“Roid Rage” in your Dogs

I do not like giving medication to my dogs; I believe it’s always scary and potentially harmful, not just for me, but for them as well. Whenever possible, I look for a holistic/homeopathic remedy, but there are times when the condition mandates a hard-core treatment. Heartworms are one of those conditions.

If you are a pet owner, you are surely familiar with heartworm preventative medications, but in case you’re unfamiliar with the disease itself, here’s a quick overview:

  • Heartworms are large parasitic worms that are injected into your pet’s bloodstream by mosquitos via larvae*
  • Once the larvae mature, untreated worms can live in your pet’s system up to 7 years*
  • Over time, heartworms attack an animal’s veins, liver, lungs, heart, and other vital organs*
  • Your pet may not show any symptoms until the disease has already progressed*

Roid Rage in dogs
Almost as bad as the worms themselves is the treatment to destroy them. The current treatment for heartworm disease is a series of 3 intra-muscular injections of a medication called Immiticide®, which is, essentially an organic form of arsenic which “blasts” the heartworms into pieces. The goal is for the heartworm fragments to be dispersed into the animal’s bloodstream and then eliminated. Due to risk of pulmonary embolism, the animal is placed on a 4-week regimen of predisone (predisolone), a strong corticosteroid, following the injections to control inflammation.

Short term use of Prednisone is associated with a wide range of side effects (for humans and pets): from fluid retention, insomnia, lethargy, increased thirst, inappropriate urination, and constipation or diarrhea.  Those side effects are considered “normal” and generally your vet will give you a heads up to expect one or some of those.

…but nobody mentions the potential for psychological side effects from prednisone:

steroid-induced psychosis, or “roid rage.”

This is Chloe with our Eskie puppy Oslo playing together shortly after we adopted her (“pre-prednisone”)

Our newest family member is Chloe, a 1 1/2 year old Golden Retriever mix that was adopted from a local SPCA but needed to be re-homed because she was lonely. She is a very sociable and playful girl who loves other dogs and was better suited for a multi-dog household. Chloe came to our house for a “meet and greet” and after just five minutes with our 6-month old Eskie puppy, they were BFF’s.  Our Brittany Spaniel also liked her and our, somewhat ornery 14-year old Pomeranian approved as well. We were thrilled! Chloe was heartworm positive when we adopted her and already scheduled for her treatments. Since she was an otherwise healthy dog, we didn’t expect any surprises from her treatment.

Chloe was visibly different when we took her home from the vet but that didn’t seem unusual considering the nature of the injection. As expected, the prednisone made her extra hungry and thirsty and she peed in the house. But after about a week, there were obvious personality changes in Chloe.

Without warning or provocation, Chloe attacked our little Pomeranian, Kimba.

Thankfully, Kimba was ok, but I was beside myself! What the hell had happened?! Even Chloe didn’t seem to understand. Her body was tense but in her eyes I saw fear and confusion.

I called the manufacturers of both Immiticide and Prednisone. I was told by both companies that the behavior I described was not a known side effect, nor had anything like that been reported previously; however, my reports would be filed with the FDA as is standard (and required) protocol.

As we weaned Chloe off the Prednisone, her behavior (and overall state of mind) was improving. She seemed much happier and there were no more accidents in the house. A friend’s 12-week old puppy came over for a play date and she was thrilled to play with the little cutie.

Thirty days after the first injection, Chloe went back for her second and third injections, followed by more Prednisone. Two days after Round 2 (a Sunday), another friend brought over her puppy for a play date and within seconds, Chloe lunged at the puppy in attack mode. I grabbed her before she reached the pup and, just like last time, I saw that look of fear in her eyes. I truly do not think Chloe was in control and she seemed to know it. I discontinued her Prednisone the next day (Monday). However, that night, she attacked Kimba again.

As an aside, let me just write that I blame myself for allowing her near Kimba and I am incredibly grateful that he is ok – at least physically. Kimba came to us from a long history of neglect and abuse. He has come so far in his ability to trust and, until these incidents, I had never seen him happier. He has now retreated back to his shell, which is devastating. I am hopeful that with a little time I can fully regain his trust.  It is truly one of the worst things to lose in any relationship.

I have scoured the internet looking for other pet owners who may have experienced similar types of behavioral changes in their dog after taking Prednisone and have found dozens of posts with similar stories, including:

Additionally, a small, 2011 study on the effects of using Prednisone with dogs concluded a possible correlation between the drug and  canine aggression, when 35% of participating dogs experienced negative behavioral changes. So, I followed up with the in-house veterinarian at  Lloyd, Inc., the pharmaceutical company that makes PrednisTab® and I asked why such significant potential side effects are not common information among prescribers. The answer was simple:

The incidents are not being reported to them.

