An ADHDer's Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 2

 If you haven’t read the other parts of this series yet, here they are!

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Getting a Diagnosis

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 1

4. Make Simple Adaptations in Your Daily Life to Reduce Your Pain

If you’re still having pain issues after getting treatment from a doctor and/or a physical therapist, look at what else is going on in your life that might be exacerbating it. Even if one thing isn’t /causing/ the pain, doesn’t mean it isn’t a factor in it. There are often a lot of small changes you can make to your life to reduce your pain level.

For example, sitting on a couch can actually really make my neck pain worse. It promotes bad posture and doesn’t give me the support I need. So I pretty much never sit on couches these days. I use a floor chair, which offers me a lot more support and still allows me to “chill out” in a way that a straightback chair doesn’t. Heavy purses also can make my pain worse, so I usually use a backpack if I’m carrying anything significant around. If I do use a purse, I make sure to regularly clean out anything that could make it heavier.

If you have neck or shoulder problems, like me, make sure you’re using a mattress and a pillow that properly supports your neck and body. You spend so much time sleeping that you NEED to have a good setup or you’re going to just undo all your pain relief work every night in bed. People have different opinions on pillows; I have, gosh, probably 3 that I’ve bought specifically for my neck? One that has water in it, another that’s got microfoam beads in it, and another one that’s memory foam. I’ve tried them all and the memory foam one works best for me personally, but you should try them out and take notes on how you feel the next morning to figure out what works best for you!

Finally, I’ve done a lot of research on home office ergonomics and made sure that my workspace actually fits right for my body. I recently discovered that my desk and chair heights were completely wrong for me! I’m so short that the average measurements for a man just aren’t accurate, so I had to modify a few things and add in a foot rest to make it all work. I also use a headset while making or receiving phone calls so I don’t have to crane my neck in weird ways to hold a phone.

5. Massages and Home Tools for Muscle Pain

Massages have never “cured” me of my pain, but they do tend to really loosen up my muscles and prevent them from “fossilizing” or getting overly stiff. I have a Massage Envy membership and go in once a month as a maintenance measure.

I wish I could afford to go in more often, but since I can’t, I also have numerous tools at home that I use for massaging or relaxing my painful neck/shoulder muscles. I leave little reminders for myself to use these tools in a mass to-do list note I keep on my phone and in my journal. Alarms can be good for this too, but if you’re setting an alarm for medicine and stretches and pain relief tools, you might just get to the point where you have so many that it doesn’t even register for you, so be careful with that.

Me using the acupressure mat and pillow while guest cat Martok nests in my hair. He LOVES my hair.

Me using the acupressure mat and pillow while guest cat Martok nests in my hair. He LOVES my hair.

One of my favorite tools currently is an acupressure mat and pillow, which has tiny plastic spikes all over it. I don’t entirely know how it all works, but lying on this really relaxes my neck and shoulders and make them feel like they’re “melting” and less stiff. It’s a relatively cheap option, but you do need to lie on it for 30 minutes + for it to have any effect. In addition, for best results, you probably want to be shirtless. So it’s not the most convenient pain treatment.

Another cheap and easy options are tennis balls and pressure point tools. I keep a Back Buddy Jr. by my desk and pull it out to work on my neck when it’s getting really stiff. It’s great for pushing on stiff areas you can’t quite reach on your own. Lying on a tennis ball or putting it in between your pressure point and a wall can be really effective, if initially painful. With these tools, you can either just apply pressure straight on, or you can rub the tool or ball around and on the stiff point; both techniques work pretty well.

I also have a massage machine that works really well when placed between my neck and a wall, but its fabric cover has come off over time, so it’s more painful to use than it used to be. I can’t use it too often without really irritating my skin.

6. Use Over-The-Counter Medication and Treatments

If you have chronic pain, you’re probably very familiar with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. These can be really valuable tools in reducing your pain, but remember to watch your dosages and not overdo it; you can definitely screw up your stomach or other parts of your body. Also remember, no aspirin if you’re under 18!

Here’s another trick though: taking a pain reliever with a small amount of caffeine can actually reduce your pain further. It’s unclear how much caffeine can do on its own, but it does appear that it can reduce joint pain and headaches as well. This article on Disabled World explores that topic if you’d like to know more.

There are a few natural supplements out there that can really take the edge off pain as well. I’ve tried turmeric and capsaicin pills before and had some good results. I also take vitamins, fish oil, and probiotics, which all play different roles in keeping my body healthy and reducing inflammation. WebMD has a great overview article of different supplements and how they treat pain.

Finally, don’t forget topical treatments! Lotions or rubs containing menthol or camphor create a cooling sensation that can really distract you and make you forget the pain. Capsaicin lotions can also really help joint pain or nerve pain, although it can also irritate your skin if you’re not careful. In addition, you’ll want to use gloves to apply this, as it can be pretty difficult to wash totally off your hands. I’ve accidentally got capsaicin in my eye before and it really hurts!

 

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Thank you for reading. I hope this helps!

An ADHDer's Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 1

If you haven’t read the other parts of this series yet, here they are!

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Getting a Diagnosis

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 2

I wrote this whole post and then realized it was over 2,000 words and should probably be split into two parts. Oops! Here’s the first one!

I’m a young adult with both ADHD and chronic pain. These two issues can often work counter to each other and cause a lot of frustration, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to get better about dealing with both of them. This blog post series will hopefully help other people dealing with the same issues- the first post addressed getting a diagnosis, and the second and third posts will address day to day management. 😊

The first post also summed up my background with both ADHD and chronic pain, so this post will go ahead without recapping that much.

I tried a LOT of different things to treat my chronic pain before I actually got a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, but I’m going to focus on the time /after/ I got a diagnosis, just for simplicity’s sake. If you are having chronic pain, I do think it’s important that you get to a doctor to figure out what the underlying issue is, if at all possible. If you don’t have the insurance or money for a doctor though, there are a lot of options out there for DIY relief, which I’ll cover further down in the post.

A lot of this advice focuses mostly on painful muscle treatment, because that’s what I deal with and am most familiar with, but hopefully the general headings and tips are helpful even if you have non-muscle pain issues! I’m not going to discuss opiates in here because I personally have very little experience with it and don’t feel fully qualified to cover it in depth. I do have friends that use opiates for pain relief though, and I plan to interview them for this blog soon!

  1. Follow the Treatment Your Doctor Prescribes.

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I currently undergo radiofrequency ablation about once or twice a year; this burns off my arthritic neck nerves and really reduces my pain. However, 1. this procedure never COMPLETELY erases my pain, 2. the procedure itself is very painful and expensive (even with insurance) and 3. the nerves grow back and I have to go through it all again.

But it’s still the best option I have for actually treating the root cause of my chronic pain, so I undergo it. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for using what’s available to you. A lot of people out there say “Oh why don’t you just do X?” or try essential oils or whatever and downplay your pain; ignore them. You, as the owner of your body, get to decide what’s best for treating its pain (in conjunction with your doctors)

If the treatment you’re getting isn’t helping as much as you thought it would, or if it’s giving you bad side effects, let your doctor know! A lot of times you can follow up with your doctor without actually coming in for an appointment. My pain doctor actually is cool with me emailing her, which can be VERY helpful, as I’m bad about remembering to call her office and setting follow-up appointments.

2. Try Physical Therapy and/or Daily Exercises/Stretches!

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So after I told my pain doctor that the radiofrequency ablation wasn’t completely getting rid of my pain, she wrote me a referral for physical therapy. I then ignored that referral for like, a year and a half, because I had some strange idea in my head that PT wouldn’t help me. I had gone through some basic stretches with a chiropractor years before and that didn’t seem to do much, so I didn’t believe it would help this time either.

