Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Big-Bucket List

I think there's a bucket list, and then there's a bucket list. The first being things, that one way or another, can be accomplished. Mine would include all kinds of travel. There are so many things I want to see. Nothing crazy. I really don't want to jump out of a plane or anything like that.

I've never really considered writing that list. But I decided (for some odd reason) to make a big-bucket list. The big things. Some that with the right means could be done and those that are merely wishes. The kind of stuff that probably won't ever happen. It's a little silly.

So, as I snuggle with my Sassy tonight, I'm gonna post it on my blog.

1. Play with baby tigers
2. Own a tiny monkey
3. See the pyramids, and walk through an ancient underground Egyptian tomb.
4. Live in Paris, go to culinary school, and become a fabulous pastry chef
5. Spend the night on a beach, sleeping on the sand. One that's really warm, and really soft.
6. Experience what it would be like to be blind. (a little weird, but so fascinating)
7. Walk on the moon
8. See the trees covered with Monarch butterflies in Mexico
9. Dance ballet on toe
10. Hold a bald eagle on my arm
11. See the aurora borealis
12. Go under water in a shark cage to watch great whites
13. See baby turtles hatch
14. See an active volcano and flowing lava
15. Give 1m to each member of my family
16. Spend a week on a deserted island alone with my husband
17. Have lunch with the prophet
18. Be on the Price is Right
19. Have my 20 yr old body back
20. Own a bakery / flower shop. What makes people smile more than sweets and fresh flowers?

What are some of your big-bucket list items?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wow man.  How long has it been since I've typed on here??  I apologize to whoever is reading this that already knows everything I'm going to talk about.  I have decided that because I am feeling very frustrated about everything, a little venting and perhaps an attempt at humor will make me feel better. 

Step One:  Semi-sudden crash into severe depression.  I say semi because there were warning signs for several weeks.  I simply (and mistakenly) chose to ignore them.  This denial resulted in one of the worst two episodes of depression I've ever experienced, from which I am still trying to recover. 
Step Two:  I spent a full weekend immersed in nonstop crying and irrational guilt and anxiety over normal everyday things, especially social situations.
Step Three:  Out of desperation, an entirely honest email about what was happening had to be sent because I wouldn't be able to fulfill my responsibilities at church the next day.  This began, I am sure, the trickling of information being passed from one auxiliary leader to another.  (See anxiety over social situations in Step Two).
Step Four:  An immediate phone call to the Dr was placed at 8 am that Monday morning.  Mercifully, they scheduled me to come in that afternoon. 
Step Five:  Dr says, "How are you doing?"  I say...nothing for a couple of minutes because I'm already crying again.  After a long discussion and a brief once over, Dr says, "You have severe depression." And in another act of mercy gives me a prescription for new meds.
Step Six:  Appt with my orthopedic surgeon that I'd already scheduled due to pain in a shoulder that is totally screwed up.  I get a really uncomfortable cortisone shot in my shoulder joint.
Step Seven:  Two weeks of crazy side effects, including nervousness, a jittery inability to sit still, nausea, foggy feeling in my head, big headaches, lots of yawning and even feeling just plain high.  I mean, weird high.

I'm gonna have to stop Step numbering everything now, cause I think you'll get tired of reading them.  During those first two weeks, I had to ask for an honorable release from my church stuff because I couldn't even get myself to go to the grocery store.  We also went on a week-long trip to the mtns in WY for a family vacay that we'd already planned for.  It was good timing.  I needed the peace and the time alone with my family, especially my husband.  He immediately became my literal security blanket.  Our relationship suddenly morphed into this incredibly close attachment.  He has never been more tender, patient, helpful or understanding in the 16 years we've known each other.  I am very lucky to have him and I love him very much for loving me anyway. 

My awesome Dr ordered some blood work, just to rule out some things and also because I hadn't had any done for years.  The results come back telling me that I am really healthy except for two things:  extremely low Vitamin D and slightly elevated Iron.  Their recommendation:  a prescription dose of Vit D combined with an otc version, equaling 67,000 mg per week; and since I wasn't taking any iron supplements or vitamins they told me to go donate blood to bring my iron down.  I actually got up the next day and went to donate blood for the first time in my life. 

