My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday

Seven Quick Takes Friday... I'm not linking up with the interesting and entertaining folks who do 7 Quick Takes but I'm following that format because I'm not feeling terribly creative. Blog parroting? Sure, why not?

1. After roughly nine months without a cell phone, I have a new (to me) phone and a new (to me) phone number! This means for all my Real Life Friends (and family) and for all my Bloggy Friends who are very real to me (and many are LIKE family) I need to trade digits with ya. I can't get the numbers off my very old phone. Maybe I could but it's not worth the effort. Not that YOU aren't worth the effort. I want to know how to get in touch with YOU, I promise. And vice versa. It's just embarrassing to drag my seven year old pay as you go phone to the people who deal with antique phones. So message me or email me your number if you want me to know it. And vice versa. Although I can't promise to answer the phone ever because I just am not fun and social like that, I will frequently respond to a text because I am all about typing on a tiny little Barbie doll size keyboard. Because even though I'm not what my friend A.T. calls "Thumb Girl", you know, the people who always have their face buried in their phone, I still have that skewed modern mentality that actually speaking with someone is too much work. Here's the real story: I must always multi-task. I can't just sit and watch tv, it must be tv + laptop OR cooking + listening to the tv OR reading with the tv on in the background. Ok. Maybe tv is the real problem but the thing is, talking on the phone requires undivided attention and that's not usually fun for me. And this Quick Take is no longer quick so... moving on....

2. I listed the books I got at the library the other day or rather described them without titles. There was one more book that I actually started reading first that is really awesome. It's by Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-a and it is very enjoyable. I have true literary a.d.d. I can't finish one book before wanting to start another, not because the first book isn't good but because I can't wait to read the next one too. I need to have a day where I keep the tv off and just read nonstop. But that day won't be tomorrow because...

3. Tomorrow is Austin's 20th birthday and we are going to have a big time in our small town to celebrate! Ok. Big time might be an exaggeration but Cody and Marquee are coming up and I can't wait to see my Granddoggie Sammy! And his mommy and daddy, of course. And Austin is doing crawfish (gag) and we're having country fried steak and cheesecake and who knows what else. I'm expecting a full belly by this time tomorrow!

4. Not that I didn't have a full belly today! Remember my turkey veggie meatloaf that I used to make for me and Austin? Basically I do a meatloaf that is half ground turkey and half mushed chickpeas and I pack it full of all kinds of minced (and therefore invisible) vegetables. I made it today for the first time in several years. Today's version had cabbage, spinach, parsnips, red and orange bell pepper and a granny smith apple tucked in with it. It was a great solution then to getting in extra servings of vegetables when I didn't feel like cooking a big meal. I'm doing such a bad job with nutrition lately even though I know, like I really KNOW that eating right fixes so much of what ails me so I made a batch of turkey veggie loaves.

I'm running out of Quick Takes...

5. Did you see Grey's Anatomy last night? It was sort of hard to follow at times but I'm so happy that April and Jackson are together. They just make sense together. I never really watched Grey's before I was home during the day. It's our daily "soap" since all the soaps I used to watch have gone off the air. I'm still bitter that they took Guiding Light off. Even though I'm on my third loop through the entire series, I still enjoy Grey's enough to record it if I'm going to be away from the tv when it's on in the afternoon. The afternoons now are showing the time around when Izzy gets the brain tumor. Even though I know how it turns out, it's entertaining.

6. I'm not a big movie fan. Well... not a CURRENT movie fan. I'm all about some Turner Classic Movies and know way more about old cinema than someone my age should. But I am a big fan of the Oscars. I love the pomp and circumstance, the tradition, the red carpet. I love the human interest side of it. And having worked in local theater and seen how much of themselves actors pour into a role, I love seeing folks be rewarded for their efforts. My favorite thing about theater is the production process, all the effort that it takes to bring words from a page to life. I can only imagine how much bigger that process is with movies. In another life I would have been a Costume Designer. Or a Stage Manager. Or a Production Assistant. I want to be there and enjoy the magic but not have the entire responsibility.

7. The battle with ambien continues. I've taken half of one every night this week. I haven't attempted to go without because it has been such a busy week. Next week when I don't have to be out and about during the day, I'll go back to waging war on insomnia. For now, I'm just proud that I'm able to get by with less.

And that's about it for today. Hope you have a great weekend! Love and hugs! And don't forget to send me your phone number!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Lawyer, New Hope

I want to recap my visit with the new attorney while it's fresh in my mind even though it's exhausting to think about it right now. Just to get you up to speed... when I initially filed my disability claim with Social (in)Security, I used a big national firm that advertises that if you don't win, you don't pay. I liked that bet. They also advertise a 97% success rate. I haven't ever used an attorney before other than my divorce (she was literally an attorney/travel agent but she got the job done). It never occurred to me that a company that boasted such high success rates and only got paid if they won could possibly ditch anything that wasn't a slam dunk. Until they ditched me.

Ultimately their reason for dropping my case was exactly what I needed to know - my medical records didn't adequately support my case. This spurred me to go through the expensive and painful process of getting a Functional Capacity Evaluation, also known as an FCE. Once I had the FCE results... that I couldn't sit for long or stand for long or climb stairs ever and that their investigation shows that my pain is legitimate, etc... but also said that I could do light duty for 8 hours a day... I was really discouraged. After reviewing the results with my doctor who explained that the report really gave us exactly what we needed, it showed that I was truly having trouble with certain activities which, along with the other things that factor in that they can't evaluate in a physical exam (things like migraines and fibromyalgia) make me basically unemployable.

My doctor gave me the number for an attorney that they have worked with quite a bit and I held onto that phone number from December through last week before calling. The truth is that I couldn't handle the possible rejection of another attorney declining to take my case and I couldn't handle the possibility of an attorney who would take my case but only for cash up front (which I don't have). I knew I had some time before the case went before a judge and I needed a time out from it all. It's really very overwhelming to not be able to work. It's not even like a fun extended vacation. I can't ever get away from the financial roadblocks, even though I have a place to live. It's always stressful figuring out how to pay for medications and doctor visits and car insurance and life insurance. And then you have things happen like the whole debacle of trying to wean off blood pressure meds and having my blood pressure shoot through the roof.

At any rate... three paragraphs in and I've only told you how I ended up going to see this attorney and haven't even started talking about the visit. SO... I go to see this attorney who is highly recommended from my doctor. I worried about him not taking my case. I worried that he would want money up front. More than anything I just wanted to come away from the meeting with hope. I just needed hope.

He took a long time with me. He was very, very thorough. He was kind and when I teared up he actually teared up with me. I can't swear that it was sincere but I felt like it was. After reading through everything that's been submitted so far and getting a lot of background from me he started outlining how he would handle my case. He told me what exhibits he would put together. He told me who he would want to talk to and what records he would get. He walked me through the rest of the process and he counseled me on how to answer certain questions. For instance... when I'm asked how long I can sit before I'm uncomfortable, the answer is "it depends on what I've done the day before or the week before" which is SO true! My level of pain is entirely based on a dozen other factors such as weather and activity... He also is digging so much deeper than the other attorney did. He's going all the way back to what happened in Jacksonville and showing that I'm dealing with way more than just pain and how insult added to injury over the course of many years before my back pain ever started. Let's face it... I've had a lot, a lot of stuff wrong with me for a long time. He's incorporating the depression factor along with the pain. The truth is that the two are Siamese twins. You can't have chronic pain without depression and a lot of times the depression immobilizes you even when the pain doesn't.

He says that it's very difficult to get disability for someone under 50 years old. He also said that he doesn't take cases that he doesn't believe he can win. However he's not one of the attorneys that you only pay if you win. I don't have to pay until the case is finished but I do have to pay either way. That's a scary proposition for me but the truth is that I don't have a lot of choices. I could maybe find another big disability group to take the case on but based on my experience thus far, I'm not sure I would be well represented. It's like being penny wise and pound foolish. I have to go with the best representation I can find. The other thing is... I can't go through this process of sitting and pouring my heart out to lawyer after lawyer until I find another one and I won't find another one who is as accustomed to dealing with my doctors. I feel like he's my best chance.