However, earlier this year, I managed to pull a muscle in my leg badly enough that I was still in pain a few months after the initial injury. I did actually go to PT then (after getting a referral) and it REALLY helped me. I was out of pain before my second appointment. That made me a believer and encouraged me to finally sign up for physical therapy for my neck! I did about a month-ish of PT and it made SUCH A HUGE IMPACT on my pain. It really reduced my every day pain level and reduced how many tools I had to use to manage the pain. My therapists taught me various exercises and stretches and had me do them daily; they also did a few dry needling spots, massages, and manipulations on them. I’m now capable of treating a lot of my own issues at home. It’s pretty awesome.

So I highly suggest Physical Therapy - when you get that referral, set up an appointment with a PT right away so you don’t forget it or lose the script! And once you start doing the exercises and stretches, put an alert on your phone or computer so you remember to do them daily. I’ve got a “neck stretches” one that goes off every night at 9 pm. And if you’re not as connected to your phone as I am and need a different reminder method, a post it note on your bathroom mirror or by your daily medicines can be a good method.

3. Pay Attention to Your Mental Health Too

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Honestly, chronic pain can be incredibly disheartening and it can really mess your brain up. For a while when I was younger, I developed a certain fatalism and would often say things like “oh I don’t think I’m going to live past 30,” because no one I knew had the same pain problems I did. I clearly remember asking my parents at one point if they had chronic pain issues. They said no, and I was seriously so depressed by that. I was 24 and having more pain problems than my almost 60-year-old parents.

When you have chronic pain issues, that does become the focus of a lot of your medical visits. However, be sure to talk to your doctor about your mental health as well. If you’re experiencing mood swings, feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, irritability, persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings, a loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable to you, and/or major changes in your sleeping or eating habits, get to a therapist as soon as possible. Talk Therapy can be incredibly helpful for sorting through a lot of these thoughts and you may be able to get a prescription that could help you as well.  

Walking outside can also be a great tool for helping your mental health. It’s low-level exercise that gets you moving and makes your brain release serotonin, which can be a mood lifter and a pain reliever. There are also studies that show that just being outside under the sun can have a huge impact, so if you’re not up for walking or doing anything else, just sitting or standing outside for a bit can be helpful as well.

Don’t forget to read Daily Management Part 2 as well!

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 2

Don’t Lose Your Novel!: Responsible Computer Maintenance and Backups for Writers

Don't lose your novel! (3).png

So I have a tiny little Lenovo Yoga I use for all my writing. It’s kind of beaten-up, as I’m fairly clumsy and good at dropping things. It actually has tape covering some broken glass in the corner (I added a protective hard cover after I did that, lol). And my husband says it’s a computer for ants. But it works beautifully for my needs. It’s small and light so I can carry it around anywhere easily; this is particularly important because of my chronic neck pain issues.

I’m not great at remembering to maintain my laptop or backup my files (with ADHD, remembering any regular but not daily activities can be pretty hard for me!), but as a writer, I’ve REALLY got to get better about that. I keep my works in progress on my computer and it would be devastating if I lost all my work due to a computer crash. It also can be really frustrating when my computer is lagging during my precious writing time. So I took some time this morning to fix it up a bit.

Cleaning Up the Computer

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Since I have a Windows computer, I first launched Disk Cleanup and ran it to get rid of a lot of unnecessary files. This app offers numerous suggestions for what extraneous files to delete. This includes temporary files, things in the recycle bin, etc. I managed to get rid of several gigabites of excess files on my computer this morning! (I took this snip after I’d already run it). This should help my computer run quicker and more smoothly.

There are a LOT of computer cleaning apps and software out there, but my Google research indicates that they just aren’t necessary. As How To Geek says:

PC cleaning apps are digital snake oil. The web is full of ads for applications that want to “clean your PC” and “make it feel like new.” Don’t pull out your credit card — these apps are terrible and you don’t need them.

If you do want to “clean your PC,” you can do it for free. Windows includes built-in PC cleaning tools that can do almost all of what the average PC cleaning app will do for you.

That full article explains a lot about what Disk Cleanup actually does and why it’s just as good as add on softwares. It’s a good read if you’re interested in learning more.

I also went through and manually deleted several Chrome extensions I don’t use. While I was at it, I also reorganized the extensions I DO use to make sure they’re most visible, like my Pinterest button (which I use to post links to this blog) and the Honey button (which shows me when there are coupons to go with whatever website I’m on). There are some fun extensions I use that just don’t need to be visible all the time, like the one that turns all pictures of Trump into pictures of kittens (Make America Kittens Again). That’s great, but it works whether or not it’s showing up in the corner of my browser.

I also fixed up my bookmarks and organized them. This isn’t necessary for the computer to run well, but it makes the browser a lot nicer looking and also makes it much easier for me to find resources!

I have a tendency to have a ton of Chrome tabs open all the time, but that really does waste memory and results in some major lagging. As How to Geek says in yet another super useful article:

In Chrome, each tab opens in its own process on your PC. This is a good thing, because it keeps those tabs isolated from one another. A crash in one tab is not likely to bring down your whole browser. But, of course, each open tab uses up some resources, and when you have a lot of tabs open at once, it can slow things down.

The easiest way to fix this is just to close Chrome regularly and don’t keep 30 tabs open on your computer at once. That article also offers a few extensions that can fix this problem without closing the browser.


Backing Up the Computer

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This is a simple but really important step! I’ve had a computer crash twice before without a backup and it really sucked. The first time was in 2009, and the computer had ALL my photos on it from my study abroad trip to Europe, so I ended up paying a recovery company way too much money to get my files off the hard drive. The second time was a few years ago when I got some ransomware via email. That time I just restored my computer completely and lost my files; I really didn’t want to pay someone $1,000 to get my own data back. Be wary of opening links in emails, friends, even if they come from your dad!

IDrive is running a deal currently where you pay $6.95 for a year of backups. I can set it up to automatically back up both my laptop and my phone as often as I like. I’ve personally got it running twice a week, but if you are really paranoid about your computer crashing, daily might be a better idea.

Story Ideas from History and Dreams

So I keep a note on my phone called “story ideas” that I just fill with different ideas as they strike me. Sometimes these are from dreams, often they are from books or history podcasts, some are just thoughts that come to mind that I have to get down on a page /right then/ or I’ll forget them!

Numerous of these scribbled ideas have turned into future stories. I had the idea for Most Horrible probably…a year and a half before i actually started turning it into a one act play? The entire concept of “Big Dave’s Goliath” came from a simple fact I had scribbled down- that various popes had ordered the removal of all the penises from the nude statues in the Vatican museum. When I came across the call for submissions for “Big,” which asked for stories around something or someone gargantuan, the idea of a giant replica of Michelangelo’s David, and the shenanigans that ensue when someone vandalizes the statue by cutting off its genitalia, came into being. True, it’s totally absurd (and that story was HIGHLY influenced by the over the top style of Carl Hiaasen), but it was really fun to write! And now it’s published in Colp: Big. :)

Here you can see notes on one of my history story ideas and one of my dreams!

Here you can see notes on one of my history story ideas and one of my dreams!

The Caterer and the Vanguard (current work in progress) both were inspired by historical legends chronicled in “100 Cats Who Changed Civilization,” by Sam Stall. John gave it to me last December just as a fun gift; he had no idea what it would lead to! Hah. I have numerous other ideas for the AntiquiCats series originating from that book and other cat history sources online.

Here’re two snippets of my current “story ideas” note, featuring a few of my favorite ideas.

So Leichenhauses were WAITING MORTUARIES for people who were scared of being buried alive (circa 1800s). After death, the bodies would be set out and have like, strings tied between their bodies and either a bell or a harmonium or whatever. Then someone would sit up with the bodies and listen for movement noises. Bodies actually move a lot while they’re decomposing, so it must have been quite frightening! They were also viewed as a common tourist destination? It sounds utterly fascinating. I REALLY want to write a story set in one at some point and just haven’t found the right plot yet. I first heard about these from the brilliant Stuff you Missed in History Class podcast called “Not Dead Yet - Safety Coffins and Waiting Mortuaries.”

