Thursday, March 24, 2011

This is the end

I know, you've seen it coming.

After really struggling to think of anything to write about, I figured I'd announce this is the end of this blog and I'm also stepping away from my blogging on Anglotopia. There are a lot of reasons, first of all that my "New English Adventures" just aren't that new anymore. I've well and truly settled into life here.

Also blogging is a very self-centered activity, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way or to offend or belittle other bloggers. Blogging really comes from a place of relating your personal place in the world- life from the perspective on oneself- and lately I haven't been seeing my life in this way. My life is so much more about the people around me and their stories which aren't mine to tell. Not to say that I've lost a sense of myself or that my life is defined by the people around me, but between my job, family life, volunteering and friendships my life has become a web of important relationships that are hard to put into writing, or interesting writing at least.

This isn't to say I'll never blog again, but for now thats where I'm at and I'm quite certain on this particular blog, its the end of "Anglophile's Digest" for good.

Thanks for reading and please keep in touch!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Good News All Around!

I've got lots of good news to share!

First bit of good news is that I've now been well for a month. I haven't had any flare ups since mid October and most of the spots on my legs have healed. I've got no more blisters left healing, but my legs are still covered in purple marks where the worst spots were. Its possible some of these could take several months to heal. Its a good thing I'm not a Rockette!

The second bit of good news is that I GOT A JOB!!! I applied to be a Demonstrator for Dyson and got the call a week ago Friday that they chose me! They've been recruiting up and down the country to put brand reps in some of the 100 biggest Dyson retailers around the UK and I will be a sales rep in the best performing Dyson retailer in my area.

I'm very excited about this opportunity, so far I'm so impressed with Dyson. They are so organized and the company seems to work like clockwork, something that I really appreciate in an employer. They also have great benefits for their employees. I will only be working 13 hours a week but its exactly the little financial boost we need and I will also still be able to continue my volunteer work for the time being.

I have a two day training session down in Wiltshire (its about a 6 hour train journey to the South West of the country) which is a week from Monday, then I start work on December 4th. This is a permanent position but I suppose it will be trial by fire as I will start the first weekend in December in the biggest retail park in the area.

I've got a really exciting holiday season coming up with a swing-themed fundraiser Christmas show for Red Dreams. One thing the charity organizers have wanted to do is put the mentors and vocal coaches in the shoes of the students. That means public performances and recording. Its actually been a huge help to me preparing for my own pieces in the upcoming show and also recording a song for the Christmas charity CD. My students all have gone in and recorded songs and now that I've done it I know how terrifying it is, I recorded my song right after one of my students finished and she was giving me pep talks and pointers since she's an old pro at recording. It was a great little role reversal for her to be able to share some experience and knowledge with me.

I've really enjoyed preparing for this swing show. I love swing and jazz, but its definitely not my students' preferred style of music but I've been so impressed with the way most of them have embraced this new style of music. Usually they like to work on pop songs and things that are in the charts, so I thought I'd have a lot of push back from the students about learning songs that were written over half a century ago. Most of them have surprised me and are enjoying this style, putting their own stamp on it, and also because this style is much more challenging since they don't hear these songs on the radio constantly and are learning from scratch, some of my students are making leaps and bounds in their vocal abilities. I've seen some of my students really blossom in this process and its been really amazing and built up their confidence so much that they are doing things they've never been able to before. I'm really looking forward to the concert and joining my kids on stage.

I'm also looking forward to taking my Show Choir kids to Asda (a British supermarket owned by Wal-Mart) the week before Christmas to sing carols in the main entry way for shoppers. We'll be fundraising for Red Dream but it will also be lots of fun and for many of them it will be their very first public performance.

I'm also looking forward to having my own family Christmas meal in my own house this year. I love going around to Jason's family and spending Christmas with my family but I'm really looking forward to cooking a nice Christmas dinner and doing most of the celebrating right here at home. I'm already brainstorming about what I want to make, and Jason has taken up a baking hobby lately so he will hopefully be lots of help as well!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Happy Post

Well, despite my health issues I've been doing my best to keep up with my volunteering commitments like vocal coaching for Red Dreams.

Another project I started helping with at Red Dreams over the summer was a show choir. We weren't sure if we'd get enough kids interested and I've kind of taken it on as my pet project. The first few meetings we had 5-6 kids, then last night at our monthly rehearsal we had FOURTEEN kids show up. I didn't even know what to do with so many! It made me feel good that the kids keep coming back and are now bringing their friends as well, I must be doing something right!

