The Amazon Iowan

Blog of Author Heidi Cullinan


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In other news, I’m apparently allergic to everything.

Originally my plans for this week were to finish up Family Man and get it turned in, work on revisions of Second Hand if they came in, and otherwise continue finishing Dirty Laundry. I was well set to meet all my goals too and maybe even have some spare time.

Tuesday afternoon I went to the allergist, and I’ve had a very different week since then.

While my no-sugar, no-flour routine has done very well, allowing me to eat a bit of meat and even a bit of dairy again, I still have too much chronic pain plus in the past few months I’ve developed a recurring swollen upper lip. A month ago it was so bad my husband made me go to the doctor, who made me go to an allergist. As a part of that process I had to stop my antihistamine I’ve taken daily for several years now to control my intense and unexplained itching, which meant by the time I got to the appointment I was a hot, hot mess. The allergist was amazing, and he made the appointment almost a good time. They poked and scratched me and made me breathe into things to see what was going on. It turns out quite, quite a lot.

I am allergic, it turns out, to above all else, dust mites. Like, a lot. It’s weird because I don’t sneeze or cough, though I did always have stuffiness and sinus that I’d assumed was just part of being human. Turns out, no! Who knew? Allergists, apparently. The damn things are everywhere, and in my house they’re crazy bad because when you can’t bend over and do too much physical activity like lifting and reaching and scrubbing, your house it turns out gets pretty rancid bad in the deep depths of itself. Dan, Anna and I spent many hours on the bedroom, me in a mask. It was hella gross in there, I have to say. De-stuffed, de-grimed, washed (in hot water) and zippered up everything remaining in allergen-proof covers, except the box springs which we will get to later. This business is expensive.

The dust mite thing is the most royal pain in the ass I have encountered yet. The cleaning is intense and needs to be regular. I get points for having almost all hardwood floors, though I don’t know how much it helps your cause when you clean them only before guests come. I favor a lot of curtains and blankets too, which are apparently nice mite factories. I don’t even want to know about my air ducts, though I have a call in to a guy to get an estimate. We had to buy those crazy expensive filters for our furnace and air-conditioners. I bought an air purifier which I haul between my office and bedroom, though I’m not sure it’s anything more than a $99 security blanket. Oh, and I have to wear masks when I clean. And flush my eyes and nose out. And wash my hands a lot. And basically this is really fucking annoying for me and for all those whom I love and live with.

But wait, there’s more!

I am also allergic to milk. I’d already cut way down, but now it has to be gone, period, nada dairy. So no more goat cheese or cream in my coffee unless they give me soy milk. No cheese ever, period. No whey or “milk products” which let me tell you they stick in everything. (Salt and vinegar potato chips sometimes have milk. And sugar. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK.)

It’s funny, because I’m kind of mourning milk now, even though I’ve been very blasé about its loss to me already. Maybe it’s the finality, maybe it’s that it’s going to be such a pain in my ass to get coffee at a lot of restaurants. I don’t know, but it’s sad all the same.

But wait there is still more!!! Because I cannot have eggs either, ever. This, Virginia, is very, very sad.

It’s not so much that I adore the taste of eggs (ironically I’ve only eaten them as a stand-alone dish for the past decade) but that they’re in a lot of things and they make for easy breakfasts in restaurants. Look at my list of things I can’t eat now: sugar, white flour, milk, eggs. Tell me what I order at Perkins. Or more to the point, at the hotels I will eat at during these cons I keep going to. Holy fucking crap, this stinks.

I mourn eggs as a dish too. Marie took me to her favorite Fort Collins restaurant, The Egg And I, and there were so many yummy egg things, and now I can’t order them anymore. I hardly got to try them, and now it’s over. Oh, sure, I could just pretend I wasn’t allergic, but that always goes over so well with me once I remove something from my diet. I’m mourning them and calling it done.

So now I am a vegan who occasionally eats a little meat, probably now when I can’t figure out what else to put in my gullet while I’m traveling. Having cut out meat for six months, I’ve found that having it more than four times a week makes me feel very gross and uncomfortable, so it’s mostly vegan for me. Vegan with complications, that’s me.

What’s weird is how minor my reaction has been to the food. I think I’m just numb to it all, like whatever, it’s another food limitation, tell me something I haven’t heard before. I keep dropping weight, five pounds a month (at my height you’ll have to get a microscope to see it), and I swear most of it is because figuring out what to eat is such a PITA I just don’t or I eat hummus and chips or strawberries or a salad. I joined Sam’s Club mostly because they sell Sabra hummus in monster truck tubs for $5, and it’s worth the membership for that alone. If they sold blue corn chips too I’d likely camp out in the parking lot.

Maybe my reaction has been muted on the food because the dust crap is so incredibly consuming. Oh, I forgot my other environmentals: dog and feathers and mold. So I had to call the Marriott in Anaheim and make sure I have a feather-free room, and I’m shopping for travel dust mite covers and trying to suss out how I tell the maid to leave me my weird extra sheet and pillowcases. I have to make my bedroom and office as allergen-pristine as possible, which has meant removing a lot of my favorite things because they’ve become part of what makes me sick. The cool hand painted glass I won from Jeff at a recent Tina’s Christmas has raw old wood on the edges, so it has to go until I polyurethane the frame. My beloved Japanese handmade wallhanging made by a college roommate’s mother has to be dry-cleaned and put behind glass before I can hang it again. 90% of my books had to go because they collect dust and mold. Any and all clutter that could be culled was, and the cats can’t have their litterbox in my closet any longer. Well, I don’t miss that last one. But everything else, yes.

To make things more exciting, I’m not supposed to be the one who cleans, and I’m the one who is home and has the time to do so. Even when I clean with a mask on I can tell this is what’s making me sick, because it makes my whole body go nuts and my lip swells to new heights to the point that I had to start Prednisone today. It seems to be helping so far.

Thankfully Dan’s parents (God bless you Tom and Nina) are going to come help us on Saturday while my mother distracts the child. Technically Anna helps a great deal, but I don’t think we’ll miss a ten-year-old during the projects. It’s also not good for her anxiety, because she flips out and needs to wear a mask too. And truth be told between her father and I, she’s got to be allergic to something.

I’m also not supposed to wear makeup (so breaking that for RWA) or but anything at all on my lips, though I’m cheating and using Vitamin E oil so my lips don’t peel off my face. I’m also supposed to try avoiding almonds, since I had a questionable reaction to that and they want to get me to as clean a slate as possible first. (I drink a lot of almond milk and yogurt and eat almonds and its flour in almost everything.) I have a slight, it turns out, allergy to cats, but it’s very low, and honestly, they’ll take my babies out of my cold dead hands. Sadly that has been done way too much lately, though the cold and the dead have not been on my part.

So this is my update. Totally not writing, though I did finish editing Family Man with Marie and got it turned in to Sasha Knight at Samhain today. There haven’t been any edits yet for this round of Second Hand, so I win there too. Two out of three isn’t bad, I guess.

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