Pages

New Year's Eve

We're just not party animals here.

Jonathan has to be at work at 5am tomorrow morning, so he's already headed to bed.

Jess is watching... gasp! football!! Okay, no surprise there. Earlier today he got the storm door installed on the back door, so now both entrances have a storm door.

I spent the day making homemade vegetable-beef soup, running the sweeper, mopping the kitchen floor, doing the usual outside chores, answering some email and snail mail, and working on a newsletter, and so on.

Jess and I may stay up long enough to make it to midnight and New Year's. We lead such exciting lives, ha!

Did I mention we're just not party animals?

F.A.Q.

I get asked a lot of the same questions over and over about my health problems, which very few people really understand. Part of that is my own fault, because I try not to talk about it much. However, I've heard these a lot lately, so for anyone who might actually be interested, here’s a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” with my “usual” answer, and then a fuller, more realistic explanation.

Q: How’s your back pain?
A: About the same as always. Some good days, some not-so-good.

Explanation: The thing is, “back pain” is kind of misleading. When most people think of back pain, they’re thinking of lower back pain – such as compressed disks in the lower back causing pain. That is NOT my problem. I have thoracic neuralgia. It’s also been diagnosed as an uncommon form of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Whatever you call it, the pain originates on the right side of my spine in the area near the bottom two ribs, and runs along those ribs to the front, ending at the sternum (breastbone). Those nerves went haywire and send pain signals for no discernable reason. This is turn causes a hypersensitivity of the skin on the right side of my back and chest of varying levels. Sometimes it feels akin to a sunburn when something touches my skin, sometimes it’s closer to a bad 2nd degree burn sort of feeling.


Q: “Is your chronic pain all better now?”
A. About the same as always.

Explanation: Please note the definition of chronic: “Of long duration, continuing.” or even “Relating to an illness or medical condition that is characterized by long duration or frequent recurrence.” If it’s chronic, it’s not going to get all better.


Q: Well, just what IS your problem then? What caused it?
A. Chronic pain and fibromyalgia, and the doctors don’t know.

Explanation: The chronic pain is caused by both the thoracic neuralgia and fibromyalgia at this point. The thoracic pain I described above, but will add that it also causes a sort of cascade effect sometimes, making muscles tighten up and spasm on my right side from my neck and jaw area down to my hip. The doctors did several tests but really don’t know what caused this problem.

However, the chronic thoracic pain is the most likely trigger for the fibromyalgia that followed. Fibromyalgia is defined as a “syndrome characterized by chronic pain, stiffness, and tenderness of muscles, tendons, and joints without detectable inflammation… and also causes undue fatigue.”

For many years doctors wouldn’t concede it’s a real problem, but as more and more people have it, and more and more research has been done, unless they’re really out of touch, they have to admit it’s real, and “not all in your head.”


Q. Have you tried going to a pain doctor? (Medication, surgery, etc.)
A. Yes

Explanations:

On doctors - I went from regular doctors to neurologists to pain doctors, and it seems about everything in-between. Chiropractor, acupuncturist, gastroenterologist, neurosurgeon, cardiologist, physical therapist, even a Rolfing expert.

On Medicines: I’ve been on antidepressants, heart medications, pain meds, anti-seizure medications, and just about anything that has ever been tried to control chronic pain. Lyrica, Neurontin, Guaifenisen, Effexor, and the list goes on and on. I don't react well to most medications. The bottom line for me, just ME, on medications is this: NONE of them helped enough to make them worth the side effects.

On Surgery: I’ve had my gallbladder removed, a lumbar Laminectomy, nerve blocks, and tried a spinal nuerostimulator implant. No improvement with any of them, and some even left me worse than I started. It would take a lot to convince me to try anything else.

On etc.: I’ve also tried a TENS unit, lidocaine patches, direct injection of anesthetic type agents, massage of the surrounding areas (NOT where the thoracic neuralgia is!)… I can’t even remember it all.

The bottom line is this: If there’s something touted for chronic pain or fibromyalgia, I’ve probably tried it.

The one thing left for fibromyalgia, which I’m trying now, is a combination of therapies prescribed by The Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Center, addressing several problems that come with the fibromyalgia syndrome. I’m hoping this will help the pain caused by the fibromyalgia, so “all” that’s left to deal with is the original thoracic neuralgia.

And there you have it, answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions I hear about my health.

Please excuse this temporary interruption...

It's raining here. We've had rain off an on the last few days. Last night a thunderstorm, some heavier storms off and on today with about an inch of rain.

Rain = pain. Something about rainy weather really aggravates my fibromyalgia pain. So I'm a little behind on writing and about everything else this week.

Stay tuned, I'll be back.

Going Green for Christmas

Richard called yesterday to wish us all a Merry Christmas, and one of the things we talked about was decorating for Christmas. Or to be more precise, my LACK of decorating for Christmas.

A few years ago I bought an artificial tree on sale at Lowe's after Christmas. It's about 4' tall, with fiberoptic strands that turn different colors, and a string of miniature lights. It costs all of $20 if I remember correctly.

This year, I put a Christmasy tablecloth over a teacart (family heirloom - not something I'd go out and buy!) and had Jonathan carry this little tree up from the basement and plop it down on the cart. Jess found an extension cord for it, and Viola! I was finished decorating for Christmas.

Okay, so the tree isn't exactly 'going green' for Christmas, but I've had it for years, so I used it. But take a look at the packages. You won't see any fancy Christmas wrapping paper there!
No, instead I used the paper bags that you put frozen groceries in to keep them from thawing out while you finishing shopping and an old roll of priority mail tape. Not to mention reusing some plastic bags from stores, and a pillowcase or two.

No fancy paper, no bows, no lights or other decorations all over the house. We didn't use up a lot of throw-away wrapping paper or electricity. Instead we recycled paper bags, and used very few lights. We conserved trees and energy. We 'went green' for Christmas.

It has nothing to do with the fact I just didn't feel like decorating. Or that I was maybe a bit of a Scrooge. Nope, we were doing our bit to 'go green' and help the environment.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

A note about the pictures in this blog...

Regarding the previous post, with the photo of the moon and poem -- Jess informed me I should make note that I took the picture and wrote the poem.

Okay, here's my note: Everything on my blogs - all the writing, all the pictures - are my own, unless I say otherwise. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if I use a photo or anything from another place, I say where I got it.

So now you know!

Merry Christmas!!!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE!

It’s an evening for family gatherings and special church services. I went with Jess to the Christmas Eve service at his church. It was a lovely service and I enjoyed it, but was forcibly reminded why I do NOT attend church on a regular basis any more.

Church people can be very friendly. Normally, that’s a good thing. But when you have thoracic neuralgia, and people persist on patting you on the back, it quickly becomes a BAD thing. These people mean well, they just don’t realize what pain they’re causing at that moment, and how it will precipitate pain for some time to come.

Then there’s the whole “stand up to sing” thing… sit down for a while, stand up again, sit, stand, sit… you get the idea. Difficult when your body doesn’t want to cooperate.

And last, but certainly not least, there’s the pews. Ah, yes, the pews. I thought maybe I had exaggerated in my mind how hard it is to sit in those pews. I figured it probably wasn’t as bad as I remembered. I was right about that. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It was worse.

I don’t know what it is about sitting in those pews. They do have some padding, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. Before long the muscles in my right side start tightening up, from waist to neck, and there is no way to get comfortable. Having muscle spasms while sitting in church is NOT a good thing.

After only an hour in a church service, I’m down for the count. It started out great, but by the time it was over… well, it’s hard to concentrate on songs and sermons when the pain is clouding your mind.

I’m glad I was able to go, but it was a stark reminder I can’t do everything I would like to do, and the pain does impose some limitations. Still, I walked in and I was able to walk out. I came home to supper in the crock pot, and presents under the tree. I have family and friends that care about me, and a roof over my head. I have Christmas to remind me God sent his only son into the world, starting a chain of events that would end in a pathway for salvation.

All things considered, I’m very blessed.

Making a list and checking it twice!

Yes, I'm making a list and checking it twice, but it's not Santa's list. It's my grocery store list.

I've been looking through cookbooks this afternoon and trying to get ideas for new recipes to try, and otherwise working on the menus for this week. Changing your diet and what you can eat means changing your usual recipes and style of cooking.