Any type of negative interaction with any medication by your pet should be reported to either the in-house veterinary team at the  pharmaceutical company or directly to the FDA.

The news is full of reports about the risks of drug interactions for us, humans. Less than a month ago, results of a 5-Year Study reported that more than 15% of senior citizens may be at risk of a drug interaction. That kind of information will surely initiate changes to help minimize those risks. But change doesn’t happen on its own.

Just blogging, posting, complaining to your vet or your friends about the side effects does nothing to help our animals!

For the sake of all animals, please report significant or unusual negative pharmaceutical side effects! I will continue to monitor Chloe carefully. Hopefully everything will go back to normal and she’ll feel like her happy, carefree self again (only without the heartworms.)

*source: https://www.petcarerx.com

Technology in Retrograde?

It’s been months since I’ve blogged and it’s not necessarily because I’ve had nothing to write about, but more so because I felt that I’ve had nothing original to contribute. I’ve got plenty of rants I could jot down regarding politics or healthcare but, seriously, who wants to hear one more person’s opinion on that? So, I think I’ll write about something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now; I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t comment about this particular topic and yet, despite its relative unimportance to issues like the environment or terrorism, it does seem to be something that’s difficult to ignore in today’s culture.

It feels like technology is moving backwards.

tech-uphillOur society is filled with smart phones, touch-screens, fast passes, easy-pay systems, online banking, keyless entries, wifi, fiber optics and all sorts of technological advancements that are supposed to make our lives easier; and yet simple tasks seem to take longer than ever.

With each new iOS upgrade on my iPhone, I experience noticeably annoying bugs: there is a serious problem with screen rotation (either a delay or it doesn’t work at all), the space bar often disappears on the landscape mode keypad, my ringtone and/or vibrate randomly doesn’t work at times, and apps constantly crash. I have considered switching to Android, but hear similar complaints from owners of droid phones.

I own a Mid 2012 MacBook Pro, 2.9 GHz with an Intel Core i7 and 16 GB of DDR3 RAM and a 750 GB hard drive. Sure, it’s not brand new, but it’s a pretty solid laptop with an excellent processor, plenty of memory, lots of available hard drive space and I try to keep it well maintained. Despite my best efforts, I experience more and more problems with each update of OSX. Two years ago, I would have boldly stated “My MacBook does not crash!”, yet that is no longer the case. I am sure Apple would blame my “aging” hardware, but it seems too coincidental that there is a remarkable correlation between my OS updates and rise in crashes.

I recently borrowed a Windows laptop to teach a software class and when I saw the Windows 8 logo appear on boot, my immediate feeling of dread was quickly confirmed after just a few hours of use. I found the interface to be not only non-intuitive, but absolutely non-sensical. From the cluttered application list to the incredibly slow search function to the illogically renamed control panel that makes it impossible to find anything. Windows 8 was labeled Microsoft’s “biggest, boldest redesign” and to that, I would agree wholeheartedly. However, a redesign does not equal a better design.

On the web, I see a whole lot of redesigns seemingly using the same logic (or lack thereof) as Windows 8. Every day I seem to encounter sites, both large and small, still shiny from their recent re-launch yet providing a subpar user experience; the result of either a poorly designed UI, slow load times, broken links, or (and I experience this the most often) severe deficiencies/bugs when using on tablet or cell. At the other end of the website spectrum are the surprising number of never-redesigned websites, still sitting in their circa 2000 states, completely inaccessible via mobile device and virtually unusable on desktop/laptop.

I recently tried to register for a puppy obedience class. The company, small and independently owned, has a basic informational website with contact information. Based on the design and a quick look at the source code, I could see the website was designed using GoDaddy’s Website Tonight and I would guesstimate the original build happened at least 10 years ago. Visually, the mobile experience wasn’t great, but I was able to access the information I needed so I was satisfied; however when I tried to register for a class, I received a server error. I tried again and received the same error. Frustrated, I called the company, not once but twice before I finally received a return phone call and was able to register.

Similarly, I recently contacted a new chiropractor via his website and had a comparable experience. The difference, however, was that his website was recently redesigned, offering a friendly UI, attractive graphics, and pleasant mobile experience. Still, though, when I clicked the submit button, I received an error.

