The civil war over prescription opioids

Another outstanding post with excellent analysis by Zyp! Should be required reading for everyone involved in prescribing policies, & especially for all the media morons who’ve spread the lies so effectively.

EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

The civil war over prescription opioids – by Lynn Webster, MD – Dec 2018

The war is between science and fact versus PROPaganda and media hype.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, attitudes towards opioid use for pain have shifted dramatically. In the 1990s and early 2000s, pain relief was front and center on the newsstands and in medical literature.

During that time, compassion for people in pain increased and permeated our culture and opioids became standard therapy for chronic pain, because few affordable and effective treatment alternatives existed. 

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doctoral contempt

I had a visit recently with the most amazing diagnostician I’ve ever met. This pain doctor, who himself said that he doesn’t know much about migraines or their treatment, nevertheless knew all about & diagnosed mine on our first meeting, in less than 30 minutes! Amazing, eh? I went to a neurologist back in NC for almost as many years as I had minutes with the new guy, a neurologist who is a headache specialist & keeps up to the minute in the field of pain & migraines. That neuro saw & examined me hundreds of times, did all kinds of tests, tried literally dozens of medications, procedures, and treatments, had me keep HA & food & pain & all sorts of hour-by-hour diaries, consulted with fellow headache specialists, and in the end all he was able to do was to declare the migraines intractable and try to treat the symptoms as effectively as possible –we’ve tried every medicine anyone ever heard of that supposedly was prophylactic for migraines or reduced their frequency or severity, including some that were purely WAGs, some of them multiple times over the years.

So on one side I had this brilliant, thoughtful (in both meanings of the word), physician who specializes in migraines and spent decades trying to deal with mine. On the other there’s the pain ‘specialist’ who may not even really believe migraines even exist, but by golly he was able to pinpoint in moments the truth about mine: they’re not intractable, they’re not being treated appropriately, and they’re not really even that bad.

As galling as it is to have this cretin make this snap judgement –and it was very judgmental– about these nightmares that I’ve had to deal with my entire adult life, what really burns my buns is the fact that the jerk put down, as the official diagnosis, “migraines, not intractable.”

Now, NC Neuro first suggested I consider applying for disability in about 1989. I was missing six to twelve days of work per month. I spent those days huddled in bed in a dark room with ice bags on my head; as an added bonus, some of the time I would spend hours on end vomiting with such violence that I’d end up with black eyes because the  pressure caused all the blood vessels around my eyes to burst. It took days to recover, only partly because I always end up severely dehydrated because I can’t even suck on ice cubes when the nausea is bad (yes, I’ve switched tenses; it’s still going on, nearly thirty years later, except there’s some months when I lose more like twenty days a month to indescribable agony).

Anyway, the disability. I was utterly appalled and infuriated when NC Neuro brought it up; I was not a moocher or a sponger, I’m an independent & responsible adult who does not need to be taken care of. The very idea offended me on such a core level that I was rather surprised; I’m not generally judgmental about people who need assistance, it’s just that I wasn’t and would never be one of those people.

Well, the last time I worked, I spent nearly seven out of the last eight weeks of the job in bed, under ice, praying for death. It made for a kick-ass diet, and I probably should’ve been taken to the hospital at least for the dehydration, but I survived. Then I applied for disability. The day I sent in the application I spent most of the time throwing up from the incredible, grinding sense of shame I felt. Friends & my docs told me it wasn’t my fault, that I’d worked for many years around the blinding pain (& sometimes with it; I worked at my lab bench while wearing two pairs of sunglasses because the light was so painful). It was not a confession of weakness to admit that I wasn’t able to work because of the horrible headaches which I’d tried everything to stop –or even reduce.

It sure felt like an admission of weakness & worthlessness.

But along comes this little twerp of a physician who clearly had made up his mind about me before ever laying eyes on me. He saw that I was taking opioids, which are generally not considered the best option for migraines, and passed judgement on me and on my long-term doctor (who agreed to try opioids; he wsn’t a fan of them either, but he knew me, knew my conditions. They helped tremendously and gave me a few more years working). The fact that The Twerp obviously considered me a whiner or faker or whatever pisses me off enough, but it’s far from the first time that’s happened. But the fact that he basically declared that my NC Neurologist is incompetent seriously pisses me off. That poor man worked like a dog (a brilliant dog) for decades to try and help me, and I know I’m a frustrating patient. Not because I disobey directions or am not trying to get better, but because nothing he or I did worked to get me better. I’m firmly convinced that if anyone in the world could’ve come up with a way to do away with the headaches, NC Neuro and I would’ve found it. He’s a brilliant, kind, empathetic physician who treated me like a real human being, moreover like a human with a functional brain (& let me tell you, that’s an incredibly rare way for a physician to treat a patient). And here’s this schmuck dispensing condemnation of me and of NC Neuro; pah!!

Also, I can’t help but worry that The Twerp’s diagnosis –that insidious little “not” that he just had to put in front of “intractable”– will cause trouble with the disability payments. Because the migraines have not gotten much (if any) better since I’ve not been working. It is a relief not to be letting my employer down or feeling guilty &/or overwhelmed about missing work, but that relief hasn’t translated to a decrease in headaches.

We are in such a position of powerlessness to physicians. And many of them revel in being in the power position so much that they lose all compassion and humanity –assuming they had any to begin with. I spent most of my working years as a medical research technician, the person who does the laboratory work. After my first position I advanced to a point of being substantially responsible for designing the research plan; my PI (Principal Investigator) would tell me the kind of information they wanted to figure out, I’d go determine which procedures would best to get it. I worked for years at a lab attached to a teaching hospital, so I had the dubious honor of training newly minted MDs in laboratory techniques. Out of the dozens I trained in the lab, I recall only two who were willing to admit that a mere female, one with only many, many post-graduate courses (but not a Master’s –I was ABT– or Doctorate), could possibly have anything to teach them. These were people who didn’t know a beaker from a bean, but by God, they knew it all anyway.

