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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Greetings from Mount Crumpett

Long time no see.  It seems like there is more time passing between my blog entries these days. Maybe it's the short days and the long evening shadows of early winter that have me moving and responding at a snails pace. It seems like so many people are sick or have illness in their families.Maybe it's always been this bad, but I don't think so. Perhaps it's my age making me aware of the ever ticking clock... When I go to the local store or out and about in our town, it seems like almost everyone, even the children,  have a visible mask of some type of duress on their faces. Maybe I just need to move to greener pasture. I know that most people think that living next door to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would be a dream. At one time it was. Now a lot of us generational natives think it is more of a nightmare. It's very stressful living in an area that is not designed by nature to have 14 Million visitors a year. If you have ever been to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge on a weekend in October or when, God forbid, it is a Rod Run event, you understand the challenge of living here on a daily basis. Yin and Yang I suppose. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a warm tropical environment or even somewhere that maintained a mild climate without severe season changes. This area is especially hard on us folks with Fibromyalgia. The barometric pressure is up and down like a roller coaster and the Smokies have a mind of their own when it comes to weather, it can be 60 degrees one evening and snow on the ground the next morning.  But I usual.  The holiday season has begun full force in our area. Actually it started the first week of November with the kick off of Smoky Mountain Winterfest or Festival of Lights, not sure what they are calling it these days, throughout our county. Millions of lights and decorations galore with each town trying to out do the other. I fear we have become Whoville...


 so I guess that makes me the Grinch...

I love this scene. I think most of us with chronic illness can relate to admitting to more than a few evenings where our day planners might sound somewhat like this. Thank God for a good sense of humor. I cannot imagine leaving home without it.
The Holidays are so hard to deal with but I did find a helpful  guide to dealing with the stress of the Holidays when you have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.  Just go to the bottom of the page and there is a Holiday Survival Guide link.
I feel so bad for women who have small children and are also dealing with this condition. I guess my only ray of sunshine with this mess is that it did not hit me until I turned 40 and my daughter and step-daughter were both out of high school and in college. So I was not sick when they were little. I cannot imagine how you guys do it... you are my heroes.  One thing I have learned and I think regardless of your age or where you are in your parenting is that you must learn to say "no" without guilt and without explanation if necessary. Everyone is pulled in so many directions and we only have so much to give.  This Christmas my daughter and son-in-law will be here prepping for a move to Colorado at the end of the month.  This in its self will add a little stress but they know my limitations and they are not offended when at 6pm I announce it is my bedtime, or take a two hour nap in the afternoon.
My decorations are minimal and somewhat tacky. I found a teal green table top aluminum tree at Big Lots. Love it. Teal green lights and matching little ornaments. It works for me. No outdoor anything... we already have enough LED's to land the mother ship in our little town.
You sure can't compete with that. I think many folks in our area simply don't even make the effort with exterior lighting any longer. It just seems dim by comparison I suppose. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where did Fall go?

  I can't believe that it has been over a month since I have been on my blog site! I had great intentions of lots of pictures of the beautiful fall colors in the Smokies and of course musings and memories about my favorite holiday Halloween. But sometime between the kaleidoscope of colors and the mini candy bars I missed the whole month. I must say that my work has kept me busy and stressed the past couple of months. In August I finally had a full crew of dispatchers completely trained and all was sweet...experience has taught me that this situation is usually short lived. I know when the winds of change are coming. Somewhere faintly I hear it, I tell myself no that was your imagination and then the chords get a little louder :

I have tried to outrun them as I see them approaching with that look on their face. Sometimes it's the look on the others face's as I see the sealed official envelope with the inevitable resignation letter in my inbox. Being a 911 Operator is a tough job folks. Many people choose to move on after a few years due to the stress and the nationwide low pay scale for a very under appreciated job. They move on to positions that are kinder to their soul, sleep schedule and family life. I certainly understand, but I sure hate to see the good ones go. I have filled and trained three positions since mid August. So needless to say my staff has seen a lot of overtime and we have had to scramble to cover shifts during the high call volume month of October. So I suppose that I really haven't had any spoons left to do much but crash and burn every night when I get home. I have started a new supplement combination that  I read about on a site I follow on Facebook, ProHealth.  It is a site dedicated to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue (ME).  I find it has some excellent information and advice/opinions. I have been taking a combination of CoQ10 and D-Ribose. Both suppose to increase energy production at the cellular level. The information was for Chronic Fatigue treatment you must combine them to get the full impact.  I have been on it about 2-3 weeks and I'm not sure I feel any different. I plan to keep it up for an extended period due to the fact I cant imagine anything that can turn this condition around quickly. Obviously if you have suffered for decades with a problem, it is going to take some time to repair and heal your exhausted body. So if nothing else I am patient.
I have once again been on a eat-a-thon of epic proportions (kinda like my ass).  Stress at work and food increase= oh my gosh I cant zip my pants...
Who can resist all that darn Halloween candy? On that note, I heard someone say that it should be against the law to sell candy corn and candy canes at the same time. Can you believe Christmas marketing started before Halloween. Have they no shame?!!   With a little help from my friend(Lisa) and family(Courtney and Beau) I did have some killer outdoor Halloween decorations. I actually had around 8-10 Trick Or Treaters this year.  Here are some photos that I meant to post earlier....
One of the feral kitties visiting the Haunted Cemetery

