Renovation Monday – My Study

If you don’t remember what my study looked like when we first moved in, allow me to refresh your memory:

The room is about 12 x 12.  I want you to pay particular attention to the wallpaper.  It’s an old, vinyl, grasscloth; which was last popular in 1978.

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Of particular note is the fact that there are two (2) completely different patterns of vinyl, grass-cloth, wallpaper.  One pattern was simply not enough for the people who decorated this room.

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Here is a close-up of one pattern:
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…and there’s the other.

Old Wallpaper

Old Wallpaper

They don’t even match, really.

Also note the the very dark, brown, trim on the windows, around the door, around the closet.

And the lovely, hollow core doors on the closet, in a completely different color.  I think that’s a lot for one small room.

The first order of business was to get rid of the grass-cloth.  It came off the wall with, deceptive, ease.  Piece, of cake, thought I.  (I’m laughing out loud even as I write this.)

Underneath, we discovered ORANGE.  Bright. F*cking.  Orange.  The same orange that I’d painted my bedroom.  When I was fifteen.  (That room had orange walls and hi-lo shag carpet in shades of orange, and two colors of brown.  Can you say seventies-licious?)

Stripping the Wallpaper

Stripping the Wallpaper

Quickly, we discovered why the walls were covered in vinyl!!!  They were beat.  Apparently, that vinyl was tough to adhere to the walls (the walls were probably rejecting it), and so the paper-hanger (who’s name was Tom – we know this because he wrote his name, in wall-paper paste, on one of the walls.  Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of that masterpiece) used pecial, super-thick, wall paper paste.  

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Walls after wallpaper and paste were removed

Walls after wallpaper and paste were removed

It took us weeks to scrape the paste off, and get the walls washed down completely.  I could only work in 4 foot sections before my back started aching, and it was a long slow process.

Finally, we were ready to prime the walls.

First Coat of Primer

First Coat of Primer

After the first coat of super-duper primer, the orange bled through.  So we put on a 2nd coat of primer, and finally, the paint.

Iwanted something soothing and not chaotic.  The color I eventually went with is called Lavender Mist.  Even the name calms me down.

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It looks a little darker in this pic. It was the end of the day.

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See how crisp the woodwork is after 3 coats of high-gloss white enamel?

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Ceiling is 50% saturation of the wall color

Then, on to the draperies.  I’ve had the fabric in my stash for about 5 years.  I originally planned to use it in the bedroom at Forts Ferry, but ended up using something else.  Frankly, I picked the wall color to coordinate with the curtains.

Drapery Panels - Sage Green

Drapery Panels – Sage Green

Tim hanging drapes.

Tim hanging drapes.

I think the drapes need a valance to tie the two colors together, and here is the fabric I chose:

 

Fabric for window valances.

Fabric for window valances.

It is perfect.  I love it so much, once I heard it was being discontinued, I went back to buy more.

Maybe, if I have enough time after I publish this post, I’ll actually get the valance made.

So, that’s the evolution of my study.  Come back next Monday for the next installment of Renovation Monday.

More later…

Fiber Friday – Saturday Edition

….And we’re back!! My husband, Tim (aka The Computer God), fixed my blog, and now I can upload photographs!!  There is much rejoicing over here at Six Oaks House.

Since this is the Friday post (or should have been), this is all about the Fibery Goodness that I’ve been working on for the past few months.  (In no particular order). I’m very excited about working on another Swallowtail Shawl.  I love this pattern, by Evelyn Clark.  It’s so easy to follow, and knits up beautifully.  I’m doing this in a handspun Merino and Silk blend, and is destined to become a gift for a dear friend (who does NOT know that it’s coming her way.)  I’m super excited to be working on it.

Swallowtail Shawl In Its Infancy

Swallowtail Shawl In Its Infancy

 

Lace never looks impressive until it’s blocked and all the lovely yarnovers open up – but I can tell this will be stunning. Here’s a close up of the yarn gradients and the stitch definition.  The silk in the blend really makes the stitches pop.

 

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Look at the color gradients in the yarn

 

I finally finished Tim’s sweater.  It took me forever to finish.  Of course, I had elbow surgery a few weeks after I started it; and then had to re-knit the sleeves a few times, to accommodate his skinny arms, and then I got sick of it an it went into hibernation while I worked on some other things, but here he is, looking like he’s posing for a mug shot:

 

Tim sweater 2

And again, in a more natural pose (hanging curtains in my study).