I am not just experiencing these frustrations on small websites. I recently decided to take a hiatus from Facebook so I disabled my account. A few days later, when I tried to log into my Spotify Premium account, I was reminded that, since it was linked to my Facebook account, I could no longer access it. After a lot of searching, I found one FAQ that told me that the only workaround would be to contact Spotify directly to change my account to an email-based account and then have them transfer over my playlists. I filled out the only form I could find on the Spotify website and now, several days later, have not heard back. That seems pretty unacceptable to me seeing as I am paying for the Spotify service; it also seems like a pretty convoluted way to switch my account credentials. Tired of waiting, I went ahead and did the following:

  1. I re-activated my Facebook account
  2. I logged into Spotify using my original account
  3. I canceled my account
  4. I de-activated Facebook (again)
  5. I created a new Spotify Premium account
  6. I began creating all new playlists because I lost all of the ones I had


The list goes on.

Why, in 2015, do I experience more dropped cellphone calls than I have in the past 10 years? I haven’t switched carriers.

Why, in 2015, do I suddenly have problems with my fiber optic cable tv? Again, I haven’t switched carriers and yet certain channels often appear with wavy lines across them, even on my large LCD HDTV.

Why, in 2015, do I have to wait 7-10 business days for a new debit card after a security breach at my bank? Isn’t there technology to allow them to create a new card in-house?

The 19th century gave us steam engines, railroads, the telegraph, the light bulb, the internal combustion engine, sanitation, the automobile and the birth of science fiction. During the 20th century came airplanes, semiconductors, personal computers, the internet, smartphones, genetic engineering and green technologies.

Now here we are in the 21st century and what have we contributed? We are a society of bug fixers and feature enhancers (or maybe they are the same thing). Has anything been developed? discovered? cured? Or are we just latched on to the achievements of those gone before us, convinced we can make enhancements rather than create something original and meaningful.

If technology is heading backwards and we, as an “advanced” society, have passed our peak, I sure wish someone would let me know so that I could ditch my iPhone with its $160/month plan package price and return to a sturdy little flip phone, where for $20/month I could just call and text. If online forms and websites aren’t going to work, it’s really all the technology I need anyway.

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”
– Douglas Adams

How a piece of paper has ruined the Super Bowl

paper footballI’ve never been a huge sports fan, but of all the major American sports, football has always been my favorite. More than 20 years ago, while dating an avid football fan, I learned enough about the game to enjoy spending Sundays parked in front of the TV rooting for my favorite teams, cheering at extraordinary plays, and holding my breath at that occasional Hail Mary that could win it all. Back then, it was an exciting time to be a football fan: Steve Young took Montana’s spot on the 49’ers, Dallas was America’s team, Emmitt Smith made history and headed to DisneyWorld. Sundays were fun and the Super Bowl was an “event”. It was exciting to hear who would sing the National Anthem; half time shows were actually cool to watch; and hearing the sticker price on commercials made everyone gasp.

Over the past several years, I’ve watched that energy change. Watching football is rarely about anyone’s favorite team anymore; it’s about who has which player on their Fantasy League. Throughout the regular season, fans watch TV alongside their mobile devices so that they can simultaneously check the reports on other games, and, of course, their Fantasy League stats. Once the fantasy season ends and the playoffs begin, we get a couple weeks to catch a glimpse of the “old days” – teams are weeded out, fans root for their favorites (with alternates, of course, in case their team blows it early), and for the first time all season, people seem to be actually watching the games. They yell at the TV when they disagree with the refs, they cheer at picks, groan at sacks, and sit on the edge of their seats as the score continually jumps sides.

Sadly, this sense of true excitement seems to end when the BIG game rolls around… and I blame it on one thing, and one thing alone:

The Superbowl Square.

Sure, it seemed like fun to put down $5 and write your name in a blank box on a sheet of paper circulating the office. Kind of like buying a scratch ticket, there was no real expectation of winning. But then the stakes got higher. One square turned into two. $5 turned into $25 or even $100. The Superbowl Square had become more than a fun little addition to the game; it had changed the way the game was watched.

The last time I attended a Super Bowl “party” was a few years ago and it was a small gathering – maybe 8 people. It didn’t take long to notice the changes. The stillness during each quarter was sharply interrupted at the 2 minute warning by the sound of crinkling paper, as everyone reached into their pocket to retrieve and unfold their squares. You see, around the 2 minute warning is the perfect time to begin devising every possible scenario that could occur by the time the clock hits 0:00. If team1 kicks, then so-and-so wins the square and $250; but if they get a touchdown, then so-and-so takes the $250… but what if it’s a touchdown and they go for 2? What if there’s a fumble or a pick? A blocked kick would be a complete game changer and the $250 would belong to somebody else. The quarter continues but nobody is rooting for their team anymore – they are all rooting for their squares!

