Saturday, May 23, 2009

Soundtrack to The Life Of Terri

I started writing this post a very long time ago - 2005, in fact. I kinda borrowed it from fellow blogger Undr, who has long-since departed the blogosphere (more's the pity). He was a really nice guy, and I'm sure he won't mind me using his idea.

The idea is to compile the soundtrack to the movie that is my life.
This is not my list of favourite songs - not even close. They are just songs that have very strong memories attached to them.
So I guess mine goes something like this:

1. Rhinestone Cowboy (Glen Campbell) - It's the first song I remember knowing the words to. I must have been all of about 4 years old and I remember dancing around in the kitchen when it played on the radio while my mom was doing whatever it was that moms do in kitchens when one is 4 years old.

2. Dancing Queen (ABBA) - Memories of cold winters in the Transvaal (South Africa), me and my sisters dancing to this in our pyjamas in front of the old asbestos heater in the lounge after we'd had our bath on a Sunday evening. I'm sure our parents were mightily entertained.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) - Makes me think of my oldest friend, when we were kids and our parents used to have parties together. In hindsight I'd say there was an awful lot of beer, etc, consumed by our parents. We were oblivious, happy just to have long days and nights to play together.

4. Cracklin' Rose (Neil Diamond) - We gave my father a Neil Diamond tape for one of his birthdays when I was a child and we listened to it in the car on the way to a weekend away at a hot springs resort called De Bron. I got dunked in the swimming pool that weekend and it scared the wits out of me. I also ran full-tilt down a hill and smacked into a split-pole fence (I just didn't see it!) giving myself an almighty black eye. D'oh!

5. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel) - Another car song that reminds me of my dad, and my sisters, because we all love it and my Mom still has the LP at her house. Hey, I just noticed the connection to #4..!

6. Lawyers in Love (Jackson Browne) - One of the first songs I remember from when I first started taking an interest in the Top 20. Cool song, and I still love it.

7. Two Tribes (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) - Aah, my first boyfriend... He was shorter than me, and when he dumped me (via a note passed across the classroom) he told me I was too pushy and should go burn my bra. The laugh was on him - I hadn't started wearing bra's yet, haha!

8. You Win Again (Bee Gees) - From the first time I heard this song I knew it would make #1. I love being right!

9. You Spin Me Round (Dead or Alive) - Ooh, my first French Kiss... I didn't have a clue what to do!

10. Wake me up before you go-go (Wham!) - Dancing in front of the TV with my oldest friend and singing our heads off. Puberty, eh? Oh wait, I still do that ;-)

11. Last Christmas (Wham!) - Hm, 2 "Wham!" songs in a row? My first unrequited love - someone told me I had a crush on him so he asked me to dance to this song, and I thought I was in heaven. That was really nice of him, don't you think? One of those far too infrequent random acts of kindness.

12. With or Without You (U2) - I kissed my first Serious boyfriend to this. It was the 80's; a time of tight jeans and big hair. Needless to say none of it lasted.

13. Locomotion (Kylie Minogue) - My final year in high school - what a party! Kylie pretty much summarises it... (ooh, and there was also that Beach Boys song that year... "Kokomo" - good times...!)

14. Sealed with a Kiss (Jason Donovan) - He broke my heart...

15. Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers) - Always made me cry because of the movie "Ghost", but then hubby dispelled all of that by dancing to it with me when we were on holidays in the Canary Islands a few years back. We were the only two people on the dance floor and it was incredibly romantic :-)

16. Black Velvet (Allanah Myles) - My party years as a student. This particular song always brings to mind my very good friend, who has the voice of an angel. Sadly, we're not friends anymore, in the way the world taught me I could expect to get kicked in the teeth when I'm not expecting it.

17. I Can't fight this feeling (REO Speedwagon) - First time I danced with hubby, long before he was my hubby. He sang this softly in my ear while we danced and I still think of it as "our song". The lyrics could've been written for us, and tug at my heart every time I hear them.

18. Truly Madly Deeply (Savage Garden) - Rang out at our wedding after the signing of the register. I chose it because of the

19. Angels (Robbie Williams) - I went mad on Robbie when we moved over to Ireland because you couldn't go half an hour with the radio on without hearing one of his songs. I was on a bus going to work one cold, dark morning, and when Angels came on the radio the bus driver turned up the volume just a tad, and everyone on the bus fell completely silent until the song had finished.
Then there was me and 135000 other people who sang it 'unplugged' at his concert in Phoenix Park here one summer... magic!

20. Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison) - The "Thelma & Louise" moment of my life: driving through the countryside in Cyprus with my sister, wind blowing in our hair, sun shining, and us singing our hearts out with not a care in the world!

21. Unwell (Matchbox 20) - Pretty much covers how I've been feeling the last 5 years or so. Check out the link. Enough said.

