Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Giraffes, Free-Range Children, and I Think I Saw Jane Goodall

karfelt, travel, writerly status, writers life, writing, valencia, spain
The Glitter Globe/

Giraffe's have long black tongues they wrap around leafy branches to tug food into their mouths. At least these Spanish giraffes did. Little kids tore bits of greenery from nearby trees and offered them in hopes of coaxing the animals closer. 

We stood on a wooden bridge over the giraffe's habitat and I waited my turn. Feeding the animals isn't just for kids. They shoved and jostled each other, but I waited. Patience is my superpower. Sooner or later the elephants up ahead will catch someone's attention and they'll hurry off.

It took me most of the morning to walk to the Bio-Park from my hotel. I got lost several times. Since I know no Spanish to ask for directions, I just kept walking. Valencia boasts futuristic bridges and buildings. They're sometimes featured in movies set in the future. But most of the town looks like anywhere USA to my eyes.

The animals at the Bio-Park aren't in cages. They're free-ranging mostly, like the children who are now attempting to entice the giraffes into eating clumps of dirt or the littlest one's hair bows. The giraffes aren't falling for it, so the kids head for the elephants.

Patience is an epic superpower.

Circuses and zoos stress me out. I worry about the animals even while admiring them. Here I worried about myself at first. Something brushed the top of my head as I stood by a tree looking at a map of the Bio-Park. Only then did I notice lemurs moving through the trees above me. 

I loved being so close to the animals, but I've lived on the outskirts of where the deer and the antelope play. I have a healthy respect for animal-human boundaries. As humans we sometimes have differing agendas. When I'm hiking and happen across a mama bear and her cubs, or when I'm pushing a stroller and see a bobcat slinking in the yard next to me—I get nervous.

Once I took my kids to one of those drive-thru zoos in Texas. We rolled down the windows because they provided a bucket of food for the animals. They knew the drill and hurried to the car. The giraffes were polite about it. They scoot lower and both nose and tongue are suddenly through the car window. The ostriches weren't polite. I don't think they know how to share. I loved them both, it's incredible to get so close to them, but I also love my kids and quickly surrendered the entire bucket to the most insistent bird.

Sometimes it's better for everyone just to look and move on.

There was no bucket of food to entice the Valencia giraffes, but my persistence paid off and I patted a nose or two. 

The BioParc gorilla habitat is spectacular. It's wide open spaces and a waterfall. The people path goes through a cave-like area. Heavy glass is the only thing separating us from the gorillas here. Several young men stood on my side making gestures at a large male. Sitting stoically he endured for a time, then suddenly raced after smaller gorillas in the habitat and hit them.

Just like people, apparently gorillas take out their frustration on others sometimes.

I wished there were rules posted about not teasing the animals. As I continued through the cave-like area I came upon another window. A huge gorilla lay sprawled on his side alternately placing a foot or hand against the glass. A woman sat on the other side pressing her hand on it against his. 

For a moment I watched, transfixed. I thought, she looks like Jane Goodall. After a moment I snapped a quick photo and went on my way. Cue me a couple years later now, finally going through thirty thousand photos or so of my travels. As I put together a video to share, I saw that gorilla and woman again. Once more I thought, that really does look like Jane Goodall. 

This time I got on google to see what the odds were. To my surprise she's been at the Bio Park in Valencia. So maybe. Here's the video. My Maybe-Jane is at the 1:45 mark. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Either way it was a serendipitous moment for me. For that gorilla too, I think. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Naughty Pet Stories—The Best Kind (When it's Not Your Pet!)

"Today I noticed a wet spot on the rug and thought, no. No, Pika wouldn't do that. She's been house trained for years. She's a lady." 

"What else could it have been?" I asked my friend who'd called.

"Oh, that's what it was! She peed all over the place. My neighbor told me she has this light. You shine it on the rug and it lights up if your pet has wet on the carpet. I'll send you a Snapchat photo of what I saw."

In which Pika is hardcore busted.

The carpet had to be completely replaced. 

Turns out Pika didn't like to piddle in the cold snow.

I've been framed! I need my lawyer!

Snapchat is one of my favorite things. I like it so much that I had to delete it. The number one thing I miss most is the naughty antics of other people's dogs. But I had to get on with my life. 

