of The Doctor's entourage: The Doctor, Captain Jack, Rose, Mickey-- I think the ensemble cast is best.

Potential Future Companions

Emily Blunt

I ran across this actress via the 2007 film 'Wind Chill' & was very impressed. She's about the same age as other actresses who play in horror films, but for whatever reason, her face/the emotions that show in her face reflect so much more depth than other actresses her age. Just check out the first few minutes of 'Wind Chill' & you'll see what I mean. She was born in Feb. 1983, so is actually about 6 months younger than Billie Piper. In 'Wind Chill', she plays a somewhat angsty college student from Delaware & she did a great job on the Mid-Atlantic American accent that she totally fooled me (I'm from the area & plus I think I have a good musical/dialect/accent ear). She's British! Born in London. I read her imdb.com page (see link below) in prep for this journal entry & apparently others have been much impressed with her as well. So, I predict much success for this young actress. I think Doctor Who should scarf her up! I'd like to see a companion who is-- like the character Emily Blunt played in 'Wind Chill'-- more angsty. It would fit with the more-angsty Doctor at present. (Not to wish Matt Smith ill, of course, but perhaps an older, 35-ish 12th Doc could be paired up with Emily Blunt.)


A Word on David Tennant

Of course, all this is unfortunately academic cuz David Tennant is unfortunately leaving. I think there should be an International Day of Mourning when he steps down-- he's been that good. 'The Family of Blood' will always be one of my top TV episodes of any show, any series, any time. I thought David Tennant's acting in that ep rivaled Patrick Stewart's acting in the 'Sarek' ep in The Next Generation. David Tennant will always be the 'Jeremy Brett of Doctor Who' for me. Even though he's leaving, at least there is always the possibility that he will step back in now & then. I wish him the very best & very gratefully thank him for the wonderful job he's done these four years as our beloved Doc.

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May. 22nd, 2009


In Memory of a Friend in my building: Lewis Simpson: Reflections on Life and Death

Well, Lewis' memorial service is due to start in 8 minutes (11 A) in Bel Air, MD. I had been thinking about attending, but decided against it-- for several reasons.