Naturally, this behavior continues throughout the course of the game. Some of the $4 million commercials get watched but many get missed as friends text each other to see how they are doing on their squares. The half time show is now considered a joke by many – so as some of the people stay to watch the fanfare on TV, the rest break for food, texting and reviewing their squares (again). By the end of the game, you will, of course, have some true fans, either ecstatic or heartbroken about the results; but in my experience you will mostly have bitter losers whose quarterback sneak scenario didn’t work out and thus, didn’t win their square. Plus of course, 1-4 happy people who did win and whom everybody now secretly despises.

And that is how a little photocopied square has ruined the Super Bowl – well, at least for me anyway.

So, for me… unless I am suddenly invited to a vegan, square-free SuperBowl party (ha!), I will be doing what I have been doing the past several years – skipping the game altogether, commercials and all. I will follow the score on twitter and watch the commercials the next day on YouTube.

Go Patriots

P.S. sadly, you can even download your very own, already customized template – and official rules for squaring – right off the Sports Illustrated website: http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/01/18/super-bowl-squares-2015-template-rules   …sigh

(Not so) Happy Holidays

It’s actually kind of hard to believe that 2014 is ending; this has been the longest and shortest year of my life. In less than a week it will be Christmas again and my first birthday – ever – without hearing Rachel’s voice. I had decided months ago that I couldn’t and wouldn’t spend the holidays at home. I am writing this post from a cute little studio apartment on the banks of the Garonne in Toulouse, France; it is nearing the end of the first of 3 weeks (and 3 countries) of traveling I am doing. The beautiful Cervantes acoustic guitar that Bruce had bought me for my birthday last year had become a reminder of a horrific day that I never wanted to celebrate again and so, with his understanding, I sold it to buy my RT ticket to Europe and to begin making deposits on apartment rentals in 3 cities: Toulouse, FR, Brighton, UK and Amsterdam.

Toulouse France La Garonne

La Garonne – Toulouse, France

I’d been to Paris twice before (though it’s been years); Rach had been to France twice as well. Neither of us had ever been to Toulouse, which is primarily why I chose this southwestern French city. They call it “la ville rose” because nearly every building is made from brick. It’s very pretty here and though I haven’t seen the sun during my stay, the weather has been mild and I’ve been able to walk everywhere. I think Rachel would have liked Toulouse… Very nice shopping (with lots of vintage shops), excellent restaurants, cafés and bakeries, and “just enough” to do without being overwhelmed with stuff to do. It’s a city for sure, but not at all like Paris where you need to plan your days in order to fit in museums, monuments and all of the arrondissements. Like Paris though, Toulouseans are still very “French” – they walk super fast (always in a hurry to get somewhere, though not sure where), drive kind of crazy (I don’t even know why crosswalks exist in France – if there isn’t a crosslight, nobody stops for you), and they all look a bit grumpy at first. Actually, Rachel would have been a perfect Parisian. She had the walk, the great sense of style, the crazy driving, the cigarettes, beautiful hair, rad collection of shoes, and a natural scowl until you got to know her😉

I’m straying… This entry isn’t really meant to be about Rachel and how much I miss her and how much the holidays suck without her. I wouldn’t even be here if that were not the case. Nearly every shop has some cute little thing that I know she would have liked and that I would have bought for her if this was a “real” vacation and she was still here. Today I stood outside one such a shop with many cute things in its window; I would have bought Rachel the set of tiny teaspoons with cats painted on them. For me, the set with owls. To my left was one of dozens of historic churches in Toulouse; sitting on the church steps was a guy, couldn’t have been more than 21 years old, clearly homeless, with 2 dogs. I suddenly felt sick and petty. Was I seriously going to buy some overpriced teaspoons that I don’t even need?

Notre Dame in Toulouse

The “other” Notre Dame – in Toulouse, France

The guy, probably handsome under all the grit, was dirty and tired looking. One of his dogs was asleep, its head resting on the guy’s lap; the other sitting loyally beside him. He wasn’t soliciting per sé, I mean, I think his presence was probably enough anyway. I watched as most people walked past him without a glance, a few handing him a coin or two as they entered the church. He accepted their donations graciously and put the change into a small wallet in a beat up backpack. It was mid day so I found the closest sandwich shop which happened to not even be French, but rather Greek, and ordered a steak frites kabob (I don’t even know what that is but it seemed like it would be filling) and a bottle of water.

