Divine Intervention

Is it true? Does it really happen? Do we sometimes miss it, absolutely! But not this time. For over a year I have suffered from an issue that I struggle to describe, but if you were around me you would think I was a cat trying to cough up a hairball.
I saw an allergist who asked me to provide a sputum sample which I did, and the results showed I had two different types of infections, so I was treated with one antibiotic for a month and then a second antibiotic for two weeks. I saw relief for a short period of time and then was right back where I started.
I would describe it to my family like a pill hung in your throat but more like a gob of something. Once I coughed it up which often took hours, I felt so much better. My family will tell you my hacking got on their nerves and my response is it got on my nerves too. There were many times that I thought I could not breathe as it felt like it was cutting off my airway. Nothing and I mean nothing helped. Not over-the-counter allergy medications, decongestants, hot coffee, nothing that I tried worked, I just had to endure and cough it up.
Fast forward, I was having what I thought was heart problems as I was having chest pain and shortness of breath on exertion, and I made an appointment with the cardiologist I had seen 10 years ago for the same problem. By the way, rheumatoid arthritis does cause organ damage as well as joint damage, so my rheumy had wanted me to stay on top of things like this. He ran every test possible and cleared me with my heart and suggested I go back to my pulmonary doctor as he felt my problem was related to pulmonary.
Over the months I was having my “hairball” experience I would often take a picture of my sputum. I know nasty right, but I wanted to be able to show what I was coughing up because sometimes I honestly thought it was pieces of lung. You might want to scroll on past here if you are squirmy because I thought I would share what I was coughing up. Okay, maybe I will not post pictures because it is pretty nasty looking.
I went to see Dr. O’Neill who I have always adored, because every time that I have seen him, he believes me when I say I have a problem, even if it does not make sense, he will try to figure it out. He listened to my complaints and looked at my pictures, though I do not think he cared to see them and would say he did not have to see the pictures, that he believed me when I described what I was experiencing. He decided to do a bronchoscopy and on follow-up told me that he did not find anything in my lungs, that they were relatively clear, and it was nothing like what I had shown him in my pictures. Some doctors would have stopped there, as I was complaining of coughing gunk up, and after a bronchoscopy, he was sure it was not coming from the lungs. He did give me a sputum cup to get a sputum sample. Maybe he thought my pictures were not mine after all and he wanted to see for himself. Wanting to help me, he ordered a CT scan of my head. Now that seemed a little odd to me, but he is the doctor. Maybe he was checking to see if I had a brain as it does not take long knowing me to figure out there might be something missing.
The CT scan was on a Friday and Saturday morning I get a call from Dr. O’Neill who asked me at the time what I thought were weird questions. Are you having any pain on the left side of your head? Eye pain? Ear? And on and on and I was like “not really.” He then told me that if I had excruciating pain to go to the closest emergency room but that if I started having pain on the left side, but not urgent, to go to a larger named medical center. He then proceeded to give me his cell phone to call if I had any problems. That was a bit alarming as I have never had a doctor do that before. He said he was going to get me an appointment at a major medical hospital asap. I shared this call with my family later and they were like well what did he say he saw, why was he concerned about these things, and my response was, “Um I didn’t ask.” So, the weekend proceeded on, and on Sunday I was able to get a decent sputum sample and told my boss I was going to run it to the office on Monday morning and I would not be gone long.
