Monday, January 23, 2012

They got PAID for this?...

Depression is more common among women living with HIV, compared with men living with HIV, according to an international study reported at the 2nd International Workshop on HIV and Women, held January 9 and 10 in Bethesda, Maryland, and highlighted by the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP).

According to NATAP’s report of the investigator’s presentation, a significantly higher proportion of women met criteria for depression: 18 percent versus 14 percent, respectively. This difference was statistically significant, meaning that it was too great to have occurred by chance. Additionally, rates of depression were no different among women who were receiving ARV therapy, compared with those who were not. Of note, however, the rate of depression was significantly higher among HIV-positive women not yet receiving ARV therapy compared with HIV-positive men not yet on treatment (21 percent versus 11 percent).

The CRANIum investigators believe their findings “support a strategy of regular screening for, and clinical management of, anxiety and depression for all female HIV-infected patients,” NATAP reports.

I guess I found the above report to be silly. I wonder how much it cost to do this study. This is something I could have told them for free. The reasons for this are obvious… considering the perception of heterosexual society (most HIV positive women are indeed heterosexual) that HIV is most often contracted by sexually promiscuous women or drug addicted women, it would be no shock to think that within their own social circle, women would find more reasons to be depressed than their gay male counterparts.

HIV has been prevalent in the gay culture for three decades. Even though positive gay men may feel ostracized by their own social circle at times, women living with HIV have the fewest resources for support. We also have the added feeling that there is no one out there for us. The largest group of HIV positive men are gay… or bisexual. That makes the dating pool rather small and I can’t speak for all women but that makes me depressed at times.

Additionally, women who have yet to start ARV therapy may have added anxiety about their health.

The trick is to fight the depression every day. Be your own life-partner. Take yourself out to dinner. Take yourself to a concert or movie. Laugh as hard as you can when you laugh and when you cry… do it loudly and then realize you ARE your own best friend.

Then you’ll never feel alone.
Love to you,

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Do you make promises to people? If you make promises to people often, I would venture to guess that you don’t keep them as often as people would like.

There seems to be a mindset with people these days of making promises either to each other or themselves with every intention of following through… yet falling short of actually keeping the promise… and never feeling any personal sense of failure or responsibility for having broken a promise. Are promises disposable nowadays? Given freely and frequently, some with no intent to follow through but given just to get something or to buy time.

New Year’s resolutions are promises we make to ourselves. Look how often and how easily those are broken.

Politicians make promises to get elected. Are they expected to keep their promises? Are they held accountable if they don’t? Rarely. There’s always an excuse for breaking their promises and it’s always someone else’s fault.

Employers make promises to get employees to buy-in and invest themselves in a job or project. Frequently they don’t or can’t come through with the promises they make. Many never had intentions of keeping those promises in the first place. For instance… promising that there’s room to grow in your job when you’re hired, then keeping you in the same low-paying position for years, offering no chance for advancement or growth. Again, making excuses for not giving even minimal merit or cost-of-living increases by blaming the economy. It’s as if they think their employees are stupid and can’t tell that the employers' business is improving but salaries aren’t.

Spouses and lovers make promises too. Most of the time, these promises are made out of love and the givers of the promise really want to keep it. Promises are made to stay monogamous to each other and to protect each other. Those promises too are, unfortunately, sometimes broken. In my case, that particular broken promise nearly cost me my life. Just because he promised… I trusted him with my life. That was a gamble I lost.

The dearest promises to me are those that friends make each other to always be there. I don’t make or take these promises lightly because having a real friend when you need one is crucially important. If I make a promise, as your friend, that I will be there for you, no matter what… you can take that to the bank. I’ll be there to pick you up when no one else will. I’ll give you whatever I have to help make your situation better. You can call me from jail… some remote highway… or wherever you are… I’ll always be there to help you out if I can. I don’t make the friend promise to very many people for this reason. I can only offer this kind of loyalty to a precious few. It’s a promise I try never to break.