I know somewhere down the road this new regime will be the "usual" -- but for now, it's new, and it's a LOT of work to figure out what we can eat, and what I need to get at the store. I'm not to the point of being able to do many spur of the moment "what are we going to eat?" meals. I need to plan ahead.

Have I mentioned I hope all this extra work is worth it?

I love mail!

I love mail any time. Email, snail mail, it doesn't matter. I just love mail! Even better is all the goodies at Christmas. There are cards, and newsletters, and packages! Ooooooo, packages! Lots of fun!!!!

We got one today that's takes the prize for creative addressing, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face:
First, there's that cute little face in the return address corner. Ellie pictures always make me smile! Then there's the names in the "addressed to" section. Grandma & Grandpa gives me the warm fuzzies, but Uncle Geek? That's makes me laugh!

Ellie has two uncles, and both have names that are hard for her to say. Jonathan became Uncle Geek last time she (& those big people she hangs out with) visited. It didn't take her any time to connect the name to the person!

Great addressing Richard!
And Merry Christmas to us - Grandma & Grandpa King & Uncle Geek!

Christmas Newsletters

Christmas is almost here. I’ve been enjoying all the cards in the mailbox, and yes, the form newsletters! I’ve heard many people disparage newsletters, and will admit I once thought the same. I’d never write one!

Well, times have changed. I realize people can’t sit and write a long, newsy letter to every one of their friends and relatives. Who has the time in our ever busier lives?

The next best thing is the “form” newsletter – one size fits all. Well, it works that way with newspapers, why not a newsletter? It’s a great way to pass along the family’s happenings for the past year, and touch base with friends and relatives you don’t speak to very often.

These days I treasure every word in every newsletter I get.

Snowball, the Dancing Cockatoo - Ambassador for Bird Rescue

Note: If you read both this blog *and* "Rural Ramblings", you're going to see this exact same entry twice, but there are some people who only read one blog or the other, so I put this on both.
============================================================

This little video was first seen on the web May 9th, on the Bird Lover's Only Rescue website, and has become such a big sensation! My favorite clip is that first one, which can be seen on the Bird Lover's Only Rescue site. I've had the link for weeks, and every time I watch it, this bird makes me laugh. However, there is a longer version they posted on YouTube that I could share:




The video clip of Snowball dancing made Time Magazines top 10 list for Best Web Videos.

Snowball has been on the David Letterman show, but that clip isn't nearly as entertaining. I feel sure Snowball was intimidated by the change in environment, and all the noise the band and audience were making.

Now Snowball is going to be featured on Animal Planet's show, "The Year in Animals." The first airing is this Saturday, December 22nd, 8pm Central.

Besides being highly entertaining, this little video of Snowball makes an important contribution in educating people. I imagine a lot of people didn't even know there was such a thing as bird rescue organizations. I imagine a lot don't realize how many birds NEED to be rescued.

They look pretty in the cage, and many people are in love with the idea of having a bird. Once they have one, the reality is sometimes quite different than they imagined. Birds are messy. They need a better diet than just seeds and water. They need good lighting. They need toys. They can be destructive, because they need to chew. It's a natural behavior, and they don't distinguish between their chew toys and your good furniture. Having a parrot is like having a perpetually teething puppy.

They need attention. The parrot family especially, because of their high intelligence, are quite needy. An African Grey, for instance, is reported to have the emotional level of a 2-year old, and the intelligence of a 5-year old. Would you leave a 5-year old in a crib or playpen at all times? Well, guess what, you shouldn't confine a parrot in a small space 24/7 either.

They need change! They need a stimulating environment. And yes, they need love. DON'T get a parrot unless you are willing to live with the mess and give one the time and attention it deserves. You won't be happy with the resulting chaos, and the bird won't be happy confined and ignored.

Snowball's "mom" wrote a very good piece about the difficulties of owning a parrot, and why so many end up in rescue. I think the main difficulty is people don't take the time to learn about the creature they want to own, what kind of behavior to expect, and what it needs to thrive. The first time they get bit, they think they have a BAD BIRD. More likely, the bird was frightened, or it was the result of a BAD OWNER, because they didn't understand how to interact with the bird.

My own parrot, an African Grey, is a rescue bird. Her previous owner bought her at some sort of bird show. She had NO idea what she'd gotten into. She just "wanted some company." Reading between the lines after talking to her, I suspect she got bit and was thereafter afraid of the bird. She scooted the bird out of the way with a flyswatter when she needed to put food in the bowls.

The parrot had a bare chest and no tail feathers. She told me the bird was moulting. I didn't contradict her, but I knew better. This one had just been moved to a new environment. African Greys are notorious for feather picking when stressed, and it often becomes a habit, much like biting fingernails is for some people.

Why buy an animal if you don't know how to take care of it, or at least are willing to learn how to do so? Owning an animal brings responsibility for that animal. Who else will care for the animal, and be sure it has what it needs to thrive? It doesn't matter if it's a bird, rabbit, ferret, horse, cow, pig, or whatever.

Bottom Line: If we buy any animal, taking it into our care, it's our responsibility to learn how to care for it properly, then DO IT. If everyone did that, we wouldn't need so many bird, dog, and all kinds of other rescue organizations. There are a lot of cute animals out there, but please be sure you're ready to take care of one properly before you give into that impulse to buy one.

You'll both be a lot happier that way.

Phase Two (or Three?)

Actually, I’m not sure what “phase” this is. I went to the Fibromyalgia Clinic, and I already started the 3-month eliminate-the-sugar diet, so maybe this next stage is actually phase three.

So what is Phase Three? Supplements, lots of supplements!

I finally sat down with my bag of goodies today, and set up a schedule for starting all these different supplements, vitamins and medications. I staggered it so I start something new every 3 or 4 days, hopefully giving enough time between each new addition to make sure I don’t have any side effects from it.

Today’s addition was prescription strength Vitamin D. My bloodwork showed I was deficient, so I’m supposed to take one capsule a week for 12 weeks. Must be potent stuff!

I’m moving forward, albeit very slowly. I’m just hoping all this stuff actually helps!

Presto Change-O!!!! Dad’s new HP Printer Mailbox!

I saw a commercial on tv a while back, and the product really intrigued me. Essentially, it’s a color printer that can receive e-mail, pictures and newsletters without being hooked up to a computer. All you have to do is plug it into a phone jack (and electric of course). Since my dad is 81 years old, and not up to date on computers, it sounded like a cool idea.

I got online and started researching this “printer mailbox” and the Presto Service that goes with it. I read their propaganda (excuse me! information!), then I started surfing around looking for reviews on the service from more impartial people. Most people had good things to say about the mailbox and service, so I pitched the idea to my sister and sister-in-law, and we went together and bought Dad the printer and a year’s service for Christmas.

It is sooooo cool.

I had the printer sent here first, so I could set it up to test it, and get the security code I needed to set up the online administrative account. Once that was done, I packed it up and sent it off to Dad. He got it today, and called with a couple of questions. It wasn’t long until he had it all set up.

Since I’m administrator for his account, I can go online and see when the printer last dialed in and printed out his email, how much ink is in his printer, and if he has paper in the printer. He just set it up today, and has already got email twice. Neat, huh?

You can schedule the printer to dial in up to 5 times a day for email. If you’re impatient, there’s a cheat code (hold down the stop button, press the increase volume button twice) that causes the printer to go ahead and dial in to check the email box.

I hope it will be a good way to keep Dad up to date with stuff going on with “us girls” and our families. The downside is there is no way for him to answer using this mailbox. It’s strictly one way, but I suppose if you got complicated enough to allow email both ways, you might as well be using a computer. The idea is to keep things simple, and they’ve done that.

So Presto Change-O! Now Dad can get email!

Day 15

I’m two weeks into the eliminate-the-sugar diet, and so far hanging in there, despite serious temptations. Jess bought home a 2# box of assorted Russell’s chocolates one day – a gift for me from a friend of his. The candy wasn’t a surprise, as this dear man gives me a box every year, so I was prepared and immediately tucked it away in the meat drawer of the refrigerator. I’ve got plans for that box of chocolates in 2 and a half months, ha, ha!

Going grocery shopping presents even more temptations. ‘Tis the season for chocolate covered cherries, which I dearly love. There are stacks and stacks of boxes of those luscious morsels in the aisles, but alas! Not one may pass my lips for some time yet!

Everywhere I go, there are cakes and cookies and candies lurking, ready to jump in my mouth! I hear them calling my name, a siren song of sugar seduction.

