all of the histamine

I have an appointment to establish care with an allergist today. The plan is to get allergy testing done and then re-initiate allergy shots. I had a truncated course of shots back during medical school when it became impossible to mesh the schedule of the shots (weekly and then monthly) with the schedule of clerkships (all over the fucking place, changing from week to week). I think I had maybe a two year stretch of them? Optimistically, three at the most. The usual course is five years, I think.

So I want to start getting them again because they did make my allergic rhinitis symptoms so much better. It’s a self-imposed problem, of course. I’m somewhat allergic to cats, but I’ve always had cats. And I anticipate that I will keep having cats in the house. I’m also allergic to dogs, and everyone I care about in my life right now has dogs. So… Yeah…

In any event, in anticipation of the appointment and allergy testing today, I’ve been off cetirizine (Zyrtec) for five days now. And IT. HAS. BEEN. FUCKING. MISERABLE. My original allergist in Dallas advised me to take it daily, not so much for allergies, but for my dermatographia (aka skin writing). Basically, minor trauma/pressure (i.e. scratching, poking, nudging OR hell, too much heat or too much cold) to my skin causes a histamine response, leading to hives along the trauma. It’s called skin writing because you can literally write out words and my histamine response will follow.

This is not my skin. From Healthline.com.

Not only does it lead to unsightly welts, EVERYTHING IS FUCKING ITCHY. It’s torture. I’d rather be in pain than be itchy like this. I try to refrain from scratching–it only makes it worse seeing as the scratching causes more hives causes more itching causes more…–but there’s only so much a person can take before the claws come out. There is a small line of petechiae (from broken capillaries) along my right inner arm from a self-attack in my sleep last night.

I can’t fucking wait to be back on Zyrtec. Being off of it has left me irritated (literally and figuratively), grumpy, sleep-deprived, distracted, and, of course, itchy. Medicine is the goddamn best–I will fight you.


Edit @ 2:41p

I ended up having a blood test done instead of skin testing. The allergist tested my dermatographia, took one look at the response, and was like “yeah, that’s going to be too hard to interpret.” I said that I didn’t care how the allergy testing got done as long as it was done today, so she sent me to the lab. She mentioned that you didn’t need to be off Zyrtec for the blood test.

WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME THAT WHEN I MADE THE APPOINTMENT.

I totally would have opted for the blood test straight off the bat and avoided the last five miserable days. But I suppose this is something that the appointment schedulers aren’t trained in.

jungle cat

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A said that we should move her bed because she probably didn’t like the fact that it was next to a potted plant that we were lax in trimming. Now there is clear evidence that she’s totally fine being a jungle cat.

This was the least disgruntled pic of her that I got because she did not appreciate my sneaking up on her during her sunbeam time. I had to give lots of pets to be forgiven.

a profusion of green

For various reasons, outside of a little weeding here or there, A and I haven’t done much with the garden for the past couple of weeks. We went out there today to weed in earnest (it never ends) and were confronted by a verdant explosion.

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What.

Cue a busy morning of making pesto, making sikil pak, drying herbs, and making kale chips. I infused the lemon verbena into some simple syrup for cocktails later.

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Top: dill, lemon verbena, tarragon, marjoram. Bottom: oregano, basil, parsley.

This wasn’t even a full harvest. This was just trimming stuff back. An abundance of kale is not pictured, though you can see it peeking into frame in the upper right.

Little pawpaws were coming in too, which is very exciting.

I’m slightly worried that they’re going to ripen right when we’re going on (or during) our Europe trip. Pawpaws have a distinctly short shelf life and go quickly from perfectly ripe to way too overripe. So timing the picking and processing of fruit is very important. I’ll have to come up with some contingency plans (I can think of at least one person who would be ecstatic to help me out…).

I’m super excited for the cucumbers and beans to come in. Thus far, the garden experiment this year has been working quite well.

