Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Mrs. Claus is enjoying a glass of eggnog before turning in. 
Merry Christmas!

Bathroom Ceiling

My neighbor (Cathy) has her brother staying at her house for a few weeks.  He's a handyman and while we're out of town this week, he's going to paint our ceiling white and hang the mirrors and lights.  Yay!  What a treat it'll be to come home to a finished bath!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bathroom Update

The contractor asked me twice if I wanted the bathroom all the same color.  We had just removed wall paper, a lighter color in one area of the bathroom, and a darker color in the rest.  Yes, all one color.

We got home from Robin's party at about midnight and took a peek in the bathroom.  Looked good!  The next morning with the sun streaming in revealed that our bathroom was, in fact, all one color.  A tan/brown color, very nice, EXCEPT the ceiling is also this color.  Yep, he asked me "All one color?" and I thought he was talking about walls, not ceiling!  Gee...

Mark will get some Killz and add a new base coat, then ceiling white will be rolled on.  I hope those two coats of paint will be enough to cover a mud-brown ceiling.  It looks like a cave!  I do like the textured walls and all the work the man did.  Not calling him out to do the repaint, as I did agree to one color. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Robin's Party

My niece Robin hosted our annual family Christmas get together at her Jacksonville home, and it was so nice.  Here's a picture of me with my two sisters.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Before and After Soffit Removal

The horrid drop ceiling/florescent light fixture.  Oh how I have hated it, and now it's gone!
Looking up in the hole at the pipe that has water dripping down the outside of it.  (Just a small amount, nothing scary.)  It's a good thing it's raining outside, as the builder wouldn't have noticed the water dripping down the exhaust tube that goes up and through the roof.  I'll call the roofing company that replaced our roof a couple of years ago.

Bathroom Renovation

Just in time for Christmas! A mess!!

Here are the "before" pictures of the walls, with wallpaper torn off. We will have textured walls, painted a taupe/beige/tan color to match our bedroom. The towel bar and toilet paper roll will be removed and new ones added. Lots of them! We have had a shortage of towel hanging places for 22 years!!
Picture #1 - standing in the doorway, the mirror is down, and the drop light thing is being knocked down.  We have double sinks, but they aren't centered right (to me) and individual mirrors will look strange, so the old giant mirror goes back up after the work is completed.

Picture #2 -Inaccessable towel bar will be removed.  A mirror (from the boy's bathroom) will be recycled to that wall.

Picture #3 - Standing in the shower (all tile), looking again at the bathtub and that useless towel bar and the wall that gets the mirror.  Imagine standing in our shower, a giant open space, much like a gym shower...No shower curtain or glass doors needed.  Then OMG, there's a mirror!  Well, maybe we'll lose weight...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's Christmas baking time!  I baked 4 dozen peanut butter cookies (bottom of pic), NINETY snickerdoodles (some are cooling, more are ready for oven, and even more are in the oven), three dozen large M&M cookies, but Mark got into them, so who knows how many are left!  I made a tin of pecan toffee with chocolate on top too.  In addition to these, I have made four of the ten sour cream pound cakes that I plan to bake.

Today I am tired.  I have done next to nothing and my sister is coming in town.  Oh, she'll have a look at my mess and run for the hills!  My cleaning lady comes tomorrow, but so does the guy that's going to refinish the walls in our bathroom.  I'll be sure to take before and after pics.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Mark and I bought a ceiling sweeper Christmas Tree from Home Depot.  Crazy that Homer would sell Christmas trees, isn't it?  Well, the tree has some gaps, but I like it.  It's tall and slender and you wouldn't believe how garishly decorated it is!  I just stuck every ornament we had on it after Mark put the lights on (badly).  There are a whole bunch of lights at the top and the bottom.  It turns out that Christmas trees give me a horrible headache, so next year we will have an artificial tree.

Less than two weeks before Christmas and we are almost finished shopping.  Mark and I (well, mostly me) decided to be very conservative with spending this year. This is the first time we have been successful with a Christmas budget.  Yay!

I will begin baking this week.  I always make sour cream pound cakes for my favorite neighbors, plus I promised a cake for my niece Robin's party she's having at her Jacksonville home for our whole family on Saturday.  We are supposed to bring wrapped board games, then we'll have a Chinese gift exchange.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You Tube Uploads

Because my sister Patty's birthday is December 18th, I found a song about Birthdays and Christmas ages ago, lost it, then wrote to the band that recorded it (for themselves, not on a CD).  One of the band members sent me a nice note and attached the song, which took forever to upload. 

Well my friends, I am officially dangerous!  I learned how to save videos and music in Windows Movie Maker and upload it to YouTube.  Once you put a song on YouTube, it opens immediately and there's not a four minute wait to download.  I took a wintery picture while we were in NC in October, wrote (very badly, sorry) the name of the song and band's name on the picture, and attached that to the song too.

So for all my friends whose birthdays are near Christmas and get those "combination gifts" for twenty bucks...  Here it is:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Video of Juliet

14-month old  Juliet does tricks and plays with her Buster Food Cube
She even knows how to use her "inside voice".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Week at the Parents' House

My sister Kat and her husband Larry drove up to PA to have Thanksgiving with their daughters and families, and so I am in Jacksonville at my parents' house, cooking, cleaning, and running errands.  I got her Sunday night and Kat left Monday morning.  I took momma to a doctor's appointment Monday morning, then to Walgreens to pick something up, and then home.  Mom was so whipped that she put on her jammies and slept the remainder of the day away.  Patty came over and she and I went to BJ's and picked up a few groceries. This morning I washed daddy's little yorkie, Jack, and because Juliet WET my bed, I washed all the bedding.  She was asleep, and I guess she dreamed she was outside.  At 9:50, I took momma to her hair appointment, and while she got beautified, I hurried over to the grocery store to get things needed for Thanksgiving dinner.  After lunch I was so tired today that I took a nap, rare for me. I need to wash my dog tomorrow and also I will start prepping for Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner.

The fruit trees at my parents' house are bearing some wonderful oranges, tangerines, kumquats, lemons, and pink grapefruit.  The trees are so loaded, the limbs hang down almost to the ground!

I'm tired...I wake up at 6AM, breakfast on the table at 6:30 or 7, clean up, then daddy comes home for lunch at noon, and dinner at 4PM.  It feels like I never stop cooking, loading dishwasher, and washing things.  Jack (the dog) is not well, and he has to be medicated three times a day, and he eats cooked hamburger twice a day.  I'm not complaining, just saying how busy I stay when I'm at my parents' house.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Cruise

19-year old Valen and I were the nannies to a 2-year old boy and a 4-year old girl.  The children loved Valen, who is also their preschool teacher and babysitter in their home. They were not excited about me, a total stranger.  The little girl would tell me how much she hated me and would instigate her little brother to scream and take my eyeglasses. It was astonishing that the parents didn't correct their bad behavior.  The mommy was so interested in being the children's friend, that she was afraid to be parent. The father could have been a good parent, but mommy undermined him constantly.  I had to remind myself quite often that I didn't have to re-train them and I didn't have to live with them once the cruise was over. 

Besides misbehavior, the biggest challenge was the 4-year old girl's diet.  She had milk, nut, and shellfish allergies.  That doesn't leave much on the kid's dinner menu for eating.  Chicken nuggets and french fries may have been fried in the same oil as the shrimp, so that wasn't an option.  Grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese are made from milk and what's pizza without the cheese?  The little boy isn't ready foro being potty trained yet, and each stinky diaper was like someone poured a cup of rancid chili in it.  I'm guessing it was all the fruit and sweets he ate.  The parents bought so many packets of gummie bears and suckers and sweets...I suppose they thought because it was all organic, the kids could eat as much as they wanted whenever they wanted.  This brought an additional challenge in feeding as they were never really hungry at mealtimes.

