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Sunday, December 28, 2014


It has been a very long year since I have seen my daughter Courtney and my son-in-law Beau. They came rolling into town Friday the 26th after a visit with Beau's family outside Chicago. It took a little longer than expected when they drove up to a major mile long traffic jam on I-40 at the good old 407 exit. For those of you not local, that is the main interstate exit to the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. You still have about 20 miles to go before our house from the exit.  This is not where you want to be on the Friday after Christmas... so with some local road knowledge they detoured around the car loads of worn out tourists who come to our area for New Years Eve and skiing if it is cold enough. What they have found this season is 50 degree weather, mud and way too many people with the same illusion of snow covered pines. Speaking of illusions, I myself patiently watched for the kids all evening. The pot roast was on the warmer , cornbread ready to be placed in the oven and Courtneys favorite comfort food simmering on the stove: Soupy Taters. What is that you yanks might ask ? Potato soup.
In my mind, I had this scene from one of my favorite Americana artists Norman Rockwell:
Now the ride from Illinois had been a long one for the kids and the two dogs. Traffic was heavy the whole way and they had to stop several times for the dogs to walk/pee. Well , for Roy anyway, Sue  the newest pooper, is an absolutely beautiful white lab. She is around nine months and decided she would have a stand off with her bladder and refused to pee all day. Roy is not feeling well and he is just a sweetie that I have written aboout before in a previouos post titled "The Joy of Roy".
As I saw them pull into the driveway I went out with open arms to welcome my brood.  I guess I should have really given more thought to how my animals were going to react to two strange dogs joining the Holiday party. My dogs and cats are ass holes. They are much like their owner. Loners, socially awkward and definitely on a structured routine.
Soon my Norman Rockwell Christmas took  a dark turn. Up the steps flew Sue and Roy and I let my guys in the back door. This is what it looked like:

Two cats running, hissing and brandishing twenty tiny switchblades across noses. Pappy, my old pretty much blind/deaf foster Whippet simply decided, even though he is house broken, to let the river flow in the middle of the living room rug. All I could think of was this classic line of great literature:
My two Toy Fox Terriers , who weigh about 7 pounds each were both making snarliing sounds that honestly could have been mistaken for weed-eaters being revved up and down. Dracula would have envied the display of fangs. I got my first bite that evening but it didn't break the skin. To truly appreciate the traditional Christmas animal bite, alllow me tell you a little story.
On Christmas Day 2009 I was bitten by a feral cat. Note to self and others: Do Not reach into a cat fight and try to put them in their perspective corners. It does not work. So the next day I was on antibiotics and had a tetanus shot. I hoped for the best after reading the stats on rabies and cat bites. The next Christmas , Courtney was home from Idaho and we again dreamed of a  perfect white Christmas Day.  On Christmas Eve it snowed and it was a gorgeous blue sky with fresh snow kinda day. It was only she and I and we were very happy, almost living the dream. I had a Paula Deen spiral cut honey ham and all the fixins. Then I saw it...outside sitting in the snow was the most beautiful solid black huge dog that appeared to be a shepherd or a wolf mix. I guess its obvious to most folks that read this blog that I love dogs. I grabbed a chunk of ham and slipped on my snow boots. I was wearing flannel Christmas patterned  pajamas. Much like Ralphie when he ran into the snow with his cold steel blue beauty. Now I have no fear of any dog. I recall that Courtney said "Mom don't go out there". Of Course I paid no I approached the dog that I did not recognize as a neighborhood dog I suppose he smelled the slice of  Paula Deen ham. I had just lifted my hand and said "come on boy , you hungry?", when the dog lunged through the air and snapped the ham and most of the skin and nail off my index and middle finger...OH MY GOD I'M DOG BIT!
Once again I was running through the snow in my flannel pajamas (there seems to be a theme here). My hand was on fire. I had it raised up and was applying pressure due to the bleeding. The pristine Christmas snow was spattered with red polka dots as the big black dog had his Holiday meal.
I couldn't take a change on this dog with the rabies issue, so a full scale search was on to find the owner. Our little community fire and police department both looked until they saw him trotting home, burping honey baked ham I suppose,  and followed him to his owners. He didn't mean to bite me and it was my fault completely for holding up the ham. The owners had his shot records so all was well since I had gotten a tetanus shot the year before. Folks, you cant make this stuff up.
Now back to the present, it is a running joke in our family about me staying away from all animals on Christmas Day.  As the kids ate their tater soup, the animals all snarled, foamed at the mouth and totally showed their arses. Mine, not Roy or Sue. They just looked horrified. They are cool obedient Colorado dogs who I am sure have only heard urban legends of hillbilly hounds. My guys were out of control so I did the only thing I know to do when things get rough. Go to bed. On Saturday morning around 4:30 the chorus of  bad to the bone started again, when poor excited and over stressed Sue decided to give up the 24 hour bladder standoff upstairs in the bedroom floor. So Courtney and I were up and letting them all have at it again. By mid morning we decided to take down the Christmas lights and place these on the tree:

I made it until about 1pm today before I received the traditional holiday animal bite. Pippa, lunging for Sue's nose, missed and got my fore-arm. Ouch, damnit!!!  My little dogs have placed themselves in my lap in the recliner. It looks and sounds like the hounds of hell guarding the entrance to Hades, my own Cerebus.

 At the moment the kids have escaped the chaos and are with friends watching a football game. I have thrown all the dogs outside  into the fenced in yard and told them to work out their issues. I have no idea where the cats are hidden... they can fend for themselves.

 Happy New Year from the animal house!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

POTS and Plans....

I should know by now that I cannot make any type of plans with this illness. POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, try saying that three times fast), is a bugger. It is an autonomic nervous system condition in which the body fails to properly regulate the pulse rate, blood pressure and various other vital components of  functioning upon standing. I have the sub type Hyperandrenergic. This means instead of a drop in BP, I get an increasing BP and heart rate the longer I stand and I produce way too much adrenalin which has lead to adrenal fatigue. Therefore, I recline  - a lot. Today is one of those days as I am reclined, home from work on a sick day. I have two new employees to train and had planned  hoped to start that today, but as I have said before Man Plans, God Smiles. My heroes are the young women( this usually is the case, but not always) who have this condition and they are in the prime of their life and have young children, family obligations or are in school. I don't know how they do it. I slept from 8p-8a this morning and struggled to get out of the bed today I was so exhausted. 
I love this, only when you have a love affair with a memory foam mattress do you really get it.  I get it, much like I suspect my dear departed Granny did as well. They're days I do give up on and just go to sleep hoping for the light of a clear blue morning.  The Granny Bed, a place of total surrender were the only Fifty Shades of Grey are on my pillow.
 I'm trying to get myself recharged a little for the holiday season.  I plugged in the fiber optic tree and the plastic Santa, so I'm good to go on decorations. I have not given in to the lure of the chocolate covered cherries yet. I'm sure I will, it's just a matter of time and the right stressor... I'm trying really hard not to get the Seasonal Blues this year.  Actually, I have been looking forward to the colder weather. I have been hot for two years now with no end in sight. My poor co-workers/employees look like Bob Cratchit huddled around a single lump of coal, bundled in sweaters as I scream "Did that *&*#  heat just click on?" I expect a visitation from three ghosts any night now. At home my heat never goes above 62 in the day and I turn it to in the 50's at night. That is one good thing about living alone, total control of the thermostat and the remote. My poor fur babies might disagree, they really wish mom would get on some hormones....

Monday, November 10, 2014

SNOvember 1st or Why I will not live through a Zombie Apocalypse

It was a windy, overcast  All Hallows eve as I prepped for the yearly ritual of scaring the little neighborhood children as much as possible. My house is known in our little Town as "The Halloween House" and each year I try to live up to the expectations and go way out for decorating with the help of my ever faithful friend Lisa. This year our theme was The Lair of The Spider Woman. Lisa is very crafty and made all the decor  pictured below-