My Cat's Declining Health

First, I have been quite depressed lately, which also has to do with the theme of death-- in that case, the eventual death of my 19 year old cat, Cindy, who was diagnosed with cancer last year (she had an operation & it has apparently kept the cancer localized), and also with end-stage renal disease. The latter, the Vet believes, is what will kill her. She almost died on April 20th. She had been eating poorly a few days before that, then the day before, had slacked off on her drinking as well. She had gotten very thin &, on that morning, was acting like she was in a daze. I wondered if I should just 'let her go', thinking that that may have just been 'her time'. But I decided to take her in as an emergency to the Vet that morning-- they luckily squeezed us in as soon as I could get there. The Vet said that she had 'end stage renal disease'; that she was only 'half a cat' (because her weight was low); and that 'she is 180 years old'. She felt that I should put her down. She wasn't very sympathetic to my situation-- she basically was telling me that I was selfish-- I think she even used that word-- and that I was just thinking about myself. Well, she was partly right. I had told her a couple of months before that I had clinical depression & was very close to my cat. I just wasn't emotionally ready to do it. My previous cat died of cancer in 1990-- she was 16. That was an easier situation to deal with-- I had a boyfriend & was in love, so had that emotional support. My career was going fine-- my boyfriend was also my business partner & we were working on winning archaeological contracts. Things were fine with my family. At that time, I hadn't been diagnosed as bipolar-- that didn't happen until 1999-- so I wasn't on anti-depressants. But I don't think I was in a period of depression at that time. And because my cat had cancer, I saw her death as a release from pain, so it was easier to handle. But this situation is different-- it is a slow decline. I will have to gauge whether my cat is in a level of discomfort where putting her to sleep would be the kindest option. She was still purring, though, on the day she was at her worst, April 20th-- so, based on that, it didn't seem that she was in pain. So, after I refused to put her down, they instead gave her fluids. Any cat (or dog, etc.) owners out there reading this: when your pet eats little to nothing for a couple of days, then slacks off on fluids & becomes very thin: it is dehydration that is causing the thinness, not fat/muscle/weight loss per se. So, they put 300 ml of Sodium Lactate into her-- about a cup & 1/2 of fluids. When I got her home, she immediately began eating & drinking normally again. That was a month & 2 days ago. They gave me 2 bags of the Sodium Lactate solution & instructed me to give her 200 ml subcutaneously every day. I did it for a few days, (only managed to get 150 ml into her rather than the 200 ml cuz she would start squirming), but then slacked off because, as I said, she appeared to be eating & drinking normally. The drinking was the most important thing. I monitor that by observing the size & frequency of her pee as absorbed by the pine litter I use (basically sawdust). And I also check whether she seems unusually thin (which I now know is because of dehydration). She has had a couple of periods where she was thinner & seemed a little listless & her pee stains were smaller & less frequent. So, then I supplement w/ the subcutaneous fluids. So, thank fucking god I didn't put her down last month as they were pressuring me to do. I asked the Vet as I was leaving how long I could expect her to last & she said 'a week to 3 months'. So, it's been a month & 2 days. She was with me on my birthday (which was only 8 days after she almost died). It was the best birthday present I've ever had. And she was with me on Mother's Day-- I took a pic of her in my arm looking up at me. Anyone reading may think 'surrogate baby', and you are probably right. But, what's wrong with that? Having a cat was all I could manage during my archaeological career, which caused me to be fairly constantly mobile. A standard picket fence home, hubbie, & kids just didn't fit that scenario. No regrets: I had become a career person-- 90% at least, so it was a conscious decision all the way. My cat has been a wonderful companion through all my cross-country/multi-state/multi-short term archaeological contracts. We've become very close, best friends really. When I had a very bad period of depression in 1999 after losing a job where my emotional energy was so low I could do little but lie on the couch-- she would come over & gently settle herself on top of me. It was such a comfort. I am sure I wouldn't have made it without her. She's a combination of my best friend & my little daughter. So, my mood swings lately have been closely related to the swings of her declining health. I was very bad off a couple of nights ago. I thought I'd have to call the Suicide Hotline. But I improved the next day & am pretty OK today. I think it was a bit of serotonin withdrawal. I learned (through my own experiences) about a year & 1/2 ago that when you take your SSRI anti-depressant day in/day out, you develop a resistance to it until even with the maximum dosage, you become suicidal again. (Basically, like a street drug.) So, I have been trying to take it more on an as-needed basis, trying to fool my body into not becoming dependent on it. That worked well for about 9 months last year, but I started to get depressed again around October last year. Not sure why. My Mom had a kind of mini-stroke-- I am very close to my Mom, too, so it may have had to do with that. Anyway, because of my recent ups & downs-- actually let me re-state that. Bipolar Disorder takes many forms. Some people are mostly manic. Some are both manic & depressive. Because I am primarily a depressive, I rarely have any ups at all. It's mostly fairly down, sometimes becoming very down. That's how I've spent pretty much my entire life since age 12 or so-- being depressed. Which is why I think people who have bipolar disorder should not have kids. And why parents of kids who commit suicide should realize that, due to this unfortunate genetic trait, their kid had been cursed with a permanent black cloud hanging over their heads. If the kid committed suicide it was because life was unbearable. I've pretty much been miserable since my early 20s & only stayed alive for my Grandmother's & Mother's sakes. I've gone through over 30 years of misery, with sometimes horrific episodes of black depression. Would you really want your child to have to go through a life like that? I also have major spine issues & often have a lot of pain related to that-- even screaming levels-- but that stuff is a walk in the park compared with depression. Medication helps somewhat but, as I've said, one can develop a resistance to it, so you constantly have to juggle your medications. (I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder & have recently found that Valium helps me relax, w/ apparently no side effects-- you can break the pill & take what you need relative to how anxious you feel.) So, the long & short of it today is that I just didn't feel quite up to the 20 min. trip to Bel Air, standing with folks, and, especially seeing the grieving family. My window looks out onto the parking lot of my building & I used to see this fellow's daughter help him with his groceries after she'd taken him shopping. She was quite young-- around 30 or so. I feel so badly for her; and on my side of it, I just couldn't handle seeing her in so much pain.

