Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lawn Mower Blues

Mom's Day at Our House

My gift to my mother was a nicely mown lawn this Mother's Day Sunday.  This may seem simple - no brainer - what is there to mowing a lawn??  Well, this being my life, nothing was simple.

A couple of years ago my brother bought a used riding mower, 1970's vintage, because it was a "special" edition of a lawn tractor.  It was pretty cool, had a hydrostatic transmission and hydraulic mower deck.  But it was pretty old, and took almost as much oil to run it as gasoline.  Last week it took a dump, as in throwing a rod.  My brother, who had been using this to mow the lawn, decided to sell it instead of putting more money into it.  Since repairing it would have been a chunk of change and my change is limited, I was glad he was throwing in the towel and cashing out.  He was able to sell it after just a few days of advertising it.  Guess it really was a special edition to sell so quickly without a working engine.

That left me with a dilemma of what to do to mow the three or more acres of lawn I have.  The next door neighbor was mowing it, but when my brother bought his tractor that arrangement stopped.  Buying a new riding lawn mower was out of the question - very costly.  Finding a used mower in good shape at a decent price at the beginning of summer mowing season is hard to do.  My brother is trying to get things together to start his own establishment, so I needed something I could drive and maintain.

Although I work with healthcare and computers now, long long ago I helped with the family farm implement business.  We sold mowers and parts for mowers, so I know a little something about what to look for.  I saw an auction this Saturday (yeah, BEFORE Mother's day) with an older riding mower that is a good brand.  I had to stand most of the day Saturday to wait for the mower to sell.  Men were hovering around it, inspecting it, giving it the once over. 

I was familiar with the going price on Craigslist thanks to my brother's research.  There was another unadvertised mower at the auction that was a much better mower and even more men hovered around it.  They ignored the dishes and tons of Christmas decorations that took hours to sell.  I waited and waited, bought a couple of sombreros that I have since given away, and FINALLY it was time for the mower I was interested in to sell.  About six men bid on it.  I waited until the bidding was pretty well over, and upped the bid once and BINGO got the mower.  I think if the more expensive mower had sold first I might not have been able to afford the mower I bought, because I could see the guys thinking - if I pay THAT for the older mower, then I won't be able to buy the newer mower.  Thank heavens I was content with the older mower.  I didn't have to check it out mechanically, because surely SIX men had already figured out that it worked.

Now I had the mower purchased, I had to get it home.  My older brother came to the rescue and we managed to drive it right into the bed of his pickup and get it home.  WooHoo!!  Then I had to buy gas.  Ouch!!!  I then mowed yesterday and today, with my neighbor coming over and giving me pointers on how to run the dang thing.  Thank heavens for people with real volume mowing experience.  I got the knee high grass mown and have quite the sunburn going on.  I will have a true farmer's tan on my arms.  I think it took about 12 hours to mow the lawn. And that is without doing the trimming yet. Big sigh.

I did mow part of my other neighbor's yard in addition to my own.  The older gentleman who lives there with his wife recently had knee replacement surgery, but he waited so long his muscles had atrophied so he is still unable to walk several months later.  His wife is hemiplegic and unable to mow the lawn, so one neighbor is taking the far half, and this week I took the close half.  I got it done just before their children got there for Mother's Day.

My brothers cooked supper for Mom, and my sister and one of my brother's bought her big bunches of penny candy, a lot of it from Mom's childhood, and some of it her old favorites like Snicker bars.  I'm pretty stoved up from two days of standing and driving and burning, but Mom loves a tidy lawn so it was worth it.  Now I just have to try to maintain it.  Argh!!!

I go tomorrow for my pre-procedure testing, to make sure I can endure general anesthesia for the bladder/kidney test thingy.  I am totally bummed because my car is even worse this weekend than last week. My brother is going to drive me in his pickup, and then take me to work and pick me up later.  I don't know what I am going to do on the transportation front.  I live three miles from town, so I'm going to have to do something fairly quickly.  Argh x2!!!

Hoping you all had a pleasant weekend.  The weather was lovely for getting a sunburn here - slightly hazy at a high altitude and a cool breeze.  Got my annual May sunburn going on big time.  Guess maybe Dr. Skinner will have to check me for even more sun damage next year! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Assessing My Well Being

My Reality Check

I have a little questionaire I run through on a periodic basis, to assess where I am verses where I was.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day aspects of managing my own multiple health issues and my mother's health issues, and caring for my mother, I lose perspective on the larger scale of how I am doing over time.  I first wrote about this list in June 2010, and have added a few more questions since then:

  1. Do you have a life threatening illness? No, unless anaphylaxis counts
  2. This year to last year, health improved, worsened, same? Worsened
  3. This year to last year, finances improved, worsened, same? Worsened
  4. Is your family life stable? Not as much as last year 
  5. Is your work life stable? Yes
  6. Are you not stressed, slightly stressed, really stressed? really stressed
  7. Are you feeling hopeless? No
  8. Are you tired? Yes, extremely so
  9. Have health problems affected your interaction with others? Yes
  10. Do you take yourself too seriously? Only under the cover of darkness!!!
  11. Do you have trouble concentrating? Most of the time
  12. Do your illnesses intefere with your ADLs? Yes
  13. Do you feel sorry for yourself? No
  14. Are you able to relax? Rarely
  15. Are you able to sleep? With Difficulty
  16. When you sleep is it quality sleep, leaving you rested? No
  17. Are there people worse off than you are? Yes Most Definitely
  18. Do you feel you are acting appropriately concerning your illness? Yes
  19. Do you still have a sense of humor? Some Days More than Others
  20. Despite your own issues do you have concern for other people's welfare? Yes
  21. Do you misuse or abuse medications given to you? No
  22. Do you project your feelings about your illness into your interactions with others? I hope not
  23. Have you put life plans on hold due to illness? Yes
  24. Do you feel illness has cheated you out of a life you deserved? No
  25. Are you happy/content? Yes
  26. Do you miss the life you used to have?  Yes
  27. Do you ever have a day where your illness disappears? Not anymore
  28. Does your illness make you fearful? Yes, I fear reaching my pain endurance limit
  29. Do you find joy in common everyday events?  Yes
  30. Do you feel your life, in all aspects, is better, worse, or the same from last year?  Worse
A great list, just what to do with it after I answer all the questions is a problem.  I look at my last list (I keep them in a folder on my PC) and I try to see if there is a trend with some of the questions - is my health improving, or getting worse?  Is my attitude better or declining?  When I figure out what is better I look at what is making it better and try to include MORE of that in my daily life if possible.  When I figure out what is worse I try to see if anything that is making it worse is under my control, and if so what can I do to improve this.  If something is not under my control I make a mental note to "let it go" and just let it be.

Does this method really help anything?  I am not sure it does. It makes me feel like I can make a difference in my own life.  It helps me identify what works and keep doing that, identify what doesn't work and find a way to change it.  I'm a planner and like to have things laid out so I know what to expect. Unfortunately one of the things I cannot control is the actual decline in my health and the rate of that decline.

There are a few questions that I consider true emergencies in self care that need to be taken care of ASAP.  One of them is projecting feelings about my illness into my interactions with others, so if I am feeling negative about my illness I am reacting negatively to others.  This is a sneaky one I have caught a couple of times just by using this questionaire.  For me, I was able to do a self adjustment, some one else may want to seek outside help or counseling, or even not do anything.  Another question I consider urgent is do I misuse or abuse medications given me.  Since I take some powerful pain killers this is something I need to be aware of, because I feel it is just a short step to addictive behavior from physical addiction.  The third "key indicator" for me is do I feel I am acting appropriately concerning my own illness.  Obssessing too frequently or just ignoring health issues are both problems I feel I need to address on occassion.  This blog is my outlet for obsession, and unfortunatley lately just ignoring health issues is not possible.  Big Sigh.

Hope you all have a great week, I am including my personal anthem I play when life starts getting overwhelming, from one of my favorite groups Chumbawamba, called Tubthumping.  I wish with my pancreatitis I could "piss the night away" with a whisky drink or a cider drink or a vodka drink once in a while - I guess listening to the song is my next best thing!!! My life is one big "I get knocked down, but I get up again" anthem. Sigh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


New Neighbors

We have a family of foxes roaming around the back acreage.  They seem to be living in the partially filled in basement where the next door neighbor's house burned down a couple of years ago.  It would make a perfect fox burrow, and probably won't collapse on them when it gets wet like the last few weeks here.

Momma fox is looking a little scroungy, with scruffy fur and a trifle skinny.  She has five kits that are so cute!  My brother thinks she must be weaning them.  Mice and other things that foxes regularily eat (I hope chihuahua is not one of their favorite meals) are in short supply right now due to the extremely wet weather conditions.  Perhaps wrongly, but out of the desire that the young foxes get stronger and able to hunt on their own soon, we have been putting out high protein puppy food to supplement their momma's foraging abilities.  These are red foxes, and are very pretty against the green grass.  We also have grey foxes that live here, they seem to be slightly larger than the red foxes but since you can't get very close that is just a guess.

I saw Dr. Skinner the dermatologist today.  He looked at my brown spots, and kept asking are you worried about skin cancer?  Can you show me which one you are worried about??  I guess he didn't get the memo that I'm not worried about skin cancer.  He insisted that my immunologist Dr. Calm sent me to him for an entirely different reason, and just mostly seemed to be intent on physically inspecting my skin rather than taking any sort of detailed history.  I guess if your history does not include skin cancer you are on the OK list with Dr. Skinner.  He prescribed some sort of steroid cream for the lesions I have been getting in addition to my hives.  He seemed to think they just were hives I scratched and would not admit it. 

