Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Shake It Off

Hey!!  I'm actually back here in less than 2 months!!  Woo!  I'm on a roll now!  Actually, I told ya'll I would try to post again soon because I felt I would have an update in the next couple of weeks...and I do.  Back in late October I went back to my primary doctor for some new blood work and then in February went back once more after new symptoms and issues became very troublesome.  I will go ahead and tell you that I have been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
Now, I am going to explain the issues here and this post may be long but I'm doing this for a specific reason.  1.  In case the information may help someone else and ...2. To clarify things for the few folks that read my blog and actually know me in real life.  I want it to be very clear that this is NOT something I just pulled out of my ass and one day decided, hey, I'm gonna have Parkinson's.  Trust me, I don't want this crap disease.  And yes, there is a real reason I'm making this clarification but that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Ya'll know for about 2 years I strongly felt that I just had arthritis of some sort. I had many symptoms that went along with that; pain, stiffness, etc.  Arthritis runs in my family.  A couple of the doctors I saw said, yes, it's possible.  The hitch was, though, that every time they did an X-ray etc. they would all say the same thing..."there is some small erosion/ degradation in your joints but it just doesn't seem like enough to validate the amount of pain you are describing".  I heard this several times.  Plus, my blood work just didn't back it up.  In fact, when I did go back in October my sed rates were perfectly normal and inflammation markers were as low as they measure.  I was like, wth?  Well, by February I was having all new issues.  I couldn't swallow food well.  I didn't necessarily get choked but the food just would not go down often times.  No matter how much liquid I tried to wash it down with and all that.  A few times it got kinda scary.  The pain and stiffness I've had in my hips/ rear end area started moving up into my right shoulder and arm and down into my feet.  Within 2 weeks my shoulder had become so stiff I had trouble getting my shirts on and off.  The tremor in my left hand also became much more noticeable at times and often moved down into my left foot if I got upset.  And I was getting upset a lot.  Sometimes about stuff that didn't really seem to warrant that kind of anger when I thought about it later.  I have no doubt that many of you all noticed that some of my posts over the last year or so often sounded angry or very frustrated.  There are a number of other issues; gastrointestinal, etc. that I just will leave at that....One reason I haven't posted much is because typing had become pretty difficult due to my hands jerking or just feeling like I couldn't control them.  I drop stuff constantly.  My handwriting also became smaller at times and would run down the page, no matter how much I tried to control it. Something just seemed very wrong.  I did look up some stuff and that's when I saw the connection between muscle stiffness/ pain and Parkinson's and the fact it most often presents it's self in your shoulders and moves across into the neck area, along with several other of the new issues I was experiencing (trouble swallowing etc.). Most people think of the tremor as being the main thing but it's not always.  This would really explain why no pain or arthritis meds ever helped me. 

There is no definitive blood or imaging test for Parkinson's, unfortunately.  Basically, if you have the symptoms and have exhausted all other possibilities, which I had, then they simply give you a dopamine agonist drug and if that helps, you have PD.  Most of these drugs are not used to treat much else, so it's pretty conclusive.  In reading I discovered that there is a natural dopamine supplement that you can get over the counter and one neurologist in a forum I was studying said a few of his patients used it with good results.  So.  I ordered some and started taking it.  Sure enough, within 7 or 8 days many of my issues had improved significantly.  With these results I emailed the neurologist on the forum, told him all this info and asked him..."Do you think that it is a reasonable thing to think this could be Parkinson's?" .  He said  'Yes, that if the L-dopa helped, then I "most likely had Parkinson's, unfortunately."  I took this info back to my primary doc and also noted to him that I had 2 uncles with Parkinson's (they were brothers) and that I had been a welder for 27 years.  He did a little exam and said a visit to a neurologist was warranted, with the strict orders I also tell the new doctor my family history and that I was a welder.  I then emailed the great doc I had gone to at UAB, explained to him my findings and that I was trying to get in to see a neurologist in the St. Vincent's system. (My insurance basically told me that they were one of the few systems I could go to.  They now considered UAB to be too expensive.)  Anyway.  This doc emailed me back and said he could agree with that diagnosis and offered to help me get in to see either of 2 colleagues that he really liked. I took him up on that offer and quickly got an appointment with the one closer to me.