MD arrogance is a stereotype for a reason; many MDs are arrogant. They firmly believe they are infallible, know everything there is to know, and can evaluate a patient’s mental, physical, and substance abuse status in one micro-second glance. After that, the patient is pigeonholed forever. I have contracted weird and rare health conditions throughout my life; rare indeed is the physician who will spend an instant listening to me say explain them. They are taught in Med School that “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” In other words, a common condition that seems to fit presented symptoms is the more likely diagnosis. But here’s the thing: zebras do actually exist. Finding a physician who believes in zebras has gotten orders of magnitude more difficult over the last 2-3 decades.

Then there are physicians like The Twerp above, who refuse to even believe that horses exist. That patients are liars. Whiners. Fakers. Subhuman. Deserving not only not being listened to, but not even being treated politely. No, not all physicians are this appallingly narrow minded and bigoted, but given the current insane hysteria gripping the country, more and more are falling into snap judgement –even before attempting a diagnosis, if they even bother with that.

The Twerp could still come back to bite me metaphorically on the ass; I never went back to him, but that “not intractable” determination, based upon absolutely nothing other than his own arrogant prejudice, still lurks in my records somewhere. There is nothing I can do if it rears up, sea monster-like, to destroy my life. This is not hyperbole. We are even more prisoners of medicine than ever, even if we don’t get kidnapped and locked in a hospital like some have been. These doctors hold not only our physical lives in their arrogant, bigoted hands, but our very existence. Lab rats have greater protection against abuse.



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Book reviews: “Crimson Meniscus” & “Defragmenting Daniel” An intriguing & frenetic dystopian world from the delightfully twisted mind of Jason Werbeloff

It’s time for the semi-annual post. Just for grins, and because I’ve been promised a tweeted link (I’ve never been tweeted about before!), I decided to stop with the recipes already and combine two of my favorite activities (reading & writing) by posting a review of a couple of books by an up-and-coming writer I recently stumbled upon. (As a disclaimer, I’m not being paid, though I did get a free copy of the second book, Crimson Meniscus. I think I forked over a whopping $.99 for the first book in the series, Defragmenting Daniel. It was worth it.)  The inside of Jason Werbeloff’s head must be a fascinating & wee bit scary place….my favorite kind.

Defragmenting Daniel is the first book in the Bubble/Gutter world, and it would be a good idea to read DD before diving into the 7 shorter works of Crimson Meniscus. Otherwise CM is going to be very confusing, and it would be very difficult to not end up feeling fairly lost because the Bubble/Gutter world is unlike most any other in SF. I say this as someone who’s been reading SF since 1969 (including the SF Golden Age, back to Jules Verne & even earlier works, such as The Golem).  The good news is that DD is in this collection, tho’ at the end. So if you haven’t read that yet, you’ll probably want to start there.

Werbeloff’s writerly mechanics are, thank the universe, strong. This alone puts him well ahead of many e-published authors these days. And he clearly proofreads well & has someone else do the same (it’s very hard to effectively proof your own work), so the plethora of typos & grammatical idiocies & random bits of earlier drafts that tend to clog other new authors’ ebooks is virtually non-existent. Dialogue nearly always sounds like actual people, another rarity in both new and ‘established’ authors. Cliches aren’t. Sly humor pops up in sometimes seriously unexpected places. This world he’s built is, like I mentioned, very fresh; it is a twisted twist on the whole dystopia idea.

The short works of Crimson Meniscus:
“Manufacturing Margaret” is a simultaneously hilarious & horrifying work, at least for those with a sufficiently dark sense of humor. Again, those unfamiliar with DD are probably not going to be able to figure out what’s going on; the narrator is an artificially intelligent taxi that’s addicted to soap operas & has a rather shaky grip on reality. As I read “MM” I couldn’t help thinking of James Thurber’s piece about radio soaps, where the actors & studios would receive hundreds of cards & gifts when characters got married, or the “other woman” actresses would get threats mailed to them for being despicable homewreckers from listeners who couldn’t distinguish entertainment from reality (that sort of thing didn’t stop with the advent of TV soaps). So, the taxi was no more screwed up than a lot of humans. What the taxi does, however, is a tad more extreme than sending some cards & letters.

“Investing Isobella” This is one that taxed even my very flexible suspension of disbelief, though not to the breaking point. Being a biologist & researcher, I just couldn’t shut up the internal critic that kept clearing its throat & asking how the scenario that drives the plot could work (I have similar problems with some of the VR-ish/”phase” issues that appear in many of the Bubble-verse, but step harder on the voice then because I’m not nearly as well versed in VR or physics). But for those who aren’t complete bio-nerds, or even for those who are, this is another arresting, scary scenario, one that carries risk-taking to drastic new levels. If you think it’s risky to gamble on the stock market now….! Heh heh.

“Oscillating Olaf” relies heavily on the “phase” concept mentioned above. The story is a neat idea if you can wrap your head around the whole phase shift concept. I also found myself repeatedly wondering if the Russian translations were accurate…I may have to adopt some of the phrases. At any rate, Olaf, the protagonist, is a guy you feel sympathy for while wanting to reach in & smack him (well, I did at times). He’s kind of a down-trodden worker who gets a big, though not necessarily great, idea for climbing out of his rut.

“Patenting Peter” Hoo-ee. The rules of the Tokyo Bubble society in this piece are extreme even for the extreme world of the Bubble. Werbeloff gives a reasonable explanation (within context) for them, though it would have helped me cruise along through the story more easily if the explanation had come a bit earlier; I was pulled from the story several times as I wondered why in the world those rules were made –then I got the story behind them, as it were, and they made more sense (in a bizarre sort of way). As in Werbeloff’s other works in the Bubble/Gutter society, the depths of human cruelty that can arise from indifference can make even me a bit queasy, & I don’t have a real high vision of the wonderfulness of the species anyway. On the other hand, if you’re feeling bad about your spouse, this could make things look great in comparison.