Three weeks after 'the crash' I returned to my Dr for a checkup.  She takes a little bit more blood to rule out something called Hemochromatosis.  Yeah...whatever.  Nearly a week passed with no news and I felt pretty good about starting to feel like a normal person again.  But, since my luck was already down, I guess, the phone did eventually ring and I spoke directly to my Dr.  She informed me that I was positive for both genetic mutations, meaning I had to inherit it from both my parents.  And told me I needed to schedule an appointment with a Hematologist. 

Hemochromatosis (hereafter HM), I have learned, is a genetic chromosome mutation that causes my body to absorb too much iron.  There are several different kinds of mutations that cause it.  The particular one I have only occurs in 4 out of every 100 people with HM.  The gene also predisposes me to be 3-4 times more likely to someday have a stroke.  Luckily, of the different strains, mine means I only absorb just over 6 times the iron that I should.  Some of the others are so much higher.  Apparently it's more common in people of Scandinavian/Northern European decent.  Anyway, this is a problem because the body absorbs too much iron, and then has to find places to store it.  Like the liver, pancreas, heart, etc.  Immediately it's not a problem.  And in fact it's rarely discovered in women before the age of 50 because having a period keeps it under control until then.  After years of this excess storage, it can cause liver cancer, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc.  This also means I can't ever donate blood.

So to make a long story just a bit shorter, I visited the hematologist.  He ran some more of my blood.  (yay!!) and called me the next day.  Long term iron stores or Ferritin, should be somewhere between 20-50.  Mine was 89.  So they said I needed to come in and have my first phlebotomy.  It's the same process as donating blood, but only 1 pint instead of 2, and the blood is tossed in the trash. 

Day one:  They start a line in my left arm and use a large syringe to suck out what looked like a couple of tablespoons.  He then injected a little bit of some liquid which I can't remember the name to keep the vein open.  The 2 T got separated into two different vials for testing of ferritin and tbc.  He then walked me into a little cubical with these nice comfy chairs.  Despite that liquid, whatever it was, the little catheter thingy in my arm got bent and he couldn't get it to work.  So out it came and in went another line into my right arm.  The other end was stuck in the top of a glass jar.  The jar looks just like the ones they bottle vinegar.  My blood just zipped through that tube and filled up the jar in a matter of minutes.  But upon standing, I nearly passed out.  So the chair got laid back, and in came a bag of fluids, some chips and a drink of water. 

Day two:  I return for my second phlebotomy a week later.  This time I tell them just to start with the right arm.  She followed the same process, sucking out that 2T and moving me to the comfy chair.  This time though, the blood doesn't seem to want to come out.  After about 1/2 a jar, it just isn't moving.  So out comes that line and in goes a second to my left arm.  That side didn't work very well either, but she managed to eeek out another half of a jar and then I was done.  Before I could even think about standing up, the blood drained from my face and the room started spinning.  And yep, you guessed it.  Another bag of fluids, etc. 

Currently, 3 days later, I still feel a bit weak.  I get a head rush if I get up too fast.  The day after, I could hardly walk up the stairs, I was so tired.  I'm trying to guzzle water (in between rt 44's) and I'm trying to have a protein shake here and there.  I have a large bruise on my left arm and soreness in that bicep.  Annoying.  My parents think my doctors haven't diagnosed me correctly and that they're being too radical.  I've read that if they can get the iron down to normal before it has a chance to damage any organs, I will have less than a 1% chance of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis.  That seems like a good thing, right? 

Oh but if that were all I was dealing with right now.  The cortisone shot made my shoulder feel better for about a month.  But it's right back to hurting again and my ortho guy said if that happened I would need to get an MRI so we could decide what kind of surgery to do.  The choice is either a second arthroscopic temporary fix or a full shoulder replacement.  I wish you could see the completely sarcastic smile on my face.  I am just dealing with the pain right now because I don't have the time or the patience to start something else.

I also have this weird thing in my legs, where sometimes I will have a large blood vessel just spontaneously burst.  It always leaves a very large, very ugly bruise.  I had one burst the same day as my first phleb.  I've asked two or three friends who are nurses, a friend who works as a PA in the ER and even my hematologist and nobody seems to know why it happens or what it means.  ::hands up in the air and a shoulder shrug::

Then a week ago, I had to take my dog to the vet and have her put to sleep.  She was so sick and so old.  I know it was the best decision.  We sure do miss her though.  We had her for over 13 years.  I got to see her when she was only two weeks old and I got to look into her eyes as they gave her that injection.  It was very strange watching them change, in a fraction of a second, from being here to being gone.  Just like that.  It seems like such a cliche' for me to add, "And dog died!"  But really and truly, she did.

