The monsoon arrived right on schedule a couple of weeks ago here in Colorado. The days are now cooler, we get rainy days every week, and almost every afternoon there are thunderstorms. Some of the storms have really been memorable: serious rain, with thunder and hail. The cats have been staying inside, and the closet is getting quite a workout as they shelter in place waiting for the thunderstorms to pass.
Yet, every thunderstorm has its silver lining. After struggling through the heat of July, the yard has burst back into bloom, and with the flowers and water I’m seeing more wildlife. Flocks of birds congregate in the back, and squirrels have been chasing each other across the roof, through the trees, and along the fence, and insects are everywhere. This morning was warm and sunny, so the cats and I returned to the yard. Here are some of the highlights.
I spent the morning drinking my latte, pulling weeds, and tending to plants that were damaged in the storms. By noon the clouds were piling up again over the mountains so the cats and I packed up and went back into the house. As I write this post the thunder is sounding, the rain is on the way, and MacKenzie is back in the closet.
The last time I chatted about my systemic sclerosis status I had just seen my doctors and I was doing great. I had sustained very little additional damage to my lungs and heart, I was taking a new supplement (tart cherry) that was an anti-inflammatory that my doctors thought I could tolerate, and I just flat out felt great. I could walk without pain, I had energy and I woke up most mornings feeling *normal* which was pretty darn amazing.
At the end of June I headed off to the clinic for my usual blood tests, joked with the man who draws my blood every 60 days, and bought myself a Starbucks on the way home to celebrate another successful outing. Two days later I was wondering why my blood results hadn’t been posted to the online portal. I was outside drinking my morning latte with the cats and the roses when the call came; my liver results were fine, but my kidney function had dropped dramatically. Oops. No more tart cherry for me!
That’s when the days of wonder began. Wonder as in: “I wonder what will happen next?”, “I wonder what this is?”, “I wonder if I should call this into the doctor?” , and “Good grief, what now? I wonder when this will end?”
As soon as I went off of the tart cherry extract icky symptoms came back with a vengeance along with some new ones. It’s like they all made new friends while they were gone and couldn’t wait to show them off. Here’s what has been happening over the three weeks.
I woke up one morning with pitting edema in my arms and face. I looked like a chipmunk. I also had shooting nerve pain in one side of my face. Fabulous.
Two days later the edema was gone, but my knees hurt so bad they woke me up at 4am, and that was it for the night. Ugh! They also had swollen lumps on them!! In desperation I smeared medical marijuana cream (from a neighbor – this is Colorado and we have this stuff!) on them to see if that would help. The pain shut off within moments! I need to get me some of this stuff!!
The next day I slept through the night, but when I woke up in the morning the skin across my knees was so tight that I couldn’t bend them until I warmed things up with a heating pad. They itched and were warm to the touch. Maybe marijuana cream isn’t such a good idea after all. I’m losing patience, I tell the cats, who have piled onto my legs too since there is a heating pad in use… When will these cats learn how to make a morning latte?
Shooting pains start in my lower abdomen the day after my knees stop hurting. Diverticulitis, says the internet. Seriously! I wonder if I should call this in? I wonder if I should see that gastroenterologist after all…
Over the next several days I experienced scary low blood pressure episodes, chest pain, fevers, itching, more joint pain, and to top things off I started losing my balance and falling over without warning a few days ago.
Days of wonder, indeed. Nothing lasts; it appears that I’m on a roller-coaster of symptoms that will provide my summer thrills and scares until the ride ends (hopefully soon!). My repeat blood work showed that my kidney function had improved, and my rheumatologist isn’t saying scary things to me any more. My blood pressure is again stable, the chest pain and edema are gone, my balance is restored, and the pain in my face has vanished.
This could be a really bad time, but I’ve discovered that it is best to just go with the flow and to focus on the ridiculous side of all of this; lumps on my knees, my chipmunk face, and falling over without warning. Really, don’t you just want to bust out laughing at the thought of all that? Thank heavens I didn’t develop a rash! It is also important to notice all the wonder around me. The beauty of my garden and the flowers, the days in bed reading new books, great dinners produced in the crock pot, the antics of the cats, and the joy of putting together a new knitting project. Wonder is endless, easy to find, and costs nothing. Okay, let’s be honest. Binge watching shows on Netflix helps too.
Today I feel a little dizzy, but much better. Hopefully I’m coming to the end of the tart cherry withdrawal. That’s right. Best to stay positive and cheerful.
The Mother of Cats and I have been very busy. May is always one of our favorite months as we can finally move back out into the yard to begin summer living in earnest. Here’s a little update on all that we have been up to:
Next week we are going to put up the loom and start weaving. Woohoo!! You haven’t lived until you have put a warp on a loom with the Mother of Cats! This is more fun than a Christmas tree. Yarn chomping is tame compared with the fun of rolling in the warp!
Stay tuned. Next week should be a big one.
I’m such a good boy.
Can I have some cookies now?