“Severing Sidney” Another extreme in the extremes. This story seemed more creeping horror within the SF context, though much of the “Bubble-verse” has strong horrific undertones anyway. And I (cynic that I am) had no trouble believing that tech could change marriage so drastically while religion kept divorce verboten; societies that try to wed science with religion have come up with some screwy ideas, but nothing like this. The story gives the whole concept of “separation” a savage new twist.

“Aborting Andromeda” It occurs to me that to keep saying this or that story is ‘extreme’ is fairly silly because there are extremes all over the place, frequently layered atop one another. I’m guessing this story will generate a lot a froth, given that the basic idea is “Post Natal Abortion,” i.e. “abortion” up to the age of 25. Can’t deal with an offspring/loved one? Scrub ’em from existence. Part of me loves the idea because I have a prime candidate or two. But it’s just one of the eye-popping/stomach churning options available in the world of the Bubble, where credit really can buy anything. The story is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the concept, just as reassurance for those who might be inclined to avoid the story altogether just on principle.

And since Defragmenting Daniel is sort of a pre-req for fully appreciating Crimson Meniscus, here’s my review of DD:

I’m always excited to discover new authors, especially as I read so fast I’m constantly on the prowl for another book. I stumbled onto this one totally by chance, and was very happy as I read along. The writing was vivid & coherent and the idea well executed. Though I am a biologist & very long-term fan of hard SF, I was okay with the fact that some of the more extreme elements of Webeloff’s world didn’t have explanations and stood on rather shaky scientific underpinnings; this is more of a sociological SF than a hard biological SF (if you physics types will permit me to phrase it that way). The drastically futuristic tech (biological & computer-related) pretty much saturates the book, so if you’re not able to suspend disbelief on a society based on tech that borders on magic, beware. The tech ranges from organs switched as easily as our socks to programmable clothing that changes at the wearer’s whim (both in appearance and at the tactile level) to VR-type glasses that operate everything to flying/hovering taxis that are invisible unless you have the glasses, up to the entire Bubble, which operates on a certain ‘phase’ & virtually ceases to exist if you put yourself in a different ‘phase.’

There are very disturbing elements to the book; if you’re a reader who has trouble with blood or violence, or casual cruelty, you might want to give this one a pass. This world is a pitiless and vicious place. I wish I could say I couldn’t believe that people would be so depraved that they’d pay to hack up children for fun ‘n’ recreation if it were legal, but I’ve read too much history and seen too much reality to doubt it. Once one group of people views some other group as a subhuman “Them,” there’s no limit to the atrocities they can –and will– commit upon Them. And feel just fine & perfectly justified about doing it. I actually had more difficulty believing that Gepetto would so quickly & casually take in a total stranger off the street in this scary world.

Daniel is at first a very sympathetic character; orphaned, dumped out into a nearly totally unknown world on his 18th birthday, filled with crappy generic replacements for the body parts that’ve been taken from him to ‘pay’ for his room & board & the privilege work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week cleaning out organs yanked from other Gutter inhabitants. As he begins indulging in some cruelty of his own to regain his body parts, it is a little harder to love him, but given the world he inhabits, his behavior is not particularly surprising.

I loved Daniel’s cat, Odin, and the fact that Daniel sacrifices what little he has to share with Odin, and I don’t care if Odin only exists to provide more warm & fuzzy feelings for Daniel. Odin actually reminded me a lot of a real-life cat, Norman, the Scottish Fold who traveled the world with his human. Odin was a very nice touch, as well as being a cool cat.

I had some problems getting warmed up to Kage, the former Kassandra, but only because I couldn’t figure out who he was trying to impress (other than himself, and he clearly had some self-image issues). He says (well, he thinks) that he dislikes women, he gets really angry when people think he’s a gay man, but he really loves the way it feels when a man puts his hand on Kage’s back, and is thrilled when an impulsive dinner invite to a woman is accepted. I assume this contradictory behavior was supposed to be indicative of how conflicted Kage is, but I wished there was some better clarity; what does Kage really want, besides bigger muscles & a more manly voice? Ambivalence toward this character is sort of a problem since he’s the protagonist’s foil, or possibly nemesis.

General mechanics notes:
-Hallelujah for Werbeloff, because he proofreads & has professional proofreading done. This makes him a very rare bird these days. There are almost no typos or grammatical errors or dangling bits of sentences cluttering up the landscape like blown trash.
-Dialogue sounds like actual humans talking; another rarity & one of the harder aspects of writing to do well.


The round-up:

As my tagline Bradbury quote indicates, I am very much in favor of reading. When I was teaching I would sometimes get into arguments with other educators, the classic “They should read Quality Literature” vs “Let ’em read whatever grabs their fancy; it’ll spread” debate. I was firmly in the “whatever” camp; get kids interested in reading by letting them pick an interesting subject. Once the act of reading becomes easy for them they’re much more likely to expand their literary horizons, even unto Quality. And I have no patience for snobs who think SF (or “speculative” or SciFi or whatever the term is) is a waste of brain cells; there’s good SFm & SF that really is a waste of brain cells. Luckily, there comes along new writers who build onto the edifice of good, interesting, gripping SF. Though I don’t claim that Werbeloff is another Bradbury (nobody is), his writing is good, interesting, gripping hard/sociological/biological SF with a dash of horror that can keep you up nights, maybe even after you’ve put the book down. Dive into a new world…it may be even scarier than the real one, but it sure makes a good diversion from the real one.

