Saturday, September 25, 2004

It's Been A Tiring Week

Good Saturday to everyone!  I have been so, so tired this past week.  I have not known what to do with myself and it really has bothered me.  My brain has been really fuzzy and I haven't been able to write for a few days and I have been in bed alot.  I checked my email box this morning and I am feeling just so bogged down.  So please be patient with me in getting to your journals!  I so love to read everyone's!  Perhaps part of my brain tiredness came from being on the Editor's Pick and being on my computer for five or six hours a day for a week.  I had so many wonderful comments from new readers and got back to all of them!!  It was so much fun!  I really did go for a wild ride!  Oh, Sara, I am using too many exclamation points.  I have to mention you, dear Sara, as I am so thankful for your concern for me with all the emails, thanks!!!  My hit-o-meter went up quite a bit.  Probably 1,500 or so.  That was so exciting for me.  I have been on here for just a couple of months since my surgery and have met so many wonderful people and I wanted to say, "Thank you! Thank you!  Thanks for reading me and for being there for me!"  J-Landers have been the most kind and honest people I have met on the internet.  I have tried other avenues on the internet to meet people, and journalers are by far the best!  I am going to take it easy today and see if I can fill myself up with some calm and peaceful things to do.  I am going to try and stay out of bed and maybe go out in the sun.  Tonight we plan on having a "Mom and Daughters Night".  It will be me and Chelsea and my friend Karen and her daughter Ali.  The picture above is of the four of us.  We are going to play games and maybe have a fire outside and stay up late and have a sleepover.  I am sure it will be full of laughs and we fill me up with energy.  When the four of us get together we always have a ball.  We are going to go to Karen's farm which is out in the country.  It will be very calming and energizing at the same time.  Ali spent the night here last night and they are hollering at me right now..... "What are we gonna cook, Mommy?", "When are we going?", "We have to leave soon!", "Are you done yet?", "Hurry up, Mommy!" So, I am off here....  Oh, I got a digital camera this weekend!!  Yay!! Pictures coming as soon as I learn to use it!!   

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Don't Worry Be Happy

Don't Worry ... Just Smile  : )

Today's Empowering Quote


"Good humor is tonic for the mind and body.  It is the
best antidote for anxiety and depression.  It is a business
asset.  It attracts and keeps friends.  It lightens human
burdens.  It is the direct route to serenity and
       --Grenville Kleiser

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What Makes You Joyful?

I have been told by my friends that I have a "tender heart" and have been nicknamed "goosebumps" because everything gives me chills.  I can cry at the drop of a hat and little, small things can bring me joy.  Perhaps it is because I have had alot of illness in my life or perhaps it is because I have a highly sensitive nervous system, but I can see some things that other's don't.  I find four leaf clovers at the drop of a hat.  I have found thousands in my life.  I can cry at a TV commercial.  I can stare at a picture and jump into it and be in the picture.  I can listen to music and laugh or cry with the lyrics.  I can cry with a book.  I can read a paragraph in a book and stop and think about what I am reading as I go along and really digest it.  I can live the book and not just read it.  I like to use my five senses.  I wanted to pose a question to everyone.  What makes you happy?  What brings you joy?  How do you use your senses?  I will say that I love sitting in the clovers and looking for four-leaf clovers.  I love nature.  I love painting.  Has any book made you cry?  I cried as I read "To Kill A Mockingbird".  I get chills every time I hear the National Anthem.  I like to share small joys with others as these small joys are what make my day seem so much more lively and wonderful.  They are gifts from God.   Any small joys in your life you want to share?

Monday, September 20, 2004

An Anniversary of Sorts

I spent most of yesterday in bed because I was so sore and my brain was telling me, "No more, Val!  No more!"  I had run myself ragged again which is very easy for me to do.  I have to live within a daily envelop of energy and if I am unwell or if the weather is poor or if there is something exciting going on (say a flood!) that takes up all of my energy and zaps some for the next day.   I was looking at the date today and realized that I had  passed up my two-month anniversary of my surgery without even realizing it.  It was on the seventh of July!  The surgery seems like it was so long ago.  It wasn't because I have only two inches of hair to prove it!  Quite a few of you have written me or asked me what my surgeries were about so I decided to tell everyone in this entry and celebrate today for two months of being so much healthier than I was the last five years!!  Sounds crazy because I just had the surgery, but when you have alot of cerebral spinal fluid on your brain taken off and the swelling gone down, it is just amazing what kind of energy you get back and, wow, the brain works again!  It actually thinks sometimes!  The picture above, which some of you may recall seeing in my beloved sister, Krissy's, journal  was taken the day after my surgery.  There is sweet Chelsea with me.  She came and stayed for six days with me.  She had nothing to do.  We were in Baltimore and if any of you have ever been to Baltimore recently, it is a very dangerous place for an 18-year-old lovely girl.  So she had to stay in the hotel the whole time.  She never complained once.  This was the week she decided to come live with me. 