Valen wanted to dance all night and I preferred the children when they were asleep, so I babysat most nights. The drawback was, I missed a lot of dinners with friends and all but one of the floor shows. We traded off time during the day, and one night I was free until 10:30.  I found that the children liked it when I sang, and would request two songs especailly, "A Smile and A Ribbon in My Hair" and "Little Goldie Goldfish", which I would sing only if heads remained on pillows.  It worked.  The parents stayed out until 2-2:30 every night, I crawled into bed and was awoken around 5 by Valen, who had a habit of  losing her room key. Oh to be young and drunk!  During the day Valen swam in the pool with the kids and fed them lunch.   I threw myself under the train, blinded with this wonderful opportunity.  I should have realized that if the parents couldn't find anybody they knew to watch the children (beside a 19-year old) it was because their friends and relatives KNEW what the week would be like.   That said, I did enjoy my time without children on the islands and will refrain from further complaints.

Samana is in Dominican Republic, sharing the small island with Haiti, but less dangerous.  Now that Samana has a cruise port, they are less poor than Haiti, albiet still very poor. The excursion a friend organized was a 40-minute truck ride to a school, where we donated school supplies, then we went by horse-back for a half-hour to the top of a huge waterfall.  We hiked by foot to the base of the mountain and swam in the chilly turquoise water under the waterfall and into a hidden cave.  Each of us had a guide that not only led our horses, but also helped on our climb down and back up the many steep steps, made of roots, and rocks, and back up to our horses.  I loved this trip! 

Childcare is not provided while in port, so Valen watched the children until my return at 2:30.  She had plenty of time to go on the island, but without any cash, it was a useless visit and so she stayed onboard and pouted.  Not my problem.  St. Thomas is one of the US Virgin Islands, and I have been there many times.  The parents and Valen took the morning to shop while I watched the children until 1PM, then they picked up the kids and took them to a beach and I got to leave the ship and shop a little.  Perfume and cologne is much less expensive there and I bought some Christmas gifts for my family.  I'm not saying what....  Back on the ship by 5:30.  My favorite excursion in St. Thomas is to snorkel an underwater national park on St. John's island.  The water was rough and water taxi's were cancelled to that island.   I might have done this instead of walking around shopping. 

Tortola is a British Virgin Island.  It was another mountainous island and I took a taxi tour of the island for $20 with another couple.  It was beautiful.  We stopped in a distillery and tasted some of the rum made from local sugar cane.  The distillery was basically in an old garage, a dripping still, lots of giant bottles of rum in different stages of aging.  I tasted five, and only the 10-year rum was any good.  The rest tasted like hair tonic.  Ewww.  I bought a small bottle of the good stuff.  We stopped in several scenic spots and took pictures from way above the gorgeous turquoise ocean surrounding the island.

The weather became rougher, with strong breezes and high waves, so our final island visit was cancelled.  This was a private island, which would have included swimming in the ocean, snorkeling, floating, and lazing in beach lounge chairs and hammocks under the palm trees.  A barbeque cookout was planned, and of course, expensive alcoholic beverages.  Too bad, I was looking forward to a relaxing day of hiking to a long-retired lighthouse and avoiding the sun and children.  Instead, we were stuck on the ship, where Valen and I took turns watching children.  I packed my suitcase while the children were in daycare until 10 when the teachers called telling me they were falling asleep.  I took them to their cabin, brushed teeth.  Once the babies were asleep, I watched TV or read a book, typical of most nights.  I got to my cabin by midnight and put my suitcase in the hallway to be taken away until we disembark the ship.

The final morning was in the Port of Miami, where we went through customs, claimed our luggage from a huge room full of lines and lines of suitcases.  I was lucky enough to ride with the nicest couple to and from Miami to home.  Dee Dee and Mike had a roomy SUV and were sweet enough to allow me, a total stranger, to join them in the long ride.  I think it takes five hours...  Yesterday, after we disembarked the ship, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast, then we drove to a suburb of Miami for their grandson's 1st birthday party. I really liked Dee Dee alot and enjoyed Mike's corny humor. He loved making plays on words.  We were home by 8PM.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


As you all know, I work part-time for my friend Bonnie in her travel agency. My job is mostly clerical.  Yesterday a client called and she decided to get a cabin to bring her nanny along.  Only problem is, the nanny is only 19 and in order to have a cabin on Norwegian Cruise Lines, one must be, or have a roommate that is 21.  All the 21 year old friends the nanny knows are busy and can't go.  So I offered to be the old person in the girl's room.  I am happy to go, take care of little junior here and there, and enjoy a week on a cruise ship scott-free!  Nanny will be doing most of the childcare.  She gets to be free in Tortola, and I'll be free in Samana, and we'll both be free in St. Thomas.  When the 2-year old is on the ship, one of us has to keep checking into the childcare room to see if he needs a diaper change.  Oh, that's all?  For a free cruise??  Okay...We leave Halloween Saturday, Oct. 31, and return the following Saturday.
Cruise is Norwegian Cruise Lines, Pearl.  Mark and I went on this same ship a couple of years ago.  It's nice.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snake In The Livingroom!

      David saw a snake slither under a chair in the living room!  I put the dog in her family room crate and David, Audrey, Mark, and I armed ourselves with brooms in an attempt to coax the snake to find freedom and go out the open front door.  After several attempts, the snake insisted on hiding under/behind the couch, so we had to take things to the next level and get the shovels out.  We couldn't tell what type of snake we had, so trying to catch him humanely wasn't an option.  It was almost dusk and having a snake slithering around the house at night was not a comforting thought!
      Mark pulled the couch out, saw the snake, screamed like a girl, then ran to Audrey's side, a safe distance from the snake.  David trapped the snake under the big flat head shovel, I pinned it under my pointy shovel, and then David gave the snake a neck chop with his shovel.  Not bleeding on our carpet (whew), but injured enough to be able to shove into a garbage can, the snake was taken outside and Mark - the only person with shoes on, went ahead and stepped on the shovel and severed the snake's head.  After a couple of pictures, David gathered the dead snake on the shovel and tossed it into the woods.
      Comparing pictures of the snake with online pictures, I find that it was a harmless garter snake.  How sad that we killed it, but our bedroom is just off the livingroom and I didn't want it hiding under our bed!

Mark's Birthday

Yesterday was Mark's 53rd birthday, a beautiful 90 degree day, not very much like fall at all.  Mark wanted me to join him for breakfast at Bubbalou's BBQ, justifying his huge sausage and chees-laden omelette with the quick morning walk he took.  I am not wild about eggs (especially restaurant cooked eggs), and had a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on wheat toast and a glass of water.  I got the mayonaisse on the side so I could control the amount they slathered on my toast.  I'm not on a diet, but I don't want to be any fatter.  I should be on a diet!  We got home and looked at the many yard sales, as our neighborhood was hosting the semi-annual event.  Having just returned from NC and spending a catch-up week working, the date was once again inconvenient for us.  I'm glad.  I don't like doing garage sales!
        We went to the big hardware store and Mark got a new  weedeater gas string trimmer.  We looked at Christmas decorations in the store, and were happy to not want/need anything, but it sure was pretty.  Next, we went to the mall, specifically JC Penney's, where they have a tall man department.  Momma and daddy sent Mark a check, and he bought a new belt (it's an annual birthday purchase) and two shirts.  Finally, we swung into Costco for some groceries.  $75 later, we went home with meat, fruit, vegetables, and a pumpkin cheese cake for Mark's birthday.  I am glad we have enough groceries on the shelf to sustain the minimal purchase we made, but I still need cream cheese.  Sure, Costco sells that, but who wants a wholesale club-sized vat of cream cheese when you just need an 8-ounce block?
        Last night our sons Robert and David, girlfriend Audrey, and Mark's good friend Kevin and his wife joined us for dinner at Olive Garden for dinner.  I had shrimp mezzalunas, the first thing you see in that link.  Yummy.  The kids left and Kevin, Marisa, Mark, and I went to Congo River Golf to play miniature golf and feed the alligators.  It was so fun.  Guess who won?  Yep, me.  I was so much fun, but the most interesting of all was feeding the alligators.  You get a little wooden fishing pole with a thick string and a plastic point on the end, which a slice of a hot dog is pierced on.  Oh the gators come alive when they see that!  Don't get excited, they were all small; about 2 to 3 feet long. When we got home, we all had a slice of birthday cheesecake and reminisced a nice day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NC Fall Trip

Mark and I left home on October 9th after work at 8:30PM, drove over to Alan and Sigrid's house and picked them up.  Mark drove from 9PM-2AM, announced that after five hours on the road, he was seeing double and was ready for a hotel!  Alan said he wasn't tired at all, and so he drove from 2-5.  Since I slept soundly for a few hours prior, I stayed awake, concerend that Alan would fall asleep at the wheel, and so I chatted with him from the back seat.  Sigrid slept soundly.  After three hours driving, Alan pulled over and asked if we wanted a hotel or if anybody wanted to drive.  Oh we were so close, and being the only awake person, I took over.  I drove under the speed limit through sometimes heavy rain and we arrived in Boone at 9AM, four hours of driving for me.  The sun was up at about 7:30, so early morning driving was perfect for me, albiet in the rain, as I am happy to see the sun rise and the world open up.  I passed the turn for Banner Elk and Beech Mountain and continued on to Boone, where Sig and Alan were to rent a car.