The reality is that it's probably going to be another nine months AT LEAST before my case gets heard. Over the past three months I've felt like I had the full burden of this case on my own shoulders and it was too much. I may have mortgaged my soul to hire this attorney but I can honestly say that when I walked out of that office for the first time in a long time I had hope.

And now my week of way too many things to deal with is over. Tomorrow is back to the same old non-grind. Saturday, Cody and Marquee are coming up to celebrate Austin's birthday. Spring is coming and it feels like life is back on track, as crooked and crazy as my track may be. I've got my medical care situated for awhile, I've got an attorney getting my case together and I can catch my breath for a minute.

Love and hugs, y'all.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Home. Over the years that word has meant a lot of different geographical locations for me and my kids. I would have loved to be the June Cleaver type mom with the lovely two story home in a nice neighborhood. Instead I was an over-worked, under-compensated single mom in a trailer that I struggled to afford. For a blink I had the right house with the wrong man. After that I had a third floor condo in sunny Florida but it was anything but home to me. And then I came here to the mountains and found a peace that I've never found anywhere else.

But my first home was here -

1001 Oakdale Rd NE, Atlanta, Georgia. My great-grandparents moved into this home at the end of 1923,  when my grandmother was only six weeks old. She's now ninety. The home had one previous owner but only for about a year. It's in the Druid Hills area of Atlanta on a street lined with large old trees. The magnolia tree to the right of the photo made a lovely canopy for us to play under as children. Dr. Charles Pelham Ward was an Atlanta physician who had lost his first wife in childbirth leaving behind "Pelham" and two young children. He met and married a lovely widow, Sara Jane Bulloch Baldwin in 1917. They had Jane in 1919, then my Grandma Leta in 1923 and then Bette in 1924. 

It's a nice, large home with a big backyard where they kept a vegetable garden and a few farm animals. I doubt you'd find many homes now in the Atlanta city limits with farm animals or even a garden in the backyard but it was rather normal then. Granddaddy passed away in 1939 but Grandma Ward stayed in the home with her children and his children and an assortment of relatives and other strays until her death in 1975. 

This was also my dad's first home. He was brought there as a newborn by his young parents. His cousin Leslie was born the same week and her parents also lived there. Can you imagine two new moms in the same house? My grandmother was a single mom during most of her child-rearing years and 1001 Oakdale Rd was her home base, her safety net, just like my parents' house in Riverdale always was for me. 

Even though I was very young when she passed, I remember many things about the home. I remember the Mormon missionaries living in the apartment on the first floor. When you walked through the front door there was an apartment to the right. That little apartment was my first home. There was also an apartment over the garage which was, if I remember correctly, my brother's first home. There was a very creepy cellar. A bathroom by the back porch for the help. I'd be embarrassed by that if I didn't know how kind and generous my Great-Grandmother was. The home had radiators for heat, those old ugly iron things. I was scared to death of accidentally touching them. And there was a lovely sun porch on the side of the house with gliders and rockers and an old-fashioned sewing machine. There was a breakfast nook where we would eat most meals. The rule was "no sipping before the blessing!" and that iced tea was so tempting! 

The family couldn't afford to keep the house once Grandma died. I remember being there while the house was cleaned out. Among the random items discovered were a button hook for those high button shoes, Civil War swords, a 3 cent stamp... I was 7 at the time so it's odd that those things stuck in my memory. Even then I was a history enthusiast, I suppose. 

At one point, a few years ago, at the top of the housing bubble, this house was valued at over a million dollars. It's not worth as much now but it's still in a very desirable location. I would love to be able to walk through the house once more, just to see what memories it brings back for me. 

Our home here at Cedar Hollow is our new home base. I love having my nieces here after school. I love that there are enough rooms to have the family spend the night at Christmas. I love that we are making memories here. I doubt my parents will get to spend fifty years here like Grandma Ward did at her home but what years they do have, I believe they will be full of adventure. 

I'm two/thirds of the way through a very busy week (for me). I went to the doctor on Monday. I had my eligibility interview for the free clinic today. I'm approved as long as my medical records back up the fact that I have high blood pressure (no worries there... ). They'll call to set up a lab appointment and a doctor visit in the next two weeks. They'll call in the next two weeks, not sure how quickly they'll get me in as they are only open to see patients one day a week but they were very nice there and everyone waiting was friendly. It's different to go to a program that is a free, privately run program versus a government program. There is no feeling of entitlement, no attitudes on the part of the employees or patients. Instead it was this sense of cooperation - workers donating their time and talents and recipients grateful for the gift and blessing they were being provided. I'm certainly grateful. 

Tomorrow I see the new lawyer and hope he'll be able to take my disability case. If not, back to the drawing board. I'll be glad to get through with the appointment tomorrow and have this week behind me. It was nothing painful but it has been stressful and tiring. 

I went to the library today and picked up a new selection of books. I've got a sleeping cat on me so I can't get up to get the list of them for you but there's a book by Charles Krauthammer, there's a book about the Hatfield and McCoy feud, there's a book by a woman who has a disabling illness and there's a book about historical fashion. There's something I'm forgetting. Anyways. Still enjoying my library time and appreciating the opportunity to "visit" other places and stories and to expand my mind a little bit. 

Add in Farmville2, sudoku, a trip to the grocery store with Pop (where he treated me to a Starbucks visit!) and you've pretty much got the full story of my week. Hope this hump day finds you well. Love and hugs, y'all!

Monday, February 24, 2014

About Being Tired & Other Assorted Monday Whining

I had a really rough night of very little sleep Saturday night and spent all day Sunday feeling like I was in a fog. Last night I rewarded myself with a little sleep aid and was tucked in bed before Downton Abbey came on. It helped. I slept until 6-ish this morning.

Sleep is my best friend and my enemy all at the same time. I need it so bad but when I lay down at night I feel so much pressure to fall asleep that I can't. I saw the doctor today and he said that losing the dependence on ambien is a great idea but not if it means I end up exhausted which exacerbates pain. He's ok with the "use it sparingly" or "as needed" dosing. The truth is that it takes 2 or 3 days to catch up from one night of poor sleep. Everything in my body lends toward exhaustion even if I get enough sleep. I have sleep apnea and fibromyalgia and of course, my constant companion chronic pain plus the whole COPD shortness of breath carnival ride. I'm tired even when I'm not sleep deprived.

Anyways. I feel so bad complaining about being exhausted when the most active thing I do over the course of the day is climb the stairs three times to eat. I know that Throw Back Heather who was working two jobs and raising three kids and dealing with all the stresses of not having enough money or time thinks that Current Day Heather is a real whiner. TB Heather is all, "cry me a river" and CD Heather is going, "YOU JUST WAIT". The worst kind of tired is the tired that comes from doing nothing at all. Staying alive is exhausting.

Plus I have this man-child living here who has unpredictable outbursts and tantrums that would give a two year old a run for it's money. Trying to talk him back to rational behavior is a delicate dance. You have to agree with him enough to engage him in conversation and yet somehow help him come to the realization that his reactions to things are not quite right. It's mentally exhausting.

I found out that my additional lab expense (the extra $200 I was billed) was due to a questionable result on a lab test. It showed a *possible* use of lortab along with opiates. The opiates were fine, I'm prescribed those. The additional screening showed that there was nothing else in my system besides what I was prescribed. No explanation of why it would show up, just a fluke. A $200 fluke. That I haven't paid because... well, I don't have $200 to throw away. Dr. Matt said they really try to avoid doing the additional testing especially since I am "self-pay". However, the sad truth of the matter is that they are closely scrutinized because they prescribe pain meds and if a test is borderline, they have to err on the side of caution. Pain patients are truly a second class culture in this country. I'm telling you, smoking pot is becoming more and more attractive. I haven't and I won't but the hoops I jump through to be able to legally relieve pain is just wrong.

