2018: The Year in Review

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The year 2018 was a year of contrasts— both here at home, and the world over. Amazing heights of joy and emotion were seen— followed by lows of discord and weirdness. You don’t have to look far to see these contrasts in action. For example, after much international pressure, in June, Saudi Arabia finally granted women the right to drive a car. Unfortunately, any ‘brownie points’ this move earned the Saudi government were quickly squashed four months later when they murdered a Washington Post journalist. While the Saudis have denied this, everyone knows that they are lying. Just like everyone knows that the one person that denies farting at the dinner table is always the one that did it.

Here in Patterson, we are not immune to the odd dichotomy seen in 2018, either. Both our amazing PHS varsity and junior varsity softball teams won conference titles with undefeated regular seasons. This is badass. Unfortunately, it was also announced this year that we are getting yet another pizza establishment in Patterson— to go along with the 95 places that we already have. So, while the girls’ championships bring much joy to our hearts, the advent of more refined carbohydrates isn’t good news for our colons.

In the international sphere, though, 2018 was a very successful year for dictatorships. Kim Jong-un burst onto the stage with meetings with Donald Trump and also by crossing the border into South Korea— where he quickly discovered that Dennis Rodman is far less famous than he thought.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, strengthened his control over the nation by getting term limits abolished so that he can serve as “President for Life”— a position that comes with a really good dental plan. Forbes Magazine ranked Xi Jinping as 2018’s most powerful person in the world, a position previous held by Vladimir Putin.

Speaking of Putin, in March, he was reelected to a fourth term as Tsar— err, I mean President of Russia. In this hotly contested race, his only competitor was a Muppet.

In the world of sports, 2018 saw the Winter Olympics held in the mountains of PyeongChang, South Korea. It featured many dangerous and icy sports that no one understands. Norway won all the metals because most of their athletes descend from the Abominable Snowman. Meanwhile, back in the United States, disgruntled NFL football fans decided that ‘having principles’ meant they would set their own shoes on fire.

In further national news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, often used as a measure of the strength of the US economy, bounced around this year, from awesome highs, to terrible lows as 2018 drew to a close. This pattern oddly matched the demand for romaine lettuce and the popularity of Rosanne Barr. I don’t think these things are related, though.

Finally, in digital news, the most popular video game of the year was Fortnite. I suppose it’s better than the Pokémon Go craze of a few years ago. At least no one’s falling off cliffs or getting hit by cars while playing the game. But, Fortnite still has its shortcomings. Thousands of addicted kids are secretly gaming in the classroom on smartphones that they aren’t even supposed to have in school. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also teaching an entire generation how to incorrectly spell the word ‘fortnight.’ This might be the most upsetting problem of all.

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the word ‘fortnight’ is actually what you call a two-week period of time. Let’s say your child gets in trouble at school for punching a teacher in the face that’s trying to take away their smartphone. An apt punishment for this behavior would be deactivating their Fortnite account for at least a fortnight.

Lastly, I dearly hope that 2019 brings a little more stability for all of us— and a little less uncertainty. And if we’ve got to eat so much pizza in Patterson, for the sake of our colons, I sure hope we can have some romaine lettuce to go along with it.

After all, 2019 is less than a fortnight away…

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Beyond the #PAWECMHAA

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The other day, our heater was on the fritz for about 48 hours. Under normal circumstances, this would not be that big of a deal. You could just throw on an extra sweater or drink some warm tea. You could snuggle up on the couch with your cocker spaniel or a random stranger. Whatever you’re into, I don’t judge.

Or, perhaps— more likely— you’d say to me, “Get a grip, girl. You live in California. The gallon of milk in your refrigerator lives in a colder climate than you do.

When you have a disability like SMA, though, this isn’t so simple. Because many of us are in wheelchairs, our circulation isn’t the best. So, our bodies are often super sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. Putting on more layers of clothing can also become physically cumbersome. Meaning, if I wear that giant Christmas sweater on top of the thick fleece hoodie I bought at GAP, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to move my arms to do pretty much anything. Like grab the phone to call for help. Or, eat a bowl of warm soup. Or, even effectively pick my nose. I would be like the crying little brother in The Christmas Story that flails around in an immovable snowsuit. It wouldn’t be pretty.