I gave up or lost some things I worked hard for when I exchanged the friend promise with someone. At the time, this friend was badly in need. I spent a number of years working hard to keep my promise to help my friend recover from some very dark days. After some extended period of time, my friend finally arose from the ashes and moved forward into what is now a fantastically productive and rewarding life. I have never been prouder of anyone for all they went through to come back better than ever. The things I gave up to help are gone forever. I will never get them back. I only wish I still had my friend… because I need one now and it turns out the promises my friend made to me aren’t ones they ever meant to keep. I guess that’s the risk we take when we accept a promise. It’s like giving a loan I think, better not to expect repayment, then, if you actually do get it back, it’s a pleasant surprise and not a bitter disappointment when you don’t.

I recommend keeping the promises you make. If you can’t keep the promise… please don’t make it. Broken promises have far-reaching consequences and build bad Karma around you. Try to remember those empty promises you make, they will always come home to you in the end. A better person you will be by considering carefully before you say “I promise”.

Spread some love, it’s a beautiful day.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Treasures... continued

Continuing my inventory of stuff saved from what seems like other lifetimes I've lived... on some other planet far away from here or perhaps another reality. It's hard to collate life now with anything it was before. I wish I could find a way to explain, but I just can't find enough of the right words to convey what I'm feeling. I'll trust that you'll bear with me through this process... I'm a beginner at all this. 
Anyway, another tray-full of precious treasures:
  • Perhaps not-so-precious are four old California drivers' licenses showing me from years 1980, 1984, 1989 and 2005. I wonder where the rest are. All carry the "Donor" sticker. Guess I don't get to be a donor now.
  • In the same category, there's my ID badge from my years at Transamerica Insurance Group, 1989-1994. Good picture, I was a pretty girl. Not nearly as young and bohemian as the photo of me that appears on the high school ID card from Verdugo Hills High dated 1977-1978. Hair long and parted in the center like all pretty hippie girls. 
  • A black book of matches with the name "Just-A-Nod Ebony Jet". That was the name of the horse, retired with a lavish party hosted by the family of my childhood friend Liz Goth. She's still fabulously wealthy. 
  • A name badge I wore when I went to Marinello school of beauty. Yes... I was a licensed manicurist for a few years back in the 80's. 
  • A brass pin with my name, the Hilton logo and the title of "Computer Analyst". This a job I held for a couple of years in the mid 90's. 
  • A dogs name-tag, "Tabu". She was a Doberman I had before I married. Also another name-tag, "Nike". He was a big seven-toed Main Coon style cat I loved dearly. He died in 1993. 
  • An odd collection of ticket stubs which include Genesis and Yes - both dated 1978 and from the Fabulous Forum, Yes again in 1998 and Creed in 2000-both at Universal Amphitheatre, then Metallica, Korn and Kid Rock (2000) at the LA Coliseum, a stub from the Pantages dated 1980 (I think it was a play), a stub from the Winternationals drag races 1989 and the crowning glory of all stubs... the Treasures of King Tutankhamun April 24, 1978. The most fantastic things I've ever seen! 
  • Two little, tiny silver thimbles that once belonged to my grandmother. 
  • A tiny carved ivory pill box belonging to my mother's sister, Betty, for whom I was named Elizabeth. 
  • My dad's silver name bracelet from his service in the US Navy. 
  • A tiny horse-head I carved from a small block of Lexan back in the days of dollhouse building and miniature-making. 
  • My grandma's tiny, brass magnifying glass. She used to wear it on a chain around her neck so she could check the stitches in her needlepoint. 
  • My dad's printers' loupe from the IPI . He used it to check the printing of the old TV Guide... when he ran the company that printed it back in the 60's & 70's. 
  • Finally... an item that I put in my treasure box just days before I landed in the hospital ICU with an AIDS diagnosis, the "Hard Card" I received from the opening day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte NC in May of 2010. I had stayed with Vince for a week while he was working there. He returned home to California the day I went on life-support. 
So... there's a few more things you've learned about me via the treasures in my little case. 
I've enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I haven't looked at most of these things in a long, long time. 
Since my ass is falling asleep now... it's time to do a little walking to please my ID doctor...who wants my CD4 count to be higher than my weight by the next time I see him. 

