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So I Guess I Collect Antique Cameras

Last week I showed you a photo of my new, actually very old, camera:

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It isn't worth much, but it's old, funky, chic, and I love it.  It's from 1915 and it's a Kodak.

When I started looking for an antique camera, I hadn't really planned on getting it.  I had something else, entirely, in mind. 

I wanted an old plate camera.  

I wanted it to have red bellows.  (The bellows are the accordion-type part.)

Wouldn't you know, right after I found the Kodak pictured above, I found exactly what I had originally set out to purchase.

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It's a Seroco camera from right around 1900.

It was love at first sight.

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Love, love, love!

Yes, I fell in love with a material object.

Call me shallow.

It came with a full set of original plates.

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Here's a look at the case it came in:

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The plates are stored in the top half of the case.  The camera was stored on the bottom half.  (Obviously, the camera is not in the case in the above photo.)

Inside that little box on the bottom, are a few extra, old, funky, Burke & James lenses.

Have I mentioned I love old and funky?

As I age, I plan on being extremely old and funky myself.

(Except, I don't want to be funky-smelling, because funky-smelling isn't nearly as fun as just plain funky.)

But my story doesn't end there.

You wouldn't believe what happened next.

Someone pointed out an even older very rare, antique, even-more-funky, camera and said, "Omigod.You.Have.To.Take.It.Home.Or.You.Will.Never.See.One.Of.These.Again."

And …

Because I'm weak, or perhaps because I've been coming out of the depths of hell from my recent pain flare up …

Or perhaps because Briefcase has been gone for weeks and I was restless …

Or perhaps because I'm really weak ….

And also, maybe, because I got an amazing (!!) price on it …

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I ended up giving a home to this 1890 Eastman Box Camera.

As you can see, the outside is really beat up.

But inside, if you look past the dust …

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It's actually in very good shape.

And thus,

A collection of antique cameras has begun.

Do you collect anything?

And if so, what?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Chronic Pain, Part II

Thank you for all the kind and supportive comments yesterday.

Do you think you can make it through one more, very important, serious post on this topic?

In yesterday's post, I wrote about my experience with varying pain levels since my car accident.  I also attempted to explain why people should not be so quick to judge and/or blame chronic pain sufferers.

I also might have called a few people assholes, in an inadvertent sort of way.

It's sad people are so quick to make up their minds about things they don't fully understand, but they are.  I guess people like to feel superior and being judgmental gives them a boost.  (And no, I'm not directing that comment at any ONE person.)

Today, I want to write about aspects of chronic pain I haven't really addressed here before. 

For instance, did you know scientists have documented numerous physical changes which occur in patients experiencing pain over a long period of time?  Yes, pain actually causes physical changes in a person's body.

In fact, the more frequently a nerve "fires" pain signals, the more efficient it gets – to the point of being hyperactive/hypersensitive and creating even MORE pain.  Pain also "rewrites" or alters a person's central nervous system.

And not in a good way.

People with high pain levels also tend to have high blood pressure and lower life expectancies.  I've also recently been told I'm severely lacking in Vitamin D, in spite of my outdoor lifestyle in the California sunshine.  

It turns out low levels of Vitamin D are tied to high pain levels.

Who would have thought?

I could go on and on and on with a list of all the physical changes chronic pain causes.

The list would be extensive.

Several brain chemicals, including the much talked about serotonin, decrease in patients with high pain levels also.

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Low serotonin levels are a result of high pain.  Low serotonin levels are also tied to depression.  That's why you'll see so many pain patients suffering from BOTH pain and clinical depression.

As if ongoing pain isn't depressing enough, it screws with your brain chemistry at the same time.

Serotonin is believed to help STOP the movement of pain signals in the brain.  Obviously, if you're experiencing a lot of pain, having MORE serotonin would be beneficial.  Decreasing it (as pain does) only exacerbates the situation.

I was fortunate to have a doctor put me on a low dose antidepressant right before surgery #3.  He explained my serotonin levels would be dropping in conjunction with yet another surgery and he wanted me to stay on it until I got through my recovery.  He thought it would help with pain management.