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I’ve also gleaned several ideas from a book I’m currently reading - Black Tudors, by Miranda Kauffman. It’s very good but very dense and academic, so I’ve been reading it off and on for MONTHS. I’ll finish it some day.

How I Got Back Into Writing Seriously

The Lifelong Dream

Honestly, I cannot remember a time when I have not wanted to write and be an author. Some of my earliest dreams and goals as a child involved writing as a career. My family LOVES books; literally every room in my parents’ house except the bathrooms have bookshelves and books in them. It was a wonderful place for a child to grow up. I eagerly read as many books as I could; they fascinated me and brought me to a whole other world. I wanted to make those worlds myself.

And in elementary school I did. I was always writing stories or poetry or songs or whatever. My output turned into mostly just poetry over time, as I discovered journalism and imposter syndrome. For a long time, I felt that nonfiction journalistic writing was the only thing I could do. Fiction seemed too hard. I tried doing National Novel Writing Month several times and never managed to finish; this made me feel like a failure. I had lots and lots of ideas written down in various places, but none of them ever came to fruition. I’d start and stop and get distracted and frustrated. For a while I had resigned myself to not really being a writer. I did do some writing and research on marital surnames, and had an inkling to turn it into a nonfiction book, but I wasn’t following through on any of it.

I usually write at the kitchen table these days, surrounded by books and journals.

I usually write at the kitchen table these days, surrounded by books and journals.

The Turning Point

So fast forward to my 30th year of life, when I finally got on a combination of treatments that actually treated my depression successfully. This really changed my life in so many ways. I had a focus and a determination that I hadn’t had previously; my depression was no longer a barrier dropping in front of me, but a curtain pulled to the side. I could see it and respect it and treat it carefully, but I could walk through it without a problem.

When my beloved Shakespeare troupe Britches and Hose announced that they were holding a New Works Festival and needed submissions of original one acts, I decided that it was time to take one of my favorite ideas and turn it into a play. That’s how “Most Horrible,” a one-act prequel to Hamlet set in Purgatory began. I was so excited and motivated by this success that I continued on - and turned the play into a project for National Novel Writing Month in November. I finished up the novel by the end of January (I have, of course, decided to add in a whole new historical context and many more subplots, so I have major edits and revising coming up, but that’s another issue).

Since NaNoWriMo had worked so well for non-depressed Me, I decided to set monthly goals for myself. January’s was finishing the novel, February’s was working on my nonfiction book proposal. I didn’t really have any plans to write short stories until I came across a fascinating writing prompt on the Internet - calling for short stories about Grumpy Old Gods, gods that in some way were shirking their duty. I was so excited about this concept that I outlined and wrote “Purr Like an Egyptian” fairly quickly, in only a week or two! And it felt so good to have a project wrapped up and submitted so quickly, that I decided I’d dedicate March to writing more short stories and poetry to submit to various magazines and publications. That’s how I also wrote “Big Dave’s Goliath” and “The Caterer.”

Currently

So here we are now. “Purr Like an Egyptian” was just accepted for publication in Grumpy Old Gods Vol. 2 and will be coming out later this month. “Big Dave’s Goliath” was published recently in Gypsum Sound Tales’ Colp: Big. I’ve also had a few literary nonfiction pieces published as well - on Talking Soup and The Drabble.

I also tend to write with my own personal demigod in my lap. (I’m writing a lot about ancient Egyptians lately- cats WERE their demigods)

I also tend to write with my own personal demigod in my lap. (I’m writing a lot about ancient Egyptians lately- cats WERE their demigods)

“The Caterer” was rejected, but I invested a lot of time into revamping and revising it to make it better, and then published it myself on Kindle Direct Publishing as an experiment. I’ve enjoyed the writing and promoting process for my own ebook so much that I am now writing another story in the series, with plans for more! Once I finish and publish my second volume (“The Vanguard”), I plan to get back to “Most Horrible” and revise it to add in the Danish reformation (no biggie, right?).

It’s a lot of work, as of course I have a full time job as a trademark examining attorney at the USPTO, participate in Shakespeare plays with my friends, and occasionally like to have some downtime to spend with my husband, but it’s been so worth it. I don’t know if I’ll ever make much money from it or if it will ever be my full-time career, but writing brings me so much joy on a regular basis that I don’t know if I even care anymore. I love coming up with titles for my stories. I love outlining a plot. I love all the research - from Egyptian goddesses to drones, to Ancient Persia and the Tower of London.

I just love writing. And I won’t let myself forget that again.

"The Caterer" is Free on Amazon July 16-17!

So my ebook short story The Caterer: How a Cat Survived Richard III is free today and tomorrow (July 16-17) on Amazon. You can get that here at http://tinyurl.com/thecaterercat . So if you haven’t downloaded it yet, now’s a good time to do so! It really helps drive up the ranking of the book and get it more exposure and attention. Reviews are greatly appreciated as well. :)

The next story in the series is called "The Vanguard: The Cats Who Conquered Egypt" and focuses on the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, through the eyes of two cats. I plan to publish that in late July! :)

Wedding Craft Tutorial: Shakespeare and Glitter Flower Girl Scatter

Glitter and Shakespeare Heart scatter! I also painted the flower girls’ baskets bright sparkly red.

Glitter and Shakespeare Heart scatter! I also painted the flower girls’ baskets bright sparkly red.

We decided not to have any real flowers at our wedding. I have a great love for paper crafting, so I ended up making all the bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages out of paper flowers. I’ll write about that more later. :)

Anyway, my two nieces were our flower girls/ring bearers and I really wanted them to have something special to scatter down the aisle - something that actually represented me and John .

I got two little paper punches - one heart and one cherry blossom. The cherry blossom punch didn’t work too well - it was too complicated and I could never get it to cut any paper cleanly. So most of our scatter was heart shaped.

I did cut a lot of hearts out of various covers of glitter paper and other pretty papers, but I wanted something more personalized as well, even if no one would even really notice except me.

I wanted to incorporate Shakespeare somehow. I’ve been part of Shakespeare productions on and off since 2010, and was a founding member of the Britches and Hose Shakespeare troupe. John also loves Shakespeare and one of our first dates was going to see Julius Caesar at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Our wedding ceremony included Shakespeare quotes from Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Julius Caesar, and Henry V. I even walked down the aisle to a version of “Sigh Not So” from the 1992 Kenneth Branagh film of Much Ado About Nothing!

A friend of mine had an awesome master document of Shakespeare quotes for various situations; I took that doc, put all the text in a pretty cursive font, and removed all the lines and paragraph breaks and such until I had several solid pages of Shakespeare text. I printed that document out on both sides of some nice leftover resume paper I had lying around. And then, all I had to do was cut the remaining white margins off the paper and bam - I had my own personalized Shakespeare stationery. I used it for the flower girl scatter and also for a few of the roses in my bouquet and my bridesmaids’ bouquets. :)

Again, it was a tiny detail and I’m not sure anyone else noticed it at all, but it made me very happy, and it was super simple. When I walked down the aisle, my cathedral length veil ended up catching the scatter and pulling them along with me. People started laughing and it was amazing; it resulted in one of my favorite photos from the day!

Anyone else is welcome to use my Shakespeare stationery as well! You can download a pdf of it on Google Drive here.

Taking Medicine with ADHD: My Attempts to Remember

The evil steroid pack

The evil steroid pack

I’ve had a pretty bad case of sinusitis the last two weeks and finally broke down and went to my doctor on Tuesday. He prescribed some antibiotics and steroids.

The nice friendly purpley-pink pill planner that usually helps me remember all my meds.

The nice friendly purpley-pink pill planner that usually helps me remember all my meds.

When I picked it up, I was dismayed to see that my steroid pack required me to take several doses throughout the day! AND the dose changes every day! Curses! With the help of a weekly pill planner, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I consistently remember to take my meds daily in the morning, but I hardly ever remember to take doses throughout the day. It’s my ADHD kryptonite! (The pills themselves also taste godawful and like, stick in the throat. I’m trying to drink and eat different things to remove the taste but it’s still hanging about. Ick.).