“Stand fast, stand fast, NO sugar…” has become my most oft repeated mantra.

So I continue on, and I must admit, it’s not such a constant hankering anymore. The addiction doesn’t have me so tightly in its’ grip, but still… once in a while I still get a real craving for some CHOCOLATE!!!

As for the other aspects of my needed health changes, I have yet to sit down and take the time to go through all the stuff I’m supposed to do, and set up a timetable to start doing it! That’s next up on the agenda, but for now, at least I’ve got 2 weeks down on the shake-the-sugar diet!

Stand fast, stand fast, NO sugar….

Another one of those days...

You know, one of those days you wonder why you ever bothered to get out of bed. Today’s tortures included the following:

* Not being able to log into a credit card site I’ve used for months and months, years even! All of a sudden it didn’t recognize my user name and password. I thought, “Well, maybe I changed the password and didn’t remember doing it.” I tried inputting our credit card number and information like birthdate and social security number. They still didn’t believe we had an account, call the 800 number!

After wading through several sets of menu options, none of which fit the situation, I finally got a live person. Unfortunately, she didn’t know what she was doing. Eventually she gave me a different number to call so I could try someone else. They still wouldn’t believe we ever had enrolled for an online account. ARGH!!!!

I finally had to just start over and enroll us like we’d never done it before. Fixing that glitch wasted most of the morning. What a pain.

* Not being able to switch our credit card account with “Company Bogus” to another one of their accounts that allows you to earn air miles. No, once again, you have to start over and apply for a whole new credit card. What interests me even more is the account we have now charges a $20 yearly fee, and NO rewards. The one with air miles has NO yearly fee. Does that make sense?

* Not being able to remodel the bathroom as planned between Christmas and New Year’s. We went to Lowe’s today to check out what we needed to buy. It didn’t take us long to realize it was going to take more than the week and a half's time we have before Christmas to order coordinating colors for the vanity top and commode, and plan out exactly what we’re doing and what we need. I’m going to have to spend some time on the planning and Jess will just have to take time off later for this project.

* And absolutely #1 on the hit parade of Today’s Tortures - Coming out of Lowe’s and finding a ticket on the windshield of the car. It seems my Disability Placard isn’t legal. What???? I flagged down a lady driving around in the parking lot giving tickets to ask her why she gave me a ticket and showed her my placard. Turns out she wasn’t the one who gave me the ticket and after looking at my placard, she didn’t know why the other lady gave me a ticket. Within 5 days I have to either pay the ticket or go to court and contest it. Talk about a real day brightener – NOT!

* Stopping to eat lunch and getting overcharged for something I ordered, then having to fuss with the lady at the register to get it changed.

* Seeing dark clouds as we near home and realizing it’s raining and the animals can’t get into their shelters.

Talking about dark clouds, I think one of those dark jinx type clouds must have been hovering over my head today.

Sure hope tomorrow is a better day!!!

The Terrific Twosome Turned Loose

Fayetteville may never be the same. My friend, Sharron, and I went shopping there Tuesday. That in itself is a rare occurrence, as neither of us like to shop so it's not generally our idea of a fun outing. But Christmas is coming, so shop we must. I guess we figured misery loves company, and off we went.

We were mostly in search of clothes, so our first stop was Peebles. I headed for the men's department, while she took off to the ladies. I went down my list, trying to find the items I needed at a reasonable cost. I discovered my idea of reasonable and the retailers idea didn't mesh. However, much of what I needed was on sale, so I really can't complain. Well, not too much anyway.

In the meantime, Sharron was haunting the women's section, looking for a dress suitable to wear to her son's wedding. I think she was wildly successful. She found a beautiful dress that looked beautiful on her and had a beautiful price. Can't hardly beat that combination! Even better, it's not a "wedding only" dress, but could be worn for other special occasions. I told her she should buy it, cause what more could you ask?

Anyway, Peebles didn't have everything I needed, and I wanted to pick up some prints I'd ordered from Walmart, so we headed there. They didn't have a thing I needed on the clothing list. We couldn't think of anywhere else to go in Fayetteville that carried men's clothing, so Sharron got the bright idea we should look for someone well-dressed, and ask them if they knew of someplace.

While she was off looking for something in a different part of the store, I saw a young man in a really nice coat, so figured I'd give Sharron's idea a try.

"Excuse me..."
And again, closer now, "Excuse me..."
The young man glanced up, and I said, "Yeah, you."
I told him I really liked his coat, and wondered if he bought it in Fayetteville somewhere.
He grinned and said, "No, I got it in London."

London! Wow! So much for the idea of going shopping there! I don't think we could have made it to London and back that afternoon.

However, before we got out of the store, a well-dressed elderly lady was headed in, and Sharron stopped her and asked if she knew of any shops that carried men's clothing in Fayetteville. She was sorry, but no, she didn't.

We went on out to the car, figuring we were out of options and done for the day, when all of a sudden, there was someone pounding on Sharron's window. It was the little old lady we'd just talked to. Here she'd ran out in the parking lot to try and help out two perfect strangers. (That's us all right - we're perfect, and we're strange! But probably beyond help...) Anyway, she'd remembered a store in Fayetteville that carried men's clothing, so we thanked her profusely, and decided we'd go check it out.

We found the store, looked in the windows and rolled our eyes, but went in anyway. We didn't check out too many price tags until we'd decided shopping there might be a luxury experience I couldn't afford. Just as well they didn't seem to have anything on my list.

Since we were already in downtown Fayetteville, we checked out a few more places, but didn't find anything of interest. At least, not until we ended up in the fabric store. Sharron is an expert seamstress, so she was like a kid in the proverbial candy store, though she restrained herself and didn't buy much.

By the time we got back to the farm, I was pretty well done in, but it was a successful trip. We got a lot of stuff crossed off our lists, had an interesting time, and maybe even had a little fun!

And oh yes, I'm sure Fayetteville will eventually recover.

Our Calendar Girl

I finally got the copy I ordered of Ellie’s 2008 calendar earlier this week. This calendar is HUMONGOUS! It doesn’t fold in the middle like last year’s calendars, so it comes in a really big cardboard sleeve. I guess that might be part of the reason it took a week to arrive, instead of the 2-3 days it’s supposed to take for priority mail.

The pictures came out GREAT!!! (Okay, I see little bits here and there I might change – I never think a picture is perfect, but I think they’ll look pretty good to anyone else.)
I spent some time going over the calendar and “proofing” it. I got out a commercially produced calendar and double-checked the dates. Richard and I checked and re-checked them… and yet, there it was, the dates were wrong for the start of spring and fall. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN???

Our nerdiness came back to bite us in the butt. When we were checking dates for the calendar, there we were sitting at our computers, so how did we check them? Why, we looked on the web, of course!

When I went back and checked again on the web, trying to see how we managed to mess up those dates, I figured out where we went wrong. On the web, the dates were listed for UT time. Uh-oh. Universal Time is the time along the prime meridian (0 longitude) that runs through the Greenwich Observatory outside of London, UK.

That’s not where we’re located, now is it? So on a couple of the dates, the time was just enough different that in one case the season started a day earlier here, and in the other, a day later.

Back to the publishing site, fix the dates, let it re-convert the files, and end up with a NEW and IMPROVED version of the calendar.
Richard did this picture. Isn't it cute?!!!

After I got it all fixed up, I input all the orders we’ve received so far, plus ones I wanted.

It’s a great looking calendar. If you’d like a calendar of one very cute little girl, don’t miss out!

Catching Up

After giving my dear daughter (in-law) a pep talk about blogging regularly, I realized I’d better look to my own. (Is that a beam in my eye???)

Here it is, only 10am, and I’m exhausted. I’ve been up since 6:30am, which isn’t so bad, but it’s been busy. First thing I did was fix Jess’s lunch. We’re on week two of the G.I. eating plan. In case you’re not familiar with it, that stands for Glycemic Index, NOT a military type G.I.. And I say eating plan instead of diet, because this is supposed to be a life-long change, not another starve-yourself-diet to lose weight, then gain it all back when you go off the diet.

Granted, food choices are more restricted at first if you DO want to lose weight, but the overall plan is to make a long-term change of your food choices so you eat healthy food regularly.

I’m modifying my food choices even further at first since I’m also supposed to eliminate sugar for 3 months. It’s almost impossible to have NO sugar in your diet, because for one thing, it’s difficult to be sure exactly how much sugar is in the food you buy. Sometimes labels are deceptive. Even trying to buy food as unprocessed as possible doesn’t always guarantee there aren’t any additives. (I’m writing about this soon over on the Rural Ramblings blog.)