That Saturday, October 10th, was our 28th wedding anniversary.  Because we arrived so early in Boone, Sigrid and I decided that the Saturday morning Farmer's Market would be good.  Everything is home grown, mostly organic.  We got apples, small white sweet potatoes, free-range eggs, salad greens, tomato, onion, an eggplant, and organic ground beef.  Alan and Sigrid bought us a bouquet of flowers for an anniversary present. We took them to the rental place for a car.  They have a home on Beech Mountain, and they went to their home and we went to ours. 

I made a good dinner using the ground beef, eggplant, and canned tomato sauce from a new cookbook. We invited our friends over for dinner, played cards, and had a nice evening.  The next day, barbeque chicken dinner at their house with two other couples, neighbor friends of theirs.   Again, we played the card game that I hope NOT to forget.

On Wednesday we picked Sigrid up from the car rental place, where she returned their car, then on Thursday we drove Alan and Sigrid to the Tri-Cities airport so they could fly home.  Twelve hours by car is only one and a half hours in a plane.  Amazing!  They have two children still in high school and needed to get back home.

Our week was so nice.  The leaves were all vibrant reds and yellows and oranges, and the air was crisp and chilly.  It rained on and off all week, but it wasn't miserable weather at all.  When Friday came, the temperature dropped drastically and we got snow!  It snowed in very teeny tiny dots of white with an occasional flake drifting down.  Saturday morning the snow covered everything with a thin veil of white.  Mark and I went to the Valle Crucis Fair and the ground was so muddy, covered with a layer of hay, but it was still gross.  Then we went to the Wooly Worm Festival, which usually isn't as nice as the Valle Crucis one, but this year it was better!

The snow continued and Saturday night, we had about an inch and a half.  Sunday morning there was about another inch and the temperature was 21F. 

We had a fire in the fireplace Saturday night, but ugh, even though the fireplace people came and checked everything, cleaned the pipe, etc, and even though I verified the flue was open with a flashlight, and even though we had NO wind at all, we got a house full of smoke!  The wind drafted up, we could see it was blowing upward, but somehow still, the house fills with nose and eye-burning smoke.  Our fireplace is awful and Mark and I are both so frustrated.  We are looking to see what we can do to make it a better fireplace.  We like wood-burning, and wonder if a simple fix, like glass doors, would be the charm?

Update on homefront

The air conditioner was fixed cheaply, a little electronic capacitor.  Guessing it wasn't used to working at full power (since the last big fix) and just burned out.  That said, everything was once again cool at home.  Just in time for packing for NC!  We left on October 9th.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Broken Air Conditioner.

Remembering the heat in our house on September 23rd, we are once again without cold air conditioning.  Yup, broke again.  I called the man that fixed it last time and, but also called someone my friend Janine recommended - her neighbor (left messages at both places).  Janine's neighbor called first and is due here any minute.  Then the original repairman called immediately after, saying he's on his way.  A little uncomfortable!  Let's talk uncomfortable - today's temp will be 96F but will feel like 104F.  Yikes!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Books Books Books

I love to read, but rarely make time and my stack of books just keeps growing. I must catch up!   I am halfway through Waterlily, and next is Tea, but the reading order for the rest is the luck of the draw.   Black White Jewish was stolen from the coffee table by Juliet and she ate part of the cover.

The Twilight books is currently a four-book series, but by the time I get to those, there may be five!  After reading a few of the Charlaine Harris vampire books (True Blood on TV), plus my fear of scary dreams, the idea of reading more about the blood sucking un-dead just doesn't appeal to me, but  everybody raves about Twilight and the movies are very popular, so I may have a change of heart.

Second Rituxan Treatment

Tuesday I had my second Rituxan treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Starting an IV is a challenge, as my veins like to blow, but after one painful vein in my hand went, she switched to the inside of my elbow and it worked like a champ!  Anticipating another hive reaction, the doctor ordered double Benedryl, which was another great idea!  My appointment was at 9AM and the IV meds started at about 10AM. I remember getting some juice and crackers around 11:30, but after that, I slept.  I slept so soundly (Benedryl induced), that I didn't wake up when the nurse removed my IV at 1PM, and she didn't want to disturb me, so I woke up at 2.  I was pale and weak after the IV, but drove myself to a hair appointment and then home.  As with the first infusion, I noticed that I slurred words, but this only lasted the first day.  My hands were weak and when I cooked dinner, I knocked a box of corn starch all over the tile and halfway swept that up, then spilled a box of couscous all over the floor.  David came to the rescue and cleaned up both of my messes.  Dinner was simple, a baked chicken, couscous (there was another box), and green beans.  I felt weak, my long bones ached, but Tylenol checked that, and I went to bed early.  Day two was much better.  I did some laundry, played with my dog, and hung around home, resting a lot.  There won't be another infusion for four to six months.  Yay!  I'll keep you posted on any RA improvement.  So far, I notice my large joints are less compromised.

Squirrel's Winter Bedding

Sitting in the sunroom at my parent's house, I watched a little squirrel pulling soft dried material from a banana tree.  She's making a warm bed somewhere up high in an oak tree in anticipation of winter.  The squirrels seem smaller in Jacksonville than at my Central Florida house.  Maybe they're better fed, with the constant supply of sunflower seeds at my bird feeder.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I got my car, with the intake valve repaired ($327, ouch) and drove home on Monday.  I was supposed to have chemo for my rheumatoid arthritis Monday, but was able to delay that until Tuesday.  So Tuesday morning I had the Rituxan.  I arrived at 9 and didn't leave until 2.  Because I got hives with the last infusion, I was given double Benedryl along with a regular dose of Medrol (a prednisone) before the infusion began.  I fell asleep somewhere around 11.  When I woke up at 2, I was surprised to see that the nurse had removed my IV around 1, but she left me there to sleep.  I won't have to go for another dose for four to six months. 
I had a hair appointment at 2:15 and arrived a little late.  My face was pale white and I was a little cloudy and shaky.  I went home and layed in the recliner for the afternoon, getting up to cook some dinner.  I knocked over a box of corn starch and it went all over the floor.  A little hand vac got most of it up.  Then I spilled cuscus all over the floor.  David helped me out with that mess and finished cleaning up the corn starch too.  I cooked a chicken, cuscus with garlic and olive oil, and green beans.  David made some brownies for dessert.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit

I never watched Lonesome Dove.  Not because I don't like western movies, oh I do...I didn't watch because I knew it lasts six hours and that I would cry.  And I did.  There is a reference to the Latin proverb, Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit, which means "A grape changes color (ripens) when exposed to other grapes."  How appropriate.  *sob*  What a wonderful movie.

I now have a new favorite movie.