We are getting a small group of them that have been coming since summer to perform a song they've learned on Radio Hartlepool. I'm really proud of what I've done with the show choir, especially getting them singing in harmony and it will be a big achievement for them to have a real performance.

We are also gearing up toward a big fundraising show in December. The show is going to have a swing/big band theme so all of my students are working on swing numbers to perform at the fundraiser show. I'm so glad the theme was chosen cause its really opening my students up to a whole new genre of music they've never heard before. They are really taking to the new style and putting their own stamp on it and its a great challenge for them step outside of what they normally do and try something different.

I've had a bit of a rough week with HSP symptoms, I had a bit of a flare up on Monday but things have been much better since then. It has now been 4 weeks since this started, so hopefully we are now at the end.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another HSP Update

Well, things seem to be coming to a painfully slow end. I've had no more "flare ups" and I have gotten a few new spots over the past week but all of them have been tiny, don't hurt or blister (they look like someone has dotted my upper legs with a red ball point pen) and within 24 hours they fade to barely detectable bruises and then disappear quickly. That is the good news!

However, the worst flare up I had two weeks ago had left my lower legs covered in blisters which are taking their sweet time healing. The worst ones are around my ankles and feet, which make it impossible for me to wear real shoes. I'm still relying on my flip flops which makes me nervous since it leaves the healing blisters exposed, but I'm taking care to make sure they remain clean and apply antiseptic cream a few times a day to aid the healing process. I just wish they would hurry up and heal already because really they are the last remaining traces of this disease that I have left on my body.

I'm now heading into Week 4, which hopefully means this is it. I just need to meet with my doctor once all of the spots have healed to discuss when to stop taking the Gabapentin, it can have mood altering side effects although I haven't had any that I know of. You will have to ask my husband but I don't think I've had any aggression toward others and while I did threaten to cut my legs off it was out of frustration and extreme discomfort, not any intent to harm myself. Anyway, the literature that came with the Gabapentin says in big bold letters not to stop taking it without consulting a doctor so I'll need to consult with my GP before I go off them. I had to slowly go on them, starting taking one the first day, then two the second day before going to the full thrice daily dosage. I imagine coming off them will be a similar gradual descent.

Anyone who has ever had a badly scraped knee or other healing skin lesion will understand the new phase of discomfort I'm in. As my body is working to heal the blisters there is a bit of stinging and aching and it makes it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. I just hope my body will hurry up and finish the healing process already!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

HSP Update

I wrote my previous post on Monday, and Monday night marked my worst flare up of vasculitis yet. The back of my legs all the way from my calves to my thighs broke out in a hot rash. It was so uncomfortable I didn't sleep and decided to visit the doctor again that day.

The doctor printed out a leaflet from the NHS about HSP, which was nice to have since what I've found from Googling varied a bit, but the link I posted on Monday was very close to the NHS leaflet. He also did some tests and ascertained that I had a urinary tract infection so he prescribed me an antibiotic. He also prescribed me an antihistamine/sedative that would help me sleep.

He then called the hospital to consult with the medical team there and get their opinion on if there was anything they could do about the persistent burning/tingling sensation that was driving me to the brink of insanity. The doctor at the hospital advised the GP that the sensation I was experiencing was neurological which was why no topical treatments or antihistamines would relieve it. The doctor suggested an anti-epilepsy medication called Gabapentin that is als used to treat peripheral neurological pain.

I went home feeling much better that I'd left with something to treat my symptoms. Even though there is nothing they can do to stop the inflammation or the frequent flare ups of vasculitis, at least they are able to help me sleep and most importantly give me some relief from the neurological pain.

Monday night I slept for 12 hours. It was heaven. This week has been much better than last week. I've slept through night almost every night, I didn't have any flare ups until last night and the only complication has been the swelling of my ankles which can be helped with ibuprofen and staying off my feet.

The doctor told me the Gabapentin could take a week to have full effect. Last night I had a bit of a flare up with just a few small new spots but a return of a bit of the tingling sensation which woke me a few times during the night, but nothing too torturous. I'm hoping by Monday the Gabapentin will be much more effective in subduing that tingling should I experience more flare ups.

I can't believe today marks just two weeks since this whole ordeal began. It feels like its been much longer, and I hate to think this could last for a further 2-4 weeks. Still, the treatment of my symptoms has made the condition much more manageable than it was last weekend so even if the condition drags on for the full 6 weeks I am confident I can manage my symptoms.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Unfortunate News

I hate to just use my blog to vent about difficult things going on in my life, this year is just turning out to be a year of difficult things.