When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I simply wanted to drop off my spit sample and be on my way but was told the nurse wanted to see me. When she came to the door, she said the doctor would like to see me in his office and my response was I only have a minute. It was not until this very moment that I got a little nervous because in the movies it is when you go into the doctor’s office that you get the bad news. But crazy me all I was thinking was “make it quick” as I need to get back to work. I am such a nut about work and usually put it before my health. The Doctor explained the CT scan showed a mass, and I think that was when I really did not hear much of anything he was saying, until the end when he said he thought the mass was an infection, or at least that was what I heard. He did tell me he was able to get me an appointment with the best doctor Duke had, though he had hoped to get an appointment sooner than he was able to.
Until an appointment was made at Duke and until I went to the appointment, I really did not worry about it a lot, thinking it was an infection and no big deal, some antibiotics and I would be on my way. I had a really bad infection in my head after sinus surgery, 10 years ago and had to have IV medications. I will never forget it because I was starting a new job as a hospice social worker and I was so concerned that if they knew I had an IV central line, they may not let me start to work. So, I made sure it was hidden well, in loose clothing so it could not be seen. Hmmm, I guess if they read this they will know now. Oops.
So fast forward to my appointment. I was seeing the head surgeon of Otolaryngology (a head and neck surgeon) at Duke. I saw another Doctor first, I think he was doing his rotation in that area of study, and he as you can imagine asked me a zillion questions as they do at teaching hospitals. I am used to it as I usually go to Duke for my medical needs as I am “high risk” whatever that means. It was not until the Doctor started asking me the same questions, have you had headaches, eye pain, and so on that, I started telling him about what I thought were weird experiences I had that had come to mind over the week between Dr. O’Neil’s questions and this appointment. I recalled several times having what I remembered once telling Chip that I thought I was having a stroke or at the very least Bell’s Palsy. I was out of town at a meeting, and I was at the hotel talking with a co-worker when my left eye began hurting really bad and I began to feel like the left side of my face was drawing up. It was so bad that I wondered if the person I was talking to could see it. I excused myself and when I went to the room I went straight to the mirror. The left side of my face felt like it was pulling on the inside, and my eye was hurting, but it looked fine in the mirror. I honestly thought I was going to have a stroke that night. The next morning this was fine, but it happened a couple more times over the next couple of years. I always tried to figure it out as every time I was talking to someone at an odd angle, and I thought it had something to do with holding my eye in a turned position too long. I always tried to find a logical explanation for things that did not seem right, but I never follow-up on them, and live with it. I have had headaches for so long that I did not even think about them, they were part of my life, and I continuously took over-the-counter pain medication only when it was too bad to tolerate. So, when Dr. O’Neill asked about headaches, I did not think much about it, but over the next week of course I did think about it as well as focused on the headaches, where was it hurting, did it seem any worse, and I shared this information with the doctor. I had complained to my family for months that my face hurt like it felt swollen. I was constantly taking my glasses off because they were pushing against my face, though I am blind as a bat without them and could not leave them off for long. Little things that I had not thought much of were now jumping out at me like I had complained of facial pressure when I bent over. I always thought I had the weirdest issues and would keep pushing on. So, apparently, everything I described to him was what was expected with tumors like this. Wait, what? A tumor? I thought I had an infection. The head surgeon, who is beyond amazing and not bad to look at either, though I am old enough to be his mother I am sure, showed me the CT scan, and apparently, these things had deteriorated the bone of my left eye orbit and at the base of my brain on the left as well.