Few people ever speak to the homeless; Bruce almost always does – especially if they are a veteran. Maybe it’s stupid but I think it’s nice to actually talk to someone rather than just throw a buck at them and walk away, especially at the holidays. So I asked the kid, in my sucky French, if he had eaten today and he said no. I gave him the bag of food and said “pour  vous.” Then I gave him a few Euro and told him that I know that the holidays are difficult. I said hello to his dog that wasn’t napping, wished him well and left. Obviously, I don’t know the difficulty he faces, clearly not; but I do know the holidays are especially tough for a lot of people in many different ways for a variety of reasons.

Ok, so my point from that very verbose story is just this: I am choosing to spend the holidays alone. Many people do not have a choice, they are just alone. Be grateful for what you have and who you have – and hold on to it because it can disappear faster than you can imagine; and once it’s gone you don’t always get a second chance.

Be safe and stay warm.

Rach, wherever you are, I hope this and every birthday is filled with laughter and unicorns and cupcakes and kittens. xoxo ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Beware of scary food dyes this Halloween

My brother-in-law and I share an affinity for Oreo cookies, double stuf at minimum, mega stuf whenever possible. As a vegan, I have a special appreciation for America’s best selling cookie; after all, they may not be organic or free of high fructose corn syrup, but they are made from fairly minimal ingredients and have always been vegan and free of artificial colors.

Oreo ingredients

Original Oreo ingredients

Halloween Oreos with artificial colors made from chemicals As summer winds down this Labor Day weekend, Halloween stock is hitting the shelves of supermarkets everywhere. Dave, my brother-in-law, was pretty excited to tell me about the “Halloween edition” Oreos he had just purchased. My immediate response: “Are they orange?”

Now, I hate to be a downer amongst those of you who enjoy seeing your favorite treats decked out for the holidays; pastel sugar dough at Easter, red and green frosting at Christmastime, bright orange Oreo creme at Halloween but here’s the thing… those dyes being used to color what was once white are made from chemicals!

The most commonly used dyes in foods in the US are yellow 5, yellow 6, and red 40. They’re in everything from Doritos and Cheetos to Fruit Loops to Dannon Fruit Blend Yogurt to Gatorade. These dyes have been linked to allergies, hyperactivity in children, rashes, and more. The Halloween Oreos I just mentioned contain yellow 5 and yellow 6 lake. Yellow 6 lake is comprised of Benzenesulphonic acid (does anyone even know what that is??) that has been treated with hydrochloric acid and sodium nitrate. It has been banned in Austria, Norway, and Finland. “But they have fun bat shapes on them,” Dave said….


I realize I can be a bit fanatical about what I eat (and don’t eat.) I have a bit of an obsession with buying foods that are organic and/or from local, sustainable farms. I do read more labels than the average person and I have been known to (frequently) google anything unfamiliar on the spot, whether it be on a menu or a  food label. I certainly do not expect anyone to change their lifestyle (unless it was already in their plans), but if given the choice of two identical products – one WITH yellow 6 or red 40 and one WITHOUT, I would like to think that maybe some (most?) of you will consider trading fun for health.

And as Halloween edges closer, consider reading a label or two and buy the candy without the chemical coloring. An article in the Huff Post last year mentioned the same 3 dyes I just listed and their link to ADHD in children. Elimination diets showed such major improvements in children’s overall health and behavior that Change.org launched a national campaign urging M&M/Mars to switch to natural food color sources for their M&M candies (By the way, the European versions made by M&M/Mars contain mostly natural ingredients!!) You can read the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-f-jacobson/mms-artificial-dyes_b_4116130.html

Well, that’s it. Thanks for the inspiration Dave…. How about if you throw away the rest of your orange Oreos and I’ll send you a box of Mega Stuf as compensation?

Oreo fun » » Look Dave! These are fun Oreos and no artificial colors!

Poor me?

Have you ever met someone that you disliked immediately? I am not referring to someone who gives off a poor first impression, I mean someone whose entire being gives you a negative, judgmental and vindictive energy? Ok, maybe you haven’t…. But I had the “pleasure” of meeting such a person several nights ago.  Because he is a friend of a dear and wonderful friend, I won’t go into detail about what he said to and at me that was so hurtful and cold but during his diatribe, the topic of which included Rachel’s death, he told me that I was spending too much time feeling sorry for myself and playing the “poor me” role. Eventually I was able to get out of the conversation and I left the party shortly thereafter.

Since that day I have been thinking about that comment (in addition to the hundreds of other thoughts that fly through my Tear drophead every day.) Is he right? Is that piece of shit seeing something that I’m not?