The weather forecast was warning of a winter storm advisory but I didn't get too worried about it- as long as the Trick or Treaters made it safely about their business who cared about a little rain/snow mix later in the night.  After all it was a Friday night and I was planning on doing absolutely nothing the next day. As the day progressed and the sky turned to an ashen gray, all I could think of was this little diddy by Shakespeare: BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES.  I spent the day bagging treats for the kids and I am proud to say did not eat my first Milky Way mini until 12:03 p.m. I try not to social snack before noonish. By 5p.m., a cold light rain was falling and it did not look promising for the little tricksters.  I had in my possession, 40 snack bags of assorted mini candy bars. This is bad news for someone with a raging sugar addiction. I was about to give it up and turn the lights off at around 7:30 when two large golf carts filled with die hard Trick or Treaters came rolling into the driveway escorted by parents in vehicles. Bless em. They received the Lions share of three bags each and I was still holding around half of the goodies.  All was right with the world and I retreated to my Lair to nibble on candy corn and watch "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown". I don't think there has been a season since it aired in the 60's that I have not watched it on network TV. When my mom was alive she would give me and my sister a reminder call  that afternoon or early in the evening that it was on and we would gather our kids around to watch.  So I sent a quick Facebook inbox to my sister, daughter and niece to get them tuned in as well.   Turner Classic Movies channel was showing old black and white horror films which I love dearly so I had pretty much forgotten something wicked this way comes.
I love that a few cable channels usually show a variety of Halloween movies throughout the month of October. By All Hallows Eve I had watched old and new classics from TCM, AMC and the Family Channel. Even though I have a large collection of horror and classic Hammer films, I still like to watch them with a bowl of popcorn during evenings in October. Have I told you I LOVE Halloween?
I heard some wind gusts beginning before I gave it up and said goodnight to my favorite night of the year.

My dogs bladders have absolutely no regard for the fact it is Saturday morning and I could sleep till the cows come home. So at around 5:45 a.m., I heard the familiar whining strains of "it's pee o'clock" human.

There is a distinct sound to snow. I didn't even have to look outside to know that snow was on the ground and still falling rapidly.  It is a sound of silence. Not the usual silence, but silence with a faint hollowness. A pure silence, a reverent silence.That silence was to be short lived.
I made my way to the living room to begin the routine of every morning of my life - Let the dogs out, turn on the Keurig, put the dogs green tea in the microwave( yes they get green tea twice a day) prepare dog food, etc... I tarried a little that particular morning because I was watching the huge snow flakes fall and noting around 3 inches on the deck and lawn already. Great. November the 1st  and the first snow to the Smokies. At least I was off work.... at that moment the lights flickered off and on. Ah shit. They stayed on and I headed for the coffee pot. It was then that the 26 hour Snopocalypse began, three fast flashes of lights and nothing but hollow silence and darkness. I glanced at the Keurig and saw the three blue lights fade to black.....OMG I don't have any coffee!!
              No Paul Newmans Extra Bold, no Green Mountain Dark Magic!
It's the weekend, I always let myself have three cups on the weekend! This is situation critical. I have become a full blown coffee junkie. I liked coffee before Keurig, but I LOVE it like I love Halloween now. When I got the Kuerig for Mother's day this past May one of my FB friends said "This will forever change your coffee drinking experience". No truer words have ever been written.  It was 6a.m. on November the 1st, and I was screwed big time. I looked and noticed that all my neighbors within view had electricity. This was not a good sign for me. I have one of the oldest houses in the community and my electricity comes from a different grid that traverses over the river and through the deeps woods. When I loose power and the remaining neighbors are on, I can expect a long wait. It is normally the result of trees down somewhere on the mountain across from me and it is a low priority area.  I felt a chill begin as the house cooled but I do have a backup propane tank with gas logs that can heat my house. The only problem was I hadn't turned it on at the tank yet and burned the smell off of the logs. As soon as it was daylight I got that issue solved. I had plenty of food , heck I could live off of leftover Halloween Candy for a week.
Now I must confess I am a prepper and proud of it (most of the time.) I first got into prepping during the Y2K frenzy. I went full blown on that particular fear event..generator,hand pump for well, food/water/medical etc... I didn't have to buy a Tampon until 2003.
I was eating the last of the Y2K beans into 2005. My family rolled their eyes and chuckled. I must have some really deep seated fear of being unprepared.  When the Mayan Apocalypse was expected in 2012 I was again prepared. Not quite the zealot of Y2K but again I was eating beans and tuna for a year or so. But now I have a big hitch in my get-a-long. Coffee. I had no instant brew and only the Kcups.
My whole theory of being prepared was unraveling as my mind raced on how to get the dark brew. By this time we had about four inches of snow and it was still falling. I heard the heat pump from the neighbors house running and then the Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea.
As my dogs watched confused by the morning silence and my incessant mumbling , I dug out my boots from the closet and headed toward the neighbors. Now bear in mind the house is vacant for the winter. He is 84 and only comes to stay in the summer and some Holidays. As I circled his house in search of an outside outlet, I had my doubts. His house is almost as old as mine and in the old days no one ever considered an outside outlet. Then I saw it...high on the wall of the carport a plug wired into an extension cord ran into the laundry room. Hallelujah!!!!  Thank you Lord!! 
I headed back to the house giggling like a giddy drunken school girl.  Dark Magic here I come. I grabbed the Keurig full of water ( it was heavier than I thought it would be) filled my hoodie jacket pockets with K cups and two insulated coffee mugs. I would make two large cups and bring them home. YES. 