The Mourner

Haunted Cemetery with Mourning Bench and ghosts

Skidder Kitty decided to pose on the cats scare me sometime.

close up of ghost faces...scary! made from milk jug,dollar store mask  with lights inside 

  and my favorite photograph of all, my dancing witches around a "fire". The witches are white trash (LOL) bags shredded with heads made of Styrofoam balls and the fire is orange lights wrapped in a grey cheese cloth material.
Full Hunters Moon rising over the ridge behind my house.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Too Many Apples, Not Enough SPOONies

How many apples can one tree produce! I'm in apple overload and it has finally kicked my butt. We who suffer with chronic illnesses that suck your life forces like Dracula on crack, such as Fibromyalgia and POTS, are very familiar with the Spoon Theory.  Each day when you wake, you know you have X amounts of spoons of energy before the inevitable crash and burn. Each day is different, especially if that day is a recoup day from over exertion the day or so before. 
 On a "normal" day for me, I usually have about 15 spoons on a good day. After the simple act of rising, feeding animals, making coffee and putting on the war paint, I lose 2. The thirty minute commute to work takes 2. If a shit storm is waiting on me when I get there, bye bye to at least 6 more in an instant due to stress. If things are as I like to call it "relatively calm" I use about 4 through out the day. 3 or 4 for the thirty minute commute home(driving get more difficult as the day progresses), 2 more to feed circling animals, 2 more to shower( I am physically unable to shower in the a.m. it exhausts me) then BAM, down for the day. SLEEP AND REPEAT.  So as you can see the Spoonie life is one of priorities. I must reserve the sacred spoons for daily functions, not social or extra curricular activity.

Yes, this sucks. My weekends are for recoup and light housework spread out over two days. Occasionally I feel like doing something outside, but not often. But back to my adventures in apple canning/drying. I have continued to cook and can a dozen or so jelly jar size each weekend. I feel compelled to carry on . Why I cannot just let the remaining apples rot is one for a shrinks couch I suppose or even better and in my price range:

As I sit here totally exhausted , through the window I see apples hanging in the tree and a voice says "must save more apples".  Then my body screams you are killing me..knock it off.  So today I have refrained from the process and just laid like a slug in my recliner. I had to take two vacation days last week to get over my marathon canning of last weekend.  My blood pressure and tachycardia have been on a flare up for about two weeks.  This condition is so hard for me to accept.... I want my life back but so does the multitude who suffer from various illnesses that wipe you out completely and change your very essence of who you once were.  I am thankful that in my young life I did many things and was healthy. I feel so bad when I read blogs and see stories of young people who are bedridden with the "invisible illnesses" the way , I really don't like that title. If  I am lying in my bed or I am wheelchair bound and the reason is not physically obvious to the curious, then it is only invisible to those people. I assure you we see and feel  our sickness everyday of our life. Better not rant, not good for the BP. Back to the dilemma of too many apples, not enough spoons.  I have another dozen jelly jars and the use of a friends dehydrator. If I have the Spoons this coming weekend I will wrap it up. I think it is the fact the apples are so big and delish this year that has brought me to this sense of guilt for letting them just ruin. One particular apple was so beautiful I had to take a photo:

This reminds of a couple other women from history obsessed with the apple:

So, in closing I ask this burning question- If I went through all my Spoons for an Apple, what would I do for a Klondike Bar?