The good news is that they agreed to let me come every three months instead of every other month which will save me over $300 this year. Hopefully I'll get accepted to the free clinic and they can help with some of the pain. They can't act as a pain clinic but maybe we can handle some of the things that cause pain like the evil gut pain that had me wrapped in knots today. Probably half the strong pain medicine that I've taken over the past few months has been because of that pain. Seriously, you have no idea how much I want a diagnosis and remedy for that pain. Let me just go back to the normal stuff that I've grown accustomed to...

I got really nauseous and dizzy on my way back from the doctor. I was fighting the urge to purge and literally counting the minutes until we were back home. When I got here I curled up on the loveseat and my sweet niece Jamie covered me up with a blanket and turned the tv to Curious George before she headed outdoors to play. Stubby has taken over the couch so nobody can sit there without moving his huge feline self out of the way. Austin made homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner and that went down ok so maybe it was just a fluke that I needed to puke. Teehee. Sorry. I went too far for that rhyme. Other than the aforementioned extreme exhaustion, I'm fine now.

My adventures for tomorrow include the library and pharmacy if I feel like it. If not, I'll just tack those tasks onto my trip to the free clinic on Wednesday. My apologies to those of you out there who work 12 hour days and are still raising kids and actually DO things that make you tired. I know I don't have the right to complain but... it is what it is.

Happy Monday. Love and hugs, y'all.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Week In Review - Sorta

I have been a lousy blogger this week but I have been a fantastic bookworm! I've also been a champion Farmviller. I've kept my little corner of the world neat and mostly organized. I've interacted much with my son, Chatty Charlie. I've boosted NBC's Olympics ratings. I've cuddled lots of kitties. I've played outdoors with my two favorite redheads. SO even though it's been quiet here in the blogosphere, life has continued here in the Whine Cellar.

Our old dog Lily took a turn for the worse this week. She was diagnosed with cancer last year - gosh, probably last Summer, it's been awhile. Other than a crazy excessive thirst and subsequent frequent need to potty, she's been fairly normal. She's lost weight despite eating more than a grown buffalo. This week, though, she stopped eating and would barely move off of her bed. I went up to visit with her one night, worried that she might not make it through the night. I just patted her on the head and told her what a pretty girl she is and you know, stuff you tell dogs.  And since she was barely moving we moved the gate at the top of our stairs, not worried that she would come down during the night. Of course, at 2am not only was she downstairs but she was downstairs throwing up the most absolutely disgustingly impossible to explain vomit that I have ever seen. Since she can't climb UP the stairs I walked around the house outside with her at 2am. Safe because we live in a low crime (no crime) area... scary because we don't have good outside lighting and there are no street lights. When it's dark outside it's pitch black, can't see your hand in front of your face dark. I didn't want to wake anyone else up so I dragged my body up the outside stairs calling out encouragement to her as she walked up the steep hill to the driveway. I fumbled around with the front door lock - it's one of those that you punch in a code which is helpful when you're locked out at 2am with a vomiting dog. After that night she seems to have rebounded. She's eating again, not vomiting, wagging her tail, getting up to greet people. She's still a very old, sick dog but she doesn't seem to be suffering. Once she gets to the point where she's uncomfortable then we'll make some tough choices but for now she has some quality of life.

Stubby and Little Trouble Kitty cuddling on the ottoman 

Little Kitty watching Pound Puppies - his clubhouse in the background
Austin built a climbing toy/ladder thing for Little Kitty to be able to climb to the top of our storage shelf where his little clubhouse (a box with a hole cut in it for him to peek out of) is located. His breed of cat is one that needs to be as high as possible. If he were an outdoor cat and we lived in the 1950's he would be the kind of cat that the firemen have to rescue from a tree. He loves being on top of the shelf but has a hard time getting up there by himself. When I hold him and look out the sliding glass door after we get through the list of things that we look for in the backyard (you know, "are there birds outside? are there squirrels outside? are there ducks on the lake? are there deer in the woods?" we have a whole routine) he reaches for the top shelf and he will sit there and survey the land from his perch. Austin's little invention is a little rough - he's never had a guy in his life to teach him how to use tools. His biological father is great at building things, very mechanically inclined but Austin hasn't spent much time with him. His gay fathers taught him to appreciate a nice mani-pedi and how to decorate - Austin's great at decorating - but they weren't usually wielding power tools. It's rough but it's entirely functional and Little Kitty is LOVING it! Austin also attached some carpet for him to use to sharpen his claws - he's our only cat with claws. I'll take a picture eventually but today I don't want to move.

Yesterday and today have been really rough days for me pain-wise. The evil gut pain was so bad yesterday that percocet + tramodol didn't touch it. I used my labor breathing for awhile and eventually it eased up. My left leg/left hip is hurting more than usual and I'm having more trouble getting around. I've been trying to do some very minor, very basic yoga and pilates moves... nothing more than tightening my core, trying to balance on one foot, a tiny bit of stretching. After three years of inactivity I have no muscle tone left. I have the fibromyalgia "flu-ey" achy pain all over. I'm coughing up a lot more junk. I'm just really run down.

On top of the three books I've read this week (actually, I've read parts of five) I also binge-read Kelly Stamps' blog from the time before she got pregnant with Harper through the time when Harper was born - which is when I started reading five years ago. Her faith is inspiring. I find her to be consistent and believable and humble. I've read other blogs written by Christian women who weren't as consistent or honest (McKMama for instance whose real life was nothing like what she tried to portray in her blog) so it was refreshing to read back through to see who she was before her blog was so well read.

Anyways... that's what's been happening here the last few days. I'm including a few pictures of my nieces from Wednesday afternoon when we were all playing in the backyard. These are the same ones I posted on Facebook so if you saw them there... well, they're the same. Full disclosure: they played and I sat in the porch swing and took pictures. It was still fun.

Hope you have a happy weekend! Love and hugs, y'all!

Austin is almost 20, Sarabeth is 11 - she's taller!

Jamie is always dancing and prancing around

Redneck Basketball

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PJ Wednesday

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday. I went to the library and picked up some new books. I got caught up in reading a history of Northeast Georgia and couldn't put it down long enough to blog. I'm a bookworm like that. I also checked out Following Civil War Photographers, Blizzard! The Great Storm of 88, Edward Windsor- Royal Enigma (obviously a biography on Prince Edward) and Dam Break In Georgia, a book about the Toccoa Falls dam break.

I picked up the book about the dam break because I remember being read that book in Fifth Grade Sunday School at First Baptist Church of Red Oak by Scrap Wheeler. Scrap was an old football coach and a great man of God. He was the person who introduced me to the Super Bowl - the year that the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing he talked about it in Sunday School. He also used to say that the Bible is a book about baseball because it starts out with "In the big inning". His wife took me to get my ears pierced when I was nine at Merle Norman's in the Riverdale Plaza. It's funny how these sort of memories come to you from just seeing the title of a book. It's also a great reminder to me to be a positive influence on my nieces because kids DO remember the things you teach them in childhood. In my opinion, they remember a lot more of what you teach them in childhood than they remember of what you teach them as teenagers because children are eager to listen and aren't yet rebellious, usually.

I'm also still reading the book on the history of Saturday Night Live. I haven't finished 12 Years A Slave and I'm still reading Beth Moore's To Live Is Christ for my Bible Study time. Slowly I'm moving from screen time to page time and I think it's been good for me.

I went into town yesterday to pick up an application package for the local free clinic. They were super nice, it was very clean and organized and they even had free things set out for people. I picked up a 200 count bottle of Advil, some face cleanser and lip balm all for free! They also had shaving cream, sunscreen... things you would find in a drug store. It seems like a great program and I am very hopeful that I will be able to be accepted into the program. I have an appointment next Wednesday to see if I qualify. You have no idea what a blessing this would be for me. It's hard knowing that there is stuff wrong that really needs to be checked out (like the evil gut pain) but you can't afford it. It's not a matter of choice, it's a matter of limitation. In a way I'm glad my blood pressure shot up so high on Sunday because it prompted me to fight harder for what I need. It's was a good kick in the pants.

