Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Geeky Gift Guide

Hi everyone!

Tis the season to spend stupid amounts of money, so I thought I would make a geeky gift guide to assist anyone with the unfortunate affliction of having geeky nearest and dearest.

I'd be a fairly crappy small business owner if I didn't mention that geeky gifts can also be found in the Goram Stitches shop.  All of the items in this post were found on Etsy as it's always good to support other small businesses!

All of the info for the items can be found below next to their number.  

Okay, so here's my first selection:

1. Polyjuice Potion Flask
Perfect for the alcoholic wizard in your life!
2. Mario Piranha Plants
These would make an amazing housewarming gift for your favourite geek and have the bonus of never dying!
3. Game of Thrones 'Moon of My Life' Pendant
I think this is absolutely gorgeous.  For the uninitiated - Khal Drogo used to call Dany the 'moon of my life'.  You know, before he died of a scratch.
4. Nintendo Controller Skirt
The Etsy seller who makes this - GoChaseRabbits sells a massive selection of geeky skirts.  Love them, but don't think I'm brave enough to pull them off!
5. 8-bit Heart Meter Necklace
It's always a wise idea to keep an eye on your heart meter, so you'll know when you need a health potion and this necklace makes that really easy!
6. Avengers Cushions
This would be the perfect gift for a geeky bachelor pad.
7. Nerds Unite Coaster Set
Who doesn't love scrabble?

1. Direwolf Amurigami
These are so adorable!  I think I would have to go with Ghost.
2. Jayne Hat
The ultimate in geeky attire.  He's the hero of Canton, the man they call... Jayne.
3. Han Solo in Carbonite iPhone Case
I was actually in the market for a new iPhone case when I came across this.  I decided not to go for this one in the end as I thought seeing his little carbonite face would make me too sad.
4. Pixelated Heart Friendship Necklaces
These are like the modern day geeky equivalent of the old forever friends necklaces I had when I was wee!
5. Petri Dish Salmonella Soap
This reminded me too much of uni to leave it out.  This looks far too much like agar plates of bacteria and I think it could get even the geekiest boy to wash!

Hopefully you found that vaguely useful!  Let me know if you have any of these items, or what you think about them in the comments.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

My Arthritis Story

This post ended up being much longer than I expected.  I was having a bad pain day and used this as a bit of therapy!  Also - I've posted a picture of a post surgery scar, so if that makes you squeamish you might want to avert your eyes.  Feel free to leave me a comment with your experiences, or if you want me to go into anything else in any detail.

I remember the exact moment I knew something not quite right was going on in my body.  I stepped off a bus on my way home from uni and I was about ready to snap.  I'd had a horrible headache all day, except it was more than a headache and...different.  Instead of the pain being in my forehead and behind my eyes like a normal headache, the pain was in my entire head - every bone in my face felt tender. I'd been having similar pain, but of a lesser intensity for a few weeks, but being busy with uni I was trying my best to ignore it.

This day, as I got off the bus, I headed straight into the shopping centre to find some paracetamol as this was not the kind of thing I carried around with me (those were the days!).  After a few weeks of this I noticed that the pain seemed to be localising around my jaw area, and was worsened by eating hard or chewy foods.  

I eventually decided that this was not normal and was not going away by itself and made an appointment to see my GP.  Let's call the doctor Dr Twatface.  I explained my symptoms to Dr Twatface who without performing any examination whatsoever told me to go away and take paracetamol.  I explained I had already been doing this for the last month or so, but Dr Twatface insisted there was nothing wrong, as I was "too young" for anything to be wrong.  I was 21 at the time.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I went away and googled my symptoms.  I know, I know, it's never wise to google your symptoms but I knew Dr Twatface was wrong and wanted to be able to go back, research in hand and prove him wrong.  My googling pointed me towards something being wrong with my Temperomandibular Joints (TMJ for short).
The lovely illustration above shows where the TMJ is.  So... I made another appointment to see Dr Twatface, took my research along and decided I wasn't leaving until I had a referral to the local Dental Hospital.  Dr Twatface took me marginally more seriously and actually decided to examine me this time.  He felt my TMJ and asked me to open and close my mouth.  I think the crunching sounds my jaw made could probably have been heard at the other end of the surgery but Dr Twatface still insisted that it would 'resolve itself'.  Dr Twatface and I then went on to have (the first of many - but that's a different story) an argument and after what felt like forever and me being in tears, he eventually agreed to refer me to the Dental Hospital, but did it begrudgingly, barking on my way out that they "wouldn't be able to do anything for me".

