Friday, July 22, 2011

Allergy Adventures, Facially Speaking

The past several days have been interesting and frustrating. To save time,I'll describe the events by copying an email I sent to Mr. Gardner yesterday:

I have been having some weird issues with lip swelling for several days. Let me give you the background:

My lips ALWAYS swell overnight- they have ever since I was little. This happens to my sister too, who is not a musician, so I've never really thought much of it (***AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have inquired with my sister about this, and it's possible that I made it up***). I usually have to wait about 2 hours after I wake up to be able to play.

With this internship, I have only been able to play on average about 1.5 hours a day. I have been VERY smart about my playing. I warm up every day, and I have not been pushing it too hard at all. I've been doing lots of lip flexibility exercises. I stop if I feel fatigued. I've been doing everything right!

For about 2 days, my lips were feeling really tight and inflexible. Then, on Tuesday, they started to feel very puffy after my evening practice session (just a normal 30 minute session working on excerpts for the Air Force audition- nothing too strenuous). When I woke up on Wednesday morning, my lips felt TERRIBLE, with the majority of the problem being in my upper lip. It is not localized to the area where my mouthpiece contacts the lip, but spread out in the middle of my lip. It is a puffy, tingly feeling. I did not play all day on Wednesday. When I woke up this morning, it felt a little worse. I had to play a little bit on a concert with the kids today, but not much at all. I basically had to play everything on my lower lip- I could not put any pressure on my upper lip at all. When I was done playing, there was no visible evidence that i had been playing at all, no ring around my lip or anything, but my upper lip especially felt terrible. I'm not playing for the rest of the day, and not for a few days after that.

I am VERY confused as to what is happening. I can't believe that this could be an overuse issue due to how little I have been playing, especially since I have been playing very smartly. I'm wondering if it is instead some sort of allergy, perhaps to a food. I've been doing some internet searching and it seems that the most common reaction to a mild food allergy is the swelling of the lips. I'm going to go to an allergist as soon as possible.

What are your thoughts? What else should I be doing? How long should I take off of playing? I am really concerned and I don't know what to do!

Sounds like a lot of fun, right? Luckily, I didn't have to go in to OrchKids today and was able to get to the allergist. If you've never had an allergy test before, let me tell you how awesome it is. After taking a detailed history, the allergist does what is called a scratch test. Basically, you get a surface scratch of a potential allergen. This test is usually done on the forearms, but they won't test over a tattoo, so I had the entire test done on my back. I was scratched with 56 different allergens. FIFTY-SIX. After the initial scratch, you have to sit there and wait for 20 minutes for any potential reaction to set in. This is a very uncomfortable 20 minutes.

After this initial test, the nurses come in and measure the reactions somehow (I couldn't see what they were doing since it was all happening on my back). Here is a list of things to which I am allergic, in order from least depressing to most depressing:

*cockroaches (I do not intentionally harm any sentient being, but I still have not made peace with certain insects)
*TEN different types of grass

I love grass. It is excellent for laying purposes. I eat apples and carrots nearly every single day. I have two cats.

Gracie and Isla

I have to go back to the allergist again next week for further testing. The allergist was really nice, and actually thanked me for coming in with such a peculiar case. I have all these crazy allergies, but none of them manifest with normal symptoms. Instead, they manifest with special Rachel symptoms like lip swelling.

At the end of the day, my top lip is pretty much fine but my bottom lip is still pretty puffy. Hopefully this will all subside in a day or two and I'll be able to play again. Yay!

Hoping this post is greeting you in an air conditioned environment,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Post: the first

Hello, friends!

So, I'm starting a blog. I'm not sure why, or what I'll have to say. Basically I'm just jealous of the fact that my other friends (Russ Zokaities, Cecilia Kozlowski and Emily Toth) have really awesome blogs because they are doing awesome things. I'm not really doing anything awesome, but I thought I'd use this to talk about my journey to hopefully be doing awesome things soon.

I'm writing this post from Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse in Baltimore. I'm not sure if I'm enough of a hipster to be in here, but it's freaking awesome. All vegetarian/vegan food, coffee, and books! Maybe the fact that I love it here actually makes me a little bit of a hipster...oh well. I've been in Baltimore for a few weeks now. I've been doing an internship with OrchKids, which is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's program designed to create social change through music. I've only been here for a little over two weeks, but I have already learned A LOT about myself. Here are a few things:

1. I have no idea what to do with elementary schoolers. I'm good with middle and high schoolers, but I really struggle with the little ones! This makes sense to me when I stop to think about it: I'm the youngest in my family; I've NEVER babysat a child before; and, I've only worked with band programs, which in most states don't begin until middle school. When I was a gymnastics coach I worked with elementary school kids all the time, but that was a little different because I was leading them in a physical activity, so concentration and behavior weren't nearly as much of an issue. Each day is getting easier, but it's still been a struggle for me.

2. Teaching horn to very tiny children is super hard! The program has two horn players right now. They are 7 and 8 year old girls, and are using full sized single F horns. There is no good way to get them to hold the thing! It's just simply too big for them. Previously, the youngest student I've ever taught was a 9 year old, but he had already experienced a growth spurt and was significantly taller than these two girls. I've received some good advice from the Horn People page on facebook about how to deal with tiny horn players, which has been extremely helpful.

3. I hate commuting. I've been living with Eric and his parents, which has really been lovely. It's been great to come home to a house with good company and a big yard with plantlife everywhere. They live about 30 miles outside of Baltimore, which translates to about 40-45 minutes in the car because of some country road travel before you hit the beltway. This is without any traffic. When I leave work at 4pm, it's a different story. I take the long way home to avoid the beltway, which takes almost an hour. This is definitely shorter than what would happen if I tried taking the beltway home. Living with Eric's family has been really nice, but I definitely wouldn't be able to handle a commute like this for more than a short term basis.

I've also been learning a lot about the economic and social divide in this country. I am waking up to the fact that the United States is not united- it is still full of racists. The area where I work (West Baltimore) is very underserved and its people are in need. This area, like other underserved areas all around the country, is nearly 100% African American. I've often wondered about why this is. The answer to this question, at least in part, came from the place where Eric works. Last weekend, white people left the location asking for a refund because too many black people showed up. The same day, another instance occurred which involved a racial slur and will therefore not be repeated in this post. I couldn't believe it! Eric lives within 2 hours of THREE major metropolitan areas with lots of diversity. I just couldn't believe people like that still exist, especially in this area. It's not just people outside of the city either. I've come to find out that a lot of affluent people from East Baltimore won't set foot in West Baltimore, even for volunteer work.

I know that outreach and work for social change always belong in my life in some capacity. I'm still figuring out the when and how of the grand scheme, but I know that it is my duty as a decent human being to help those in need. I don't consider myself an exceptional person, and therefore it is beyond me as to why other people don't feel the same way I do about helping others. It is SO easy to help people, and I don't understand why there is such a large population in this country who are in need, and a large population who could easily help but chose not to.

End rant, and end first blog post!

PS- I almost forgot! Look how cute these kids are!