I can only imagine the sight. I had on flannel pink pajamas and boots and was staggering through the snow with a Keurig in the midst of a winter storm.  But coffee fever has no bounds... I was huffing and puffing and my heart was beating in my ears when I finally got to the plug. As you may have guessed by now, it would have been smart to have tested the plug first. No power. I flipped out. The quite reverence of a snowy morn was suddenly laced with a few four letter words. I'll break in. He will understand. I can pay for any damage. All I need is to get to a plug for just a couple of minutes. It was at that moment , the moment I was planning a B&E  of my neighbor over coffee that I realized I would be a goner in the zombie apocalypse. I would go out in the first wave. In my mind I fought along side Daryl , Rick and Michonne. But now I knew, I'm just an old fat lady in flannel pj's considering committing a criminal act over a cup of Kuerig Coffee. I picked up my heavy sloshing Keurig in shame and walked slowly through the snowfall back to my house a wiser woman with a throbbing caffeine headache.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

LODGED by Robert Frost

            Wow... this is the most precise description of living with a chronic illness I have ever read.

 Lodged. A word that describes so many of our lives that have Fibromyalgia, POTS, MS or any of the other progressive thieves of your body and soul. You are caught somewhere between the land of the living and the land of the dead. I suppose it is the Shadow Land.... a place of near invisibility yet you still live and breath. A place of deep sorrow for the mourning of the life you once lived both in body and spirit. But there is no memorial for your loss, no casseroles to sooth the aching hunger and no accolades or eulogy for the person who you once were.  The place of eventual rock bottom, acceptance and grace. A place of being unrecognizable to yourself. 
 Lodged. A word impossible for your friends, family and coworkers to truly understand. "Just get out and walk a little and you will feel better". Oh if it were only that easy. Would I cocoon myself into a web of despair, loneliness and isolation if all it took was a little walk?
Lodged. A place to heal the new you that must rise from the Shadows and meet each day because you have no other choice. You may have children or a job that doesn't understand being Lodged. The new you functions one hour, one day at a time. After the pelting and pushing of the life forces and the responsibility  around you, eventually the sun will shine and pull you a little at a time toward its warmth and soothing touch. You may even join the land of the living for a day or so. But inevitably, the wind and rain will soon pelt you again. So you rejoice in those small time frames when you catch that glimpse of the true self that visits for a short period.

As you can tell from the above purging of emotions, this past summer has been particularly difficult for me. I realized I haven't posted on my Blog for months, simply because the thought of the purge was too overwhelming and tiring to consider. It exhausts me to write, and yet it revives me. A conundrum for sure.
The summer began with a breast cancer scare and the beginning of a major flare in my symptoms. A routine mammogram revealed a change in tissue in the exact spot where my mom had her breast cancer. It began a month long series of more films, ultrasounds and finally in July the biopsy. I am thankful to report it was negative, but the stress of it all knocked me to my knees. Lodged.  I am still trying to pull myself back up from that event. I continued to work every day during the flare. I know I should not push myself like I do, buy I don't want this guy at my door:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

COME OUT, COME OUT wherever you are....from hibernation, that is.