So, when my heater went out, I quickly thought, “FUCK, this isn’t going to go well for me.” I immediately messaged the HVAC repair man and he said he’d try to make it out in the next couple of days. Then, I quickly consulted my weather app while I still had enough warmth left in my fingers to operate my iPhone. It said that we were in for a stretch of below-normal temperatures— lows around 34°. I felt my weak little muscles shrivel at the numbers— just as an insecure man’s penis shrivels up in the presence of a confident and capable woman. (I could easily make a reference to Donald Trump at this point. But, I won’t.)

Anyway, I can hear non-California residents guffawing at this forecast. And, before you claim that even hairless kittens can survive that kind of cold, I’m going to tell you that I really don’t care. IT’S STILL COLD!

At that moment, it became a race against the clock— to see how much I could get done before the temperature inside my house dipped too far down. To the Point-At-Which-Elizabette-Can’t-Move-Her-Arms-Anymore. Also known as its scientific acronym, PAWECMHAA. If you are curious, this measure is roughly around 56° Fahrenheit. So, in a whizzing flurry, I dashed around my house doing all the things that I had been procrastinating from doing for a while. I balanced my checkbook, updated my Christmas card list, wrote some emails, and then plucked a few stray hairs from my chin. I was more productive in those few hours than I had been in days.

But, eventually… as the day progressed, the PAWECMHAA was reached.

I pulled out my rechargeable hand warmer and held it in my palms like a fragile premature infant. It was wonderful. I praised it. Cooed at it adoringly. It was a cozy bubble of warm bliss.

However, I quickly discovered that it only worked for about 1.5 hours on one charge.

As the heat faded from my palms, I cursed the cradled device, “This baby is a piece of shit. Argh!

So, I had to come up with a new plan. Drinking tea helps me think, so I had some. And while my hands were cupping the warm mug, I had a thought.

I would get the largest coffee mug in the cabinet and fill it with water. Then, it could be microwaved for two minutes until the water grew super hot. Due to the magical properties of water to retain heat (yay, science!), I could use it like my rechargeable hand warmer. But, it would only take two minutes to rewarm the water— a major plus when dealing with extended PAWECMHAA temperatures.

I started by holding the outside of the cup… then, as the water slightly cooled, I began dipping my fingers inside the water. The plan worked brilliantly.

The next day, as the temperatures continued to dip, my morale grew low. And as I sat in my kitchen dipping my fingers into my giant pumpkin mug of hot water, I had a dramatic realization. I would never survive in a cold climate. Never. In fact, if I had been a member of the Donner Party that attempted to cross the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846, I would have been the first one dead. Without question.

And then they would have eaten me.

To be frank, they wouldn’t have even had to wait until I was dead, because once PAWECMHAA was reached, I couldn’t put up much of a fight, anyway.

So, it was in this state that the HVAC repair man, Ricky, soon found me: bundled in a knitted blanket, dipping my fingers in a mug of hot water and muttering about nineteenth-century cannibalism.

It was a good thing he came when he did.

Within an hour, or so, Ricky had located the issue, and got the heater running again. As I heard the whoosh of hot air burst from the vents, I felt a tear of joy on my cold and numb cheek.

And, after a short while, the thermostat climbed beyond the PAWECMHAA. I said a prayer of thanks.

I would not be on the menu tonight.

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Dimensions, Dictators, and a Whole Lot of Weed

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I’m not going to sugar-coat it, roll it in cinnamon, or top it with frosting. I’m going to be honest. The kind of honest that you usually only see from small children or really elderly relatives— but, rarely see from politicians or men that run around grabbing women by the ass.

Okay, here goes… The year 2017 was… just… straight-up weird. So weird that it made me wonder if we had somehow veered off into a parallel universe. I know you might think I sound loony. But, stick with me for a moment.