I know that everything is relative and that my grief is not the same as the pain of someone battling cancer or the anguish of someone with PTSD after coming home from service abroad. I know I should be grateful for my health and my home and my dogs and my friends. I know that I am fortunate to have more than so many other people in this world and to live in a country that operates under (well, at least the guise of) a democracy. I really do know all of this; and yet every spare thought turns to my loss. I miss my sister. I want to rewind the clock – and not just for me; for her husband, for her friends, for her cats.

Every day continues to be a struggle just to get out of bed. I am exhausted all of the time and nobody knows why; and I don’t mean normal, every day yawning, need a cup of coffee tired… I’m talking nodding off driving to and from work tired. I take vitamins, have seen the doctor, have had bloodwork (all normal.) I have resorted to 5-hour energy drinks. I used to not need one until around lunchtime. These days if I don’t down one by 9:30am I’ll be asleep at my desk.

My only conclusion is simply this: I am a chronically depressed person grieving the loss of my identical twin, best friend, and only family. So, I guess if that sounds like a “poor me” excuse to be sad, pessimistic and tired then so be it. I am not able to be any other way right now.

Moments full of you…

So, once again I will be rambling “off topic” so to speak. But this will be a short entry I think – just a couple quick thoughts to jot down.

I was at the salon this afternoon having my roots touched up (the curse of having hair colored several shades darker than my natural hue, not to mention all those disgusting grays) and was chatting with the stylist, a very sweet young woman named Jaclyn. I forget how we got on the topic, but we were actually talking about dog rescue and she wanted to hear about my pups and how I got involved in fostering, etc etc. Jaclyn interjected with a comment relating to her sister and said, “oh, my twin sister..”

imageShe never got a chance to finish the sentence. My heart sunk and I told her that I have… had…. have… a twin.  I couldn’t figure out which tense to use – past or present. I have that problem a lot when talking about Rachel. I spent the rest of my appointment in relative silence and reflection thinking about how great I had it – I was a twin. I had Rachel. I was half of something unique and special and had the coolest, bravest, most awesome sister in the world…. I just wished I had realized that when she was here.

Growing up a twin doesn’t seem unique or special because it’s all you know. We didn’t have other siblings so we had no frame of reference. If anything, it seemed burdensome at times; and it was during those times that people would tell us to appreciate each other because what we had was special. But, those were the same people nagging us to floss and clean our room so who listens to them?

I could add this to my long list of regrets but is it worth it? I’m pretty sure Rach knew how much I loved her. I can’t change the past and I can’t replace this missing chunk of my heart; but I can remind everyone, myself included, that we are all part of something special and it should be cherished because you never know when it may end.


“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
– Albus Dumbledore

Are the headlines all the matter?

Rarely, if ever, do I write about anything political (unless it’s related to organic foods or Monsanto or something like that) but I am aggravated this evening and have some thoughts to jot down.

By now I am sure most of the civilized world knows that a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down over Ukranian airspace, killing all 295 passengers and crew. Neither The Ukraine nor Russia are assuming responsibility for this tragedy at the moment, even though both sides own Buk launchers capable of firing missiles well beyond the plane’s last reported position at 33,000 feet. Investigators also seem to have traced the approximate source of the launcher to a small town in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.

There has been unrest between Ukraine and Russia for a while now and missiles have been firing at each other’s war planes on a regular basis. So much so, that airlines were asked not to fly over Ukranian airspace. Ok, so those seem to be the general facts at the moment and I am sure the conspiracy theorists are busy putting together all sorts of elaborate explanations for this disaster and I will be interested in hearing all of them. In particular, I’m interested in knowing why Malaysian Airlines was traveling over Ukranian airspace in the first place and why this is the second Malaysian Airlines plane to make the headlines within the past several months (think back a few months…. One disappeared, remember?)

Regardless of the theories or the politics this is indeed a tragedy but sadly, as this story slides off the front page – or should a Kardashian have a clandestine wedding – it will all be quickly forgotten. People are sad today… But are they really? Are they sad because 295 just perished or because there is political unrest between Russia and Ukraine and they’re just finding out? Or are they sad because it pushed Kelly Ripa’s opinion of Botox lower down on the news totem pole?

HeadlinesAnd what about yesterday’s headline? Does anyone even remember what it was? What about the rest of the world? Does anyone care that 3 Israeli teens and one Palestinian teenager are dead because of all the fighting between Israel and Gaza? There is so much violence in that region right now that political leadership has practically crumbled and no one is stepping in to help. Maybe 4 dead teens are not enough to satisfy a memorable front page so let’s move on.