The large arrow is pointing to the mass that had deteriorated my skull.

This arrow is pointing to the mass and where it had eroded my eye socket

Day of surgery and you can see how my eye is swollen based on the size of the eyelid-I was not looking at that when I took the picture but was sending Chip selfies because he had to wait in the car because of COVID protocols.

I will not go into a long discussion of what all he said but the gist of it was I had to have surgery and if I did not this thing would continue to grow and would eventually cause my eye to pop out and further damage to my skull. Now to me I literally thought it meant to pop out, like laying on my cheek, but I think he meant was it would make the eye protrude out as I, of course, went and googled it and though the definition of a tumor is a swelling of a part of the body, generally without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of tissue, whether benign or malignant. And though I did have a growth it is referred to as a mass called Mucoceles which are benign, locally expansile paranasal sinus masses.

EXCERPT from my medical record
[We discussed surgery as the treatment for the mucocele. We discussed risks including, pain, bleeding, infection, injury to the eye and/or brain, CSF leak (higher risk in her case given bony erosion seen on imaging)].

I agreed of course to the surgery but asked if it had to be immediate. He looked at me like I had three eyes so I explained my husband and I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon this year and if there was a chance, I could lose my vision in that eye or worse, die, as we all know there is always that risk with surgery, then I really wanted to mark this off my bucket list first. So, he agreed and wanted to schedule it immediately upon our return. Well, yeh, that will not work either as my niece was getting married, and well I needed to wait till after that because I did not want to take the chance of ruining that. So more reluctantly he agreed.
We went on our trip, which is another blog, and though I did have increased pain at times, I am glad we did it just the way we did.
The surgery was successful according to the Doctor. I have yet to ask him if I lost any brain fluid, but I am pretty sure that I did because I have CRS (can’t remember stuff) that is worse than it already was, okay so it is probably just age and overload, but I can blame it on surgery just to avoid the age discussion. The surgeon did tell me they had found a third mucocele while in there, on the sphenoid, which is the rarest of these suckers. Leave it to me.
I did have some after surgery complications with infection and blood clots, and for a little while I did not have any of the gunk building up and coughing, but unfortunately, it did come back, though, not as bad, and I recently had my last appointment with Dr. O’Neill, who sadly is retiring at the end of the year. He referred me to a great allergist in Lynchburg who is working on eliminating this severe post nasal drainage. Even though I started back my hacking, it is not as bad, and regardless, I am glad I had it in the beginning because without that issue and Dr. O’ Neill’s persistence to try to get to the bottom of it, my mucoceles would have continued to grow unnoticed and caused even more damage.
So, if you ever have something weird going on, do a follow-up on it, and I pray for you to have someone as awesome as Dr. O’Neill because he has never let me down and has always been beyond thorough to figure out what is wrong with me, well we all know no one will truly figure out what is wrong with me as I am often told: “You are not right.”
This blog was started many months ago to share my Divine Intervention, but it is ending with a huge heartfelt thank you to Dr. O’ Neill, though you will be missed beyond measure, I hope you enjoy your retirement, and though there will never be another that compares to you, I pray whoever takes your place (they will never fill your shoes) will care as much as you do about your patients, even though sometimes you can be cranky, you are the best there is, and you never doubted me and for that I am grateful. God used you as my Divine Intervention.

Never Again…

It was a usual office day with me at my desk in front of a window that my view is a bluebird box that I have had the pleasure over the years to see the bluebirds build their nests, lay their eggs, take turns watching their eggs, and feeding their babies.  Chip even turned the opening so I could see them come and go. The birds would catch my eye often throughout the day as they come and go. It brings me such happiness to look forward to this ritual several times a year. I miss them when the winter comes and though they still stop by it is not as often.

Today as I was working at my desk, I was hearing a lot of squawking out the window and look up to see several birds fluttering around, landing on the deck railing, to fly off again and are joined by more bluebirds. At first, I thought there must be a fight over whose nest it is as this has happened before, and I go back to typing. The ruckus gets louder as I see the birds fly toward the ground, so I stand up to look out and see if they were in fact fighting, as I have seen this as well, only to see a snake! The snake apparently had realized it could not climb the pole and was going toward the house. I immediately called Chip to see if he is close by and he said he was not. I am not sure I even said goodbye as I was hanging up when I was blurting out, I wanted to make sure the snake did not go into the basement.

I grabbed my pistol, took it out of the holster, went to the deck, and thought what the heck I do not even remember how to use this thing, and the last time I tried I did not have enough hand strength to pull the trigger. One of the many frustrating things of having Rheumatoid Arthritis is the ongoing decrease in my ability to do the simplest of tasks. Needless to say, I laid the gun on the bar to be safe, and I cautiously went out onto the deck in the rain and peeked over the edge and could not see the snake anywhere. And when I say cautiously, I was walking like I was sure the snake was going to come up through a crack on the deck and eat me. I then decided I better go down the steps and look under the deck to see where the snake went as I was terrified it would find a hole and get into the house. Of course, I was not going within 50 feet of the area and did not see anything from that distance. I was terrified it was going to be slithering toward me and went back inside.