Stephen Hawking, the super-genius, theoretical physicist, writes a lot about this concept. He says that black holes could be portals to other countless universes— very much like our own world, but, just a little different. So, there could be infinite planet Earths… countless other cities of Patterson… and many versions of me.

This is a troubling thought. I wonder if all versions of me are as scared of spiders? Or, like pumpkin spice lattes? Or like to drive so fast in their wheelchairs?

I also wonder if all the versions of Patterson have quite as many palm trees? Or, as many pizza places? Because I don’t know if it’s possible for a town to have as many locations to buy pizza as we do right now.

Seriously.

Anyway, what if the Earth was swallowed by a giant, unknown black hole, and we slipped into another dimension? Maybe that would explain why 2017 was so weird… and it would also explain why Patterson suddenly seems to want so many marijuana dispensaries.

Between the record-breaking hurricanes, deadly earthquakes, and massive fires, it could be argued that Mother Nature didn’t care much for 2017, either. Nonetheless, we mustn’t forget the victims of these disasters— many organizations are on the ground now helping those that are affected. Donate time or money, if you can. Don’t be a Scrooge.

It’s important to note that not everyone has had a difficult year, though. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un spent the year honing his missile launching and nuclear skills. After scattering hardware all over the Sea of Japan and threatening the West with death and destruction, he still found time to attack a village of Hobbits with a potato cannon. So, all in all, it was a pretty solid year for dictators. Just ask Vladimir Putin.

We also found out that Americans can become obsessed with solar eclipses— so much so that they will call-in sick to work, and drive hundreds of miles to watch the shrinking sun through a peephole in a modified box of Honey Nut Cheerios. I suspect that many of these same people spent the prior year, 2016, chasing cartoon Pokémon on their smartphones.

So, I suppose this is an improvement.

Scientists made several discoveries this year, too. A new species of orangutan, a close primate cousin to humans, was recently discovered hiding in an isolated forest in Indonesia. It’s been a century since a new species of great ape has been found. So, this is an incredibly exciting— and surprising— development. After all, who knew that Donald Trump wouldn’t be the only new orange-colored primate to burst into the international scene this year?

As we say goodbye to 2017, here’s hoping that the year to come will be a healthy, safe and happy one.

Just watch out for those black holes.

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Nutcrackers, Holiday Decorating & All The Lies We Tell

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Around three weeks ago, I was in a store and holiday music was already playing. Even though I snorted in disgust at the prematurity of it all, that didn’t stop me from admiring a collection of miniature Christmas trees roughly the size of Kevin Hart. You’ll be happy to note that I didn’t buy one, but I seriously considered it.

That set my mind into motion— into thinking about the holidays and when I’d put up my own decorations this year. I always tell myself that I’m going to wait until after Thanksgiving, but that never seems to happen. It’s more what I tell other people if they ask me when I put up my Christmas decorations. I always chirp, “Oh, I wait until after Thanksgiving.” But, in reality, I’m secretly hunkering down in my house around November 15th with empty nutcracker boxes strewn all over my dining room table and a rim of peppermint mocha residue around my lips.

It’s one of those secrets that we all keep and then lie to others about. You know, like how many times a day we floss (which is never), how many times a week we empty the lint compartment in the dryer (which is not enough) and if we wash our hands after we blow our nose (which should be all the time, but never is!).

When you are disabled, like me, you have to rely on others to help you put up your Christmas tree. You have to cajole and charm someone into climbing into the recesses of your garage to pull out the 7.5 foot plastic tree crammed in a cardboard box large enough for Kim Jong Un to stuff at least two dead bodies.

I’ve had the same artificial tree for quite a few years now. I don’t like having a real tree. It’s too much commitment. I have a hard enough time remembering to water my two houseplants, I definitely don’t have time to attend to a needy spruce tree. Plus, I don’t want something that will drop needles and crap all over my living room floor. If I wanted that, I’d just borrow a toddler.