Remember the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo? You know that was based on a book, right? The book is The Hot Zone (and so much better than the movie) and describes the “real” Ebola virus as it was first discovered in Africa. Guess what? Ebola is back and it’s spreading. The death toll in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia was nearly 500 on July 1st and the World Health Organization is calling this the “largest and deadliest” Ebola outbreak ever.

Anyone remember Darfur? It was “trendy” to support Darfur a while back. There were concerts and pledge drives and t-shirts and all sorts of stuff. The genocide there was horrific and practically unspeakable. Did everyone think it ended when the story slipped off the front page? There are currently waves of violence in Darfur and hundreds of thousands of families are displaced from their homes. The genocide may be gone, but the rebels are still there and they are still killing.

PLEASE do not take this post the wrong way. I am not suggesting that people don’t care. Clearly it would be nearly impossible to stay up to date on everything happening in the world all the time and obviously everybody cannot support every cause. The purpose of this blog is to simply point out that there is news beyond the “flavor of the week.”

Ten years ago I decided I wanted my “cause” to be dog rescue and that is where I devote my extra time. The last time shelter euthanization statistics were measured was in 2008 and reports showed that 3.7 million animals are euthanized in shelters every year in the United States. That number however, is much lower than the actual statistic, because many shelters did not even respond to the questionnaire. On top of that there is the issue of puppy mills, education on the importance of spaying and neutering, finding “forever” home for our unwanted babies so that they will never be homeless again. I have fostered, adopted, transported, assisted with intake, and donated both time and money towards this cause because it is something I believe can be changed.

I believe that everyone should have a cause – that belief was the initial reason I started this blog. “If you don’t who will….” Whether it’s animals or trees or Darfur or your town’s little league team. There are so many causes and so many to ways to help… Whether it’s your time, money, attendance at a rally, or just your signature on a petition. There are living things (people, animals, forests) suffering all over the world and just because they didn’t make today’s headline doesn’t mean they’ve gone away or gotten better.

Thanks for reading.

Is a Twinless twin still a twin at all?

It was certainly never my intention for this blog to “evolve” outside the topic of dog rescue, but I guess just as people change so do our blogs. So the vegan writings came along and now, it seems mental illness is rearing its ugly head into my snippets. So, apologies in advance, I guess. I suppose I will have to change the name of the blog at some point… Well, maybe not considering so few people actually read it…. Anyway, on with the post.

A couple months ago I found and joined a group on Facebook for “Twinless twins” – basically, just as the name implies, a spot where twins who have lost their twin can post, look for support, etc etc. I haven’t found it to be all that appealing or helpful as I noticed that as people post, the response tend to all be the same: “hang in there” “twin hugs” “thinking of you” etc. I think the twin hugs reply irks me the most. I no longer have a twin so how do I give a twin hug? Ok, I’m straying… Anyway, a few days ago, a young man from Western Europe posted something along the lines of “my twin brother died in the most horrible way and I could use some support” Now I realize all death is horrible but when I read something like that I instantly think suicide or horrific accident. Many people in the group responded and, per usual every single response read something along the lines of “so sorry, twin hugs”

Not one person inquired as to what had happened to make his brother’s death particularly horrible and it sort of seems to me that if someone puts that out there then it’s probably because they want to talk about it, no? So, I messaged the man privately and offered to listen. Briefly I told him the circumstances surrounding Rachel’s death (which I would describe as “the most horrible”) and let him know that if wanted to talk/write about it, I would listen. He responded the next day. Like Rach, his twin was also mentally ill, suffering from (though in denial) bipolar disorder among other things and working as a police officer in Lisbon; he had shot himself with his own service weapon just 6 weeks ago. There were photos of his brother taken just a week or so before his suicide and he looked content, not like a man on the edge. Just another tragedy of a sibling “faking it” while the disease ran rampant.

It has been just over six months since Rachel’s death and I never thought I would be saying this but I actually wrote back to this stranger overseas telling him that though it never gets better, and your heart never heals, and the emptiness never subsides, you do start to become “functional” once again. I wouldn’t have been able to even fathom writing that at six weeks… Or even 3 months.

I am reading a book (a memoir) written about an entire family who was/is bipolar (why I torture myself I have no idea) – the author quotes a statistic that 1 in every 4 cases of bipolar disorder end in suicide. I was only on page 23 of the book and the author was writing about meds – about how lithium and depakote weren’t enough for his father so they had to step it up to something much more powerful – in this case, seroquel. And all I could think of was Rachel. She took so much seroquel (along with other meds) and they might as well have been m&ms. They did nothing to help her. I say “they” referring to the seroquel but actually “they” is so much more than just the drug…. “They” is the health insurance company, her doctors, the hospitals, this shitty broken joke of a health care system we have in this country and finally, the stigma that is still attached to mental illness making it so difficult to be properly diagnosed and treated urgently and professionally with respect and dignity.