And of course, some foods have natural sugars, and I'm supposed to avoid those too.

Also this morning, I’ve worked on my humor mailings. Monday takes the longest because I set up templates for all the mailings for the week. It’s a time-saver in the long run to do that, because once I go to a website for information – like sunrises and sunsets or holidays – I do it just once for the whole week instead of going back to several websites every day.

Next up I did the outside chores. It’s warm here today, which means it’s a good day to clean out water buckets. (I hate doing it on cold days!) That takes a while, and dumping water is tiring. Tipping over buckets doesn’t sound so bad, but it entails bending over and I stay hunched over to spray the junk off the sides and bottom of the buckets. And dumping the pools is a real killer. I do it left-handed since the thoracic pain is in my right side, but it still aggravates the all-over-my-body fibromyalgia.

After that I took a card out to the mailbox, and stopped on the way back to put a few sprigs of mint in the dirt. I’ve had them in water for weeks, and pretty soon it’s going to freeze the water and kill the mint, so I figured I’d better just GET IT DONE.

Once back inside I put some chicken in the slow cooker for supper, and now here I am.

Exhausted.

Happy Holidays?

Merry Christmas? Happy New Year? Really???

I feel for people who are all alone, so have no one to spend the holidays with. That has to be sad. And I feel for our military personnel far away from home and spending their Christmas on foreign soil. They have their comrades with them, so they’re not all alone, but that’s not the same as being safe at home with family. And missionaries “on the field” - they usually have at least some of their family with them, and hopefully not in a war-torn country, but they’re still far from home.

I’m home, and I have some of my family here (though only a small part). Still, I can’t get into the "spirit" of things. I don’t go to holiday parties. Socializing is too difficult physically and emotionally. I don’t see church or school or other public Christmas programs. Sitting for long periods of time in hard backed chairs just doesn’t work. Going shopping? Beyond tiring and pain provoking.

So I’m not finding too much that’s merry about Christmas, or thinking happy thoughts about the New Year. Just another couple of days, just more tasks to think about, and right now I’m tired and I hurt, so…

Merry Christmas? Happy New Year? Really??? Says who?

Looking for better days ahead...

I'm afraid it's going to take a while to get there though. That's kind of depressing. I know I've got to work on what I eat, and changing my lifestyle, but it's tough to keep going when your body doesn't want to cooperate. Chunking down 3 Aleve doesn't get it. The pain is still there. So's the tired-to-the-core fatigue. It's going to take a while to get in a routine, to cook all the time so we can all eat right, take the supplements when I'm supposed to, while trying to keep up with household and farm chores.

I hope there really are better days ahead. I'd hate to go through all this for nothing.

Day 1

It’s a start…

Today is the first day of a 3-month “get rid of the sugar” diet. That may sound simple, but unless you’re eating pretty basic, food that hasn’t had some form of sugar added is hard to find. Then there’s the fact you have to beat the craving for sugar. Let’s face it: sugar is addictive. The more you’re used to eating, the harder it is to give it up.

I'm also starting to add the supplements the doctor prescribed. This will take a while, as I've got several to try out. I've just got a LOT of changes to make.

It doesn’t help it’s turned cold. My body doesn’t like it. It’s been a rough day.

Maybe Day 2 will be better.

Birdie Entertainment

Earlier today I was working in the kitchen preparing lunch. Things were not going as I planned, and I was rather out of sorts. There was no doubt a black cloud over my head.

Pretty soon I heard the patter of little feet. VERY little feet. In came my parrot, looking to see what was happening. She loves to explore in the kitchen. She immediately spied an open cupboard door, and made for it as fast as her little birdie legs would take her.

I let her go, figuring she couldn't get into much trouble there, as there were some pitchers between her and the cookbooks behind (that particular cupboard opens from both sides). As usual, I was wrong. Next time I turned around and looked for her, she was gone.

I started searching and hollered, "Baby, where are you?" No doubt I sounded aggravated. VERY aggravated. The second time I said it, I heard this little voice from behind a cupboard door say, "I loooovvvvve you."

I opened the cupboard door and saw two little birdie eyes peeking back at me from her perch on top of some cookbooks. She said,"Silly bird. Step up? Step up?"

What could I do but laugh??? It's like having a little kid around who knows they got in trouble, and is looking for a way out.

She went back to her cage, and I went back to my kitchen in much better humor.

We sold our first calendar!

We've already got our first order (thank you Linda)!!! We're hoping for great things this year, so it's nice to have already made a sale, even though we haven't got our first copy to proof it.


I took this picture of Starbucks when I was in Seattle, Washington. And yes, the dog was there, and I don't know what he was looking at - maybe hoping for his master's return? At any rate, it worked well, and makes it look like he's looking at Ellie, who of course is "Photoshopped" into the picture.

The first Starbucks opened in Seattle in April of 1971, so I thought this was just the picture for the April page of the calendar!

Give me a frappuccino please!

It's a small world!

We enjoyed Thanksgiving at Dave & Debra’s house. Randy came down from eastern Tennessee, and Dave’s mother, sister & her husband also were there. We had 12 people sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.

When the conversation got on my family, and I was telling them one son was back home working and farm-sitting, and the other was in Canada with his wife and daughter, they asked who Richard married.

Then it got really interesting. Dave’s family have almost all been involved in New Tribes missions at one time or another. So when I told them Chrystie’s maiden name, and who her grandparents were, they were amazed. They KNOW a lot of people in her family!

Why? Because they were/are involved in New Tribe’s missions too.

Now what do you suppose the chances are that my son, born in West Virginia and then living in Alabama, would meet online someone from Canada, and all these far flung relatives of theirs would actually know each other because of a group headquartered in Florida???

Like I said, it’s a small world.

Calendars for Christmas

The calendar is finished, and I finally finished the sales page. You know what the hardest part is? Deciding on the price. We aren't a big charity organization that can place large orders and cut costs. So this calendar costs more than one that can be purchased at Walmart or some other stores. But it's also bigger and has thicker paper. It's a quality calendar.

Then there's the fact this is a FUND RAISER. When someone purchases a calendar, they not only get a calendar, but contribute to "Ellie's Medical Expenses Fund."

So after much debating, I finally settled on a price and finished the sales page.

Don't clown around - get a calendar!!!

I'll be interested in seeing which size calendar most people prefer, last year's smaller size with the flimsier paper, or this year's bigger calendar with heavier paper.

I know I have to buy a few extra calendars for Christmas gifts! Oh wow! That's the next project - December and Christmas is coming up fast!

As usual, I've got more to do than time and energy to do it!!!

Every month is finally finished...

Did we just get home Sunday? Yeah… well… it’s been a frenetic couple of days! I’ve jumped back in to the usual farm chores, been to the grocery store, and been pushing, pushing to finish up Ellie’s 2008 calendar.

And hooray! It’s finally done! Jonathan helped me put the finishing touches on February’s page this morning. Richard did the cover and the December calendar page, plus took the picture that became the June calendar page. He helped putting the holidays/events on the calendar. We emailed back and forth the biggest part of the day, fine-tuning pictures, captions and holidays.

We finally declared it finished, and I’ve got one ordered to hold in hand and double check it, though it should look like the PDF “ready to publish” file.

"Dah-ling, I can't wait to get my Oscar for Cutest Actress!"

I’ve been working on a sales page and should have that ready soon.

Now, to get to work on the neglected house, cooking better meals, Christmas stuff, health routines, snail mail… gee, I may have a hard time finding anything to do now….

NOT!

Home again in TN!

It was a long drive home. It took longer to get home than it took to drive down to Florida, as there was a lot heavier traffic on the way home, and it was raining off and on all day. There wasn't a ray of sunshine all the way home today, and many times traffic was at a dead stop.

It's good to be back, except I've already started thinking of all the things I need to get done. Some of them, like yesterday!

Groceries head the list. Mother Hubbard's cupboard is bare.

Then there's finishing up a calendar, getting to work on the stuff I need to do for helping the Fibromyalgia, thinking about Christmas, and the list goes on and on.

Break time is over!

Family Treasure

We’re headed back home after a visit with family in Florida. It’s always interesting to see how the kids have grown, and to see how everyone is doing, and to sit back and watch the different personalities at play. I don’t doubt that at one time or another, each of us has wondered what in the world all the rest were thinking. We have some, well, shall we say strong personalities in our family!

