Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Snow Day in the Making?

We're hearing tell that a nasty storm is headed it's way to us today here in Chicagoland.  Where I live it's supposed to be exceptionally difficult later in the day.  Getting to work won't be a problem, but getting home likely will be . . . I'm considering taking a day of leave to avoid it.  Guess I'll check the news and see how the forecast might have changed from last night's.

In the meantime, here's an Amaryllis update:

Monday:


Tuesday:


Today!  There are actually four buds.  You can see three there in front, but there is also one on the plant in the back.  It may be time for me to turn this again so that these get get equal time in the sun - the one in the back is farther along and it's getting the most sun at the moment.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ten on Tuesday . . .

Today's topic is to list 10 of Your Favorite Things Right Now.

Alrighty then - at the moment . . .

  1. Pink Lady Apples - I think I like them even better than Jonathans.
  2. Music - pretty much all kinds.
  3. My new Blu-Ray player (it doesn't freeze two thirds of the way through a movie like the old DVD player did).
  4. Skinny Pop - Yum!
  5. Crisp air on a cool, sunny day - particularly here in the Midwest - there's nothing else like it.
  6. L'Occitane - all their Shea butter and lavender stuff.
  7. A really good steak - seriously.  I mean it.
  8. Fresh scallops from Whole Foods - I don't know where they get them, but they are always sweet and amazing.
  9. A bookstore - any bookstore.
  10. My Fitbit  :-)
That's a good list!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Sunday Wrap-Up . . .

I did decide to work through Debbie Ford's 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse, and it's been taking up a lot of the time I normally spend blogging, which is why my posts have been a little irregular of late.  I just finished Day 11.  It's good work.  Difficult in places, but good work.

I've been struggling a bit lately with things over which I have no control.  In addition to all the famous people we've lost already this year, I keep hearing about people being diagnosed with various types of cancer and, on Friday, I learned that a friend from the African violet world had had three heart attacks in a two-week period of time.  The last one left her unresponsive . . . She passed on Friday evening.  Another African violet acquaintance died last year and I just found out about it on Friday.  I realize that I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boomers and that we are an exceptionally large bulge in the population - that means that people around my age are going to start dying.  That's the way of the world, I guess.  I know in my head that none of us last forever - and yet in the last month, three people facing various stages and types of cancer, one with a questionable diagnosis that needs further tests, another who had cancer but now just doesn't feel quite right (more tests), and another dead from heart attacks.  All younger than I.

I feel like someone punched me.

And so I work to remember that there are things that I just have no control over.  None.  None whatsoever.  And I am grateful that all I have to deal with is inflammation, and I look for the joy in my everyday world.

But I still feel like someone punched me.

Onward . . .

I managed to finish something this week.  Some "plain vanilla" socks.  They are for my cousin, K.  She picked this yarn out of my stash probably 5 or 6 years ago and I got around to casting them on in November.  I was very glad to get them off the needles because I discovered that I did not like knitting with this yarn.

The yarn is OnLine Supersocke 100.  The colorway is Florida.  I found the yarn to be more of a light fingering weight, which I did not care for, and I also found it to be splitty.  I am glad that these are done!

The Amaryllis Update!

Tuesday:


Wednesday:



Thursday:


Friday:


Saturday:


And guess what?  While looking at the plant on Saturday, I figured something out - take a look:


Remember those "extra" plants that I thought were growing out each bulb? They aren't extra plants at all.  They are the blossom buds!!!  So I'm going to focus on them now until they bloom - because really, how many strap-like leaves can we watch???

Here's today's look  :-)


One of the "consciousness lifters" from the Consciousness Cleanse was to make what we used to call a Mix Tape  ;-)  Now it's a playlist.  A playlist of uplifting and inspiring music.  I'm going to share some of the tunes on mine that make me smile, make me want to dance, and ratchet up my internal flame as soon as I hear any of them.  Today's is a blast from the past.  I never tire of it, and I seriously love this version - just his voice and his piano back in the day before all the hype . . .


Monday, February 15, 2016

More About Inflammation . . .

OK - again, possibly interesting only to me . . .

I know I've talked about inflammation before, but I did a little more personal research and thought I would share why I think it's so difficult for me.

Unfortunately, no one really knows why inflammation can go wonky in the body.  I mean, we need inflammation - it's a marker that something's wrong and our body knows to attempt to try to fix it, but no one really knows why it sometimes goes haywire. And no one really knows why some people have it and have to deal with it and others don't.  I am one of those people - I have it.  My primary care doc has told me that he doesn't know why I have it, and why it affects me so severely.

