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?”


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.


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!

The Railway Made of Gold

Slowly, ever so slowly, I’m making my way through the pictures from the Alaska trip. It takes a long time to sort through them and resize them for slideshows. Then it takes even more time to look through some of the literature I brought back so I can give an accurate description of the pictures. Unfortunately, I don’t have total recall -- I’m lucky to have even partial recall some days! But that means I have to check on some things to make sure I’ve remembered correctly what they are.

Click on the picture to open the slideshow.

These pictures are from Skagway, and our second shore excursion. We took a train trip to the top of White Pass on a narrow gauge railway. To read more about the interesting history involving the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush and this railroad, check out the entry at Rural Ramblings.

I took a lot of pictures. The good news is the ones on the way up to White Pass turned out pretty well. The bad news is the ones I took from White Pass back to Skagway somehow got messed up, and every file reads “Error”. That’s the first time I’ve had that happen in all the years I’ve been using digital cameras. It’s good that I’d already taken some pictures of the same scenery, so I didn’t lose everything, but on the other hand, I knew more what I wanted to “capture” on the way back down, so had a lot more pictures, and I’m sure some better pictures.

Oh well! If I’d known, I wouldn’t have stayed out on that little platform freezing my fingers and other parts of my anatomy. I’d have sat in the much warmer coach car and just watched the sights go by.

At any rate, the train trip was great. The scenery was beyond awesome, and there was the added thrill of looking waaaayyyy down those steep gorges while standing on a little bitty platform with just one rail between you and a very long tumble to oblivion!

It’s another trip I’d do again in a heartbeat.

Stellar Seals

I also took a little movie of the Stellar Seals on the island, just so you could hear how much NOISE they were making! You can check out an embedded video on the Rural Ramblings site,

or you can click on the picture above to open a new page, and see a bigger version. My camera and my experience don't make for top-notch movies, but you can hear how LOUD these seals are, at least!

A Whale of a good time…

Going to Alaska was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Seeing whales in their natural environment was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Combine the two and you have a day I’d repeat in a heartbeat if ever given the chance.

Not surprisingly, I took more pictures on this excursion than at any other time. There were whales and seals and eagles and beautiful scenery just about everywhere you looked. It was almost a surreal experience, like I couldn’t believe I was really seeing all those things… postcard moments brought to life.

Some of the pictures are so-so and I could probably delete, but most are decent. I picked out 45 of the better ones to make this slide show.
As always, click on the picture above, and it will open a new page with the slides index page. The first picture is at the top left. There are 3 pages of slides, so don't forget to move to the next one after you get to the last slide on a page.

The slideshow software doesn’t leave a lot of room for captions on the pictures, so if you have any questions about any of them, just let me know. Most were taken in the Auke Bay area, north of Juneau, Alaska.

Also, though my little camera doesn’t take the best videos, but here’s one I took of the scenery as we were headed back to the shore. The noise is from the waterjets and wind.

As you can see, Alaska is a land of stunning beauty!

Happy Herxheimer!!!

Okay, ‘fess up – have you ever even heard of the Herxheimer Reaction? Or perhaps you’ve heard it called Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, JHR, the Herxheimer Effect, the Herxheimer Response, a Herx Reaction, Herx or Herks. I’m sure you know all about it!

Yeah, right… if you do, I’m impressed. I’d certainly never heard of it, though strangely enough, it turns out I have dealt with the problem. However, I was dealing with sheep, not people, and I’ve never heard it given a specific name.

So what exactly is it? The Herxheimer Reaction is an immune system reaction to the toxins that are released when large amounts of pathogens are being killed off, and the body does not eliminate the toxins quickly enough. The released toxins make the original symptoms worse, or create new ones.

It’s also referred to as a healing crisis, a detox reaction, or die-off syndrome. I’ve seen it in critters when they’ve had a really bad infection or parasite load, and once the medicine takes hold, the toxins from the bacteria or parasites dying off make the animal even sicker. Sometimes the animal’s system is already so weakened they don’t survive.

Fortunately, with people it usually just causes flu-like symptoms, making a person think they’re getting worse, when actually, it’s an indication the treatment is working.

So why am I interested? Well, when I got the IV therapy with meds/supplements at the clinic Tuesday, I was told some people feel better right away, some people don’t see any change for a while, and some people actually feel worse at first, due to the Herxheimer Reaction.

Bet you can guess which category I fell into! Yesterday I was so out of it, just breathing seemed like a tiresome effort. Thankfully, today I’m feeling better, though I'm certainly not ready to run laps around the house just yet.

So even if I feel lousy, if this is really a sign the treatment is doing some good, guess I should say "Happy Herxheimer!"

Cruising the Inside Passage

With all the things going on, I'm having a tough time getting through all my Alaska pictures! At the rate I'm going, I might have them all up before Christmas.

These pictures are from days 3 and 4 of my trip, September 17th & 18th (Monday and Tuesday).Day 3 we spent cruising the Inside Passage, and on Day 4 we made it to Juneau, Alaska. As in previous entries, just click on the picture above, and it will open a new page with the slide show.

