Saturday, April 18, 2015

We Found "Where the Lilacs Still Bloom"


Yesterday, the sun was shining, the skies clear and a brilliant blue, and Terese and I were barreling north on I-5 in Goldie. What perfect weather for a mission. 

We love a mission.

Our destination was the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens:

Hulda's House

Photo found here. 
Each year, thousands of visitors step back in time to discover the 1880's Victorian Farmhouse and country gardens that comprise the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. The national historic site is located 30 minutes north of Portland, Oregon and 2-1/2 hours south of Seattle, Washington at 115 South Pekin Road, Woodland, Washington 98674 (mailing address: PO Box 828, Woodland, WA 98674). 
To showcase the site, the Gardens and historic buildings have been lovingly maintained by the Hulda Klager Lilac Society, a nonprofit volunteer organization. The Society fully funds the care and upkeep of the historical site from the proceeds of Lilac Days, dues and donations. With the help of our volunteers and members, the Society continues to carry on the work of growing and showing the beautiful lilacs including those hybridized by Hulda Klager many decades ago. Continue reading here.
We couldn't have timed our visit better. The gardens were fragrant and absolutely beautiful. 




After telling Terese that I wanted a picture of her smelling a blossom, she immediately stuffed some lilacs up her right nostril. Tsk. Can't take the woman anywhere....


 I found the history of the gardens fascinating.
In 1905 she began hybridizing lilacs and by 1910 she had created 14 new varieties. By 1920 she had developed so many new varieties that she decided to hold an open house each spring when the lilacs were in full bloom to share her efforts with other lilac enthusiasts. This practice caused her to become known as “The Lilac Lady.”.......Through the years, Mrs. Klager was been honored by many organizations for her work as a leading hybridizer of lilacs including the State of Washington, the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University, the Federation of Garden Clubs in Washington and Oregon and the City of Portland, Oregon.
 Wouldn't it be great to have one of Hulda's lilacs growing in MY garden? I thought.


But then I read this:


I asked a garden volunteer if they had any of Hulda's hybrids for sale, thinking that my chances were slim to none, but to my delight there was one variety left. I snagged a Pink Elizabeth as quickly as I could. 


Please, please God. Don't let me kill my Pink Elizabeth. 

Terese was interested in different varieties, understanding that these were not developed by Hulda. 


Man. It took every ounce of self-control I could muster to avoid bringing home more than one plant. And who could blame me when choosing between all of these beauties?




We both chose our plants and stuffed them into Goldie. 


They fit perfectly. Terese's plant had one very sweet smelling bloom which made Goldie smell absolutely delightful. 


As we finished tucking our treasures into Goldie, we headed down the road in search of more flowers, this time tulips as we saw signs for a tulip nursery close by. 

I'd say our search was successful:







We were told by the staff that the peak of the blooms had been a few weeks earlier. How fabulous that must have looked. I thought the fields that we did see were beautiful.

So, I don't know why I repeatedly ask Terese to pose for pictures. I simply asked her to poke her head through the yellow tulip. But no. Being Terese, she would only consent to having her hands and ONE FOOT photographed.


I thought it was impressive that she could maneuver her leg up there for the shot. I tried but couldn't hike my foot up high enough. After our tulip adventure, we hopped into the car while smiling smugly. Our mission was proceeding even better than planned. 

But.

What we thought would be the easiest part of the trip - to find a little restaurant for lunch that wasn't a fast food place or a chain - proved to be the hardest challenge of all. 

Oh brother.

I won't go into the sordid details except to say that our smugness evaporated quickly. We waved at Hulda's lilacs as we passed them at least three times meandering through town trying to find the place the Google Maps insisted was RIGHT THERE. 

We settled for a sandwich at a bar and grill decorated profusely with moose. Not as quaint as we had hoped after sniffing heirloom lilacs, but it was a satisfying lunch. And I told Terese had we not stopped, I would have eaten my shoe. The BLT on sourdough was considerably tastier, I think. 

Our grins returned as we zoomed south. Ahhh. What a day. If you're in the Woodland area, and are lucky enough to visit during the three weeks (yes, they are open just three weeks of the year while the blossoms are best) think about stopping by. 