Whenever someone says inflammation, you automatically think they have arthritis, which is very much an inflammatory condition.  But I don't have arthritis.  There isn't any joint damage (that's the hallmark of arthritis).  I just have inflammation. 

Inflammation = "-itis."  So, something that ends with that suffix is usually about some sort of inflammation, but there are many other conditions that involve inflammation that don't have that suffix - things like asthma, gout, and rosacea, to name a few.

I've been thinking about this for awhile now that I've fallen into this pit again.  I don't know all that much about my father's side of the family other than his parents both lived into their 90s and both eventually had dementia of some sort, and his sister died I think in her 50s of, I think, bladder cancer.  My father died at the age of 33 of kidney disease - nephritis - of both kidneys.  I think I've mentioned before that Nephritis is inflammation.

My mom had three different types of arthritis.  I know that one was osteo (the most common form), but she also had some sort of vascular arthritis and another kind that I don't know what it was.

I wrote it all down in an effort to get a better picture . . .

Dad:  Nephritis (cause of death), and Gout
Mom:  Three kinds of arthritis (osteo, vascular of some sort, and one other)
Grandma (maternal):  Osteo arthritis
Great Aunt Lily (Grandma's sister):  Rheumatoid Arthritis
My half-brother (paternal - we share our dad): Gout

And then there's me . . .

Me:  Asthma, Plantar Fasciitis, Rosacea, Gout, and free-floating inflammation that settles wherever it feels like it.

WTF

I guess when you look at my family history it's not really surprising, is it?

I'm the fucking Perfect Storm of Inflammation.  Thankfully I haven't had a go-round with gout for more than 30 years (man, I hope that doesn't rear it's ugly head again).  As mentioned before, I have had intestinal issues since I was a child.  We took a road trip when I was little and my mom used to tell the story of my having to stop at every bathroom all the way across the country.  At one time the docs thought I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and I have been tested for Celiac Disease because it's many more times more common in people of my Irish heritage.  Thankfully I don't have either of these.

Mostly, I just have inflammation.

And from my own experimentation, I know that sugar is a huge component for me.  When I eat crappy, junky, highly-processed foods, I'm not OK.

I take diclofenac - a common arthritis medicine - for inflammation.  It's a wonder drug.  I take 75mg twice a day.  That's the highest dose.

:-(

I don't think I need to say anything else on this topic at this time.

Here is Sunday's Amaryllis:\



And today's

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Long and Quite Possibly Interesting Only to Me . . .

So.

Here's "the rest of the story" about yesterday's short and not-so-sweet post.

I was talking with my OB/GYN this week - seriously what else is there to do while you're looking at the ceiling? ;-)  He's been my doc for more than 25 years, and even though we only see each other once a year, we always seem to have a lot to talk about when we do.  He said something very simply in passing conversation.  We were talking about the size of my ass (well, not directly) and inflammation.

I said, "It's been a lifelong struggle for me, and it just seems so unfair that I cannot eat like everyone else."

He nodded and said,  "Your body doesn't tolerate simple sugars, and it's not going to get any easier as you get older."

When I say simple sugars, I am talking about refined, processed sugars - like the kind in cupcakes and candy. I'm not talking about the naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, and other "real food" food sources.

I have spent a lifetime struggling with this.  I really would like to be able to eat sweet treats with impunity - which is what I imagine the entire rest of the world can do.  And you would think it would be a simple matter to let something go that hurts you.  Clearly that's not so - I mean there would be no greeting card industry, and popular music would be decimated if we could all let go of/break up with what hurts us in a reasonable and logical manner.

And so - after my foray into being an Ovo-Pescetarian a few years ago at the behest of my primary care doctor (well, my bloodwork numbers, actually), I stopped eating that way.  I went back to old habits because The Strict Program for Three Months was draconian, and unsustainable over the long haul.  Or so I thought. Having my kitchen be under construction for a month last year didn't help because I don't make good choices when I'm getting take out. Since I allowed sugar and highly processed foods back into daily rotation in my world, it's been a slow, painful slide down a long, slippery slope. 

And here I am again.

The black ice slip that torqued my knee a few weeks ago didn't help, but the right side of my body is in constant, low-grade pain.  Again.  Inflammation is rampant.  Again.  I'm back up to two anti-inflammatories a day.  Again.  And I'm having to ice regularly.  And I am too large.