Lewis Simpson

So, rather than go to the memorial service, I chose to stay at home & instead remember him & quietly record my feelings at the time of his service. I liked Lewis. He was a soft-spoken guy, about my age. (He was 59; I am now, unbelievably, 56.) He was always friendly-- I am too, I believe in being friendly & courteous to everyone. So we were the same in that way. He had had a few episodes of ill health & had put on some weight. I think he had been in Vietnam, I'm not sure. We never really had a long, in-depth conversation beyond 'How are you?'/'How are you doing?'/'Are you feeling better?' He was one of my few friends here. These places-- this is an apartment complex for the elderly & disabled-- are mostly for poor people. Most of the people here are poorly educated &, for me, I haven't made any deep friendships because we are just too different. I don't look down on poorly educated people, but, because I was always driven to improve myself-- grew up in a housing project & put myself through college & Grad School-- it's hard for me to understand & relate to most of the people here. For me, in the past, some of my best friendships have involved, for instance, discussing pterodactyl evolution/having it change to some other aspect of biology or science, etc. Once I had an 18 hour non-stop (as far as I remember) conversation like that-- it was fantastic! Most of the people here wouldn't even know what a pterodactyl was. Most professionals would never end up in a place like this-- except that, with archaeology, where the work is sporadic contract work, one is, averaged out, quite poorly paid. Also, no retirement plan and your Disability/Social Security payments will be low because your lifetime income has been low. Archaeology is analogous as a profession to Geology, but archaeology wages suffer because of the use of volunteer and student labor. (Surgeons, for instance, don't have their wages driven down because of competition with 'volunteer surgeons'. And knowledge, skill, and experience are just as important with archaeology-- volunteers and students just don't have that.)

Well, I wish I could say more about Lewis, but I didn't know him very well. I appreciated that he always made an effort to be polite and friendly, and that it seemed genuine. There is not enough of that in the world today. I liked him & will miss him. I am sorry that he is gone.

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Jan. 28th, 2009


Surviving The Winter


I am still rumbling along. If anyone has been reading my entries (and has a good memory), they might remember that a little over a year ago, I realized that I had apparently developed a resistance to my primary anti-depressant, which in 2006 had been Lexapro, but at that time was Cymbalta (for no other reason than that my Doctor was giving me free samples of the latter). Until this past December, I still could not really even afford enough to buy decent food. I wasn't exactly starving, but am sure I was definitely malnourished-- the last 10 days or so of the month, I would be down to basically eating toast and tea as my primary staples. But, because I have saved a little bit here and there-- $10/mo. by finally cancelling my old dial-up ISP that I hadn't used to connect to the Internet for years-- I was only maintaining to get E-mails; paying $8/mo. less for a cheaper storage unit, etc. Because of these little savings here and there, I am finally at least able to go to the grocery store & buy basic food for myself-- still nothing fancy, but I can buy non-essentials like cookies, pistachios, etc. I still eat very frugally. Tonight, my 'dinner' was 6 fried breaded butterfly shrimp I got at the 'hot bar' at the Walmart for $1.50 and a can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup-- I used milk to 'uncondense' it, rather than water, which makes it taste richer-- what a luxury!