Six months passed and I finally got my appointment letter through from the Dental Hospital.  In the meantime Dr Twatface continued his personal vendetta against me and refused to prescribe me anything for the pain.

I remember sitting in the Dental Hospital waiting room nearly crying because I'd been in pain all day and I remember thinking that the lights seemed ridiculously bright and harsh.  My name got called and I went in to the treatment room to be greeted by a dental surgeon and a nurse.  They listened to me.  They actually listened to me and didn't treat me like I was making it up.  They examined me, heard the crunching and agreed something was wrong.  After taking one look at my teeth the dentist asked if I clenched my jaw a lot. I honestly wasn't aware of doing it, but apparently had been doing it in my sleep and had already worn away quite a lot of tooth.  They took impressions of my mouth to make me a custom mouth guard and arranged for X-Rays to be taken of my jaw.

I came back to the Dental Hospital for my results and mouth guard a few week's later, which was a few days after my 22nd birthday.  No I don't have some bizarre memory, I checked the date on the bottom of the impression of my teeth that they took and I have for some reason kept for five years.  It resides in my bathroom and looks like this:

Okay so, after getting my mouth guard fitted by the nurse, the dentist comes in with my results.  He sits down looking very flustered and tells me when he got the results in he called the radiologist to double check they had definitely sent the right results.  I had arthritis.  Osteoarthritis.  In both sides.  The dentist said he had never seen this in someone my age, and had actually never seen such bad degeneration... ever.  It turned out that Dr Twatface was right in the end - the Dental Hospital couldn't do anything for me, but not because there was nothing wrong.

I was then referred to a Maxillo-Facial Surgeon (or Max Fax for the cool kids like me).  I first saw my surgeon when I was 22 and I'm still seeing him regularly - 4 years later.  In that time, we have tried everything to get a lid on the pain and to try to slow down the degeneration.

We've tried ALL the drugs - cocodamol, tramadol, dihydrocodeine, pregabalin, gabapentin, nortriptyline, ibuprofen, diclofenac.  I'm probably forgetting some.  These have had varying degrees of success.

We've tried alternative therapies - TENS machine and acupuncture.  I also paid for chiropractic adjustments for a while, but it gets very expensive.

We've tried more aggressive therapies - steroid injections, a series of hyaluronic acid injections (holy mother of god these were painful, I had to be held down).

We've tried minor surgical treatments - arthroscopy. I've had two of these in my right side.  These are exploratory as well as therapeutic.  My surgeon uses these to assess the damage and while he's in there he flushes out the joint.  I'm certain I've had a surgery that was slightly more than arthroscopy but cannot remember what it was.  Who knows.

Eventually, there were no other treatment routes to go down, and the pain wasn't going away any time soon so we had to consider joint replacement surgery.  My surgeon and I had spoken about it for years, but understandably he had to try all the less invasive options before we seriously considered it.  So, in February 2011 I had my right TMJ replaced.  All of my surgeries so far have been on my right as it's degenerating faster than my left, but I'm sure the left will catch up eventually.

Does anyone else immediately forget the pain of something like this, so when you go to write about it afterwards you think it wasn't that bad?  Yeah, I've got that.  I remember being in pain, for a few months but to be honest it was only marginally more painful than the pain I was in anyway, it was just a different type of pain.  I had to take a few months off work to heal up.  I had a fairly gnarly scar - I'm going to post a picture of it so if you're squeamish don't look.  I'll basically show my scar to anyone, because I'm so impressed with how well it has healed.  Seriously, nobody but me can see it now, and I even struggle sometimes.

So, on that note, where am I now?  Just about managing my pain on cocodamol and tramadol.  Just.  Most days.  Some days.  Recently I've been getting a lot of burning joint pain in my left side that the painkillers aren't touching, which I remember all too well from the months before my joint replacement.  I've been finding this quite worrying, but, meh, I've learned to just see what happens and at this point my surgeon trusts my instincts enough that when I say my left side needs looked at, he will.

Who knows what's in the future.  TMJ replacements have only been happening since the 80s so there isn't a lot of data out there about how long they last, but they definitely won't last forever.  I pretty much expect to be a regular patient at maxillo-facial for a very long time and I'm okay with that.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

In Progress and Other Miscellany

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Hi everyone, 

Thought I'd put up a quick post showing you what I've got in progress etc at Goram Stitches.