I adore pet stories. Especially when it's someone else's pet. My BFF and her Jack Russells help me resist driving straight to the pound and filling my backseat with canines. 

I'd like half a dozen hairy barkers please, and a few cats!

Rocket belongs to my bestie and he's one hell of an excellent mouse hunter. Now I appreciate dogs who aren't above mouse hunting. They refuse to let cats corner that market. You wouldn't think I'd be so callous about mice. As a kid I had a pet mouse who lived in a bird cage that dangled from my ceiling. I used to keep the door to the cage open so he could walk along the top of my bedroom curtains. 

There are grand advantages to living with your grandmother.

These days I live in a house in the woods and I do not want mice on my curtains or in my house at all. My own dear and partially rotten dogs were mouse hunters like Rocket. Only they weren't any good at it. I had two. Radar the Brittany Spaniel and Tex the Beagle. They'd race across the yard with noses to the ground, rooting through dead leaves or clumps of grass, or in the winter, snow. 

They'd find mice too. Especially in winter. Sort of. They just never knew they'd found any. Many times I'd stand beside them while they both had their heads buried under snow coughing and snorting, shivering with the thrill of the hunt. Blind to their success as they rooted. The mouse would race out of her ruined home, running across the white snow. Occasionally a bird of prey flying overhead would swoop down and BAM

Tragic really, unless you live in the country and see ticks and plague when you look at mice—rather than pets or Angelina Ballerina. 

"Tex! Radar! Look! Look! They're getting away!" 

But they never looked up. Mostly the mouse would simply move to a new home and birth thousands of rodent babies safe from my dogs. So while technically they were mouse hunters, they sucked a bit in the follow through. 

Rocket didn't suck.

One fine day Rocket's spidey senses alerted him to the unwanted presence of a mouse in the garage. Game on. He whirlwinded through bikes, shovels, rakes, and gave chase. The mouse hid inside a cardboard box. It didn't stand a chance. Snout snapping, Rocket tore his way through the box with a fury known only to little (but enthusiastic) dogs. 

When BFF managed to grab onto Rocket, his enthusiasm had mysteriously vanished. Breathing hard through his nose he hung his head and drooled. Assuming the mouse was inside the jaws of death per usual, she attempted to pry open his mouth and get it out. But Rocket's jaws wouldn't open. His teeth were clenched firmly together. Suddenly he looked woebegone and miserable. 

BFF realized he wasn't clenching his teeth. They were glued shut. The cardboard box had been made of cardboard and glue. Rocket got enough paper fiber and glue in his teeth that it solidified and stuck them together.

Off to the Vet with Rocket.

Don't worry. He was fine, but Rocket's Vet probably owns at least one vehicle thanks to the proceeds of BFF's Jack Russells alone.

Is there a special glue to unstick a dog's teeth? Does that happen often? How many times in a week do you suppose a Vet gets a dog with his teeth glued shut? 

Once I had a high-maintenance Golden Retriever named Max. One day he ate a brand new leather leash and collar with the metal clip and buckle. The Vet had to go in through the wrong end of the dog to get it out. Surprisingly that wasn't as pricey as you'd think.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a Veterinarian. The truth is that the only reason I wanted to be one was so that I would never run out of new dog stories. I'd have made a horrible Vet. There really isn't enough money for me to ever go up through the wrong end of someone's dog. 

Sorry, folks. There's no way to get that leash out. You'll need to put Anubis's affairs in order.

When I was a kid my grandmother had a pet monkey named Gomer. He was the smartest one in the family. No disrespect intended. They're pretty clever people, but I don't think a single one of them is capable of picking open any lock known to man. That monkey had infinite patience when it came to combination locks or those little key locks.  

Returning home we'd find he'd escaped. There'd be toilet paper unrolled and pillows unstuffed, and pretty much anything done to a home that puts joy into the heart of a evil little monkey.

I always called Gomer a Boomerang Monkey because anytime we gave him away, he came back.

If Google and my memory are to be trusted, he was probably really a Capuchin. Think organ grinder monkey. Maybe a bit shorter. Naked. None of us kids were brave enough to attempt putting clothing on that monkey. 