Smile... stay on the sunny side of the street and take life one day at a time. Always give an honest opinion and always use a condom.
Love and hugs...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tiptoe through my Treasures...

So, I think everyone, no matter their age or financial or health status has a little box or knitting case or as in my case... An actual case, (the kind used by make-up artists or home-care workers with the trays that pull up and out to display their contents) that contains various odds and ends that define their lives and time on earth. A bit of a time capsule with a small portal to the past.

 My treasure box is littered with things that I now label mentally as "BI", before infection, "BD", before diagnosis and "EE", everything else. Weird, huh? In any case, I've decided to clean out my treasure box and share it's contents here in my blog. Not only will it be cathartic for me... It will tell anyone who stumbles in a bit more about who I am and who I have been.

Once opened, the box is next to me on the bed with Charlie, my best little pal nearby. He's looking on with disgust, having just gotten a bath, his mood isn't all it could be today.
Here is the contents of the first upper tray:

  • Two hospital bracelets, yellowed and not easy to read, one much smaller than the other. These from January 2, 1984 when my daughter was born by C-section at 6:09 pm. 
  • A tiny, red plastic treasure chest containing all but a couple of my daughters baby teeth. Ewe, right? I was the tooth-fairy after all. 
  • Two metal dash plaques from the ninth and tenth annual Route 66 Rendezvous. 1998 and 1999. I was also there in 2000 and 2001 with my own 1970 El Camino SS. I do miss that car now. sigh
  •  A very old black and white photo button of Tara Wertz, one of my first riding students accepting a blue ribbon in her first walk-trot class on my old equitation horse Mutiny Sweet Charity. This was a regional win at the Morgan Medallion Classic in Santa Barbara perhaps the year was 1978? I was very proud. 
  •  A half dozen exhibitor buttons from the Morgan Grand National and World Championship Horse show, spanning the years from 1976 to 1984 as well as one lone button from California State Fair Horse Show dated 1980. 
  •  A random button I used to wear that proclaims "I don't get mad, I get even". Carbon dating might reveal the year as 1985. 
  •  A nice red patch from the American Bowling Congress crowning the 1995-96 Mixed League Champions as well as an award patch from the ABC for my first scratch 700 series. Whooooo Hoooo! That's right... The girl can bowl! 
  •  Two laminated business-type cards, circa 1978, each suggests in polite script that the reader should "Kindly go fuck yourself". 
  •  Finally there are eight plastic credit-style cards. Each bears a little poem or proclamation about the importance of friends and the message that I am among the best. All of these were given to me by Vince over our eight years together. We did have some great times together. Now he won't answer or return my calls. 
Funny how AIDS changes people and the way they relate to you. Either they try too hard to act like it makes no difference or they avoid you altogether. In order to keep people comfortable, I try to just be who I've always been. It's  hard because I'm not who I was before. I'm a version of me that has a terminal illness that almost guarantees me a solitary future. I'm the me that hits the pharmacy twice a week for  medicine to keep me alive while I hope for a cure.
An old me put all these things in my treasure box.
A new me is taking them out.

More in the next tray... Some of it junk... Not really sure why I've kept so much weird stuff.
More tomorrow...

to be continued

Friday, January 13, 2012

Addendum to yesterdays entry...

Post script to yesterday’s rant, and the fact that it had little or nothing to do with my virus, directly:
I only wish there was some way to wake up employers like mine to the reality that their workforce is their most valuable asset. 

The learning curve for some of the work we do is amazingly long. The best people who work here have a goldmine of knowledge and skill acquired over decades of work for this company. The majority of the employees here are skilled craftsmen in a very specialized industry. Additionally, anyone who has worked here for more than five years has sacrificed to help keep the company afloat in the bad times. When the owner remarks to us that “growing is painful”, he doesn’t realize that much of that pain has fallen on us.

