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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Matter of Chance—An Interview with Novelist, Julie Maloney

Women Reading Aloud, Julie Maloney
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

Women Reading Aloud founder Julie Maloney tackles fiction after a lifetime dedicated to the arts  

Debut novel portrays a distraught mother’s search for her missing child.

When eight-year-old Vinni Stewart disappears from a Jersey shore town, Maddy, her distraught single mother, begins a desperate search for her daughter. Maddy’s five-year journey leads her to a bakery in Brooklyn, where she stumbles upon something terrifying. Ultimately, her artist neighbor Evelyn reconnects Maddy to her passion for painting and guides her to a life transformed through art. 

Detective John D’Orfini sees more than a kidnapping in the plot-thickening twists of chance surrounding Vinni’s disappearance, but his warnings to stay away from the investigation do not deter Maddy, even when her search puts her in danger. When the Russian Mafia warns her to stop sniffing into their business, Maddy must make a choice whether to save one child―even if it might jeopardize saving her own. 

“Beautiful and sensitive…effortlessly readable” ~ Christina Baker Kline, author of the New York Times best-selling “Orphan Train”

This novel is one I'm thrilled to share with you. You're going to want this book on the top of your TBR pile. Over the last few years I've had the pleasure of hearing Julie Maloney's writing and it is beautiful. 

If you read my blog you probably can't escape my love affair with Greece and the annual writing workshop I attend there. Julie Maloney is an author and the genius behind Women Reading Aloud, and she was kind enough to answer my questions.  

Julie, over the years I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying your writing. I’m looking forward to this book. What is the main thing you hope readers take away from this story? 

Julie Maloney, Novelist, Orphan Train, Writing Retreat, Greece
Julie Maloney, Writer
Life isn’t neat. In my debut novel, “A Matter of Chance,” (She Writes Press), the protagonist, Maddy Stewart, continues even when her life has been traumatized by the disappearance of her young daughter. I want the reader to see how things are rarely, if ever, “black and white.” I want the reader to realize how compassion necessitates forgiveness.

 What inspired you to write this book?

As a former dancer/choregrapher and artistic director of my own modern dance company in NYC, I had a home life with three young children and a husband. Balancing all of that was near to impossible…and yet what happens to a woman who cannot give any of it up? Who refuses to accept that a choice must be made? I selected from my experiences, even though it is fiction. Stephen King says: “In fiction lies the truth.” I agree wholeheartedly.  I wanted to write a story about a complex woman—aren’t we all—who had to face who she was amid heartbreak and devastation. The publishing industry wanted a “kidnapping” story, but I wrote about the woman/mother left behind…it is Maddy Stewart’s story. My question is: What happens to those left behind? How do they cope? What do they discover about themselves? 

What would surprise the reader to know about the research you did for this book? 

I traveled to Germany to see the work by Germany’s most renown artist—Kaethe Kollwitz. There are two museums dedicated solely to Kollwitz’s work—one in Cologne and one in Berlin. I traveled to Cologne. It was an emotional experience to walk in and see a life-size portrait of the artist right inside the front door. Initially, I discovered Kollwitz at a chance visit to the Morgan Library in New York City. Immediately, I was enchanted. I knew she was my muse for “A Matter of Chance.” Her images honor the downtrodden and the poor. I also drove through Bavaria and took in the landscape. I had to find the ending to my story and I did. Also, I worked with an undercover DEA agent in New York. Retired, he was willing to speak with me over several conversations about crime—and how easy it is to get away with it.

I love to read. I know you do too. What are some of your favorite books/authors. Are any of them in any way similar to this book? 