One day he escaped and after terrorizing the house, he apparently got tired. Because he leaned against the bottom of a bed and tied knots in the fringe decorating the edges of the bedspread. Giving it his all he tied knots in that fringe right around his own neck. Lots of knots.

Gomer had to be wrapped in that bedspread and taken to the Vet just like that. Can you imagine the Vet? There is a shrieking monkey wrapped up and tied inside here. Your mission is to free him without losing a finger. I assume they tranquilized him because when Gomer got upset there was a blood sacrifice and he took no prisoners

You cannot reason with a Boomerang Monkey.

Gomer didn't like his cage, and a good deal of the time he didn't have to be in there. We lived next to a park and Gomer adored perching on top the fence and watching the world go by. A monkey on a fence in the Mid-West attracts attention. If people happened upon him they'd usually rush him squealing, "Monkeeey!"

Gomer would lose his mind. If he got off his leash he'd race up a tree. Sometimes he'd pick a tree in the park or one down by the river. I do recall family taking turns at the bottom of a tree trying to coax him down. It could be my imagination that he sat up there flipping us the bird. But it's probably true that he'd learned that much sign language. 

If Gomer couldn't behave himself he'd have to go to timeout in his cage. Once in there he'd sing sweet chirpy monkey songs of repentance. If you fell for that crap and scooted too near his cage he'd grab a couple handfuls of hair and scream monkey shrieks of I have just taken a child hostage, dammit! You best let me out!

Monkeys have wicked canines and a fierce bite. 

Voldemort's followers had the Dark Mark in Harry Potter. My family had monkey scars. Woe to the person holding the monkey's leash when someone ran toward him shouting about the cute monkey.

Gomer would lose his crap. If you didn't let go of that leash, you'd lose some flesh. 

Yet the only time he ever bit me was that one time I sat on top his cage.

Never ever sit on a monkey's cage.

There are absolute truths in life and that is one. I used to tell my kids Gomer stories when they were little. The moral of the story was usually that monkeys don't belong in cages. They belong in the trees of their homelands. But I'd always end my tales with, "Never, ever, sit on a monkey's cage." I think it has served them well in life. 

The only strange pet my kids had was one pet snake. I called him Houdini because no matter what my son did to his cage he'd escape. Snakes don't really bother me, but seeing that thing slithering down the hallway would give me instant hot flashes. 

My son tried everything to make the snake tank Houdini-proof. That ended up causing my strangest conversation with a Vet.

Yes, hello? I'm wondering if you could tell me how to get duct tape off a snake?

One surefire way to piss off a snake is to soak him in water and "gently" peel duct tape off of him. Nothing says I love my kid more than doing stuff like that. 

By the way, I could hear the Vet laughing while they explained
S.R. Karfelt
Author & Monkey Cage Sitter Survivor
what to do. Fortunately my ten-year-old couldn't. The snake was fine too. Naughty pet stories are only good if they have a happy ending for the pet. They don't have to end so well for the kid who sat on the monkey's cage. People need to learn respect, don't they? 

Since I never became a Vet (much to your relief, I'm sure), and I had to give up Snapchat, I'm running dangerously low on naughty pet stories. If you have a good one, this is the place to share it. Let's put some fun content on the internet—even if yours demanded a blood sacrifice too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My Husband Makes Me Nuts—Secrets to a Long Marriage

How to survive marriage, respect, marriage, love,
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

People ask, "What's the secret to staying married so long?"

Once, at a dinner with other couples who'd been married ten, twenty, or thirty years, I asked what they thought the secret to a long marriage was. There was nervous laughter, but in the end they gave variations of the same glib answer I have.

Don't leave.

  • Or, if you must leave, make sure you go back. 

Pretty lame isn't it? But the truth is that there isn't an answer to staying married. Articles and research on the subject catch my eye online. I'll start to read them, sigh, and shut them down without finishing. They're written by experts. They're written by someone nearing their seventh anniversary—or maybe their tenth. 

Come October I'll have been married thirty-five years. 

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS. Please, girlfriend, unless you've been married that long (or longer), when I read your sage advice I'm probably going to roll my eyeballs so hard they creak. 

No! They don't always do that! 

