The Highway to Hell is Lined With Pollen

You guys have probably noticed I sort of stopped posting suddenly; I apologize. Since moving to Arizona I have suffered insanely bad sinus infections during spring and winter. This year I got my first one in January – five trips to the ER in three days, CT scans, x-rays, and a consult with a maxillofacial surgeon before we found a medication combination that worked. Everything backed up into my teeth and jaw, caused massive swelling, nerve pain, etc. It took twenty days on antibiotics to clear it up and half of that time doubling up on Ibuprofen and Percocet for insane levels of pain (that’s after hospitals tried Toradol, Norco, and Morphine without even dulling the pain). Well, guess what. It’s back.

I noticed I was starting to get allergic inflammation and jaw pain when I went outside, so I made use of my “Jolly Roger” Vogmask, an N99 respirator mask that protects me from the airborne allergens.

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

I started taking children’s Benadryl and a Tylenol sinus medication. Then the landlord said our entire building was being treated for cockroaches and everything had to be boxed up and covered in plastic tarps because they were using a fogger. As soon as my mom and grandma started digging through and sorting stuff, I got worse.

By the time we started in my bedroom on Sunday, March 10th, I ended up in the ER again wearing “Nightmare Before Christmas” pajamas and watching Ghost Adventures while I waited for the doctor. That same night the bad swelling, burning, and nerve pain hit in my jaw. I was fortunate to have all my meds already, but ended up sedated on Percocet the day they wanted to come murder cockroaches. I was in such bad shape they considered me a liability, used a sticky bait instead, and went on their way.

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Four days into my treatment my mother got taken to the hospital for a severe infection caused by her own medical conditions, so between running errands for her, I’ve been living on four medications, too much ice water, an ice cold rice pack (probably my next DIY post), vegan soups, and cartoons. Yes, I’m 30. Yes, I said cartoons. I’ve been binge watching Sabrina: The Animated Series, Monster High, and Vampirina. At home it’s been a Service Dog, two black cats, and me all piled on my full sized bed.

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 15th, my fiance and I had Physical Therapy (I took my Vampirina water bottle since my antibiotics were due in the middle of my session). We went there, went to the hospital to visit my mom, then went to his place for dinner – vegan pizza. I didn’t take my Vogmask with me because I can’t really exercise in it without getting winded. By Saturday morning the pain that had mostly left my jaw before was back. So roughly five or six days on antibiotics and the swelling and pain still comes and goes with my exposure to allergens. Saturday morning I went right back to wearing the Vogmask every time I left my apartment.

I ended up spending the weekend adding garlic and anything with Vitamin C to my “menu”. What’s frustrating is that it helps boost the immune system and kick the sinus infection, but doesn’t help with the allergies. Pollen doesn’t care.

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Monday morning (a week into my antibiotics) was the day I was dreading: my appointment with my ENT/Allergy Specialist. There’s been a lot of talk recently about me requiring maxillofacial surgery to fix what’s causing my chronic sinus infections. My ER doctor actually gave me the business card for the specialist believing they could find a solution for me that would allow me to avoid surgery.

My fiance drove me to the ENT and came with me to my appointment. The first thing they did was immediately spray something in both nostrils to numb my nose and sinuses. It also numbed my throat and upper teeth. The next thing they did was another CT scan. I should glow from radiation: since January I’ve had three CT scans, two x-rays, and an ultrasound.

The ENT specialist reviewed the scans, did an exam, and said I didn’t need surgery, confirmed that my allergies are the cause, prescribed me Flonase, and sent me on my way. So ultimately I got told what I already knew: I’m allergic to Arizona.

Arizona is my equivalent of Hell – and the Highway to Hell is lined with pollen.

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The Vampire Vegan

Recently my fiance switched to a plant-based diet for his health. His mother, a narcissistic nightmare, did everything imaginable to sabotage or derail his diet. The final straw came yesterday when she decided his plant-based diet was demonic and demons made him eat vegetables. I’m not even joking. I rolled my eyes so hard I saw brain matter.

While not specifically vegan or plant-based myself, I’ve eaten largely plant-based or vegan foods over the years because they’re easier for me to digest, they limit IBS/hormone/anxiety problems for me, and in general I feel better on it. Vegan foods are my “safe” foods that I can usually count on not to make me sick. I can assure you, unless you read The Celery Stalks at Midnight as a child and consider all the veggies in your fridge to be vampires-in-waiting, there’s nothing evil about it!