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Old Apple Tree

When I was a little girl we had a wonderful apple tree in the front of our small house. We didn't have much more.. it wasn't until I was in high school that I realized how poor we really were.  My first memories of my childhood home are scattered. Somethings are so clear they are like I could reach out and physically embrace them. The apple tree is one of those memories. I spent many an hour climbing and eating the delicious small red fruit. I recall the inside was snowy white and they were both sweet and tart.
I had a special limb that when I reached its perch, I was pretty well a little chameleon. I would spend hours hidden, observing my dad, sister and sometimes my cousin Pat. When Pat visited I was pretty much black balled due to the fact I was an annoying little cuss that loved to run to my dad and tell on my sister and cousin for their many indiscretion's, mainly sneaking off to smoke. Even though I knew the inevitable "milking of my rat" would occur as soon as Pearl returned to the field to work the tobacco, I told on them anyway. Now , if you are unfamiliar with rat milking, it is when a ticked off  usually older sibling bends your little finger down and presses it painfully into your palm until you scream in pain. Then if I continued to spy and  sing like a bird the next torture was to smother me to the point of blacking out. I learned pretty quick to just go limp and roll my eyes and they would panic and promise me a trip down the long dusty road to the little store for penny candy if I promised not to tell Mom when she got home. Sometimes Pat would bribe me with what she called "Apple Fluff"- a frothy delicious concoction she made with sugar, apples from the special tree, vanilla and egg whites beat to heavenly consistency that was meringue like in texture. We would eat it by the spoonfuls and sometimes on white bread toasted in the oven for a few minutes.  We had found heaven on earth for at least a few sweet minutes.
When I was grown I lived at the old home place a few years with my daughter when she was about five. The house had been remodeled and a bathroom added (yep I have made the long walk to an outhouse many a time). The apple tree was still there but years of neglect had taken its toll. My daughter was able to eat some of the bounty but I dared not to let her climb too far into its fragile limbs. Due to circumstances beyond my control we were forced to move from the old home place and it fell into decay. Someday I might write more about that story but not today.
When I moved into the property I currently live in, I was thrilled to find an old apple tree in the front yard. It is an old fashioned Milam.  I was told the past owners brought it with them from their old home place when they were forced to sell to the government for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So many people were displaced and scattered to the wind when they were forced to relocate.  It was a devastating time for the people who occupied the area that is now the National Park. Most were paid a small pittance and moved with a heavy heart to the areas surrounding the now established Park boundaries.The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the only Park in America that was established through the forced removal of the original property owners. This left many people bitter. As the years passed the wisdom of the Parks creation has proved to be the saving grace for the treasured Smokies range. I shudder to think what our area would look like now if the Park had not been established.  But back to topic, apples. My Grandfather Rayfield had an apple orchard in the area of the Park that is called Greenbrier. Most of my moms family came from that particular area. I have many relatives in the small cemeteries scattered through the long forgotten communities.
Anyway, the tree that is currently in front of my house was almost dead when I moved in twenty two years ago. It  had a few small apples and I really thought it was a goner. The following winter I placed my bird feeders in the tree and around the base on shepherds hooks. The next spring the tree was full of blossoms and an amazing harvest of apples soon appeared. Nothing like a little help from bird poop to snap a tree back to life! So I have left the feeding stations at that location and God bless her she is still thriving to spite a huge hollow area in her trunk and being riddled with wood pecker holes. For some reason, maybe all the heavy rain, the tree is so full of apples that limbs are breaking and falling to the ground.
Old Fashioned Milam Apple Tree in my front yard

So for the past three weekends I have been canning apple butter. This is a new venture for me but I have discovered some wonderful crock pot recipes on Pinterest. Due to my very low energy and inability to stand too long due to the POTS, this is the only way to can for me. I borrowed an apple peeler/corer from my friend Lisa and I can sit in my recliner and peel away. I have it down to a science now- peel and fill two crock pots around 8pm. I have been experimenting with different recipes. I have some made with Splenda and a small amount of brown sugar. I add cinnamon powder, a pinch of salt, cinnamon red hot candies, butter, apple pie spice and then let it simmer overnight. So when my energy is at its highest, which is early morning til around noon for me, I get the jars ready and then add some vanilla to my mix and use a hand blender to smooth. I can do all this on my trusty stool at my kitchen counter. My house smells wonderful for days! I usually am completely through by around 9a.m. and sitting back with my coffee while I hear that satisfying sound of pop.pop.pop as the jars seal.  I feel compelled to make as much apple butter  as possible and I hope to dry some of the fruit  in a dehydrator. I have a strong sense that this may be the trees last hurrah... she is barely standing the trunk area is so compromised. Every time we have a strong mountain wind I hold my breath and pray she doesn't fall.  This will make me very sad. Yet one more loss of old memories and the old ways. It is amazing that a tree that was once in the area of the National Park is still producing fruit. It was moved to this location around 1946. There is something about an old apple tree that always makes me kinda blue... maybe it is the knowing that the impending winter is just around the corner. Nature giving us one more treat of fresh fruit before Jack Frost nips at our nose.  Fall is such a bipolar season. On one hand you have the most spectacular beauty of the trees changing through their  palette of colors, blue skies and crisp cool days.Then suddenly one morning you wake to the barren landscape as the last bits of color wave goodbye.  But something about those calico days make many of us mountain folks melancholy. It is those days of colorful beauty that  I miss my loved ones and family that have passed the most. I have often wondered why I and others feel that way. Maybe our senses are more in-tuned to the realm of the unseen during this beginning of  Mother Natures long slumber.  It is almost like on those precious golden Autumn days their spirits are nearer to us than any other time of the year. Perhaps it is because this is the closest to heaven we can get here on earth.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ellen DeGeneres, the Crew on Mt. LeConte misses you!