You can read more about the amazing Hulda Klager in the novel Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick

Friday, April 17, 2015

Don't Fall For This Scheme

This is the number he called from. I'm sure he uses several phony ones. 

John and I have had what seems like a zillion messages left on our answering machine that go something like this:

"This is an agent of the Internal Revenue Service. Please contact us immediately regarding your income tax fraud charges. You MUST call this number to avoid going to prison."

Oh, brother.

The voice is male and has some kind of accent.

"This is an extremely urgent matter. You will have serious consequences if you do not return this call! We will help you avoid going to jail."

Ah. Riiiiiiight. I'll just bet he's here to help me. He'd really like to help himself to a big chunk of OUR money. What a crook.

I'd ignore this obvious scam message if it was left once on our machine, but SIX? TEN times? The guy is relentless and with each message his message becomes more ominous and threatening. I call our local police department on their non-urgent number, describe the messages, and ask what to do. A woman sympathetically tells me that she is aware of several folks in our area receiving the same kind of telephone calls. Unfortunately, she says, schemes such as this one are almost impossible to persue but suggests that I visit this IRS website to learn more about this prevalent phone scam:
WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain near the top of the annual "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams for the 2015 filing season, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. 
The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent months as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during any filing season.
"If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don't pay immediately, it's a scam artist calling,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail. Taxpayers have rights, and this is not how we do business." 
The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so. This year for the first time, the IRS will issue the individual Dirty Dozen scams one at a time during the next 12 business days to raise consumer awareness. 
Phone scams top the list this year because it has been a persistent and pervasive problem for many taxpayers for many months. Scammers are able to alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They often leave "urgent" callback requests. They prey on the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. Scammers have been known to impersonate agents from IRS Criminal Investigation as well. 
“These criminals try to scare and shock you into providing personal financial information on the spot while you are off guard,” Koskinen said. “Don’t be taken in and don’t engage these people over the phone.” 
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received reports of roughly 290,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of nearly 3,000 victims who have collectively paid over $14 million as a result of the scam, in which individuals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards. Continue reading here.
While I felt this information was reassuring, and I was glad that I didn't fall for this scheme, still......being the weirdo that I am, felt a distinct need for retribution. I wanted to convey some kind of message to this extremely disgusting individual preying on unsuspecting and vulnerable targets.

So I called the criminal back on the number he provided. The conversation was one-sided, but I enjoyed it immensely. It went like this:

*ring ring ring ring ring* "Hello. This is the IRS......."

Me: Oh, no you're NOT. I'm calling to let you know that I know this is an illegal scam. I've reported you to the police and the IRS!

*click*

He hung up on me. The exchange was strangely rewarding. So I decided to do it again.

*ring ring ring ring ring* "Hello. This is the IRS......"

Me: Hey! It's me again, you CROOK. I've reported you to the police and the IRS and...

*click*

Hehehehehe. What fun. I wondered what would happen if I called yet again. 

*ring ring ring ring* "Hello. This is the IRS...."

Me: I think I'll just keep calling you to tie up one of your phone lines, you scammer!

*click*

I had plenty of time on my hands and nothing better to do. After another dozen calls - seriously, I had far, far too much fun harassing this bum - my calls were not answered but met with a click and then a dial tone.

I know that my paltry efforts to annoy this guy did absolutely nothing to deter him from continuing. After all, schemes like his have netted over $14 million dollars. Whew. But I hate the feeling that I'm being preyed upon, and to have the chance to tell this creep exactly what I think of him felt.....well, it felt really, really good.

So there.

If YOU get a threatening call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, don't buy into the scheme. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Equal and Opposite is a Hard Law to Follow

Sir Isaac Newton image found here

Today,  I'm thinking about Newton's third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

Yeah.

Good old Sir Isaac certainly did not have autoimmune fatigue in mind when apples were dropping on his head and he was busy discovering the laws of physics. But his third law applies equally well for my personal Julia energy equation as it does for any other object:  For every day in which I expend significant amounts of time being IN MOTION, I need equal amounts of time in which I need to provide a reaction which is the OPPOSITE OF MOTION.