March 2 I went to see this neurologist.  I liked him a lot.  He was very thorough, we talked for about an hour.  He did 2 physical exams and on some of the balance stuff I was all over the place and I have a bit of neuropathy in both feet. He actually called the doctor at UAB during my visit and consulted with him for a while, came back in and we talked some more with a few more exercises for me to do.  At approximately 10:00 a.m. on that Thursday morning he gave me an official diagnosis of Parkinson's and prescribed Mirapex for me.  This drug is only used to treat PD and restless leg syndrome and as you can see...the label clearly states what he prescribed it to me for.  He also told me to continue the L-dopa supplement if I wanted to, since it had helped and what I really liked....he greatly advocates exercise as an effective treatment and also suggested I consider boxing therapy!  Apparently they have had very good results with such and it sounds fun.  You don't actually box another person but simply use the hanging bag and it also includes jumping rope, running and lots of balance related boxing training.


So.  There you go.  It sucks.  I will admit I bawled my eyes out after talking to the first 2 doctors and ended up blubbering about not wanting to lose my mind.  Since PD is the drastic loss of dopamine to the brain there is a heavy mental aspect to it.  By the time I was actually diagnosed I had sort of calmed down and wasn't crying anymore.  One thing my new doctor tried to emphasis with me is that Parkinson's progresses very, very slowly for most people and it is not fatal within itself.  Both my uncles lived to be in their late 80s.

So.  Yes, I am very glad to finally have an answer despite the fact the answer sucks wind.  Yes, I am very glad it's not cancer and it's not going to kill me.  However, the idea of having a disease that is slowly destroying my brain and for which there is no cure (unlike some forms of cancer) is not the happiest thought and the ol' "well, at least it's not cancer" response is probably not the best thing to say to someone you know that has just been diagnosed with something like this.

I have noticed a bit of improvement in many of my symptoms already...eating is not so scary anymore I'll tell ya that!  Although I move more slowly and it takes me a while to do stuff, I have felt much more like doing things and have made some nice progress in the garden lately that I'll show ya'll later.  Just having some of the apathy and brain fog lifted is worth a LOT.  I still have a great deal of pain but am hopeful this will get better now.  I will try to post here more often now.  For one, I hope to be doing more to actually have something to post about.  Secondly, I have an easier time typing now....for the most part.  Some days I'm off a little and have more of an issue with the tremors but lots of days are better as far as that goes.  So, thanks for reading and I appreciate all your comments as usual.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring (Among The Living)

 Hey, folks...!  Yes, I am still amongst the living...I did not even realize that I had not made one post this year... I mean, I knew it had been a while but sorta shocked to see that.  My header photo is out of date and everything...

 Spring is basically here as you can tell.  An odd year for sure but we have been enjoying the warm weather.  What more can you do?

 This is going to just be a photo heavy post for now.  I'll have more updates and info in a couple of weeks.

 Just wanted to let ya'll know I was still around and had not given up completely on the blog.  Close...but not completely.
 A big thank you to those that emailed me over the winter to check on me...I really appreciate hearing from anyone.  I'm not able to get out a lot these days and I enjoy hearing from folks.

 Was a tad windy today at times when I took these photos....lol!

 A lot of these are of the new girls that are now just about grown and are getting to enjoy their first days out in the yard with the big girls.  We've been letting them have the run of the fenced garden since there is not much of anything planted there now but that will change soon.  Very soon.