Mr. Employer, sir… with all due respect, now that you have and are spending copious amounts of money to buy and move us to larger quarters, build new computer systems, develop new and exciting products and hire lawyers, consultants and space-planners, please don’t email us the gas bill you paid last month when the weather turned briefly cold and we were forced to use the few gas heaters provided to keep our work area warm enough to work. It’s bad enough that there are no water heaters to provide hot water on the whole property. A $1500 gas bill for a facility that spans the equivalent of two city blocks is not that shocking. Forgive me for saying so but… complaining to those of us who have trouble paying our own gas bills is pretty bad form.

I’m not completely without empathy for business owners. I watched my dad start and run a successful business for two decades. I sat in the same room with him for half of that time as an estimator. He used to say, “90% of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.” He knew that hiring good people who were smarter than him at the thing he needed done and then paying them what they are worth to do it was the best way to have a smart business. Employees that invest and reap the dividends will invest more. Without invested labor, your company will always falter and flail, real growth will always be just out of reach.

Finally, I want to say that my own employment aside (I’m fortunate to have ASO resources if needed); I know there are people here with little if any resources available to help them if their jobs are lost. I’ve said what I needed to say to my employer last week after a minor disagreement over an inappropriate deduction taken from my check. I told him that I felt badly that *company name* seemed to ask the most from the people that they value the least. He said that I hurt his feelings with my remark but did not seek to understand the reason I made the remark. I was not necessarily referencing myself so much as his total workforce. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he really wanted to understand what’s really going on?

Anyway… working on a fun entry for the weekend… Think “Treasure”

Much love,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Employment... too much information

Working for a small manufacturing company has some perks. For example… I wear jeans and skate shoes to work every day. I need only look clean and presentable. I’m very good at my job and the team of employees that I supervise move heaven and earth to please me. We look great as a department. We operate efficiently and maintain good positive attitudes, while consistently meeting and exceeding management expectations. We are human though and we do make mistakes. We try very hard to do our jobs perfectly because we know how costly our mistakes are. We know because every mistake is drilled down to one employee, blame assigned and another pebble placed in the gunny-sack. I digress, so sorry.

The company owner is a nice man with real world experience in the products we manufacture. He is reasonably hands-on with the company overall but I think he insulates himself from some realities. Picture a typical retirement-aged, ex-party-guy, reformed 80’s playboy, made good overall but has paid for a number of impulsive and ill-advised decisions over the years. The best lasting feature is a well-manicured and twinkling smile. His children are grown (one of whom holds a job here, naturally) and his wife is recovering from organ transplant surgery. I know he fancies himself as quite a figure among the employees. I’m quite sure he feels worthy of their love and appreciation for his generosity and good nature. He drives a beautiful new $40,000 car.

A little history here: when the economy crashed in 2008, our company downsized like many at that time. We cut staff to a minimum and even had to cut hours for a while. Finally the company asked us all to take a 10% pay cut to save our jobs. They explained that as the economy improved, we would earn back the 10% in the form of a “discretionary bonus” (a phrase which means the bonus is predicated by the mood of our boss) which would be paid across the board for each month that we met a certain amount in invoices. We have worked very hard every month to earn that badly needed 10% (sometimes 15%, it is “discretionary” after all). In the meantime and since 2008, all salaries have been frozen and in spite of the number of glowing performance reviews and the owners repeated assertions that we are the best “team” of employees EVER, everyone knows that they better not even fanaticize of asking for a raise. Some long-time employees here make less than they did five years ago.

Today, payday, brings with it a “newsletter” reminding everyone that we had a very good year and that the company is growing. They asked us to remember the new computers that the company bought and the old ones which they generously gave to the employees (incurring no costs for dangerous material disposal). It touted the investments made in new machines, new products, a new website and our entry into social networking. It suggested that we shouldn’t forget the picnics and BBQs and the lovely holiday party that the company gave us this year.  The flavor of the “newsletter” was that ultimately, all these investments would pay dividends and opportunities for more money. *cough* It concluded by telling us to remember how much mistakes cost the company and to work smarter to avoid mistakes. *gag*

So there are people here who feel trapped and under-valued. They see lots of money being spent on growing the company, making more and more work to meet bigger and bigger goals and in spite of the bigger and bigger cost of just eating and driving a car and having a home, there is no realistic or tangible investment being made in them. The future looks bleak… based on the past.