I'm dedicating this post to my daughter Courtney. She is currently living on Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a seasonal crew member at LeConte Lodge. She and her co-worker Bethany, who are both huge Ellen DeGeneres fans have put together a YouTube video telling Ellen how much they miss seeing her show. They live without electricity and the hike to the lodge ranges from 5-8 miles depending which trail you take. Please take a minute to view it and feel free to share. They are so hoping Ellen might see it.

Courtney was a labor day weekend baby. Don't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor. Her birthday is Tuesday~HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  She and her new hubby are coming off the mountain and we are going out with some friends  for a nice birthday dinner. I will have three days to rest this long weekend and it will be the first time I have been out on the town in quite a while.This will be my first restaurant meal with out the lap-band, hopefully I won't totally pig out. So far I have really done well with eating only when I am truly hungry.

 Fall is in the air in East Tennessee and I can honestly say Welcome!!  I am so sick of rain, heat and humidity. I usually get depressed when the seasons turn cool, but I am so looking forward to the break in the heat and hopefully an end to the relentless rain.
September to me is memories of our first days back to school ( kids are now robbed of their summer vacations starting to school in August!), the smell of wood smoke from the first fires in the fireplace or wood stove, trees laden with apples and my favorite memory- the County Fair. Oh how I loved that once magical place. I would eagerly stand up in the back of the car and strain to see the spinning lights of the Ferris Wheel as we approached. First order of business was walking through the livestock exhibit. I remember once seeing a hog so big that it frightened me. Then we headed for the rides. I suppose I even had vertigo then because I didn't like to ride anything that spun me in circles too fast. I loved the Tilt-A-Whirl and the ride through the Haunted House. I played the games till my pockets were empty and ate way too much spun sugar.  When Courtney was little I realized the good old days of a true County Fair were over. Another casualty of time and greed... it looked so small and grungy. The livestock was a few chickens and cows. We went to pick up the little plastic ducks from the water basin, one of my favorite games as a small child.  I would usually come home with an arm full of small plastic Poodles or maybe a hair brush/comb set of you were really lucky. That year with Courtney the prize was a roach clip hooked to a feather... I kid you not. Most of the other prizes were small mirrored pictures of some girl showing way too much T&A  lounging across a hood of a car or something in that same vein. It was a sad evening and I knew it was all over when they handed us our dull grayish cotton candy, crammed into a plastic bag instead of airy pink strands of sugar coiled high upon a white paper cone. Nothing good ever lasts....

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Favorite "F" Word

Amen brothers and sista's!   Oh TGIF... my first full week back to work after surgery to remove the lap band and it has been exhausting beyond words.  I have really struggled physically and mentally to stay upright and alert (well, semi-alert) at my desk.  Thank goodness I have an office chair that has a reclining footrest and when I'm about to go down for the count, I can take a few minutes of  recoup time with my feet elevated. This really helps when you have POTS. Also I  guzzle bottles of  water and have a side of sea salt. I finally got some Pink Himalayan Sea Salt which I read was suppose to be a superior salt.. I don't know if that is true but I want to give it a shot. I give everything that might help a shot. If you have Fibro/POTS or Chronic Fatigue you desperately seek that magic bullet. It is a never ending quest to ease the pain and symptoms and have some semblance of a "normal" life. The thought of just seeing/experiencing a shadow of your former self is a slippery rope to which you cling  with all the life force you have left. I don't want to get too serious, it seems way too many things are dark and troublesome surrounding all of us these days. So I shall change the subject.  Yesterday I had a wicked bout of vertigo at work. I usually have some anti-vert with me at all times, but I did not have it in my purse. If you have never experienced vertigo, then bully for you and thank the good Lord you have been spared, for it feels like this:

Yep, its awful... If I can go to sleep I am usually better. Since I didn't have the anti-vert I took a Benedryl. Not a very smart move. I could not hold my head up. I left work and came home and went to bed around 2:30 p.m. I tiptoed in the house so my dogs would not realize I was home(they were outside in the fenced yard), I needed the type of nap that does not involve slobber, cold noses, barking, etc... I fell into a deep sleep and dreamed vivid dreams of those who have passed. I do that often. My dreamscapes are usually spent with my mother and other deceased family and friends. I'm use to it.  When I woke , I lay there in a semi- sleep state and became aware of how bright the room was and I suddenly panicked with the "Oh my God the clock didn't go off- I've overslept and I'm late for work!" Yep, crazy as a sprayed roach.  Then my next thought was why have the dogs not woke me up ( they sleep in dog crates in my room and usually are ready to pee at daylight)  oh this point I'm still thinking its Friday morning. Then the cu de gra : " I am so tired, I just can't work today, I'm going to have to call in sick.."  Then an annoyed voice from somewhere in the deep recesses of my old gray matter yelled "Hey Dumb-ass, wake up! You just took a nap."  I looked at the clock and it was 4:03 p.m.  Lordy, Lordy...I have officially entered the realm of the senile.  I was just so relieved it was not time to return to work... no more Benedryl for me. I was back in the bed by 8:30 and sound asleep. That is one thing I am so grateful for is my ability to sleep like Rip Van Winkle. So many people with Fibromyalgia cannot sleep. For years I had this problem , but since getting my C-PAP a year ago I have averaged 9 hours a night. Unfortunately, even 9 hours does not alleviate my fatigue.
Going back to work after being home and away from the stressors and stimuli of my work environment has proven harder than I thought it would be. The type of POTS I have is called Hyperadrenergic. My adrenal glands are constantly producing adrenalin and I stay in a "fight or flight" mode all the time. When I am home, I am in a controlled environment and it is not so bad. After almost two weeks of relative calm and rest, I have had bad responses to noise, traffic and just life in general. I could feel the adrenalin pouring and myself just getting stressed out and angry at everything. I am on medicine to help with the dumping of the adrenalin but it sure has been a rough week. I suppose it will take me some time to re-adjust after being off.
I am still attempting to cut out the sugar and I have been pretty successful overall. I have fell off the wagon a couple of times, the worst being last weekend when I saw a Pinterest post on Homemade Brownies and how easy they were to make and how much better they taste... and they did.  So far the urge to eat my body weight in one sitting has not been an issue with the lap band removed. I'm trying to walk 10 minutes a day and ride the recumbent bike some. Emphasis on trying. I have a new hobby and I have been shooting some photos around my house. Hopefully someday I will expand my horizons. Here are a few I hope you enjoy.

Happy Pappy~ I am fostering him for our local shelter.

8/21/2013  Blue Moon~ second full moon of the month.The next Blue Moon is 2016

The hollow behind my barn. The pond is on the other side of the table.

Come into my parlor.......
Somewhere in the Smoky Mountain Rain
The reflection of the sun in the pond..I see a white angel or cross in the pink circle.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Band on the Run (Lap-Band that is..)

WHHEEWWWW.....glad that is over. As I blogged earlier, I have been in a love/hate relationship with my gastric lap-band Gary for almost  9 years. The past 18  months have been extremely  terrible with the lap-band failing and the regaining of around 40 pounds, give or take a muffin top here and there. Add to that  much nausea,pain, acid reflux and just generally feeling like a run over dog.  I am now one week post op and doing well. The surgery to remove the hellacious device only took about 20 minutes. I did have some scar tissue around the port area that had to be removed.  Dr. Boyce told my sister and daughter that it just "popped" out . My theory is this is really what happened:
Alien- starring Mr Bill as Kane

But seriously, I did very well and I am very happy at this point that I opted out of the gastric sleeve. I really think my body needs some time to recuperate from having a silicon corset around my stomach for 9 years.The evening of my surgery I had some type of reaction. I suddenly became feverish and my face was blood red. Being the highly trained medical professional I am ( attended the Granny Clampett school for Doctoring),  I decided my body was trying to adjust to the loss of the foreign body it had been forced to accommodate for so long. After some cold compresses and Tylenol I was fine. It happened again the next day, but to a lesser extent.
 I dare not to say it out loud as I will certainly vex myself, but I think I already feel a little better. I so want to believe that maybe my extreme fatigue and the worsening of my Fibromyalgia has  something to do with the lap-band. I know for sure it certainly did not help my health issues. I may have lost some weight in the beginning , but to what end? My prayer is to be able to take walks and attempt to gradually increase my ability to exercise. I am so sick of being so physically weak.  If you suffer from any chronic illness, when you have a good day or heaven help us two or three, you dare to open your heart once again to that fragile four letter word:                                                 Hope

I shall continue to Hope  that someday I will recognize myself  returning on the horizon. I will run and embrace the weary traveler like a mother welcoming her long lost child.   Judy Tucker


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Joy of Roy

Sometimes when you are going through a rough patch, life introduces you to someone or something that brings a smile to your old curmudgeonly face... that for me has been Roy Boy.  I have never been around a Bassett Hound until I met Roy in June. My daughter married a wonderful young man this summer and I became an instant Grandma to Roy. Both of the kids work at LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you are unfamiliar, it is a remote mountain resort on the summit of the Smokies. Access is by several different  trails varying from approx. 5-8 miles. They stay on the mountain for about 3 weeks at a time and come down for a week or so. Roy stays with me and my dogs.                                      I can stand in my yard and look up at the mountain and sometimes, on a clear day, see the outline of the roof of some of the cabins.
Reservations are made about a year in advance. The season is from mid March to mid November. A good link is if you would like to read or learn more about the lodge. Alyson and Chris Virden are the lodge caretakers. Alyson writes a great daily blog complete with her fantastic photographs.
At the beginning of the season, all the large items such as propane tanks, pallets of canned food and other large items are dropped by air left via a helicopter. During the season, a team of llamas make the trek twice a week to the lodge to bring supplies and to take down laundry and other items.  Many people day hike and visit the lodge area, rest for a while and then head back down. I have done that a couple times in my life before the old devil Fibromyalgia took up residence in my body. I would usually go in Boulevard trail , about 8 miles and then down Alum a 5 mile jaunt. You certainly knew you
had been on a hike the next day, but it was sure worth it. Below is a picture of me and my mom taken in 1984. We did the round trip 13 mile journey that day.
I had my daughter pose in the same area and recreate the shot earlier this year. I would give anything to be beside her, but I am not physically able to go in person, but oh how I go in my mind from time to time. I can smell the pine forest and the distinct odors that the higher elevations produce. I sure do miss the little things of life.
 Note she took my walking stick I have in the picture from 1984. My dad gave it to me in the 1970's. His uncle had made it from a grape vine and it was probably 50 years old at that time.