My medicine alarms for the day! Hopefully these work. If I actually do force myself to stop what I’m working on and immediately go take my meds when i hear the alarm, it should.

My medicine alarms for the day! Hopefully these work. If I actually do force myself to stop what I’m working on and immediately go take my meds when i hear the alarm, it should.

I’ve set alarms throughout the day to remind me to take my meds, and will place my steroid pack right by my pill planner so I remember to set new alarms each day to account for the adjusting doses. Hopefully that does the trick.

Figuring Out My Style with The Curated Closet

So my fave podcast By the Book covered The Curated Closet a while back. From what I’ve heard, the book really focuses on helping you define your own style. I don’t have the time to read the whole thing, alas, but I’m working through some of the tips on my own, bit by bit at time.

The first part is to actually look at your style and figure out what you like and don’t like. You can also come up with a descriptive name for your style, which I would love to do at some point, but I’m not quite there yet.

A snippet of my pinterest board.

A snippet of my pinterest board.

I made a Pinterest board of some of my favorite styles. I actually incorporated some of my own outfit selfies into it so I could get a better idea of what I actually wear and enjoy. That full board is here, if you’d like to check it out.

By looking through that and various articles on fashion styles and clothing articles, I’ve started making a “Style List” and a “Not my Style List.” It’s been really interesting scrolling through pictures and trying to figure out whether I like something or not and why.

Here’s a snippet of my lists so far. It’s becoming really illuminating!

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The next step is to go through my clothes and pull out anything that doesn’t fit into things I know I love. That part may take longer, because I don’t think I’m going to have time for that until at least this weekend, maybe next. So - to be continued!

How Community Theater Changed My Life

This article was originally Published in the Trademark Department newsletter at the USPTO.

One day in fall 2010, my roommate Grace turned to me and asked if I wanted to audition with her for an all-female Shakespeare troupe she had found advertised on Craigslist. I immediately said yes. I had no idea then that that one “Yes” would end up changing my life.

Twelfth Night in 2011. Photo by David Seidman.

Twelfth Night in 2011. Photo by David Seidman.

I had always loved theater; my parents took my siblings and me to plays at Shakespeare in the Park every summer. My mom’s favorite movie was the 1993 version of Much Ado About Nothing, and it quickly became one of my favorites as well (my wedding processional was the movie’s main theme). As a child, I did not always understand the words or their meaning, but I loved the excitement, the costumes, and the soothing flow of the rhythms and rhymes. Those performances stuck with me, so much that I can still remember details of plays I saw when I was 10. One production of Twelfth Night particularly enchanted me; it concluded with a song that I can still sing today, 20 years later.

Despite that love of theater, I never really considered getting into acting. Sure, I participated in church choir productions and class shows in elementary school, and I sang solos in talent shows, but I never took a theater class or auditioned for a community or school play. I was a perfectionist child, utterly terrified of failing at anything, and trying out for a play meant I could be rejected. I stuck with activities that were comfortable for me, like band and newspaper.

That’s how I went through my primary school years and college years, doing fine, but not really taking many chances. But then after college, I became roommates with Grace. Grace was bold and brave. With her hammered dulcimer, she had formed her own wizard rock band, writing songs and touring the country with her fellow Harry Potter loving friends. She took up the ukulele on a whim and wrote an entire album with it. She took part-time gigs instead of a full-time job so she could continue to tour regularly. I thought she was the coolest and wanted to be more like her. So when she found that Craigslist ad, I jumped at the chance.

Antony and Cleopatra, 2011. Photo by David Seidman.

Antony and Cleopatra, 2011. Photo by David Seidman.

That troupe would become Britches and Hose, a theater company and community I love dearly founded by a woman and now close friend, Arielle Seidman. That first play-Antony and Cleopatra-brought out sides to me I didn’t know existed. I learned to enunciate, to memorize lines, to project my voice, and emote. And despite having zero training, I wasn’t half bad at it! The hard work we put into the plays and the pride I felt in the final product helped me grow so much as a person.

I gained the confidence to admit my post-college job wasn’t working out. The journalism career I had pursued since high school was not making me happy; in fact, I was pretty miserable. I was an editor running a local news website out of my house for a rapidly growing company. My website was going well, my boss seemed happy with my work, but I was bored out of my mind, despite being incredibly busy. My experiences with theater gave me the courage to face that fact and finally deal with it.

She Stoops to Conquer. Photo by David Harback of Harback Photography.

She Stoops to Conquer. Photo by David Harback of Harback Photography.

In summer 2011, I quit my job without another position lined up; I would end up working various nanny and office jobs to cover my bills. I applied to law school. I auditioned for the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and spent many glorious weekends wandering about in a Tudor court costume, talking in a British accent to visitors. All the while, Britches and Hose continued rehearsing and performing; that fall, I was cast in my first lead role as Viola in Twelfth Night, which shocked and delighted me. B&H founder Arielle and my roommate Dave (Arielle’s partner) also worked at the renaissance festival, so we would road-trip together for work and then race back for Sunday night play rehearsals at our house.

During the lead-up for our third B&H play, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, I made the heartbreaking decision to leave everyone I knew in DC behind and move to Chicago for law school. However, right after driving all my belongings out there in August 2012, I flew back for a single weekend; I couldn’t miss performing in B&H’s production of Much Ado About Nothing.

The courage I gained from B&H enabled me to participate in law school in ways I never did in college. I signed up for clubs and ran for elected positions. I did better in my classes, made friends with my professors, graduated cum laude, and received a service award at graduation. During those years, I missed my theater community, but carried the strength it gave me every day; all my actions were impacted by it. I took the bar exam, got a job as a lawyer at a medical cannabis company, became engaged to the man I’d been dating throughout law school.

Much Ado About Nothing, 2012. Photo by David Seidman.

Much Ado About Nothing, 2012. Photo by David Seidman.

Then, in December 2016, I flew out for my interview at the PTO, coming out a day early so I could attend a B&H rehearsal. The troupe was no longer all-female, but still cast whatever actor was best for the role, regardless of gender. I remember sitting in that rehearsal, watching actors perform original one-act plays, feeling so pleased and awe-filled by what our ragtag group of thespians had become.

The rest is history. I accepted a position as a Trademark Examiner, moved to Virginia, and got immediately back into Britches and Hose. I’ve been in four B&H productions since then, worked with another community theater company on a gender-swapped production of Hamlet, and even submitted my first play for an upcoming festival. Our incredibly supportive group of actors has had a group message on Facebook going for over a year now, covering every topic imaginable, up to and including debating the Hogswarts houses of various Shakespeare characters. Arielle stood up as my bridesmaid in June; I just served as hers in October. Life is good.

And it all started with a “Yes.”

Twelfth Night, 2017. Photo by David Seidman.

Twelfth Night, 2017. Photo by David Seidman.

An ADHDer's Guide to Chronic Pain: Getting a Diagnosis

If you haven’t read the other parts of this series yet, here they are!

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 1

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 2

I’m a young adult with both ADHD and chronic pain. These two issues can often work counter to each other and cause a lot of frustration, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to get better about dealing with both of them. This two-part blog post series will hopefully help other people dealing with the same issues- the first one will address getting a diagnosis, and the second will address day to day management. 😊

First, a little background.

ADHD: I was diagnosed with ADD (now referred to as ADHD) in my junior year of high school when I basically had a depressive breakdown due to stress from my undiagnosed focus issues. I went on ADHD meds at that time (Concerta) and remained on them through college. I eventually stopped taking them for a couple of years, not really for any good reason that I can recall. I went without them for probably 5-6 years, but got back on them after about 8 months into my current job. My job can often be repetitive and unexciting, and these things set my ADHD off like crazy, so I really needed to have the meds to function. I’ve been at my job at just over 2.5 years now, so clearly they’ve helped! My main ADHD symptoms are forgetfulness, time blindness, focus issues, and impulsivity. I use a lot of different techniques to keep focused at work, which I blogged about here.