What were the surgeries?  I guess I will start at the beginning.  My first surgery was 1 1/2 years ago (Feb. 2002).  I had a suboccipital decompression, craniotomy, and laminectomy of c-1.  This was for Arnold Chiari Malformation Type 1.  What, eh?  What did she say?  Boy, I have had to learn some interesting concepts and some things about the brain that Iwould never, ever have thought.  Basically, though, they took out a little bit of the skull and made room for the brain that was pushing through and they took adhesions off the brain, and made the hole (foramen magnum) that the spinal column goes through bigger... yadda...not a surgeon.  The second surgery was for pseudotumor cerebri.  I received a ventriculo-atrial shunt.   Chiari (Kee-are-ee) to put it in simple terms is usually congenital and is when your brain does not have enough room within the skull and is pushed through (the foramen magnum) into the spinal canal.  It is measured in millimeters.  Most people start getting symptoms within a couple to 5 or ten millimeters.  I was at 22 millimeters when I had the surgery!  It was astounding and pretty rare to see that extent of herniation.  At that extent you can usually find paralysis and sometimes death.  I was very lucky that I did not have a stroke!  So, having this for years and years and not knowing what it was, has caused me alot of physical and emotional pain.  Since all of your bodily functions pass through the spinal canal and are run by nerves and chiari pinches those nerves, alot of my bodily functions were affected and still are today.  I spent many, many years thinking that I would find whatever it was that was making me "see double and triple" visually and hurt and feel like I was walking around in "pea soup".  It took the doctors so long to figure out what was wrong because when I was first sick, as a child, the MRI was not invented yet.  As I got older, I was already known as the anxious child and perhaps this was "anxiety and psychosomatic".  Grrrrr....that was so awful for me to be labeled psychosomatic.  Then as an adult, they said everything was my fibromyalgia, but I knew differently.  It was found on an eye exam when my vision started failing as these disorders cause swollen optic nerves and blindness.  Now, the second surgery, for the shunt, was much easier than the first surgery.  It had much less healing.  They placed a shunt from my brain to my jugular vein.  It takes the excess CSF fluid from my brain and dumps it into my jugular.  Most people have it dumped into their abdominal cavity, but I have had too many surgeries there already.  I had to have a shunt put in because the first surgery alone was not enough to take care of my most meanacing symptoms and I still had migraine headaches and swollen optic nerves and back pain and hip pain and a stupid swollen brain!  Now, my fatigue isn't quite as bad, my brain allows me to think a bit better, my headaches are about 50% what they were, my eyes are alot better, and well, the best thing of all is that the doc saved my life and my eyesight!!  What could be better than that!! 

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Water, water, everywhere!

Good afternoon!  I took a walk downtown to check out the water level and it seems to have receded about a foot.  That is a relief!  I fed my beloved duckies some duck food from the 25 cent dispenser as they looked confused and hungry.  I do love my ducks.  The park that was washed out is my favorite park I have ever been to.  It is just gorgeous.  Alot of Saturdays go by when someone is married there - especially during the summer.  My one-hour pictures only took three hours which is not so bad.  My daughter called me and wants to have a mother-daughter night tonight with my friend Karen and her daughter Ali.  I told her that all the roads are closed and she said that she will find a way to get here and pick me up.  Teenagers think they can do anything.  They think they are invincible.  Perhaps she will fly with Sara's cape.  Swoosh....Swoosh.... Toodles, my friends!