But one thing doesn’t change: we are family. A blended family like ours takes a while to mesh, to see how everyone connects, and to grow to love one another, but when push comes to shove, family is what counts. And whether you have all kinds of money, or you have very little, your real treasure lies in your family. Jess and I are very blessed with all our kids and grandkids we have scattered over two countries, and to have been able to spend Thanksgiving with some of them.

Our recently visited family treasures include:

Debra – Jess’s daughter and matriarch of the clan in Florida, she does a fantastic job of looking after her four kids and husband. It amazes me how she manages to keep up with her household and everyone’s work, school, church and other activities, not to mention her own. She’s a great cook, smart, and creative. (You should have heard the song she made up for Jess’s birthday to the tune of “Oklahoma.” Instant classic!)

Dave – Debra’s husband, and patriarch of the clan. He’s super family oriented - a great dad, hard worker, steadfast, and as Jess puts it “all around good guy”. Not all your family treasures are blood relatives – sometimes you get very fortunate in the people who marry into the family, and that’s how it is with Dave. (And we like a lot of the same foods, so I know he’s got good taste!)

Lee – The oldest grandchild, a college student, and long-time worker at Chick-fil-A, where he does a super job. He’s not only good looking and quick-witted, he’s a great singer and guitar player. Superman! He has great potential!

Emily – The next oldest grandchild, recent high school graduate, and working hard at Target. She’s also a talented piano player and singer. Beautiful, both in appearance and spirit, she has a tender heart, very loving. I suspect you’d be hard pressed to find a truer friend. She’s a jewel in the making.

Ryan – Next grandchild in line, junior in high school, and also working at Chick-fil-A. He’s big into football and building up those muscles, so looking buff. He’s a hard worker, cute, and has a fun personality. (He also inherited Grandpa’s explosive sneezes!) He wants to play football in college, and we’re all rooting for him! We know he can do it!

Kelley – The youngest of this group of grandchildren, a freshman in high school, full of energy, and of course, Daddy’s little girl. She loves to run, plays a mean trumpet, and is ever so pretty. She’s blossoming into an interesting young woman, smart and fun and talented. She’s capable of doing great things! (And she and her sister are capable of breaking into song at any second!)

Randy – Jess’s oldest son, and visiting in Florida at the same time. Sometimes Phantom Son, but we really love to see him! The more we’re around him, the more we find to like. He’s a steady worker, looking for answers in life, and has a quick and sometimes unexpected wit. A quiet treasure, he and I have a lot of personality traits in common (but don’t hold that against him!).

All of the above are also fluent in games and Sports-speak. That’s a foreign language to me, but we still manage to communicate.

Family treasures we missed seeing at Thanksgiving include:

Jonathan – youngest son, and presently holding down the fort… er, farm. Besides looking after critters, he’s been super busy working at Toys R Us. Jess often tells him “the fruit does not fall far from the tree”, as he has a lot of his mother’s great traits! However, he’s more outgoing, and has developed more people skills than I would ever have dreamed when he was younger. Fluent in Geek-speak, and an asset when I have a PhotoShop question, he can be a great help! He can also be a hard worker and has a lot of creativity, intelligence and talent. All he needs to do is figure out where to focus. There’s a niche for him out there somewhere!

Richard – son in the far north, having moved from Texas to Canada. Great husband and I know Ellie couldn’t have a better dad. He’s a hard worker – the company he works for recognized what a gem he is and hung onto him even when he moved to another country! He's not only a computer whiz with mega-brainpower, he’s inherited his Grandpa Boggs love of woodworking and makes some beautiful stuff. He’s also bi-lingual, speaking fluent Geek-speak AND Sports-speak. He probably has one of the most well-rounded personalities of any of us. I’m sure he inherited only the best of his Mom’s genes, ha, ha!

Chrystie – Richard’s wife, and daughter of my heart. She’s a fantastic wife and mom, and I have no doubt a great asset to the college library where she works. She keeps up a dizzying schedule with Ellie’s doctor appointments and therapies, work, church and home. She has a bubbly personality and a tender heart, lots of smarts and wit. She’s just so talented! I couldn’t have picked a better wife for Richard (as if he’d let me do the picking anyway!).

Ellie – our youngest granddaughter, and the cutest little two-year-old in the universe. Having Cerebral Palsy may slow her down, but no matter what she can or can’t do, what a gift she is! Just thinking of her makes my heart smile. She has to work harder to do things most of us take for granted, but has such a happy spirit. Generally, I’m not much of a “people photographer”, but this cute little person is an exception! The world is a better place with Ellie in it.

And there’s also, Jason, Jess’s youngest son, living and working in Huntsville. He’s a good looking young man, and can work hard when he has a mind to! He’s been working with brick layers, and has really honed-up his physique.

Of course, we have siblings and parents and other extended family we’re glad for, but kids and grandkids are the closest family treasures. Even better, most of our treasures love the Lord, so will also be treasures in heaven. We’re just extremely blessed.

Yes, we’re rich with the best kind of treasure.

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Birthday!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends!

Happy Birthday to Jesse B. King!!!

Here's he is in a picture I took yesterday, playing pool with son Randy, and son-in-law, Dave.

And then enjoying some time singing along with Emily as she plays the piano!
Today we go visiting some more, eat some more, and otherwise have a great day!

You all do the same! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

What were they thinking?

If you’ve done much traveling at all, you’ve probably come across the same situation – small rooms. That in itself isn’t so bad. I understand that the management wants to get as many rooms as possible in the smallest space possible to make more money and all we need is a place to sleep.

It’s the arrangement of the amenities that I question.
Specifically, who designed these bathrooms?

As shown here, you have to be a contortionist to reach the toilet paper while sitting on the throne.
What puzzles me is the fact there are two other walls available within easy reaching distance that would have been better placement for the toilet paper. So why did they put it in such an awkward position?

Murphy’s Law of Motels: The bathroom will have the most uncomfortable layout imaginable.

There's a bird in my dishwasher...

Okay, so there's not one there NOW, but there was:

I was busy in another room packing stuff, when I heard our parrot going "Hello, hello" from the kitchen. When I went to investigate, there she was, perched on the dishwasher door I had opened to allow the dishes to dry, investigating what she could "get into."

Our conversation went like this:
Me: What are you doing?
Bird: What are YOU doing?
Me: You know you're not supposed to be there.
Bird: "Soooo????"

Now to truly appreciate that, you'd have to hear her say it. She's imitating MY voice, and the exact tone I use when the guys have aggravated me about something and I say, "Soooo???"

She says it with an ATTITUDE, and she knows what she's saying.

Never a dull moment!

Just one of those days...

You know, one of those days when everything goes to hades in a handbasket (and where did that saying ever come from anyway?)

Earlier in the week, the water line to the ice maker/water dispenser on the fridge started leaking. Jess figured he'd fix it this weekend. Jonathan helped him pull out the fridge this morning - a big undertaking in itself since it's a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer tucked in a space just big enough to hold it!

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough line left to cut below the leak and pull the rest through to attach back to the fridge. Jess tried several different methods of "jury rigging", but at the end of the day... the line still leaked.

If that wasn't bad enough, we discovered the furnace isn't working. Jess tried restarting it several times, but it didn't cooperate. We called the repair guy, but got an answering machine, and who knows if he'll bother to call before Monday.

That wouldn't be so bad, except we're supposed to LEAVE for Florida on Monday. Now what?

For my part, I came to the realization there is no way I can completely finish the calendar before leaving Monday. Richard volunteered to work on it while I'm gone, so hopefully I won't have so much to do when we get back, and can get it ready for sales fairly quickly.

So instead of another day working on the calendar, I spent the day doing laundry, getting a game turn ready to send in, doing laundry, started to get things together to take on the trip, did more laundry (do you detect a pattern here?), baking birdie bread and cupcakes, doing laundry, getting a newsletter out for some missionary friends, and otherwise keeping busy with stuff I need to get done before leaving.

I still have a lot to get done Sunday to finish getting everything ready for this trip.
Guess I'd better get to bed, since it's 1:11am, and I need to be busy tomorrow!

Of rain & calendars & too much to do…

I know now why I felt so bad when I last wrote. It rained a couple of days this week, with 3 or 4 showers leaving over an inch of water in the rain gauge. The weatherman didn’t think we’d get any moisture, but my aches said differently.