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Chronic Pain: I have experienced some degree of stiffness and pain in my neck since at least high school. I cannot recall exactly when it started. I was officially diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my cervical joints (neck joints) in 2017 shortly after I turned 29. I’ve tried a TON of different things to help my pain, but currently, I get my arthritic nerves burned off with radiofrequency ablation 1-2 times a year, I get massages at least once a month, and I do daily physical therapy exercises and stretches. The PT is a really recent addition, but it’s been WONDERFUL; these exercises have really improved my symptoms!

I have also had some other recent chronic pain issues that are of a slightly more private nature that I’d rather not discuss in too much detail. However, I handled getting the diagnosis of this pain MUCH better than I ever handled my osteoarthritis pain, so I’m going to use that process as an example for a lot of my tips here.

Getting a diagnosis of your chronic pain can be a complicated and frustrating process even if you DON’T have a mental condition that reduces your ability to remember symptoms and advocate for yourself. But hopefully this guide helps!*

(*Quick note: this guide doesn’t address money and insurance issues because that’s a whole complicated issue on its own that I’ll try to discuss in the future.)

1.     Pay attention to your pain. Don’t ignore it; your body is telling you that something is wrong! It almost certainly won’t go away on its own, and ignoring pain can lead to exacerbated symptoms over time.

I ignored my chronic neck/shoulder pain for YEARS, to the point that I literally can’t remember when exactly it started. Part of this was ADHD forgetfulness – I’d intend to go to a doctor and forget to put it on the calendar and part of this was just not wanting to make a fuss. Women in particular in our society are often taught to just grin and bear it, and I think I honestly took that too much to heart. I didn’t want to be annoying or a burden. In addition, when something is chronic, you often get so used to it that you don’t even consider it something abnormal or worth reporting. So I said nothing and I did nothing about it until it became too painful for me to ignore. And that’s sad, because honestly, if I had received treatment and physical therapy years ago, I probably wouldn’t have developed the level of osteoarthritis I have now. This is not a reversable condition, so it’s just something I have to manage from here on out.

Let me emphasize something here. Chronic pain is not normal. I don’t care if the pain isn’t too bad or if it’s manageable. It needs to be addressed.
Fortunately, when I developed New Fun chronic pain this past year, I started addressing it much more quickly and scheduled a visit with a doctor right away.

2.     Document Everything. As someone with ADHD, I’m really bad at remembering things. This led to some trouble when I tried getting my neck pain diagnosed, as I’d get asked if there was any inciting incident, or exactly when it started, and I had to say that I genuinely didn’t remember. That was fun.

When I developed my New Fun chronic pain, I started writing down when my pain appeared and where it appeared. I initially chronicled this (unintentional pun!) in the notes app on my iPhone. Eventually I downloaded the Cara app, which allows me to track a LOT of different things and symptoms – pain but also what food I was eating, when I was working out, etc. This was really helpful in tracking down what my actual issue was.

3.     Persist in Advocating for Yourself. The first doctor you see for your chronic pain may not be the right one. Pain in any one area can originate from several different places! And the doctors or health professionals you see may not be terribly helpful in giving you next steps to take in figuring out your diagnosis, so you’ll have to keep working on your own to get there.

In my 20s, I talked to my primary care doctors several times about my neck pain. One of them thought it might be just due to stress, and told me to stress out less (that was helpful). She also briefly put me on anxiety medication, which didn’t help my pain at all, and made me feel like I was losing control entirely (I got off it really quickly). I saw a pain doctor in Chicago who put me on some prescription strength NSAIDs, but said he couldn’t do anything more for me without an MRI, which I couldn’t afford at the time (my insurance was….really bad at the time and my deductible was sky high). So I had some pain relief for a while, but then I ran out of refills and went through minor withdrawal. I also saw masseuses, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, etc. – nothing worked. This was over the course of YEARS. Once I got my current job and got good insurance, I went to my current pain doctor, who diagnosed my arthritis with one X-ray and started getting me treated immediately with radiofrequency ablation. After a couple years of that, I was still having more pain than I liked, so I went to physical therapy this last May, and finally got my pain really reduced!

A screenshot of the Cara app I used to track my symptoms.

A screenshot of the Cara app I used to track my symptoms.

For my New Fun chronic pain, I initially thought it was due to one specific issue, and went to specialist A for it. Twice. Specialist A ran tests on me twice and said they were clear, but didn’t give me any idea what else it could be or any guidance on what to do next. She DID however help me, because she made an off-hand remark about “oh there are thousands of things that can cause X,” which made me realize I really needed to go to my primary care doctor next. I went to PCP, he ran some tests, those tests were also clear. By that time, I had done a decent amount of research online and talked to my family about their various medical histories and come up with a hypothesis as to what was causing the pain; so after the third test came up without any problems, I went to specialist B, he ran a test, and FINALLY, I got a diagnosis and got put on some meds to get rid of the problem.

I had to do a lot of work by myself. I had to continue booking appointments with doctors until I got a diagnosis, google a lot about my symptoms, gather information from my family, come up with ideas as to what the issue might be, and keep track of what it definitely was NOT so I could relay that to my doctors throughout the process. It was kind of exhausting, and not cheap (even with my very good health insurance). I highly suggest ZocDoc for finding doctors in your area that take your insurance and setting up appointments; I know my ADHD brain always procrastinates making a phone call, and just being able to book an appointment online was a huge weight off my back.

 So that’s what I have for getting a diagnosis. Next blog posts in this series will deal with pain management for ADHDers. You can read those here:

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 1

An ADHDer’s Guide to Chronic Pain: Daily Management Part 2

Hey Look, I Can Write Biographical Sketches!

So I researched and wrote two bio sketches about DC-area suffragists affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) for a crowdsourcing project, run out of the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender, Brighamton University, SUNY, is collecting biographical sketches of women supporters of woman suffrage campaigns in the first two decades of the twentieth century for an eventual online publication of the “Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States.”

Here are my sketches! They took much longer than planned because I had to comb through SO many 1800s newspapers online. I had a lot of fun though.

Ellen Powell Thompson, courtesy of NPS

Ellen Powell Thompson, courtesy of NPS

Biography of Ellen Powell Thompson, 1840-1911

President of the Women’s Suffrage Association of the District (1895-1896, 1897-1900); Washington, D.C. Representative who spoke before the Congressional Committee on Woman Suffrage in 1896

Ellen Louella (Nellie) Powell Thompson was born in 1840 in Jackson, Ohio to John and Mary Powell. She became a teacher at the age of sixteen. She married Prof. Almon Harris Thompson (1837-1906) on July 8, 1862 in Wheaton, Illinois.  She continued to work as a teacher and when her husband entered the army, she took up his position as a superintendent of schools. She spent the summer of 1863 at Cairo, Illinois caring for sick and wounded soldiers while her husband was stationed there.

Thompson (and her dog Fuzz) also accompanied her husband on an 1871 Colorado River expedition led by her brother Major John Wesley Powell. Prof. Thompson served as Major Powell’s chief assistant on the expedition. The expedition made maps of several western territories, often traveling on mule or horseback. On her journey she befriended some of the native American tribes and collected botanical samples. Three of the plants she discovered are named for her: Thompson’s Dalea (Psrothamnus thompsoniae), Thompson’s Penstemon (Penstemon thompsoniae), and Thompson’s Woolly Locoweed (Astralagus mollissimum var. thompsoniae). On the trip, Prof. Thompson named the summit of the Henry Mountains Mount Ellen after his wife. Her plant collection is preserved in the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University and her diary from the trip is in the collection of the New York Public Library manuscripts and archives division, along with her husband’s diary.