 

sewing for europe

In a couple of months, A and I are taking a trip to Europe. We’re meeting up with my family in Bordeaux, which has been a little over a year in the making. It’ll be A’s first time to Europe, so we’re extending the trip a bit so we can hop around a bit on our own. I’m thinking Amsterdam, maybe Belgium. I’m super excited!

Even though we’re a little ways out, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to pack. I’m more of a fall and winter person (Long coats! Fuzzy sweaters! Cute boots!), so I’ve never been good at summer clothes. How do you wear skirts? How do shorts work? I have no idea. My wardrobe in general is kind of a mishmash of different styles, none of which I necessarily feel like are my style (whatever that means). Add to that the fact that I’m trying not to buy any new clothes this year (unless I can’t make it or it’s thrifted), that means a lot more sewing is in order!

For this trip, I’m thinking lots of basic pieces that are easy to mix and match and clean. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to putting together outfits (partially because how do?), and I prioritize comfort and secret pajamas.

europe summer 18 inspo

one / two / three / four / five / six / seven

There is a surprising lack of pants in my inspo board. Also, that was the first time I made one of those, and I refuse to admit how long it took.

I’ve put together an absurdly long project list with full knowledge of the fact that I’m not likely to finish every project.

  • Projects
    • T-shirts (white and black). Going for a slightly slouchy silhouette. – Plantain probably (free Deer and Doe pattern!)
    • T-shirt dress – self-draft. Which should be interesting. I got an interesting tie-dye jersey that I’ve earmarked for this.
    • Easy to wear pants. In a fun pattern or in black. Maybe a linen blend or a crepe. – Alexandria Peg Trousers by Named
    • Maxi dress. I’m not a hundred percent sold on this yet because I’m wondering if it would take up too much space in luggage. – Highlands wrap dress
    • Shirt dress. I’ve been coveting this basically ever since I discovered Heather Lou’s blog. – Kalle
    • Shorter/fancier dress. Not totally sure this will be necessary, so it’s definitely lower on the priority list. – Amalfi
    • Skirts. I’m having a moment with them. I want to learn how to wear them.

So… yeah. A little ambitious, sure. But it’s good to have goals.

designing a sewing space

About a year ago, I started dabbling in sewing. I’m already a knitter, but I have a chronic case of unfinished knitting projects. Likely because I get antsy when progress seems so slow, and I have trouble sitting there knitting for long stretches of time. I enjoy it, but sometimes I just need more immediate satisfaction.

Sewing is perfect for that: it’s just fiddly enough for me to focus, and the projects I’ve done so far have come together pretty quickly. I still have a lot to learn with regards to pattern alterations and sizing (I made a Tamarack jacket a little over a month ago based on what I thought were accurate measurements, and then they weren’t. But the jacket fit my friend perfectly, so now she has it in DC.) — I assume that comes with more practice.

I haven’t been sewing as much as I’ve wanted to because in order to actually do it, I take over basically the entirety of my kitchen island and dining room table. And then it’s cumbersome to move stuff around (we have a lot of stairs in our house), so there all of that stuff sits until I’m done with a project and I lug everything back upstairs to sit in a corner in my office.

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Taking over the dining table. Incidentally with the Tamarack jacket.

I’ve mentioned before that A and I have been slowly putting the house together. The third floor is still empty — right now, we use it as a makeshift guest room. But what if we could also add some work surfaces and I could have a crafty area?

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tier one gardening

A and I have very different backgrounds when it comes to nature and green growing things. He grew up surrounded by prairie and fruit trees and ponds (of both the fishing and swimming variety), whereas I have always lived in big cities. I have a highly romanticized view of what it means to garden. (In my view, bugs don’t try to bite me all the time.) When it came time to look for a house, we both wanted to have some outdoor space — he to remind himself of the green he had in childhood, and I to fulfill my lifelong dream of having a secret garden.