(More on my study in a future Reno Monday post)

 

tim sweater 1

Apparently, he loves it, because he wears it all the time, and nothing does a knitter’s heart as good as seeing someone wear your hand knits. I’ve also completed a few pairs of socks for myself:

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Socks Just Off the Needles

 And another still on the needles.

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 My next big project will be this sweater:

Although I won’t be doing in that color (or wearing it with that skirt).  It looks like a fun and easy knit.  I’m taking a risk and knitting it to the size I intend to be, not the size I am now. (But more on that in a WW post on Wednesday) I want to leave you with a few pictures of the spindle my brother, Jay, made for me.

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It’s gorgeous, and spins like a dream.

More later…

I remember now….I do have a blog!

Hello blogosphere!!  I’ve missed you.  Have you missed me?

This is going to be a really short post, with no pictures, because I can’t get Java to install, and that means I can’t use all the bells and whistles on WordPress.  Sigh.  Wouldn’t you know, after months of not writing, not blogging, I get the urge and…..stymied.

That pretty much sums up what I had been dealing with for most of the winter.  I hit a plateau on Weight Watchers.  Bounced around within a 6 lb. range, never going below a certain number.  Can you say Set Point?  Yeah, I knew you could.  That was after losing 36 lbs in 20 weeks.  

Needless to say, it was frustrating as hell.  Finally, got some things moving, and the scale has started a downward trend.  Hopefully that dam has broken.

House renovation had also come to a screaming halt.  Not sure why, but both Tim and I were burnt out by the flurry of renovation and moving.  We landed, and basically camped for a few months.  Neither of us had the motivation to do much more than watch football.  Believe me when I say it was a bad year to be a NY Giants fan.  A long, slow, agonizing season.  

We have gotten moving on the reno front.  The bedroom is painted, as is the furniture and (almost) all the boxes have been unpacked.  I’ve started working on drapery and linens and, now that my study has been painted, I have set up the sewing station.  

I forgot how much I love to sew.  It speaks to the part of me that needs to be creating.  Sometimes knitting (and spinning) isn’t enough, and I need to do something that has faster, visible benefits.  Sewing does that. 

I can’t wait to show you guys pictures.

A couple of weeks ago, my brother and sister-in-law came up and helped Tim frame out the new closet for the upstairs laundry.  That was a huge help, and a huge win in terms of seeing forward progress on the house.

So, here’s where we stand:

The kitchen is pretty much where I left it, last time I posted.  I think.  Did I take you through that part of the reno?  I have to check earlier posts.  I might have to start from scratch, and that’s okay, as soon as I can upload pictures.  

My study is painted, and mostly unpacked.  Still have a bit of sewing to do.

The bedroom is painted and I still have a lot of sewing to do.

The living room wall (where we removed the brick) needs to be sanded and, and the entire living room, dining room and hallway need to be primed and painted.  

The downstairs (treatment area & entry) needs help.

Somehow it doesn’t seem as daunting as it was before.  Maybe it’s Spring, which has finally started to arrive here in the Northeast.  No green in the backyard yet, but the grass is starting to green up, a little.  The azaleas have buds (I can’t wait).  The creeping sedum is growing (and crept a lot over the winter.  I love how it does that!).  I go out and look for the first of the daffodils to poke up, but so far I’ve been disappointed.  Next fall I’m planting crocuses, and maybe snowdrops.  I need a really early spring bloomer.

I’ve been spending some time online researching rose bushes.  I want a fragrant, continuous blooming, rose by the front door.  I’m thinking about Julia Child.  Do any of my readers have any other suggestions?

That’s it for now.  On to make a Weight Watcher friendly dinner for the knitters.  

More later…

Weight Watchers and Clean(ish) Eating?

I’ve been following the Weight Watcher’s program since June.  I’ve lost 36 lbs (more or less) and have been sort of stuck in this place since October.  I recognize it’s time to shake things up a bit because A, I’ve been bobbing within a 4 lb up and down for about 8 weeks; B, because I’m bored to tears with what I’ve been eating; and C, I’m finding myself grazing in the afternoons, not really satisfied with anything and looking for more.

