Sunday, November 23, 2014

Plastered Paperwhites

I fell hopelessly down the Pinterest rabbit hole the other day, and spent an hour or so looking at photos of several different types of Christmas flowers. I love poinsettias, and usually pack a giant basket with several plants every year. They're so pretty and festive.

Lulu's never been impressed by poinsettias. 

But I also think that amaryllis and paperwhites are beautiful. And, on one of my exercise/shopping outings, noticed inexpensive kits that contained the bulbs, growing medium, a pot, and instructions. Hm. Interesting.. I thought. I snagged two bright red amaryllis kits and one box of paperwhites. And because I thought the black plastic pots included in the kits looked pretty ugly, headed over to Goodwill where I scored three white ceramic pots for a little bit of nothing.

I love Goodwill.

So I dutifully potted them following the package instructions and am spending far too much time with chin in hand scrutinizing these things in hopes that they'll flower by Christmas.

It appears that the paperwhites are pretty active little bulbs. I swear I can see new growth on them from one day to the next.

I hopped online to read more about forcing bulbs, and realized with some dismay that my paperwhites although quick to grow and flower apparently......are stinky when they blossom.

Oh, no.

Since my sense of smell is not great, I'm not so worried about my olfactories being offended, but am concerned what John and our holiday guests would think after getting a nose full of whatever this smell is. I'm thinking at present that I'll just wait and see exactly how smelly the blossoms are. Maybe I'll just put a nice smelling candle next to them.

While I was reading about paperwhite smelliness, I also came across an intriguing article  from Cornell University entitled "Pickling Your Paperwhites" that discussed another of these bulb's drawbacks: apparently they grow so quickly that their stems become very long and "leggy" and may not be able to support the weight of the blooms. The article claimed that if one fed the bulbs a mixture of alcohol and water, that the stems would be shorter and sturdier.

I was intrigued. Of course I'm going to try this.

This should be interesting.

I was going to make some kind of snarky comment here about keeping the plant water away from John and Greg --- but realized that they like their alcohol far more concentrated than the 7 parts water to 1 part vodka.

I'll keep y'all posted.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm The Golden

Yesterday, my exercise quest led me to our local Costco. I realized as soon as I hit the door that 4:00pm was probably not a good time for me to be there. The place was jammed with ladies at the end of every aisle offering samples of everything from turkey tetrazzini to chocolate covered almonds. It smelled more like a restaurant than a store.

Mmmm. Chocolate almonds.......::blink::. OK. I'm back.

I'm such a sucker for those samples. I just can't walk past one of those tables. Doesn't matter what they're hawking. Fish oil? Sure thing! Freshly squeezed organic green slimy yet chunky juice? Slurp. Yesterday it appeared that the treats and high sugar, high fat sample items outnumbered anything remotely healthy. I was a goner. It was all so tasty that I considered taking a second lap around the store.

It just kills me to see all these skinny little soccer moms wearing skin tight leggings, Nike running jackets, and their hair pulled back in perfect little pony tails; their flawlessly sculpted abs and legs efficiently moving through the store. These ladies never -- but never -- stop to indulge in the freebies. I really really admire that type of person. WHERE does one come by such enormous amounts of will power and self-control?

I certainly don't have it.

So I found this hilarious YouTube of a doggie obedience trial that perfectly illustrates what I'm saying here. As you watch the thing, imagine that the first two impeccably trained dogs are the soccer mom types.

And the Golden retriever? Yeah. That's me.

I think I actually heard strains of Yakity Sax in the background as I motored my cart from one sample station to the next. .::paging Benny Hill! Paging Benny Hill!::.

I put in a quarter mile of walking, but I left with a pie. Hopeless, people. I'm simply hopeless.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SSF Blog: Peripheral Neuropathy and Sjogren's

image found on Wikimedia

The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation blog Conquering Sjogren's has recently published a new entry. Check it out. I have copied a great deal of the information here, but go to the site directly for complete information and their list of helpful links.