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pooch’s SLO update

Brief update on Kenta the Wonder Dog, aka “Mr Fluffypants.” We had a checkup with our incredibly wonderful allergy/immunology vet in Springfield Oregon, Dr Ashley, a little while back. She said that his little tootsies looked so good that if she hadn’t seen him during his flare-up, she wouldn’t have believed he’d ever had one.

He’d started to refuse to eat his super-expensive Super Special Bunny & Sweet potato prescription food a few months ago, so she said to put him back on regular food (no use having healthy feet if you’re anorexic, I suppose). So for the last 2-3 months, he’s been on nothing but the fish oil (300 mg/day) & ToW non-chicken foods. Still looking good & being wonderful enough to provide me with sufficient oomph to keep slogging on.

Words can’t explain –tho I tried– how terrified I was at the prospect of him having chronic pain…just like Mom. At least Mom knows what the heck is going on. It’s so wonderful to see the little guy feeling good & being healthy again! SLO is a fairly rare condition, especially in small breeds, but anyone who has to face it in their beloved dog may take heart in the story of one dog who’s doing well. So far. And Dog, I hope it stays that way. I read a lot on the Net when he was diagnosed, & didn’t run across of terribly optimistic tales…it seemed divided about 33/33/33: a third have the initial flare-up then never again, a third have repeated flare-ups that aren’t too bad, a third a crippled & in agony. I didn’t like the odds at all. There’s no guarantee that he’ll never have another flare-up, but I’ll keep hoping & giving him the fish oil. The hair loss from the doxycycline was just bizarre…another trait he shares with Mom; weird side effects. Grrrrreat.

So, all two or three of you who’ll ever read this, thanks & pass it along to someone who could use a hopeful boost.

Book recommendation for the month: “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal. Lots of ape stories, but he also talks about crows & other corvids, & there’s some dog stories. Really well-written, very accessible to anyone who’s interested in animals & how their minds work, many terrific stories and descriptions of his studies of animals over the years, sprinkled with wit & humor. I’ve read science/nature/natural history books* for decades, & about halfway thru the first chapter I flipped to the author info & exclaimed “How have I missed this guy?!”(Kenta jumped about a foot & looked at me the way he does when I talk to books instead of him). The book is outstanding. Kenta sez check it out; he’s all for animal cognition, even if he’s not a canine Einstein.  But he’s still perfect.

* Stephen Jay Gould, David Quammen, Harold Klawans, Natalie Angier, Cynthia Moss, Konrad Lorenz, etc. Lorenz’s “King Solomon’s Ring” is a must for anyone who loves animals, btw. I’ve  given away probably 3 dozen copies over the decades, & nobody’s not loved it.

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Dogs; adore them, be terrified for them

those big black eyes…

Brief update on the travails of Kenta the Wonder Eskimo. Hard tho it is for those who see him to believe, he’s losing hair at a highly abnormal rate. His fur is much thinner than it was this summer when the temperatures were in the 100s, & that just ain’t right. The hair loss has accelerated just over the last few weeks, so I have to wonder if it’s a side effect of one of the treatments for the SLO (auto-immune disorder) or something else.

Here he is in all his heavy-fuzzed glory enjoying his kiddie (Kentie?)pool in August, when it was over 100.

Here he is in all his heavy-fuzzed glory enjoying his kiddie (Kentie?)pool in August, when it was over 100.

One of the things I’ve worried about since starting the SLO regimen is the diet; SLO attacks can be triggered by ‘attack’ proteins, so the dogs are put on very restricted diets –usually proteins that they’ve not been exposed to before, so their immune systems aren’t predisposed to get hysterical. A common restricted diet is rabbit & sweet potato, & he’s been on just that for… about a coupla months. I was concerned about Vitamin A hypervitaminosis, something I learned about after reading a number of books about Polar Exploration. There are some astounding, riveting books about the brave & insane men who explored the Polar regions & attempted to reach the Poles, & one of them is “Racing With Death,” about Douglas Mawson. Mawson was an Australian who ended up, at one point, plodding alone for about a month for hundreds of miles through subzero Antarctic wastes. Running out of food, he did what the explorers did in those days; ate his sledge dogs. Not knowing that there’s a reason that the Inuit never eat the livers of their sledge dogs, no matter how dire the situation, Mawson ate the dogs’ livers & developed Vitamin A hypervitaminosis (though they had no idea in those days what that was). The symptoms of what Mawson went through from this excess of vitamin A are unbelievably hideous; one of the more gruesome was the shedding of great sheets of his skin, including the entire bottoms of his feet (he felt an “awkwardly lumpy feeling” in his feet as he was trudging along, stopped, removed his fur boots, & found the compete soles of both feet had separated. He smeared lanolin on them, wrapped them back in place with string, put socks & boots back on, & trudged on into the frozen white. Folks were different in those days). He also lost huge sheets of skin from thighs, groin, & elsewhere.

Oh yeah, Mawson also suffered hair loss. (You knew I’d get back around to the point eventually). Hair loss is also a symptom of excess Vitamin A. Only thing is, just how much Vite A is too much in canines is poorly understood. Like all the fat soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K), bad things can happen to any body when you dump too much in, because it doesn’t flush out like the water soluble vitamins (which is only one of the many reasons the whole ‘megavitamin C’ craze is asinine; all you do is supplement your sewer system with whatever Vite C your body doesn’t need at the time, since it is literally flushed out with bodily water).

So, nobody really knows how much is too much when it comes to Vitamin A in dogs, though they’re not as easily overloaded as humans. Since it’s another stupid holiday in the middle of a glut of holidays, I can’t talk to the vet til the middle of next week, to start trying to figure out which of the myriad possibilities might be behind the hair loss. Many of the possibilities aren’t too bad –hypothyroidism is one, tho he was just tested a couple months ago. I’ve been hypothy for over 30 years, & it’s no big deal. Many of the possibles are horrific…Canine Cushings is one, & since my previous Eskimo died of that, to say that this hasn’t helped my stress levels is one of the understatements of all time.