I've never let age define me, probably because I'm so bad at math that I hardly notice time and number things. But when the thirty-five years number sank in, I considered lying about the age of my marriage. 

Yet as I tell my husband, the warranty isn't even up yet. Plus it doesn't feel that long. That is probably a good sign. I'm seriously considering renewing that warranty when it is up. That's not what I say during fishing season though. 

Life is hard af

It is every shade of wonderful to have someone who will always have your back. But what kind of person will always have your back?
  • Someone you can trust
  • Someone who is kind
  • Someone who can trust you
  • Someone you respect

Experience has shown me that real marriage doesn't look like a Hollywood Romance. You can fake it through the white wedding and maybe a couple years in, but is that who you both really are? Or is it a template of what you assume marriage should be?

Marriages don't have to fit into a box. 

You can make your own box. It seems mandatory to adjust expectations to what works for the two of you. My husband loves archery and fishing. He saves the electronic guts of everything that breaks and builds stargates and portals to other dimensions nothing yet, but he could. 

My days are spent making imaginary characters say what I want, and moving piles of books and papers around. Sometimes I wake my husband in the dead of night because the printer won't work or other life-threatening emergencies. This works for us. (It does, babe. Don't argue.) 

When someone asks what makes a long marriage work, I say you have each other's backs and keep finding things about life that thrills you.

It's never going to be a picture perfect marriage. Living with someone else is just too damn annoying. Can you imagine coming home to another box of fishing crap stuff from FedEx (possibly live insect larvae doomed to become bait) sitting on the dining room table next to a box of random boat motor parts? How about finding your husband using your hairdryer to blow dry the inside of his fishing waders?

It killed the hairdryer.

Don't worry. You can probably get the parts to fix it online.

Here comes the big secret.

The secret that no one tells you about marriage is this...

You don't always like your spouse!

It's true. Sure, I've seen those testimonials of people married sixty-five years who say, "We've never had a fight!" I call bullshit on that. Maybe they're from a stiff upper lip generation or culture, but I promise you there were some marital battles going on that could liquefy the bowels of a Cold War politician. 

Some marriages shouldn't last. Nobody should have to endure abuse and cruelty. I don't judge couples for opting out. Choosing the right partner is at least partially good luck. 

If you love, trust, and respect your partner it's worth staying.

My husband still does all those little annoying things he did since the start of our marriage. His dirty clothes live in a pile about two feet from the hamper. Unless I drill-sergeant over him he never makes his side of the bed. Over the years we've slowly, almost imperceptibly, broken up the chores into those traditional His and Hers boxes that I swore I'd never allow. 

After all this time I can admit with confidence that I'm annoying af to live with too. He gets to watch me make the same mistakes over and over. He gets to talk to a woman who drifts completely out of the conversation and into a story-line. He always knows. He says, "Hey! Where'd you go?"

"Uh, sorry, Kahtar needed me."

How do you deal with the petty differences and the same person's annoying habits for years? I can only tell you what works for us. (But I know it's worked for many friends married just as long too!)

Give each other space to continue growing as human beings.

After we got married I was certain he'd give up hunting and fishing to hold my hand and listen to my story ideas for the rest of his life. I also knew he'd stop dressing like a nerd with a few top quality camo jackets. He knew I'd never hang onto pregnancy weight for a decade or stop being young, and I'd certainly stop philosophizing about whether or not animals have souls. And I know he thought I'd quit walking around the house with my nose in a book about twenty hours a week too. 

Nothing changed but us.

There have been plenty of growing pains over the years because he continued to be who he is, and I continued to be who I am. But the magic is that we found common ground because we looked for it!

the reality of marriage, married thirty-five years, secrets
Our Dorky Love Story isn't very Hallmark.
The reality is that neither of us is the near-child the other married. They're in here still, but we've both changed into older, wiser versions of ourselves—with no regrets. I like to think that's in large part because we've had each other to count on all these years.