Ivan The Terrible

Yikes!  I woke up to a knock on my door this morning.  My friend and next-door-neighbor, Roger, was standing there.  He said, "Hurry up!  We are being flooded out!  Go get your camera!"  I threw on some clothes and shoes and took a walk with him.  I didn't have a camera, so I bought a disposable one at a local drugstore.  What I saw made me quite sad.  All the roads going into my town are closed today.  The local river is riding high and flooding into some local businesses and into some houses.  I had no idea that this was going to happen.  I am high enough on a hill to be safe, but I do feel a little trapped knowing that if something happened, say an emergency or something of that nature, I could not get out.  Chelsea is also at a friend's house and can't get home for some time.  Who knows how long.  We have had hard rain from the remnants of Ivan for about a day now, but that rain on its own could not have caused the flooding.  We must have gotten alot of down-river water from other areas that were hard hit.  People are outside just staring at all the water.  Strange.  The last time I saw any flooding was in 1972 during Hurricane Agnes in Virginia.  People are driving their cars up to my block to higher ground right now.  Hmm...  Anyone have wood for an ark?  And the landlord has not fixed the hole in my ceiling!
Chinese water torture with a bit of plaster falling intermittently.  I can't give you pictures of the flooding yet as everyone in the town is developing their pictures and the one-hour developing is not an option.  Also, the only drugstore that develops here has a parking lot that may flood over.  I hope I can get the pictures in today.  If not, it may take a day or two.  It was sad going to the local park and seeing the ducks displaced out of the water and in mud.  We have a beautiful local park that will have terrible erosion now.  It is a place that I usually go to feed fish and ducks.  The ducks didn't know where to go this morning.  We also have a college football game going on this weekend as I live next to a college town (Go Penn State!) and they closed the main road into the campus and diverted the traffic.  It will be an interesting weekend.  They say most deaths from hurricanes come from people driving onto flooded roads.  Please, nobody do this!  Well, I am off here to go see if I can go get those pictures.  Wish me luck! 


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Meet Honey!

Good evening everyone!  I wanted to give a shout out to Sara from Sara's Days for her wonderful comment in her journal celebrating my pick for Editor's Pick this week.  That was sweet of her.  If you have a chance to check out her journal sometime, go read it.  It is very inspirational!  I can't believe that I received 19 comments in my comment section on my last entry.  My-oh-my.  I wanted to introduce you tonight to a very special friend of mine.  It is my kitty cat, Honey.  Her real name is Joy Faith.  I had her name picked out even before I got her.  I got her four years ago this October.  She was an outdoor, feral cat.  When I brought her home I just immediately started calling her Honey as Joy was just too hard to say.  She has been a constant companion to me and has been such a wonderful girl.  I believe that she is half Maine Coon and half American Shorthair.  Her momma was a Maine Coon and her daddy was a black short hair.  She looks a lot like her daddy, but has alot of personality traits of a Maine Coon cat.  For those of you who have Maine Coones, you know what a treat it is to live with one!  She has a trill and follows me around like a dog, but never sits in my lap like most cats do.  She likes to fetch objects and is very alert with what is going on in her surroundings.  She plays elaborate games and keeps me laughing day in and out.  I am not sure when she sleeps as she is awake when I wake up and she hardly naps.  She has a large vocabulary and even answers me when I ask her questions that require a yes or no answer.  If she answers yes she says, "Myeah".  If she wants no part of something, she answers, "Myooo".  I will ask her if she wants to eat, or wants a treat, or wants to be held, etc.  I believe that since she has been so good to me, why not ask her things, instead of treating her like she is just any old pet.  She has been extra special to me as I have been very sick the last four years and she has been a reason for me to get up on some days when otherwise I would not have.  I am very grateful for this.  She seems to know when I am not quite right.  When I came home from my surgeries she slept with me until I was up and about.  I have always owned cats and Honey is by far the smartest and sweetest cat I have ever owned.  Hope you enjoy the pictures!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Funny Signs

I have been feeling a bit blocked in the writing department and thought it would be a good time to display some funny signs.  Aren't they a hoot?!  Hope you enjoy them! 