This is a hard question to answer. I love to read. I grew up around the corner from the local branch library. It was my greatest childhood joy to go to the library. I am a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates and Elizabeth Strout. I have read Strout’s “Olive Kitteridge” five times. I also love “Stoner” by John Williams. Then there is the wonderful literary mystery writer, Kate Atkinson. And how can a writer not mention the masterful Stephen King! It’s all about storytelling and he is the king of it. I have just finished reading “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee and loved it. I have read “The Great Gatsby” many times. My childhood favorite is “The Diary of Anne Frank.” I love Anne Enright, too. Of course, the poets! I cannot forget the poets who inspire me, as I have written and published many poems. I love Robert Frost and Linda Pastan, Audre Lord, Gerald Stern, Jane Hirshfield, Edward Hirsch, Ellen Bass…so many poets I love. Their words slip inside me when I need something wonderful to fill me.

As if hosting workshops all over the world and writing novels isn’t enough, what’s next, Julie? 

I have written the second novel—a sequel—to “A Matter of Chance.” It needs editing galore and I must find time to do this. I wanted to give a secondary character from my debut novel her own story…and now she has it. I have to refine it. The working title for this one is: "THE LIGHTBOX.” It is written in the voice of Tuba Schwimmer and her daughter, Gitta. Tuba is from “A Matter of Chance.” 

Also, I would like to put more of my poems into another chapbook. I enjoy giving poetry readings but I’m showing up to readings with lots of loose papers and they need to be collected between two covers. But . . . and this is something I’ve realized lately: I want to speak more to the world . . . to audiences of all sizes . . . to women in their living rooms and to men and women in lecture halls . . . to tell them to live with passion. I want to remind the world that time does not stand still. I want to hold the hand of someone who questions herself and say to her, “You are beautiful. You have a voice. Use it. Discover your inner language. Write down your words. Now sing."

You radiate serenity and encouragement at your workshops, and inspire your women writers to do the same. It’s a beautiful thing when we support each other. Is there any chance you’ll someday put that magic into a book on writing? 

Thank you for asking this question. I am seriously thinking about this…although the premise is so simple: Practice Kindness. I could offer so many instances of how far a simple act of kindness has gone to encourage a woman writer to go deep and let her voice soar. Once, during a retreat in Greece, a writer was having a very emotional experience as she read her work. She was sitting next to me. Although I always instruct everyone to allow the voice and the writer space…I felt this writer needed an extra “touch.” So I simply linked my arm inside hers as she read. I did not say one word. She continued reading to the end. Had she stopped reading, she—as well as the listeners—we, the readers, would have missed out on something glorious. Tone matters. We hear about this on the page all the time…but what about how we speak to one another? I like to remind participants to speak from their lower belly. Often, at the beginning of a retreat, I’ll hear a writer speak high from inside her throat, but as the days progress, with encouragement, she’ll begin to drop her voice into a more authentic range. As her work goes deep, so does the pitch of her voice and her TONE relaxes and resonates.

Women Reading Aloud, Greece
It's interesting how positive reinforcement and encouragement can bring out the best in us. The very first year I went to Women Reading Aloud in Alonissos I remember telling Julie ahead of time that I might decide to stay in my room and write some days. I didn't see how the premise for the workshop—writing and reading it aloud, would teach me enough to justify spending the entire day at it. I thought I'd probably want to spend half that time writing alone. 

Julie in her infinite wisdom simply said, that would be fine but I encourage you to come to the workshop and try it first. So I did. After that I never missed a session and attended every extra evening class she generously offered. 

Each year I find I discover something new, deeper, and unexpected in my writing thanks to this workshop. This amazing woman and writer helped me find my authentic voice, and I can tell you that you're going to love the sound of hers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dusty and Disorganized—The Old Egyptian Museum in Cairo, A Priceless Treasure!

S.R. Karfelt, travel, Egypt, Cairo, Study Tour, The Glitter Globe, Blog, Article, news
Egyptian Museum Cairo

Treasure of the ages awaits you at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The building housing that treasure is nearly as wonderful as its dusty contents. Arched windows stand open to let in the breeze, floor fans blow warm air, grimy skylights slant desert sun over artifacts. Sometimes bits of paper typed in English and Arabic tell you what you're looking at—they appear to have been typed around WWII. 