 The big, or I should say... older girls, have been enjoying going into the garden too and having baths in the raised beds.  That will also end soon.  Big Bertha and Ms. Bea both passed away during the winter.  I think Bertha's old heart just gave out.  She was about 9 years old.  She spent a happy day out in the yard like normal  and then went into the coop for bed.  She just laid down in the floor and died.  She and BeaBea were really close, and close in age also, and less than 3 weeks later Ms. Bea just quit eating.  She looked healthy as could be but she just quit.  I tried various meds and food but she wasn't having it.  She just wanted to go on and be with Bertha and Scooter again I guess.  I put her in a nesting box one night because I didn't think she would last much longer and she had passed away the next morning when Jack went to let them out. Both of them just seemed to drift off to sleep and not wake up.

 The new girls are a rambunctious bunch though~!  Into everything and very smart.  Took them less than a hour to find the house and basement, along with all the treats..on the first day we let them out into the yard.  And, at only 4 months old, one or two of the Red Stars are already laying!  None of those little pullet eggs either....they just popped on out the big, real deals!

 So, anyways....I'll be back after  while..

Hope everyone out there is doing well and enjoying nice weather too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Give Thanks


 All of the girls, myself, Jack and Chigger wish all our American friends a very happy Thanksgiving!!  I am very thankful for several things this year.

 I'm thankful for little improvement in some of my health issues.  Well.... mainly knowing what they are now and hoping that from that I can improve things.

 I'm thankful for loving companionship.  Wherever it comes from.

 I'm thankful that I finally figured out that Gertie here had an ear infection and that I was able to successfully treat it.  She had me going for about a month but I finally figured out the problem through a lot of research.  We cleaned her ears out, which is as hard as you might imagine, gave her some meds and she is back in the game!  Running around biting everyone like she so enjoys.  And she's able to sleep on the roost again!  No more sleeping in a tub on the floor.

 I'm thankful I've been able to try my hand at a new art and craft.  I'll try to show ya'll soon what new stuff I've been working on.  I'm having fun with it.  Maybe I can make some money with it too.

 I'm thankful for old friends and new ones too.

 I'm thankful for food growing in our garden despite that horridly bad drought we are in.  Here's really hoping and praying that drought ends soon.  It's seriously getting really bad.

 I'm thankful for the ability to see beauty in everyday things.

I'm super thankful that I was also able to help my sweetie Peepers.  She had developed a really bad pendulous crop and food was not getting through her system.  She had started to lose weight and everything.  Long suffering Jack gave me about 3 pairs of his socks to chop up so I could make a suitable "bra" for Peeps to wear that would hold her crop up and close to her body so that it could empty. For about 10 days we went through a routine of making her drink water with digestive enzymes and massage, because her crop had gotten very hard, since it could not empty correctly.  She did not enjoy this to say the least.  Even less than she enjoyed wearing her bra.  But, one day while massaging I felt a 'goosh' and I think the plug clogging her crop flushed on out and it started emptying.  It took another 5-6 days but her crop finally emptied totally and she started pooping real, solid poops!!  I know ya'll are thrilled to read about my chicken's bowel movements but I tell you, I was ecstatic!  After about 2 weeks or so I took her bra off and she's been okay but I am keeping an eye on her.  I think she may be prone to this problem, especially if she loads up to too much scratch feed.  So far so good though.  Sorry..but Peepers, Pumpkin and Zuzu are my sweet little spoiled babies and I'd be heartbroken if something happened to one of them.  It hurts me if I can't help ANY of my girls but some of them are just extra special and friendly.
So, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Fall and hope everyone has a great weekend!!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pick Up The Pieces