Portrait of the sweetie as a young dog. Is it any wonder that the first time I saw an Eskimo puppy I had to have him? This is Kenta at about 10 weeks.

Then there’s stress: could he be picking up on my drastically raised stress levels from recent catastrophes, starting with his own SLO diagnosis? How’s that for cruel irony? I lost about half my hair before I finally had the sense to jettison my ex-husband (the one I refer to as “The AntiChrist”…he was not a nice person). It grew back.

There’s a constant, underlying level of stress involved in loving dogs (and cats), at least there is for me.  Like the near-subliminal hum of being under high-tension wires, the visceral terror of knowing that I could lose my beloved friend is always there, though usually I’ve at least had the comfort of it being reduced when the animal is very young, like Kenta –he’s not yet 3 years old. Anyone who responds to this idea with something like “good grief, it’s just a dog [cat]” is someone who might as well be from a different planet on this subject; for me, no he’s not “just a dog” & Foster is not “just a cat.” They are beloved, adored friends, always true, innocent of cruelty or evil intentions. They are a part of my soul, a huge part of the reason I’ve been able to deal with chronic pain and numerous health disasters of my own.

Kenta especially, in the last year or so, has literally kept me from seriously considering checking out of this miserable, hopeless existence (i.e. suicide).  No matter how hard I try or what I do, damn near every time I turn around some great load of cosmic crap dumps on my head (or house or car) from out of the blue, and I don’t have the psychic or especially the financial resources to shovel out from under repeated catastrophes.

My doctor first recommended I apply for disability because of my migraines in 1989; I was so appalled and horrified that I damn near fainted; I wasn’t going to stick out my hand for someone else to put money in it. I tried to keep decent jobs for the next 20 years, despite being completely out of action 15-40% of the time, with no warning, never any idea when or how long I would be struck down with literally blinding pain that kept me in bed for up to a week at a time. Achieving professional or financial stability & resources under those conditions ain’t possible. I surrendered in 2009, when I spent the last 7 out of 8 weeks of my last job unable to get out of bed except to go to the bathroom. I wanted to die from the shame of it…somehow I ended up with a deep conviction that it’s valid for other people to need help, but I’m supposed to be able to take care of myself.

So now I have an old doublewide trailer that’s in okay condition. I live as cheaply as I can; I get my clothes from the free church resource or garage sales or St Vinnie’s (Goodwill is too expensive). I try to raise money by selling Mom’s jewelry & stuff I make on Etsy and ebay. And I have my dog and my cat. They are my luxuries, where I ‘treat’ myself. When I sell something online & am not too far behind on too many bills, I buy dog or kitty treats to celebrate.

Foster hangin' in his window hammock.

Foster hangin’ in his window hammock.

And all this crap keeps happening, and I could deal with that, but with crap happening to Kenta, the level of terror gets so overwhelming I can barely breathe. Love so great comes with a fear of loss so huge, I sometimes wish I’d never gotten a dog or cat to begin with. But the joy I get from every minute with them makes me reconsider that. Then they get old or develop health problems young, and the cycle turns again and I fold into a fetal ball of fear.

Kenta is telling me it’s time to stop fiddling with this useless thing that has nothing to do with him and start paying attention to the object of my affection, like, “Take me for a walk, Mom!” Wise folks listen to their heart, I s’pose. Or their dog…same thing, sometimes.

Eskimo move known as the "Shnozz snow plow." They have more fun in snow than anybody anywhere.

Eskimo move known as the “Shnozz snow plow.” They have more fun in snow than anybody anywhere.

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Raptor of Rockies

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Catastrophes, fantastic friends from out of the blue, plus chocolate.

“You can easily recognize the good parts of your life because they are starkly outlined in crap.” -John DeChancie, from Starrigger.


This was before the yard got really deep; the really neato part was that the flooding was coming out of the storm drain, rather than the drain actually…draining.  Veneta must be Backwards-ville.

This has been one of my favorite quotes for years.

Been a Hell month around here –with some amazingly good stuff snuck in here & there. My much beloved support dog, Kenta the American Eskimo,


was diagnosed with SLO. It’s a very rare auto-immune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the nail beds, causing the claws to die back at the quick, fall off, and,  if they grow back, they’re usually very deformed. Their claws/toes are easily bruised & it’s very painful when they’re having a flare-up. So I’ve been horribly worried about the poor baby and I cannot stand to see him in  pain.

We did find a vet who knows about as much as there is to know about it, he’s on a special diet, meds, & supplements, and mostly is doing well….except when he bruises a toe, then he gets just pitiful.

Last week my yard & house flooded very badly; the insulation under the house was saturated, as were the floor joists, & the water came within about an inch of coming in the heating ducts. Turned out the city of Veneta never bothered to design a stormwater system that can actually deal with water….this is in Oregon, remember. Land of temperate rainforests. The City Manager basically said, “Tough luck, lady.” He also suggested I get a tanker truck, pump water from around my house into it using my sump pump, & dump it somewhere else (I am not making this up!! I really wish I’d taped that bit….I’d put it on YouTube).

side yard

The side yard before it got really deep.


So now I’m diving (so to speak) into my first foray into community activism, trying to find & organize everyone in the area with flooding problems, and there are a ton of them. I hope to lead them to the next City Council meeting, preferably carrying pitchforks and torches. I need lawyers, engineers, the Corps of Engineers, hydrologists, and God knows what else…money, mainly. I can’t even afford to fix the insulation & whatever else is currently rotting underneath my feet.

the hatch to access under the house weighs a zillion pounds, but at least it’s wood…when the water gets high enough, it’ll just float open.

Then, the day after the Great Flood, a huge tree limb fell & crushed my car trunk. Thank God & Allstate for Comprehensive coverage (& they told me I was a fool for keeping it on such an old car!).

huey got whammed

Poor Huey…and he just got a brand new paint job a year ago. Now his spare tire gets flooded just like the house, so nobody gets jealous.