Yes, the drawbacks of being a human barometer become painfully clear sometimes.

That meant there were a couple of days I had great difficulty doing much, so I’ve fallen even further behind on getting things done around here. Right now I’m pushing to get Ellie’s 2008 calendar done to give people time to get one ordered and delivered before the end of the year.

I’ve made a lot of progress the last couple of days, partly due to Photoshop Consultant Jonathan’s help. He took a Photoshop class not too long ago in college, and was able to give me some ideas and help in how to do some things.

My #1 discovery: “Layers are my friend.” Start with a background, add to it piece by piece, element by element, and craft the picture needed. My most recently completed work had around 24 layers -- some have more, some have less.

I’m not an expert by a long shot, but I think the pictures are turning out well and will make a nice calendar. It helps to have such a cute model!

I wanted to be done before leaving on Monday, but I’m not sure I’ll make it. I still need to do laundry and get packed up and ready for being gone a week. I need to go to the grocery store this weekend. I need to leave a “Chores List” for Jonathan, so he knows what needs done for the animals. I need to be sure there is enough food for turtle, cat and bird.

I need to, I need to! The list goes on and on, and I’ll have to pare it down to only the things most absolutely necessary.

I always seem to have more to do than time and energy to do it!

A Little Down & Out

I’ve been doing a little of this and that today – working on the calendar, doing some laundry, cleaning the kitchen, critter chores, answering some email – but I’m not moving very fast. I’m tired, tired, tired, and a little down and out.

The muscles in my back are misbehaving, hovering on the edge of spasm. Maybe it’s from being hunched over my desktop computer, peering into the screen, doing the fine detail work on pictures for the calendar. I wish I knew more about ergonomics. I’m sure I could improve upon my computer set-up and make it a more comfortable working area.

Maybe it’s ironing – that kind of back and forth motion always irritates the thoracic neuralgia. Maybe it’s… oh, who knows? It doesn’t really make much difference I guess.

I also got emails today from a couple of people I haven’t heard from in a long time. Nice people, but another sad reminder of how times have changed.

Let’s face it, when times are going well, you know a lot of people and think you have a lot of friends. It’s not until things change, and you have an illness, economic downturn, or some other problem, that you find out how many friends you really have. And it’s generally a whole lot less than you expected. Support you thought you could count on, well, all of a sudden it just isn’t there.

There’s a whole lot more fair-weather friends in the world than the real deal.

Thankfully, I’ve also got some great friends. Maybe it sounds corny, but I’m taking about the kind of friends who listen to you when you’re just having a bad day, to helping you through a divorce, kids in trouble, chronic illness, or whatever setback life deals out. They rejoice with you in good times, but also stick around when things go bad. They’re the ones who are still there when you need a true friend.

My thanks to those of you who are the real deal – you know who you are!

All Keyed Up

The scent of Hawaiian Banana Pineapple bread is drifting through the house. I had a bunch of over ripe bananas, having obviously bought way too many for little Miss Ellie to eat up while she was here. I also had some leftover pineapple, so decided to try out a new recipe. After Thanksgiving I have to totally eliminate sugar from my diet for 3 months, so I won’t be doing any baking of sweets. So for now, I’m keyed up, ready to try something new from the oven.

I’ve been working on Ellie’s 2008 calendar today. I got 3 new pictures done, or thought I did. When I tried to upload one of them, it turned out the file was corrupted, and I’m going to have to rework it. Bummer!!!

Fortunately, I had some good advice earlier today (thanks Jonathan!) about saving the file while it was still in layers, then make a new file for the flattened image. I’ll still have some work to do, but not nearly as much as if I’d had to start all over!!!

I’m all keyed up about the calendar though. I think it’s going to be not only bigger, but even better, than last year’s calendar. I think the picture I finished today for March is going to be one of my favorites.
What's left? I’ve got to rework the one that got messed up somehow, then I have three more to work up. Finding or creating backgrounds for some of these takes a LOT of time, sometimes as much time as working up the picture itself.

Also today, Jess took our car to the dealer for some work, and while he was there, he had them make another key. Mind you, it costs $75 for a new key, and that does NOT include the remote. Nope, just an ignition key.

But now I have a key for the car again, so I’m all keyed up!

Beginning Another Journey

No, I’m not talking about taking another trip/vacation, although we are going to be headed to the Orlando, Florida, area soon for a Thanksgiving visit with Jess’s daughter, her family, and his oldest son. And that’s good, as I haven’t seen them in a long time. Jess has visited a couple of times this year, but with family scattered all over the US and Canada, sometimes we go our separate ways for visits. Simple economics – one plane ticket is half as cheap as two.

Anyway, the journey I’m talking about is more like a new segment in Today’s Trek, my life’s journey. We all have choices in our life every day, but sometimes we come to a bigger crossroads, where we need to make a radical turn in our journey and change things. I feel like that’s where I am right now.

I’ve got all sorts of changes I need to make for my health. My new doctor has prescribed all kinds of supplements to correct several problems, like a deficiency of certain vitamins. Some are only a temporary need, some I may have to take on a long-term basis. My biggest problem with all that is the fact I am the world’s worst at remembering to take ANY pills. The only way this is going to work is if I can manage to establish some kind of routine.

While I’m figuring that out, I also need to make other lifestyle changes, including my diet. I’m not talking about “going on a diet.” That’s a stopgap measure, and so many studies have shown people eventually go off a diet and gain back all the weight they lost and often more. And no wonder! Who could stay on The Grapefruit Diet or any other deprivation diet on a long-term basis?

No, I’m talking about a lifestyle change, going back to eating more healthy foods. When the kids were younger, I was a sort of “health food nut.” We grew away from it, and that’s too bad.

It strikes me that on the whole, people take more care about what they put in their automobile than what they put in their body. We worry more about what we feed our pets sometimes than what we’re feeding ourselves. Yet we’ve only got this ONE body, and to borrow a geek phrase, “GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If we feed our body junk food, sooner or later it’s going to be a junky body, prone to health problems.

So, my journey needs to take a new direction, with more emphasis on healthy habits.

While I’m at it, I’ve also been thinking about CHAOS, another facet of my present lifestyle. There are several factors at work. Take two packrats and combine their households, with stuff left behind from kids and from previous marriages, then add yet another household when one of the kids moves back for a while… that’s definitely a recipe for CHAOS.

It doesn’t help my health slows me down, and I don’t suppose a single day goes by that I don’t wish I could have accomplished more. Sometimes I think about all I need to do and it’s positively overwhelming. But you have to start somewhere, and I think my somewhere is going to be using some of the routines I’ve been reading about by the “Flylady” for organizing your home and life.

So for the next few days, while I’m working on Ellie's 2008 calendar, my hyperactive mind is going to be mulling over the possibilities, sifting and sorting, looking for the best way to restructure my life. A tall order, but I think a necessary one. I need to change direction, try to improve things, go for the gusto!

Wish me luck!

The Fibromyalgia Clinic – Take II

Today was my second appointment at the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic. Jess chauffeured me over to Marietta, Georgia again. This time we made a day trip of it instead of going the day before and staying overnight.

My hour with the doctor was spent going over pages and pages of lab reports. Some stuff was pretty much what I expected, but there were also a few surprises – some good, and some not so good.

At least today was an improvement over the first visit if for no other reason than I didn’t have to “donate” 20, 10, 5, or even a single vial of blood. They did, however, still poke around looking for a vein to put an IV in, and I got a shot in the posterior before I left.

I suspect for the next day or two I’ll have to deal with the same “toxic response” I had last time after getting medications. I’ve already got a humdinger of a headache, and taken 3 Aleve for that and the generalized aching-all-over feeling settling in.

As soon as possible, I need to figure out how to incorporate all the changes I need to make and supplements I need to take into my daily life.

I’ve got my work cut out for me!!!

Bloopers!

I took lots and lots of pictures for Ellie's 2008 calendar. Considering you only need 12 for a calendar year, after saving back the ones I think I'll use, there are still a lot left over.

To see a slideshow of some of our "better bloopers", click on the picture below.

The good, the bad, and the funny -- we had a good time taking ALL the pictures!

The Joy & The Pain

It’s 3a.m. and I’m overclocked. If you’re not up on Geek-Speak, the clock rate of a computer is essentially the speed at which a computer performs its most basic operations. Overclock means “to speed up a computer beyond the manufacturer’s specifications in order to make it run faster – the motherboard and CPU may or may not be able to handle the increased speed.”