All the pictures are in chronological order. I have more pictures from Day 4, from our whale watching excursion, but those are worthy of a slideshow by themselves.

I'm just not normal...

Yeah, yeah, I can hear all the snickering. You’re all thinking, “So tell us something we didn’t know already!”

So okay, I will.

Of course, you already knew today was my first appointment at the Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Clinic. I couldn’t have breakfast or take my two thyroid medications because they needed to draw blood for lab work. They didn’t waste any time getting to it either. As soon as I filled out the usual insurance paperwork, the phlebotomist ushered me into her domain. There were no mirrors in the room, and I know the reason why –galactic class vampires work there!

First clue - she started out by asking if I’d drank any water today, and immediately handed me a bottle of water “because we’re going to need to take a lot of blood.” The little alarm bells started to ring, because I get light-headed and queasy if they draw more than a couple of vials at the doctor’s office, but I figured I was tough enough to handle it. (Pride goeth before a fall?)

I started sipping water and she started sipping blood…. uh, looking for a vein. That was the first obstacle of the day, finding said vein. She finally located one and delivered the “You’re gonna feel a big pinch” line. She filled up a vial, then switched tubes and filled another, and another, and another, until I finally got brave enough to ask her just how many vials she was going to draw.

She says, “Do you REALLY want to know?”
I said, “Yeah, how many?”
She says, “TWENTY.”
I said, “How many have you got?
She says, “Fifteen.”
I said, “You’d better hurry up, cause I’m going under.”
She yells for a nurse to get in there FAST.

Now if you’ve never fainted, let me say here that’s it’s NOTHING like the delicate swoon you see in old movies, where the heroine puts her hand to her forehead, sighs, and slowly and gracefully collapses to the floor.

No, a real faint, at least the kind I experience, is not such a benign experience. The light-headedness, buzzing in your ears, nausea, and feeling of sliding under and blacking out – it’s NOT a delicate event. It’s a nasty, hope you don’t ever repeat it, kind of experience.

I have no memory of them drawing the last three vials of blood. The next thing I do remember is my vision starting to clear a little, and this nurse peering in my face and saying, “Ah good, she’s back.”

No, I’m not normal. I have hard to find veins, and I faint if you try to drain me dry of blood.

At this point the nurses informed Jess, like or not buddy, you’re going to go in that room and stay with your wife! I guess the idea was if I had any more problems he could holler for help.

Fortunately, it wasn’t long until the doctor came in. She did the “tender points” test for fibromyalgia, and drafted Jess as her assistant to write down the results. Wow! Turns out I hurt in places I hadn’t even realized hurt!

She explained the various facets of fibromyalgia. At one point she was talking about the mitochondria and how they helped make energy, and I nodded my head and said, “Yeah, the Krebs Cycle.” Her eyebrows went up and she said, “Yes! That’s it all right.” Hey, I had biology!

She asked good questions, she explained things but didn’t talk down to me, she checked for physical findings, and then she really amazed me when she talked about some supplements she wanted me to try, and told me to just start one at a time, with a few days between to see how I reacted to each one before trying the next.

Oh my word! Amazing! A doctor with enough sense to realize if you give someone a whole bunch of new meds at once, and they have a reaction, you won’t know WHICH med is causing the problem. Impressive!!!

Next was getting some IV therapy. There we go again, hunting for the elusive vein. After a lot of “ouch, ouch, ouch,” the IV was finally in place and the young lady said, “There, the worst is over.”

Well, not exactly. For the next couple of hours my arm ached and my body twitched and shook all over. I seriously considered telling them to pull the IV, but kept thinking I’d hang in just a while longer. I managed to last until it was all in.

Turns out there was lidocaine in the IV, and 5% or so of people have an adverse reaction to lidocaine.

I’m one of them.
Like I said, I’m not normal.

It was a long day, much longer than I’d anticipated. Before I was through, there was another needle for a shot in the hip, and the need for a couple of doses of Immodium. And I listened to a lot of talk from other people there for IV therapy. Between what they had to say and what the doctor told me, I’m afraid things will likely get worse before they get better. The bottom line is I have to tough it out for a while, and just hope that in the long run, it will indeed get better.

Oh, and to survive all the “not normal” reactions while I’m at it.

Here we are in Marietta

Georgia, that is! Having grown up close to Marietta, Ohio, that’s obviously the first place I think of when someone says “Marietta.” But tonight we are indeed in Marietta, GEORGIA.

Why? After a long hiatus where I didn’t bother to try to do anything new for the pain problems – being totally sick of nothing helping, I decided to give it another shot, and at least try to do something for the fibromyalgia.

This clinic interests me because it has more of an unconventional approach. They say, “Our treatment approach begins with testing for hormonal imbalances, immune deficiencies, thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, and underlying mitochondrial dysfunction. We treat the underlying causes of your condition rather than just masking your symptoms with medications.”

I guess if nothing they do helps, it’ll just be another waste of time and money, which has pretty much been the usual. If it helps at all, that’ll be a first!

It should be interesting.