I think I stumbled on the solution a few weeks ago and then, as is usual for me, promptly forgot it.  Middle age, or built in forgetter?  Not sure, but it hardly matters.  What is important is when I added more healthy fats to my diet, I dropped almost 4 lbs in a week.  Since then, I’ve gone back to the ultra low-fat way I was eating.  I need to say that Weight Watchers doesn’t condone this.  In fact, it’s pretty  much the opposite, they want you to have 3 servings of healthy fat (around 1 tablespoon) every day.  The trouble is, for me, that it “costs” 3 points, and when you’re a point hoarder, as I am, that’s tough to do.

However, when i don’t, I overeat my points anyway, because I’m not satisfied.  Obviously, my body is craving something, but I’m too immersed in the diet mentality to recognize what it is.  So I’m going to try an experiment.  I thought about the new “Smart Start” or whatever it is they’re calling it, where you eat only Power Foods, and don’t track your points, but in looking that over, I’m not sure it isn’t just more of what I’m doing, which isn’t working.  Instead, I’m going to keep tracking, but add back some of the full-fat foods that I’ve eliminated over the past few months – and take the point hit.  The theory is that I will be more satisfied with the food that I am eating, and not needing to snack/graze as much as I have been doing.

One of the places I changed dramatically was cutting all my full fat dairy to low or non-fat.  Trouble is, when you take out the fat, the manufacturers add in all sorts of starches and stabilizers to keep the food palatable.  I’m not sure that’s working for me.  I think, now, I’d rather eat a full fat cheese stick instead of a “light” or non-fat cheese stick and spend the extra point or two.  Maybe more isn’t better.  Maybe better is better.

For a “volume eater” like me, I keep thinking I’m going to be satisfied but, in the long run, I’m finding I’m not.  So here goes.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

 

Beginning Day 1

You’ve seen the house.  It needs work.  A lot of work.  All of it cosmetic work, BTW.

Wednesday, August 7th was all about the celebration!  After the closing, we went back to the house.   I can’t describe the thrill of standing on the front porch, with my key in the lock, and feeling……IT IS OURS!!!!  So many years have gone into this.  So many years of dreaming, and here we were.  Home.

We celebrated.  After walking through, again, without a Realtor, we took a hard look around at the work that needed to be done, and started making the list.  Then we went out for Sushi, and then back to Forts Ferry to open the celebratory bottle of champagne that had been sitting in our fridge since New Year’s.

 

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But on Thursday, the work began.

The first thing on the list, was to get rid of the THING in the bathroom.

House Before and Day 1 021

 

I understand the need for extra storage.  I really do.  But to put a huge monster storage unit, blocking half the bathroom, at exactly temple splitting height, made no sense to us.  In fact, I had visions of waking up in the middle of the night, going into the bathroom, and cracking my head open.

 

 

 

 

House Before and Day 1 021

Before Tim had all the tools unloaded, I’d grabbed the step stool and the electric screwdriver (my housewarming present to myself) and began dropping screws from the thing.  When he came back upstairs, I asked him to brace it with his shoulder while I removed the rest of the screws.

It’s down now, and standing up in one of the bedrooms.  It will be repurposed somewhere.  Not sure where, but it’s a good piece and neither of us are prone to toss what could be salvaged.

Now, let us go back and look at the kitchen:

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My mother taught me that you always bring a couple of items in when you come into a new house for the first time.  They are Bread, Salt, Sugar and a New Broom.  From a symbolic standpoint, I think they’re pretty self-explanatory, but let’s go through them again.  Bread, so you never go hungry.  Salt, so your life is always ‘seasoned’.  Sugar (in our case honey) so your live is always sweet, a New Broom, so your house is always clean.  I think there’s something, for me anyway, about sweeping out the old inhabitants and making a “clean sweep” of the old things.

House Before and Day 1 007

Also, I’m a big believer in bleach.

 

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I want to take an in depth tour of some of my, ahem, favorite kitchen items.  Let’s start with the wallpaper.

House Before and Day 1 001

 

Closer…..