But then from outta nowhere snuck in the good stuff; I found a woman that I’d been trying to find since high school. She and I were great friends from middle school thru HS & I’ve always wondered how & where she was, because I thought she was absolutely amazing. Somehow,*poof*  up she popped the other night in a Google search I’ve done dozens of times before w/o success. We’re getting reacquainted via email.

Ditto reconnecting with two other old friends, one I’d thought had vanished into a black hole. So that’s been very cool, getting to know “lost” dear friends again. I decided to celebrate with some chocolate tonight, & found a recipe for Chocolate Chewies that remind me of some that my mom & I were addicted to in the 70s-80s, on Hilton Head. They are GF (no flour at all), DF, incredibly easy to make, & as droolicious as it gets.

So, something yummy amid the catastrophes…and some good things –good people I mean– slid in amongst the crap. Both of my friends do terrific things; one of ’em does amazing work with raptors; writing, photographing, rehabilitating, educating about, and saving them:

kate's ctr

Kate Phillips Davis’ Raptor Center

My other friend, Felecia Walton, went to Med school at UNC-Chapel Hill & is a Laboratory Research Analyst at Duke University.

To quote Bruce Hornsby, “What the hell happened to me?”

But I’ve been lucky to have known some amazing, amazing people.


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still more GF recipes; lemon shortbread, GF flour mix…

More GF recipes….

If I keep this up, I’m gonna hafta start taking gorgeous pics of the ingredients & finished products….if I can remember to take pictures of the finished products before I snarf them down. It’s just that I’ve spent so many years (15+) that if I do run across something that’s GF and DF and tasty, it seems only right to try & help some other Gluten Mutant out there who’s struggling to find edible, even yummy food. Considering all the lousy GF crapola I’ve encountered, you’d think I’d be scrawny, but….not quite.*

Anyhoo. Here’s a recipe for wonderfully tangy, lil’ bit gooey lemon bars that will do nothing to assist any weight loss or even weight maintaining attempts, but will set you drooling & sneaking out to the kitchen to hoover them up in the middle of the night.

First off, this works best using my own personal GF flour blend…just what the world needs, right? Yet another GF flour blend. This one has worked really well in everything I’ve tried, & it avoids the problems of many of the commercial GF blends (those based on garbanzo beans taste like…well, beans; rice-flour-based ones are sorta gritty, etc). Somehow I came up with this blend while trying to make a good GF/DF oatmeal cookie. It worked exceptionally well.** It also works excellently for these lemon bars, and it makes kick-ass shortbread if you just use the recipe for the crust & leave off the lemon layer part. I’ve also used it to bread fish; it didn’t seem “dessert-y” at all. I s’pose it’s not totally “mine,” since part of it is a pre-made all-purpose GF blend, but oh well. I let the commercial ones provide some of the gluten-replacement work & I reduce the beany/gritty issues. I like Bob’s Red Mill GF stuff, tho I find that what works best is mixing his GF all-purpose mix & GF pizza crust mix 1:1, if I’m not using my own blend (i.e. if I’m out of almond flour). My blend would probably work with most any of the commercial GF blends, except GF Bisquik: I tried that & it was really bitter.

At last, the recipes:


Kelly’s very own GF Flour blend:
2:1:1 Bob’s GF All-Purpose Baking mixŦ : tapioca starch : almond flour

In other words,
2 cups Bob’s or whoever’s GF flour blend (whomever’s?)
1 cup tapioca starch (or tapioca flour, same thing)
1 cup almond flour


The goodies (At last!):

LEMON BARS (crust by itself = wonderful shortbread)
1 c my very own GF Flour mix
1/2 c softened DF butteroid (Earth Balance gold package sticks)
1/4 c white sugar

3/4 c white sugar
2 Eggs
3 T GF Flour mix
3 T lemon juice (if you don’t like ‘em very lemony, use 2T)
1/4 t baking powder
[1/2 c powdered sugar for topping]

Heat oven to 350°F. Beat butteroid & sugar til smooth. Add flour mix, beat at low speed til mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press onto bottom of ungreased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. (For shortbread, bake until very lightly browned in center, ~30 min).

Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients except powdered sugar in small bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Pour filling over hot, partially baked crust. Continue baking 18-20 minutes or until filling is set.

Sprinkle with ½ powdered sugar while still warm, then dust with the rest when cool (looks very snazzy if you have something lacy to lay on before dusting with powdered sugar, or harken back to first grade by cutting out a “snowflake” in a clean sheet of paper & use it). Cut into bars. Try not to eat all at one sitting.



-I see “GF baking powder” or GF vanilla” in recipes a lot; I don’t know why, because you’d have to go ‘way out of your way to find baking powder or vanilla that did have gluten. There’s still a ton of mis-information about gluten free things floating about. It’s very depressing.

-on tapioca starch/flour; they’re the same thing. Ditto potato starch/potato flour; same deal. However; corn starch and corn flour are not the same things. Ain’t life fun? (or English, or baking terminology, or something).

Happy snacky eating, folks. I’ll try to get purty pitchers next time. I found my camera again so am not dependent on my phone, which will help.

Oh btw; I got a hankering for eggrolls again the other day but it was late & I was lazy, so I tried using the rice wrapper & then putting that between 2 layers of GF rice tortillas (they crack when I try to wrap anything, so I just used ’em to sandwich the spring roll), then briefly frizzled them in hot oil to supply crunch. Bad, bad, bad idea. I shoulda made the batter. My GF flour mix works for that kinda batter, too. (Also the filling was about 90% zucchini, since I’m suffering from a surfeit of that despite only planting 1 plant, which didn’t help. Squash eggroll isn’t the In Thing of the future, methinks).