They moved to Washington, D.C.in the early 1880s when Prof. Thompson began to work for the U.S. Geological Survey under Major Powell. There, Thompson became active in a number of groups. She served as President of the Women’s Suffrage Association of the District from 1895-1896 and from 1897-1900 , served as chairman of the bust fund committee in 1898 (raising money to create busts of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony), and served as the organization’s delegate to the Annual National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention several times.

She notably spoke as the Washington, D.C. representative before the Congressional Committee on Woman Suffrage on January 28, 1896. In her speech, she specifically noted that arguments against granting the vote to women due to lack of political experience and education made no sense, as first, women lacked the ability to gain experience (stating, “We cannot swim without water to swim in”) and second, girls had actually gained significantly higher levels of education than boys over the previous 20 years. Articles describing her suffrage work in the District of Columbia appeared in a variety of newspapers across the nation. She was quoted on more than one occasion quipping that she was gratified that in Washington, D.C., men had no more political rights than women (due to lack of voting representation for the District in Congress).

Ellen Powell Thompson also served as the chairman of the congressional committee for the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in 1898. She was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia, which combined several suffrage groups and was auxiliary to the American Woman Suffrage Association, in December 1898. She was also active in Wimodaughsis as a director in 1985, in the local committee on arrangements for the National Council of Women in 1899, and in the Junior Equal Suffrage Club in 1903.

Apart from her suffrage work, she was also a founding member of the Anti-Division Association (which promoted enforcement of criminal law) and the Woman’s Anthropological Society in 1896, and was also active with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of the District of Columbia and the Federation of Women’s Club of the District of Columbia.

The Thompsons had no children. He predeceased her in July 1906 after suffering from stomach cancer for several years. She died on March 12, 1911 of sudden heart failure. Ellen Powell Thompson is buried with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sources:

Almon Harris Thompson and Ellen Powell diaries, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. http://archives.nypl.org/mss/4152

A canyon voyage: the narrative of the second Powell expedition down the Green-Colorado River from Wyoming, and the explorations on land, in the years 1871 and 1872 by Dellenbaugh, Fredrick Samuel. Published 1908.

The Decatur Herald Jan. 25, 1896. P 4.

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 16 Feb 1898. P 7.; August 1, 1906. P 2; Dec. 23, 1898. P 9.

John Wesley Powell: An Annotated Bibliography Marcia L. Thomas. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

John Wesley Powell’s Headquarters at Kanab. Lyndia Carter. History Blazer, December 1996. Published online at http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/trappers,_traders,_and_explorers/johnwesleypowellsheadquartersatkanab.html.

Press, Platform, Pulpit: Black Feminist Publics in the Era of Reform by Teresa Zackodnik. P 233.

Victorian Flower Power. Anne Merrill Ingram. Common-Place vol. 7 no. 1 October 2006. http://www.common-place-archives.org/vol-07/no-01/ingram/

The Washington Times, Jan. 17, 1896. P 5; 13 Mar 1911. P 2. (Obituary)

Weisheit, John. “The Powell Survey of the 1870s: Art & Science from the Saddle. On the Colorado.”


Biography of Mary Lucinda Rogers Talbott, 1832– 1921

President of the Women’s Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia (1904-1905)

Mary L Talbott was born October 24, 1832 in Waterloo, Illinois to Emory Peter Rogers and Eunice Ashley Ward Rogers. She married Henry Clay Talbott (born 1828) on October 24, 1850 in Monroe, Illinois. According to census records, she had five children, of which only Henry Talbott, born 1851, appeared to survive childhood. Her husband died sometime between 1870 and 1880.

Mary helped incorporate the District of Columbia Woman Suffrage Association in March 1901. The articles of incorporation stated, “The stated objects of the association are to secure for women citizens of the United States the full right of suffrage and the same rights to which any other citizens may be entitled; to build in this city a club house for women and to collect and to disburse funds for the purpose of erecting such club house and other appropriate memorials to the memory of women who have performed national or other meritorious work for the enfranchisement of women and the good of humanity. The association is also formed for educational, literary, and scientific purposes and for mutual improvement.”

She served as president of the District of Columbia Woman Suffrage Association from 1904-1905. During her tenure, the association performed a study of Fisk’s Civil Government of the United States, Laws affecting Women and Children, taxation, and other subjects of public interest. The association also supported a variety of bills proposed in U.S. Congress considered of special interest to women, including those for the protection of neglected and delinquent children, compulsory education, restriction of child labor, raising the salaries of public school teachers, and the establishment of a juvenile court. She was active with the committee on local arrangements for the meeting of the thirty-fourth annual convention of National Suffrage Association meeting twice.

Mary was also active in the Equal Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia, where she was elected auditor. In January 1908, Mary was an active proponent of a petition authored by the Equal Suffrage Association asking that women be permitted to vote on the question of abolishing liquor in the District of Columbia.  The ESA specifically stated at the time that it had no particular opinion on the issue of prohibition of alcohol, but were involved only to secure the ballot.

Mary also participated in the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Political Study Club, and the Women’s Beneficent Society of People’s Church.

Her son, Henry Talbott, became the secretary of the Interstate Commerce Commission (also chief of division of indices of the ICC, tariff expert). Mary was credited with assisting him with many reports of the ICC. Together, they started the Talbott Free Library in Waterloo, Illinois in 1892 with a donation of a collection of 2,000 reading materials. The library first opened in 1894 and relocated to a new location, the former home of Colonel William Rawls Morrison, in 1911. The city clerk at the time, J.W. Jackson, moved into the house and began a long tradition of librarians living in the home. After her son died of pneumonia in 1916 at the age of 64, she became the librarian, moved into the library herself, and spent several thousand dollars on remodeling the building.

She died on January 11, 1921 at age 89 from a fall in Waterloo, Illinois. The library she helped found still exists today under the name of Morrison-Talbott Library.

Sources:

Evening Star (Washington D.C.). March 19, 1901; Jan 30, 1904. P 10; Feb 10. 1904. P 10; April 2, 1904. P 24; Dec 1, 1907. P 72; Feb. 29, 1916. P 10.

Find a Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed Jan 1, 2018), Waterloo City Cemetery, Waterloo, Ill., Mary Lucinda Rogers Talbott, Memorial #54571000.

“Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940,” Database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF2T-3J9 : 4 November 2017), Henry C Talbott and Mary Y Rogers, 24 Oct 1850; citing Monroe, Illinois, United States, county offices, Illinois; FHL microfilm 1,006,355.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:SP5N-X7V : accessed 2018-01-02), entry for Mary Lucinda /Rogers/.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Ancestral File,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:1:M751-2LR : accessed 2018-01-02), entry for Mary Lucinda ROGERS.

“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M858-84K : 12 April 2016), Mary Rogers in household of Barbary Schemberg, Waterloo, Monroe, Illinois, United States; citing family 1344, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

“United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6HJ-ZWX : 12 April 2016), Mary L Talbott in household of H C Talbott, Illinois, United States; citing p. 10, family 74, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 545,760.

“United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXVY-F4S : 15 September 2017), Mary L Talbott, Waterloo, Monroe, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 65, sheet 36D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0237; FHL microfilm 1,254,237.

“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMF3-TVH : accessed 1 January 2018), Mary L Talbott in household of Harry Atchison, Washington city, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 81, sheet 5A, family 88, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,161.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MK6R-MYR : accessed 1 January 2018), Henry Talbott in household of Mike Schorr Jr., Waterloo Ward 1, Monroe, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 81, sheet 8A, family 85, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 312; FHL microfilm 1,374,325.

The Washington Times. Feb. 3, 1902. P 6.

The Washington Post. Jan, 21, 1910. P 2.

Waterloo library celebrating 125 years. By Sean McGowan. Sept. 13, 2017. http://www.republictimes.net/waterloo-library-celebrating-125-years/. Visited Dec. 2017.


Elizabethan Ruffs for Shakespeare Cats - Out of Coffee Filters!