My husband has continued to fish too much and hunt with bows and arrows. He likes to be in the woods or on the water, far from civilization. Sometimes he does slightly Frankenstein things with electricity and old computer parts. I like to write and travel the world. Most of the time we do these things separately and when we're back together again we meet up with the same enthusiasm we had when we first met. That's not half bad for almost thirty-five years. Maybe I should renew that warranty, hmmm?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On The Road Again...the not-so-glamorous-truth about travel

on the road again, travel blog, travel has romantic connotations, the ugly truth
The Glitter Globe by S.R. Karfelt

Travel has romantic connotations it doesn't deserve.

In some ways it's like marriage. It's great, but you work for results and there is pain involved. 

In that way travel and marriage are like a fitness plan too. You pay for shortcuts and bad choices.

This morning Microsoft put a lovely green hillside covered in steppes on my screen. I took the click-bait and asked for more information. Where was this lovely place? Vietnam. 

Now I grew up seeing movies and soldiers from Vietnam. Never once did I think hey, I wanna go there! But the war is long over and it's a gorgeous country. If I do someday go, I'll bet that the insects are brutal and the rain miserable—not to mention the flights and getting around.

But the photos would be epic!

Travel photos lie so hard. You'll see the Alamo without seeing San Antonio is crowded right up to the walls. You see the perfectly centered Colosseum without seeing the traffic or the masses of tourists melting in brutal Roman heat—not to mention the pickpockets. You'll see the Parthenon without seeing it took me three hours lost with google maps (or the cost of my phone bill for all my data usage), as I slipped and slid over smooth-as-ice ancient marble walkways to get there. You also won't see that the wind on top the Acropolis blew so hard that my dress flew up around my ears. Mind you nobody should see that, but it probably made a show on somebody's Snapchat somewhere.

Pictures might show you a thousand words, but there are a billion words you're not seeing. 

We see pictures from other people's trips without seeing that their seven day trip included 1.5 days of travel-heck each way. Not first-class private plane travel like in the movies. It's usually the flying equivalent of sitting on a seat of nails inside a chicken bus next to hygiene-impaired travelers who want to talk politics. 

You don't see the traveler's credit card bill after they get home. You don't see if they ended up having to buy another ticket to fly home because weather cancellation wasn't covered by the crappy trip insurance they bought. 

Looking at travel photos we don't see that the traveler got dust-induced bronchitis or some version of what they so elegantly call that travel stomach ailment in Egypt—Pharaoh's Revenge. Don't drink the water is an excellent warning, but it's like trying not to get a contact high during a Motley Crue concert. Sooner or later you have to inhale. Sooner or later the water and bacteria in your environment will infiltrate that sack of water and protein that constitutes your body.

Travelers rarely take photos of the ugly bits!

Who wants to remember the bad stuff? Maybe that's the secret to success in travel, marriage, and life. Embrace the beauty. It's something I try to do. 

That time the flight got cancelled and the airline put me into a concrete room with shutters opening onto an alley freaked me out. There was no glass. I could see feet walking by at one in the morning. Shoot, I could have reached out and grabbed an ankle. Likewise they could have slipped inside my room. People would have seen them, but they could said my solo-travel-mind.

It took me an hour or two to realize the alley was dotted with many rooms like mine. The night air kept the old rooms cool in the hot climate with no air-conditioning. Come morning I woke to sunshine and flowers draping the windowsill. The feet never stopped.

In the end it became a good memory, but you never know how things will turn out. It's a fact when you travel, but it's a fact in life. The secret about travel is a secret about life in general. You find the joy by setting your sights on being positive. You roll with it. You plan the best you can and endure or embrace the changes that come your way. 

Travel does change you. But so does life. The thing is, a pretty picture of your trip or your life isn't the part that changes you. It's the squat toilets that change you. It's finding the inner strength to keep walking. It's getting lost and finding your way that changes you. It's when you choose to remember the beautiful parts and that you got yourself there that makes travel wonderful. 

S.R. Karfelt, Author, travel blog, egypt, the nile, luxor
S.R. Karfelt
Is change always painful? I'm still learning, still traveling, and still changing. There's definitely pain involved.

This picture is me manning the rudder of a faluka going down the Nile in Egypt. That trip was magic. I fell madly in love with the place. I also had Pharoah's Revenge a couple of times. Breathed dust for three weeks. Had severe culture shock. The traffic scared the living shite out of me. So did all the heavily armed police at first. Couldn't walk outside without getting swarmed by strange men. That last bit probably sounds way better than it is. It was a growing experience. I can't wait to go back.