*Latest doc visit informed me my BMI had snuck over the “OVERWEIGHT” level; 25 is the cutoff, mine was 25.3. My brain is telling me that this is not a sign I’m morbidly obese or anything, but my fubared body image is down there screaming “FAT! YOU’RE FAT!!! HIDEOUS REVOLTING ICK FATFATFATFATFATFATFAFAFAFAAAHHHHHH!!! But really, that’s another post entirely, no?


**I guess this means I’m gonna hafta post the oatmeal cookie recipe. Soon. Not that there’s such a mob of folks out there waiting impatiently for my next pearls of wisdom…but I will put up the recipe soon, because they’re seriously to-die-for.


Ŧ or Bob’s AP + pizza, or any commercial GF flour blend

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Gluten Free Eggrolls…at last!!

Good GF eggrolls, I mean. That’s one of the things I’ve really missed since being forced to eliminate gluten from my diet about 15 years ago. . .those dense little logs that you dip in a lake of hot mustard and sweet/tangy duck sauce, then cram one end into your mouth and *kee-runch!* and all the hot unidentifiable yummy bits come raining out all over the plate and the table and your shirt, and your eyes cross in ecstasy, and if you haven’t been able to exercise sufficient restraint, you end up with that annoying bubble blister on the roof of your mouth, but it’s worth it because even if they are a zillion calories from the deep frying they’re worth it.

the GF Holy Grail!  Okay, it may not look perfect, but it was mighty good.

the GF Holy Grail! Okay, it may not look perfect, but it was mighty good. And I should’ve put in some decorative greenery and artistically arranged chopsticks. The ER is too parallel, needs to be angled more…this is why I don’t do cooking photos.

I wish my sense memory wasn’t so good, because I can remember things like that vividly, and sometimes knowing that I’ll never have that experience again (at least, not without days or weeks of agony) can get downright maddening. I try to find substitutes, and there certainly are more halfway decent subs now than there were 15 years ago, but I don’t care what kind of bean/rice/whatever flour you use, no matter the gums you add, absolutely nothing will truly replace the texture that wheat gluten can give to things. Some GF things are acceptable; some crackers, a few brands of basic bread will make an edible piece of toast or grilled cheese sandwich, but there is no way on earth that anyone is ever going to make a true replacement for some things.There will never be a good GF bagel or baguette. Nothing will ever come near the nirvana I used to experience with the sourdough boules I pulled from the oven at 6 am when I worked as a baker, then pulled apart the brown, crunchy/chewy crust and inhaled the tangy steam that gouted from the  soft, springy interior that I’d snork down as soon as it was barely cool enough.   There will never be a GF eggroll wrapper.

However, I have come up with a fairly good substitute for that last. I’ve been eating a lot of spring rolls in the last decade & a half, using rice wrappers. If you’ve never tried them, they’re translucent sheets made from “sweet” rice (it’s not actually sweet, just sticky & can be used to make noodles & wrappers). You soak the wrapper briefly in warm water then wrap the warm vegetable/whatever mix in it. I’ve read in several places that you can then fry those, but that has never, ever come even close to working; the rice wrappers are the stickiest things on the planet when you try to do anything to them other than just wrap ‘n’ eat. I’ve tried shallow oil, deep oil, you name it, the things stick to the pan, stick to whatever utensil I try to turn ’em with, they always rip apart & dump the contents and make a horrible mess.

I had some of my usual spring rolls last night, and dragged out the rest of my veg mix this evening to do it again, but I was dreaming of eggrolls the whole time. Then I thought…what if I battered ’em?

So I put together the rolls, heating the oil as I did so, and I made some GF fry batter. Before dipping them in the batter, I rolled them in a 50:50 mix of tapioca starch/Bob’s Red Mill GF Pizza Crust mix, tapped off the excess, then dipped ’em in the batter, then slipped the rather drippy roll into the hot oil. No sticking. I could even turn it over to brown both sides evenly, no stick to pan or slotted spoon. Dipped it out when golden brown, forced myself to let it sit on a piece of newspaper to drain a bit and cool off…it actually looked pretty good, so this wasn’t easy.  Then I sloshed it through some hot mustard and duck sauce (both of which I made before I started the rolls), lifted it to my mouth, and…..

*kee-runch!* and hot yummy bits came raining out all over the plate and the counter (I was standing in the kitchen).  It was GOOD!! If I’d paid more attention when I stir fried the veggie mix it would’ve rivaled the better eggrolls I’ve ever had in a restaurant! Can ya say hallelujah!

I wanted to make a small amount of batter since there’s only me (neither dog, cat, nor bird get eggroll).  I scanned some GF frying batter recipes, and sorta took their essence, i.e. made it as short-cuttish as possible. As usual, I didn’t really *quite* measure things, but the batter was approximately:

Batter Mix to Coat Rice Wrappers:
1/3 c Bob’s RM GF All-Purpose Flour Mix
1/3 c corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
enough club soda to make sorta thin batter (approx pancake batter consistency)

Mix til smooth.

Dusting Powder
make a 50:50 mix of:
Bob’s RM GF Pizza Crust Mix
Tapioca Starch

I used Bob’s RM GF pizza crust mix to dust the rolls first (with tapioca starch) for two reasons: (A) I had a teeny bit left in a bag and (B) I often mix Bob’s All-Purp GF mix with the pizza mix as a general GF flour substitute because sometimes the garbanzo bean flavor of his AP GF mix can creep out and taste too beany (this is starting to look like a report on something military, with all the letters). But I do like Bob’s GF mixes.

I actually took a pic of the second roll out of the pan…the first one was prettier, but I confess I snarfed it down too fast to even think about taking a picture of it. So,

I whipped up the duck sauce because I prefer to make my own stuff since it’s usually cheaper & I know what goes into it, to an extent –I don’t grow my own apricots & make my own jam, grow & harvest my own mustard seed, etc. Also, I have too many jars of condiments already; I can make just a little bit. (amounts below are very approximate; taste & correct):

Really, really basic ‘N’ quick Duck Sauce:
3 Tablespoons apricot preserves
3 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
dash garlic powder

Simmer in small sauce pan about 5 minutes, taste, adjust as necessary (probably needs more vinegar, but check). Cool.