 The final straw: About 4 weeks ago my lower back started hurting me.  I just ignored it and pushed through.  It even felt better for a few days and I thought I was in the clear.  Until this morning.  I'd been half awake all night because it hurt.  But this morning, I could hardly get out of bed.  I discovered that I couldn't put any weight on my left leg.  Somehow I made it to the bathroom anyway, but almost passed out on the way back to the bed.  So Honey found me lying on the floor in the dark in excruciating pain and unable to move.  I have spent a very long day sitting on a heating pad and taking a large dose of ibuprofen every 6 hours.  How I wish I had some stronger pain killers.  How I wish I didn't have to go see yet another Dr to get them.
I give in.  Fhs, someone come in and call off the dogs!  I am completely destroyed.  What else could possibly happen?  My poor, poor husband.  He has to deal with so much crap.  And I feel like I'm a senior citizen in a 37 yr old body.  Seriously.  What the crap is going on, anyway?  Hey, sorry about all of the 'poor me' stuff, but how could I possibly be feeling anything other than sorry for myself?  I'm dreading bedtime.  I'm afraid I won't be able to get comfortable.  I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep.  And I'm afraid that tomorrow morning I will be just as incapacitated as I was today. 

At least I had my diet coke today.  I did drop a full one on my coffee table this afternoon, and it broke and spilled all over the place.  So super sad.  Luckily my super hero husband came swooping in and got me a fresh one.  I must be in need of a huge shot of humility.  I'm waving my little white flag and I'm crying 'Uncle.'  I hope I can get over the back thing quickly.  I hope my ferritin will drop rapidly so I won't have to do phleb more than one or two more times.  Even though I know the lifelong treatment of HM is periodic phlebotomy to keep my iron in a normal range.  It's this initial every week thing that's tiring.  After that, it'll just be a few times a year. 

Send up a prayer for me if you think about it.  I think I've been put on hold.  I even told Honey this morning that when all of my bullcrap is resolved and over, I want him to take a trip to Vegas so he can do something fun for himself.  "Stay in a fancy hotel and play poker for a couple of days."  He deserves it, I think. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pet Guilt

This isn't an unfamiliar feeling for me, feeling guilty about my pet. Although, not something I ever felt growing up. We had cats in our house. I remember my mom showing me, even when I was just 3-4 years old, how to be gentle with the cat and explaining that she could feel things, etc. I grew up to love animals, but I also never felt any fear or guilt over a pet dying. In our rural town, the vet was really no-nonsense and pretty straight forward. At least, that's how I remember him. If you felt like the better choice was to put your pet down rather than to extend their life with expensive or complicated treatments, then he was fine with that. I appreciated that - especially when somehow the task of taking our long time siamese cat Sam to the vet for that express purpose became my responsibility. I had insisted for weeks that when it was time, I had to be there. And then I found myself being the one to take him. I wasn't happy about it, you know. But he was old and sick and it was just time. You know? I know I was pretty sad and I may or may not have made him some promises in the car on the way there - cause I believe I'll see him again someday - and I cried. It was hard. But it's just life, isn't it? May 22, I'm pretty sure, and my brother wrote on the fridge in the kitchen, "May 22 - Sam Day."

When Bailey was about 6, she hurt her back. We tried the slow and cheap way to fix it. Meds and lot's of rest. But it didn't work and finally we had to decide. Surgery or...not. She was only 6. So we went for the surgery. That was 7 years ago. I believe it was worth the cost. When Sammy was 9, she messed her back up. This was harder. We had a very long talk about what to do and had essentially decided we weren't going to fork out all that cash again. But let me tell you - there is something about that vet standing there looking at you waiting for your decision and you can just seeeeee it in their eyes. They'll hate you if you don't go for it. Then they start rationalizing why it would be a good idea, why it would be worth the money, why you should give them a chance. I hate pressure like that. It irritates me. But then I went over to see the dog and I couldn't stand it. And we caved. Now I'm very glad that we did. She has lived a full and happy life, healed up great, can run like crazy and everything. Her only issues are a little arthritis, but she's 11 now. Like, 70-something years old. Quite appropriate.