My oh my how time flies... I can't believe it has been months since I have been to my blog. After my last entry in January, I seem to recall doing this:
Me with Blankie and Pillow heading for hibernation

Im really not sure what happened....I just remember taking a Fukitol pill and surrendering to the warmth of my home and hearth. January, February and March seems like a bad dream.Then suddenly it was April.

 I don't need to tell anyone with a chronic illness how bad this winter has been for those of us with fibromyalgia/autoimmune/dysautonomic issues. Not to mention all the lovely seasonal affective disorders like depression and anxiety most of us battle. There were days I could barely make it to work and back home and collapse at 7pm into my favorite place, my bed - refuge, my inner sanctum and my faithful friend.
Thank God I can sleep, so many with these illnesses cannot get any sleep. I do sleep, albeit non refreshing sleep. Sleep studies  have shown that  people with Fibro do not  go into the deep restorative sleep of Delta sleep or stage 4. I have had two studies  and the doctor said I only stayed in stage 4 sleep a maximum of  90 seconds at a time and then started the cycle over. Her response was "no wonder you are tired." That was over ten years ago and now much more is known about the link of sleep deprivation and Fibromyalgia. I also have had a very difficult time with my blood pressure and my Hyperadrenergic POTS condition. My family Doc referred me to a cardiologist in Knoxville for some testing. I was having some wicked jaw and radiating neck/shoulder pain and my bp was hovering around 146/110- that is with two blood pressure meds each day. So I now have a new Cardiologist helping in my POTS treatment, Dr. Mahlow at the University of Tennessee. Very nice young man who has some knowledge of POTS and at least was aware of the condition and had some lecture time on the syndrome at Johns Hopkins. He is the first doctor in my life that has ever looked at my chart with interest and asked pertinent questions. He also said  " I'm so sorry you have this, I hope you will let me try to help you manage it and work with  your doctor".  He set me up for a chemical stress test and started me on a third BP medicine which so far has kept me in the normal to low range. My tests came back normal so I am back to managing the symptoms of POTS and trying to keep my stress levels below the "Thar' she blows" line.. hard to do in my job.
Anyway , we have survived the winter, and spring in the Great Smoky Mountains is beautiful this year. The Dogwoods and Redbuds were absolutely lovely and the botanists at the National Park have stated that the wild flowers are the prettiest that they have seen in over 40 years.   Every April the Park hosts the Wildflower Pilgrimage and thousands of people flock to the area to see the wide variety of wild flowers that thrive in the Smokies for a short lived life. I have attached some beautiful photos from the Great Smoky Mountain Association's Facebook page. Even though I live here, I sure don't feel like exploring the mountains. I have noticed many people in other countries view this blog, so I say a big  Tennessee "Howdy" to you and I hope you enjoy the photo's below.
Dogwood and Deer   Cades Cove  photo by Deb Campbell Photography

Pink Lady Slippers

Shooting Stars

Showy Orchid
 And along with the wildflowers, comes the emergence of other critters(other than me) from hibernation. The black bears are out and about. Below is what I can only say is a once in a life time photo opportunity. It was taken last week in Cades Cove.  A large bear was feeding on a wild boar carcass while a coyote patiently waited his turn to dine.
How amazing is this?