Last Saturday night while I was out with friends I suddenly developed a strange rash on my legs. It started as red spots all over that didn't itch or have any strange sensation or texture. They came on quickly and were nothing I recognized so I went to the ER. While at the ER my legs swelled up and the spots became raised and started to burn. The ER doctor (while shrugging his shoulders and looking bewildered) told me that it was probably an allergic reaction to detergent or new jeans. He told me that I needed to follow up with my GP on Monday morning, so thats what I did.

My GP at first thought it could be an allergic reaction but also said it could be a condition that can affect the kidneys. (Um, okay, way to drop that one in there Mr. GP!) He had me pee in a cup and told me to come in one day during the week to have blood drawn. So I did. Fast forward to Thursday, bumps are still there and the GP calls to tell me the urine and blood samples were both normal. Cool, but why do I still have bumps?

Then Thursday night things got a bit more tricky. First of all at night the tingling sensation on my legs got so bad I was unable to sleep for the entire night. Also, my ankles swelled up and became very painful. Jason got home that night so first thing Friday we called the doctor and scheduled another appointment. When I got in he had me pee in a cup again, said there was no protein in my urine but thought this was a condition called (insert gibberish here) and it usually clears up on its own. He then said if I wanted he could check me into the hospital because they could run more tests than he was able to OR go home and wait it out.

Clearly I chose the former of the options. So off we headed to the hospital. When I checked in at 4 I noticed that my right hand had started to swell, it actually looked as if I had broken my hand but I obviously hadn't injured it at all. I saw a couple doctors over the course of the night, first was a first year resident, then a rheumatologist who just happened to be assigned to the Emergency Assessment Unit I was admitted into. I'd been told by the nurses that he found my case fascinating, but I will hand it to him that he didn't geek out on me during our consultation.

Both of these doctors said it was most likely a condition called Henoch–Schönlein Purpura, or HSP for short. They told me that its a complicated condition to explain because not much is known about it but basically its an inflammation of the capillaries that is caused by an autoimmune reaction to certain otherwise normal viral infections. These spots on my legs are basically where capillaries have become irritated and burst. They also explained that in many cases it can affect the kidneys and the bowels, which is why they had me pee in many cups and took several vials of blood to send off for testing. They reassured me that they were monitoring my kidney function closely and my kidneys were functioning perfectly normal.

At first they said there was a possibility I could go home that night and come back in the morning to meet with the consultant since there wasn't anything they could do to treat me, then as it approached midnight the joint swelling started to get increasingly worse. Both of my ankles were so swollen I could hardly walk, both of my hands had swelled by this point and the right hand resembled a latex glove that had been blown up, also my elbows and right knee joined the club. After this sudden swelling the night shift doctor broke the news that she wanted me to stay overnight so they could keep an eye on my symptoms and by that point I agreed that it was probably the best thing. So despite having another miserable sleepless night, made worse by staying overnight in a hospital room I shared with 4 other women, I did have the peace of mind that if something scary happened I was in the right place.

Nevertheless, the night was hellish. Again the itching and tingling flared up during the night and made it impossible to sleep. In the morning the consultant finally came and did his rounds with the the other doctors and let me know that after watching me overnight they were quite certain this was a case of HSP, that there was no treatment for it short of steroid injections and I just needed to keep the skin moisturized and take ibuprofen for the swelling. They also said they would send me home after the rheumatologist came back in just to make sure he was on board with all their recommendations. He decided against steroids because he said it would make it very difficult to evaluate the condition and be sure to rule out any other factors. Also the steroids could make me even sicker. They told me that once all the blood tests came back (one takes 10 days) an appointment would be arranged for me to meet with the rheumatologist at which point he'd consult with me further and also do an ultrasound of my kidneys to keep checking that they aren't being effected.

So they sent me home and I've now been home for two nights.

Last night I didn't sleep much again. During the day I have very little itching and the spots seem to be flat and soft, then around 9-10 at night my legs become hard, a new crop of spots flares up and the old ones become raised and irritated. This has been a nightly occurrence for the past four nights now. The only good news is that the joint swelling has gone done almost completely.

Last night I actually felt like the itching sensation was going to drive me insane, luckily tonight was a bit better. Before bed Jason pressed a bag of frozen peas all over my legs which really helped relieve the itching and I also took a cool oatmeal bath to sooth the itching a bit. The relief was short lived and I've only had little spells of sleep tonight but the pre-bed routine seemed to dial down the itching a bit and I just kept getting up to press ice packs or cold towels all over my legs. Right now its 7am and I'm just waiting for this flare up to end so I can catch a few hours of sleep.