 So I promised to show ya'll a few photos of some actual work I have done around here.  I was never really enthused about the idea of painting this bar wall, so when it hit me to sheath it in pallet wood I jumped on that.  Jack had been scrounging pallets for me for months and I had stripped a lot of them down to usable wood where they were just waiting for finishing.  So, I finally bit the bullet and sanded, stained, painted, sanded again, and patched for two days to get enough planks to do these 2 walls.  I didn't make a lot of effort to hide any patches, dents, or bangs in the wood.  I mean, it's obviously pallet wood and obviously reclaimed, so there's the "charm".  Ha! Anyway, I thought it came out rather well.  The corners are done in 1 1/2" angle iron and these make helluva good corner guards..  The iron is just stuck on for now because I'll have to take it back off and cut to fit when I run the finish floor and baseboard.  In person it looks better.  The color is a bit washed out in this photo because, due to low light in the warm months in my house, I have a devil of a time getting decent photos.  I often have to use a flash and it just doesn't look right.

 This photo is a little better but it's a little washed out too.  Anyways....I finished this counter top and back splash and wanted to run a little of the glass tile just to see how that was going to look.  I'm very pleased with this but please note; the tile has not been grouted yet, so it will look a little different when finished.  This gives me a lot of motivation to keep going.  I'm very anxious to get the kitchen finished because I think it's really going to be awesome.

 However, I had to take a break from all that and take advantage of the fact we are in an extended drought.  I have needed to fix this basement wall for years after I discovered just how much rain floods down the mountainside during the winter rains.  If the rest of the house were built this area would remain dry but.....we all know that has not happened yet so....I have to treat this as if it is forever an exterior wall.  Which meant chopping the bottom 2 feet off of the wood framing, forming a 4 inch thick wall and pouring it in concrete.  Here you can see the girls inspecting my forms.  It came out real well.  I even played around and did a faux board formed look on the outside.  This 11 foot section is a little less than half of what I need to pour but it's the worst part of the problem.  I admit I should have done this to begin with..but I did not realize the amount of water etc. around here.  And I was under the supreme delusion that the rest of the house would come along soon enough. Ha!!
Anyways, this form has been dropped, the wall sheathed back, and also insulated and covered on the inside.  Snug as a bug!  I'm now running multiple shelves on the inside in an effort to better organize the basement and my studio there.  I'll rub the exterior of the concrete here, below grade, to produce a smoother finish, then waterproof heavily and backfill.  There is still no sign of any rain anywhere in our near future so I shouldn't have any issues finishing this in the dry.

I also thought I'd take advantage of the drought in other ways!  We have ample dried foliage, leaves, flowers, grass and any things else you can think of here, so I gathered up a armful of stuff, a couple handfuls of feathers via some molting chickens and threw together this autumnal wreath.  Not too shabby I guess.  Certainly was cost effective.  haha!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Reboot; Let's Try That Again

So a friend read that last post and called me up to say it sounded a bit.....severe.  Not my intention really but I can see where that would be the case.  I have rarely deleted a post but after consideration did see where that one just wasn't what I was really trying to express.  Or maybe is was what I was trying to express but should not have said the way I did.  Let me explain a little.

There were several unfortunate things that converged on me last week to put me in a bad frame of mind.  The last week of September is a bad time for me to begin with.  My brother died September 25, and although it's been 23 years the day of his funeral is still a crystal clear memory. A very crisp, autumn-like day, beautiful in all other respects.  Now, the first few days I feel those cool breezes signaling the changing of the season here are forever stained with the heartache of his suicide.  I think it's mostly an unconscious thing at this point.  I don't actively think about as much as I used to.  Most of the time, it was 23 years ago.  Sometimes though.... it was yesterday.
Regrets are a funny thing.  They love company and generally like to drag others along with them.  You start doubting everything about your life.  Have I ever make a good decision?  Am I even a decent person or am I a complete sucker? The further the initial tragedy falls into the past the more numerous the addition regrets become.  It's only natural with the passing of time; you do more things, you make more decisions, some of which were mistakes.  Throw in some unstable hormones, a few health issues and you better fasten your seatbelts honey, cuz it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