The thing I'm mostly working on just now is a bulk order of my 'Winter is Coming' Christmas cards:
In case you're not a giant nerd like myself and my customers (and more accurately, my customers husbands and boyfriends), 'Winter is Coming' is like the motto of the Stark family in the Game of Thrones TV series/A Song of Ice and Fire books.  The books are fantasy but basically set on Earth, but the seasons on the book Earth works very differently than our Earth.  Seasons in the book universe last years, sometimes decades and basically when winter comes, if you haven't prepared yourself properly, you're screwed.  The Stark words are a reminder that throughout summer you should be stockpiling foods, and setting aside part of your harvest for winter.  It's basically a more threatening sounding version of the Scouts 'Always be Prepared'.

The other thing I'm currently working on is inspired by Joss Whedon's 'Dr Horrible's Sing-A-Long-A-Blog'. In it Dr Horrible mentions that he has a PhD in Horribleness (duh, how else would he have become a doctor?), so I decided to cross-stitch a PhD in you do.
Excuse the horrible iPhone picture.  This is nowhere near finished - I need to add in the Chancellor's signature (Bad Horse, naturally) and maybe a crest and maybe a certificate stamp type thing.  This is one of those pieces where I didn't draw out a pattern for the whole thing and just started each individual bit and hoped it would all work together.  I plan on listing this one in my shop and then also putting up the option to have a custom order to have your name on the certificate instead.

The main issue I have with the Goram Stitches shop is that I have too many ideas and not enough time/hands.  Something I currently have stuck in my head is kind of an homage to the twee 'Home Sweet Home' cross-stitch samplers, except I want to stitch 'Hellmouth Sweet Hellmouth' and below the stitching of the house, I want to stitch the flames of hell.  Simple.  I am aware this is not a normal thing to be stuck in someone's head.

I found this picture on my phone and thought it was too funny to never see the light of day:
Yep, that's me wearing a plastic poncho that says 'I heart Scotland'.  I think the fact that it looks like a wonderfully sunny day in the background adds to the madness.  I swear it there had just been torrential rain and in my defense this was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and everyone was wearing these ponchos to ward off pneumonia.  

I swear.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Geek. Cross-Stitcher. Person with Disabilities.

So, this blog thing has been something I've been thinking about for a while now.  Not because I have a hugely interesting life.  I don't.  It's more that I have a '"if you don't laugh you'll cry" and "that could only happen to you" kind of life.

Now, while I don't want to label my entire life into neat little boxes, do you see my header up there, keep looking up, a bit more, yep that one there - the description there fairly accurately describes the important parts of my life, or at least important enough to blog about (although I do always reserve the right to post cute puppy pictures or last nights dinner).

I've always been a geek, or at least as long as I can remember anyway.  I think my geekiness was formally solidified when I was 12 or 13 and I saw the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I had never loved a TV series as much and probably never will again (although Game of Thrones probably comes close).  It was my first geek love.  The first flushes of geek romance have matured over the years into a fully fledged love affair with the entire Whedonverse. 

The name of this blog (and my Etsy shop) is a reference to Firefly/Serenity.  Goram is kind of a made up expletive which I've always taken to mean "God Damn", so basically "God Damn Stitches".

Other than the Whedonverse, other geeky interests include George RR Martins 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series and the associated TV show, comic books, science (I have a degree in Biology), and an unnatural love of spreadsheets.

Okay, cards fully on the table here - the thing that tipped me over the edge into blogdom was the fact that I've recently set up an Etsy shop selling cross-stitch and having a blog is good marketing.  Hopefully I get points for being honest?  I don't plan on using this for full on BUY ALL THE THINGS marketing.  I do plan on mentioning what I'm currently working on, things I'm thinking about working on, experiences I have running my shop etc.  

I started cross-stitching about two years ago.  I think at that point I had tried every craft going and didn't find a craft that I felt I could fully express myself with until I found cross stitch.  I very quickly set about cross-stitching the geekiest things I could think of and the Etsy shop was a result of really not needing a house full of cross-stitch.

This one kind of relates back to the "you have to laugh or you'll cry"/""this could only happen to you" thing I mentioned in my intro.  I'm not a fan of seeing people on the internet who list their illnesses almost as a badge of honour to go along with their 'woe is me' posts, but I suppose it is important for context, so here's my lovely list - Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia, IBS, Hypertension.  Again for the purposes of context - I'm 26.  I'm not going to ramble too much about the details, I'll probably go into it in future posts.  The reason I think it's important to give myself this 'label' is that disability awareness and invisible illness awareness in particular is a 'hot button' issue for me and something that can send me off into a rant at any moment.  I'm sure this will become apparent as you get to know me better.

Wow, kudos to you if you managed to get through that giant wall of text!

Please leave me comments with any questions, suggestions, requests for posts etc (or just to say hello!).