Was I clinically depressed at the time?

No.

Would I have become clinically depressed if he didn't put me on something?

Who can say?

Did it help with my pain?

I don't think so.  

At the time, I told myself the pain would probably be worse without it but I also wondered how it could possibly be worse than it was.  (Surgeries #3 – #5 were the worst time period in my post accident years.)  

Later, Dr. Painless informed me the dose I had been given was too low to be effective as a pain management tool.  He also informed me the antidepressant the doctor had chosen wasn't the best choice for pain treatment.  (The doctor's intentions had been good, but he wasn't a pain specialist.)  However, having some extra seratonin in my body was probably better than not having it.  

Dr. Painless changed my medication to Cymbalta which is the only drug in its class having received FDA approval specifically as a treatment for pain.  (It increases serotonin and norepinephrine – both decrease pain signals in the brain.) 

I didn't really want to go on it (I'm very anti-drug), but the pain I was in was terrible and I was desperate enough to try anything.  

Has it worked for me?

Well, this is what I know …

I'm now doing more than I ever have since the accident.  I'm living my life more fully in spite of my pain/injuries/disability.  Part of that is the result of the bionics in my arm.  Part of it is due to the muscle relaxers I take every night to control the horrible spasming I get in the muscles surrounding my arm/shoulder/neck.  (Dr. Painless put me on those too after taking one look at my continually spasming muscles.)  Part of it is probably Cymbalta calming down the pain signals in my brain.

Am I anywhere near "normal?"

No.

Am I better than I was a year ago?

Yes, absolutely. 

(Remember yesterday when I mentioned I now live in the 6 – 8 zone on the pain chart most of the time now, vs. the 9 or 10 zone?  And yes, I still experience bad pain flare ups but they occur less often.)

Before I close, I want to bring up one more very important topic.

Did you know very few chronic pain patients ever become addicted to pain narcotics?  

The media would have us believe MOST chronic pain patients are addicts and complaining of continuing pain just to receive narcotics.  In reality, pain patients without prior addiction problems have an extremely low level of addiction (0.19%).

My biggest regret in my first three years post car accident is not having taken MORE pain meds.  Everyone I knew, doctors included, scared me to death at the thought of taking them.  I was so afraid of becoming addicted, I would discontinue the use of meds as soon as possible after each surgery.

The pain I was in during that time period was brutal.

I told myself toughing it out was the RIGHT thing to do, because omigod I don't want to become a drug addict.

I've only learned in the last year, the chances of my becoming addicted were extremely remote and it would have been so much better for me, in every sense of the word, if I'd taken more pain meds.

All the "don't take drugs, tough it out" advice I got (and still get) was well intentioned, but incorrect.

Pain takes a horrible physical toll on a person.

Managing pain as much as possible, usually with a multi-faceted approach, is the most important thing a chronic pain patient can do to lessen that physical impact.

You can find Part I of this post by clicking here.

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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Chronic Pain, Part I

I've been very hesitant to write this two-part post, but I've decided to forge ahead even though I'm sure I'll get flack about it.  I'm writing it, fully aware, I'll lose readers by doing so.  

I really hope you'll take the time to read it even if the worst pain you've ever experienced is a stubbed toe.

After all, how do you know, really know, it won't be about you or someone you love someday?  (Remember, I had a perfectly "normal" life until a man ran a stop and totaled his car into mine.)

I'm writing this post as a layman, not as a medical expert.

I'm writing this post based on my experience, post car accident/post eight surgeries/post being disabled.  It also incorporates information explained to me by medical professionals I trust.

I'm writing this post in the hope it will bring understanding to many people who don't understand.

Because … so many people don't understand.

And yes, that even includes many of my own friends and family members.

I recently got a lot of very supportive comments and individual emails when I wrote about experiencing a particularly brutal pain flare up I've been going through.  I truly appreciate them, and the thoughts behind them, so much.  (I'm relieved to say I'm finally improving from this particular pain episode.)  