Today my daughter posted this on her Facebook page:

Yep, what ever mother wants to see... the fruit of your womb out dangling on a ledge. She definitely is her mothers child. But if I were on Leconte I would be admiring the sunset from the ledge too.
 I have totally digressed from Roy Boy.  He just makes me smile on bad days, which have been too many lately. The rain and weather in the south has been hell on us folks with muscle/joint issues this summer.              
 My other doggies, which are smaller and much shorter, dance in little circles while I am making their meals. Roy has been observing this and decided to try it. But considering he is so long, he had to make a large loop to get that body to make a completed, albeit very slow circle. He looked like the slinky dog from Toy Story.
Apparently, from what I can read, Bassett's are the comedians of the dog kingdom. His short little legs and those huge Bassett ears are in themselves enough to bring a smile, not to mention that face.  Today he decided to have a running frenzy in the yard and all I could think of was Dumbo. I expected him to go airborne at any minute and circle over my head. Yes, Roy was a much needed diversion this summer.
Below are a few more Mt. LeConte photographs.
LeConte Lodge 

Courtney and Beau taking a sunshine break earlier this month...lucky ducks!

interior of cabins

Friday, July 26, 2013

Back To Square One ~No Sleeve For Me

I thought I was so sure.... I made all my plans for the surgery, my daughter is coming to help me for a week and then POW!  It all started Wednesday when I attended a four hour mandatory class prior to the Gastric Sleeve procedure that was scheduled for August 5th. The nurse went into detail on the surgery , aftercare and the possible complications. Of course any surgery carries the possibility of complications that can lead to serious illness or death. We all know that. I managed pretty well for the first hour or so. The chatter was light and I was in a room full of all women, mostly middle aged,excited about starting a new chapter in their life. I was the only one who had already had a previous bariatric procedure so I wasn't quite as giddy as they were. I knew all too well the reality of vomiting and terrible nutrition absorption following my lap-band in 2004. I am very versed in the fact that a quick fix carries dire consequences sometimes. I have had a failed piece of silcon/plastic in my stomach since January 2012. I have lived with pain, nausea,vomiting, severe acid reflux and the re-gaining of approx 40 pounds that I had finally shed.  Soon the discussion of the surgery procedure was explained. The surgeon would cut away approx. 70-80% of your stomach, leaving you a small banana shaped new stomach. Your new and permanent stomach will hold less than what your mouth will hold...that is why you must chew your food till it is mush and not over eat.
  The liver must be lifted out of the way for the surgery, so you will be on a liquid diet for up to two weeks before the surgery to reduce liver fat. I was still doing o.k. until the dietician took center stage to tell us how and what we should eat following the surgery and then after six months when you go to a "regular" diet. The thought of the reduced food volume didn't bother me at all, but when we discussed dehydration is when my antennae went up. She kept stressing  how important it was to keep your water intake high. This is not news to me since I battle dehydration everyday of my life as a sufferer of HPOTS. I am always in a level of mild dehydration even after drinking 60-70 oz's  a day.  And then she said the words that changed everything "the first few days after surgery, you can only drink 1oz of water every 15 minutes and you will break that into two small sips about 7 minutes apart, anymore and you will vomit". Oh Snap... that will not work for me. When I wake each morning I have a bottle of water ready to drink before I even get out of bed. One thing us Potsy folks know is that when you are feeling like you are about to drop over or faint, you have to guzzle water ASAP, lots of water,with a side of salt.   The extremely small sips is the first few days, but then she added " you will never guzzle big swallows of water again or you will be sick".  I knew at that moment I had a big problem that would probably keep me from having this procedure.
I went on to get my labs drawn and tried to keep a positive spin on the procedure. The other ladies were all very excited and I knew that first of all, none of them would have a clue what Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia was and I didn't have the energy or desire to try to explain it once again. I know that this surgery has been very successful for many people and I don't want to discourage anyone from considering it, but it is a huge life commitment. It is not reversible and if you continue to overeat you will stretch the small stomach to a larger one and you are right back to square one. You have to take Prilosec everyday of your life and if you smoke (i don't ) you run a risk of getting ulcers that will never heal. I really appreciated the honesty of the staff for telling us the bad along with the good. Another big "oh hell no" was when the nurse said some women who have stopped having periods will start them again after this procedure. She said women of child bearing years must use two forms of birth control for a year after the surgery. Not that that is an issue with me, since I am a born again Virgin. I was so bummed and confused on the long drive home. I cannot do anything to put myself in a state of dehydration.  On Thursday, I emailed the doctor at Vanderbilt to see if he had an opinion or any guidelines on the subject. Within an hour he had answered me and said he had little experience with POTS and gastric surgeries.Apparently most people who have POTS are not overweight.
He did say that anything that restricted my intake of water was not good, and that if it was a serious complication for me, they would have to put in a port and administer IV fluids to keep my body at a level to keep me from having runs of Tachycardia. Obviously, this is a no brainer. I have about 40 pounds to lose, I  will not take such a risk for minimal weight loss. I might feel different if I had 100+ pounds to shed. But I doubt it. One other thing that bothered me was that most of  the women in the class were much smaller than I expected. I would estimate that all but two were only 20-40 pounds over their goal weight. I just expected to see much heavier people. I started to wonder if this is yet another fad. But, to each his own and we all know our own bodies and I know I can't take the chance of being unable to guzzle my H20. I called the office and cancelled the revision today.I will just have the lap-band removed and come home the same day if all goes well.
I am both disappointed and relieved. I have been on the pre-op diet for a couple days and really feel good getting the high protein diet. I have not had any sugar or sweets of any type since last weekend and I sure can feel the difference in my energy level and in the clarity of my thoughts. Even if I had went through with the sleeve, I could still eat sugar filled ice cream,cookies, candies, demon is sweets and I know the answer is a change in my overall eating habits. I am going to have to break up once and for all with my evil lover. It is an abusive relationship, but yet I stay.  My brain knows how bad I feel after the sugar high fades, but this is an addiction like any other.  I hope to continue this pre-op diet even after Gary is removed. I was talking to my sister and If I could incorporate the low cal/high protein diet into my eating habits I think it would be helpful. Maybe two days a week and then the remaining days eat a healthy diet sans sugar/junk food.
I know I have made the right decision for me to cancel because of the possible POTS complications. Hopefully, If I can stay away from the sweets and try to find another way to self sooth I can someday feel better.
Life is all about our daily choices and what makes each of  us happy...well, I should say content or resigned to life  in my case.
 Happy was one of Snow Whites Dwarfs.....