We are going through a severe drought in Alabama and my area is especially hard hit. Everything here is as dry as cracker juice.  So of course, I get the 2 health issues that are greatly affected by the weather.  I have hurt especially bad the past 2 weeks, blood coming out my nose and my torso looks like someone dragged me naked down my gravel driveway.  It's getting better, I was even able to work out today, but psoariatic arthritis is a most miserable disease.  It's like Life says, "Hey, you don't feel bad enough, let's make you look horrible too!"  The other night I was awakened by a terrible, burning pain on my thigh. I was sure something was biting the hell out of me.  We have some small, brown scorpions here and in my fuzzy state I imagined one in bed with me.  I jumped out and ran to the bathroom, sure I would find a huge welt already forming from the sting..  Nothing.  I checked the bed and all around.  Nothing.  Next day, nothing.  No mark you could even tell.  Apparently it was just my skin deciding it would try to kill me.  It often feels like it is breaking and no amount of lotion seems to calm it down.  Gold Bond does help some though.  I know I should be thankful that I am actually as healthy as I am.  And I am thankful, truly.  Many have it much worse.  I mean, I used to build hospitals... I know.  But occasionally it gets to me a little.

I have never been blessed with what most people would call "a sunny disposition".  The ironic shit of Life has just always been too obvious to me and I'm afraid that the older I've gotten the more I've let cynicism creep in.  He's such a comforting friend and goes so well with my dry sense of humor, you see.  He's hard not to indulge.  The only lover I've kept around all these many, many years.
It's my personal belief that if you want to have a bad day, or hell, maybe 2...then have it!  In fact, have the bloody hell out of it.  Piss on these perpetually optimistic folks that go around grinning incessantly.  They need to be poked in the eye anyway. Wallow in your bad day and smear it's misery all over yourself.  Then get over it.  Be done with it. It's out of your system. When the time is right you'll have another.

 I will keep posting, although I'm not sure at what frequency.  I want to post more, seriously.  I have done some more work on the house I'd like to show everyone.  Still having some issues with the brain fog though.  In the mornings I usually feel better but tell myself, 'you need to get off your ass and work out, get outside, do art, do that welding job, and so on...instead of sitting here on this computer.!'  Daylight's a' burnin', save that for night time.  Then come night time I'm too tired, fuzzy-headed, distracted or whatever to think up any kind of post.  I'll try to do better.
I appreciate the kind comments for those of you who left them on the last post.  I regretted deleting them but they were connected to the post.  I have often felt no one is really interested in this blog anymore so it always helps to hear from those of you still around. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Low Profile

Thought I'd share a few photos of some sneaky critters that I've spied around here lately.  I know I've been laying low too.  Not felt real good these past couple of weeks, plus, my old decrepit desktop 'puter finally gasped it's last breath and so I've had to transition over to my laptop that mostly sat unused.  It had been acting up for some time, so I had enough sense to get all my photos off the desktop and onto another drive but had not quite cleared all my documents off when it finally gave up the ghost.  Fortunately, Jack was able to resurrect it just enough for me to get that stuff off.  He's good that way.

I had a few more pics of these dragonflies but they have been misplaced somewhere in the move.  And...although I was able to transfer all my photos to this laptop, it somehow (or I did) just dumped ALL of them (a couple thousand photos) into one big folder, all jumbled up.  On the desktop I had everything in various folders, such as all chicken photos and so on, but now everything is just in a wad.  *sigh*  I may never get all that straightened out.

So anyway.  I'm here.  I am slowly making progress.  Some days I feel better and some days I feel like hammered hell.  I'll try to post again soon.  I do have a few little things to show yall.

