Marginal Thoughts.

Keeping Up With The Joneses.

(Yeah ... har-de-freakin-har.)

Maxis offers various game add-ons at the www.thesims.com site. Here's the second Maxis-made family and house I downloaded to add to Simville:

Meet Edward and Barbara Jones, sitting on their perfect little blue sofa in their perfectly-appointed little home. I somehow forgot to snap a picture of their perfect little son Bobby.

Bore-ing. I couldn't leave them all happy in their perfect little world for long.

Once again Marge Bundy, the richest woman in Simville, showed up to cadge a meal off her new neighbors. The Joneses are the only ones with a grill, but still ... I can't believe the Bundys are such shameless freeloaders. It's embarassing to consider that I created them from scratch.

The next day, Babs didn't even have time to get up before the new neighbors, like Ruby Ann Hatfield, started turning up. This made her pleasant mood turn evil pretty quickly, and no wonder:

Her visitors threw garbage all over her squeaky-clean kitchen floor. Look at that mess. I'm sure she's already regretting the move. It got worse ...

"It's hard to leave when you can't find the door." Though this looks like quite a party, it's actually a traffic jam: Sims, fundamentally stupid creatures, occasionally cluster in a room and can't figure out how to get around each other to get out, so they just stand around and stare. Memo to Maxis: Let "intelligence" be one of the qualities a SimGoddess can select for her characters. Babs wanted everyone to leave so she could take a bath and get dressed already, but nobody was budging -- even though she and Melissa hated each other almost on sight and Melissa refused every friendly gesture Babs tried to make.

That little diamond over Edward's head is his mood indicator. Ideally, it's supposed to be emerald-green; after coming home to find his house full of rude neighbors and trash, he was in one piss-ass mood, as was his wife.

I tried putting a big fountain in the bathroom to cheer him up.

And I finally sunk to the low of downloading that filter that removes the censor blur from naked Sims:

Um. I have no freaking idea why they bothered. Something else the filter revealed from Behind The Blur:

Sims don't pull their pants down when they go to the bathroom.

Maybe that's why the new neighbors don't seem to be taking to each other particularly well.

... All content copyright 1999-2000 by Nicole Willson. No ripping me off.

(Warning: This freaking journal entry is almost as long as ...)

3/10 -- War And Peace.

(Sorry.)

I've written partial journal entries, but I've been too mentally fatigued to post them for the last couple of nights. On Wednesday, I think my brain was still vibrating from the MRI; on Thursday, I was too busy being depressed and dreading Friday's trip to the neurologist. Here's a summary of the last few days:

3/8: MRI Day. Though it wasn't what I'd call fun, it could have been worse. I occasionally have claustrophobia problems when I'm in crowds of people, but they didn't kick in while I was in that big tube. The technician put a pillow under my knees so I'd be reasonably comfortable, and then she plugged my ears with earplugs and padded them with sponges to protect them from the incredible racket the machine makes while it's working.

I don't know what I was expecting. A 2001-style light show, perhaps; sound never figured into my imaginings and I didn't expect the machine to be so damned loud. But with my eyes closed, I could almost pretend I was at a Ministry concert. Or perhaps stretching out on the bow of a powerboat with an incredibly loud motor. I felt like I was vibrating for several minutes after I left the center.

A few entries back, shortly before my vision started going to hell, I confessed all about Rick Springfield being my very first concert. Later on, I mentioned seeing that cell-phone commercial with Rick playing "Jesse's Girl" at a county fair show.

During the MRI, the technician took four initial scans and then injected a dye into my veins to take the remaining two contrast scans. When she wheeled me out of the machine to inject the dye, the song playing on the piped-in radio station was -- you guessed it -- "Jesse's Girl."

I'm beginning to think "Jesse's Girl" is somehow responsible for all this.

When we got home from Sterling Imaging, there was already a message from my mom on our voice-mail, asking how things had gone. I heard the edge and the worry in her voice right away. "She's been on the Internet digging up stuff about optic neuritis," I thought as I dialed her number. "She knows about the MS connection."

I'd been half-expecting this; I'd mentioned "things I read about optic neuritis on the Web" often enough in our phone conversations that I suspected she might follow my lead. I definitely took the lily-livered way out: part of me knew that if I dropped enough hints she'd go on the Web and find out about the MS possibility herself, without me having to take the responsibility of telling her.

"Well, now I understand why you've sounded so upset lately," she told me. She sounded mildly peeved that I hadn't told her about this before. I didn't know what else I should have done, though. I didn't see any reason to alarm her unless -- and until -- the neurologists found something on the MRI results.

I felt a little relieved that she knew, quite honestly. Somehow, voicing those fears here and to other people made them seem a little less frightening than when I'd been leaving them to fester inside of me. And I could stop feeling like a worm every time Mom said "I'm glad you just have optic neuritis, and nothing serious!" Once she knew the real implications of the condition, we talked about MS a little and were able to say, "Well, if that's the case, we'll just deal with it when we find out."

3/9: For fuck's sake -- my supervisor, who'd generally been pretty understanding about the multiple doctor appointments and days off I've had to take due to this condition, started getting on my case today about some projects I had that were backing up. "We gotta get on those!" She also started nagging me about some vitally important meeting she wanted me to attend on Friday morning. "Try to be in by eleven!" she said just before she left for the day.

"Try to be?" As if I had that much control over how long my doctor appointments take?