After writing the initial post, I also got some pretty insensitive/calloused/rude emails from people who clearly don't understand chronic pain, but like to assume they do.  Some of those people like to send emails with fake names and fake email addresses.  (Really people?  If you believe it enough to write it, own it.)

I took a total of about 30 seconds to make this chart to show you what my pain would look like if it could be graphed.  Zero would be where a "normal" person would hang out most of the time.  Six is where a person lives who is awakened at night because their pain is too severe to sleep.  Level ten is the worst pain imaginable.

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For a long, long, time (years) I lived at Level 9-10.  

It was the most horrible thing imaginable.

Normal for me now is a pain level between 6 – 8. 

Thanks to Dr. Painless, I now sometimes sleep through the night with the help of drugs.  Prior to beginning treatment with Dr. Painless, I hadn't slept through the night in over four years.  Oftentimes, even with drugs, I still don't.  

No, I don't suffer from insomnia.  

Yes, I do suffer from severe chronic pain.

Do you have any idea, putting the despair of living with constant pain aside, how impossible difficult it is to function, long-term, without sleep?  

What I'm trying to convey to you is that a good day for me is pain at Level Six.  And yes, Level Six is a pain level worse than the majority of people will ever experience in their lives.  Those who do experience a Level Six will usually only experience it for a very short period of time, perhaps for a night or two after a surgery.  

I've had to learn to live with Level Six (or higher) being my constant –my norm, every day.  Yes – not being able to sleep, because my pain is too severe, is normal for me post-accident.  (And if you're reading this Dr. Painless, thank you for making sleep possible for me some nights now, even though it requires drugs for me to do so.)

When I have a "flare-up," my pain level literally goes through the roof.  Sometimes it escalates quickly, and sometimes it escalates over a period of 24-48 hours.  Regardless, it becomes completely debilitating.  The pain chart only goes to Level Ten but when I'm at Level Ten, I'm convinced I'm really at a non-existent Level Fifteen because ohshitithurtssomuchcan'tsomeonepleasejustmakeitstoprightthisminute.

Level Ten is when even breathing hurts.  Level Ten is when I'm curled in a ball, concentrating on forcing myself to breathe, and waiting … waiting for it to decrease even the slightest bit, quite possibly to Level-Nine-And-A- Half.  Level 10 is when I'm perfectly quiet because the pain is far, far, beyond tears.  

Level Nine and/or Ten is also when I might bite your head off if you look at me the wrong way or start telling me how I should feel or what I should do about it.  (Dr. Painless is the exception; he gets paid extremely well to do exactly THAT.)  If you're ignorant enough to insinuate I'm responsible for feeling such anguish, you will receive death stares from me even if you're hundreds of miles away.

In other words, if you aren't the one experiencing Level 10 pain,

And if you aren't my personal doctor,

With five years worth of facts regarding ….

My initial injuries,

With detailed knowledge of what was involved in all eight of my surgeries,

With intimate understanding of my permanent disability,

And extensive understanding of my bionic arm/shoulder/electrodes/abdominal generator,

Along with, pervasive knowledge of the instructions I've been given regarding what activities I should, and should not, do in my daily life,

Not to mention, an in depth knowledge of all the types of pain medication I'm on …

Then you have no business telling me how I SHOULD feel or what you think I SHOULD do or why you feel it's MY FAULT I live in pain.

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but I'm really not.

I share my story on the Internet because it helps me to write about what I'm going through.  Writing is therapeutic.

I share my story because it helps other people, who live with constant pain, to know they aren't alone.

I share my story because it helps thousands of people increase their knowledge about chronic pain. 

Support, kindness, love and good intentions are always welcome.

Unconstructive, negative bullshit is not.

You can find Part II of this post by clicking here.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Random Frivolity

I have one or two more serious subjects I'll be blogging about soon, but today I'm going to keep it light.

Light and breezy … just like a feminine hygiene commercial!