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Since both of us are now on this journey, we decided to co-write a blog called The Vampire Vegan. We will both be writing on it, but posts will include recipes, vegan product reviews, gardening, and so much more.

If you guys would like to follow the spooky vegan adventures of a Goth (me) and a Metalhead (him), we’d love to count you as one of our crypt bats.

Come join us! It would be fangtastic to have you. 🖤

Haunted

My fiance and I had a conversation today regarding our wedding. It was supposed to be last December, but Satan had the most massive blow-up the night before and the whole thing got called off. In trying to discuss the possibility of rescheduling the event, he informed me that while he would still want to get married eventually, the idea had taken a back seat to his health.

He wants to finish PT, lose the extra weight, have his spinal surgery, and go back to work first. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself – it’s a very “adult” decision, but I had the distinct impression that he was silently pushing me to do the same. It’s never comfortable when you feel like you aren’t meeting (or aren’t able to meet) your partner’s expectations. Especially due to a permanent condition.

I was mulling this over when he rolled over and turned on Ghost Adventures, signalling the end of our conversation. Interestingly enough, it was that episode that gave me an idea of how I might be able to manage some seasonal work: at a haunted house.

Season 18, Episode 1 explored the Gates of Hell and Coven of 13 haunted house buildings in Las Vegas, Nevada. The houses both had Satanic symbols and employees had quit due to paranormal experiences there. Listening to the description of the “acts” made me think of my background in theatre – and a way to combine it with my passion for all things spooky.

I’m disabled, but not completely without talents. My primary problems are vertigo and panic attacks when in public. Theatre doesn’t quite affect me the same way because it’s an act. There’s a character there, a different persona that puts a buffer between the general public and myself. The same could be said of a haunted house. It’s probably the one job I could work without blacking out from my own conditions.

When I got home I contacted a friend in Mesa and asked for the information to apply to the local haunted house. Turns out, they’re always hiring, for both scare actors (inside the haunted house) and lot monsters (parking lot, outside the house).

I’m rusty, but with months to prepare, I could bring my skills in contact juggling or even gothic belly dancing into play. The whole point of audition is to show off what you can bring to the table. If I lose some of the extra weight (as I’m assuming my fiance wants) I may just have a shot.

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

I’m unsure what the future holds anymore, but if this unique skillset is the key to getting even just a seasonal income, if my working out and losing weight gives me even a small chance at the future I want with my partner, then the extra work and challenges are worth it in the end.

I lost motivation ages ago for both contact juggling and belly dance. I’m still battling the same depression, but working toward a specific goal is different than doing a hobby “just for the hell of it”. Now it will be about taking a hobby and transforming it into a performing art – and possibly a potential income.

Anxiety spends a lot of time asking, “What if?” The fact is the future is still largely unwritten. It’s time for me to put my own pen to the paper…and write. If I don’t, I’ll be haunted by all of those “what if’s” instead of being the one doing the haunting…

Monsters Are Real…

I’m not going to lie. I’ve developed some fairly severe anxiety in regards to dealing with my future mother-in-law. It’s not even typical mother-in-law problems. She’s narcissistic, a bully, and is generally so evil that my fiance and I both call her Satan (just not to her face). Tonight when I got home from visiting them, I began to throw up…

…and throw up…

…and throw up. 🤢 Anything I attempted to put in my stomach came right back up. Ice water. Coconut milk yogurt. Anything, no matter how mild. It was hopeless.

By 1am my ribs hurt, I couldn’t find my Zofran (it’s an anti-nausea medicine that melts under the tongue), and I suddenly remembered my grandmother suggesting hot tea for an upset stomach.

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

I got out my tea kettle (I’m sure no one appreciated the whistling at this hour), brewed a cup of pumpkin spice rooibos, and used sweet créme flavored coconut milk creamer. Then I settled in with my teacup and a book.

It worked!

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Now I’m lying in bed trying to ward off a full-blown panic attack. My nausea is down to a manageable level, I’m not throwing up anymore, but the anxiety is still alive and well.