Translation? One busy day needs another to recharge. If you're thinking that you've read multiple posts from me that address this same reality, you're right. And, if you're thinking that it's taking me forever to simply accept this absolute, irrefutable, and undeniable fact, you're also right.

Yesterday's shopping and lunch and pie outing with Bev left me spending a low key day at home today. And while I have grudgingly come to accept the need for rest, still I find myself grumping around feeling constrained by this reality. In order to replenish my energy stores, sometimes I need to just crawl in bed and sleep. But more often, I can recuperate by just hanging out at home with intermittent periods during which I put my feet up. When I'm sleeping, obviously I don't have an awareness of feeling frustrated, but when awake....ah. That's the time that even after an entire decade of life modifications to accommodate Sjogren's syndrome, I still more often than not find myself still resenting the need to rest.

But there's no way around Newton's 3rd. None at all. The only thing I can do to balance this law of physics equation is cave to my body's requirements which means to simply rest. But - rest is boring, let's admit it, and being bored is a very dangerous frame of mind for me since it easily can lead me down a rabbit hole of self-pity, thinking wistfully of pre-Sjogren's days, and just wallowing in generalized crankiness.

This is not an enjoyable experience.  Pitching a fit only digs a deeper hole into my energy deficit.

Bummer.

Yes, I'm a slow learner, really I am. But after ten years I've developed a weirdo strategy that with some frequency keeps me from teetering head first into the dreaded woe-is-me energy sapping black hole. It's a two part plan:

First: I STOP.

My initial necessary action to pull myself out of a gloomy void is to quickly bring an image to mind. I visualize anything that will indicate a need to STOP dwelling on negative emotions. I imagine various things, such as a giant vivid stop sign, or sharply reining in a horse, or hitting the brakes on Goldie. Sometimes I imagine myself grabbing my Bratty Inner Child Julia and forcibly restraining her. BICJ is a real persona, people. (I know. It's weird. But you guys already know what I'm like.) She's actually pretty entertaining on the occasions when I unleash her in a bakery during a chocolate cake craving. But more often than not, BICJ drives behaviors that I would be far better off avoiding. Throwing tantrums because I have Sjogren's syndrome is one of her favorite things, so imagining myself neutralizing her in a bear hug is strangely therapeutic. And weirdly comforting.

Second: I FOCUS

Once I have my inner child secured, I imagine dragging her physically back into the immediate now, even if she's kicking and screaming and dragging her heels.

How's that for an interesting mental picture?

I know all too well my inclinations to dwell on the past and better, healthier days which inevitably leads to feelings of loss. While I'm not always successful, willfully placing my consciousness squarely in the present moment is a valuable tool to lighten my mood. I look around and take stock:

Am I in a safe place? Yes.

Is there a watertight roof over my head? Yes.

Do I have food available to me? Yes. Far too much, as a matter of fact...

Is my pain moderately controlled at the moment? Yes.

You get the idea. I encourage myself to follow this line of reasoning as far as I can.

Do I have a cozy place to rest? Yes.

Do I have a snuggly schnauzer to nap with? Do I EVER. 



Did I notice that the flowers that I bought for Easter two weeks ago, are still unbelievably beautiful? Hey. They are!



Isn't it amazingly awesome that somehow I helped create a daughter that can do extraordinary things that I could not possibly have done even in good health? Amen, sistah!

She's knitting a honey bee blanket that's perfect on BOTH SIDES. Whoa. 

Do I have something to look forward to? Heck yeah. Terese and I have an outrageously fun day planned tomorrow.

Breathe, Julia. Just breathe. Do you realize that the past is gone and the present doesn't exist yet? And that all you have right now is this moment in time? And that all you have to do to deal with autoimmune fatigue is quit acting like your Bratty Inner Child Julia and rest? Life at this particular moment in time is good. That's all. Awww shucks. I guess so.

Whew. Glad I paid a moderate amount of attention in my physics classes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Canceling Calories

Mmmmm. 

This is another one of those FRIENDS ARE GOOD MEDICINE posts. And they truly are. I was still feeling a bit sleep deprived and in need of some attitude therapy when my friend Bev called yesterday. What great timing she has:

"Hey, girl."