Feeling Strange

Friday, after a busy week at momma and daddy's house, and trying to tie up all the loose ends on my day there, ready to hand everything back over to Kat, I felt wierd and wired at bedtime.  My body buzzed, my stomach was shaky, like butterflies, my ankles felt weak, and my feet felt numb (from exhaustion), and I was hot again, that "core of my body" hotness where the heat shoots out my palms and feet that I got from the first chemo arthritis treatment two weeks ago.  I had these on and off the first week after chemo, but it appears to have returned.  Maybe exhaustion caused it.  Or maybe an illness?  I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little more normal, but after putting forth the smallest effort - a suitcase and a bag in the trunk, I was again feeling very much the same as when I fell asleep.  You could have knocked me over with a feather!  I couldn't drive 2-1/2 hours to go home.

Did I mention that my car broke on Thursday?  In the week before I left, Mark smelled anti-freeze and  couldn't find a leak (parked my car on a piece of cardboard), but had to put about a quart into the radiator before I left for my drive up to Jacksonville last Saturday.  He warned me to watch the thermostat, which I did, and everything was normal, no smells, nothing.  When I drove across town to take my father to pick up a car, and when daddy got out of my car, I smelled anti-freeze.  Uh-oh.  I watched the temperature rise on the gauges as I drove home.  Off went the air-conditioner, and I drove home with windows opened, thankful that the outside temperature was starting to get close to open-windows season, better known to my northern friends as "winter", but in Florida, it means tolerable outside temperatures.  Daddy poured two jugs of anti-freeze in and I watched it pour out of the pan underneath my car.  Daddy drove my car to his repairman Danny, and it turns out that the intake valve was broken, it will be fixed on Monday for about $200 to $300.

So back to feeling strange...I decided not to drive dad's loaner car home on Saturday while feeling so strange, and then spend Sunday at home, then on Monday after chemo, drive back up to Jacksonville to get my car back, spend the night, then drive again home on Tuesday.  Instead, I remained in Jacksonville, visiting my mom and dad and sister and brother-in-law.  I feel weak, not really sick, just strange.  I can't put my finger on what's wrong, but I hope it goes away soon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Juliet ate Foam Rubber

I left for Jacksonville on Saturday morning and in the few days I've been gone:
On Monday David, who didn't crate Juliet before he left the house, came home to find Juliet had ripped up a plastic bag.  Mark invited the dog back into our bed (after I suffered through breaking her to a crate at night), and yesterday while Mark was outside working in his truck, Juliet found some foam, "like pillow stuffing" and shredded it all over the family room.  Mark never found where it came from.  Last night Mark found poopie on the carpet, but I have had her trained to go outside.  Somebody didn't let her out after her dinner... And Mark said it appeared her stomach was upset and the cleanup was icky.  Juliet eats a raw meaty bone diet and her poopies are never loose or stinky...something's wrong!

At noon today I got a call from David, announcing that Juliet spent the morning in her crate and had diarreah and was vomiting.  He bathed her and took her to the vet.  The doctor checked a stool sample, thought she could have intestinal blockage and x-rayed her.  Something, but couldn't tell, so barium and x-rays followed.  No surgery needed, and so Juliet got a anti-nausea shot and amoxycillin.  Hey, I'm here and they're there, and so I couldn't question why my dog got antibiotics for an upset stomach.  Maybe he found a high white blood count?  The cost was $350.

Tonight I asked Mark how Juliet felt.  He didn't know.  me-Did she eat?  mark-Yes, David fed her. me- Did she eat it all?  mark-No, there is still some meat in her bowl from two hours earlier. me- OH DUH no wonder she has an upset stomach, throw it out after ten minutes!!!  It's raw meat!  me-Did she potty yet:?  mark-I don't know. me-Please take her on a walk...bring flashlight and inspect poop.  Good night.
mark-Come home.

Is the Rituxan Working?

I feel pretty good!  Is the Rituxan working?  My large joints feel good!  I still have discomfort in my feet and hands, but this is the norm with all the damage I've already experienced.  I am wary to say it's working...'don't want to jinx my health.  My next infusion is on Monday, October 5th.

Momma's Heart, or Listen to the Coffee Pot Percolate!

Momma's health has been tricky in the past year, and a lot of it stems from a very irregular heartbeat. This past week has been pretty bad, so today the doctor changed her meds, which we hope will bring things back to good.  Kat and Larry live with mom and dad to provide care, and since Kat's grandson got so ill Friday, I came up Saturday.  My parents wake up before 7 and eat breakfast at 7:30.  Lunch is at noon and dinner has to be on the table at 4:30PM.  Their schedule takes getting used to, but I love visiting.
photo: Aunt Louise and Momma on a very good day in August - momma's birthday!

Grand-Nephew Joshie Diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes

Two and a half year old Joshie (Robin's baby) has been feeling low for about a week.  Friday night his daddy Kevin, who was diagnosed type-1 a couple of years ago, on a whim tested Joshie's blood sugar.  The monitor wouldn't register so he called their number and was told that it doesn't register over 600 and to get that baby to the hospital.  His blood sugar was at 760 - scary and so high that he was in grave danger.  A long weekend in the hospital and now Joshie is home.  Robin and Kevin had lots to learn about babies with diabetes.  He will have a finger stick up to about times a day, plus four insulin injections. 

Joshie, Grandma Kat (holding Juliet), and Chris

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How ya feelin? HOT HOT HOT

I had such a nice time at Disney on Tuesday!  Oh how I love family!!  Tuesday  night, fearful that I might not sleep again, I took a Tylenol PM, and with that I slept very well and I had very vivid colorful dreams.  I don't usually remember dreaming, so this was such a treat! I dreamed I was having a Mary Kay party at the Magic Kingdom and I had six ladies at a card table right in front of the Cinderella's Castle.  The ladies were so excited to be chosen, loved the cleanser, but the makeup wouldn't stick, it just slid off their sweaty faces! They wanted to buy everything and I had to take a keelboat to the parking lot to get their product from my car.  End of dream one.  Dream two: Miranda and Ben invited their cousins Chris and Josh to go to Sea World for a birthday celebration.  Because I have a year-round pass, it was up to Aunt Marty to take all four kids and I pushed them through the crowds in a huge stroller, shaped like Shamu the Whale.  End of dreams.

I woke up early because I was roasting hot, sweating and miserable.  I layed there, wondering when I would get back to normal, when Mark woke up, complaining about the room temperature.  We went to the family room to check the thermostat and David was already there.  It was almost 78F in our house at 7AM.  There was something wrong with the air conditioner and I called American Heat and Air (AHA), because they are the folks that always send out postcards to remind us to have our A/C serviced. 

While I waited, I gave Juliet a haircut.  Her hair was so long it dragged in the grass and she was getting very dirty. Juliet HATES ponytails and so the cute top-notch that yorkies are famous for is out of the question.  As soon as I pull her hair up, she drags her head on the ground until the rubberband breaks, so first things first! I brushed her bangs forward and cut them off at the eyebrows, leaving some long hair on the top of her head so if I decided to try a hairdo again, she could still have a ponytail.  Next, I trimmed her ears with a battery powered clipper, shaving the top 1/3 of her ears clear of hair. I clippered her feet and trimmed up her legs to her elbows and knees, not shaved, but shaped up.  I straight-cut her hair to knee and chest length with scissors, then with the clippers I tidied up her private parts.  Again with scissors, I cut the long hair on either side of her face/neck so it flows smoothly into the rest of her long hair.  She's so cute, and I saved myself $40.

I paid the man from AHA $80 for the service call and I was told that our air handler (in the garage) and the recharger outside next to the condenser both needed replacing and also we needed a freon charge.  Total cost: $2777 AND we'd have to wait until Friday for the parts.  After he left, my friend Cathy suggested I call Mike Heaton, owner of Heaton Air Conditioning, who used to live in our neighborhood and fixes a lot of the neighbors' aging units and is known to be totally trustworthy.  I placed a call, he could come in the morning.

By the time Mark got home, I was a limp, weak, shaky, exhausted mess, too overwhelmed to even consider going to a neighbor for some cool air relief.  Mark realized how bad this was for my health (I was shakey and I had begun slurring again) and also that sleep would be impossible for both of us, so we went to the brand new Hampton Inn in Apopka and rented a hotel room for the night for $79.  On our way to the hotel we stopped for dinner at Wendy's.  Mark had a hamburger and I had a baked potato with brocolli and cheese, but I was still so hot that I barely ate.  We were very possibly the first guests in our sparkling new fifth floor hotel room.  The bed was like a cloud and the air conditioner was fabulously cool.  We set it at 72 and slept wonderfully all night long and woke up feeling refreshed.