I once had a counselor ask me during a therapy session whether my anxiety (and nightmares) got worse as a result of reading gothic literature or watching similar films. It made me sad to be the one to remind her that monsters are real…but they’re human. My books give me comfort because I know I’m not alone. That’s what I’m relying on tonight.

It brings to mind lyrics from my favorite lullaby:

“I won’t tell you, there’s nothing ‘neath your bed;
I won’t tell you, that it’s all in your head.
This world of ours is not as it seems;
The monsters are real but they’re not in your dreams.
Learn what you can from the beasts you defeat,
you’ll need it for some of the people you meet…”
–Aurélio Voltaire, Goodnight, Demonslayer

Satan (that is to say my future mother-in-law, not Lucifer) is a great example of this. Now as I try to calm down enough to sleep, I’m struggling to remember that monster she may be, but only human. She only has as much control as my fiance and I give her.

Granted, she isn’t my only stressor right now. I’m dreading physical therapy too. But she’d be delighted to know she upsets me so much. When it comes to control, I’ve given her too much.

Goth Goes to the Gym

For my diagnosis of positional vertigo, I am now attending physical therapy twice a week. That is 40 minutes or so of balance and flexibility exercises followed by actual manipulation to realign the crystals in my ears.

So what’s a heat-intolerant goth to take to the gym when the weather forecast calls for mid- to high-70’s? I thought I’d share the seven things that make my time there just a little more bearable.

1. A Creepy-Cool Shirt!

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Yep, I said creepy. Jason and I have appointments at the same time, not back-to-back. That means he’s not in close proximity when I need grounding or comfort. Anubis is still in-training and definitely not ready for this kind of busy environment just yet, so I’m on my own. The further people stay away from me, the better.

My shirt has to be cool and breathable, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring! I love this one because the entire back is made of skull-patterned lace and it lets in so much air!

2. Moisture-Wicking, High-Waisted Pants (BLACK, Of Course)

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

I have chronic stomach issues in addition to my heat intolerance. Anything that binds on my lower abdomen is bound to make me sick, so high-waisted is a must. The real saving grace, though, is that they’re moisture-wicking. I get overheated so easily and sweat a lot. This at least is a working step toward keeping cool and dry. This pair is plain black so they pair well with any shirt I happen to come up with.

3. Lightweight Shoes… With Memory Foam!

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

I have had joint problems in my hips since high school. (I know, I’m 30 and already falling apart!) This pair weighs next to nothing and has memory foam insoles. They aren’t the cutest I’ve ever seen, but black and functional.

4. A Cane… With Attitude

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Anubis isn’t going to be with me so his vertigo tasks won’t be an option. Since these exercises and the manipulations both make my vertigo worse, I bit the (silver) bullet and brought along my black cane – the “Attitude” comes in the form of this fuzzy purple monster.

5. A Spooky Sipper

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

This is literally just a reusable coffee cup with double walls for insulation and a reusable straw. I paid a dollar at a thrift shop, put a fun sticker on it, and have been using it for ice water, coconut water, and cold brew coffee ever since. For working out, my go-to is natural coconut water with no sugar added. All the electrolytes and health benefits without the extra calories, carbs, and food coloring of a sports drink. This cup was convenient for me to just grab and go – and most likely no one will mistake my drink as their own.

6. A Helping…Hand

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

All puns intended. My hair goes down past my waist and my bangs have grown out, so any hope of keeping it off my neck and out of my face requires hair clips. These plastic skeletal hands work to hold my bangs back and they also work to keep my future mother-in-law at bay (she hates them).

7. Vampire Deodorizing Body Spray

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

What’s a gym bat to do? I’m still in love with this now retired perfume scent (Body Fantasies’ Vampire) and these purse-sized deodorizing body sprays were perfect!

Do you have another fun goth item you take to physical therapy or the gym? Post it below in the comments!

DIY Tutorial: Creepy Canisters

As part of my rainy weekend garden project, I transformed three Folger’s coffee canisters into something like you might find in an old cemetery. For those who saw them and wanted to duplicate the project, this is where I’m going to show you how. Let’s get started!

Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

What You’ll Need:

  • Coffee Canisters or other planters/containers
  • Assorted all-weather paints in the colors black, light grey, and dark grey
  • Sheet moss (you’ll find this dried in the aisle with faux flowers and such)
  • Assorted paint brushes including a small, fine brush for details
  • Assorted paint sponges
  • Waterproof superglue
  • Sandpaper (the rougher, the better)

1. First, start with something like this:

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    You’ll want to peel any manufacturer labels and rough up the surface with the sandpaper. The rough surface gives the paint a better chance to adhere.

    2. Apply your first coat of paint with a wide brush.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    For this step you’ll be using the light grey that you chose earlier. It should be a color close to concrete. If it seems too pale, don’t worry. Most paints darken as they dry.

    Wait for this coat to dry completely before adding a second coat of the same light grey. Let this coat sit and dry also; overnight is best. Come morning, your canister will be ready for step three.

    3. Apply texture and details using the dark grey accent color and a wide sponge.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    Use your creativity here. I used the accent color to visually “rough up” the surface and accentuate shadows within the physical grooves already present. For a rougher look, consider using a dry large-pored kitchen sponge instead.

    4. Add “cracks” using the black paint and the small, fine paint brush.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    Again, use your imagination. Play with angles, rough surfaces, and where natural shadows fall. Consider using this opportunity to make already occuring grooves look deeper, etc.

    5. Apply pieces of moss to the surface, adhering them in place with superglue.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    Examine your container for places it looks like moss might naturally flourish. In this example, I used a pre-existing groove to make a deep crack and glued my moss so that it was “growing” out of it. Use your imagination.

    6. Let it dry overnight.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    Let your project set overnight. In the morning, check for tackiness of the paint, especially where you have the most layers of color. If the paint is dry, you’re done! Enjoy your new canister and whatever you choose to use it for!

    EXTRA STEP: If you want to leave your canister open, you can paint the inside with two coats of black using the wider brush. Remember to let it dry between coats and then set again overnight.

    Goth Gardening (Part I)

    This will be an ongoing project, thus the Part I, but I decided to take full advantage of the cold front and rain Arizona has been experiencing to personalize my patio garden just a little bit more before my new next door neighbors move in from out of state.

    I have been having problems with our previous neighbors being nosy and then getting offended when I positioned my plant shelves to block their view. They would stand on tip-toes to peer over my cacti whenever I was outside and get angry when they were caught doing so. Since I hadn’t modified the shelves at all (I got them for free) and they were stark white with unassuming plants, there was nothing to take offense at except the lack of clear view.

    I decided to plan redecorating in a way that would express Gothic aesthetic without screaming “Halloween” to the landlord and their corporate powers from California during the next inspection. (And would hopefully encourage my new neighbors to keep a more respectful distance.)

    This was my starting point:

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    The first thing I did was do away with the blaring red coffee cans I was using for some of my planters. Rainy days meant working outside wouldn’t let the paint dry, but once moved inside, it was simple to transform them into something that may have come from an old cemetery. (I’ll have a DIY tutorial posted soon!)

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    These two were both smaller coffee cans from Folger’s coffee. This bigger canister had indentations and handholds that made the shape and texture a little more fun to play with.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    As you can see, placing the creepy canisters-turned-planters back on those dirty white shelves wasn’t going to have quite the desired effect, so I waited for the last of the rain to dry, then started washing and painting the shelves. Even the first coat of wet black paint was a marked improvement!

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    But the effort paid off. Both shelves started out dirty white with cracks, chips, and staining. The matte black gave both a fresh new look and made the creepy canisters and my skull décor stand out even more starkly.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    I was delighted to see that in addition to making gothic decorations more visible, it also made the plants themselves stand out more while the shelves remained to help block the view of prying eyes – if not becoming slightly less inviting.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    The next thing that got removed were the bright colored Mexican falsa blankets and patio pillows. At the end of this cold snap, temperatures are expected to rise as high as 77 degrees, so the blankets wouldn’t necessarily be useful anyway. I put out these Halloween pillows from the 99 Cent Store to hold me over until I can find something I like better.

    Photo Credit: Xen Collins, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

    For a rainy weekend project, I was really happy with how my patio garden turned out. It is by no means completed. Future projects will include building and stocking a Little Free Library, building a coffin-shaped vegetable garden, and creating a Medusa sculpture/planter.

    Note: If you’re wanting to make creepy canister planters of your own, my next post will be the DIY tutorial (complete with before and after photos and links to paints and materials).