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Change of Mind~ The Gastric Sleeve

 Oh how I love my weekends... I look forward to them like I once looked forward to my yearly vacation. Now I am too tired and too broke to take a yearly vacation. I usually take my vacation days one or two at a time throughout the year by adding a day here and there, and added to a  three day weekend to get that most cherished of all mini vacations : FOUR days off in a row!  You  folks who suffer from a chronic issue with either pain and/or fatigue understand how wonderful it is to know that you don't have to put on a bra and makeup for a few days!! Heaven Baby!  Point being, I love the weekend, but Sunday afternoon always rolls around and you start the dreaded prep work for the Grind. This week is going to be particularly busy for me for a number of reasons. We will be having training at work on new software for dispatching which I'm sure will be quiet stressful in its self. On top of that I have made a major change in my plans of the removal of my lap band. I initially planned to just have Gary removed on August 5th and opted not to have any further surgery, but I have had a change of mind. After much worrying and watching these pounds just continue to accumulate I have decided to have the gastric sleeve procedure. I fear that when the band is removed and I have absolutely no restriction on my food intake, I will go through another cycle of intense weight gain. I don't think my already fatigued body can carry anymore weight. I have gained about 40 pounds in 18 months. I cannot exercise much due to the POTS. I am trying to ride a recumbent bike 10 minutes a day to start my process of reconditioning. If you have the type of POTS I do (hyperandrenergic) , my heart rate goes from 60-70 bpm to  140+ bpm by simply standing. The doctor at Vanderbilt said absolutely no cardiac exercise to start with when you are in a "deconditioned" state. Love that description.You have to work slowly to increase your cardiac workout.  On Wednesday, I attend a half day class at the hospital about the procedure. Then the following week I go for all the consults with the NP, anesthesiologist and the nutritionist. So I am two weeks away from the surgery...conflicted still to some degree about the fact that I will lose a section of stomach and that it is not reversible. I have been online reading forum posts from patients who have had the sleeve. So many say "the best decision I have ever made" then you see the ones where everything that could go wrong has and the people are in a bad place. I know every surgery has risks and possible complications. I am trying to weigh the negatives of carrying these extra pounds and the health risks associated with them to the surgery/post surgery complications.  I know this for sure... I didn't think I could be more miserable than I was a couple years ago, but let me assure you I am 10X worse now than I was in January 2012 when this lap-band failed and the weight gain began. I am both physically and mentally flat-lined. I'm in a depressive funk that I battle each day to claw myself out of ...
So the decision has been made. I can't continue to endure the daily struggle to just walk across the parking lot or down the hall at work. I am responsible for my life, both the good and bad. I can't get to the point of deconditioning to where I can't take care of myself. It is my responsibility to make the mortgage, feed and cloth myself and take care of business daily. A gals got to do what she has to do, so in two weeks I once again take a radical step in this battle of the bulge. I have an excellent surgeon in Knoxville who has done over 700 gastric sleeve procedures. He is very highly recommended by other physicians and past patients so this relieves my anxieties to a certain degree. So I am trying to embrace this as another new beginning and get myself in the right frame of mind to relax and prepare for the big day.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Solitary Life