The drapes made the hotel room so dark, that we didn't wake up until 8 in the morning!  We ate a free hot breakfast of eggs, ham and biscuits, and headed back to our hot house to let the dog out of her crate and wait for the Mr. Heaton to arrive.  Hey, she's a dog, and we had the fans blowing, so Juliet was fine.

Unlike AHA, Mr. Heaton said our air handler (the garage part) was fine.  Old, but fine.  It was not causing our electric bill to be high, and he said that "everyone's electric bill is high!"  Mr. Heaton replaced the rusted-out recharger (a part on the outside condenser) and filled the unit with freon.  Total cost: $421.   There is an expensive air handler that we could buy and this would cut about 10% off of the a/c part of the electric bill, saving us maybe $20 to $25 a month, but it was not advised if we weren't planning on staying here long-term, which we are not.  He mentioned that he is going to replace his entire a/c system in his 4-year old house next year with this elaborate money-saving system, as he is planning to stay in his house forever and there's a tax break for this expensive upgrade.

Knowing that our air handler is 22 years old (the compresser outside is five years old), it is inevitable that we will have to replace the handler before we sell our house.  IDEA! Why not replace it with the used handler that the Mr. Heaton is taking out of his house?  I asked him, and he agreed that this would be an excellent idea!  We are on borrowed time with the old handler, and pray it will continue to work until Mr. Heaton is ready to replace his.    Thank you, Cathy K for suggesting Mike Heaton.

I may have delayed recovery from the Rituxan with a day in the heat at Disney, followed by another hot day at home with the broken air conditioner.  I am tired catch nyself slurring my words like a drunk, but can control this if I pay attention.  My head is still a little fuzzy, and I have zero energy.  My house is now at my favorite temperature, 74F and I have a glass of ice water by my side.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Day After Rituxan

My niece Karen, Christian, their two children Ben and Miranda came down from PA, and my sister Kat (my sister and Karen's mom, lives in Jacksonville) drove down together and we met at Downtown Disney.  While Christian and Ben visited the Lego store, Miranda went to Bippity Boppity Bootique for a princess makeover, complete with a tiny tiara adorned bun, lipstick, nail polish, and magic sparkles all over!  It was a wonderful birthday for a 4-year old who loves being a princess.  I met up with the crew at T-Rex, a restaurant that sells humongous hamburgers for humongous prices!  Kat and I shared, plus we each had a soda, and our bill totalled $27, gratuity included.  Welcome to Disney! 
I have never seen Disney so empty!  Summer break is over and big kids are back in school, so the Magic Kingdom guests were locals, and couples with small children, or perhaps homeschooled kids like my grand niece and nephew.  The hot weather kept people away too.  Look at the pictures, barely anybody there!  We were still hot, but not nearly as hot as we were before it rained.  We arrived around noon and got to go into all the rides that we wanted to do. (Karen and her son pre-planned), and left at 7PM as the park closed for Not So Scary Halloween, a kid party for an additional cost.  It was beginning to rain as we left.
So the Disney day was on Tuesday, one day after I received Rituxan, a chemotherapy drug that should help reduce the  symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but according the the doctor,  "miraculously melts" non-hodgkins lymphoma, but since there's no cure for RA, I'll have to settle for what it can do for me, if it helps at all.  So, it's chemo, and I took it and I had plans the next day...Disney with my niece and her family and my sister Kat.   I didn't feel up to prime when I woke up Tuesday morning, and decided  I'd definately use a wheelchair.  I had a note from the oncologist's office stating that I was not to be standing in long lines or heat.  I showed my note to the customer service desk in the "City Hall" at the Magic Kingdom and was issued a red pass.  This special pass put all six of us first in line at all the attractions.   Just flash the magic card!
 I had a little bit of an upset stomach since the chemo.  My stomach doesn't hurt, and this continues.  I guess that's to be expected when you pump your system full of poison.  Monday, the first night, which was the night before Disney day, I didn't sleep well, feeling hot through my body core, a little agitated, and not sleepy, but exhausted all the same.  I guess you might call it an anxious feeling.  I'm guessing the anxiety is from the double dose of steroids I got.  The heat I felt was through the core of my body, down my legs and out of the soles of my feet.  I'm usually chilly at night and frozen feet are the norm.  It was totally different than a hormonal hot flash, maybe it was a fever? My skin was cool and  I didn't feel sweaty.  I was too tired to get up and check, much less to think about taking any medicine.  I gave up on sleep around 4AM,  and felt a little wobbly plus my large bones were somewhat uncomfortable.  Not tooth-ache painful, but there was surely something going on in the marrow of my bones, especially in my  legs,arms and hip bones.  It was not arthritic joint pain.  Hard to explain, but I knew walking all day would not be a good choice.  I felt a little tired too, maybe from a poor night's sleep, plus I noticed that I was fuzzy brained and slurring a little; a drunken-sober person!  
Kat likes to push, so she was in charge of my wheelchair.  Karen and Christian got a double stroller for their kids, ages almost 6 and almost 4.  They never did ride together, but if they got a single stroller,  both probably would have wanted to be in at the same time.  Normal kid stuff...  The children were fantastically well behaved.  I think they were the best kids in the whole park!  It was such a great day!!! 
The weather was incredibly hot and humid.  Within the first hour Kat started to feel a little woozy and nauseated and so she got a bottle of ice cold water, which was the cure.  It was surely because of the intense sun and heat, and we heard other people were feeling the same.  I was in a wheelchair, so I wasn't putting forth any effort -  like walking, but I was still roasting.  My doctor advised that I cover completely, so I had on a special wide-brimmed UV protective floppy hat and a UV summer long-sleeved shirt over an absorbent tank top, long pants, and tennis shoes.  I sprayed all my exposed skin with #50 sunblock.  I drank cold water, and was strolled around like a queen!  The clouds were dark and we finally got a quick rain around 2, nothing big, just some drizzle to run through, and this made a huge difference in the weather for the remainder of the day.  We rode the Brer  Rabbit water ride and we all got pretty drenched, which was terrifically refreshing.

Large crowds of costumed locals were arriving for the Halloween Party as we were leaving the park, and the skies opened once more to emit cooling rain. We were happy to be on our way out! Another stop at Downtown Disney to get my car, a Lego Land prize for the kids, and finally to grab a happy meal from McDonald's. I left in my car, and they headed back to Jacksonville in theirs, a 2-1/2 hour drive. It's only a half hour drive for me, but I had to stop off at Publix to pick up a prescription. I was home, showered and asleep by 9.

Rituxan - First Night

I am being treated for Rheumatoid Arthritis with Rituxan (scroll down in link to Treatments, go to bottom of list).  My day at the doctor's office was long, but my first Rituxan treatment was somewhat of a success, as I was able to complete the treatment.  We'll see in a few weeks if this drug relieves some of my RA symptoms.  My oncologist, Dr. Lynn, says Rituxan melts cancer, but unlike cancer, RA is not curable.  This doctor says if I don't show signs of rejection, I can remain on this drug for a few years, or until "something better" comes along.  I instantly knew that I'd like this doctor, a nice feeling. Why is it that female doctors allow patients and employees to use their first name?  I don't call my rheumatologist Dr. Bob.  Well, anyway I am glad, because Dr. Lynn has a huge last name that doesn't roll off one's tongue easily, something like Van Umerlington.  I can't recall exactly.

Evening: Although I was groggy enough to slur from the massive amount of Benedryl yesterday, I was wide awake.  Perhaps it was the combination of drugs, moreso the steroids.  I ate a small dinner and felt like I'd eaten Mount Methusela, but still craving sweet/cold, I  (much later) enjoyed a fudge ice cream bar.  After halfway watching the Dallas Cowboys football game and whatever other drivel Mark had on TV, we headed for bed around 11:30.  Mark was surprised that I hadn't passed out in my chair, but I had kept myself occupied with this handy-dandy miniature pink laptop, still the best Christmas present ever!