Each year, there’s always a big moment of dread right before turning on the Christmas tree lights for the first time. That sinking feeling of wondering if this will be the year that it finally takes a giant poop. I’m sure I don’t need to describe this feeling any further. After all, if you’re a San Francisco 49ers fan, you feel this nearly every week.

Anyway, the last couple of seasons, my tree had begun to show its age. The lights began to dim, and large segments of the tree would randomly go dark, only to perk up again hours later. So, this week, I decided to take the plunge and get a new one. My new tree seems okay so far, but the branches were so smashed from being in the box on the long journey from China that the branches required considerable fluffing to stop them from resembling large marijuana joints. I suppose that’s one benefit to real trees, though— they are already fluffy.

However you may spend this holiday weekend, have a safe and happy one. If you need me, I’ll be here fluffing my tree, consuming large quantities of stuffing, and canoodling with my nutcrackers.

IMG_4507 (2)Happy Thanksgiving!

Elizabette Does Tinder

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I like to be hip. I like to be cool. I like knowing the latest lingo, the ‘words on the street’— you know, like baesnatched… and I-Hope-Harvey-Weinstein-Gets-Ebola-And-Dies.

Stuff like that.

I also like to be in-the-know about technology. I want to know about the most recent apps, smartphones and those little fancy robots that run around your house to vacuum up all the Pringles crumbs you left on the floor after your latest Netflix binge. These things are important. And I must know them.

If I don’t know how something works, I feel like I’m missing out— like that one time I wanted a Polly Pocket for Christmas in 1991 and didn’t get it (even though ALL my other friends did). So, this “fear of missing out” leads me to want to try new things. But, this isn’t always a good thing.

For example, a few years ago, I tried watching Game of Thrones. Everyone had been raving about the show… It was a phenomenon unseen since Michael Jackson moonwalked across that stage in 1983 (before he got creepy). So, I borrowed a disc of the first episode of the hit HBO drama, put it in my DVD player, and hit play.

And I lasted about 17.5 minutes before I turned the damn show off.

Holy shit, I have never seen so many decapitations in such a short amount of time.

I mean, I had NO idea what was going on in the plot or who the hell those headless people were, but I had already seen too much of their blood gushing from their spinal column. It’s important to note that I have to be more invested in my characters before I’m willing to see their bodily fluids shooting into the air like the Yellowstone Geyser. And 17.5 minutes is not long enough for that to happen.

Anyway, my experience with Game of Thrones taught me that perhaps all trends aren’t always great. Not all bandwagons are worth climbing on.

The other day, was looking at the App Store on my iPhone looking for a new game to download. Near the top of the most popular list was the social/hookup/friendship/relationship app Tinder. I had heard of Tinder, but really had no idea how it actually worked. My interest was peaked. If it was at the top of the download list, it was worth learning about. I would be one of the cool kids! I would be in-the-know. It would not be like the Polly Pocket incident of 1991.

So, I downloaded the app and set up an account. A person can add a couple photos and write a really brief bio of themselves or their interests. The app then shows you the profile of folks within a 50-mile radius. You swipe to the right if the person seems interesting— you swipe to the left if the person isn’t your cup of tea. If you and another person both swipe to the right, it’s called a “match” and you’re able to type a message to that person (if you want to).

It’s a very simple premise… One quick decision. It’s like cleaning out your closet. Do you want to keep that old Green Day t-shirt, or throw it away? Dump the shirt in the trash? Swipe left. Keep it to see if you might wear it when you need to clean the shower with bleach? Swipe right.

So, I started playing the game. Err— I mean, using the app. It’s very fun and addictive. About 95% of users are trying to impress folks with their gym selfies (why must you stand in front of a mirror each time, dude?)… their sky-diving photos… and their motorcycle portraits. Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left.

As fun as it was at first, after a few hours of using the app, I very quickly found myself becoming increasingly judgmental in real life.

At a gas station, I began commenting on someone’s questionable parallel parking ability. Swipe left. Then, I criticized a guy for wearing a baseball cap with the sticker still on the bill. Swipe left. I rolled my eyes when a friend on Facebook used your instead of you’re. Swipe left. At a restaurant, I inwardly cringed at a lady for her unflattering hairstyle. Swipe left.