So I guess this could be my daily/nightly routine for a couple more weeks. HSP usually lasts about a month and clears up within 6 weeks. I should count myself lucky that this doesn't seem to be attacking my kidneys or bowels, but its difficult to count yourself lucky when you can't sleep during the night and are suffering with itching sensations that nearly drive you insane. I just have to hope this passes as quickly as possible and that maybe toward the last couple weeks of this the symptoms will become milder. Here's hoping and praying the end of this is near.

If you're interested, here is a good overview of HSP:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer is Here!

Well, summer is finally here. I know you are thinking that its July, nearly August, so I must be a bit slow. The thing is when you work with teenagers and have a middle-school aged stepchild, summer is defined by when school is out.

I can honestly say that English summer totally sucks. The past 24 hours my friends and I have been trying to arrange one weekend over the "summer" when we can go camping together. Here is the problem, instead of three luxurious months off like American kids, British kids get six weeks and actually for some students this year its only 5 1/2 weeks. When you sit down and look at it, it fills up incredibly quickly.

Leeimi finished school on Friday so we we are planning to do lots with her over her 6 weeks off. First of all Jason and I booked a holiday to Blackpool with her, our first family vacation together and something I'm really excited about.

Let me pause for a moment because Max just let out a fart so smelly that he must need to go outside and do his business and exiting the premises for a few minutes should allow me some time to breathe and air out the flat.

Back, I hate interrupting my writing. I tend to over-think things when its not "stream of consciousness" and I'm never happy with any writing of mine that is over-thought. Back to planning out my six week summer.

First of all, during the six weeks holidays Red Dreams is really ramping up its programs while the kids are off school. I am getting involved in a show choir. We aren't quite sure yet how many kids we will get interested, but we are hoping with the success of Glee it will attract lots of kids and we will have a good sized show choir. I'm really looking forward to it, although it is a bigger time commitment, another three hours a week on Thursdays for the next six weeks. Other than that, here is my summer schedule so far.

Next weekend: relax before the madness

August 6-11: The Tall Ships come to Hartlepool! This will be both an amazing experience and a headache at the same time. I'm trying to stay positive but the idea of tens of thousands of people swarming my "front yard" for 4 days makes me panic a little bit.

August 13-15: Blackpool! Not sure what attractions/events we're going to go to yet, but we've got the hotel booked and I'm researching some stuff to do. Blackpool is like a seaside resort with a big amusement park as well, think Cedar Point and Atlantic City rolled into one.

August 21-22: Red Dreams Pitch Invasion, this is Red Dreams' own musical festival. I'd love to attend if I can, especially since I've been helping one of my students plan her acoustic set for the past few weeks. They have been my favorite lessons, she comes in with her guitar and we brainstorm ideas for her set and she tries things out and cares what I think.

For now that is all I have planned, but there is quite a bit of stuff I want to cram in between it all, including *hopefully* a camping trip.

This past week has been interesting to say the least. Last week while I was watching a favorite show of mine, Question Time on BBC One, they mentioned that the following week they would be in Hartlepool. Question Time is a town hall style political debate show, they travel around the country and each week in a different city/town they assemble a different panel of 5 politicians that come on and the audience made of local people gets the opportunity to set the questions and challenge the politicians. Its a great show and I love it so I decided to apply to be in the audience in Hartlepool and was invited to come be a part of it. The experience turned into much more than I had expected, and my brief appearance (in front of a national audience of millions of people) became one of the highlights of the show (this is what people tell me, I'm not tooting my own horn here).

I'm writing more about it later this week in my Anglotopia post so be sure to check it out on Wednesday and get the full story.

As for this blog, I've had a few ideas about it. One idea is to dedicate more time to it (oh joy!) I'm thinking every other Sunday is a good target. Sunday nights are probably the slowest for me so I think that will work. I'm also toying with the idea of making the move over to Word Press. I use Word Press for my posting on Anglotopia and I love it, and I'm especially getting sick of all the Spam comments here on Blogger. Word Press does a better job of filtering this stuff out. I think I get about two messages a day to approve comments, and they are all gibberish in Chinese characters and its really getting on my nerves and makes me think much less of Google and Blogger in general that it doesn't have the capabilities to filter out these blatantly Spammy comments. Unless of course my blog has become wildly popular in China and my Chinese fans are writing back to me in their native tongue. Doubtful, so I'm going to chalk it up to a giant Google fail. Sorry Google, I'm sure you're crying your eyes out over this and wiping your tears with $100 bills.

I'll let you know if I'm going to go the Word Press direction, but it does seem like something I would do doesn't it. I mean, I did switch to a Mac and an iPhone, so it would only make sense that Google should go the way of the PC.