Bed:  I washed my face and made sure to apply extra Mary Kay Night Solution, as it adds vitamins and removes free radicals - unwanted garbage absorbed into the skin from the environment.  I'm guessing there was plenty of junk floating in the air of the recliner room yesterday, as all the patients were receiving a variety of chemo for cancer.  I was the only RA patient.  Recalling a couple of years ago when I got Remicade infusions (at an oncology clinic), my thick mop of hair got a little thinner, and that was not a side effect of the meds I was getting.  Once in bed, I was restless.  The clock glowed, I got up and covered it. I think there were three potty-calls between 11:30 and 4:30, completely uncommon for me.   My cell phone charging light was bright, covered it with a washcloth on a return visit to the restroom.  My pillow was hot, my feet were hot and my neck felt sweaty.  My body core was hot, but my skin and legs were cold. The dog usually sleeps against my ribcage, a tiny ball of warmth, tried and tried, but must've felt I was a giant ball of warmth and kept moving away. Mark snores softly, but tonight it was as irritating as a jack-hammer next to me.  I ran through lists (I am a champion list-maker) and wished I could turn on the light and write everything down, but didn't want to disturb my husband. The clincher was a tree frog outside the window, calling all his mates, just a yard from my pillow.

Pre-dawn:  Slipped out of bed, leaving behind the snoring duo of husband and doglet, left the door ajar just in case the Juliet missed me, lest she wake Mark to open the door. With pillow and blankie in hand, I tiptoed into the family room, which is far enough away that the glow of my computer screen in the dark won't bother anybody.  Although the hives left with the second batch of meds, I notice some itchy irritation in the warmer places of my body; behind knees, groin, armpits, but it's easy to resist the temptation to scratch.  I looked in the mirror and saw nothing, so it may just be paranoid memories surfacing.  I consider taking another Benedryl at home, but choose not to, as I need to write a list and be "up and at 'em" at 7:30.  I occupy myself on the computer and keep an eye open for outside critters walking past the windows in the moonglow.  It is not uncommon to see deer and bears just before dawn.  Nightfall is getting later, as is the dawn, as fall nears.  I like this, as I sleep best in the black darkness.  Another reason I enjoy fall and winter so much.

Today:  My niece Karen lives in PA with her husband and two children (almost 4 & 6) and they are in Jacksonville visiting family. My sister Kat is Karen's mother, and she will come along from Jax too. How fun!! A  sidetrip to Disney is a requirement when you bring children to Florida! Miranda is scheduled to be at Bippity Boppity Botique in Downtown Disney for a little girl princess beauty makeover (birthday request, she'll be 4 next week), followed by lunch at nearby T-Rex Restaurant to please Ben, and then we head on over to the Magic Kingdom.  My mother's health is pretty fragile, and Kat and Larry moved into their house to take care of momma's health, cooking and cleaning, be her driver, and handle everyday operation of the house. Daddy is well, but has the expected aches and pains of a 79-year old man.  Getting Kat down here was a coordinated effort, as we arranged for Patty to take a day off of work and spend it with mom.  It is a fluke that the appointment for my first Rituxan infusion was the day before Disney, not what I would have scheduled, but it was the only time available for both.  I don't know how I'll feel yet. I could be a ball of fire, bounding down the sidewalk like a teenager from the steroids, which by the way, makes a person feel like they're starving to death 24/7 and gives me a little foggy-brained confusion.  Or I could be totally wiped out, feeling like each step I take is through waist-deep mud.  If this is the case, a wheelchair will be used.  My doctor tells me to try to avoid heat and wear sunscreen, long sleeves, and a hat.  The meds don't mix well with sunshine.  I chose a short sleeved t-shirt, lightweight slacks and tennis shoes, but I need a hat and all I have are ballcaps.  Since it will be in the 90's today, I want to pick up a long-sleeved top at the camping store that blocks UV rays and breathes.  I have a lot to do before meeting everyone at Bippity-Boppity Botique at 10 this morning.

LIST:  Pack light backpack with sunblock, sunblock lipgloss, comb, wallet (tickets), kleenex, Benedryl (you never know!), pain pills and meds, bottle of water, packets of cheese crackers and raisons, camera, cell phone, charger, zip-loc bags for waterproofing (afternoon rains are a given), a rain parka and a tiny umbrella. Get wheelchair cushion from The Lizard (spare car - an old green Monte Carlo). I can't get the seat high enough for short me, so it's a fixture in that car.  Take video back to library, cash check, swing by Mosquito Creek Outfitters store for long-sleeved shirt.  I'm hoping for a light beige/sand color to match my slacks. If they can't help me, I'll end up in Target or Marshall's on my way to Disney.

Right Now: My hips and thigh bones ache, not an RA symptom, but possibly from the new meds. I feel like I weigh two hundred pounds and moving about is an effort, which means I'll probably rent a wheelchair in the theme park. Kat is a happy chair pusher and compares it to the comfort of pushing a shopping cart, something to lean on. I don't like using wheelchairs, because people look at you with the "You don't look handicapped" judgement calls.  People in front of you in the flow of traffic sometimes stop abruptly and then get upset if their ankles get hit.  I am glad not to have a headache, flu sypmtoms, or any other myseries that can occur the day after a drug infusion.  I am happy to report that I feel cooler and my torso and the soles of my feet aren't on fire anymore.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rituxan Day for R.A.

I strolled in at 11AM, plunked down my 20% ($1,128.00) and headed to the back of the oncologists' office to prep for my first run of Rituxan for rheumatoid arthritis.  The bulging vein in back of right hand looked good.  The Thing 1 (phlebotomist) placed the IV perfectly, popped the vein and slipped right in, but it hurt like the dickens.  "Owie-owie-owie," and I was sooo ashamed to be such a baby, especially since they use a baby-sized butterfly to stick..  Shoot, I've had so many vien punctures, I could do my own, but this one was something.  Much more uncomfortable than if had she hit a valve.  Thing 1 had to work to get a stream and partially fill three tubes, but by the time she had wiggled and moved the IV tube in and out of my vein, back and forth, stretched the vein, anything to coax my vein to cooperate, the first tube coagulated.  It was incredibly uncomfortable.  When she tried to rinse the tube with saline, it wouldn't budge and it was clear that the vein had blown out and a big bruise was growing.  Left hand, not uncomfortable at all to start, but the blood just wouldn't come.  Another blow out, complete with bruise.  I drank a second bottle of water, said a prayer, and the head nurse (Thing 2) came in, smacked me around a bit (okay, so she struck my arm with two fingers to surface a good enough vein) and chose one slap-dab inside my elbow.  "Do you mind having it here? You will have to keep this arm straight."  "Do I have a choice.  And will you be my official page turner today?" This vein held.  Blood volunteered itself like it was off in the races, three full vials were drawn, then off to the recliner room with my book and blankie. My doctor popped in, sat in the recliner next to me and we chatted for a minute.  She was happy to get her feet up for a minute and we did our appointment while Thing 3 strung me up.

The first bag that went in my IV was a small bag of steroid: solu-medrol, which was followed by an IV bag of Benedryl. It felt warm going in and made me feel warm from the inside and groggy, like drinking a few shots of rum.  Next was a mongo-sized bag of the Rituxan, like the last two IVs, was nice and clear like glacial water.  I was glad it wasn't flourescent green or any other disgusting bug-guts color.  The drip was ultra-slow (one drip per four seconds) on purpose, as they were watching for rejection.  I was doing fine, listening to music on my iPhone, but too groggy to read the pages of a book.  The back of my throat felt really dry and almost sore and I reached for my water.  Moving made me realize my entire torso was itching/burning, like I had just had a mass attack of fire ants.  How fast do you think I can move the little line pincher?  You got it, and I did!  Thing 3 and Thing 4 examined my face, neck, and torso, stopped the IV, and sommoned Thing 2.  I was allowed to go to the bathroom and remove my bra that was making the hives feel much worse and examine my situation in the mirror.  Entire torso, starting at the face, ears, neck, and going down to my thighs was a giant red and white welt. 