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Closer:

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And the counter tops and back plash:

 

 

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When was the last time you saw that charming chrome strip join?  That lovely faux-marble Formica?  The last time I saw it was the house I grew up in, when my dad modernized the kitchen in the 60′s.  Considering this house was built in the  70′s, all I can ask is, “What were they thinking?”

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At least they’d hung the wallpaper correctly (it seemed) although that meant more work for us.  I should say more work for me, since Tim got called into his job (on his first day of vacation) to fix a problem.  The first thing I had to do was take off most of the molding and trim around doors, at the floor and at the ceiling, as that was added after the paper was hung.  As I said, they did it right, even though it made more work for me.

I have to say, though, using a pry-bar and doing demolition made me very happy.  I’m not sure if it is because it is giving me a chance to rid the world of really bad decorating, or if it is a way of putting my own stamp on the place.  Making it mine.  Doing things I wouldn’t do to a rental.  I suspect it is the latter.

And so, on a hot and humid day in August, with no air conditioning, I stripped wallpaper. ….and stripped wallpaper….and stripped wallpaper….and vowed that I would never again, in my entire life, hang wallpaper.  I’d rather paint.

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After 6 hours, I was hot, sweaty, hungry and covered in glue.  No, there are no pictures of this.  At one point, I called Tim and told him to come back to the house, NOW, and BRING FOOD.  Which he, not being a stupid man, did.

 

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By the end of the day, This is what the kitchen looked like:

Wallpaper gone and appliances removed:

 

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Cabinets being removed:

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Here’s the wallpaper:

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And the appliances:

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We started Day 2, by removing the rest of the upper cabinets, which we had to do, as they had been installed OVER the Formica back splash.  In order to take out the back splash, we had to remove the cabinets.

Then we discovered something delightful.  Apparently the dishwasher was a later addition.  In order to make it fit, the base cabinet under the sink had to be cut down.  Okay, I can grok that.  However, they didn’t replace the left hand side of the cabinet.  so when we removed the dishwasher, this is what we found:

 

 

House Reno Days 1 through 6 020

 

 

There will be more in the next post, but for now, I need to get over to the house and get to work.

 

More later, I promise.

 

Further On The Tour

Sorry I got so tired last night and had to cut the tour off early.  As we go forward on the project, you’ll soon understand why.

So where were we?  Right, the kitchen.  Here we are in its incredible seventies self.

 

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Now we go grown the hall:

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There is a bathroom on this level with a Jacuzzi tub, and three rather non-descript bedrooms, which I will get to in detail in further posts.

Downstairs there is another bathroom with a shower (very weirdly laid out), and a large family room.  Let it be known that I loathe wood paneling.  Absolutely despise it.  I’m also not a fan of faux brick.


16 Carol Ann Dr, Albany, New York 12205

 

 

Just what two people who don’t drink need….a wet-bar!!!

But instead of a wood-burning stove or fireplace, there is a gas stove…so we will be all warm and toasty down here this winter.

16 Carol Ann Dr, Albany, New York 12205

Now, let’s step through the sliding glass doors, and go out into the backyard:

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The back yard is sort of narrow, but very deep.  There is chain-link fence all around.  Very little privacy, which is the major thing I’m going to miss.  But that’s what stockade fencing and Forsythia bushes are for!!
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I’m afraid this is all you’re going to get to see today.  More tomorrow or later, when we let you start to see the renovations.

Book Three, Chapter One

A lot of people have been saying that Tim and I have started a new chapter in our lives but, frankly, given further thought, I think we’re starting a new book.  After many, many, many years of planning, hoping and working on it, we have FINALLY, bought a HOUSE.  A House!!!  A real House, that’s OURS.  No capricious landlords, no leases expiring, no living at the whims or wills of others.  A home of our own.

Yes, it will be sad to leave Forts Ferry.  When we moved in here, we never thought we’d leave.  We had planned on buying the place when it was available.  However, after 4 years here, we realized that it is too big for us, too much space and too much of that space is unmanageable.  So we did something we never (in a million years) thought we’d do.  We bought a raised ranch in the suburbs.  This picture was taken when the house was first put on the market (and then taken off), but it’s better than any pictures I got.

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The house has everything we wanted, including a really deep back yard.  Our neighbors are a little close, but, it’s the suburbs.  A good privacy fence will fix that.  No problems.