Oh, and if there are any locals that want to drop by, I am selling the last of my pottery!  Some good deals here!  Well, no sales tax anyway..Haha!  I have mostly dinnerware type stuff...bowls, plates, a few mugs etc.  Let me know if you wanna come take a look.  It may be the last stuff I make (pottery wise) for a looong time.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Hunting Bears

 Over the last several years I've read quite a bit about numerous wild animal species making comebacks in population or starting to appear in areas that they previously were though to be gone from.  Not necessarily extinct but just far removed from those original areas.  This is all good news to me.  I'm happy to see many wild animals growing in population.  I know when I was a kid we never saw deer around the area I grew up.  That was something that existed far, far away in other parts of Alabama.  Now, when I go down in the pastures when I visit Mama, deer trails and tracks are a dime a dozen.  Unfortunately, coyotes have come with them, but so far they tend to stay far away from houses.  Fox are common now, as are ground hogs and various hawks and other wild fowl.
Knowing all this did not prepare me for what I recently found in my driveway though.  A couple of weeks ago, on my daily trek to the mailbox, I spied some very large and very deep claw marks right in the drive, which is hard-packed chert and gravel.  I came back and took several photos, as you see below.  At first I thought, it must just be a very large dog.  But after measuring them....I thought, that'd have to be one big ass dog.  There were four claw marks with the outer ones being a good 4 inches apart and about 1 1/2" between each claw.  That's just the claws, you see.  The paw would be even larger.

 There were actually several marks but this was the one most clearly defined.  The scratch was over 2 feet in length also and, as I mentioned, in some very hard gravel and dirt.. We had not had much rain in a while when this was done and the ground was just baked.  In fact, we have had several very heavy rains since I took these photos and some of the marks are still slightly visible, they were so deep.

 I suspected it was a black bear but figured everyone would think I was nutty.  I mean, Alabama does have black bears.  They travel quite frequently through our state on their way to and from the Smokies and Florida.  But they normally stay over on the east side of the state because they can make a great deal of the trip within the confines of the Talledega National Forest.  It's a little unusual to see them over this way.

 Then, I found this tuft of hair not far from the claw marks a few days later.  It's very matted and coarse.  I suppose it could very well be dog hair but it just didn't seem like it.  So.  I got all my stuff together and me and Jack paid a visit to our local county extension officer.  He's real nice and likes to chat so we dropped in his office and I showed him all my evidence.  To be honest, I expected him to laugh at me.  But...he looked over everything and said, 'Yep, looks like you have a bear!'  I wanted to not be thought a nut but I also didn't want to know I had a bear on my land!  Mainly it scared me for my chickens and for Chigger.  I don't think she's courageous enough to go after a bear, by any means, but I encouraged her to stay up by the house as much as possible and made sure the girls were locked up way before dark.  The county guy said he figured the bear had well moved on by now; that it was probably just passing through, but I wasn't so sure.  I haven't seen any signs of anything lately though, so hopefully he's right! 

In other rare sightings, I actually won 2 prizes at the art show that I was recently accepted into!  I got 2nd for the metal sculpture I showed ya'll a few posts back and got an Honorable Mention for another small sculpture.  I won a little money with that too, so that was nice!  I was very happy and grateful to finally have some success.  At the end of the reception, the judge (a professor from the U of A in Huntsville) made a point to stop me to talk and compliment me on all my work.  He claimed to be very impressed with the welding, which I thought was kinda humorous.  However, he did understand that it's a bit tricky to weld cast iron to mild steel and he appreciated my efforts.  Of course, I told him who my professor was that taught me how to weld and he understood then.  Where I went to school, craftsmanship was of great importance, as it should be.  Didn't matter how great of an artistic concept, if it looked like shit then it was shit in their eyes.  "The craftsmanship should always be appropriate to the piece".  I might as well as had that tattooed on my forehead as often as we were told in school! They weren't kidding either.  If you couldn't muster the craft of building things (or painting etc), there was none of this, "oh, it's the concept of the piece blah, blah, blah." They would tell you to get your shit and get out of their class. 
At any rate, from this show I was also offered two other opportunities to exhibit my art and I am very excited about that.  I'll tell ya'll about that in a later post.