Notes from the Mother of Cats: I also finished up every single WIP last month and completed the latest round of doctor visits and testing, but those will be new posts. I’m still trying to catch MacKenzie sleeping in the empty WIP basket. Every time I get up to get the camera he thinks I’m handing out cookies and comes running… rotten spoiled cat…
It is still hot here and things are really slowing down. Most of the plants in the garden have stopped blooming and the cats are on strike under the largest bushes in the yard trying to stay cool. Smoke from western USA wildfires have made the air quality where I live less than optimal so I’ve been staying indoors as much as possible; this is easy because… Olympics! Prime knitting weather!! Today I’m watching volleyball (Serbia vs. USA. Go USA!!) and cranking away on the Antarktis shawl. Okay, that’s enough detail. Here are the pictures. 🙂
That right. This cat grows new balls of matted fur daily. I’ve been shaving him when they get really bad, but he can get a little scary while this is going on (growling makes me nervous, and then there are those teeth!) so we do what we can. Last night I got almost everything off except some lumps of fur on his chest. This should be an Olympic event! I wonder who would get scored… me or the cat? We could call it single-handed cat clipping. Points are deducted if you resort to using a foot or sustain a scratch.
Last week I went to see my primary care physician and she ordered me the oxygen-to-go equipment and changed my blood pressure meds. Now my heart rate is up, my blood pressure is down, and my oxygen levels are better. I feel pretty good and have stopped the daytime oxygen. OK, I take the support tank with me when I leave the house, but things are still better. It’s a win!!
So that’s the cat days of summer. Olympics, heat, matted cat fur, oxygen level checks, and knitting marathons.
I’m on the home stretch of the Antarktis shawl. Time to decide which shawl to knit next.
Every Wednesday I go to a local yarn store to knit with a group of ladies who have become my friends. Okay, let’s be honest, they are one of my main support systems. I love the ladies in this group, and last week we all headed out on a road trip to the yarn stores of Fort Collins, Colorado. We visited three stores and treated ourselves to a fun lunch. It was a great (if a little exhausting) time, and it is always exciting to explore new yarn shops, but one store in particular was a huge hit with me.
My Sister Knits is located in the carriage house behind a lovely home on a street shaded with mature trees. We drove by twice before we figured out that there was a discrete sign under a tree out front; the low profile might be due to its presence in a residential section of the city. I really don’t know about that, but it is totally worth the extra time to locate it! To get to the shop you walk through a bright and inviting gate to the side of the house and…
So I got silly and bought yarn. I bought some of the kits that were shown, the yarn for some shawl patterns that have been waiting patiently in my Ravelry shopping cart, and some yarn that was too beautiful to just leave sitting on the rack. I have put together the kits to make seven new shawls (lucky seven… can you feel a new post coming on?), and launched into some small projects that are rich in color and learning. Here is the one that I started first.
Today it is cool, overcast and threatening to rain. The Olympics starts tonight, and I have lots of yarn on hand and visions of shawls dancing in my head. Forecast: major knitting.
I have been battling this ill-behaved plant (with kind of cute flowers) for years now. It has resisted efforts to pull (or dig) it out, and it is just taking over the garden with my Charles Darwin rose. Finally I published its picture and asked for help in identifying it.
My friend Deb recognized it: it isCampanula rapunculoide. Oops. This is a case of good news, bad news. The mystery is solved, which is good news, right? The bad news is that this plant was imported from Siberia and is now regarded to be an invasive weed. Siberia?! Fabulous. There is nothing like an extreme environment to encourage the evolution of wicked adaptations. Wikipedia (the link above) describes it as “an extremely invasive weed” and notes that “eliminating it is nearly impossible”. Oh, no. I took to the internet to see what else I could find.
It even gets better. There is an online article that describes this plant as “The Zombie Weed“. Zombies! As in “you can never kill it” zombies. As in “do you think we need a flamethrower…?” As it turns out, even a flamethrower wouldn’t be enough; if I burned all the plants, the roots deep in the ground would live on, and on, and on, sending up new shoots for practically forever . Zombies.
Evidently this sweet little plant will take over the lawn, is resistant to weedkillers and is just plain a bad ass plant. Great. In evolution terms, Darwin would describe it as extremely fit. Ripley would tell me that I should just take off and nuke it from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure). It looks like my roses are in big trouble here.
You know, I think that I will make a bricked area for my swinging garden chair where that garden is now. The Darwin rose can start living in a pot. I wanted to make a little more room in that part of the yard, anyway. I’ll put in shrubs like catmint and butterfly bush where I don’t brick; they will grow over this evil, zombie-licious plant and steal its light.
The Mother of Cats has been so boring lately… all she does is spin yarn! The spinning wheel doesn’t like me to mess with it, so my brother and I have been left outside to entertain ourselves. Alone. In the gardens. It is so hot even the bugs are hiding…
My brother Yellow Boy has been sleeping in Darwin’s Garden under the butterfly bush. He’s counting the days until it blooms and the butterflies arrive.
The Mother of Cats did take some breaks to work in the gardens. Lots and lots of weeds have been pulled. Some new flowers got planted. She accidentally sprayed Yellow Boy with water. I think it was an accident.
Finally she got the spinning done. Hey, she has been spinning that dog! We have been shoved outside so she could spend time with dog hair? Abandoned for a DOG!! What is up with that!!
The finished yarn was taken to her friend Deb today and we were left alone again. What is up with all this feline neglect? When will I get the doggy yarn back to sleep on? There was a hailstorm while she was gone and Yellow Boy wailed (not a brave one, that boy) and hid under the bed. The purple plants in Darwin’s Garden all got knocked down…
Notes from the Mother of Cats:
The PuppyPaca is a 50/50 blend of dog down and alpaca. You can learn more about the yarn in this earlier post about Jake and the project to make some yarn from his fur. The final yarn (460 yards) is approximately sport weight. Deb plans to knit a small shawl.
If you know the name of Darwin’s Bane, please let me know!!
No cats whatsoever were harmed during this week (well, Yellow Boy did get a bath…).