I sat back down at my desk, but I could not quit thinking about that snake getting into my basement. I sent Chip a text….

I then remembered he had put golf balls in the chicken coop because snakes eat eggs and I thought if I threw a golf ball over the deck maybe the snake would think it was an egg and come out and eat it. I found a golf ball in the dog’s toy box and made my way to the deck. I threw the golf ball over the edge without getting too close because I am still terrified the snake might be climbing the deck. I go back to my office, look out the window and I do not see the golf ball. Ugh, I assume I must have overthrown my target. I really did not want to go back outside, but I had to know where that snake was, so I dig through the dog toys again to find another one. This time I very and I mean very reluctantly go to the edge of the deck and drop it to my targeted area and quickly dart back into the house. I go back to work and occasionally look to see if it was working and still no snake. I then decide maybe if I threw an egg at the golf ball the snake would smell the broken egg and come out then. So back to the kitchen to get an egg, back out onto the deck, in the rain, tip toeing as if that would save me from the snake, drop the egg over the edge and what the heck the egg did not break. I thought about wasting another egg, or what could I throw at it to break it, and decided to just let it be and hope the snake would come out and get one or the other.

I sent Chip another text…..

All during this time, the birds continued to create a ruckus and I would stand up, look out the window and I continued to not see anything. So, I would sit back down and type some more and repeat this scenario multiple times. All I could think about was this thing was in my basement and I was never going back down there. Then I thought that would be impossible, as I have a lot of stuff in the basement, so I guess I will be wearing knee high muck boots.

I then got busy and was not paying attention, and it hit me I had not heard any of the birds squawking in the last little bit and I looked out the window and there it was, THE SNAKE, and its tail was wrapped around the deck pole and its head was in the bluebird box. It happened so fast. Where did it come from? How did it get there? I was afraid the entire time it was going in my basement when in fact it was finding its way to my baby bluebirds.

I grabbed the phone and called Chip crying out, “it is in the bluebird house.” He said call Greg. I called Greg (my brother) and luckily, he answered as I hollered into the phone “please come quick there is a snake in my bluebirds” and I hung up. I immediately called back and said, “it’s the bluebird house on the back deck just go around to the back.” About that time the snake came out of the blue bird house and started going onto the deck. I called Greg back and panickily said “now it is on the deck, just come to the deck, and hurry.” By now I jump up to make sure I know where it is going, the entire time my heart is jumping out of my chest. Thankfully, Greg and Michelle were here within a minute, and Michelle nonchalantly picked the snake up as I was screaming through the glass door to kill it. She does not kill snakes, so I continued to scream, “please do not let it go in my yard, take it with you” as they left the deck. I did not even say goodbye or tell them how thankful I was, all I was thinking was I sure hope it gets eaten by something bigger than him.

I went back to my desk to go back to work to only be distracted by an overall sadness that I had not been able to save the bluebirds. I worked at the desk for several more hours and not once did I see the bluebirds again. I looked out the window and said out loud “I am so sorry” with tears in my eyes, as if they could hear me. I truly was heart broken for the mama, daddy and baby blue birds.

Chip came home and I told him how bad I felt that I could not save the birds. If I just could have used my gun, maybe I could have scared the snake away even if my aim was not good enough to kill it. I then remembered this past weekend a friend had an automatic BB gun, it was really cool, like a machine gun. I decided that was exactly what I needed, a machine gun BB gun, and asked Chip if he thought I could shoot it and he said of course. I said then order me one. He was at his computer and was telling me all the details of what the BB gun came with and such and all I was thinking was I do not care as long as it was a machine gun, just order it. He told me how much it was going to cost, and I said I do not care just order it. He then said I have it in the basket, but I am not going to order it yet and will give you time to think about it. Think about it? There is nothing to think about, order it, I am going to be prepared to save my bluebirds if this ever happens again.