Well, hey Miss Trouble! What's going on?

"I can't talk real fast so if I sound weird that's the reason."

Oh?

"Yes. I'm lying down with a slab of cucumber on each eye. I read somewhere that will make the bags under your eyes look better. And if I talk fast I jiggle my cukes."

Bev's tone did sound unusual for her. She was speaking slowly and enunciating every syllable. Which is strange because usually she is one of those people that talk so quickly that I can hardly keep up with what she's saying.

Let me know if it works. My bags are bigger than your bags.

She snorted with laughter.

"Dang. Now you made me lose a slice." .::muffled indistinguishable noises::. "Ok. I'm back. It's hell getting old, isn't it? My eyes were never baggy when I was young. Hey. You want to do lunch today?"

Sure! 

"Are you ready to go anytime soon? I just need fifteen more minutes with my beauty treatment here."

I glanced at the clock. It was 11am.

So I'm dressed. But my hair looks like heck and I don't have a bit of makeup on.

"Well. Let me tell you something. I've been meaning to tell you to dial back on the hair and makeup thing lately."

Oh, really?!

"Yes." There was a momentary silence. "Lost another cucumber. Now what was I saying? Oh, right. Girl. I'm getting so tired of fighting off all the men when we go out together in public."

It was my turn to snort.

"We're just so beautiful, you and I. I mean, haven't you noticed the crowds of men following us wherever we go?"

Um. Actually, no.

"And then I have to tell them all that we're both married and that they have no chance whatsoever with us. And then they're all disappointed."

Ah. So that's what has been happening....

"Yes. It's pretty inconvenient."

 Hmm. I can see how that could happen. I'll quit using glitter eyeshadow and false eyelashes. 

Laughing, we chose a restaurant and an hour later we were yakking over our salads. Bev sat back in the booth and scanned the laminated pie menu standing prominently at the end of our table. 

"So. Are we being good today? Or are we having pie?"

Girl, I groaned. I'm really trying to be good.

She cackled. "I am too. But did you know..." she leaned conspiratorially toward me, "if we split a piece, it cancels out the calories?"

I did NOT know that! See, this is why you're such a good friend. No one ever told me that before!

"I know. I am a good friend. What kind should we get?"

As long as it doesn't have dairy, I love 'em all. You pick. 

"How about this? We'll each write down three kinds of pie we like on little pieces of paper. Then we'll mix them up, close our eyes, and pick one."

This woman makes anything into a game. Life is never dull when you're with Bev. Strange, sometimes, yes....but never dull. She produced a pen and paper from her purse, ripped the paper into six pieces, and we scribbled one pie choice on each.

"Hey. Don't look at what I'm picking. It's a surprise." She flipped the scraps over, mixed them up, and closed her eyes. 

"Ready? I'll point to one random paper, and that's what we'll have." She squeezed her eyes tightly closed and poised her index finger over the table, then punched. "What did we get?"

Nothing. You missed the papers altogether. And quit laughing, or you'll miss them again!

She closed her eyes and stabbed the table with her finger again.

Woo hoo! Marionberry! 

Pie is a very good thing, but even better with good friends. AND when you share a piece, the calories don't count. 

Bev said so. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Seriously Short of Sleep


Zzzzzzz.........

Do any of y'all have trouble sleeping? Yeah....rhetorical question. I KNOW that insomnia runs rampant among the sjoggie population. The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation thought the issue important enough to create a patient information sheet on sleep.

I had real issues trying to get a good night's sleep last night and guess that I got all of about three hours. Which left me so foggy that I couldn't remember on which side of an envelop to stick the postage stamp. Honestly.

So I know that there's a few basic things that I need to do to weigh the odds in my favor of getting some quality shut-eye tonight, and one of the biggies for me is to completely avoid caffeine. Caffeine not only makes me wired, which actually I kind of like during the day but not so much at about two in the morning, and it also makes my restless leg symptoms flare in a major way. In years past when I found myself wide eyed in the early morning hours, I could pop a Benadryl tablet and be zonked within a half hour. But those days of allergy-medicine-induced sleep are over ever since my neuropathy and restless leg symptoms began because these drugs increase my symptoms.