Jesus. Did she think I was off getting MRIs because they're fun? Is it my fault they've let hiring a new office assistant take so long? Is it my fault they keep hiring new editors to give me more and more work without giving me any kind of backup? Is there any reason she's piled so much shit on me in the first place, even though I've been careful to let her know what's going on with my health and when I'd have to take off for various appointments? Did the implications behind MRIs and trips to a neurologist escape her? Did she care?

Gee: the next time I'm planning to develop a serious neurological disorder, I'll definitely have to be more considerate and check with her to make sure my scheduling works out all right for her and her endless projects. How thoughtless of me.

I probably overreacted to that, but let me tell ya -- in my state of mind for most of the last two weeks, pissing me off has been alarmingly easy, and even after some time to calm down I still thought the whole exchange was pretty goddamn thoughtless and insensitive. I've been a good employee who's rarely taken sick leave over the past five years. Sniping at me now over a situation that's already causing me profound distress seems like pettiness beyond belief.

3/10: I can't tell you how utterly convinced I was that the neurologist today would say I had MS. I was in Extreme Drama Queen form: while I was washing up and getting dressed this morning, I watched myself in the mirror and kept saying to myself "This is it. This is your last morning thinking of yourself as a healthy person. This is the day that's going to change everything."

While we were in the waiting room at the clinic, one patient started pestering another patient who was using a wheelchair. "May I ask you why you're in a wheelchair?" Jesus, lady.

The woman in the wheelchair was pleasant enough but obviously didn't care to discuss her condition with a stranger. "It's a combination of different things."

"I see. It's just that my sister had to start using a wheelchair last month. She has multiple sclerosis."

At that point, I wanted to leap across the room and duct-tape the woman's mouth shut, but I settled for shedding some quiet tears instead.

It wasn't just the optic neuritis; I've been experiencing a couple of other symptoms (such as the vertigo I had a few weeks ago) that are cited as possible MS-related symptoms. While we were waiting to meet the doctor in the examination room, I told Bill to prepare himself for the news. "Why don't we wait and see what the neurologist says?" he kept repeating as I rattled off all my reasons as to why This Was It. "Let's see what he says. Let's see what the MRI results are." Heck -- he was no fun at all.

The neurologist turned out to be a redheaded man who looks younger than me. (My doctors are starting to look younger than me? Now I really feel old.)

The various tests he gave me (reflexes, muscle strength, balance, and grip testing) seemed to go really well. When he had me look at a vision test card with my bad eye, I finally confirmed what I'd been noticing for the last couple of days: my eye's still bad, but it's definitely getting better. I can read license plates again, and today the eye was up to 20/30 from 20/60 last Friday.

At one point, he gave me a gentle smile and said, "You seem fairly anxious about this condition. Have you been doing some sort of research about it?" Har. Damn straight I had. I brought up the MS connection right away. He agreed that MS was always a concern for someone with optic neuritis, but that many people have a bout of optic neuritis without ever developing MS.

Although I'd poured out my entire history of visits to Dr. Quack and the other guy, I'd somehow neglected to mention that I'd gotten an MRI, even though Bill and I had told his staff to call Sterling and get the results when we got to the office. I didn't think of it until he recommended getting one.

He left the room to find out what was going on with the results; he came back to tell us that the MRI came out fine. No lesions; no other signs of MS (or any other disorder). This wasn't at all what I'd expected to hear, and it took a few minutes for me to realize that I'd heard my first bit of genuinely good news in two weeks.

After a great deal of discussion and some confusion, the doctor (and Bill) persuaded me to go along with the IV steroid treatments I'd refused the week before. I'd come to regret that decision the night after I made it, when I finally got back on the web and started reading about optic neuritis for the first time. One study posted on the Web indicated that people who take the IV steroid treatments during their first bout of optic neuritis may reduce their chances of going on to develop MS. "Why the hell didn't the doctor tell me that?" I moaned as I started at the screen and my stomach went all icy.

The treatment is still controversial and there's no guarantee that it'll bring back the vision in my eye completely or prevent MS in the future. But I know that if I refused the treatment again and then developed MS later on down the road, I'd spend the rest of my life beating myself up and wondering if things might have been different if only I'd tried the treatment.

Fortunately, the doctor told me that we could arrange to do the IV treatments at home, which appealed to me considerably more than a lengthy hospital stay. A medical supply company dropped off all the medication and apparatus tonight, and a nurse is coming tomorrow morning (and probably for a couple of days thereafter) to give me the treatments and show me how to do them.

Wow. I've got my own IV pole here -- it's even got a plastic bag with my name on it. I feel so special.

The doctor is having some bloodwork done to rule out a couple of other potential causes of the optic neuritis, and getting my blood taken this afternoon was no damn fun -- I got turned away from one place after waiting for a half-hour because my insurance didn't cover the procedure unless I had it done at another clinic which had a 40-minute wait. (I called my supervisor at work and told her where she could shove her goddamned meeting. Well, I didn't put it quite like that, but I begged off work for the day. We didn't even get back from getting the bloodwork done until well after 1.)

I know that this isn't over yet, and I'm not exactly looking forward to the IV-ing, but even so, today's been the first time since the vision in my eye started deteriorating that I've felt even remotely hopeful about the situation. Bill kept looking at me and smiling today and saying, "You're okay."

Yes; I don't know what's down the road in the future, but for now, I think I am.

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