When A and I moved to St. Louis, we found an awesome Victorian house that had an actual yard, a rarity for most of these older homes. The house sits on a double lot, and all that extra space is gorgeous greenery, something we had been sorely missing when we lived in the metal-and-concrete-locked Dallas.

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The original yard was landscaped with a lot of decorative plants.

Last year, we didn’t think about the garden until summer was already underway. That was a time of life changes and redirecting, and the garden was getting along decently with minimal intervention from us. We had managed to get an herb garden in the ground, though I made the mistake of choosing plants that were novel rather than ones I would actually use. We had a poorly placed lemongrass that tried to cut you when you attempted to get to the other herbs. We had pineapple mint but no minty mint. We had dill, even though I literally never use dill. Yet, even with that small amount of planting and those mistakes (likely because of the mistakes), we learned a lot.

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We took up some of the tiles and made a mosaic herb garden. The lemongrass is that one in the top left corner, and it got huge.

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resigned

I wrote my actual resignation letter today.

For the past three months, I’ve been on a leave of absence, one that ends at the end of month four. And as previously agreed, it’s around this time, the beginning of my fourth month, that I’m supposed to contact my programs and tell them whether I’m going back or not. I thought about this last week, mentioned this soft deadline to a couple of friends. Mused about it a little. But I hesitated in writing the letter. I’m not sure why. Not because I had second thoughts about my decision to leave. More because it felt like this moment should be some kind of event. I thought it would feel more weighty, more permanent, more. I thought I would feel some kind of finality, like the fabric of my life was shifting, like… something. But I feel the same today having written the letter as I did yesterday when I was still musing.

When I first went and told my program that I was planning to leave, we had several meetings. They were supportive meetings. Meetings that asked after burn-out and my mental state (the answers to those things were yes and mildly depressed respectively). There was plenty of shock and confusion because I had never really talked about quitting before – it wasn’t something I discussed with the people in my program. I probably could have, but it was a process I needed to work through myself. And I didn’t have any performance issues – I was a good doctor by most measures; I just didn’t have any passion for the job. After a good amount of back and forth, my program directors convinced me to take a leave of absence instead of outright resigning. When they first talked to me about this, I was resistant. They wanted me to take it because it would leave a door open, and I didn’t want to take it for the exact same reason. There was a part of me that felt that the decision I made had to be final for it to stick. I kept thinking that if I took a leave, if I knew I could go back, then when things became hard or scary, I would run back to it. As if I would wake up one day and find that the will and courage and moxie I dredged up from the depths of somewhere would have evaporated, and all this would have been some kind of dream.

I mean, I get it. It was a momentous decision by any metric. When a decision seems that huge and life-altering (and in my case, seemingly sudden, though it wasn’t, not really), they want to really make sure that you are sure. That you won’t have regrets. And I appreciate that, the effort and the sentiment and care that went into pushing me to take the leave. I really do. But the flipside of that was I was already living with about a decade of regrets, and this was my first attempt to try to step away from that.

It’s like Tim Ferriss said:

To do or not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows, and most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.

It was a choice that I made over and over again, until I decided to choose differently.

And maybe it didn’t feel huge and momentous because this was a decision I had actually made months and months ago. The sharpening of sentiment, the nostalgia, the doubt – those were things I felt briefly the day that I packed up my desk, turned in my key. But now. Now I’ve spent three months living my life after, and I feel… light. I feel happy – something that I really haven’t been able to say in a long time. I feel more like myself than I have in forever.

Writing the letter was quick, quicker than I expected. There were words at the tips of my fingers that I wanted to send, some words of feeling or some kind of explanation, something to spark… understanding? Forgiveness? (I still have the terrible habit of trying not to disappoint anyone while mostly disappointing myself over and over.) I don’t know. But in the end, it was a few lines that were pretty matter of fact. It was something that I knew already. It was one of those things that once you know you can’t un-know, and I’ve known it for a while.

I’m not going back.