I also talked to a new attorney for my disability case yesterday. I have been without representation for the past three months, ever since the big disability group I was using decided they didn't want to represent me. They didn't feel like my case had the medical records to back up my claim. Since then I've had the function capacity evaluation and my pain doctor is supposed to have documented some things in my file that were not in there. I put off contacting the lawyer for this long because honestly, I just couldn't deal with it. It's very overwhelming and exhausting to go through all the nitty gritty of what's wrong with me with a new attorney. This is one that is local and frequently works with my doctor so I know there will be good lines of communication between them. My case likely will not go before a judge until close to the end of this year at the earliest so I knew I had time to take a breather from the situation and so that's what I did. There's a method to my procrastination sometimes.

Yesterday was a day of checking things off the to do list and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. Next week will be busy with a visit to the pain doctor on Monday, the interview at the free clinic on Wednesday and an appointment with the lawyer on Thursday.

I didn't sleep well last night - revenge of the chili - and so today is going to be one of those days that I'm sort of sleepwalking through. I got a shower this morning and put on clean pjs but I'm staying in pjs. My nieces will be here after school but otherwise it's going to just be a quiet day watching figure skating and hockey... soaking up as much Winter Olympics as I can. Saving my strength for next week.

I got a card in the mail yesterday from Yakima, Washington and one today from Carrollton, Georgia - both people that I only know from blogging. It's a good reminder that you guys are out there and you really care what happens to me and I promise that I don't take that for granted. There are about a half dozen ladies that I bonded with nine years ago when I was using AOL Journals to blog - we called it "J-land" - and I am still in touch with those ladies on a weekly, if not daily basis. Even though some say that blogging is on the way out, I still see it as an excellent way to stay connected with the world outside of my nest. Whenever I hear from you guys it really means a lot to me, more than you know. Thanks for the love, y'all! Happy Wednesday!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Update

After stressing myself to sleep last night (also with a boost of my now "rarely used" ambien) around 9:30... I was wide awake at 6 this morning with a KILLER headache. All of the scary things that Dr. Google told me last night about high blood pressure were hitting me at once. I knew this was the BIG ONE. I took some ibuprofen and laid on the couch for about an hour and... I survived.

I called my doctors office this morning and told them what had happened and they agreed to call me in three more months of my meds. Problem temporarily solved. Then today I found a free clinic in town that is available to people who have income below 150% of the poverty level who don't have insurance and have chronic diseases. I have no idea what the current poverty level is but in the past 9 months my income has been ZERO so that has to be under the limit, right? They specify on their website that they treat things like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. You have to go in for an interview to see if you qualify so that is on my agenda tomorrow - setting that appointment. I would have done it today but my trip to the library and the pharmacy wore me out and the library wasn't even open.

I still have a lingering headache and I went ahead and took my meds earlier than usual this afternoon because I figure I've got some blood pressure lowering still to do. A lot of things that I was going through over the past week of really not feeling right make a little more sense in the scheme of things. So the official results of my pharmaceutical experiments are: yes, I can live without ambien - no, I can't live without blood pressure meds. Lesson learned.

So yesterday afternoon Austin and I got into a long debate about him going barefoot. I think I mentioned that I took him to Walmart one day and didn't even notice until he was coming out that he was barefoot. He hates shoes. Trying to get him to buy shoes is like shoving bamboo shoots under fingernails - YOUR fingernails. His perspective is that his feet are tough and he's used to it and what does it matter? My perspective is probably whatever you're thinking right now - disease, risk of cutting his feet, and so on and so forth. He thinks that being an adult (chronologically anyways) means that he can make his own choices about what to wear. He thinks that places that require people to wear shoes are just mean. Being the trained Risk Manager that I am, I tried to enlighten him on the possibly hazards he could encounter by being outside. He said that our yard is completely safe and there's no reason he should have to wear shoes outside at home.

After that he and Pop went out to start planting the garden. A gardening tool was dropped on his foot, cutting the top of his foot. He didn't even want to tell me. I suggested he wash it carefully to avoid infection. At first he refused but when I insisted he got mad and took a whole shower. "Happy now?" he said. Not yet. I still have a barefoot kid.

Today in Walmart Pop tried to buy him some appropriate shoes for being outside. He declined. It's fairly impossible to buy shoes for someone whose feet are as big as his are without having him try them. And the bottom line is that if he doesn't want them, he won't wear them. I've been fighting this battle since he took his first steps. It's a sensory thing from the Asperger's. He has to have certain fabric and textures and... ugh.

This afternoon he was grilling on the back patio, right outside my door. When he pulled the charcoal chimney out and poured the coals in the grill a hot ember flew onto the concrete patio. He didn't see it and promptly stepped on it, burning the bottom of his foot. It hurt him bad enough that he wasn't putting any weight on it whatsoever.

THEN... Sarabeth was dribbling her basketball in the driveway. I cautioned her not to let it get away from her because it could roll all the way to the lake. We agreed that would be bad. I went back in the house and not two minutes later she came in and said her basketball was in the lake. COUSIN AUGGIE to the rescue. He hopped down the hill on one foot and used a stick to pull the basketball back to shore.

Once he limped back up the hill the neighbor dogs ran into the yard and Oscar ran off after them. Austin took off to catch Oscar before he made kibble out of the dogs who dared to cross into his territory. Poor trick! His foot is killing him!

And I was right. He needs to wear shoes.

Anyways. So after a snow storm, ice storm, earthquake, blood pressure crisis and mangled Fred Flintstone foot, hopefully we will settle back into our normal boring life.

Hope your Monday was lovely. Love and hugs, y'all!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

High Blood Pressure and Baby/Cat Pics

I screwed up big time. In light of my effort to trim medical expenses by discontinuing as many pharmaceuticals as possible... I ran out of blood pressure meds and didn't get them refilled. I have to go in for a doctors visit for the refill and the cost involved is typically about $150 for the office visit and then enormously ridiculous sums of money for lab work. My lab work has been as high as $1000 before. Insane expense. Without health insurance those costs are completely out of pocket. So when the pills ran out I thought... my bp has been under control for the past few doctor visits. Since I don't work, my stress level is lower and my pain level is... well, it's better. It's not completely gone.

So this afternoon I'm feeling the kind of things I feel when my blood pressure is high. Literally... I feel pressure in my head. I'm also pretty congested so I tried to convince myself that's what it was. Been having nosebleeds but... have this constant sinus drip so... Having a little trouble with my vision but I have been reading a lot, lot more than usual... short of breath but again, there's a lot of congestion in my chest. I had a bad episode of tachycardia yesterday... passed that off as anxiety.

And then I took my blood pressure: 191/105.
It's never ever ever been that high. I just melted down. It's one of those things that you know that if you don't spend the money something bad is going to happen to you. I got my tax return but it was only a couple hundred dollars. It will pay for a visit to the pain doctor, my car tag, my insurance for a month or two... and then I'm back to an empty piggybank.

Dear Social Security: You ridiculous delay in approving my disability claim is killing me. Literally.

I'm going to go to the health department in the morning and see if there is any indigent health care available in our area. I remember the health department in Clayton County would do gyn visits and give shots and stuff. If they can't help me then I'm going to see if my regular doctor can give me a better rate or longer to pay or... anything. I'm really scared. And crying over a high blood pressure reading does nothing to lower the reading. Please keep me in your prayers that this can be resolved before any long term damage is done.

Now for something less dark and depressing...

 Austin's girlfriend's baby girl... she was breaking her neck to be able to look back at me and Austin to see what we were doing. She's a doll!

Trouble Kitty frequently getting little nibbles and crumbs from what I'm eating. He was really perplexed by me eating a banana and kept trying to eat the peel.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lazy Saturday

Eddie Cat soaking up some rays
Eddie Cat has the right idea... soak up all the sunshine you can!

Last night... without any pharmaceutical assistance... I went to sleep around 10pm! It was glorious! Even though that had me wide awake at 5am, I was totally fist-pumping when I woke up this morning. Success feels so good!

Some of the other pharmaceuticals I've been trying to wean myself off of... not working as well. You win some, you lose some.

I boarded the Pain Train early this morning but it's still been a day worth living. You have to think about these things when you aren't really contributing to society. I knew my value as a mom. I don't quite know what my purpose is as a single empty-nested less-abled person some times but I do think it's important to find joy every day.