This trip, the one I'm heading out on now, is going to involve a concert to see The Struts at last and glamping. They tell me glamping is glamorous camping. Experience has taught me that camping is always painful, but I'll bet I get some excellent photos.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Valley of the Kings and Tut's Curse

The Glitter Globe, Karfelt, author, travel, egypt
The Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt

You do realize that every single person entering this tomb is going to die, don't you?


After weeks in Egypt most of the study group was coughing, not entirely from mummy dust. Probably not from ancient curses. Egypt is dusty. Deserts are dusty. Have I mentioned the dust?

There's an old-fashioned tram you take to reach the tombs in The Valley of the Kings. It reminds me of Disneyland. But no amount of artifice could duplicate this place. High cliffs surround the valley. Boulders worthy of Indiana Jones perch at dangerous-looking angles as you pass beneath. 

Precarious boulder placement always reminds me of my husband. Once we were driving a rental car with questionable brakes along a narrow road beneath dodgy-looking overhanging rocks in the Sierra Nevadas. Below us cliffs dropped to raging rivers and certain death with no guardrail.

     "I have to close my eyes," I said.
     "Why?" asked hubby. "Do you think this mountain has been waiting millions of years for you to drive by?"
     "Yes," I said. "Yes, I do."
     "That's pretty conceited."

Only an engineer can make you feel vain about expecting death.

The biggest dangers in The Valley of the Kings appears to be sun-related (heatstroke, sunstroke, not packing enough water). I appreciated those precarious boulders just the same. Vendors selling postcards waited as we disembarked. I bought two large piles of them for $1 each. To date I've taken approximately thirty-five thousand photos on my phone and I doubt one of them is as nice as a postcard. 

Photographs aren't allowed at all in what I consider the best tomb. Seti I is stunning. I recommend going there first thing. Most of the tombs are enormous. The hieroglyphs, paintings, reliefs, and few remaining artifacts are so beautiful and intriguing it's easy to spend an hour or more in each tomb and run out of time. Seti I and Ramses VI were my favorites, but they're all stunning.

egypt, luxor, travel, ramses
No, this isn't Seti I's tomb. I followed the picture rules.
The tombs have color themes and hieroglyphs leading the way down ramps.

solo travel, karfelt, the valley of the kings
Only one tomb had protective covering over the walls.
Yes, it's as far down as it looks!

the glitter globe, karfelt, egypt, travel
Every tomb is stunning.

Travel, egypt, luxor, tombs
An attempt at a panorama. See why I purchase postcards?

Surprisingly, King Tut's tomb is the smallest!

This Pharoah's unabbreviated name is Tutankhamun. His tomb is recognizable and notable because it was discovered intact—which is unusual. The other tombs had been ransacked over the centuries. 

Tut, King Tut, Tutankhamun, Karfelt, the glitter globe,
Archaeologist, Howard Carter discovered Tut's tomb in 1922. There are old black and white photographs outside the tomb.

Some of my study group have been returning to Egypt and the Valley of the Kings for so long that they reminisced about a time when you could slide down into the empty treasure room on a ramp.  

Now that treasure room is covered up and beneath your feet as you stand outside the tomb entrance examining photographs.

Tutankhamun's treasure can be see at Cario's Egyptian Museum. Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

Treasure, Valley of the Kings, Karfelt
This snake is designed to surprise and slide quickly out of his hiding place.
It still looks like it's moving!

travel photos, karfelt, egypt
Anubis is my personal favorite.
He's the god of the afterlife and not a dog as I like to pretend.
Who doesn't want to be greeted by a dog in the end? So please
leave my illusions alone.

footstool, enemy, tut, karfelt

There are several thrones. What delighted me
was the footstools decorated with the kings enemies
so he could rest his feet on them. Why did that go out of style?

The glitter globe, egypt, luxor, valley of the kings
S.R. Karfelt
Valley of the Kings
Lord Carnarvon died six weeks after helping Carter uncover Tutankhamun's tomb. Something happened with a canary. Cobra symbolism became involved. There were rumors. It was said. Whatever, whatever. 