Dr. Skinner seemed like a nice young man, but in the very short time I saw him he managed to create an unfavorable first impression.  Number one, he didn't listen to me.  Number two, he didn't read any of his referral paperwork from my immunologist.  Number three, he assumed I was worried about something I was NOT worried about.  Number four, he acted as if I was lying about scratching my hives verses the lesions I came to see him about. Number five, he charged for a 30 minute initial patient visit when he only took 15 minutes. Number six, he seemed disappointed when I said the discoloration on my skin from the hives did not bother me - I suspect it was a billing opportunity missed for skin laser treatments.  I guess I should be happy I don't have skin cancer - thank heaven for small favors!!!

Maybe after I use his wonder steroid cream and all my bumps disappear I will think more highly of Dr. Skinner.  Maybe after I have a recurrance of the sore places I went to see him about and he biopsies them I will be happier about Dr. Skinner.  Maybe next year when I come back to be visually inspected again I will be more favorably inclined.  I doubt it.  Big Sigh. Yodel lay he he.....heeee.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Disaster Day

Car Trouble Troubles

On my way to a doctor appointment this morning, and then to work when my car broke down on the interstate.  Not completely broken down, but I had the accelerator pedal to the floor and all the faster the car would go was 20 mph.  I could have run faster even with BLING.  I was able to drive on the emergency strip and get to an exit to see if my brother could help.  My poor old car belched blue and white smoke and back fired on the way off the interstate and THEN I could hear something that sounded like an exhaust leak or a vacuum leak.  Big Sigh.

This is the bad part about everyone you know being broke - just getting someone to drive 15 miles to follow you back in your sucky car is an adventure in frustration.  I was lucky, my brother was able to drive to my sisters and borrow her vehicle to come and drive behind me home.  He is retired, but worked for years as a master mechanic for large equipment, so he did some basic diagnosing of the car.

Ended up changing the fuel filter, changing the spark plugs, fixing a vacuum leak and THEN finding the cause of it all - an electronic solid state gadget the spark plug wires and the fuel system computer plug into.  Eighty some dollars later (I already had the spark plugs or that would have been another $45) my old Taurus was purring like a kitten and actually accelerated when I gave it more gas!  No telling how long that doodad was going out.  My car has about 190,000 miles on it.  I bought it brand new in 2002 with my last perk from the great big giant insurance company I used to work for - a Ford employee discount.  I hope that it lasts for quite a while longer as I don't know how I will be able to replace it.  I told a gal at work when I called in today that if I showed up to work in a 1988 Marquis then they would know the Taurus had bit the dust, and that was all I could afford to replace it with!!!

I missed my dermatology appointment but will call tomorrow morning to rebook.  Now it will probably be years into the future - the dermatologist will have to check my wrinkles for wrinkles!  Dr. Calm was so nice, he called Dr. Pepper and they cancelled the IVP.  Now I will have to have an outpatient procedure that requires general anesthesia called cystoscopy with retrograde pyelogram.  Dr. Pepper's nurse gave me some attitude this morning when I called to make sure the IVP and the followup doctor visit had been cancelled, but then lightened up later when she figured out her own doctor cancelled the procedure.

The urologist will insert a cystoscope via the urethra into the bladder, and then up the ureters towards the kidney.  The urologist's nurse assured me there would be NO contrast used, however all the literature on the web says that it is a type of fluoroscopy procedure and that a small amount of iodinated contrast will be used.  I am not going to give permission for any iodinated contrast to be used.  The ERCP I had for my pancreatic/biliary sphincterotomy I expressed concern about the contrast and  was told it was a small amount yet I had anaphylaxis and I came out of the hospital with my permanent headache.  It just isn't worth it to me.

I go in for that on May 11th.  I have been so sick last weekend and today with abdominal issues.  I have spikes of pain piercing my left temple as The Headache has slipped its bounds.  I have terrible nausea and I have been doing the dance of pain all evening between The Feet, The Legs, The Abdomen, and The Pelvis.  Hoping maybe this test will help me figure out what is happening but truly doubt it will do anything except let me meet my out of pocket maximum by May 12th.

I need to call tomorrow to check with Dr. House's staff about the rest of my blood tests.  Apparently the doctors learning the trade there could not figure out what lab tests had been ordered, vs. resulted, vs. in the chart, so I have to call back this week.  Another Big Sigh.  I wish I was rich and had an assistant to do this for me! 

Another task ahead of me is getting a full dental evaluation as my PCP and I discussed the sad shape of my teeth.  Once I had very nice teeth, but now the enamel is falling off, and the enamel on the back of my upper teeth is missing, due to excessive vomiting from my digestive issues.  I would like to get a couple of implants before going the false chopper direction, but due to my diminished financial circumstances fear I will have to end up at the local discount dental butcher shop and get the teeth pulled and some cheap choppers stuck on.  Life in the economy lane is not very fun when it comes to dental work.