So my question is this: will this company owner ever realize the key to having great success is having employees who feel valued and are willing to invest themselves in the companies’ collective success?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

...begins with just one step... And with that in mind, I'll step off the edge and stretch my wings with the expectation of flight into the abyss of blogging.

Like so many others who blog or journal about living with HIV, I think my expectations are to build a network of people who can benefit by my experiences and who can offer me a sounding board for some of the problems I'm dealing with.

I call my virus "The Evil Hitchhiker" because that is what he is. He hopped on and began his nasty business in about the year 2000 by my recollection. He never showed himself until I was laying in the hospital on life support with PCP pneumonia suddenly in July of 2010.

After more than eighteen months, I've recovered 131 CD4 cells, gained back 30+ pounds (could have done without the weight gain) and returned to work full-time. Unfortunately I also have returned to smoking, though not nearly as much as before. Like others, my intention is to quit of my own accord in my own time.

I take meds, Kaletra and Isentress in addition to the antibiotic regimen designed to ward off the opportunistic infections I would undoubtedly succumb to without them, Bactrim, Zithromax and Valcyclovir. I also take Paxil to battle depression and large amounts of fish-oil in addition to Niaspan to help combat my cholesterol. I remain a little anemic but otherwise I seem to be holding steady.

You can imagine what a shock it was to hear, at age 49 that I was not only HIV positive, but fighting for my life with full blown AIDS. At that time, I had been in a fully committed relationship for more than eight years.   The only man I had been with since 2001 (I'll call him Vince) finally tested negative the following February and promptly moved on, leaving me to deal with my situation alone. It was a bitter pill to swallow but was good to know that I had not passed the virus on. I knew where I acquired my evil hitchhiker even before checking out of the hospital. When I contacted him, (I'll call him Danny) he and his fiance' visited me in the ICU where I told them both that they needed to be tested. Obviously, he tested positive... and to my knowledge, his now-wife continues to be negative. He began treatment and continues to live happily ever after. I recently spoke with Danny... and told him that while I did not blame him for infecting me, I harbor a tiny bit of resentment that the thing that has completely changed my life and future, was barely a speed-bump in the road of his life. I think he understood... but I think he may feel some discomfort in our awkward conversations. Perhaps I'm just a reminder of what also lives in him. His wife is a sweet and down-to-earth lady and I like her very much. He is blessed to have her in his life. In the tiny recesses of my mind, I still hope there is love out there for me. I do not anticipate or expect that my life will play out in the way I had always pictured it now but I hope for the best.

Because of the fact that I have only had a few sexual partners over my lifetime, never risked using IV drugs and generally tried to take good care of myself, HIV was, at least theoretically, a very remote possibility for me. And because my last boyfriend, Vince and I had enjoyed a very lively sex life up until just a couple of months shy of my diagnosis, the fact that he tested negative in spite of the thousands of times we had intercourse over those eight years, has born in me the belief that few if any men out there have contracted HIV strictly through heterosexual contact with an infected woman. Perhaps many of them just cannot admit having had a homosexual experience. Maybe I'm wrong... but I don't think I am.
So having developed that mind-set... I find the idea of forming a relationship with an HIV+ guy a little icky. I don't know... I just gotta be honest.

Over the coming months, I will continue to write and solicit feedback from those who wish to comment and I'll happily answer any questions. It is my desire to be completely open... as I have been with my status from the very start. There is no room for shame with this disease... the world needs to know that the gay community is not the only demographic at risk here. Heterosexual women and those bi-curious boyfriends are the ones woefully under-informed.

More later.... Love you all for reading!