And so, when my doc casually said, "your body doesn't tolerate simple sugars," the lightbulb went on over my head.


No makeup.  No hair (it's cold, I wear hats in the house when it's cold).  Sucky-writer-with-a-Photoshop-pen.  Try not to judge  ;-)

I really cannot tolerate simple sugars, and, as I look back over my life I have never been able to.  I have many memories from childhood surrounding digestive and intestinal issues.  Nobody knew anything about this stuff back then.  You just ate what you were given, and, unless it made you stop breathing, you stumbled along as best you could.  This is nothing new - hence the lightbulb.  It's been there for my entire like, and, apparently, it's never going to go away.  When I quit eating chocolate, lo these many years ago, it was likely the sugar that was the culprit in how I felt.

In the past two weeks I was made aware of something called Bright Line Eating.  I did not pony up nearly a grand (Really, Susan Peirce Thompson? Really???) to join Susan Peirce Thompson's "boot camp," (I'll wait for the book), but I am going to follow her blog for awhile because her process makes some sense to me. I already have "bright lines" with some behaviors, such as smoking and eating chocolate.  A bright line is a legal term that means, in essence, a line in the sand that you just don't cross.  Ever.

I used to be a smoker.  I'm not anymore.  I don't have a puff here or there.  I can't.  I don't smoke.  Period.  End of story.  I used to eat chocolate.  I don't anymore. It makes me sick and gives me horrible mood swings.  I don't eat it.  Ever.  Period.  End of story.

I have great strength when it comes to this stuff - but I (clearly) exercise it selectively where food things are concerned, and, up until now, sugar was not consistently one of those things. But now it is.  It has to be.  So I'm back to a slightly modified form of The Strict Program for Three Months.  Now you can call me a Flexitarian - that's a semi-vegetarian.  I like it  :-) And, to me, it means I'm an acolyte of Michael Pollan:



Oh! I almost forgot!  I have a new and exciting place for inflammation:  My right shoulder.  It's really The No-Fun Plan.  Attempting to get gel ice secured on my shoulder without making it hurt even worse was a painful horror show, and in the midst of it I came to another realization:  icing (not the kind you put on a cake) is obviously going to be a part of whatever is left of the rest of my life, even if I do get this inflammation under some modicum of control.   So I invested in some gear that should make that easier.

It's arriving today (thank you Amazon).

This is a very powerful meditation from Doreen Virtue about cutting cords of past and present pain.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

An Amaryllis Update

I will elaborate tomorrow on my previous short post. 

In the meantime, here's an update on the Amaryllis  :-)

Wednesday:


Thursday:


Friday:



And t:oday:

I thought you might like to see how large it's actually getting.  I think it was hard to tell in the other photos.  It's stable on that pedestal - something it wasn't any longer on the metal stand.  I liked it lower, but this feels safer - as long as no one knocks it over . . .  I'll go back to the closer up photos tomorrow.

Simple Sugar . . .

So.

Here's the long and the short of it today:  My body does not tolerate simple sugars.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shrove Tuesday . . .

And a few days ago, a friend, Stories from the Mist, shared this on Facebook:


Powerful statement, that. 

It really made me think - about my life and how I am choosing to "spend" it.  Pun intended. 
Today is Shrove Tuesday, a/k/a Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras (which is French, for Fat Tuesday).  In my family, which was from Northern Ireland, Shrove Tuesday meant pancakes for dinner  :-)  I am a first generation American.  Although she grew up here, my mom was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And even though I won't be doing the traditional using up of butter, eggs, and milk in my own kitchen, I will be going to the IHop tonight when I get home from work. And I will be remembering my mom and grandmother, pondering how I'm spending my life, and thinking about tomorrow, because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday - the beginning of the Lenten season which will last until Easter Sunday, March 27th.  Easter is early this year  :-)

Presbyterians observe the season of Lent - I've always given something up (which my Catholic friends find hilarious for some reason).  Usually I try for two things - I feel like it give me a better chance of success.  Stacking the deck, so to speak  ;-)  I'm still making decisions on what those two things will be.  One of them will be food-related - that's pretty much a given.  The other . . . well, one year I gave up Facebook for Lent.  You cannot imagine how much time I had back in my days.  It's high on the list for my second option.