So now - at 13 1/2 - my dog Bailey has been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease. It causes a variety of problems and is very likely caused by a tumor on her pituitary. This is not operable. It is also not cureable. Treatment is simply to make them feel better. But treatment is very expensive. We've already spent $200 to get the first bit of news. It's another $500+ just to get her the blood and ultrasound diagnosis. Then, the medication is $6.99 per pill and every few weeks, she would need another blood test ($260 repeated 2-6 times). The medication would be permanent, especially since the tumor causing the problem can not be removed or changed. So here we are, with the news from the vet and the guilt. The guilt that tells me we'd be cruel horrible animal haters if we don't do whatever we can to make her feel better.

Let me be clear though. The vet was very kind on the phone when she gave me the news and told us about our treatment options. She was fairly straight forward about the costs. I had to search online to get the cost of the medication. But I almost felt an anxiousness from her for us to do something about it. "We need to do the blood test and get the ultrasound done." Those two things are the initial $500. Another piece of the puzzle is Bailey's liver. I hope you don't mind some technicality. Results were:

Alkaline Phosphotase. Normal 150. Typical Cushing's Dog 1500-2000. Bailey....4210.
ALT. Normal 107. Bailey....937.
Another one I can't remember the name of. Normal 55. Bailey....92.

Don't ask me what those numbers mean. Just that her liver enzymes are freakishly out of whack and the vet even said she's never seen numbers as high as her 4210.

My fear is that we'll fork out that $500 and they'll do an ultrasound and discover that her liver is dying and we can't do anymore for her. My fear is that we'll fork all of that out and 4 months from now, she'll die anyway. This could happen various ways. A seizure, congestive heart failure, kidney and/or liver failure, a blood clot to her lungs, or rarely the pituitary tumor could be growing rapidly and she'll lose brain function and her behavior will get freaky. In the meantime, she shows nearly all of the symptoms of Cushings, save a couple. Panting for no reason and peeing all over the house. I can handle the panting. I can handle her drinking tons of water and acting like she's starving all the time. I can handle carrying her up the stairs because she's losing muscle mass and it's getting really hard for her to get around. I can handle all kinds of things, but peeing all over the house? But does our choice to not fork out the money mean we don't care about her?

So maybe we're terrible horrible animal haters, but we are simply not going to treat her Cushings. We're going to let it run it's course for a few weeks and see what happens. As it is, she sleeps nearly all day. Her happiest moments are mealtime and when we come home from somewhere. As long as she still gets happy about dinner and still gets up and wags her tail for us, I'm pretty satisfied that she's still happy enough to be here. I know she's uncomfortable in some ways. I can see it. I guess we'll just have to play it by ear as to whether or not we have to make that hard decision for her, unless it happens quietly on it's own.

Thirteen point five years is a very decent and typical lifespan for a dachshund. My gut says that she will probably make the summer. But for some reason, I don't think it will be much beyond that. I'll have to write some post with pictures of her as a baby and stuff - tell you about the cute things she would do and why I always called her honey. Why we always thought she would have been a fabulous mommy dog, but never had the chance. How I think she would have been a perfect pet - if Sammy hadn't come around and showed her how to bark at everything. Yes. I blame Sammy. This is morbid and weird. She's not gone yet.

I did sit my kids down and explain it all to them. There is a definite chance that one of them could find her gone one of these days and I didn't want to feel guilty that I hadn't warned them. I also wanted them to be aware so that they can be more careful of her and kinder to her. And so they could help me keep an eye on her. I know they will let me know if they see anything unusual. Sweetly enough, George spent the time during the discussion wiping at his eyes. Not crying or bawling like he always does about everything else. Just very quietly clearing a few tears from his eyes before they could go anywhere. Link didn't do much or say much, but it's more like him to keep that to himself until a later time. Sassy didn't say much until about 20 minutes later. We were in the car going somewhere and she started to sob. Awwww....the tender hearts of my children. I love being able to tell them that Bailey won't be gone forever. That we can see her again someday. That I fully believe that God would not give us these animals that we love so much and then never let us see them again. And I told them that she'd be perfectly healthy there, happy and running around. And it really made my kids feel better to know that.

As for me, it's all I can think about right now. I find myself saying the word Cushing's in my head a hundred times a day. So explains my post. I had to write it down to make myself feel better. Honestly, I don't feel surprised by it or dreadful about it. But last night I was petting her and listening to her breathe and wondering what she felt like in that little dog body of hers and in the middle of her steady breaths, she stopped. What would have been 3 or 4 breaths, and felt like an eternity, passed in silence and I felt this horrid feeling creeping up into my throat and bang....she was breathing again like normal and it was like it never happened. That tells me that it's going to hurt a little more than I'm preparing myself for.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Tasty Discovery

Ever had Stacey's Pita Chips? The cinnamon ones?