But back to the depression stuff. Starting around October of last year, I realized I was sliding back into depression again. The usual contributing factors (for me, at least): no prospects for work, constant back pain and/or migraines, my Mom moving away, etc. The end of summer & the prospect of winter looming. Even tho I spend most of my time in bed, I still consider myself to be an outdoor-sy person, & the prospect of having to stay indoors for a few months is not very appealing; not 'me'. Then, at the end of December-- Christmas Day, I think, I found another lump on Cindy (my beloved 18 1/2 year old cat) (I had found a lump on her last July & it was diagnosed as cancer, but an operation had removed it). I really got depressed then. Also, I had gone down to visit my Mom in October-- she now lives with my sister about 1 1/2 hrs. away from me-- quite a trip for me with my back the way it is & quite a trip for my nearly 20 year old car. I was only intending to stay for the weekend, but then my Mom had a mild stroke-- very mild, really-- she completely recovered. In fact, they called it a 'mild stroke' more because they couldn't really identify what was wrong with her. Actually, the tests that they did turned out to be good news, because they showed that she is in rather good health for an 81 year old woman. So, because my Mom was in the hospital a few days, & then was released to go home-- I wanted to stay while she was in the hospital those few days, & then to stay & keep an eye on her her 1st couple of days home-- my sister works. But, some friction started to develop with my sister. Because of my manic-depression (mostly depression, but a little mania), the manic side causes me to have insomnia; then taking my pain medication makes me sleepy-- this is actually a good combo, cuz one tends to cancel out the other. But the pain medication often makes me sleep late, then I in turn go to bed later & later until I am up all night & end up sleeping into the morning. I always say I have a '26 hour day'-- going to bed progressively later & waking up progressively later each morning until I am in 'vampire' mode, staying up all night & going to bed at dawn. But then it shifts around again & I am up during the day. And because I was around my Mom, my hours somewhat affected her & she would sometimes stay up an hour or two past her usual bed time-- we might sit & talk a bit over decaf coffees, for instance. But, my sister is a teacher, &, having dated a teacher myself, I am certainly aware of-- and am sympathetic to-- teachers' need to have a smooth routine & esp. that everyone goes to bed early. Also, I was relegated to the couch, which was a leather couch & the bed clothes kept sliding all over the place-- it was also quite uncomfortable for me because of my back. That also caused me to have poor sleep at night, which made me sleep into the morning, also causing me to go to bed later each night. And, esp., the heat in the house was poorly distributed & it was very cold on the 1st floor level where the living room was. Anyway, one night, around 10:30 P, I tiptoed up to my Mom's room, which is next to my sister's bedroom upstairs. My sister had gone to bed already. My Mom & I were both up-- me downstairs reading, I think, & my Mom puttering around in her bedroom. So, I went up there-- literally tiptoeing, so as not to disturb my sister-- & I was whispering to my Mom, asking if I should do my sister's laundry for her as a favor-- to help her out. Well, my sister came out of her bedroom, exasperated, saying, 'What's going on???' But we had been very quiet. But she said she had heard my Mother walking around the room 'back and forth, back and forth'. I think my sister is an extremely light sleeper. Earlier in the week, she had come down to complain that the living room TV was too loud-- but I had it so low that I couldn't even follow the dialog. After that, I no longer watched TV after my sister went to bed. Anyway, somehow, I was the one who got blamed for my Mom making the noise. I had been doing quite a bit of work around the house & yard-- which was quite overgrown. My Mom had bought some bulbs which needed to be planted before the ground froze. But prepping the spots where the bulbs were going in took a long time cuz everything was so overgrown. Plus, I am disabled! I was doing around 4 hours/day work around the yard and house, which was quite a lot for me, considering I am in bed most of the time. I also started feeling like I was coming down with a cold-- not unexpectedly-- a few days into trying to sleep on the couch on the cold 1st floor. So, I ended up needing to stay an additional day beyond what I wanted to to finish up. But my sister was pissed off-- she actually told me that I had 'worn out my welcome'. I was shocked-- how many house guests scrub the kitchen floor, saw off huge limbs of trees, rake leaves, prune bushes, do laundry, do food shopping, etc. I was doing that to help my Mom, primarily, but also for my sister. I had to saw off the tree limbs because there were a couple of overgrown pine trees which blocked the light to some planned flower beds and also the light level coming into the house. Because the ceiling was low, it left the house very dim and rather depressing. My sister has 'Seasonal Depressive Disorder' (or whatever it's called). I have been sympathetic towards my sister because, as I said, she is a teacher & I know how tough a job that is. Plus, she had been very kind to lend me money last year when my cat had her cancer operation. Also, she is still getting over the death of her husband, which happened about 3 1/2 years ago. And, of course, I always like helping my Mother. Nearly lastly, I enjoyed feeling useful & that I was helping somebody. One of the hardest things for me to deal with, having come up in an altruistic generation, is not being able to contribute towards society anymore. And, lastly, I love and really miss gardening. But I was shocked at the things my sister said to me. It was the first argument we have had as adults-- in other words, our first argument since we were children, like 40 years ago. We have always been really close. At least I thought we were. But the things she accused me of-- of being a 'know it all' (Not true: I'm a scientist-- the whole point of being a scientist is the *quest* for knowledge: so, obviously, we don't know everything. Anyway, what does 'know it all' even mean, anyway?). Of thinking I was the only person who is disabled-- again, not true-- obviously, I'm not. She accused me of being condesending. Not true again: I am a punk person. We see everyone as equal. I don't look down on anyone, so how could I be condescending? I'm an anthropologist, for gawd's sake! Anthropologists see all cultures-- and all individuals-- as having equal merit. So, like my brother & younger sister, though not as utterly out of the ballpark as they have been-- her assumptions were just frigging wrong! We hadn't lived together for nearly 40 years! My brother was only 15 when I left home; my younger sister was only 8. I have changed some basic philosophies even in the past 10 years. How could any of them know me well enough to have an opinion about me at all? I had been 'out West' for 10 years in the 1990s, also, only coming home at Christmas. So, these family squabbles that have been going on for the past several years: it sure has shown me that grown up siblings simply DO NOT KNOW one another anymore, & so shouldn't be making judgments about one another. So, the long & short of it is that I don't feel like I can easily visit my Mother anymore. It has to be at least an overnight stay, cuz I can't do a 3 hour round trip + visit in one 'sitting'. But my sister doesn't really want me there any more. I only really have 2 'tethers', as I call them, to ol' Planet Earth-- my Mom & my Cat. My Mom is 81 & basically inaccessible to me now. And my dear Cindy, my 18 1/2 year old cat, has cancer. So, around mid-December, I started getting really depressed again, frequently suicidal. Not at the point of actually 'doing it', just thinking about it all the time. So, I realized I needed to get back onto anti-depressant medication again.