In human terms, I’m constantly running faster than my motherboard brain and CPU body are meant to by my Maker, especially with the handicap of chronic thoracic pain and fibromyalgia. Sometimes I can handle the increased speed, but more often than not, there’s a price to pay for being overclocked.

But I digress.

I had half a dozen titles running through my head for this entry, like “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, “My Cup Runneth Over”, and “Family Fun.” We’ve been having such a great time visiting with Richard, Chrystie and Ellie. With them living in the far north these days, we don’t get to visit near as often as we’d like to, so what time we get is extra precious.

And speaking of extra precious… one word: Ellie. Grandma has been having such fun playing with the cutest little girl in the universe (and any parallel universes there might be too!). We went Trick-or-Treating, we’ve watched “La La” – otherwise known as Ariel of The Little Mermaid, and we’ve played a whole lot of “dress up.” We’ve got our live babydoll working as Super Model, and getting pictures taken for Ellie’s 2008 calendar.

Yesterday morning we got pictures of Ellie as a clown,

a princess,

and dressed up in a little red velvet dress for a Christmas picture. Yesterday evening we got shots of her in bib overalls in a harvest type setting, in a cart, and on Grandpa’s tractor. We also bought a cute little Halloween outfit on sale yesterday, and took a picture of Ellie with some pumpkins.

We tried for one of Ellie in one end of a wagon and the sheep eating grain from the other end, but that was a disaster. Even our little sheep are 3 or 4 times Ellie’s size, and she took one look at the sheep and started crying. Daddy had to rescue her while Grandma put the sheep away.

Uncle Geek (otherwise known as Jonathan) was an invaluable assistant yesterday afternoon, contributing ideas, helping to set up our backgrounds, and carting me around to find pumpkins and such. And of course Ellie’s valet, aka “Dad”, helped us keep Ellie smiling!

Later this morning, we hope to get pictures of Ellie as a Care Bear, and in a monkey suit (NOT a suit suit, but the furry little brown animal variety).

Then the pain part – time for the visit to end, and they’ll be flying off to Orlando to meet up with Chrystie’s family and their vacation time at Disney World. (I think I’m a little jealous.) Grandma will be left with a mostly empty nest again, cleaning up the mess I made all over the house dragging stuff out for picture props, and dealing with my greatly protesting body which is saying, “WHAT were you thinking!??? WHAT have you done!???” and “PAYBACK IS HERE!”

That’s okay. I knew I’d have to pay to play. It’s worth it.

Trick or Treat!

We have company, hooray, hoorah!

Last night we dressed Ellie up in a Care Bear outfit, and took her around for her first Trick or Treat experience.
Finally, having that subdivision close by was a bonus!Of course, everyone commented on what a cute little girl Ellie is! How perceptive of them!!!

Look what I got!

And the Triumphant Trick or Treater returns home, after bagging a bunch of goodies!

Surprise, surprise! Great BIG surprise!

I started writing earlier today, and it went like this:

Another beautiful day… It’s finally fall here, but who knows how long it will last. Generally speaking, we have a long, long summer, a short burst of fall, and then… winter. Will we go back to summer, or will winter barge in? It’s probably too soon for winter, so my guess is we’ll still have some warm weather.

What makes the day even more beautiful is it’s almost time for a visit from our youngest granddaughter… oh, and those two big people she drags around with her. (Just kidding!!!) We’ll be thrilled to see the whole crew.

I had to go to the grocery store this morning, and stopped along the way at Roy & Rogers (western wear store), and Tractor Supply Company (where America’s farmers shop!). I was on a mission to find a pair of bib overalls in Ellie’s size. As you can see, I was successful!

Now about the time I had the above picture ready to upload, the phone rang…

“Is this JB’s residence? Oh, I guess we call him Jesse now.”
Jess was “JB” growing up, so right away I knew it was someone from Oklahoma.

At first I was afraid it was bad news, as this wasn’t someone we generally hear from. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, but it was still a shocker, because when he finally identified himself and told me where he and his wife were, it turns out they weren’t in Oklahoma at all, but in a town less than an hour away, and “Can we come visit?”

Uh-oh.

I’d already been working, cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen, and figured I had another day to finish clearing off the dining room table (it seems to collect things from all over the cosmos), and my ‘work’ area on and around the laptop table and couch.

All of a sudden, I had only 90 minutes or so to get all that stuff cleared off, run the sweeper, and otherwise make sure the house was presentable for totally unexpected company of the extended family variety. I did a lot of lifting – chunking stuff out of the way into the spare room, the nemesis of sweeping, and otherwise have greatly abused my body which is now letting me know in no uncertain terms it is NOT happy with me.

Oh well.

We had a nice visit. They came in with a “We’re just here to visit a while, not for a meal, and not to stay overnight.” Well, alrighty then! Turns out they were headed on back towards Oklahoma via Branson, Missouri, and needed to be on their way before it got too late.

We ended up doing chores in the dark after they left, and having a late dinner, but it was great for Jess to get to see one of his favorite nephew’s, and his wife is nice also.

Tomorrow I’ll have to sort through all that stuff I flung into the spare room, and clear it back out so Ellie will have a place to sleep. (This is getting monotonous!)

You just never know what kind of surprises a day will bring!

The Perfect 30 Recipes

Okay, maybe not perfect, but I’m looking for 30 recipes that fit the following criteria:

a) The food has to taste good.
b) It not only has to taste good, it has to be healthy for you.
c) The recipe must not only make tasty and healthy food, it has to be EASY TO FIX.

Finding a recipe that makes something that appeals to everyone in the household is the first hurdle. By now I pretty well know what everyone likes, so that’s not so hard, though it's by no means a given that every recipe I try will suit everyone.

However, it’s much harder to find something that not only tastes good, but is also healthy to eat. "Healthy" food is pretty subjective, but I’m trying to eliminate as many chemical additives as possible, little or no sugar, and low-sodium.

And the final killer problem is finding a recipe fitting those criteria that is also easy to fix. I need to figure out what I’m making for supper first thing in the morning, because by evening, I may not feel like cooking. Pain and fatigue levels can fluctuate greatly.

That best recipes are ones for the crockpot (aka slow cooker). I can put the ingredients in there in the morning, sometime after my body is fully functioning (as much as it ever does), and hopefully before I’m too tired to cook. Even on days the pain and/or fatigue levels are high, that’s the easiest meal preparation available for healthy food. Otherwise it’s too tempting to fix the quickest thing I can think of, whether it’s healthy or not.

I figure with 30 recipes, I could rotate them so we’d have something different for dinner every day for a month. In other words, we’d only eat the same thing 12 times a year, instead of eating some of our favorites 2 or 3 or 4 times a month. I’ve already found 2 or 3 new keepers, plus I have some old favorites that fit the criteria, but I've got a long way to go.

30 (Almost) Perfect Recipes. It may take a while, but I’m gonna find them!

Could somebody clone me please!???!

Just be sure to tweak the genes a little, or whatever it would take for the clones to be absolutely HEALTHY. Or maybe instead of clones, androids or even just robots that can do housework and other chores. Yeah, that’d do it.

I just finished my snail mail for the week, which is down to 8 letters at the moment, and I’ve been looking at my “To Do” list – all those irons that are either already in the fire or need to be – and wondering how I can possibly get this stuff done. Here’s a sample:

* Get some pictures from Alaska properly sized and uploaded for prints to send my Dad. He’s requested some because he “only took 200 pictures and he figures I took more.” (That probably qualifies as one of the understatements of the year, hee, hee.)

* Get rid of 3 buck goats that are the present bane of my existence. (See story at Rural Ramblings for details.)

* Sort through materials from Fibro Clinic and come up with a workable plan on how to implement all the stuff I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve barely made a dent in it.

* Finish clearing out the spare room to make a space for Ellie to sleep in just a little over a week. (Can’t wait!) I made the mistake of starting to put stuff from the office in there, thinking we’d “upgrade” the office next, but that project is going to have to go on hold a little while.

* Finish my project of making a space for photography equipment on a set of shelves between the living room and dining area.

* Get cracking on the 2008 Ellie calendar. I’ve barely started and need to have it done the first part of November!

* Continue clearing stuff out of house by either giving it away or selling it on eBay.