Egads, I’d better be careful, or this’ll turn into a cooking blog. Ha! Not too likely, since I don’t measure anything, but am more of a “seat of the pants” cook.  ….Nooooo, that doesn’t sound quite right. Or appetizing. Call it an “intuitive” cook…that sounds so classy.

Hope I’ve helped a fellow Gluten Mutant out there achieve eating Nirvana. God knows it’s a hard place to find when you’re on a severely restricted diet!

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Quick ‘N’ EZ Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Green Enchilada sauce

Never planned on making a cooking blog (I’m way too lazy to imitate the cooking bloggers I’ve seen, which is take a picture of every single ingredient and at every step of a recipe, so they end up with 47 lovingly arranged pictures even when it’s a recipe for toast). But I’ve always loved to cook and write. And fifteen years or so ago I got so tired of feeling awfully tired, bloated ‘n’ brain-fogged now & then that I looked to dietary triggers. A friend gave me a huge bag of apples off his tree, and one of the things I made was an apple cake (carrot cake recipe with grated apples instead O’ the carrots). It was magnifique, and I ended up totally pigging out on it…ate the whole frigging sheet cake that night.  Awoke the next morning feeling like the Michelin Man who’d gotten stuffed full of lard, only dumber. Realized that often happened after I went nuts with starchy things.

So I cut out starches. All starches. Rice. Potatoes. Wheat. Corn (not totally a starch, I know, but figured tortilla chips are sorta like a starch).  Every starch: No noodles, chips, bread, crackers, gravy, fried foods, etc etc, any of that stuff. For SIX MONTHS. Six long months. Lost weight, darn near went insane for the lack of chips & salsa –celery with salsa just ain’t the same, even if it does have a lotta crunch.

So corn was the first to come back —had to have those chips.  Waited a month before introducing the next starch; during the month I had almost no Lardo Michelin Man days. Rice came next, no probs. Another month; wheat. Wham! It took 2-14 days after ingesting, but wheat or anything with ANY gluten did it. What a pain it was in the days before anyone had ever heard of “gluten free” other than the very few who’d been diagnosed as celiac, & they usually figured it out themselves & it took an average of 14 years. This was even before the Atkins Diet really got going (remember it?). There were no pre-made GF products, no flours, zip, nada, zilch.  And of course I had to walk 5 miles in the snow to the grocery, uphill both ways.

Really though, it has gotten a lot easier for those of us I call “gluten mutants.” But I’ve never found a pre-made GF green enchilada sauce that didn’t have gluten & tasted good, & all the recipes I’ve tried were sort of a pain in the neck to one degree or another. This stuff can also easily be made without dairy of any kind (had to ditch cow milk 5 years ago, tho I did find I can tolerate goat or sheep milk ok…thank heavens it’s possible to get good goat cheddar, goat yogurt (if you can find it), and there’s even one dairy that makes great goat mozzarella…but only one; the others range from blah to toxic waste (I can’t decide whether or not to name the good go-mozz maker; I just found some after it being almost completely unavailable for about 2 years, even online…don’t wanna create a stampede & not be able to get any more for me).

Anyhow.  The sauce. I tend to approach cooking as a creative enterprise & throw things together without measuring, unless I’m baking. Baking is chemistry; cooking is art. I’ll just tell how to make it, but don’t have precise amounts…I can probably figure it out if (A) anyone actually reads this & (B) wants amounts. I’m describing it as I made it; if dairy isn’t an issue, just use regular butter or whatever cow/cowlike product you prefer.


DF butter-like substance*
Potato starch/potato flour (same thing)**
Beef bouillon
good Salsa Verde (I love Herdez)
dash each garlic powder, cumin, turmeric, salt

Make a roux with the butteroid & potato starch. Add bouillon & green salsa, toss in seasonings as it thickens. Slosh onto & enchiladas, bake, snarf. I’d include a pic of the chicken enchiladas I just made, but would have to lower the camera into my belly, & that plays hell with digital cameras. Not to mention that the photo wouldn’t be too appetizing.

Bon appetit, folks!

Coming soon: my reaction to my doc informing me, just this morning, that [somebody] is going to convince “them” to ban all opioid pain medicines because [according to somebody else] 80% of opioid prescriptions are being diverted for illegal use (he wasn’t real clear on the who/what/where/how of this). (A) I seriously doubt the 80% figure. (B) I am not able to completely discount this…concept… that doesn’t even qualify as a rumor, because I know there are a lot of people out there who’re devoutly against opioids for anyone, whether they’re using them to get high or simply to try & live a relatively functional life amid constant, excruciating pain. I use the term “devoutly” intentionally, because many of them approach the topic in a truly messianic, religious fashion, and persevere in their quest because it literally is a crusade. Some believe it’s good for the soul of the sufferers to suffer. Like the folks† who fought mightily against allowing women to use any type of anesthesia (when ether & such came about) or pain relief when giving birth on the grounds that God decreed that Woman should suffer because of that original evil witch Eve & the whole snake/apple thing. I mean, what if poor Eve was just trying to help Adam to get his Five-A-Day, keep him healthy & regular? Talk about a bad rap.

But that’s later. Now it’s bed time, after I walk the Eskimo (that’s American Eskimo dog, lest anyone think I’m not only politically incorrect but have imprisoned an Inuit).


*I find Earth Balance brand Vegan (gold package) the best; use stick form for cooking.

**or tapioca starch or a GF flour mix, like Bob’s Red Mill all-purp or his pizza crust mix

†how much ya wanna bet they were all men?


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