Joy today came in the form of Olympic Hockey at 7am. I will admit, however, to being enough of a fair weather fan that I turned off the tv in the OT shoot off round thinking that Russia had clinched it. I apparently didn't quite understand the process because I thought we were done and turned the channel to a documentary about Annie Oakley (which was very good, by the way). Later this afternoon I realized we had won and felt like a big doofus for changing the channel. They play again tomorrow around the same time. I usually start my Sundays watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of Mad Men but tomorrow it's gonna be USA vs. Slovenia (I think). And then it's the Ice Dancing short program. Olympics in the morning... PBS in the afternoon. Living on the edge around here!

My oldest, Ryan, in the snow in PA
Other than watching hockey... today I took down my Christmas/Valentines decorations. I could have stretched it to Easter but I was ready for a change of scenery. I'm ready for warmer (not hot) weather and for things to begin blooming. I thought putting away any vestiges of Winter might move the process along. And it made me happy.

I did not go to the library or shopping for half price chocolate today because I needed pharmaceutical assistance with pain and with clearing the junk out of my lungs this morning. The side effects of the pharmaceuticals were not conducive to driving. I think using the word "pharmaceuticals" sounds so much better than "drugs" , don't you think? My mom always says she's going to take her "medicine". I always think of medicine as being something like antibiotics that you take to get over something or cough medicine or allergy medicine. I have a hard time thinking of pain medicine as medicine but that's what it is. It improves your quality of life. Hopefully.

Austin's girlfriend and her daughter came over this afternoon to hang out with us. Baby girl is six months old and scared of Austin. I held her for a few minutes while Mommy ran to the car to get some things and she had a little separation anxiety but was only whimpering. When she saw Austin she had a complete meltdown. This is tricky for me because I don't want to get attached when - honestly - I can't see this being a lifelong relationship - but I do want to be supportive of the young mom and make sure she feels welcome to bring baby around, even if she's crying. The whole concept of "babies sometimes cry for no good reason" is a difficult lesson for Austin. He's a bit stressed. I just consider it birth control. Baby girl is adorable, though. She really brightens up the place, even when she's crying.

I've been ready to doze off all day. I took mucinex (or the Walmart equivalent) this morning and it really helps clear the congestion in my chest but it does make me a  little foggy.

On Antiques Roadshow they just showed a lady with two Tiffany vases worth $13,000 that she bought at a yard sale. I know if I saw one of my former possessions that I sold for a couple of bucks on the Roadshow I would be so bummed!

I didn't get out to take scenic photos from around here so I snagged one from my friend Tami's Facebook. It's quite lovely here, it really is.

Hope you're making the most of your weekend! Love and hugs, y'all!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ways The DVR Has Changed My Life

I'm going to skip my usual sarcastic "Singles Awareness Day" blog post. Valentine's Day applies to my life about as much as Ramadan. Not beating that dead horse. I am, however, excited about the holiday tomorrow - Half Price Chocolate Day.

My sister-in-law and nieces came over for dinner tonight. Pop made spaghetti and garlic bread, salad and pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream. It was a GREAT meal for Valentine's Day! Afterwards Angie and I took a little drive to her house to pick up the Valentines she (or the girls, more likely) forgot. There is still an awful lot of snow around and I love the way it outlines the topography. I'm going to have to go out tomorrow and take some photos, assuming the snow hangs around overnight.

I've been watching Men's Figure Skating all day. It was really only on from about 10am this morning until 2pm this afternoon. The evening telecast from the Olympics is just a recap. To see the entire event you have to watch during the day. So I just DVR'd it and I've been watching a little here and there throughout the day. It's actually better when you can see the worst performances and not just a few of the top competitors. You get a much better appreciation for how amazing the medal winners really are.

I love having a DVR. I didn't think I would ever use it - especially since I'm home almost all the time. I never used a VCR to record shows back in the day. During the Darby Days we had TiVo, at least part of the time and I never learned how to use it. I'm not terribly savvy with the latest technology. Or technology that's ten years old that I just learned how to use. But the DVR has changed my life! Here's how:

  • I can answer nature's call whenever it calls. I don't wait for a commercial. I just pause my program. 
  • I spend the first few minutes of a show getting a drink, fixing something to eat, tidying up, feeding the cats... and then when I start back watching the show I can fast forward through commercials. 
  • If two shows are on at the same time that I want to watch... I watch one and DVR the other. 
  • DVR shows fill in the gap during morning tv. I hate morning tv. It's all fluff and TMI. 
  • If someone comes into the room during  a part of a show that I want to see... I just pause the show until they're gone. I can interact with the 3-D people in the house without missing anything on tv!
  • There's, of course, the main use of the DVR - to record shows that come on when I'm not home. It's not often but it does happen. 

I'm still reading a very thick history of the show Saturday Night Live. It's pretty interesting. I think I'm going to go to the library tomorrow to trade in the books I've already read for a few more books.

I'm also doing well with my campaign to kick ambien to the curb. I had a little trouble going to sleep last night but I also had a good bit more pain yesterday. I'm aching pretty badly tonight... every joint is hot and achy and the evil gut pain made an appearance today after leaving me alone for a little while. I'm really congested and it gets worse in the evenings. All that makes it hard to get to sleep but I'm still trying to only use the evil drugs when absolutely necessary.

Anyways... so that's my Friday. It's been a weird week. Hope you all have a great weekend. Stay warm and safe! Love and hugs!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Surviving The Storm

I didn't adjust the color - this is how it looked at first light!
I woke up again today to a beautiful wintry landscape. It snowed the first half of the day and we've had this freezing rain/sleet stuff falling this evening. People on the Southside of Atlanta are dealing with severe icing and power outages. They say that about 100,000 people in the State of Georgia are without power but it seems like everyone on my friends list is out of power at the moment. Fortunately we still have power.

With the majority of the state frozen in place, I'm seeing a lot of cabin fever among my Georgia Facebook friends. I am feeling quite superior right now because the one thing I'm REALLY GOOD AT during this stage of life is sitting around doing nothing. I should hold a class on how to entertain yourself when you can't go anywhere or do anything. Hint: you need a remote control, a laptop and pharmaceutical assistance.

My mom is dealing with her cabin fever by cleaning. My dad is watching a lot of game shows from the seventies on the Game Show channel. It's almost as if he's catching up on all the shows he didn't have time to watch when he was working, raising kids and busy with church back in the day.

In the South when there's any weather "event" the local news goes into wall to wall continuous coverage. Before the storm I soak up as much information as possible. I become an expert on the situation, like some kind of freakish weather savant. By this point of the storm I am SO over it that I don't even care what they say. We're supposedly getting four more inches of snow before it's all said and done. Whatever. As long as the ice melts before I run out of library books, I'll be happy.

Oscar in the snow
I've taken a hundred pictures, mostly from two steps outside my back door. I made a batch of potato soup today. I finished reading my book on the making of Gone With The Wind and am reading the history of Saturday Night Live. Expanding my horizons with every trip to the library, aren't I? There's no cabin fever in the Whine Cellar - the days snowed in fly by just as fast as every other day.

The only real problem I've had is that I've had to stay away from Pinterest which always makes me hungry for random things that look amazing and easy to make and always ultimately have one or two key ingredients that we don't have on hand. Since I made soup today and Pop made soup last night (beef and barley and it was awesome!) Austin is wanting to make tomato soup. We've never made it homemade. I actually think the canned stuff tastes like watered down ketchup so maybe homemade would be better. We found a recipe with little grilled cheese croutons that looks so good that I can't wait to get the ingredients for Austin to make it.

Pain wise my back has been pretty bad this afternoon but the evil gut pain has stayed away and I haven't had a headache today. Any day without a headache is a good day. I've been getting up earlier this week and haven't had too much trouble going to sleep. I took a nap yesterday afternoon which used to be a rare thing but I've done it a few times in the past month.

Hope you're all safe and warm and surviving cabin fever. I've posted a lot of pictures on my Facebook and I think it's open to the public, even if you aren't my Facebook friend. Just click here!