A new mini-bag of steroids was started, this time Dexadron, followed by another bag of Benedryl, and another timid attempt at the Rituxana.  This time, it was a success.  The bag of medication that was supposed to go in over a 4 hour period had only 1.5 hours before closing time.  God was with me and I didn't have a moment's trouble.  I do know how to demand attention though, just become a giant hive!!  I took a picture, but it was after the second bag of Benedryl, however some red blotches still remained.

I left the office at 5:30, a little wobbly from a double-dose of Benedryl and very very tired.  Mark stopped on the way home at a Chinese takey-outey,  and a chicken from Publix.  I wanted a Rita's mango frozen Italian ice, but Mark didn't want to eat anything sweet before dinner.  Next time I'll have to insist, as I am still Jonesing for a mango ice thing.   The big question is, when did I get that giant rooster-goozle that hangs between chin and neck??? (blame it on hives!)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Melungeon Ancestry

I have learned that my family history may include Melungeon ancestory on both my mother's and father's sides.  Melungeons, often referred to as American Indian or north African decent, are a fascinating group of people from Mediterranean ancestry that settled in the NC area in the 1700's-1800's.  Typical is my father's coloring of ruddy skin with black hair and bright blue eyes, plus his family is from Salisbury, NC.  I have heard stories about a great grandmother that was an indian, and wonder if this is the connection.  The Melungeons took on simple names, and my maiden name of Wise is amoung them.  My mother's ancestors came from Spain (with Greek ancestry) and may have married Melungeons, as they settled in the same area.  I don't know for sure, but it looks right, plus, Momma's got the physical traits.

A rule of thumb to test if  we iz or we ain't is the inherited trait of a bump on the back of the head and shovel teeth. I have both. "Shovel teeth" is a ridge at the back base of the front upper teeth.  When my mouth is closed, my lower teeth sit nicely in that ridge, and I was surprised to learn that the whole human race doesn't have such a clever bite. The ridge drives my dentist crazy, as he's just waiting for cavities to form in the crevasses, which in 52 years, still hasn't.

So what is to learn about this heritage?  Health problems!  Mediterranean deseases that are very rare in the United States and are similar to symptoms that I have suffered from for years now: fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis and other unexplained pains and fevers.  I very well may have a illness called Familial Mediterranean Fever.  The fix  is a pill called colchicine that is derived from crocus (a Mediterranean flower).  How about that??

Possible Rituxan Delay

I got a call on Friday from the insurance lady in my oncologist's office, saying that Monday's appointment for my first Rituxan infusion may have to be delayed.  She bagan talking to the insurance company last Monday, but the insurance company is hesitant to approve such an expensive drug without some background.  They require proof of my 22 year history with rheumatoid arthritis, and a list of all the support medications I've had, plus that I have taken biologicals in the past that stopped/didn't work;Enbrel, Remicade, and Kineret, AND that I am currently taking Methotrexate (have been for about 20 years).  This is all true.  So what's the delay??  By Friday the approvers at the insurance company hadn't made a decision.  If I get approval Monday morning, I may still be able to get that infusion I'm hoping for at 10:30.  The doctor's office is about 45 minutes away, so Mark and I will probably leave before we are certain that this will actually happen, taking the risk of having to turn around and go home.  Sigh.  I really really want to do this on Monday, because I have to go back in two weeks exactly for the second infusion.  My calendar is tight...I'll be either in Jacksonville in a week or two, and then to NC October 9-17.  Time constraints!

Disney with Family

Thinking about my two sisters in Jacksonville, and how Patty's boyfriend LOVES Disney, so she has a Mickey Mouse overload, and that Kat hasn't been since her girls (now adults with children of their own) were young.  I placed a call to my favorite company that I work for in Spring, doing tours with high school marching bands, and asked the owner (my boss) if he happened to have a spare Disney ticket.  Oh my, he DID!  I was prepared to pay the cost for it, but he just gave it to me and made me promise I'd keep the last week of April and first few days of May open for some groups coming in.  I asked Patty if she could take a day off and spend it with momma so Kat could come to Disney.  Oh joy!  Kat will ride down from Jax with her daughter Karen and her husband and their two children.  It will be so fun for Kat to spend the day at The Magic Kingdom with her grandchildren.  I'll  be there too, I have a 3-day pass with two open days on it.    The secret to a smooth day with a large group (6 of us) is to have no agenda except whatever Karen and Christian and their children want to see.  It'll be great! We'll have such a nice time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Company Means Disney World!

Next week my niece and her family are coming down from Pennsylvania to visit family in Jacksonville. Disney is a requirement when kids are almost 4 & 6, so we'll go on Tuesday. We'll meet for lunch and spend the day in the Magic Kingdom, then they'll drive back to Jax that evening. It's only 2.5 hours away. Sure, they're welcome here, but the inn is pretty full with both boys living at home.

Rituxan for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a pain that has no cure! There is a biologic medicine called Rituxan that may offer some relief, and so I am scheduled to have my first IV next Monday 9/21/09. All the information about it is at

The infusion is given at an oncologist's office. Oncologists are not just for cancer. I will be in a room lined with people in recliners receiving a variety of IV medications, some for arthritis, most for cancer. We watch tv, read, knit. My medication will take about four hours (or more) to receive. It's given in stages, small amounts at a time so I won't have a strong reaction. We are instructed toeat breakfast, bring lunch and bring a blanket (the room is cold). There are a variety of side-effects, some horrible and deadly, but more common are itching, chills and a headache.

I had to have a negative TB test, take a flu shot, and have bloodwork, which have all been taken care of. Now it is up to the insurance company to set a price, which I think will be 20% of the infusion price. I hope it will be lower, as the price for biological therapies are usually astronomical.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Red Tailed Hawks

The hawks must be nesting in the big oaks all around our neighborhood! I wake up to the sound of hawks (an eagle call basically), and hear them all day. When a hawk calls nearby, squirrels stop chattering, blue jays and cardinals hush, and the world turns silent except the response calls from far away hawks. Eerie.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Squirrel Dinner

The bird feeder I put up several weeks ago became a squirrel restaurant. There have only been three little songbirds on my watch. I've become up close and personal with the squirrels, names and all. Lumpy was skinny and had a severe bot fly infestation when he first started frequenting the feeder. Bot flies are seasonal and only go for squirrels. Yesterday I was admiring how well he has recovered and what a chublet he had become, and then BLAM! A red-tailed hawk swooped down in a flash of feathers and huge wings and disappeared with Lumpy. It happened swiftly and silently, as fast as the blink of an eye. It is my hope that Lumpy didn't know what hit him.

I have reason to believe that either a hawk has a nestin, or they roost and hunt from, one of the tall oaks at my end of the cul-de-sac. I can hear them. For the safety of my squirrel-sized dog, we have locked Juliet's doggie door until further notice.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rattle Snake

Our next door neighbor, Chris, killed a five foot long rattlesnake today. His three little girls and a neighbor boy pose with the dead snake stretched out before them. Chris tossed the snake into the woods and buried the head as a safety measure.

Adult Sons Live Here

I read online about a woman that wanted to get rid of her two adult children. She cut off the cable TV and internet connections, put a lock-box on the thermostat set to the cheap side of uncomfortable, and quit buying groceries... It took 2 months, but they left.

I don't really feel that my sons need to leave. I do, however, feel that they need to pull their weight. We pay for auto insurance, health insurance, cell phones, and keep the pantry filled. We ask that the thermostat be left alone, but I end up turning the air conditioning warmer each morning.

Robert is in law school. He is in class or in the law library from 7AM-10PM every day of the week. Weekends are playtime, and he's gone with friends almost every weekend. He eats out and drinks and goes to football games. Robert cooks breakfast for himself and starts a pot of coffee, then puts his dishes in the dishwasher and washes his pans. Robert worked in a lawfirm this summer, but spent all the money on trips and fun.

David goes to tech school from 8-2 daily. He comes home and sleeps because he stays up most of the night. He gets an occasional parttime job, but has not worked a real job in quite a while. When he did, he spent all his income on himself. Because David has more free time, I feel especially used by him, plus I hate how he sleeps the days away.