So, I managed to get an appointment at a relatively new local Mental Health clinic and am in the process-- it takes around 2 months-- of getting established there so that I can have a therapist again. I am about halfway through the process-- the senior clinician who gave me my evaluation is apparently speeding up the process a bit because she considers me "high risk" (for suicide). Meanwhile, I have asked my regular Doctor to prescribe what had helped me a lot around 2002-- Celexa. After that, I was put on-- something, I forget, then Lexapro, then Cymbalta. I had gotten up to the max level on Lexapro & had become suicidal again. That was in 2006. I realized that taking these SSRI medications-- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors-- acted by artificially increasing the serotonin levels that are genetically deficient in depressives. But, like a street drug, like cocaine, your body gets acclimated to it & needs more to maintain the same level of-- I won't say happiness, or even contentment, really-- I'll say 'neutrality'-- being at a point where one is more or less just existing, floating along in a limbo state, but at least not being suicidal. But, since I was at the max dosage, the level of medication I was taking was not enough to maintain that 'neutrality', & I started to get depressed, then very depressed, then suicidal again. So, now, starting up this stuff again-- it is certainly no 'magic pill', but I do feel better. I am just playing a game with a timebomb-- trying to up my emotional strength so that I may be able to survive the death of my cat-- which is probably going to be this year-- and my Mother-- which may not be for several years, hopefully. But if something unforeseen happens-- like I run out of medication & can't get a prescription refilled right away-- this happens with folks on Medicare plans. Medicare won't let us refill our prescriptions until we are nearly out of them. (Fear that we will try to sell our pills, maybe?-- it's idiotic!) This has happened to me at least twice & has cause me to crash so badly-- it's called 'serotonin withdrawal'-- none of my medical caregivers informed me of the dangers of this-- & I nearly killed myself those times. Genetically-based depression is bad enough-- adding artificial serotonin withdrawal to that adds more 'low' to an already low 'low'. If these three things-- the death of my cat, the death of my Mother, and a serotonin crash or developed resistance to my anti-depressant happen at the same time, it will surely be the end of me. I am doing my best to try to put myself in the best means of surviving any or all of these-- I feel it's my duty.