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Reflections of My Father

I have been thinking all day about what it means to be a good citizen.  Since it is September 11th, I have been very reflective.  September 11, 2001 really, really changed my outlook on the human spirit.  I was so touched by the rallying of Americans - by strangers helping others.  It is still going on today.  The spirit of helping is ever-present.  I can see it.  The world has changed.   I know it has.  It will never be the same.  My concept of what a true hero has changed also.  I was also thinking today alot about who my heroes were.  I wanted to introduce everyone to my Dad tonight.  His name is Donald and he is 76.  You would never know that he is in his elder years.  What makes my "Daddeeoo" (as we call him) unique is that he has a spirit that doesn't quit.  He is a helper and a coach and a person who is concerned no matter what the situation is.  When I was little I thought that no one was smarter than my father was.  As  I am in my adult years I am realizing  that no one really is smarter than my father!  I can go to him for any answers and he, with concern, will find an answer for me - any answer!  He also likes to know what is going on in my life.  My life has been filled with alot of strife and illness and I know it must have been so hard for him, but he has hung in without judgment or abandonment when others have long since left me.  He strives to learn about my illnesses and takes me to most of my out of town appointments.  He has taught me to not judge others and to be a good friend.  He has become a "surrogate father" to my friends who don't have fathers or have parents who are not there for them.  He has a jovial spirit and quick wit and keeps pushing on even with constant pain.  Although sometimes I complain that I think he is micro-managing my life I really am so grateful that he is a constant source of strength and comfort and stability in my life that won't change or abandon me and won't swaver.  He roots for the little guy and his morals are impeccable.  I wanted to thank God for him today.  He has been married to my mother for 45 years (I think that is right?!) who is another constant, wonderful force in my life and another hero to me.  Yes, this is my Daddeeoo!!  Hope you all enjoyed meeting him!!  My hope is that everyone has a hero they look up to and loves with all their heart like I do my father!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Time Capsule

Time to do Mr. Scalzi's weekend assignment.  I have not attempted to do one yet and this one sounds pretty exciting.  He has asked us to create a time capsule for our great-great-great grandchild 100 years from now as he is preparing to do a report about us for school.  This is what I would toss in it:

1.  A completed, extended photo album of my family.

2.  My art box filled with all of my supplies (which is busting out right now.  I would also make sure that it has a couple of completed projects in the box.  Perhaps a quilt or a painted picture.  My art is so much of who I am.

3.  My CD carrier case that holds all of my CD's.  Music is so important to me.  It would be so interesting to see how music has changed.  I am wondering if the cycle of music would come around in 100 years or if any music would die out?!

4.  My spiritual materials which would be my Bible and my Catholic Catechism and my notes that I have taken over the past few years as I have taken the journey from being a Protestant to becoming a Catholic.  Being a Christian is the center of my being and I would love for that journey to be seen and known.

5.  Since it is September 10, there is alot in the news about September 11 and what is going on in the world and in this country.  I would probably grab a good newspaper or magazine and put it in there showing what is going on in the world today.

For extra credit, Mr. Scalzi asked us to put in something that would be completely puzzling.  Hmm...  Maybe I would put in a pair of panty hose as I sure do hope women aren't wearing those anymore in 100 years.....or perhaps that obsolete floppy disc!


Thursday, September 9, 2004


Woo Hoo!  I got an email today saying I won a $50 gift certificate for solving a puzzle on!  I am really excited about that!  I am not sure where I can redeem this certificate.  I went to the site and I couldn't find the answer to this question.  Hmm..   It sounds nice to spend someone else's money right now.  I hope it is someplace that is fun!  If anyone wants to try the puzzle it is in my favorite sites section.  I also got a notice in the mail that is publishing another poem that I wrote.  Granted, I believe they publish alot of the poems that they receive, but it is nice to know that my words are floating around in some book out there.  I had one other poem published in one of their anthologies and had that same poem put on a disc with 29 other poems of spoken verse.  I suppose it is a little harder to get a poem put on a CD of spoken verse as I don't think they put out too many of those.  I think that is pretty cool.  I never buy their anthologies or CD's as I have the attitude of "If you like my words enough they can pay me" - not the other way around.  But I don't mind having my poems floating around somewhere. 

Chelsea is feeling quite a bit better.  I took her to the Emergency Room yesterday.  She had a battery of tests done and was put on a strong acid reducer stomach pill and that seemed to do the trick.  I suppose she inherited my weak stomach.  I have GERD and a hiatal hernia.  Poor thing.  She spent five days feeling terrible.  She was a very good sport about it, though. 

We have been getting rain and more rain the past couple of days and it has been killing my fibro.  It seems that everyone with fibro. has been having a hard time.  If anyone out there in J-Land has a good remedy or trick for fibro. let me know!  I feel like my muscles are so tight and every inch of my skin hurts.  My head is so full, too.  I guess the rain we are receiving is the remnants of Charley.  I am praying and praying that Hurricane Ivan does not decide to hit anywhere in the U.S.  I will be watching that closely. 

I am excited about the weekend assignment from Mr. Scalzi and have been thinking alot about it and will be doing it here in my journal tomorrow.  I hope that I will be reading it in other's journals tomorrow!  Hoping everyone stays well and dry!