Since then, I have thought what if I had seen that snake while I was out on the deck looking for it? I would have surely broken a hip as I would have tried to run, the deck was slick, and my bones are old. Thank goodness I did not see it but had I known it was under the deck I would have tried to make noise or something to scare it away, but the only thing that was truly scared was me, and of course those bluebirds.

By the time you read this, my machine BB gun has arrived and here it is and this gun-toting over-protective bluebird watcher is ready to fight! I just hope they give their home another chance.

Can you OD on orange Jell-o?

Today is Wednesday and I am on day one of my prep for my first colonoscopy. It is not until you cannot eat, that you realize how bad you want to eat. I began to analyze anything and everything edible. As I scooped out a teaspoon of “better than chicken” base, which you add to boiling water to make a chicken broth, I looked at the base and thought of hot fudge. It was the same consistency, so could I add hot fudge to water, and it is a meal? Then I remembered clear liquids meant no dairy and chocolate fudge surely had dairy in it. So that was out, but my mind did not stop reeling.

Chip made the grocery store run for me, picking up the items I had sent him on my “acceptable list.” I do not typically drink soft drinks, but was going to splurge and drink ginger ale on my liquid-only diet, so that was at the top of the list but also apple juice, white grape juice, orange Jell-O, and broth. 

He bought all of the items but when he handed me two small boxes of Jell-O mix I thought what is this? When I told him, I wanted orange Jell-O, I meant those cute little individual containers. He smiled and said he did buy some of those, but they were two for five dollars, so he thought the boxes would be a better “aka” cheaper idea.

Well, I quickly learned those cute little individual containers are a waste of money. I could eat one of those containers of Jell-o in two bites, so it was a good thing he bought the boxes so I could actually make a large bowl, which I did, and sadly placed it in the refrigerator to wait it out to get firm, I was ready for it as soon as I mixed it. 

I looked at everything and considered if it could be consumed. I even looked at the small packets laying on the counter from leftover Japanese and thought those are liquid, maybe I can just suck those packets dry. Well, nope it was not on the approved list either.

I thought about how much I love orange juice and thought I could definitely live off orange juice for a day. If I could have orange Jell-o and orange popsicles, then surely, I could have orange juice, since it has no other ingredients, just juice. Nope, that is not on the approved list either. According to the list, you have to be able to see through it. Well, that of course knocked out my dream of orange juice for the next 72 hours. But I gave it a lot of thought. If I added enough water to a cup of orange juice, it would probably be pretty clear. So if I drank a glass of orange juice, and chased it with several bottles of water, would that work?  How does my colon know if it came in “clear” or if it was diluted in route?

It is now Thursday and surprisingly I did not wake up hungry today. But around 9:00am, though I was not feeling hungry, I was feeling weak. I thought about my bowl of orange Jell-O I had made out of the two boxes Chip had bought me. I love me some orange Jell-O, so I decided to eat a little. Well, it was so good, I ate the entire bowl, and now I have a bellyache. So, to answer my own question, I do I think you can over-do-it with Jell-O.

So I was supposed to drink my first bottle of “stuff” at 6:00pm. At 5:56pm I pull the box out of the pharmacy bag and start pulling out the bottles I am supposed to drink. I had to get Bailey to open the top of the bottle, as it was one of those adult proof bottles that you have to hold down and turn at the same time. Had Bailey not been home, it would not have been consumed on time, as those bottles are not RA friendly at all. I poured it into the container provided, added water to the line, all while reading “helpful hints” such as mixing ahead of time and getting it cold, drinking through a straw, etc. and I thought well dear Lord too late for that, as here it is 6:00pm now and needs to be drunk. Bailey was in the background cheering me on as if I was in a beer-guzzling contest, “don’t breathe, just chug it.” And when I was finished, she was like wow, you did that good. Honestly, it was not bad at all. It was kind of a sweet flavor.

I had been told by friends ahead of time, to stay close by the bathroom and be prepared for it (the bathroom) to become my “room” for the night. I am not one to just sit around so I had put off tasks that could be done while staying close to the bathroom, you know just in case.