(Because none of us have enough of those in our lives, do we?)

I want to follow up on a few things from prior posts.

•  Thank you to one of my readers for suggesting I get a Saltwater Canvas beach bag for the summer.  I ordered one, and I'm eager to get my hands on it.  It should be arriving this week, and I can't wait to put it to use.

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I'm particularly thrilled it's made out of mesh so it won't accumulate sand at the bottom.  Also, it has lots of pockets which will be just perfect for my wine opener suntan lotion.

•  Phoebe's babies are growing so fast!  She's gotten very protective of them, so I shot this photo with my 400mm lens instead of from inside the grotto:

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And yes, I only see three babies.  I think, perhaps, the fourth didn't survive.  They're twelve days old now.  They're very crowded in their nest.  They have real wings and feathers.  I think they'll be learning to fly soon.  I'm still swimming in the pool each day, but I've been staying out of the grotto so Phoebe won't chirp like crazy stress out.

•  I recently read The Color of Water by James McBride.  I loved it and highly recommend it to those of you who haven't already read it.

•  Briefcase has been traveling nonstop, including weekends.  As a result, I've spent a few evenings getting caught up on movies via Netflix.  I'm always way behind everyone else on movies, but I've recently watched and enjoyed:

     1.  The King's Speech

     2.  The Illusionist

     3.  The Queen

     4.  Temple Grandin

     5.  Secretariat

•  My son, RC (the one in college), is home for the summer so I'm back to having two of my three kids in the house.  There's a lot of testosterone floating around my house.

•  Lastly, but most importantly – I want to thank all of you for being so supportive of me as I've worked my way through this recent pain flare-up.  I know I'm horrible about responding to comments, but I read every single one.  You are OFTEN the strength that gets me through my worst days … 

Thank you!!

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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Orange

Have you noticed the color orange is "in?"

Orange is a color most of us normally associate with fall, not spring/summer.

Everywhere I go, all I'm seeing is orange.

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I think I took the above iPhone photo in Z Gallerie.

No, I don't have any orange accents in my house.

Yesterday, I treated myself to a pedicure.  I was talked into using OPI's Grand Canyon Sunset, even though the color is out of my normal comfort zone.

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It isn't exactly orange, but it's coral-ly.

I suppose I'll get used to it in a few days?  

I never like a new color the first few days.  It takes me awhile to get used to seeing something new.  If it doesn't grow on me, I can always change it easily enough.  Apparently, the salon can barely keep it in stock.

I haven't bought any orange clothes, I don't think I will.

Orange isn't the greatest color on me.

I did, however, finally find a summer handbag I like and it has an orange a "tangerine" handle.

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So how do you feel about orange?

Are you keeping up with the trend?

Do you hate it?

Do you like it in limited doses?

Or are you a full-blown orange hater?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Mother’s Day

It has been a tough few days.

For a lot of reasons, I'm hoping today goes by quickly and I just get through it.

I know holidays bring mixed, or just plain sad, emotions for a lot of people.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a fantastic mother, however.

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(I think my dad must have been the one who took the above photo.  He's always loved cameras – go figure.)  

I'm the baby in the blue dress and that's my mom holding me up.  

It seems like she's done that, in one way or another, a million times throughout my life.

Happy Mother's Day to her … and all of you!

© Twenty Four At Heart

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My *New* Camera

I just got a new camera:

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It's nearly one hundred years old.

It's not in the greatest of shape; it's had a rough life.

Maybe that's why I felt an immediate kinship to it.

Collectors would say it's not worth much, but I'm more than happy to give it a home.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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So, OMG, This Isn’t Any Fun

So, um, I'm on drugs.

I hate being fuzzy headed.

I really, really, hate it.

You should appreciate the ability to think clearly.

Do you?

If not, you really should.

Trying to think through the fog of medication is exhausting, dizzying, and hopeless.

Also?

The drugs aren't even really helping the pain.  (Either that, or my pain level is just too far gone to be touched by my usual medication.)

