I meant to put up the rest of the butterfly garden pictures this weekend, when hopefully I could grab a few minutes.Instead, here I am, writing about something else entirely. Allergies.

Ages ago, I brought a yogurt to school. Mango flavor, something I’d never really tried. I don’t know why not. Mangoes were readily available where I lived, and I thought I’d tried them before that day when I made my way to the quiet roof of a parking garage overlooking the campus and the city that was my new, well, if not quite home yet, underwear parking location.

I got about 3 bites into my lunch and BLAMMO, I could feel my mouth start to itch, my throat begin to tighten, and the chemical- and particulate- laden air of the city, which wasn’t the easiest to breathe for a country kid anyway, starting to get a mite harder to get enough of and a lot thicker. I stopped eating. I threw away my lunch. I had never had a food allergy before, but thankfully I’d heard enough about them to take a guess at what was happening. I was completely alone, 8 stories in the air. I was still breathing, and short of calling 911, I had no idea where to go or what to do. It was the only food I’d brought for the day, and it was going to be a LONG day. I was more disappointed about that then any other ramifications, and pretty soon I felt back to my normal grungy, hungry self. That’s where it ended, although I flagged it as a possible allergy each time I was asked at a doctor’s office. Since it was only happened once and wasn’t medically confirmed, though, a possible allergy (to mango flavor?) was all that was ever noted. No one mentioned allergy tests or what to do in case it happened again.

This weekend, I was at a potluck and scooped some fruit salad onto my plate. It looked amazing. A massive bowl of strawberries, bananas, plums, grapes… when I began eating, though, I knew in an instant that there was something different, and that something different was wrong. I made my weaving way over to the woman who had made the salad and asked. Yep, there was mango in there, hidden among the other harmless (to me!) fruit.

It was a worse reaction than the last time and it lasted much longer, but thanks to a bunch of friends who carried allergy meds with them and the fact that my church is positively loaded with med students, respiratory therapists, nurses, and just super-nice and hyper- aware folks, I’m fine. I spent the rest of the day sleeping on someone’s floor with them checking my breathing (something I was completely unaware of until that evening), and that was all. Not even a hospital bill.

Obviously my story had a very happy ending! It’s joined the millions of similar ones out there in the world. We keep telling these stories, I figure, so that someone will hear, and each time someone hears it might be that someone is saved.

This time around, I’ve learned a bit more. Epi-pens are in the center of a nasty debate in the United States right now (and a lot of hilarious cartoons as well). They’re first-line for most people with an anaphylactic reaction, although in my case the effect on my heart is going to probably be pretty catastrophic too. (Easier to correct than not breathing, or so one of the med students joked.) Although 24 hour allergy pills are everywhere, liquid Benadryl or the 4 hour allergy tabs are going to start working faster. It’s debatable how much use they’ll be for anaphylaxis, but for other allergic reactions they’ll usually help. Some people carry an antacid like Pepcid AC or steroids with them when traveling as well. Every country has a different emergency number. Where I am, it’s 911. This time around, I also knew that the student health office had an on-call physician I could dial for advice after-hours, without even having to hunt up ordinary non-emergency numbers for urgent cares or hospitals. Be aware of your emergency resources before the emergency happens. Ultimately, though, the first and last line of defense is me. So from now on, I’m going to do my best to check what’s in a fruit salad, salsa, drink, or tarte before just devouring it. I’m glad that I’ve survived the getting of the experience long enough to learn something from the experience.

Stay safe out there, everyone.


Chalkboard Fun

20160726_144448.jpgWhile at a restaurant, I noticed that there were these lovely little chalkboards out for kids to play with while waiting for their meal.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to act childish and make a fool of myself artistically, I asked for one. [All right, so to my mind there is being genuinely childish, and then there is recognizing that standing on one’s dignity might mean passing up what is truly enjoyable in life… such as coloring books, chalkboards, bubbles, butterflies, and other such small wonders of the universe.]

This was the result. Well. If at first you fail utterly, try, try again! I’ll just have to go out to eat at the restaurant a few more times. 🙂

Hitting A Brick Wall

This Little Lyme of Mine

Those of you who follow my blog probably already know my story. For those that don’t, I’ll keep it short and sweet. Since 2013 I have been battling an undiagnosed chronic illness. It has mimicked lymphoma, lupus, MS and the like, and has baffled a dozen different specialists. Today I have found myself consumed by the stress of my doctor’s experimental treatment coming to an end without improvement. With no answers in sight, I feel lost and afraid. I applied to the Undiagnosed Diseases Network only so that my medical records would be “misplaced” by the post office, delaying my already 6-8 week wait for an answer, an answer that would most likely be no,as I am not what is considered a good candidate for the program. I have spent the better part of my day scouring the internet for options. I just need answers, anything that can point…

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Garden hope

DSC_0001I planted my garden boxes differently this year. Longing for a sight from home, I planted poppies, strawberries, and sweet peas. I figured the bright colors and fragrance would attract plenty of butterflies, even up to my third-story perch. It had worked last year, after all. But no… late winter snows and early summer rains drowned half of my plants and battered the others. Yet there were survivors, and the little paper packet of wildflower seeds I’d dumped liberally across the surface of the boxes, courtesy of the local credit union, did wonderfully well.

Still, although to my amazement a hummingbird came around, there were no other colorful nectar-seeking visitors to my boxes for the longest time. And then this little gray hairstreak appeared.


I plant, tend, and still don’t know entirely what will thrive and what won’t. I hope. I water and encourage life where it appears, and if that happens to be a dandelion… well, who knows what other beautiful life that dandelion might support? It served its purpose well enough that afternoon, that humble garden “weed.” If I’d barred it from my boxes, uprooted it when it first appeared, and given into the fear of it taking over the rest of the box, I might never have enjoyed seeing the little gray and orange dandy sporting among the blooms.


#besidesmydiagnosis #10

#besidesmydiagnosis…I have many dreams and ambitions such as?



A wacky and whimsical kaleidoscope of butterflies

Oh, dear. Now you’ve done it.

While I’ve never been good at the “5 year plan” as proposed by advisors and professors over the years, and while living with chronic illness has made me even more a person of the moment, that doesn’t mean I don’t still have dreams and ambitions. Some to share with the class, you say? Ok!

Opening a restaurant at the Wye. Opening another chain of cafes that have the kitchen carefully isolated so no cooking smells emerge, a safe place to go hang and eat plain noodles and boiled chicken and yogurt in the most luxurious and/or casual environment imaginable with your nearest and dearest. Getting latex-free twisty balloons on the market. Putting together fashion designers with people with chronic disabilities and illness, to design entire lines of (especially dress and business) clothes that hide wires and other devices, including mobility assists. (I know most people have to get their clothes custom modified anyway, but some really neat base designs could help, I feel.) Partnering with 3M and hospitals to make different colors of wires available for Holter monitors, as well as neat designs on electrode patches, especially for kids. (If anyone you know is already doing this, you’d be interested, or you have contacts to help make this happen, I hope you’ll comment on this page.)

Add to that finishing a dissertation, getting a bill-paying job, traveling, maybe eventually not being single, owning a very large dog, becoming a better photographer and writer, returning on the occasional basis to being a professional musician, being a good friend… learning to make frittatas… it will be a fun and busy life indeed.