In the end every single person who uncovered Tut's tomb died! Don't allow the near one-hundred years that have passed make you logical. There was dust! Probably coughing. 

Please excuse my curse irreverence. I reserve my worrying for important things like precarious boulders. Come on, which do you think is more likely? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It's my Vertigo Anniversary—Seventeen Years Living with Vestibular Migraine Variant

Migraine Variant, Karfelt, Vertigo, Vertigo Migraine, Migraine Anniversary
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

This month marks seventeen years since my first vestibular migraine

In honor of that my migraines have showed up more often than usual. Maybe they're waiting for cake. Meanwhile it feels like someone is sticking invisible nails into my forehead and spinning my world hamster-style.

Vestibular migraine or migrainous vertigo is a type of migraine that may or may not cause a headache, but can include a number of debilitating symptoms affecting the ears, vision and balance. It is the second most common cause of vertigo.

vestibular migraine is a nervous system problem that causes repeated dizziness (or vertigo) in people who have a history of migraine symptoms. Unlike traditional migraines, you may not always have a headache.

When it comes to vestibular migraine I'm one of the lucky ones. I get bouts of them, but they go away eventually. I stop clinging to the bedpost, throw some clothes into a suitcase and run off into the world in search of adventure. I'm a cheerful traveler no matter how many times my flight is cancelled. In fact I'm a cheerful person because any day without effing vertigo is the best day EVER.

The headaches started in 2001. I'd never had a migraine in my life. They came out of the blue, something called Cluster Migraine. Four to five migraines hit per day for six months that year. For me it was mini-hell because my life came to a grinding halt and I had no idea what was going on. I didn't know they were migraines and assumed it had to be something really bad and likely fatal. 

Nobody had answers, so being me I kept meticulous records figuring data was the key to science. Everything from headaches to my rounds of medical testing were written down for years. So far that has helped me with only one absolute—it's definitely my vertigo-versary.

For years I ran from doctor to doctor. They scheduled test after test, CT Scans, MRIs, blood tests, hearing tests, eye tests, and the only thing that they could tell me was that I was an unusually healthy woman and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.

Oddly enough no one mentioned migraine until I went to the ER one day convinced I was having a stroke because of the flashing lights in my head. Migraine with aura they call that. Lightning storm in your head I call it. The pain is the thunder, followed by earthquakes and general end-of-times mayhem in your skull.

Still, after six months the cluster migraines ended. To this day some visual disturbances have remained, and so has vertigo. But the non-stop murderous pain of cluster migraine stopped as suddenly as it began.

Why did the Cluster Migraine Suddenly Stop?

To me it felt like they'd fried out the pain receptors in those pathways of my brain. If that's a real thing I've never heard or read about it. That's just what it felt like. There's no science behind that theory. It's my writerly take.

At the time all I really cared about was that the pain had stopped. There's still shadow pain and shadowy visual disturbances, but no flashing lights. There are still bouts of extreme vertigo—spinning, rocking, brain floating in skull bobbing, and the inability to think clearly. Maybe my thought processes are interrupted by these migraines. Maybe my brain is focused on coping during these episodes. It's hard to know as it feels like both. I reassure myself by setting my attitude to enduring until it passes.

What has worked for my Vestibular Migraine?

  • After some dangerous encounters with meds that my body got creative with, I discovered that what I ate (or didn't eat) helped and I didn't wind up at a major medical hospital like I did with medications. (Note, meds help some people. My body is just an uncooperative one.)
  • The above said, I did have some success with Diazepam. I don't know why it works, because one grain too much and you spin far worse. For several years I took it at half the lowest dose each morning and it seemed to help. Eventually I went through a period of constant spinning and stopped it. The spinning stopped. I've not taken it for years, but I keep a vial of ancient tablets as a talisman.
  • Not consuming caffeine, meat, alcohol, processed foods, and anything made of flour helped immensely. Don't I sound saint-like? Don't fall for it. I just got through the Winter of Cake. (Preceded by a summer of Hamburgers.) But notice how I'm complaining my Vestibular Migraine is much worse? There's a direct correlation. 
  • Walking a few miles a day helps. When my vertigo is mild I can still manage to walk. Either I take up more space on a path wobbling a bit, or I walk on my treadmill. I also have a Stairmaster. It's been my experience that a stronger body makes everything better.
  • Taking quiet time when I need it. That includes when I'm having tough days. The world does not cooperate with this need. There is no sympathy for a medical condition no one can see. I take them anyway.
  • Not allowing Vestibular Migraine to make me miserable. I'm at war with it. We have battles. Sometimes it wins a battle but I don't allow it to control my life. I travel, hike, take extreme risks, and do my very best to make this life a wonderful life. !@%! vertigo. 