Peripheral Neuropathy and Sjogren's

There are many different types of neuropathies in Sjögren’s. These neuropathies can have different causes and may require different diagnostic techniques & therapeutic strategies. Unlike other autoimmune disorders, in which the neuropathies predominantly cause weakness, the neuropathies in Sjögren’s primarily affect sensation and can cause severe pain.
Recognition of unique patterns & causes of neuropathies in Sjögren’s is important in arriving at appropriate therapies.

Top 10 Peripheral Neuropathy & Sjögren’s Facts:

1. Recognize that neuropathic pain is a chronic disease. Just as most causes of neuropathies and neuropathic pain in Sjögren’s do not come on suddenly, reduction of neuropathic pain can take a while.  
2. Initial and predominant neuropathies in Sjögren’s can occur anywhere in the feet, thighs, hands, arms, torso and/or face.
3. Many different symptomatic therapies for neuropathic pain are available. Both physician and patient awareness of potential benefits and side-effects can help tailor an appropriate approach.
4. While the class of tricyclic anti-depressants (TCAs) often constitutes a first-line tier of therapy in other neuropathy syndromes, the TCAs can increase mouth and eye dryness and therefore are not routinely used as front-line therapies in most Sjögren’s patients.
5. Electrophysiologic tests may help in the diagnosis of neuropathies affecting larger nerves which are coated by an insulator called myelin. However, neuropathies affecting smaller-fiber nerves that lack this myelin coating cannot be detected with these tests.
6. Special diagnostic tests, including the technique of superficial, punch skin biopsies (small biopsies of three millimeters and not requiring any stitches), can help in the diagnosis.
7. A relatively rare neuropathy can cause significant weakness in Sjögren’s patients. In contrast to other neuropathies which develop slowly, this neuropathy can present with very abrupt-onset of weakness. This so-called “mononeuritis multiplex” occurs because the blood-flow through vessels which nourishes nerves is suddenly compromised.
8. In general, immunosuppressive medications are almost always warranted to treat “mononeuritis multiplex” neuropathy. In contrast, the role of immunosuppressives is not well-established in other neuropathies, including neuropathies that cause pain but are not associated with weakness.
9. Sjögren’s patients frequently wonder whether pain associated with a neuropathy means they are at an increased risk for more severe motor weakness. While there are exceptions, if weakness is not present at onset, it most likely will not occur.
10. Neuropathic pain can be alleviated and assuaged, although there may initially be a “trial-and-error” process with different and perhaps multiple agents.
The information from this post, provided by rheumatologist and neurologist Dr. Birnbaum, was first published in The Moisture Seekers, SSF's member newsletter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


My doctors keep telling me to walk walk walk as I am able. I've found that the best places for me to do that without feeling sorry for myself is in a place that sells merchandise.

Yes. I consider shopping a therapeutic exercise. I wear my pedometer, even.

I just love table linens. I have drawers and drawers full of tablecloths, goodness knows I don't need any more but today they're 50% off! My weakness...

Stores that contain places to sit sprinkled liberally throughout are my favorites because I can plop down mid-store and rest. The big box places that sell everything from groceries to furniture work well.  Also clothing stores that sell shoes. So yesterday I was motoring myself around a Kohl's store and noticed these beauties:

Ahhh perfect! I thought and sat down. I settled back and felt pretty comfy.


My elbow hit this control thingie:

.....and the seat sprang to life with a ridiculous amount of humming and vibrating and massaging.


The four way technology for massage was amazing, all right. Especially when one of those hard metal roller balls massaged it's way across my incision site.  I may have created a scene since several folks came scurrying over to see what that crazy lady was shrieking about.


Lesson learned.

What's that, John? Oh, no hon. I still think shopping is really good exercise. Nice try, Babe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hamster Sized Pie

Well. Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. This year, our family is foregoing our usual Thanksgiving extravaganza with 30+ guests, decorative place cards, guest favors, and the fiercely competitive Turkey Trophy event.

Yep. We are. .::GASP::.

Instead, I've opted for a family-only day with the only requirement being that at least part of the day should be spent in one's jammies.

This is a huge concession to the realities of being a post op patient. But my family thinks that it's a grand idea, bless their hearts. So instead of making five or six pies, this year I'm only making a couple. I'm thinking that these two had better be spectacular pie specimens.