I am dissatisfied with the condition of their bathroom and bedrooms, plus we feel used financially. I want more help with keeping the house clean and orderly, and I don't want to pay for everyone's cell phones and insurance anymore. I asked Mark if we could go to basic cable and disconnect the internet (that would be very difficult for me), but Mark said no, that he needs to go online once a week for about two hours for his business, and not to touch cable until after football season.

I'm pretty frustrated and my bank account is shrinking fast.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jacksonville and Caffiene Withdrawal

My oldest sister Kat and her husband Larry moved into our parents house to help momma with her daily needs. Momma had a severe lung infection that took months of strong medication, but although she has recovered, the combination of her weak heart and that infection really took a toll on momma's strength and she has become pretty housebound. Daddy needs somebody to take care of him too, as he is a typically helpless 79 year old man, spoiled to pieces by momma. So, when Kat and Larry want to go out of town, like this long weekend, to visit family in the Pensacola area of Florida, I come up and take over. Kat and Larry are excited about going out into the Gulf on his son's boat, visiting family and their grandchildren.

Mom and Daddy drink decaf coffee, and this is my second day here, without my caffiene. I didn't realize how addicted I have become, with a pretty intense headache today. I fished a Coke out of the fridge and poured myself a glass, and along with some Tylenol, I hope to feel better quickly. Maybe I'll make an espresso if this coke doesn't work.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Juliet has been "Fixed"

Juliet turned 1 on August 8th and I took Juliet in on Friday the 14th to be spayed. We picked her up Saturday morning and she was VERY excited to see Mark and me, crawling all over both of us. When she's active, she is unaware that she had major surgery, but at night she still whimper/sighs if she moves around, and needs to go outside around 3 in the morning, always fun for me. I'm scared of the spooky creepy monsters that lurk outside in the dark. We have woods in our back yard, a pond in the front, and the animals go through my yard. I'm also afraid an owl will swoop down and steal away with Juliet, but she is getting bigger! The vet said she is an even five pounds now, and he told us that she is slim and trim and perfectly healthy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Flying to the Mountains!

Yesterday Mark and I made reservations to fly to NC August 30-Sept.3. We're just homesick for Beech Mountain. Last night we went out to dinner with Mark's cousin John and his wife Kris, and they decided to join us! I made their flight reservations on my iPhone on the drive to the restaurant. I'm looking forward to this trip. We'll fly up and rent a car.

David and Robert will stay home, go to school. and take care of the dog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kitchen Mercy Dump

On Tuesday I posted a craigslist ad to get rid of a porch-load of demanding and thirsty houseplants and a wooden glider. I was tired of repotting, sweeping under, and watering them, and sitting in the glider made me feel sea sick. My post brought me a new friend, a 30ish sweet girl named Jamie, who reminded me a lot of my two nieces. In our conversation I learned that she and her husband have 4 elementary aged children and she recently lost her job. Jamie was thrilled to get the plants, and she asked me if there was anything she could do to repay me. Funny she should ask, as I was wishing to find someone that would help me organize and take away about half the food I had in my pantry and freezers. Jamie hit the jackpot!

Today we got to work, emptying and cleaning out the pantry - a double-sized closet with bi-fold doors, that was loaded to the gills. We arranged the items I wanted to keep into a more convenient order. Crock pot, mixer, and electronics went on the bottom shelf (off the floor), with canisters. Less used items like the Christmas cookie shooter and the fondue set went on the top shelf with lunch boxes and paper napkins. The middle two shelves hold the groceries. Besides tons of canned food, doubles of syrup, mayo, ketsup, and everything else I duplicated because the pantry was such a wreck that I didn't know what I had, I gave Jamie everything boxed and instant. She also went home with a spare crock pot (she didn't have one), and some other kitchen electronics I no longer use. We filled her trunk!

The fridge was easy to clean, just reorganizing. We threw away a lot of outdated food and things like funny-colored olives. The freezer was scary. We took two coolers, one for her and one for me, and sorted, sorted, sorted. I am extremely pleased to tell everyone that the only thing in my garage chest freezer is bird seed (the squirrels get into the bags in the garage) and two big bags of fridge/freezer trash that will be thrown out on Monday. Jamie went home with her cooler filled, plus a garbage bag full of fridge/freezer items. It was a great day for both of us!

Squirrels are My Dog's New Friends

I got a bird feeder for songbirds that holds only sunflower seeds and hung it from a metal pole outside the family room window. The birds haven't noticed it, but the squirrels love it! Juliet stands at the window and makes all sorts of noises, none of which are barks to scare the squirrels away. Regulars are Lumpy (he has tumors), Big Momma, Slim (he won't be for long!), Bubba (in the picture), and Grandma. The males eat and run, but the females are curious and will sometimes hang on the screen or sit on the window ledge to look at the dog. Juliet wants to play, and when she pounces on the window, the squirrels take off. The nice thing about this feeder is, they can only pull one seed at a time from the screen container, so it lasts. Last night a bear came and dumped our garbage can all over the yard and mutilated the seed feeder. Mark cleaned the garbage up while I bent the damaged feeder back into shape. Lesson learned, we'll bring both into the garage tonight.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Busy Day

It feels like I've broken a bone in my foot...all the feelings of a break, but without any swelling or bruising, so go figure. Maybe the joint has deteriorated to the point that the bone disconnected. My pinkie toe doesn't move when I will it to. After a restless night, I was miserable this morning, but tonight things are much more tolerable.

Today was a busy day for clearing stuff out. Sure, my foot is a pain (hah!), but life goes on. I cleared out the cabinet over the stove. Standing on a ladder, I found a bunch of junk that the tall men in my life have stashed up there...cough drops melted with age, kitten formula that expired in 1999, ancient sunblock, and dozens of rolls of Ace bandages. I kept what we needed and then filled the trash can. Now it's home to a glass teapot and teacups with diffusers. I don't want to drag a chair over, I can always ask a giant to reach.

I have a green thumb and my houseplants are taking over! With two porches full of hungry overgrown plants, I just couldn't face repotting. In fact, I decided don't want plants anymore! I put an ad in craigslist for free house plants and posted some pictures of a couple of plants, plus a glider/rocker that I a friend gave me, but I decided I didn't want it either. Gliders make me seasick.

The nicest young lady replied to my online post and happily drove off with a truckload of potted plants. She has two very well behaved little boys, and offered to "do anything" to repay me. I've been dreading cleaning out my overflowing pantry and freezer, and so this is truly her lucky day. She plans to come by tomorrow or the next day with a big cooler and boxes and will go home with quite a bit of food. After recently losing her job, and with little boys at home, she was overjoyed at the prospect of free groceries.

For dinner tonight I made a chili-potato bake that Rachael Ray made today on TV, served with a simple lettuce salad and homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. It was unusual, as I normally try to avoid potatoes and additional starches in our meals. Everybody liked it, but Mark complained about the kidney beans. For dessert we had carrot cake that Mark brought home yesterday. It looked alot like the Spanish Bar Cakes that daddy used to often buy when I was a kid, except this one had an icing carrot decoration on top.

My dog Juliet is taking weekly AKC dog behavior classes. Being a four-pound peanut, training is difficult for me. Other dogs in this class are a german shepherd, boxer, bishon, a herding dog, and a few other mid-sized dogs, but no other tiny Yorkie doglets like Juliet. The instructor tells us to hold a piece of treat in front of the dog's nose and lead them across the room at your left ankle. Have you ever walked across a room holding a piece of chicken four inches from the floor? Use your imagination - my rear end high in the air, all the way across the room. Not very ladylike, and terribly uncomfortable. After watching a dog training show tonight on TV, I got an idea! A quick trip to Lowes, and now we have a half-inch dowel with a small ping-pong sized rubber ball on the end. She follows it anywhere I point it! " Juliet, sit!" plop. "Juliet, down." plop. "Juliet, walk with me." walk walk walk, right at my left ankle. The stick is a charm! She loves it and understands to follow it. I can't wait for tomorrow night's class!