When I was a little girl, I spent most of my time alone. My father was a veteran of WWII and was over fifty years old when I was born. He suffered terribly from the malaria he contracted in the Philippines and PTSD. Our home was a ticking time bomb... as long as it was silent, it was tolerable. I have very few memories of before my parents divorced and I have absolutely no memories of my mother and father ever speaking to each other. I have a sister seven years older than me that I pretty much pestered as little sisters have a tendency to do.  She and my favorite cousin Pat would shut me outdoors to entertain myself.   My  mom worked each day in near by Gatlinburg and my dad was permanently disabled and basically home bound ,not to mention pissed at the world. He would work the tobacco patch and garden early in the day and then return to the house around noon to rest and sleep. This was when the code of silence had to be strictly adhered to or hell would break loose.  I would stay outside most of the time, playing in the woods or in the creek.  I was fearless and  regularly ventured into the deep woods alone to eat tea berries, stomp on devils puffballs and play fairy houses with the lush moss as their carpet. I loved the songbirds and all the wildlife I would see occasionally and I did not fear them.  I wasn't much of a girly girl.  I wanted a holster and pistol for I longed to be a cowgirl, galloping across rolling fields and prairies. On my fifth birthday I got a stick horse and  it was possibly definitely  the best gift ever.  That same fall,  I realized there were other children  and a terrible place called "school" I must attend. We lived about a quarter mile from the small school house and my poor mom had to literally drag me screaming and fighting in the door each morning. My school chums would later tell me they would gather around the heater and watch out the window each morning to witness the tantrum I threw as she pulled me through the gravel. Sometimes I would be completely flat and limp.  I was boneless before it was cool.  I have a few memories of those mornings. After I got into the daily routine and made playmates I chilled out a little.  I suppose it was this early independence that has laid the groundwork for me to long for solitude in this stage of my life. I went through a period during my twenties/thirties and forties that the thought of being single and living alone terrified me. I stayed in a unhealthy marriage way too long because of fear of being alone. I had just been diagnosed with the Fibromyalgia and couldn't imagine facing the future without someone to support and help me. Even a toxic spouse was better than no least that was my belief at that time.But life has a funny way of showing you who's boss. I had a very close relationship with my mother and the loss of her in 2006 to breast cancer was life altering. But the shaking had just begun....within one month I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma cancerous mole on my face. Fortunately, it was found very early and my prognosis was good. The next month my marriage of twenty five years imploded and became dust. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I was sick, divorcing and terrified. I was thankful for the support system I had in my daughter, sister, and my lifelong girlfriends who fifty years earlier watched me come into their lives kicking and screaming.  They knew I was a fighter and I would be o.k., eventually.  A year or so later my daughter moved to Colorado. I wanted to scream "don't go!", but I knew she needed to take flight and find her own path. I didn't want her to feel the responsibility for my life and happiness that I had always felt for my mother. That is not fair to a child. I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin and somewhere that little person who traversed the hills and woods alone, playing with imaginary friends was wakening. I have talked before about how I actually don't live alone, I have my inner child to nurture daily. I love the solitude of my life.
Outside of work, I don't socialize at all except with immediate family and best friends.  My medical problems dictate much of my life. I only have so much to give and I will never again give any of my energy to undeserving/selfish humans. If I can take care of myself, so can everyone else.  I have a family of furry friends  who need and rely on me and that is where I am centering my limited energies. I won't say that I don't miss the human touch, I do. Sometimes I dream of intimacy, not sex, intimacy. Big difference. It would be nice to trust and love again but I don't think it will happen. My wall is pretty much impenetrable at this point. On the other hand, not being responsible for anyone except yourself is quite intoxicating.  I am too tired and ill to put any effort into a relationship, and as we all know they require a lot of time and attention, not to mention shaving your legs on a regular basis. So I have embraced this solitary life and I'm trying to redefine who I am daily. If I could have one wish it would be to be energized and healthy for a season so I could spread my wings and do a little flying of my own.