 I am so glad to be able to show this photo of a wild American Bald Eagle in the Foothills Parkway area.
When I worked in the Park, there were no Eagles in the wild in this area.
The past couple of  months I have been doing some major spring cleaning with the help of my friend Lisa. Mainly she does all the hard work and heavy lifting. I have always wanted to clean up my barn area that was used in my other life as a storage building/hoarding facility by the ex.  It's a beautiful old barn. Probably built in the early 1940's but it was packed with everything you can imagine. Old rusted tools, lawnmowers that didn't run,car parts, etc... he never threw anything away.  It was so cluttered it made me physically  sick to look at it, so I simply didn't  look for years. I often think how I was left to literally clean and sort all the piles of debris that was my 25 year marriage. I was not only left to clean up the emotional issues and untangle painful  webs of  deceit and lies, but I was also responsible for the tangible piles of flotsam and jetsam left in the wake of the divorce. He moved on with minimum baggage to start a new life. I suppose a stronger and healthier woman would have worked her way through the mess much quicker but it has taken me 8 years. First I tackled the house and slowly made it mine. The barn and storage area have been on the back burner because it seemed such a monumental task to take on. When you're  too tired to live, cleaning is not a priority that is high on your list. But I felt like it would release a huge emotional burden I have carried and remove the last evidence of that life from this property.  So I called and got an industrial dumpster delivered in late March. Thank God for good friends and I have one in Lisa. We started first grade together and have stayed close as sisters since then.  She and I have worked a few hours at a time when the weather permitted and my health allowed and we are now on dumpster #2. She knows my limitations and understands when I say "I have to sit" or "I'm done" that we are through for the day or I need a rest break and water. I think the barn represents my resentments, anger and unresolved issues. The need to clean and clear that barn drives me like no force has in years. It has energized me to a certain point.  It's the complete burial of the past, the purging of my soul,  the last pieces of rusted dysfunctional memories being hauled  to the land fill where they belong . Maybe the barn is me...conquer the barn , conquer myself.  A wise man told me many years ago, even before the divorce,  to get that barn cleaned out. He told me  it held a much deeper, spiritual meaning to me. I didn't understand at that time, now I do.  I think he would be very happy to know it is done. Do you have a barn in your life that needs a spring cleaning?


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Another Auld Lang Syne

On New Years Day I spent the day watching old Twilight Zones on SyFy.  I happened to notice one of my journals on a table. In the front were the dates 2008-2011. On New Years Day 2008,  I spent the day watching old Twilight Zones on SyFy- then again in 2010 and 2011. I didn't bother to write anything on January 1st 2009, but I'm pretty sure I watched Twilight Zone all day. I noted in 2008 that I had to get Kleenex for two episodes: Kick the Can- where the old folks in a nursing home dare to go outside and play and they become young once again and The Hunt- the old mountain man and his coon dog who die in an accident and walk Eternity Road looking for the entrance to a Heaven that will allow the dog to enter with him. This year I made it through most of  The Hunt before I sniffled a little and I didn't even bother with  Kick the Can. I suppose like everything else familiarity breeds contempt, or in my case numbness. Honestly, I was trying all day to come to terms with the fact that my life has become pretty much a predictable decline since becoming sick fourteen years ago. So much has changed but my illness has not. I now have a name for one of my "dark passengers" (Dexter folks will get it) , Hyperadrenergic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia or HPots. I also battle Chronic Fatigue/Firbromyalgia.  I thank God for the strength to still work at this point. I've never been one to throw in the towel without a helluva fight.
One thing about so much alone time is the tendency to dig up remember the Randy Travis song- "exhuming things that's better left alone, I'm resurrecting memories of a love that's dead and gone".. I did some digging of my own and found out that someone I once loved very much had passed away in December 2012  at the age of 63 to Alzheimers. Even though I had not seen or spoken to him for almost thirty years, the impact he had on my life cannot be denied and reading his obituary sent me into a place I haven't been for many years and I felt that "old familiar pain".  He taught me so many things, both good and painful. I was 22 and very impressionable and I thought he was the most worldly man I had ever met.  In my innocence, I  believed if someone said they loved you they did. All I knew for sure was I loved him and I made a huge sacrifice for the short lived love affair.  It crumbled like so many dry leaves in my hand and blew away on  New Years Eve 1980, leaving me alone, ashamed  and devastated. But out of the ashes of  this relationship I began a path for my life I would have never traveled with the National Park Service had  I not met him. I now have lifelong friendships and many wonderful memories due to our chance encounter on a snowy day in March.  It saddens me to think that a disease that steals your memories, may have taken all of his. 

                                                   RIP W.J.C

                 This is for you my old friend.... You forever changed my life.