It’s in crappy shape.  Fundamentally it is very sound.  A new roof, great bones.  But, it was a foreclosure, and hadn’t been updated (mostly) since the ’70s (when it was built).  Some newer appliances in the kitchen…the furnace was replaced in the 80′s or 90′s, but that’s about it.

Oh, and the previous owners (doesn’t that sound better than tenants?) had weird decorating taste.  You’ll see what I mean.

There’s a big tree in the front yard:

 

I know everyone has been anxious to see what it looks like.  Let’s go inside.

The house is an odd Raised Ranch.  Instead of entering into a mid-level, with stairs up and down, we enter on the bottom level.  This is the front room.  Notice the lovely faux brick with black mortar?  And the uber-liscous wood paneling?  We have plans for that.

16 Carol Ann Dr, Albany, New York 12205

We go upstairs, and get our first glimpse of the living and dining rooms through the wrought iron rail.  (Again this picture was taken from the listing, that’s not our TV.  But you get the picture  (pun intended).

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And a view of the stairwell taken from the Living Room.

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That’s all I have the energy to post today.  More later, or tomorrow.

 

 

Process vs. Product & Yoga

Today started with a conversation (in my head) about Process vs. Product.  I even started a conversation on Facebook about it.  The resulting discussion was interesting.  I got to know a lot more about how my friends view the subject as relating to knitting, spinning and crafting.  I loved reading all the responses.

In my Morning Pages, I found myself writing about how I am not, at all, process oriented.  I like measurable goals.  I like finishing projects.  Even when spinning, while I may not know what the yarn I am spinning will grow up to be, I am creating a product – the yarn.  My knitting is even more goal oriented, which is why when I have a long term project, like a sweater, on the needles, I also am working on other, smaller projects.

I’m into immediate gratification.  I like making jewelry, because in a short period of time, I can have a necklace or a pair of earrings.  Maybe not in one day, but certainly within a couple of days.  I’m not really good at process oriented tasks.  I hate treadmill and biking on the trainer.  I don’t get anywhere.  I also don’t like walking for the sake of exercising because, again, I don’t get anywhere.  Contrast this with my life in the city, when I walked, far distances, for the sake of transporting myself from one place to another.  Sometimes it was faster to walk, sometimes I walked because I felt like it.  But still, there was always the goal of getting somewhere.

Maybe that’s part of why I feel so frustrated these days.  I’m not really going anywhere.  I don’t have any short-term goals. I have long term goals.  If I keep plugging away, maybe I’ll finish the novel in this lifetime.  I’d like to finish, at least a first draft, in the next few months.  It’s hard for me to keep an eye on the finishes project when it’s such a long haul.  75,000-100,00 words (in an order that makes sense) is really hard to do (for me, at least).

Which brings me to yoga.  Yoga is, intrinsically, a process.  It’s not about the goal, there’s nowhere to get.  Which is, I think, why I have so much difficulty getting to the mat each day.  However, it’s also something that I’m drawn back to again, and again, and again.

So today, I got myself to the mat.

As you all know, if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve been in a bad fibromyalgia flare-up for months.  I’ve been increasingly limited in what I can do.  Even sitting for long stretches of time is agonizing.  Like now, actually.  But, I know from past experience that yoga, done daily, will eventually make me feel better.  So this this what happened:

I decided that I needed to do pain-free yoga.

This is probably not shocking to any of you, that yoga can be (and should be) a pain-free experience.  However, I’ve never done it that way.  I’ve always stretched ’til it hurt.  I wanted to accomplish something.  I wanted to get flexible…fast.  And I’ve always gotten fed up and quit…for months (or years) at a time.

I borrowed some of this and some of that from all the teachers that I’ve had over the years.  I started with some easy stretches.  I took it to my previous discomfort level, then backed it off, so I was comfortable.  The goal was to be moving, mindfully, not trying to accomplish anything.  It was nice.  I ended with 3 1/2 sun-salutations (no floor work, just mountain, backbend, forward bend, forward bend extension, etc).  I felt refreshed.