Love and hugs, y'all!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First Light - All White

I was satisfied with the blanket of snow we had two weeks ago so when I heard that we were in for another round of "wintry precipitation" I was ambivalent. Here in the South the media hypes every snowflake so much you never know when to take them seriously.

The last storm we had - you know, the one where thousands of people were trapped on the interstate for 24 hours, children were trapped on school buses on the roads or trapped at school overnight, honestly, I don't think the media was clear enough. I know Al Roker insists that we "were warned" but the line of expectation of accumulating snow didn't really include all of Atlanta. It looked like it was going to be more toward the North. This time they have been very adamant and insistent that everybody is getting SOME kind of Winter weather. There are predictions of up to an inch of ice which is truly catastrophic. I guess people really only process "nothing to worry about" and "complete catastrophe" and nothing in between. So buy up all your bread and milk folks, you'll use it eventually.

In the photo of snowfall totals above my county is mostly yellow, seven inches. That's what's predicted. Since I was too lazy to edit the photo I grabbed from the Atlanta news station, you'll have to find White County on the map on your own. If you go to the far Northeast corner of Georgia, we are the county two in from the Northern border and two in from the Eastern border. We live on the Eastern side of the county. Although this storm has a snow/sleet/ice combo predication, our area is expected to get mostly snow, which is good, less chance of loss of power. Even though I've reduced my screen time lately, I still am very internet/electronic dependent. I also like to be warm and eat.

Our storm preparations included a grocery store trip yesterday and moving the grill from the uncovered deck upstairs to our covered patio outside the Whine Cellar. I live with retired people which means we always have enough stuff in the house that we could be stuck here for a month and never miss a meal. I don't worry much about cabin fever because it's not unusual for me to go a week without leaving the house anyways. We got a delivery of wood on Saturday so we can stay warm, even if that means huddling around the fireplace.

Austin's friend Shaun came over to get snowed in with us. I got a little nervous when it took both boys three trips from his car to move him in - complete with large tv and a piece of carry-on luggage that was bulging like he was heading on a two week trip with Rick Steves. He's a nice kid who likes cats so I don't mind him being here - except for the fact that he never puts the seat back down on the toilet which is a HUGE no-no in my world!

I didn't blog last night because I lost myself in Valerie Bertinelli's book, "Finding It" last night. She wrote this book about a year after the first book. I should have known that there wouldn't be a lot of biographical information and a lot more of her politics and personal opinions since she really had only a year to cover in this book. Her politics are fairly offensive to me. She criticizes Bush and Cheney a lot without ever explaining WHY she feels that way. It's as if she believes her dislike of them is so common that everyone understands what she feels. I don't and it changed my opinion of her for the worse. She's not the girl next door - she's the mindless liberal next door. She did explain a lot of reasons she likes Obama but it was all generic "change" stuff that had no content or explanation of what "change" she was expecting.

My non-ambien induced sleep last night didn't go as well as I had planned. I started getting sleepy around 9pm and I really should have gone to bed then but I was watching the Westminster Dog Show. When I settled in around midnight I had a hard time going to sleep. I went ahead and got up before 7am this morning while I was still a little sleepy, hoping that will make my attempt for two non-ambien induced sleep nights in a row be more successful. And, of course, if I need to settle in for a "long Winter's nap" today, there's no reason I can't.

My plans for today include, lots of Olympic viewing and taking photos of the snow accumulation hourly. It's a much more wet snow this time so the branches of the pines are already sagging with the weight. If ice accumulates on top of that we're definitely going to have some branches fall. Hopefully none of them will interrupt power. I'll be back later with more pictures but for now... this is what we have...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Sunday

For those who didn't see this on my Facebook the other day... my mom caught a big fish and Oscar went bonkers trying to eat some sushi. I don't know if you can tell but his feet are off the ground here. It's also notable that he is wearing a coat. This dog FREAKS OUT if you try to put clothing on him. He has, however, learned to associate wearing the coat with getting to go outside and he loves to be outside. He also loves fishing.

We've had some beautiful sunny days over the past week but Jack Frost is bringing us a little sumptin' this week. Depending on what weather service you trust, we're getting somewhere between an inch and six inches. There is a "wintry mix" expected between Monday night and Wednesday morning - anything from cold rain to sleet to freezing rain to snow. The worst of it in the state is expected in the Northeast Georgia mountains - which is us. Having already had my delivery of "just one pretty snow" this Winter, I'm sort of ambivalent on this particular storm. If it happens... fine... just don't let us lose power or get stuck for too long. I want a photo op - not a life threatening situation. I mean, if my wishes count for anything.

Last night was another night without ambien and I was able to get to sleep by around 1am. I slept until just before 8am and I'm content with that sort of sleep pattern. I became really conscious last night that I spend a lot of time being sedentary but I don't spend much time being still. I'm constantly staring at a tv or a computer screen or both. When I put the computer down I pick up a book or my Nook. I don't have a lot of time where I just sit and think. That's what I did while I was trying to get to sleep. It took a good hour of laying there and I always start to get a little anxious when sleep doesn't come quickly. I got a little riled up because Little Kitty knocked a glass of tea off of my nightstand trying to stick his paw in it. After cleaning it up it felt like I had to work a little harder to wind down but it happened and I'm pleased with my progress. I think I'm going to try going two nights in a row without and see how that works out. The main thing for me is to not get overtired because all this crazy stuff I've got going on in my body requires a lot of gritting my teeth and hanging tough and soldiering through and other such cliches. If I'm tired it's difficult to "hang in there" and I give in to gloom, despair and agony.

I finished Valerie Bertinelli's first book last night - Losing It. It was an easy read and pretty standard celebrity fare... early life, being discovered, dealing with fame, doing drugs, relationship problems and so forth. I've always found her very likable and reading her book was like listening to a friend spill their guts. I can't say that I found it inspirational or anything like that but it was fine for a free book.

Today I'm reading a big pictorial on the making of Gone With The Wind. As you can probably tell by the description of my blog... I'm a big fan of GWTW, Scarlett and the whole strong Southern woman theme. The home where the woman believed to be Margaret Mitchell's model for Scarlett, her grandmother Anne Fitzgerald lived was in the same county where I grew up. When she talks about the rolling hills of Clayton County, I get that. I'm always interested in any behind the scenes glimpse of any production so this is a fun read for me. There are also a lot of pictures so it's a quick read.

I'm also trying to work on my family tree again today. So. much. to. do. It's hard to stay focused on just that one thing when there are so many other places in cyberspace where I want to hang out and it's hard to plug away at it with no end in sight. When it starts feeling like a chore, I stop.

So far my favorite Olympic event has been the Team Figure Skating competition. It's nice to see that camaraderie in a discipline that is usually divided up to individuals or duos. The little Russian girl was so much fun to watch that I didn't mind that she beat the American girls. The old Russian guy was sort of cocky but still an interesting character. I'm crazy about the American Ice Dancing team, Charlie White and Meryl Davis. I saw a biography piece on them that showed that their moms are good friends and spend almost every day together. It's really the human interest background stuff that makes Winter sports interesting for me.

Pop made country fried steak and gravy for lunch and I'm still full from that. Ugh. Austin just reheated some Captain D's that we had leftover from dinner last night and it is slightly nauseating. Reheated fish just never seems appealing.

Anyways... that's about it for today... hope you've had a lovely weekend and are rested up and ready to start the week! Love and hugs, y'all!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

And The Short Of It

I wrote a novel about living with pain if you're interested. It's right below. If not, here's a shorter blog entry about what's going on around here.

I'm in the process of weaning off ambien. I cut the dose in half and was doing fine with that. Now I'm trying to just take the half dose every other day. The first night I was up until 6am and slept two hours that night. The second night I was up until 4am and slept four hours that night. Progress! Ambien is the only medication (besides blood pressure meds) that I was taking daily and the only reason that I was having to go to the pain doctor every other month. They won't prescribe more than two months at a time. My income being what it is - or isn't - I've got to cut back on medical expenses. Being able to live without ambien will be HUGE. Plus, it's a really unsafe drug but that's a much longer story. Anyways... the sleep disruption has made me less bloggy this week.