Even though we are out of Samhain and into Imbolc, it's not spring in Chicagoland.  We have a light dusting of snow on the ground again, and today will be bitterly cold.  I plan to spend the Lenten season really examining my life.  I may try working through the late Debbie Ford's book, The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse.  Again.  :-)  I got started with it once and, as is unfortunately all too common for me, I got sidetracked.  It's here on my desk, though, instead of the shelf, so that bodes well for success in actually picking it up.  Getting through the entire thing is another story  ;-)

Yesterday:


Today:



Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Sunday Wrap-up . . .

What do you know? A friend from back in the day wants the banner I posted about yesterday.  :-)  I'm sending it off this week.

Wednesday I slipped on some black ice.  Thankfully I didn't fall over, but I torqued my knee and the pain was almost unbearable.  I thought for sure I had done major damage, but eleventy million Advil later, all was relatively back to normal by the next morning.  And I'm back to two anti-inflammatories a day - back up again from one.  I have to say that I've gotten a lot more done this weekend than I have in months - and it hit me about an hour ago that the reason for that is that I'm not in constant pain because I upped my anti-inflammatory back to its full strength dosage.

Part me of me is way happy that I'm not hurting - I mean, it's a relief for sure, and - BONUS - it's going to make it a lot easier to eat better again in the coming weeks.  I know one would not intuitively seem to follow the other, and yet for me, they do.  Some unknowable part of my brain tries to fix physical pain with food and I have never been successful in making it understand that that doesn't work . . .  But there's another part of me that is not happy.  Of couse it's wonderful to be painfree, but I'm painfree at the expense of taking an anti-inflammatory twice a day - and sad that I need to take that the full dose to be functional . . .  I don't like taking a bunch of pills.  And yet, here I am . . .

Onward . . . 

Yesterday as I was sorting through the junk in the office, I came across a piece of paper in my mother's handwriting.  It was tucked in an empty file folder.  The last time I found an interesting list of hers, it was of the patterns under consideration for my wedding dress.  This time, it's a list of scriptures.  A bit yellowed, and apparently cut down to its 3 x 3 /12" size, and in her handwriting - so similar to my own.  Or should that be the other way around?  I thought hers was the most beautiful witing I had ever seen in my young life, and so I modeled my own on it (and could forge her signature quite perfectly  ;-)  Still, hers was always larger and more dramatic than my own.  Here is her list:


For those of you not up on your memorized scriptures (gone are those days . . . ) here is what they say - in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible (which is the translation that she likely read most often):
Hebrews 9:27 -  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Psalms 6:5 -  For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?
Job 19:25 -  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth;

Isaiah 26:19 -  Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. Oh dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For thy dew is a dew of light, and on the land of the shades thou wilt let it fall.

Hosea 13:14 -  Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction? Compassion is hid from my eyes.
I wonder what was going on when she wrote these down.  Perhaps a friend had died.  Or was she studying up on the second coming?  Or perhaps she wanted to reassure herself where death was concerned.  I'll never know. 

I do, however, love to find things like this.  You never stop missing your mom.

The Amaryllis continues to do its thing.  It's really large, you guys.  I'm actually a little concerned to keep it on the stand it's on.  I think it could fall over if it gets much more top-heavy.  Not quite sure how I'm going to remedy that situation, but I'll figure something out - and soon.  Still no bloom stalks, but it continues to grow.

Friday (again with the droop)


Saturday - and up again.  Quite upright (except for that one strap).


And today - looking far less upright and much more open all the way around.  I'm thinking that means it needs a drink, so I gave it another turn and I watered it. 



Saturday, February 6, 2016

Linus and Lucy . . .

I spent most of my day today working in my "office."  This is the room in my home that has been left relatively untouched since having been a staging area during construction last year.  The Sofa of Serenity had become the Sofa of Doom again and I just hadn't had the energy to work on things in here for many months.

For some reason, today was the day.  :-)  It's not completely clear in here, but it's a damn site better than it was.  More things to go to The Second Chance Shop (yes, apparently I STILL have stuff to give away), and among them is this banner of Snoopy doing the Happy Dance in the rain.  Can't help but smile to see it, and it takes me back nearly 20 years in a heartbeat.


It dates from May 1997 - and it's like new.  The tags are still on it.  It was purchased by an online friend whom I met in person for the first time at a scifi/fantasy convention called Syndicon.  It was held in Maryland in May 1997.