Then I remembered that Savasana is necessary for the body to integrate the session.  As I lay on the mat, my mind went into a Yoga Nidra –  deep, step by step awareness.  My knowledge of human anatomy serves me well, because as I focused, sequentially, on part of my body, I was able to visualize them.  Using a technique I learned by listening to and reading Jon Kabat-Zinn, as I finished (let’s say an entire leg), I let it slip out of my consciousness.  Eventually, I was left, just as consciousness and breath.  For the first time in months, I was completely pain-free.  Just awareness and breath.  It was lovely.

I’d like to say that this lack of pain lasted through my return to regular, waking consciousness…but it didn’t.  I got stiff and sore fairly quickly.  But what has remained with me is the knowledge that every time I want to, I can return to that state.  Now, THAT is enough to bring me back to the mat on a daily basis.   Process….indeed.

I’m interested in comments, especially from people who have an established yoga practice.  I’m curious as to how this relates to your experience.  Of course,  I am also interested in those who do any kind of hand-work, and whether they are move invested in process or product.

 

 

 

Catch-22s and Drinking The Kool-Aid (Part 1)

I love mixing metaphors.  Don’t you?

Catch-22 ”

A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.

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This pretty much sums up life with Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a multi-sympton syndrome characterized by widespread pain (pain in all 4 quadrants of the body); 11 of 18 common tender points (mapped points that respond painfully to mild to moderate pressure); fatigue and cognitive dfficulties (memory or concentration problems);   exaggerated neurological response to painful stimuli;  elevated amounts of Substance P (the pain neurotransmitter) in Cerebral Spinal Fluid, and many others.

Sometimes, this makes life a living hell.

Imagine, upon awakening, your first conscious thought is that some part of your body (hips, neck, legs) hurts.  A LOT.  Now, try getting out of bed.  Overnight, all the muscles you used during the day, have stiffened up and are painful to move.  Yes, I mean all of them.  So, you start your day by convincing yourself that once you get up and moving, you’ll feel better.  And generally, the stiffness abates, but the pain may or may not.

You have breakfast and start taking your meds.  I take Lyrica twice a day and it helps…some.  It doesn’t take the pain away, but it makes it more manageable.  Without it, my pain levels are at a constant 8/10 (with 10 being reserved for broken bones and tooth abscesses).  Some days I add Skelaxin, a muscle relaxer, and frequently 800 mg of ibuprofen.  This brings my pain levels down to my normal cruising level of 5/10.  On a really good day, I’m at 4 or 3.  I have no memory of a daily constant pain level of less than 3.  Something always hurts, but I can manage it.

If the ibuprofen doesn’t bring me under 6.5, I reach for the oxycodone.  Frequently 2.5mg brings me into a manageable range.  Sometimes I take another 2.5.

The problem with taking more than 2.5 mg, is that it makes me drowsy.  Drowsy is not good.  Drowsy is not the way I want to live my life.  Some days I have no choice.

Then there’s other problem.  Fatigue.  My brain seems to be wired weirdly.  Sometimes I seem to get confused between fatigue and pain.I first realized this when I was living in Florida from 1998-2000. I was working at a job in a “sick” building.  While I was working there, they were re-doing their HVAC system, and all the ceilings were off in the hallways.  The mold exposure was fierce, and after an ear/sinus infection that led to a perforated eardrum (due to allergies), I quit the job, but was never the same.  When I’d get home from work, I’d be completely exhausted.  And my shoulders hurt.  After a couple of ibuprofen, not only would the pain go away, but I would perk up.

Now, 15 years later, when I’m in severe pain, I seem to translate it to fatigue.  Tim knows  this and, if I’m really dragging, he’ll suggest pain meds.  Invariably, within 20-45 minutes, I perk right up.

Some say that pain is draining, and saps energy.  But I discussed this with my rheumatologist, and she agrees.  There seems to be something in the way Fibro patients are wired that confuses these two signals.

Now here’s the Catch-22 (you knew I’d get back here).  Pain begets pain.  There’s a neurotransmitter called Substance P.  Without a lot of information on neurochemistry, let’s say that Substance P is the means with which the Central Nervous System (CNS) sends pain stimuli from one nerve cell to the other.  Stress or injury signals the production of Substance P.  An elevated amount of Substance P in the cerebral-spinal fluid, signals the nerve cells to produce even more pain receptors which, in turn, send higher pain signals to the brain to produce more Substance P.