It is quite good of me, really, considering that my family apparently doesn't care whether I live or die. I was very upset about 3 weeks ago cuz I was planning on bringing my cat in for another cancer operation-- as I mentioned, I had felt a new lump in the same area around her ribcage where she had the 1st lump removed last July. But I didn't have quite enough money for the operation. I was only about $50 short-- that was assuming I limited my diet to toast and tea again for the rest of the month. So, I asked my Mother-- I was sobbing on the phone-- to let everyone know about my cat & my situation. I have a PayPal button on my various websites-- which I know they check out-- so they have a convenient means of donating-- or lending-- me money. But, nothing. I didn't even hear from my Mother for about 2 weeks. As it turned out, the Vet decided not to operate-- the new lump was fairly small & seemed attached to the bone, which would have required removing part of her rib, which he was reluctant to do. But, I felt like-- isn't my life worth a measly $50 to my frigging family? To help keep my cat alive is to help keep me alive. My youngest sister is upper middle class-- her husband makes enough money that she doesn't even have to work. (Ironically, her dog has cancer & I wrote her to say how sorry I was about it. How would she feel if she couldn't afford to have it's cancer treated?) My brother is a typical middle class person-- buying a house, paying for cable TV, new cars, etc. My other sister is what I would call middle middle class-- teachers don't make that much, but she can afford the usual middle class things-- cable TV, high speed Internet, a new car, etc. And my Mom has quite a bit of savings-- I saw a bank slip in her car last year. Meanwhile, they have had a sister who has been nearly starving, who was homeless twice in the past 10 years. When I am not well, I start to run out of food cuz I can't get to the store. No one calls me to offer me help-- like driving me to the hospital or doctor's, or to the store. Or even to check up on me and just say, 'Hi, how are you doin'?' Some families go way out of their way to help their daughter or sibling-- or even strangers. I just don't get it. I've always been a kind, giving person and have worked hard all my life, worked to put myself through college & grad school. Why I am having to struggle like this all on my own just to survive?

Oh, yes, and a new, rather bad additional wrinkle: in the past 10 days, I have developed excruciating pain in my upper back-- it feels as though I have a pencil stuck in my back between my R shoulder blade close to my spine. I think it's a pinched nerve. It's been horrible. I thought it might be a bursitis-type thing-- and/or an inflammation of the muscle attachment to the bone. So I rested in bed, but it didn't get better. And shifting into different positions sometimes made it much worse or somewhat better. If it was a muscular thing, I would think that the pain would be constant. So, that's what I'm theorizing: a pinched nerve. Basically, I just stayed in bed and took more pain pills-- just enough to get by, as I don't like taking pills. But it didn't get better. So, Monday night, I felt slightly better & managed to get to the ER in the next town. They gave me a couple of shots-- including, apparently, Valium. At least I could get to sleep that night reasonably well, w/o too much pain. They recommended I get an MRI-- I should have had follow-up MRIs years ago, but that's the thing when you have multiple disabilities (and no one to help you), it takes you a long time to pursue each step: seeing a primary care Doc to get a referral to a specialist, finding a specialist, hassling w/ your insurance co. to see if they'll pay for it, making an appointment, getting to the hospital to have the MRIs done. For normal people these steps might only take a few days. But for a person w/ depression & chronic pain, they take-- years! I had 2 referrals in 2007-- for upper & lower back MRIs-- but when I tried to get them re-issued the other day by my primary Doc, he said I'd have to come back in (I was just there about 3 weeks ago), get a referral to a specialist, who would then, hopefully, give me the new prescription to get the MRIs. But my Doc also said my insurance wouldn't pay for them. So: is it any wonder I feel hopeless? A person who didn't have clinical depression would feel depressed & hopeless if they had to endure chronic pain for years with no prospect of a solution-- and the pain pills only take away maybe 20% of the pain level. When I took more a few years ago when the pain was worse, I ended up sleeping 16 hours/day. What kind of a life is that?

Well, to end on a positive note, I am trying to count my couple of 'blessings'-- while I am waiting out the Winter for Spring, at least I can be glad that I finally have enough money to eat. And, we are past what I usually consider to be the 'dead' of Winter-- mid-January. It won't be long before we start getting an unseasonably warm day here & there, giving us a little taste of Spring! And my favorite moment in late Winter/early Spring: when I see the first pointy green spikes of the bulbs coming up!

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