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So on Saturday, I found out that @barkbox did a #Shakespeare in the dog park toy/treat collection! I of course, had to look for photos of this, and spent probably half an hour just looking at photos of dogs wearing Elizabethan ruffs and playing with Shakespeare themed toys!

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Then I ended up making Elizabethan ruffs for my #cats out of coffee filters. 🤷🏼‍♀️ I literally just cut a hole in the middle of the coffee filter and a cut down the side, put it around their necks, and taped it closed. They didn’t actually seem to mind them too much, although Martok tried to eat his for a little bit.

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They stayed on their necks for a surprisingly long time considering how flimsy a single coffee filter is. It was super simple and fun and I may do this again for Halloween. :)

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Of course I had to match photos of the kitties with Shakespeare quotes. Did you expect anything less?

DIY Cleaning Tip for Clogged Toilets (ew)

I learned this past weekend that there aren’t any drain cleaning chemicals approved for use with toilets. At least none in my local grocery store. Apparently they just burn through the pipes or something? I don’t know. But there was a toilet that I couldn’t manage to unclog with just a plunger, so I had to come up with SOMETHING to avoid hiring a plumber.

I ended up pouring a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar into the toilet and letting it sit overnight. The next morning - voila! Working Toilet!

It’s not glamorous, but dear god I’m just glad it worked and we don’t have to worry about that anymore!

Now here’s a photo of a cat to make everything happier.

Guest cat Martok very ferociously grabbed a bag of treats and ran away with it, with Ziggy chasing after him. I ended up having to enclose the bag in a Tupperware container to get him to stop. He was LESS than pleased with me and hissed when I took the treats away, but then forgave me and used me as a ladder to get to a windowsill two minutes later, so we’re good now.

Guest cat Martok very ferociously grabbed a bag of treats and ran away with it, with Ziggy chasing after him. I ended up having to enclose the bag in a Tupperware container to get him to stop. He was LESS than pleased with me and hissed when I took the treats away, but then forgave me and used me as a ladder to get to a windowsill two minutes later, so we’re good now.

It's a Lot of Work for Men to Take Their Wife's Name

I've found a number of articles and studies lately that mention how difficult it is for men to take their wife's name upon marriage. As the paper below notes, while this initially looks like a form of discrimination against men, it really is a form of procedurally imposed discrimination against women; in most states, women are not entitled to have a husband take their name with the same relative ease that they are allowed to take their husband's. By making it so difficult and expensive for men to take their wife's names, even the most liberal men are discouraged from considering such a thing. Thus, the tradition of women only taking their husband's name continues on and on.  [I'm now imagining my Civil Procedure professor shouting out "TRADITION" and dancing in a parody of Fiddler on the Roof he did in class several times]

Some snippets on the subject:

"When I decided to take my wife's last name, I was shocked by how different the process is for men." By James Kosur, Business Insider (Dec. 19, 2015).

"Little did I know, the name change process would not be simple because of my gender.  .... If I was a woman who had been recently married, I would have presented my marriage license to the court, paid a name-change fee, and moved on with my life. A close friend tells me she remembers paying around $60 and submitting a simple form alongside her marriage certificate to change her name. Within weeks her name change was official. I paid $300 for a newspaper ad and spent hours in court and visiting with a newspaper ad sales representative in order to change my name. The change took more than a month to complete."  (Kosur describes the process as it currently exists in Illinois

Vintage Bride/Groom. By Jean L. Used under a Creative Commons License. Available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/yourcastlesdecor/14150266866/.

Vintage Bride/Groom. By Jean L. Used under a Creative Commons License. Available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/yourcastlesdecor/14150266866/.

Deborah J. Anthony, A Spouse by Any Other Name, 17 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 187 (2010).

"Currently only nine state statutes explicitly allow a man to change his name through marriage with the same procedures as a woman. Interestingly, it has been allowed in Maine since 1980 by Attorney General opinion rather than statute. California was the most recent to join that group in 2007, as a result of a lawsuit filed by a man named Mike Buday, who desired to change his name to that of his wife but was prohibited from doing so outside of the court process. Rather than fight the lawsuit, California amended its law with the Name Equality Act of 2007, which became effective in 2009. The legislature noted the importance of names in Sec. 2 of the Act: “[T]he choice to adopt or not adopt a new name upon marriage or registration of domestic partnership is a profoundly personal reflection of one’s individuality, equality, family, community, and beliefs.”

It should be noted that some states’ laws are not explicit, but may be interpreted to apply to both women and men, and that male name change at marriage may be allowed at the county level. This results in what Emens identifies as “desk-clerk law,” where the law essentially consists of whatever the person at the desk says it is. This results in interpretations that are incorrect and/or discouraging of unconventional choices, with results being highly inconsistent from one employee, and one county, to the next. 

.... What at first appears to be discrimination against men is in reality discrimination against women: the status quo represents a legal sanctioning of the social norms that subsumed a woman within the husband’s identity. Because taking their husbands’ names at marriage was never really a “right” of women, but rather a requirement, the “right” actually inheres in the man. In essence, women are still denied what men have always enjoyed: the right to have a spouse adopt their name at marriage. This is why, in a society that has almost never legally favored the female over the male, and where men have always had the common law right to change their name whenever they chose, they are nevertheless not permitted to do so at marriage."

Michael Rosensaft, The Right of Men to Change their Names Upon Marriage, 5 J. of Const. Law 186 (2002).

"[C]ourts have gone beyond the restrictions listed in the statutes and rejected name change applications due to public policy or just their own whim. For example, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the petition of a man who wished to change his name to '1069' for no other reason than the court did not think such a name conformed with their ideal of social norms. With so much discretion given to, and sometimes taken by, the courts, there is no assurance that any application will necessarily be approved. It might be argued that many judges would automatically allow name changes for marital purposes. However, a groom taking his wife's name is not a widely accepted practice, and judges have denied applications where they did not think it fit certain social structures. For instance, some courts have denied gay couples' petitions to have the same last name. This example is not so important because it directly applies to marital name change statutes, but because it shows that giving discretion to courts means that they are free to apply the social norms that they find acceptable. ...And lest one think a judge would always approve a man's wish to adopt his wife's surname, at least one Florida judge was resistant to this idea when he told Dan Cipoletti that he 'needed a better reason than getting married to change his name...'

Other evidence tends to show that Congress supports the right to control one's name upon marriage. In 1964, Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which holds that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to their sex. The Sixth Circuit has applied this statute to marital name change. In Allen v. Lovejoy, the court invoked Title VII when a woman was fired from her job because she refused to go by her husband's surname after marriage and wanted to sign her own maiden name to company forms.  The Sixth Circuit stated that a 'rule which applies only to women, with no counterpart applicable to men, may not be the basis for depriving a female employee who is otherwise qualified of her right to continued employment.' In addition to Title VII, Congress has added a section to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that is specifically gender neutral and states:'A creditor shall not refuse to allow an applicant to open or maintain an account in a birthgiven first name and a surname that is the applicant's birth-given surname, the spouse's surname, or a combined surname.' Clearly, considering the Sixth Circuit's construction of Congress' intent in enacting Title VII and the additions Congress has made in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Congress feels it important that a spouse who wishes to either change their name upon marriage or keep it the same not be discriminated against. While Congress has not specifically addressed the issue of a man changing his name upon marriage, it is more likely that this is due to the practice being relatively infrequent rather than it not falling in line with their aforementioned policies."

This article also has a fascinating Equal Protection analysis of the issue. I highly suggest you read it!

Inexpensive Sponge Replacements for the Fisher-Wallace Stimulator

I wrote recently about my experience with the Fisher-Wallace Stimulator; in that post, I mentioned a cheaper source for the sponges for the electrodes. Here’s how that works!

The Fisher-Wallace Stimulator has significantly improved my life, but it’s not exactly cheap. For me, it’s totally been worth it, but I wanted to find a way to continue using it without spending a ton of money. The sponges in the electrodes have to be changed every week or two or they lose their effectiveness (believe me, I know. I’ve tracked this and my depression symptoms definitely get worse if my sponges are old). However, the sponges they sell on the FW website are…hideously expensive. Like $1 a sponge. No.