Some medical circles believe that this is the root of Fibromyalgia, and a lot of the research going on these days is focused on this.

But what does this mean for me?  It means that more pain I’m in, the more pain I’m in.  It means that in order to stop a flare-up, I need to properly manage the pain.  If this means opiates, then so be it.  I hate it.  But I do it.  Crazy oxycodone induced dreams and all.  If I don’t get the pain managed, the flare-up spins out of control, until I have to take action.  I’ve learned that early intervention is key to pain management.  No pain=no pain.

Unfortunately, here’s where we come to another Catch-22.  Pain and stiffness can be alleviated by mild to moderate exercise.  However, cross the line and overdo it, and you can send yourself into a flare-up.

This is one I’ve been grappling with for 15 years.  How do I know when I’ve overdone it? Not until it’s too late.  Since the pain doesn’t set in for a few hours, I feel fine when I’m doing something.  Take yesterday’s yard work.  I spent an hour and a half cleaning out a flower bed.  This was about 1:00pm  At 6:00pm, I felt tired.  By 9:00pm I was in whimpering agony.  Today, I’m stiff and sore, and medicated.

My pre-Fibro self, would either do some light work today, and get back in the garden tomorrow.  I know, from my bodybuilder days, that is the way to build muscle and get stronger.  I know from my distance cycling days, that’s how to build endurance (train every other day).  So, I’m taking today off.  But what about tomorrow.  I know, from previous experience, that I’m going to hurt tomorrow too.  Do I push through it and do another flower bed?  Do I take a second day off?  What if it rains on day 3 & 4?  Then I’m not back in the garden until Monday.  After 5 days off, I’m as good as starting from scratch again.  No one has been able to give me an answer to this question.  Not my doctor, not physical therapists.  They just don’t know.

One source says that people with Fibro should exercise at 50% of their capacity.  And just how do I know what 50% is?  How do I know when I get there?  No one seems to be able to answer that question either.

A Tale Of Two Kitties

In 1994 I struck out on my own.  I left an unsatisfactory marriage, the apartment we’d lived in for 14 years, and began working in a new profession.  In other words, I changed everything.  All.  At.  Once.

Yes, I really shook it up.  In tarot terms, it was my Tower year.  Everything exploded and came back together in a brand new way.  It was exciting and terrifying and, I never regretted a single decision.

I built a life I loved.  I got an apartment on the edge of a trendy, fun, neighborhood.  For the first time in my life, I was free to decorate an apartment to reflect who I was, without compromise.  Thinking about it now, that’s how I lived, for a few years anyway – without compromise.  I was my truest, most authentic, self.  And I loved my life.

There was heartbreak, for sure.  Minutes after being single-ish, I entered into a relationship that could only end in disaster.  It did.  On my 35th birthday, plunging me into the deepest depression I’d experienced to that point.  I got help.  It got better.

One of the things that made it so much better was the 9 month old Catalescent I’d adopted.  Morgan became my baby and my partner.  She was the most social cat I’d ever met, and grew into 12 pounds of kitty-love, which she poured over every one she met.

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On her fourth day of living with me, she tentatively crawled into bed, snuggled up next to me and there she slept for the rest of her life.  She had a way of tucking herself against me, pushing, so that when she relaxed she made the maximum contact of her body and mine.  She had a gentle purr that was more felt than heard, and that vibration put me to sleep every night.

In time, I met Tim, and he moved in.  At first she was appalled that he took over her side of the bed, and she wasn’t sure about this whole situation, but that didn’t last long.  She accepted him into her colony, and he became hers, as she was mine.

A few months after that, we adopted Kali.  A scrappy kitten who was too much kitten, at 16 weeks old, and not enough cat, for the person to whom she’d been given as a gift.  We took her in.  

I remember the very first time she met Morgan.  This scrappy little kitten sauntered out of her carrier, looked at the very full-grown Morgan, arched her back and hissed.  It was hilarious.  Morgan’s response?  She lifted one paw, and whacked the little one on the head.  This continued for 4 days.  Morgan would hiss, Kali would hiss back, Morgan would whack her upside the head.  Kali wasn’t stupid.  After a scant 4 days, she figured out that when Morgan hissed at her, if she just sat down and was quiet, Morgan would stop.