Tonight, I think I'll draw a warm bath and dump in some epsom salts, then soak until my toes wrinkle. And then will turn off my computer and phone, put on some fluffy jammies, and will open up a good book.

Better do the trick. I'll keep y'all posted.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sunday Makes Me Smile

I love posts that are positive. And I love that this is one of them. Yesterday, John and I shared a lazy day spent in church, watching the Mariner game, and enjoying some sunshine while planning another John/Julia/Greg/Terese road trip.

Ahhh. It's so good.

Mmmmmm Mimosas.  

Time to break out my canvas hanging swing. 

Lulu enjoys sunbathing.  

Just the right mix of sun and shade. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

When Your Veins Need to be Viewed

I'm about a week overdue for my routine lab draw. Because I'm taking the medication Cellcept, Dr. Young Guy wants me to have my CBC and ALT checked every three months. As I'm on these medications for a longer period of time, we may be able to decrease the frequency of the tests.

I have no squeamishness whatsoever about going to have blood work drawn since I've been gifted with veins in both antecubital spaces that are each roughly the size of a city sewer line. You think I'm kidding? Check this out:

I have one just as humungous on my other arm. 

No wonder the phlebotomists at my clinic love to see me come in. And I thought it was because they enjoyed my sparkling wit. .::snort::. 

The ones on my hands are equally impressive.


For those who aren't as lucky as I am, and dread visits to the lab because the phlebotomists have difficulty finding a vein, a new product may help. I thought it looked pretty spiff. Called the VeinView, it is made by the Memphis-based company Christie Medical Holdings. You can read more about this gee-whiz invention here

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Blooming

Last Friday, I purchased a few pots of garden tulips and a couple of bouquets of grocery store flowers to use as table decor for the Ham-O-Rama.

Do you think they'll stay fresh and pretty until Sunday? I asked the cashier.

"We just took delivery on these this morning," she said. "They'll be good for at least a week!"

I laughed skeptically and told her that I'd just be satisfied if they lasted through the weekend.

Now, a week later, I'm still surrounded by gorgeous flowers.

Ahhhh. Love it.


I've scattered them all through my house.












It's hard not to smile when surrounded by blossoms. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

So THAT'S What They Were Doing

Guys. Stop whatever you are doing and watch this video.

Seriously.

For anyone who has ever had to listen to their upstairs neighbors' noises and wondered, "What the HELL?!", this clip definitively confirms what we've always suspected:



Found on Tastefully Offensive.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Team Understanding Invisible Illnesses: Sjogren's Walkabout

Do you live in the Philadelphia, PA area? Or are you planning a visit there?

Here's an excellent opportunity to support the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation's efforts to increase awareness, education, and research in Sjogren's syndrome. Join the awesome blogger and health activist Jennifer Pettit in Philadelphia on May 2nd and walk for Sjogren's! This from Jennifer's blog, UII

At last it's here, it's finally SPRING!
What fun and joy will this season bring?

There's flowers and sunshine, and lots to do.
But the most fun of all will be at the Zoo!

So check us out and join our team;
The funds you help raise will support our dream -

To live a life where we more than cope,
Where we laugh and love and are filled with hope!


What: 11th Annual Walkabout for the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation
(This is my fifth year on the committee for this event!)
When: Saturday, May 2 - Registration opens at 8:30; step off is at 10:00AM
Where: Philadelphia Zoo (for those in the Philly area - if you aren't nearby, please consider donating, and check the Sjogren's website to see if there's an event in your area!)
How: Donations can be made online or by contacting me.  Qualify for FREE ENTRY to the Zoo for the entire day by simply raising at least $10 per family member (ages 3 and up)!  
For details on earning FREE entry and how to make donations, visit my team page at here: 

Please remember to invite your friends and family!  You can share this post via email, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Google+, etc.  Or, sign up for the walk and send your personal page around!

Worth repeating from Jennifer's post:

...if you aren't nearby, please consider donating, and check the Sjogren's website to see if there's an event in your area!

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