I hadn't until today. Actually bought the bag a couple of weeks ago because George asked. But we came home from the store, put everything away, and they got shoved to the back of the cupboard and forgotten. Until today. So I found them back there and decided to give them a try. Worst case, I figured, the kids could eat them up and we'd be done with them. Uh.....hello? These babies are tasty! Like super crispy and toasty cinnamon toast. Who doesn't love some cinnamon toast? Or 'sugar toast,' as Sassy calls it. So I ate a few and then realized all I could think about was cream cheese and I wanted to dip them. Dip dip dip.

Here's what I used:

8 oz cream cheese
1 T packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 salted caramel cream sauce*

Mix all together and... dip dip dip. Hooooooo-mama!! A word of's dangerous. I could eat the stuff with a spoon. But on the chips, it balances out the sweet of the chip so nicely. I can't imagine it wouldn't be good with apples or a blob melted on the top of french toast or really, just use your imagination. The spoon is a pretty decent option though. Try it. I know you'll love it.

*I just happened to have this caramel sauce in my fridge. But you could use any kind of caramel or even butterscotch ice cream topping. If it's been in your fridge, warm it up first.

Oh my goodness, I was just picturing a couple of pieces of cinnamon bread with this stuff spread in the middle like a sandwich - then dipped in the egg/cream mixture just like french toast and cooked on a griddle. Topped with some sliced bananas, a little powdered sugar to make it pretty and a couple of slices of crispy bacon. Sorry. It's been way to long since I went out for breakfast. It's one of my favorite things, you know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today I delivered 11 plates to 11 people. I can't even tell you how much I enjoy that. I'm tired, for sure. But it's just awesome to make someone smile. And although I get a lot of enjoyment out of just learning, trying, making it pretty and all of that, how could I possibly do all of that and not share it??

The best thing that happened in my kitchen today was making my first successful batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. My arm is a little worn out. But it really wasn't that bad. I think I will post my own version of a tutorial for that soon. But for now, a recap of the cupcakes, and my feelings about the results.

(this is where I wish Landee were sitting here so she could show me how to do those totally cute pictures
with the captions in the adorable fonts and all of that cuteness - some day soon)

Rosewater & Raspberry Cupcake

Everything about this cupcake was easy - well, except for finding the rosewater and the edible flowers. But the batter was simple and they baked up nicely. The glaze needed quite a bit of tweaking from the
written recipe, but luckily glazes are totally easy. And can you believe how scrumptious those raspberries look? Actually, the only thing about this cupcake that's raspberry is the two sitting on top. But the name definitely sounds better with that thrown in.

Honey gets all the credit for the photos, btw.

They tasted exactl
y the way I was hoping they would. It's like inhaling the scent of a home-grown rose while you're eating. I was hoping the cupcake would be a little more moist, but I think if I made them and ate them on the same day - they'd be perfection. Perrrrrfection.

Coconut-Lime Cupcakes

These baked up nicely too, with only the slightest divot in the middle. No big deal, cause I had to punch out a piece of the center anyway. There's a small amount of coconut in the batter which I think gave them a nice texture. If you like that, of course. Honey enjoys the flavor of coconut, but doesn't like actually eating it. The center is filled with a creamy, tart lime curd. Like so....

The lovely buttercream called for some coconut extract, but I must say, it needed more than the recipe called for. It was barely noticeable. That's a very easy fix, however, and I totally enjoyed eating it.

Salted Caramel Cupcake

You remember the problems I had getting this one to bake up right, right?

Yep. There they are. All sunken in. Let me tell you, though, they are dense, a little sticky, and the brown sugar in the batter really adds some good flavor. Especially after they're filled with the caramel swirled buttercream. Granted I could have used more caramel, but I was a little nervous that it would interrupt the delicate texture of the buttercream. I was short the pretty salt flakes that I needed to just garnish the top, but oh well.

There I am - taking a pic to text to my sister. Mmmm mmm mmmmmmmmmm.

So, here are today's spoils...

They are definitely eat'em-with-a-fork cupcakes. Yikes. I have no idea which direction I'm going to go next. Like I said, I am very tired. But very, very satisfied and I really learned a lot.