It was as if Morgan threw her paws up in the air, and with a very resigned expression, knocked Kali down, held down with one paw across her throat, and bathed her from nose to tail.  Kali was now hers, as was Tim, as they were all mine.  That was the dominance order in our family (at least according to Morgan).

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Kali and Tim bonded the way Morgan and I had.  Kali would crawl on his chest every night and look at him with her translucent green eyes with adoration.  It was as if he hung the moon and all the stars just for her.  And did it every night.

When Tim had his car accident and was in the hospital and rehab for 3 weeks, she walked around bereft.  She meowed, she looked for him, she took to sleeping in his closet on his laundry bag, on top of his dirty clothes.  I couldn’t bring myself to wash them, because she needed to be in his scent.

We moved to Florida.  Tim and I and both cats in the cab of a U–haul for 3 days.  The girls were troopers.  We’d let them out in the motel, they’d run around all night, and back in their crates in the morning.

They loved Florida.  They loved to sit in the screened in patio, on the two chairs we’d bought for ourselves, and watch the world go by from the safety of their screen.  I, however, hated it there, and 2 years later, we packed up and moved back up north.  Again, my two little troopers made the journey to Schenectady.

We moved 4 years after that, and 4 years after that and 2 years after that.  Each time, they were curious and adjusted.  They made friends with our friends, watched the birds in the feeders we’d set up for their enjoyment (CAT-TV on 2 different channels).

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The years passed.  Where do they go?

In July of 2011, Morgan got sick.  We didn’t know what was wrong with her, and suspected many things, but it turned out to be cancer.  For a year we did everything we could to make her comfortable, ensuring her quality of life, but in July 2012, we couldn’t do it any longer.  Morgan was ready to go, and we let her.  It was one of the saddest days of my life, but I knew it was her time.

I felt like a hole had been ripped out of my chest.  A huge, gaping, raw hole.  My constant companion of 18 years was gone.  And it didn’t seem possible.  Or right.  This was a big wrongness to my world.  There still is.

There was a big wrongness in Kali’s world too.  She started acting out in ways she’d never done before.  The super fastidious cat, who would have gladly changed her own litter (but that’s another story) stopped using her litter box.  She went on antidepressants.  They didn’t do anything but make her sleepy.  We tried anti-anxiety meds, which did help.  But a part of the Kali we knew and adored was gone.

She rejected Tim completely.  Would not stay in his lap, would not let him hold her.  She was inconsolable.  She would let me hold her, briefly.  Our  morning “pet and purr” (I would pet, she would purr) sessions were about mourning Morgan.  She would  cling to me, and I would cry.  She would purr and nuzzle her face into my elbow.  And then she would go back to her basket, where she would stay, only coming out for bodily functions and food.

Last week, she developed trouble breathing.  We brought her to the vet, who diagnosed Pleural Effusion.  Her chest was filing with fluid, and not allowing her expand her lungs.  We had him drain them, and her breathing went back to normal.   Now to see how long it would take before the fluid built back up.  Maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a few days.  She got 24 hours.

On Wednesday, we brought her back to the doctor.  He listened and heard the same thing I’d heard.  She couldn’t breathe.  Her chest was filled with fluid again.  There was nothing we could do.  She was suffering and terrified, literally gasping for air.

We did the only thing we could do.  We ended it for her.

eu·tha·na·sia [yoo-thuh-ney-zhuh,] 

noun

Also called mercy killing. the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.

I cling to this definition.  I know it was a mercy.  I know it was the right thing to do.  I would do it again.  It’s part of the contract I make with a pet when I adopt them, that I will never let them suffer if there is anything I can do about it.

Kali is not suffering, she would have.  Left to her own devices, she wouldn’t have made it to today.

Kali’s passing brings me right back to Morgan’s passing.  That hole that had scabbed over is right back where it was last July.  I miss both my girls, both for themselves, and for the way of life they represented.  My last thread of connection to the life I’d built, by myself, on the fringe of the trendy neighborhood (which has become so trendy as to be unaffordable).

And so it is the end of an era.  I will mourn, I will grieve, I will move forward, but never move on.

 

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