Sponge detritus, the sponges cut out to size (they’re thin and compact before they get wet), and the finished product in the electrode for the Fisher-Wallace Stimulator.

Sponge detritus, the sponges cut out to size (they’re thin and compact before they get wet), and the finished product in the electrode for the Fisher-Wallace Stimulator.

So I set out looking for replacement sponges that were cheaper. I couldn’t find ones that were exactly made to fit the stimulator, but I found these on Amazon for $19, coming out to under 40 cents apiece. They’re intended for cosmetic use, but they work great with the stimulator! You do have to cut them down to size to fit, but I’m totally willing to spend 10 minutes cutting down sponges to save so much money!

Here’s the price breakdown - if I used the FW sponges for a year and replaced them weekly like you’re supposed to, I’d be spending $104 just on sponges. However, with these, I end up spending under $40 per year on sponges, and I can spend that extra money on pretty much anything else. 😁😁😁

adsense

“Big Dave’s Goliath” is Out in Gypsum Sound Tale’s Colp: Big!

So my wackiest, most inspired by Carl Hiaasen story is in this anthology! “Big Dave’s Goliath” features a gigantic, slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty replica of Michelangelo’s David standing in the center of a small town in Texas, and the shenanigans that ensue when an act of vandalism removes the statue’s uh, Goliath.

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See how many ways my story can refer to the incident in question without saying “penis!” Enjoy a story full of dick jokes that doesn’t actually have anything to do with sex!

E-book: https://amzn.to/2YAIqWz

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2Xqonxv

5-Minute Pain Meditation

I don’t meditate very well. I have ADHD, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, none of which lend themselves well to sitting quietly and focusing on just one thing. I also don’t even feel the need to meditate every day, but sometimes I want to try, if I’m feeling particularly upset or frazzled. I’ll sometimes incorporate into my daily reading and journaling routine.

I’ve found the best method for me is to set a 5-minute timer on the Insight Timer app with little bells going off on 30 seconds. Then I stretch my neck in various directions, focusing on the “sweet and sour” pain from that stretch and the underlying chronic muscle pain. It gives me something to concentrate on other than just blankness, and it tends to work very well for me, as I have a focus that calms me. I change stretch positions every time I hear a 30 second bell going off (I previously had tried doing these alternating movements just by keeping an eye on the timer, but I found that ended up being too distracting).

It’s short and simple but it works pretty well! I don’t feel the need to be able to meditate for a long time or even regularly, but it’s a great tool to have in my back pocket for when I DO need it. :)

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I always meditate, journal, and read at my kitchen table in one specific chair, using my Moleskine professional journal (I love the layout) and a book holder for my book (keeps me from having to look down too much, which irritates my neck).

A cat will often get into my lap during this time. Today that cat was Schrodinger, who crankily meowed at me until I picked him up. :) Love my sweet old man cat.

The Right of Married American Women to be More than "And Wife" on a Passport

Let's never forget how far women actually have come. Less than 100 years ago, women didn't even have the right to see their first name with their husband's last name on a passport, much less their birth name. It's a little depressing that such advances are so recent.

Us modern women are incredibly lucky to live when we do- we have more freedom and more rights than almost any women have throughout history. That doesn't mean we should stop addressing sexism wherever we see it, but it is something to think about. 

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"U.S. passports predate the Declaration of Independence, but the documents were issued on an ad hoc basis until the late 1800s, when the process began to standardize. By then, a single woman was issued a passport in her own name, but a married woman was only listed as an anonymous add-on to her husband’s document: 'Mr. John Doe and wife.'

'Restrictions on travel rarely took the form of government policy or officials actively preventing women traveling abroad. Rather, restrictions came in the form of accepted social ideas,' says Craig Robertson, author of Passport in America: History of a Document. 'Put simply, it was not acceptable for a married woman to travel outside of the country without her husband; he, of course, could travel without her. More generally, a married woman’s public identity was tied to her husband, and passports reflected that in being issued to the husband, with his wife being a literal notation.'..

[Doris E.] Fleischman’s passport was the first legal document issued by a federal agency to a woman under the name she preferred and the first U.S. passport issued to a married woman that didn’t designate her as the “wife of” her husband. However, though other women could request passports with similar wording as Fleischman’s, the State Department continued to issue passports referring to most women as 'the wife of Mr. John Doe' until the late 1930s."

The 1920s Women Who Fought for the Right to Travel Under Their Own Names - By Sandra Knisely, March 27, 2017  http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/us-passport-history-women?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=atlas-page

Picture credit: Doris E. Fleischman's passport application (National Archives and Records Administration - public domain)

Sunshine Through the Water

Originally Written August 13, 2018, before my new depression treatment kicked in and started working.

I haven’t exactly ever made it a secret that I live with clinical depression and ADD, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how bad in particular it has been the last few months.

Don’t get me wrong; so many parts of this summer have been wonderful and I have been fully present to enjoy them- our wedding and honeymoon, our visit to Texas, acting in The Tempest. But any time that I have had a regular week of work this summer, I have seriously struggled with depression. If I don’t diligently walk outside in the sun most days of the week, it’s really bad. I walk through my life and see the wonderful things and people in it and understand that happiness and joy are the logical reactions to these things - but for the most part, during a bad depression relapse, I can’t fully feel these emotions.

It’s like I’m underwater looking up at the sun; the light filters in a bit, but it doesn’t fully come through and I can’t feel its warmth. And everything is a struggle; everything makes me tired and feel like I’m failing everyone and myself. Any problem seems insurmountable. I often hide away at home, burying myself in crafts and Netflix to distract myself from the fog. I want to see no one and just stay in bed all day.

When my meds are working and I’ve spent enough time walking outside and spent enough time around friends, it’s kinda like I’ve been underwater, but someone gave me a rainbow unicorn float, and now I can rest on the surface and stop struggling so much; I can bask in the sun, which I can fully appreciate and feel. My brain fires on all cylinders and I can generally solve problems with ease.

These times are not predictable. I can’t tell you why exactly this summer has been so rough for me; usually winter is harder. Stress and traveling probably has a lot to do with it, but I don’t know if that explains it all. I’ve made an appointment with my therapist to talk about maybe switching or increasing my meds, but she couldn’t see me for several weeks, so I’ve had to make do by taking supplements that /might/ help according to various studies on the internet.

I spent most of this last PAD convention in a depression fog. I hated that I was surrounded by people I loved doing things I loved and still felt like I was blocked off from actually experiencing happiness. I forced lots of smiles. I had bits and pieces of joy and friendship and love slip through, and 5 minutes or so of clear thinking every once in a while, but the fog didn’t totally lift until today (the day after it ended, naturally. Your timing sucks, brain). I don’t know why; I wish I did. (Thank you PAD friends, by the way, for being awesome and welcoming and loving even when I seemed mentally absent or a bit off over the last few days)

So what’s your point, Rachael? Why are you rambling about this deeply personal mental health struggle? Well, self, our society has a terrible stigma against mental illness and I consider it my responsibility as a human being to do what I can to alleviate the sufferings of others, so if talking about my struggle can help even just one other person feel not so alone, I want to do it. I like to think I’m a decent example of success while dealing with depression, as someone who actually did well in law school and has had great jobs and friends and has a pretty amazing new husband.

To sum all this up, I feel pretty fucked up and full of self loathing on a regular basis and it’s not something i can fully control right now, but I refuse to let that keep me from living my life the way I want to, so I’m fighting to feel the sun even if it’s hard and impossible sometimes. Even though I often feel miserable and lost, I wear the sparkles and dye my hair rainbow colors and obsess over my cats and take what other little actions I can to bring a little more light to my life and the life of others.

So if you also feel fucked up, please keep fighting and don’t let it dim your sparkle. (And talk to someone about it, even if it’s just a friend)