In my search for the perfect pie, I was scrolling through a Google search for Thanksgiving pie recipes, when this squee-inducing video from Cute Overload appeared.

How cute is this?! Was that actually a teensy pumpkin pie? Wonder if he'd share his recipe....

A Tiny Hamster Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Many Steps in a Mile?

I reviewed my laminectomy discharge instructions the other day. Here's what they had to say about activity:
Walk 5-10 min every two hours while you are awake. As your strength increases, increase the time and distance of walking. Many people are able to walk a mile 3-4 weeks after surgery.
Hm, I thought. Many people are able to walk a mile 3-4 weeks after surgery...I wonder how far I'm able to walk right now?

Which meant yet another online shopping trip, this time to find an inexpensive pedometer that counted both steps and miles. The thing came a few days ago and I clipped it onto my clothing and am wearing it around just to see what my initial activity levels are. I'm not setting any goals yet. To be honest, at this point my pedometer is a new toy.

So I did my walking today at a shopping mall; then later at a hardware store with John. I wear the pedometer all day so it includes my daily hanging-around-the-house activity. I was surprised to see that today's total was 0.7 miles! Granted; not in one fell swoop and with plenty of rest in-between, and in all honesty the muscles in my back were aching by the end of the day. Repeat after me, Julia: rest and ice/rest and ice/rest and ice.

But 0.7 miles is much further than I had thought.

Go me!

Monday, November 17, 2014


Guys. I know that my posts over the past few weeks's content contain little to no information about Sjogren's syndrome. Every day I look at my laptop and think, "TODAY I'm going to post about this study; or that study; or new diagnostics."

But it just doesn't happen because my brain is just not engaged in much of anything except my autoimmune body and it's reaction to surgery.

Preoccupied. Self-absorbed. Narrow scope of vision. Yep, that's me.

Yesterday, I thought it was high time for me to get to Sunday Mass; so I dressed up a teensy bit, meaning that I put something other than yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and off we went. I knew before I even left the car that this would be a low energy/high pain day but thought I'd just push through it. Mass only takes one hour. How bad could it be?

I lasted just until the end of the Gospel reading before I realized that I just had to go home and get flat. I snagged John and my son and we headed home after which I planted myself in bed with an ice pack and slept the rest of the day. This made me cranky.

I dislike inconsistency. My days are never the same; even before surgery entered the picture I've been frustrated by the weirdo patterns that my energy reserves create. But now, my abilities vary even more wildly from feeling absolutely fine to absolutely flat. And then there's the back pain to factor in.

Wah. Wah wah wah.

I've written several drafts of posts in which I attempt to return to writing about autoimmune disease and I promise that sometime soon I'll actually finish one and punch the PUBLISH button.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

And the annual Christmas light show fantastic project continues....with Lulu and Frodo's help.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Philosophy on a Sticky Note

Yesterday, I found myself staring out the window at the snow and ice and wishing that I could just GO somewhere. But since putting my newly-operated-upon back into an environment that would without a doubt leave me FLAT on it, decided to wait until it all melted away.

Which left me sipping a cup of coffee and surfing the internet (do people still say that?) while my mind wandered. I become philosophical when I'm cooped up. Thank goodness I stumbled upon this site which gave me seriously good food for thought without which I would have probably disappeared into Weirdo-Julia Land. This is much better:

Things we forget: Sticky notes left to their fate in public places. Check it out when you need positive reminders.

Friday, November 14, 2014

More Lulu Attire

Yesterday we -- like a great deal of the US -- were pelted with an early snowfall and chilled by freezing temps.

I'm not ready for this yet. I'm still wondering how I missed Halloween.

I decided that all I could do was fire up one of my Christmas candles and stay indoors.

While it was fine for John and I to hunker down indoors, the fact still remained that Lulu needed to take an occasional trip outside. So I dug out her snowsuit from last year. She was less than thrilled to be stuck with another item of doggie clothing.

Really? You want me to wear this stupid thing and go OUT THERE?

It's so cold the velcro won't stick! 

John to the rescue. 

Lulu, girl. Just do your thing and get it over with, then come on inside!