Well, I could go on and on. I see the turtle’s tank needs topped off with more water. There are always dirty dishes, laundry and trash to deal with. (We must be the trashiest people! We’re always carrying bags of trash out!) The bird’s cage needs cleaned. I need to do some baking. I need to clean house. I need to…

I need to do more things than I can manage, but once again, I’m not sure which ones to cut out. Guess I’ll just keep plugging away!

Sure could use those housecleaning robots though.

I've got too many irons in the fire...

It seems like one of the biggest problems of modern life is having too many irons in the fire. Everyone knows what someone means when they use that phrase, but I’m always curious as to how these phrases get started.

Turns out in the “old days” before blacksmiths had thermometers, the only way they had to gauge the workability of the metal was by its’ color. Iron goes through several color stages as it heats up before becoming the orange-yellow that is the proper temperature for working.

A blacksmith would put several rods of iron into the forge fire, and wait for them to heat to a pliable temperature. If he didn’t keep irons in the fire and tried to work the metal at a lower temperature, he’d end up having to pound twice as hard as he would have if he waited for it to reach the proper temperature, and that would be a waste of his valuable time. He needed to keep irons in the fire… BUT… if irons were left in the fire too long, the metal got too hot and simply melted away, and that was a waste of his valuable resources.

So if there were too many irons in the fire, it was impossible to keep track of which ones were ready to work. There was no way to work efficiently, and some valuable resources would likely be needlessly lost.

That’s my problem. I have too many irons in the fire to properly keep track of each one, and to give each “iron” the attention it deserves and needs so I don’t waste valuable resources such as my time and energy.

I work on one project for a while, then another claims my attention, and I’m constantly just trying to keep up. Yet, the problem with all the “irons” is knowing which ones to take out of the fire! Which irons do I continue working on, how much of my resources of time and energy do I give to them, and what should have priority?

I start weekdays fixing up a humor mailing and sending it out to a list of people. I could quit that, but then I also use it for my one remaining “giving back” project, doing something for others by sending snail mail to some active military penpals, a veteran and a Chemobuddy (someone currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer).

I’m trying to clear out the house, getting rid of all the excess from combining households (3 +). That would also hopefully help clear out any possible allergens or potential chemical sensitivities, and maybe make some extra money by selling stuff on eBay. But it all takes a lot of time!

I have things I want to be doing with photography and writing. I’m trying to improve my health, working with the Fibromyalgia Clinic staff on a whole lot of changes, including diet. Once again, it all takes a lot of time and effort.

All these things and more I didn’t mention, plus the usual household and farm chores, are probably more than I could do if I were perfectly healthy. Yet each one interconnects to something else, and my irons are so tangled up together, I don’t know how to pull just one out of the fire.

I’ve got too many irons in the fire and can’t figure out what to do about it.

The Human Barometer

It’s tough being a human barometer. Actually, it’s not 100% certain I’ll have pain when it’s going to rain, but if it’s a major storm… oh yeah.

Last night we had severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings. During the day I was feeling decent, but as the evening wore on and the storm got closer and closer, the pain got more and more intense.

Ouch.

I guess this is a common problem with fibromyalgia. Charting the weather is even part of the Fibro Handbook Diary that I'm supposed to be filling out.

We need rain, but there’s a price to pay – gotta live with the rain pain!

Helping Ellie Walk

Ever hear of an AFO? No, not a UFO, an AFO. It stands for Ankle-Foot Orthosis, and it’s a brace/splint for the lower leg.

Ellie just got some cool new ones to help her walk. Like many kids with Cerebral Palsy, she has trouble with a scissoring motion when trying to walk. These nifty “gadgets” are supposed to help correct that problem.

Here she is trying them out:
In the next picture, you can get a closer look at them from the back.
And here's an even closer look at the back side. How spiffy! They have ballerinas on them! And since we're on the subject of Ellie, I also got an oh-so-cool little video last night of Ellie saying her name! That "L" sound is hard when you have trouble with fine motor control, so we're excited she's learned to say her name!
And there you have it, the latest updates on the cutest 2-year-old in the world!

Our home away from home...

At least for one more night!

Resting up a little...

I sent the guys off to visit The Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville. It’s full of… duh! Planes! I’m not keenly interested, but they both expressed interest in it.

Of course, the main reason I suggested they go and leave me here was to give me a chance for some extra rest. I didn’t sleep well last night. Not in the bed. Not on the couch in the basement. Not on the couch in the living room.

So the fatigue and pain have hit me kind of hard today.

I’m also starting to wonder if there’s not a “chemical sensitivities” component to my problem. There were a number of questions on the form I filled out for the Fibro Clinic about it.

So I wonder… I did much better on the cruise than I imagined I would. The crew was composed of total neat freaks, with someone cleaning all the time. The ship was kept spotless – even the outside!

At home, there’s dust, closets full of things including vet meds (I detest the smell of the liquid Vitamin B complex), and there’s also a basement crammed full of all kinds of stuff, including unprocessed wool.

Here, there’s a sign right on the fridge stating they spray the house monthly for pests, so there’s bound to be a chemical residue. And a different environment is bound to have different stuff I’m not used to. Plus it’s an old house, sitting in the woods, so think dampness and mold.

I also have two cousins who have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Disorder. I have no idea if there's a genetic predisposition to this. I'm only starting to consider it as another possibility and haven't done any research.

But considering chemical sensitivities as a possibility, it’s one more reason to get back to work on the house and CLEAR IT OUT as much as possible!!! It’s a daunting task when you can only work short periods at a time, and there are so many other things that also need done.

For instance, I’m going to have to work hard on changing my diet as part of the program from the Fibro Clinic, which means more and different food preparations. I need to start an exercise program that includes some stretches and walking. And there’s always dirty dishes, laundry and just the day to day stuff of living.

I need more hours in the day I’m up to working! To get those, I need to do all of those other things I’ve mentioned. To be able to do that, I need to be working more every day. To be able to do that...

And so it goes, round and round! I can but try, and hope to make progress.

Traveling AGAIN…

Be careful what you wish for…. I’m sure you’ve heard that adage. So I was tired of hanging around home all the time, and wanted some time away.

Wow! Did I get THAT wish!!!

Seems like it’s been one thing after another lately. And I’m thrilled to be able to go places, but it would be nice to have a little more time in-between to think about where I’ve been, and get a little more rest.

I know, I know, never satisfied.

So here we are in Gatlinburg, all set to enjoy the Smoky Mountains.

We’re in a neat little round house. Yes, it’s really round, at least it’s about 8’ sections connected together in as round a shape as possible. There’s a little kitchen and dining area when you walk in, with a fireplace in the middle and living area to the left. In back there are two bedrooms with a full bathroom in-between.

Downstairs there’s a game room with a pool table, tv, and game table. There’s also a half-bath with a washer and dryer.

It’s a neat little set-up. Jonathan and Jess have decided it would make a great bachelor pad, or be nice for a couple.

But anyway, the point is, we’re traveling again. I still haven’t managed to find time to get through all the pictures from Alaska. Then we went to Georgia for me to go to the clinic, and I was kind of out of it for a while after that. Then we went to the Fiddler’s Convention last Friday, and I have some mini-movies from that I want to upload to You Tube. And now we’re in Gatlinburg, TN. Later this month we’ll have company, then soon after that I go back to Georgia for my second clinic visit, then over Thanksgiving we’ll be in Florida.

Well, I certainly can’t complain about a lack of travel these days!

Dealing with Cerebral Palsy

As most of you know who might be reading this, we have a sweet little granddaughter who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was almost a year old. The picture above was taken when we visited them in Canada about 9 months ago. I went along to Ellie's therapy session at The Movement Centre.

I was sooooo thrilled to see how they were working with her. It is the BEST all over method of therapy, stuff I'd read about and was hoping would be available for Ellie. Instead of the conventional methods of concentrating solely on moving her muscles for her, they teach her to do it herself, helping her re-pattern her brain pathways.

It is most excellent!

This is a movie about the center. Ellie was invited to be in it, which would have definitely upped the "cute factor", but unfortunately, the family schedule didn't allow for time to fit in the hour long trip to Winnipeg. However, you can see her two therapists, and especially hear them too, as Gemma has a lovely accent! They are FANTASTIC with Ellie!

So though Ellie isn't in it, it's still a great movie, and if you're interested in where she goes for her very bestest therapy, it only takes about 10 minutes to watch it all.




I hope more and more of these centers are established, because they do GREAT work!