Tuesday, September 7, 2004


I'm feeling ucky today.  I have been in lots of pain.  I am sure a storm front is coming through.  My head has been under lots of pressure and I have been having to sit down alot to let the "dizzy spells" pass.  My mood is a bit down also.  I go through mini mood spells throughout the day usually.  Some days it is more pronounced than others.  I am what they call a rapid-cycling bi-polar with mixed states.  It seems I don't get a break.  I have been this way for over 30 years.  My best time seems to be in the wee hours of the night.  This is common for people with mood disorders.  I seem to relish the quiet of the evening when no one else is around and it is dark and I know the phone won't ring and no one will bother me.  My mood lightens and my brain stops buzzing.  My heart also lightens.  Even though I am on a cocktail of medications nothing can take away the insidious cycle of this disease.  The edge can be taken off most of the time, but I can still feel it's affects on my brain and body.  Alot of days I just push through in a "fake it 'til you make it" mode knowing that it will get better eventually.  The worst is when I am depressed for months at a time.  If you notice, I have a gap in my journal for about six months.  That is when I was in a deep depression.  I couldn't even get on the computer.  I can't even form sentences to write when I am feeling this way.  Some days (and I must admit it is most days), I have a fear in the back of my head that says, "When will the next depression hit?", "Will my medicine stop working anytime soon?" It is a small terror that is ever-present.  I know I can not live my life in fear.  I would never get anything done.  I must trust God.  It is a realistic fear, though, as I have spent more days depressed in my life than not -- many, many more.  I have spent many days away from loved ones in my pain and the hell of messed up brain chemicals.  Hospitalization for mental illness is the worst thing I have ever had to face in my life.  Trying to get well and pull myself out of it is a strength that I must get deep from within my soul and it takes every bit of energy and faith that I have.  I have dealt with alot of physical pain in the past ten years also and I would gladly go through physical pain than the painof mental anguish.  Not that I like either.  When I go through mental pain I forget my physical pain even exists.  Boy, this is getting pretty morbid, sorry.  Not sure where this is all coming from.  Just feeling a little down and scared.  Sometimes, one needs to share.

Chelsea went to a friend's house as she has been feeling sick for five days and is wondering if something in this home is making her ill.  Lovely.  So she left for two days to see if she feels better.  We have a hole in the kitchen roof that my landlord hasn't fixed yet and I fear she is getting sick from mold.  I am going to let the landlord "have it" when I see him tomorrow!!!!  Well, I am off here as I have a bunch of things to do.....Stay well all!

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Picture of Me

Today has been a day of housework and getting caught up on things that I have neglected.  I slept in a bit today.  It didn't really matter because with fibro. it never feels like I get enough sleep and I wake up with pain.  The more I sleep the more my muscles "gel" into a position that is uncomfortable and the longer my body is without pain meds, so the sleeping in wasn't really a reward or a good thing.  Krissy took this picture of me.  She took it on the same occasion I took the picture of her that is displayed on the sidebar of her journal.  I kind of like it because it was a spur of the moment picture.  I have no make-up on which is unusual for me in a picture.  I was just playing around and didn't care how the picture looked.  Maybe these make the best pictures.  But the lighting isn't the best.  I had to pick it because, you see, I HATE getting my picture taken and there aren't many pictures of me floating around in this world.  

Chelsea and I have been pretty busy getting situated as room mates and getting our schedules and likes and dislikes understood.  It has really been wonderful having her here.  We went to a grange fair on Friday.  That really was fun!  I got a terrible sunburn from walking around and I lecture her about the sunscreen.  Shame on me!  The fair we went to is the only tented grange fair left in the world, actually.  It is in Penns Valley, Pennsylvania in Centre County.  It has been going on for 130 years and is going strong.  People put the tents in their will and it is impossible to even get one as they are passed down from generation to generation.  I saw so many cows, goats, pigs, quilts, pies, vegetables, wares of all kind, food galore, a parade, jewelry, rides and more rides, etc.  We were there for five or six hours and didn't even make a dent in the fair.  You would have to go every day to see it all.   That was alot of fun!

Oh, I am asking for prayers for those in Florida along the path of Hurricane Frances.  Seems it is going to hit my son and his family again.  They are staying at another resort. Please pray for everyone down there.  I also have a sister who lives down there.  This is all making my daughter's and my stomach churn.  May God take care of everyone down there.  Amen.