Yesterday I went to the library and checked out another five books. I took back the three I had read since Monday. Yes. Three books in four days... which happens when you don't sleep. I'm reading Valerie Bertinelli's two books Losing It and Finding It. I checked out a book about the making of Gone With The Wind, an old pictorial biography about Prince William and a history of Saturday Night Live. Reading is such a great escape for me. Our local library is small and they don't have a lot of newer books... they literally have the King James Version of the Bible on the new release shelf. I'm not joking. But there are definitely books there that I haven't read and I'm having fun exploring there.

This morning I made a trip to the grocery store for snacks for our Olympics watching. I fell asleep during the Opening Ceremony last night. I nodded off after the parade of nations and woke up as they were lighting the cauldron. I slept through all that Russian History propaganda in the middle. I was just so glad to sleep that I didn't mind. Today I've been watching ice skating and speed skating and skiing stuff and I've just been in Olympic Heaven!

I've added ads to my blog. When I had them on before I made about $5 a month.... which isn't much, right? But I have more readers now and heck, $5 a month is more than I'm making otherwise. I hope they're not a distraction and don't make it feel too commercial here. You only have to open this website for me to get credit - you don't have to click on the ads - so come visit often!

AND that's the short story! Happy Saturday!

The Long...

I sprinkle a lot of whine in my blog posts so I feel like anyone who reads here regularly pretty much gets the picture that *eyeroll* I live with a lot of pain. I thought it might be interesting to share exactly what is different in my life now than what my life was like three years ago before I boarded the Pain Train. (Wouldn't that be a great name for a band?) It not that I'm looking for sympathy. I think most of my blog readers are here because they have at least some mild interest in what happens in my life. I also would bet that you probably have someone in your life (other than me) who has similar differences and maybe knowing what I deal with might help you help someone you love.

I think I have most of my diagnosis' listed in the sidebar but for a summary, my back is whack. I have an extra vertebrae which, by itself is not a big deal and is fairly common but in my situation it put extra pressure on the other vertebrae causing some of the effects of aging to occur sooner than usual. Over the course of my first forty years of life I have been overweight for half of that time, was in a couple of auto accidents where I was hit from behind, took a dozen or so significant falls (once while holding two kids - the kids did NOT hit the ground!) and in general just was not kind to my spine. As a result I have developed osteoarthritis in my spine, some bulging discs, some nerve damage, my spine is impinging my spinal cord and certain positions are particularly painful. There is instability in my spine which makes any repetitive movement - walking, climbing stairs, etc - cause pain. The greatest point of pain is my lower spine - right where the tailbone starts - which makes sitting upright in a regular chair anywhere, regardless of how well padded it is, extremely uncomfortable.

There are a few other things that complicate things - chronic migraines, scar tissue in my lungs which makes me susceptible to respiratory illness and mildly restricts my lung capacity. I have a COPD diagnosis but not in the sense that I'm walking around with an oxygen tank, it just means that there's stuff in my lungs that make them not work as well as they should. There's a fibromyalgia diagnosis which means that at odd and random times I feel like I have the flu - everything hurts and it's a huge, huge ordeal to do anything and everything. Seriously - walking from one side of the room to the other is like running a marathon. I have piriformis syndrome which feels like someone is putting a hot poker against the nerve that runs down the middle of my butt cheek and causes pain that radiates down into my leg. There is nerve damage that extends from basically the waist down which causes several different issues.

Still with me? There's one more issue that doesn't have a definite diagnosis and won't until I have some kind of medical insurance in place. I get this ungodly pain in my lower left belly. It's occasional - not every day - but at least once a week. It's bad enough that the strongest pain meds that I have for my back only take the edge off it. My pain doctor is guessing, just based on the description of the pain and the location, that it is a hernia and I have instructions of what to watch for and when I absolutely have to seek medical treatment for it. It's just one more layer to the onion for me and one more thing that hinders me from time to time.

When I talk about the "pain of the day" it's not a dramatization. There truly is never a day that I don't have some kind of discomfort somewhere. What this means is that no employer anywhere wants me on payroll because there is never a week that I wouldn't have to miss a couple of days. Even when I tried to work only a few hours a week, it didn't work. So I would say that the main difference between myself and the average person my age is that I'm not able to work.

Because my pain is so positional, anything that involves sitting in any other way other than reclined is painful. Depending on other factors (the weather, for example) that pain can vary between being just a little distracting to being absolute miserable. Sitting in a reclined position has it's own discomforts. It tends to aggravate the piriformis syndrome and I have to be very careful not to impinge any nerves by crossing my legs or I completely lose feeling in my feet. I can't work mainly because I can't sit.

One thing we determined with the Function Capacity Evaluation is that climbing stairs is a big problem. I live in a 3 story house but am very blessed to have just about everything I need on the bottom level - including a gorgeous view. Our kitchen is one story up and for now, I make the trip up the stairs for most mealtimes. Occasionally, especially if the pain is really bad, I just eat things like granola bars or other shelf stable things that I keep here in the Whine Cellar. Eventually, if I ever get the backpay from my disability claim, I'd like to have a kitchenette put in here on the bottom floor and there's a perfect space for it. One day... But for now, I avoid stairs like the plague!

I can walk but I can't walk far. To give you an example... if I go to the grocery store for an average sized grocery trip, by the time I get back to the car I'm in a good bit of pain. On days that I go to the store that's pretty much my ONLY activity for that day. I would never attempt to take a shower AND go to the store on the same day because the combination would be too much time up and around.

I can't stand in one place. The instability of my spine is such that when I stand still there are nerves that are compressed and it doesn't take long for me to lose the feeling in my feet. It's better if I can lean on something but it still gets uncomfortable fairly quickly.

I can't pick up anything heavy. Technically I have the strength to pick up things that weigh up to twenty pounds but it immediately results in pain which doesn't go away for several days. Today I picked up Austin's girlfriend's baby and... that did it. (It was totally worth it, though!) I can't do any repetitive lifting. I can't carry anything of significant weight for any distance.

Because I can't sit without pain, I can't go out to eat or to church or to a movie... without being extremely uncomfortable. There is a part of me that feels like if I was a better Christian I would suffer through the pain to go to church. The reality of it is that there is a threshold of pain that once crossed, I no longer hear anything around me, I can't concentrate, I can't articulate... I really am not there. There may come a time when I give it another attempt but for now... I'm homechurched.

Fear of pain drives a lot of my behavior. Even on days when the pain is better and I really *might* be able to go somewhere or do something, the anxiety of being uncomfortable and the desire to remain comfortable on a rare "good day" makes me reluctant to do anything. Being unable to do things both because of the financial restrictions of not having an income and the fear of pain is isolating and depressing. My social skills are really rusty and I'm much more awkward than I used to be.

If you are still reading, thank you. If you have someone like me in your life there are a lot of things you can do to make life easier for them... in my case, I'm very fortunate to live with my parents and to have a dad who loves to cook. When it was still just me and Austin living on our own we ate a lot of cereal and frozen food and take out food. During that time there were a few times that people brought meals to us and that was a huge, huge blessing! If you know someone who struggles with pain, take them a meal every now and then! I love when the fam goes out to eat and brings me something home. If you're going out, why not drop off a doggie bag for your friend? For about ten bucks you can pick up a rotisserie chicken and some sides. Make an extra lasagna. Share some of that batch of chili you made. It's easy and I wish I had been more sensitive to this when I was young and healthy!

I can't pick stuff up off the floor. I can't sweep/mop/vacuum. I can load the dishwasher some days but other days it hurts to do the bending. I can't stand for a long time to chop/prepare food or to keep vigil on a pot that needs watching. I can't lift the crockpot. I can make my bed and I can do laundry as long as I don't have to tote the basket (but I almost always end up toting the basket of dirty clothes because Austin is usually not around when I'm ready to do laundry). I can't take out the trash. Bending over to scoop out the litter box hurts like the dickens but I do it when I have to. (Like when one of the old cats leaves a little offering in the middle of the night smelling up the entire Whine Cellar). I've never been great at housework but if it's your gift... stop by and run a vacuum if you have a friend in need. Offer to take out their trash. I don't know what I'd do without Austin, even if he does need a litter prompting every now and then...