I was out of control.

I quickly realized that it was Tinder that had turned me into an intolerant and heartless version of myself. If I wasn’t careful, I’d turn into something really horrible. Like an Olsen Twin.

Enough was enough. So, after having the app on my phone for a grand total of 47 hours, I deleted it.

There are some trends that just aren’t worth it.

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Hurricanes, Pregnant Pandas & Kardashians

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It’s been an intense 9 months. Between qualifying for the nusinersen treatments, waiting to get the ‘greenlight’ to begin injections, and then enduring the hectic schedule of getting my first four loading doses, it’s been a crazy ride. While Hurricane Spinraza was slow to arrive, it gained speed at the end and has packed quite a wallop. A positive, encouraging wallop… but, a wallop just the same.

Perhaps it’s too soon after Harvey, Irma, and Maria to make hurricane metaphors— but, I’m going to do it, anyway. If President Trump can pitch paper towels into a crowd of desperate Puerto Ricans like a carnie at a state fair, I guess anything goes.

Physically, receiving these injections isn’t easy. There’s discomfort, soreness, — and yes, sometimes pain— from the actual treatments themselves. There’s the exhaustion from the long traffic-ridden drives to and from Stanford. It’s a physical challenge. Surprisingly, though, an additional improvement that I noticed after beginning my injections? My residual soreness/pain resolved itself more quickly with each and every treatment. My body felt just a little tougher each time.

Despite the physical challenges, very few people discuss the emotional challenges of this Spinraza journey… especially for those of us that have lived with spinal muscular atrophy all of our lives. So much energy, especially by medical professionals, is focused on our physical health, that our emotional health can be neglected. But, these needs are just as important. The last nine months have taught me that.

Those of us with SMA are expert jugglers. We balance many things in our lives… work/school, family obligations, friends and the management of our care needs— all while keeping track of the pregnant Kardashians. Which is seriously hard work. I keep waiting for one of the reality stars to put up a live pregnancy camera in their house. You know like the zoos do when they have a pregnant female panda? And everyone livestreams the zoo camera online in the days leading up to the birth in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the pink squirming glob that comes out of her panda uterus?

Yeah… that.

(Think of the ratings, Kris Jenner… just think about it.)

Anyway, we SMAers can handle a lot. It’s challenging to juggle our usual tasks— but, we do it. Because we have to. But, when you add in the giant, heavy ball that is Spinraza, it’s impossible for us to keep all the other stuff in the air without dropping some shit on the floor. This is unfortunate because I literally can’t pick up any of the shit I drop on the floor. I have to wait until someone comes and picks it up for me.

After my last loading dose, I physically and emotionally crashed. I went into hibernation— like one of those mama bears that Sarah Palin rattles on about. For about a week and half, I didn’t want to do ANYTHING. I wanted to drop all my juggling balls and sit in the corner and watch episode after episode of the Gilmore Girls. Because if anyone could fix my problems, it was Lorelei Gilmore.

So, I wallowed. And stewed. And fretted. And took some Xanax.

This went on for a while. But, then it started to fade away. I felt the muscles quivering in my arms— reminding me that I had $500,000 swirling in my spinal fluid. It was time to get to work. I had fucked around for long enough.

I started exercising my arms, wrists and hands— with stretches and small weights. I began lifting things more easily than I had done in a while. While in the car, I held a water bottle to my mouth and drank (without a straw!). I lifted a one-pound bag of dried split peas from my lap to my desk— something I hadn’t been able to do at my physical evaluation at Stanford in February.

Things were happening.

So, now I’m trying to make these things part of my routine. I sit at my laptop (while I’m watching Netflix), and do my weird exercises. I’ve discovered that music isn’t my motivator… but, good o’ streaming TV does the trick!

Just maybe not a live Kardashian cam…

There’s only so much a person can handle.

striped

xoxo

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