It's probably obvious I'm winging it at life with Vestibular
Vertigo, Grand Canyon, Karfelt, Author
S.R. Karfelt—who hiked the Grand Canyon &
regretted wearing bifocal lenses doing it.
Migraine. I'm not a doctor or medical professional. I'm one of the minuscule percentage of people living with it. If you have it, or think you might, what works for you?

I'm simply coping with it. In many ways it's made me appreciate life. It's made me fiercer. It's made me CUSS SO MUCH. It's made me sit down and write the novels that have danced through my head my entire life. 

It's made me appreciate the good days. It's also made me want to cry (but I don't because that makes the spinning WORSE). Vertigo does not define me. We all have our demons. I prefer to march over the body of mine as I go on with my amazing life.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Dodging Dorcas—A Vampire's Tale of Woe, Part VI

Author, S.R. Karfelt, Stephanie Karfelt, Vampire, Story, Book,
The Glitter Globe/ 

“Chick’ns afore they hatch,” one snickers.

          “Oi! Where’s Jack?” says the other.

          Intention oozes off people like sweat. Poppy’s is curiosity, a vibrant enthusiasm for life. These men drip wastefulness. They’re takers, bored with lives that will evaporate before they live. They approach Poppy with a surly lust she should fear. She stands with fists balled. “I kicked ‘is balls up into his belly. Want me show you how?”

They rush her.

I pull years from both. They’d waste it anyway. Poppy knees Chickens on his way to the floor. His friend falls and cracks his head on a pew.

Poppy stands over the men. “Damn, Drake! Wait. Did you do that?”

          Their time flows through me. It’s a heady narcotic feeling. My mouth waters for Poppy. I flit my eyes over her curves. A darkness around the edges of my mind thrills.

          Hurt her.

          No! That’s what they were going to do! 

          Not since the beginning have I taken so much at once. This is what has made Dorcas rot. It’s darkly tempting and I drop to sit, stomach churning. Poppy rushes toward me.

“No! Back off!” I can smell her from here. I want her. Like a vampire.

         “Drake, you’re scaring me!”

  Poppy’s words make me laugh. She’s perceptive.
            Images flicker through my mind.
   Drugged women.
   They’ve done this before, at my church!

          “Did Jack give you something to drink?” 

          “No. Well, he tried to give me some of the church’s wine—out of a box. So gross.”

          The communion wine. I will myself to vomit. It’s dotted with Christmas cookies. Poppy backs away.
          I’ve been roofied. No wonder my glamour didn’t work on Poppy.

          The urge to attack Poppy stays. I think it will until I’ve used the time I took from those dirty bastards.

          “Drake, are you okay?”

          “I took so much energy from them I can feel their thoughts.” I shut my eyes trying to push dark urges away. “Poppy, these guys and your friend Jack had plans for you tonight.”

          “What? What do you mean?”

          I open my eyes. “The wine was drugged.”

          “What!” Poppy runs over to the unconscious men and starts kicking them. She’s wearing boots.

          “I really don’t care if you kill them, but it might bother you later.”

          “No, it won’t.” She continues kicking. Hard.

          “I’m pretty sure Jack’s the mastermind.”

          Poppy and her boots head for the office.

Votadini Warriors of ilu, Karfelt, Author, Writer, Covenant Keepers
S.R. Karfelt with Kahtar
It's writing season here in The Glitter Globe. I'm working on two books simultaneously. One is Votadini Warriors of ilu—the first book in a trilogy from the world of Covenant Keepers. The other is A Vampire's Tale of Woe. Installments of that novel are published here on The Glitter Globe. Check them out and let me know what you think!

A Vampire's Tale of Woe
Parts I-V