Over the past three years I've really dropped out of view. I'm so grateful to have access to the internet so that I can keep in touch with folks. If you have a friend that you haven't seen in awhile, maybe check in on them... go visit them. I'd never classify myself as a "shut-in" because in my mind that's an old person in a hospital bed who needs help going to the bathroom but honestly, other than the grocery store, pharmacy, library and doctor's office I never go anywhere. I miss three-dimensional people. I'm not always good company, especially if it's a more painful day but I would love to see people. I bet you know people who while maybe not shut-in, aren't able to get around great. Stop by and say hello to them.

If you have a loved one who can't do much, why not do what they can do? Go with them to the grocery store. Or the doctor's office. My friend Stasha knew that I didn't feel like doing anything except work back when I was working so she would come have lunch with me. I had to eat! It's the person that matters, not the activity. The most mundane things are better with a friend.

And if they say they don't feel like doing something, don't push. There are times that I hurt but I get tired of telling people I hurt or explaining exactly what hurts. I had a mother-in-law who famously had migraines any time she was supposed to do anything. Back then it felt like a cop out but now I realize it was probably, at least some of the time, legit. People who live with pain feel bad enough about themselves because of what they are missing out on... try not to add guilt to the equation for them.

Most of all, just remember that we are not all the same. Try not to judge. You can't feel what anyone else is feeling. You can't walk in their shoes. I was really down on myself a short time back because this lady who was dying of cancer was doing more than I was doing. Of course... she was probably on better drugs... but we can't compare pain. You just can't know what someone else is going through. Unless you're the person working on their disability case or somehow supporting them, it's not your job to figure out how legitimate their illness is. I used to try to Nancy Drew alleged situations to determine if people had the right to complain. Why? I don't know. There is nothing to be gained by failing to extend compassion. There is nothing lost in extending compassion, even if the person is not deserving. Even if they're not entirely legitimate, ESPECIALLY if they're not legitimately hurting, there's something missing in their life that leads them to have to use illness as shield/crutch/way to attract attention or whatever.

This is far too long but I hope it's been helpful in some way to you. Thanks for letting me put all that out there. I'm about to do a short blog entry with some other non-related stuff. Love and hugs, y'all!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Past 24 Hours In Bullet Points and Parenthesis

In the past 24 hours I have...

  • slept 2 hours - I've been tapering off ambien for the past few weeks and I decided to go without last night. EPIC FAIL!
  • read 2 complete books (one of them was by Tori Spelling so I'm not sure it counts)
  • started reading a 3rd book - the one by Julie Andrews
  • watched 2 episodes of How I Met Your Mother (and caught my parents watching it - it's contagious - and it also comes on before Grey's Anatomy)
  • watched 2 episodes of Grey's Anatomy
  • been visited by 2 red headed girls who performed a magic trick complete with showmanship
  • got the sweetest hug from over the back of my chair from my niece Jamie when it was time for her to leave - she's always the brightest spot in any day
  • entertained Austin's friend who spent the night
  • pondered why Austin's friends want to chat with me when I'm Archie Bunkered in my chair
  • been tempted to create a Facebook movie but decided to buck the trend
  • stressed over whether Sochi Russia is ready for the world - will this Olympics be ruined? I mean, who knows if I'll be around to enjoy South Korea 2018!
  • looked at a couple hundred wedding photos from a sweet girl I know from theatre (also, her mom used to cut my hair and was THE BEST hair stylist I've ever had)
  • worked on my family tree - you wouldn't believe how much work I still have on it even after almost two years
  • had THE BEST bacon sandwich on a slice of homemade bread with garlic (as opposed to homemade garlic bread) that my dad made (he made the bread, I made the sandwich, in case that wasn't clear)
  • had black beans and rice over tortilla chips with cheese and sour cream, my favorite meal of the week
  • had to discipline my Little Kitty for being too aggressive with Stubby, the 3 Legged Wondercat (I took his straws away - that's his favorite toy - he got the message)
  • pondered why Austin's friends can't put the seat down on the toilet - obviously this is a female dominated Whine Cellar - there are STUFFED ANIMALS in the living room, for goodness sakes
  • watched the wind whip the water around on the lake - practically white capping here!
  • checked the weather report a half dozen times to see if we're getting more wintry weather this year - we are *probably not* although there may be a dusting "in the mountain counties" (which is us) "above 1500 feet elevation" (which we are not - the lake is approximately 1350 feet) before the weekend
  • walked Lily out the back door and told her to "go find Mawmaw" once (but my mom also took her at least once)
  • fetched a runaway kangaroo cat (Eddy) from the shed
  • ate four Hershey's kisses with almonds which is a huge improvement from last Winter when I was eating about four bags of them a week
  • changed from my pajamas into clean pajamas when I got dressed this morning
  • combed my hair but didn't really style it (and it's still cute!)
  • skipped makeup
  • and lotion

this is the new photo over the fireplace
admired the new frame Pop bought to hang the girls' picture over the fireplace (it was from several years ago but it still a huge family favorite)

And that's about it, y'all. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My New 'Do and Other Pictures From Today

I did it! I got about twelve inches cut off my hair. It's a super cute little manageable style and I'm thrilled with it.

The stylist suggested that I donate it to Locks of Love so I came home with this wet dead animal looking chunk of hair to mail in. I was afraid that it wasn't healthy enough since I NEVER get it trimmed but she thought it was fine. My whole plan of washing less often really does make a difference in the health of your hair, I guess.

Anyways... this is my hair back in January. And this is today...

It's a bob, just below chin length, stacked in the back. Some of the layers in the back are really short but it seems to work pretty well even in high humidity. Today was misty/rainy all day.

I also went to the library today after stopping by Ingles to pick up some canned goods. Our library lets you pay for your fines with canned goods which they donate to the local food bank. Having been a recipient of the bounty of that particular food bank, I am a big fan of this payment method. In effect I used my food stamps to pay my library fines AND helped a hungry person. Win/win! I bought good stuff, too... canned chili... because one can only live on noodles and canned green beans for so long. Been there, done that.

Front view.

So that was my morning. This afternoon was the typical Farmville2 playing / Grey's Anatomy watching day. I'll be putting the old laptop away early this evening and losing myself in a book. I read three books in a week last week... I got five books today. I don't have plans of finishing that many books in a week but I'm delighted at the possibilities. Today I picked up:

CelebraTori - Tori Spelling's book about planning parties. Because, you know, I have so many gatherings.

Home - Julie Andrew's autobiography about her early years. That's what it says, "A Memoir of My Early Years". I guess there's a part two out there somewhere.

The Mountains Within Me - by Zell Miller. He was Governor of Georgia for a spell. The book was written well before then. I guess this is sort of Zell Miller - A Memoir of My Early Years. A theme.

Lest you think that I ONLY read biographies... I also picked up Dixie After the War - Social Conditions In the South During Reconstruction. History, post-Civil War. Maybe this will help balance the fluff in my brain from reading CelebraTori.

And finally... I borrowed The Day Diana Died. Having just read the book written by the bodyguard, it will be interesting to get another view of it.

That's this week's (and probably next week's) reading list. I'm also still working through the Beth Moore book that I never finished and 12 Years A Slave that I haven't finished on my Nook.

My nieces came over after school today. Jamie has sort of become my buddy in the afternoons and Sarabeth tends to stay upstairs with Mawmaw and Pop playing games on the computer. Pop made homemade pizza for them and I also had cherry pomegranate pop-tarts which Jamie snacked on. She's only supposed to have pop-tarts on Saturday which I sort of forgot. I'm such a bad influence. The pop-tarts were at least organic. We watched a Pound Puppies / My Little Pony marathon.

Notice the box on the shelf in the background? That's where these pictures of the cat came from... he loves straws and boxes and being up high so this is pretty much Kitty Nirvana.

And that was my Tuesday. At least so far. Hope yours was good. Love and hugs, y'all!