The pain got so bad yesterday, I called Dr. Painless for "emergency" help.

He's out of town.

(Of course he is!)

Instead, I talked to an idiotic, fill-in, nurse.

Let me repeat, IDIOTIC.

"What do you think we should do?" she asked me, mystified.

"Seriously, you're asking me?" I replied.

(And no, I don't have a lot of patience when my pain level is off the charts.)

"Would you like morphine?" she asked, unsure of herself.

"No, morphine makes me really sick to my stomach.  I definitely do not want morphine," I replied.

"Has this happened before?  Do you have any suggestions?" she queried, voice wavering.

Did she just ask me if this has happened before?

Did the NURSE just ask the PATIENT for treatment suggestions?

Sigh.

"Never mind," I answered and hung up.

After all, how can I possibly trust someone who is clearly just guessing tossing out random options?

I don't have a lot of patience with incompetent people.  

In fact, when I'm in a lot of pain – I have none.

Life with chronic pain:

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Everything about the above photo is RIGHT … every detail of it.  The fogginess, the grittiness ….

Well, except for the part that doesn't show the other zillion bottles of medication in the cabinet.

Anyway ….

A few of you asked if I'm in my current pain hell fog due to the swimming I've attempted lately.

Probably, in part.

I've been definitely feeling an increase in pain the last couple weeks.

I've been trying to increase my pool time slowly, but as much as I love it – swimming does cause more pain.  I imagine it always will, even with the post-car-accident modifications I've made in the manner I "swim."

(And yet, at the same time – being in the water is good for my arm.  Go figure.)

Sometimes it's hard for me to curb my enthusiasm for swimming and I overdo it a little.  I've been trying to be careful, but the pain has been creeping up on me in recent weeks.  

Pain is like that.  

Not that mine ever goes away, but the real intense pain?  Sometimes it arrives suddenly and swiftly, but other times it builds slowly … sliding its tentacles around me in a tighter and tighter grip until I can't escape.

Those tentacles are evil and they pull a person down into a black abyss.

And no, I'm not being overly dramatic.

In addition to swimming,

I work out on an elliptical most mornings.  

Elliptical-machine

I use the elliptical to get a cardio workout.  (I also use it in an attempt to keep my fat ass from getting even fatter.)  I just use my legs … I completely ignore the arm part of the machine.

Except, the other day I thought I'd hold the handle of the arm lever and let it move my arm for me, JUST FOR TWO MINUTES (of a 45 minute workout).  Mind you, the machine moved my arm for me, I didn't do a thing but let it.  I thought it would be a good thing … moving some of the muscles I can't move on my own.

It was only two minutes.

How can just two minutes wreak such havoc on my damaged body?

Oh.My.God.

Never again.

It makes no difference the movement didn't require any effort on my part – my arm just absolutely cannot be made to move in any that direction.

I don't know why.

I don't care why.

I just know it sent me deep into the abyss.

I'll climb out in a few days, I know I will.

I've been here before, and I'm sure I'll be here many times again.

And yet, every single time, it comes as a shock to me …

How really horrible it is to be in this place.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Horse Sense

* I'm lost in a terrible (!) pain flare up right now.  I'll be calling Dr. Painless today begging for different pain meds some type of relief.  It's making it hard to put even a few words together … I apologize.  I'm going heavy on photos today. *

I had requests to show more of the photos I took during my first horse photo shoot.

That sounds so funny, doesn't it?

A horse photo shoot ….

Here are a few of my favorites:

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Rio with his owner.

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Austin likes to lick, just like a dog, to show his affection.  

He's such a sweet, sweet, horse.

Rio again:

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Look at those eyes!

What is the saying …?

Horses can't talk, but they speak if you listen.

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Austin.  Look at his beautiful coloring in the sunlight and, oh – that famous tail of his!

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Rio.

What many people don't realize is, in order to be good at photography ….

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You really need to have an eye for it.

Har dee har har! 

Oh, and I love, love, love this last one too ….

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© Twenty Four At Heart