Rach and me on a good day... Green Day concert in LA 2009

Rach and me on a good day… Green Day concert in LA 2009

One in Four? Could that statistic really be true? I guess why wouldn’t it be… Your brain is scrambled, to the afflicted, nobody seems to care or understand, mental anguish begins to turn into physical pain – there really is no other alternative that makes sense. I guess statistics really don’t matter too much when you are the twin left behind. I find myself constantly questioning my purpose and my “role.” I was born from half an egg – Rach got the other half. Without her what is my purpose? I was meant to be a twin. Can there even be a Twinless twin? I mean, without your twin are you still a twin? Is she out there somewhere? Will she wait for me? How long do I have to wait to see her again?

I miss my sister. I miss her advice. I miss her talking a mile a minute. I miss facetiming with her. I miss going into vintage shops and only thinking of her as I perused the racks. I miss her yelling at me for walking too slowly. I miss our late night chats when I visited her on the west coast… She’d always wake up between midnight and 2am and go into the den where I was on the sofa bed. We’d get a snack and chat about mindless dribble like little kids. Then she’d snuggle under the covers and sleep in the den with me, by morning she’d be wrapped up like a burrito and I’d have no blanket to speak of, lol.

I’m glad that I can now start remembering these things and smile about them without breaking down in tears every time. Still though, I write about them with a heavy heart that aches more with each letter I type.

So I guess that’s enough for tonight. Sleep well. I hope my new FB friend is doing as well as he can be. Rach, I love you and I miss you. xoxo 💛💙💜💚❤️

The Psychology in Psychiatry

peanuts-lucy-psychiatristSo just a quick observation since I am at work but want to get this down before it’s completely out of my head (plus the server is rebooting so I’ve got like 5 minutes.) I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday (don’t judge, we pretty much all have one, don’t we?) I had scheduled the last appointment of the day – 4:30pm and walked in right on time. The waiting room was completely full, not even one seat available. Granted there are 2 or 3 other doctors who work in that office on Mondays so not everyone was waiting for my particular doctor. The room was filled primary with menopausal mothers and their teenage children. Now, I know for a fact they were menopausal because they spoke endlessly with the other mothers about the extent of the sufferings of menopause: the weight they had gained, the tiredness, the inability to work, the drugs they *think* they should be taking but aren’t prescribed vs. the drugs they are being prescribed.

It was around this time I was thinking that HIPAA should institute a no talking policy in doctor office waiting areas for privacy reasons…. Or maybe just for sanity’s sake. Meanwhile the teenagers were slumped over their chairs, head in hands, mumbling. Not sure if it was to themselves or their parent. Menopausal talk soon transitioned to conversations about their kids’ illnesses. Acronyms were flying: ADD, ADHD, OCD, PTSD… it was like a contest to see whose child had been diagnosed with more acronyms and given more scrips.

Sigh… I had been there more than an hour. I watched as the chosen ones floated out of their doc’s offices, scrips in hand with quirky little grins on their faces, as if the world was good again. After 75 minutes, it was my turn and as I walked towards my psych’s office I heard some of the menopausal women saying “wow she’s been waiting a while” and “finally, it’s her turn” — how nice to know they cared.

After a quick perusal of my file, Doc remembered that he hadn’t seen me since January and that yes, I am the one whose twin sister had committed suicide on Christmas, and yes, Christmas was our birthday and yes, I had already been clinically depressed before Rachel’s death and no, I was not bipolar as Rachel had been. Folder closed, and the dreaded question, “so, how are you doing?” It’s a catch 22 – if you lie, you don’t get the meds that are keeping you alive and if you tell the truth you could potentially be committed so I sort of mumbled my way through it. Good days and bad, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. His ultimate diagnoses – let’s add yet another med to my cocktail because I am clearly not doing well. Low dose, of course, nothing to worry about, etc etc. just give it a try.

So I ask? What is the logic here? I am depressed, I am not insane. I am grieving, I miss my sister but I am functioning. Am I experiencing joy, he wants to know. What is joy? Do I even know what that is? Another pill isn’t going to bring me joy and it certainly is not going to bring back Rachel.

I will continue my daily cocktail as it has been and I will continue to cry every day and I will keep seeing my therapist and leaning on my friends when I can’t stand straight. I will keep trying to exist until maybe one day I don’t have to work so hard at it.