There were three of us who had become fast friends - sort of a Three Musketeers gang of three - online.  We were all writers - not professional writers, just people who liked to write, and we and quite a few others became friends on a message board in a popular online community.  We were keen fans of Highlander: The Series. 

I'd never been to anything like Syndicon before, but I wasn't worried.  The three of us had planned our trip and flights so that we would arrive at approximately the same time at BWI.  It's one of the beauties of the Internet back then that most of the people we met online were real people with real lives. 

D was the first to arrive at BWI and he was waiting at my gate (you could do that back then  :-) ) holding that banner.  Then we went to another gate to meet T and the three of us headed to the convention hotel.  Others of our online gang met us there and we had a rollicking good weekend.

There's a fish sticker, and a name tag, and there are five of us in that photo.  One advised years ago that they did not want their image on the Internet so I've covered them up - but they are holding a bottle of Piper Heidsieck pink champagne.  And there's that banner.  All those things have stories behind them :-)  I'm at the top right. 

I've hauled the banner around for all this time - nearly 20 years.  No one else from the old gang wanted it the last time I attempted to let it go - but I never quite could.  Let it go.  The Snoopy lights, which you can just see in the photo, have gone - either someone wanted those, or I donated them.  But the banner - mostly it has remained folded up in the closet, but now it's time for it to move on to a new home.  Someone will be happy to have it, I'm sure.  I wished for awhile that I had a banner pole.  My mom had one and she loved hanging her banners - she had one for every season.  But somehow the banner pole disappeared - I don't ever remember having it here, and I've not been inclined to get a new one.  And banners aren't nearly as popular now as they were back in the day.

And of the three of us Musketeers, one I've lost touch with, and another has passed away (far too young).  Time marches on . . .

And so, as I continue the process of lightening my load here, the banner goes, but the tune remains.  I and many others, I think, still think of it as "The Happy Dance."


It was my theme song.  Still is, I guess.  It's been the ring tone on every single cell phone I've ever had.  I pony up the bucks to buy it again every time I change phones  :-D  It makes me happy.  It always has - and who doesn't need a reason to smile?  If I ever need a lift, I just play my ringtone.

Everyone else who hears my phone ring smiles, too.   :-)


Friday, February 5, 2016

That's the Way of the World . . .

Probably one of my all time favorite albums (yes, I'm that old  ;-D), Earth Wind and Fire's That's the Way of the World was a big part of my college days.  Back then all we ever wanted was to dance and their music fit that bill nicely.  After a show we would pile into whoever had a car and drive to The Hatch (long gone, I'm sure) to dance and drink fruity cocktails.  Back then, the drinking age in Michigan was 18 (it was 21 in Illinois), and the town where my college was located was dry except for two college bars that served beer, and there was no dancing.  So, off we'd go on a Friday or Saturday night - college kids with hardly any money, nursing one fruity drink and dancing the night away.  Granted, the night ended relatively early at midnight or maybe one when The Hatch closed.  No late night licenses back then.

They had plenty of amazing hits throughout their career that could make you get up and dance . . .


And this . . .


Or this:

Man, those horns!  Maurice White grew up in Chicago, so that horn section is no surprise.  Horns are a staple of Chicago music. 

But, back in the day, it was always this song (#337 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time)- always the last song of the night at The Hatch - everyone a little tipsy, hoping that their crush would ask them to dance for the last slow song.


In later years in SoCal, I met the guy who was Earth Wind and Fire's former sound man - told some interesting stories.  And I saw them live at the Universal City Citywalk (without Maurice White - he stopped touring live in the mid-90s).

2016 is not starting out well for the music industry.  Maurice White was a visionary.  His brother, Verdine (the awesome bass player) said this, quoted in Rolling Stone:

"We had a strong leader," Verdine told The Telegraph in 2013. "We really looked up to Maurice. ... You have to understand that we were 21 years old when we started our journey with Earth, Wind and Fire and Maurice was 31, and so he had done a lot more things than we had. Maurice was interested in establishing a credibility of a different morality about musicians and their lifestyles. So we were into healthy food, meditation, taking vitamins, reading philosophical books, being students of life."
They were not living the rock 'n roll lifestyle, and it's my guess that pretty much no one else back in the day was doing what they were doing.

Visionary indeed.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Amaryllis Update . . .

Clearly there is a sweet spot for water with these bulbs . . .

Monday - still floppy:


Tuesday - not quite so floppy:


Wednesday - and zip! 


Today - straight up