22. There's something missing here and I'm not really sure what it is. Although, perhaps it's exactly what I'm listening to right now. Here's a shocker: something classical. Because I even stopped writing a few minutes ago to close my eyes and listen to and dance in my head to Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the flowers from the Nutcracker (and to be honest my feet and hands were going a bit berserk too).
It symbolises something that has been a constant in my life; the style may have changed over the years - from ballet as a kid, to disco and then club, and now Salsa, but dancing has always been an important form of expression for me and this piece of music is so uplifting that it's impossible NOT to want to dance to it. Do yourself a favour; take a few minutes of time-out and click the link; check out the audience and you'll know what I mean. And tell me you don't feel uplifted afterwards.

Well I think that about covers it so far.
I'll let you know about the sequel in another thirty-something years...

Friday, May 22, 2009

can I have my brain back please?

For the last few years I have been fighting a losing battle against migraines. I find the whole thing terribly frustrating, particularly since up until I started getting them, I didn't believe in them. I thought they were just a word used by people who had a bad headache when they wanted the world to feel sorry for them. So when I started getting these 'headaches' that wouldn't let up for 3 days at a time, accompanied by nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and noise, and leave me feeling like I'd swum the English Channel or something afterwards, I was rather annoyed when I was diagnosed with the word "Migraine".
The worst part about these things is that no painkillers help. Some of them manage to dull the pain slightly, but most just make me sleepy. And considering that one of the symptoms is extreme 'grogginess' (for want of a better term), this is Just Not Cool.
I have tried a number of things in an attempt to bring them under control. I cut out caffeine, for one thing. This did help, to a degree; it brought the frequency of the attacks down to about once a month. But they have still been getting steadily worse and it is getting to a point where I just want to sit in a corner and cry when I get them, now. I am losing the will to fight.

I think my GP finally got the message because he referred me to a Neurologist, whom I went to see a couple of weeks back.
It turns out there's hope.
He asked me a bunch of questions, made me touch my nose with my fingertip and walk in a straight line and checked my hearing and reflexes. He then sent me for an MRI scan, and put me on medication, which I should apparently take for up to a year, after which, if all goes according to plan, the migraines should disappear. Hallelujah!!!
(They couldn't have tried this a few years back...?!!)
The MRI is a just-in-case thing, to be 100% sure that there isn't a cabbage growing in my head or something, but he seemed pretty confident they wouldn't find anything. The cool thing about that is that I now have pictures of my brain. The not-so-cool thing about it is that halfway through the scan I discovered I am, in fact, quite claustrophobic. Not the greatest timing in the world, and it wasn't an experience I would be in a hurry to repeat; I soon forgot the giggles I had when I initially went into the machine (eyes closed) and the weird mechanical noises started and the thought crossed my mind that this must be what it feels like to be abducted by aliens. Just a hint: If you ever have an MRI, KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED. Pretend you're in a field of daisies or something. It's much better than the reality which is that you're in a Very Confined Space where Nobody Can Hear You.

That aside, this whole post is not actually to give you a guide on how to behave when getting an MRI, nor a complete medical history on Yours Truly. What I actually wanted to share was something of an epiphany.

You see, two days after I started on these tablets the Doc gave me, something truly weird happened. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I just felt strange; but in an entirely good way. My mood lifted quite suddenly and it was as if I was really there, in my skin, instead of slightly disconnected from the world; as if a veil had been lifted. I felt focused - my thoughts, my vision, my feelings and even sensation. The word that popped into my head was "Clarity".
It felt bloody wonderful, let me tell you!
I find this extremely difficult to explain, but I want to try because it is a really big deal to me. It has been a difficult few years for me; apart from the migraines I also went through quite a bad depression that involved medication and therapy - all of these are things that I never thought would happen to me, but never mind that now. Somewhere in the midst of struggling through all of this I lost my mental sharpness. This is the part that is hard to explain and I fear I may end up sounding somewhat condescending or uppity or ... oh what the hell, this is my blog so if you don't like it, don't read it. Throughout my whole life the one thing I never had to worry about was my intelligence. I'm a very bright girl and I don't think I have ever been confronted with anything that I thought was too difficult for me to do, or to figure out. It was kind of comforting to know that I could always count on my brain. But somewhere in the last few years that changed. I started finding it difficult to concentrate at work, and battled to work through problems. The last course I went on was almost frightening in the way I just wasn't able to keep up. And then the unthinkable happened: I actually failed an exam.
Needless to say this hasn't done my self-esteem much good, but that, too, is another topic entirely.
When all this went on, I just accepted it as part of getting older; I figured I was now over 35, and they say the mind is the first to go and this was obviously what was happening to me. Best I just learn to accept my new limitations because there's nothing that can be done about it.