Imagine you had an Great Aunt who'd been an archaeologist around the 1920's. She lives in an old Art Deco mansion in Egypt. You get to roam her house and look through a lifetime of artifacts. She never dusts. This museum is like that only it contains the treasures of the centuries. More than your ancient aunt could have collected. 

At the outside entrance to the museum you'll pay for your ticket (pay extra for the pass to take photographs) and you'll go through security. You'll go through security again upon entering the building. That's just how it is in Egypt. I was relieved to have been allowed to keep my water bottle. It's dry and as I've mentioned repeatedly dusty. Am I emphasizing the dust? Can you taste it yet? You will. 

Don't for one minute think I'm criticizing. This was my idea of heaven. 

This Cairo Museum is spectacular!

Scribes like me

My first visit here I had the opportunity to see the exhibits with an Egyptologist. When there was no note card explaining what I was looking at, she did. When the cards were incorrect, she knew. Because I'm a writer, she kindly pointed out and explained a scribe's place in Egypt and I thrilled at all the various depictions of those Egyptian writers. I memorized the word scribe when referred to in hieroglyphs. 

Scribe in Hieroglyphs (above the bird,
the dongle traffic light thingy, the Egyptologists would be so proud
of me getting all technical here. I can feel them cringing.). 

This is like no museum I've ever seen, and I loved it.

 Antique cabinets house row after row of sarcophagus's and coffins, canopic jars (they're the ones holding mummy guts), there are wooden statues over 4,500 years old—the pharaohs did try to take it with them, including entire armies of warriors to protect them on the other side. 

There are jewels, scarab beetles, masks, chairs, sandals, mummies (they cost extra to see), paintings, reliefs, hieroglyphs, soul houses, beads, papyrus scrolls, enormous statues, tiny statues, mummified food (because what about when the dearly departed get hungry), mummified animals, am I getting too random? Get used to it, because that's how it is here. Everything you can imagine from Ancient Egypt, and quite a bit you can't—it's all there, displayed in dim corridors or brightly lit balconies, side rooms, and at the top or bottom of stairwells. 


Upon leaving my head felt heavy with the information it tried to store. On my next visit to the museum I didn't get the camera pass. I looked slowly and quietly and gathered data my way—as slowly and randomly as it must have been putting together this collection. 

My trip to Egypt was with a study tour, to gather information for a book I'm writing, but also to gather information for insertion into who knows what when the muse strikes, like this blog now. 

Details you might want to know when you go: the restroom/toilets/WC is to the right of the entrance. Go up the stairs, it's on the first landing. Have tip money. Please carry tip money in Egypt. Some people are paid entirely in tips, keep that in mind. A US dollar is worth seventeen Egyptian pounds. There's almost always someone working restrooms in Egypt, providing toilet paper and soap at the sinks. There is a gift shop, but it appears to consist mostly of various vendors selling their wares. There are some nice things. Negotiate.

Outside the museum there is a spot where you can get a drink. You might want to bring something for your lunch. I almost always picked up fruit and carried a cheese sandwich for mine. Carry water. You can go in and out of the museum building, but keep your tickets! I doubt you can leave the grounds and come back. Check if you want to.

S.R. Karfelt, well-dusted by Egypt
If you're crossing the road anywhere around the's brutally dangerous. Buses drop you off by the entrance so you don't have to do that. If I had to I'd find a local to help. I've found Egyptians to be friendly and kind. 

Getting to the Cairo Museum is part of the adventure. Cairo traffic has to be experienced to be believed. I have no words to describe it. They are building a new museum closer to the pyramids of Giza. It looks to be in the early stages and I wouldn't expect it to be finished anytime soon. But, again, inshallah—God Willing. Personally, I don't know why they'd change a single thing. It's perfect as is, dust and all.