Except... then the Clarity came. And I was able to do my work and know when I was done that I hadn't made any mistakes, that I had remembered to check everything, and that it wasn't necessary to go over everything again. I did, anyway, almost unable to believe it, and I was right. There were no mistakes. I was able to hold my focus all the way through the task at hand. I was also able to hold conversations without losing the thread of what I was saying. I was.... Lucid!
It even showed when we went out over the weekend and I played a game of pool. When I put my mind to it I was able to willingly focus on what I was doing. I haven't been able to do that in such a long time... and I had thought I wouldn't be able to do that again.
And I never said anything to anyone, because I thought they'd think I was just mad.
Perhaps I thought I was a little mad.

All of which leads me to suspect that these migraine things are worse than I thought; One of the symptoms, as I told the Neurologist, is a sensation of being 'disconnected' from myself and the world. But what I didn't realise, because it's been that way for so long, is that even between the episodes where the headaches attack so violently, I think I have still had some of the other symptoms lingering; this constant mental noise or fog being one of them. (A need for afternoon naps is another - I made it through last weekend without even considering a nap!)

Now I'm not a medical expert by any means and perhaps I should spend some more time on Google with this thing. Or perhaps I'll just mention it the next time I see the man.
But right now I am just holding out hope that perhaps I'm not crazy... and perhaps I will get my brain back after all.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Holiday, Portuguese style

I'm going to give you the abridged version of the Trip Report this time.

Portugal was Fantastic!!!

Hm, I guess I should say a bit more than that. OK, here goes...

The hotel was lovely. If ever you decide you want to nip off to a small, quiet-ish town in the Algarve you should try the Tivoli Almansor in Carvoeiro. The room was spacious, the food brilliant and the staff impeccably helpful. And you can only imagine the view from our room on the 6th floor...


We took it easy for the first couple of days, then did one or two things in between relaxing. Being a de facto Irishwoman, it would be remiss of me not to mention the weather: It was Great! Plenty of warmth and sunshine, just what we needed. It was tempered only by a chilly breeze on our last couple of days there but it wasn't cold enough to keep us indoors by any means.

To help us relax, on our second day there Dave had a full body masssage, while I decided to see what Reiki was all about. I had a migraine so I was desperate enough to try anything to get rid of it. Well I don't know if I would rush back and do it again but I must admit that lying in a room with only candles for light, with classical music playing while someone energises your shakras (is that right?) is a wonderful way to relax. And to be fair, a few hours later the migraine lifted so who knows. Perhaps it wasn't just coincidence.

On day 3 Dave decided it was time for us to get off our sun loungers and do something. So we went scuba diving. We were both scuba-virgins and I must admit I was a little nervous. We got a bit of a theory lesson, then squeezed into our wetsuits and plopped into the swimming pool.


It was really convenient to have the scuba-diving centre on the hotel premises where we could practise in the pool before heading down to the private beach and into the sea (once I had gotten my head around breathing while underwater, and moved on from a mild panic attack in the process). Dave, of course, took to it like he'd been doing it his whole life. And when we did venture into the sea, I loved it! There were still a few moments of angst but the instructor was so kind, he actually held my hand while we were underwater, which helped to reassure me.
I was truly touched at how kind and patient he was - would that there were more people like that in the world.

We did a bit of shopping while we were there, too. The little town of Carvoeiro has some great little clothing shops, but me being the bargain-hunter that I am, I waited until we went on a day-trip to the inland town of Loulé, where we spent a few hours wandering around a Gypsey market. I didn't buy any Gypsies, but I did pick up a beautiful dress, among other things.


We also ate a snack from a caravan there, that smelled and tasted just like Vetkoek[1].

On our second-last day the wind was blowing fairly strongly, not great for sunbathing at all. I wanted to walk up to the end of the cliff we could see from our room; it looked really inviting for some reason. So we did this, and ended up spending the whole morning on the cliffs, walking and climbing a bit, stopping to find sheltered spots to sit and stare out to sea and watch the seagulls, of which there were plenty. The way they played on the wind and squawked and cried to each other made me want to come back as a seagull in my next life. It just looks like so much fun!


And that was the sum total of our activity while we were there. Apart, of course, from our evening meals. I love going to a different restaurant every night, and the food didn't disappoint at all. There wasn't much other night life to speak of. We tried to have a big night on the Saturday night after our dinner, but the few bars and pubs that were open were pretty much empty, save a small number of golfers. I can't imagine why one would go to such a lovely part of the world and play Golf all day, and spend all night with your Golfing buddies. But then I'm not a man. Apparently beauty and romance are not high on their list of priorities.


So that, in a nutshell, was our holiday in the Algarve. It was the sort of place that I could happily have not come home from. Sunshine, friendly people, slow pace of life, great food and beautiful scenery - what more could a girl ask for?!

If you're interested in seeing more of my photos from the holiday, check out my Flickr photostream.


[1] Vetkoek: A traditional South African food, basically a really light dough mixture that is deep-fried the way Donuts are. Yum. Yum. Yum!