As I sit down at my computer, with my stomach rolling, I thought maybe I should go take these too tight jeans off, just in case I need to go really fast and need elastic waist pants on. I really do not know what to expect. Will it hit me suddenly and I cannot make it? I know of people who told me they wore a diaper to their procedure so they would not poop in their pants. I had people tell me horror stories of pooping in their pants, stopping on the highway, and hitting the woods on the way, and the list goes on. 

It is honestly not the procedure itself that worries me at this point, though no, I really do not want anyone looking at my pooper, but the unknown between now and then is what worries me. My allergies are bad right now, as they are every fall, and I am sneezing my head off. Do I dare stand up and walk, what if I sneeze? Will I look stupid going to the bathroom to sit on the toilet, just to sneeze? 

My second bottle was scheduled for 2:15am. Yes, 2:15am, I thought this seemed a little odd, but was going to follow my instructions. I went ahead and premixed the container with water and put it in the refrigerator since some suggested it was easier to consume, plus at 2:15am I did not want to be stumbling around the kitchen. I had everything ready and went to bed, to try to get some sleep until I had to get up at 2:15am. Well, that did not happen. Not because I was running to the bathroom, but more because I was afraid, I would miss my alarms, yes multiple alarms, I had set for 2:15am. The alarm never went off because at 2:00am, I decided it was close enough, headed to the kitchen to drink my liquid, and be done for the night. Well, lesson learned for me, if I must do this again, I will never put it in the refrigerator. I could not chug it at all, as I immediately had a brain freeze. Who wants a brain freeze from their colonoscopy prep? Not me, brain freezes should be associated with milkshakes and slushes. So, I, unfortunately, had to drink the container slower, than I would have liked, the entire time kicking myself in the butt for putting it in the refrigerator. But I finally got the container of “stuff” down, and immediately consumed 2-room temperature bottles of water per instructions to drink at least 16-additional ounces. Of course, now I was running to the bathroom for the rest of the night, no it is early morning, as night had already come and gone. At 5:15am, I get up, throw on my clothes, brush my teeth, go to the bathroom one last time, with the hope it was enough to last the ride to Reidsville. Just in case though, I did pack a clean pair of underwear. Several times in route, I felt a little twinge of rumbling and wondered if perhaps I should have worn an adult diaper after all. Then I thought maybe I should have packed an extra pair of pants too. What good would a pair of underwear do without clean pants, why did I not think to pack pants? 

We arrived at the hospital entrance and it had not opened yet. Who closes a hospital? Ok, so it was not the emergency room which is always open, and I guess I have never been to the hospital at 6:00am, so how was I supposed to know it would not be open. Oh lord, what if I have to go and here, we are in the parking lot, with a hospital locked up as tight as a tick. Thank goodness I saw staff starting to mill around inside right at 6:00am, cutting lights on and unlocking the door. I got in line and stood on the “X” that kept people 6-feet apart while waiting for the patients in front of me to get screened. Then it was my turn. The security guard asked, “Can I help you?” Ummm, yes, I have an appointment. An appointment for what he asked. My mind was reeling as quick as it could for a response, and of course, I thought of none, so I softly said a colonoscopy. Boastfully he shared with me “Oh, I have had one of those, it is not so bad.” Well, I really did not want to have this discussion with a perfect stranger, I just wanted to slip down the hall, unnoticed and get checked in. Unfortunately, I was quick to hear as I rounded the corner, the couple who was in front of me was told no check in’s before 6:15am to take a seat. Oh crap, I thought. I really could use a bathroom and here I must take a seat and wait with no bathroom in sight. Maybe I should go look for one I thought and headed back up the hall. Nope, there was no bathroom between me and the security guard, so now he knows I am here for a colonoscopy, and now I have to ask him for a bathroom, and of course, he will know why. And do not even ask me why that matters, “everyone has to poop” but to me, it has always been a very private event and I would prefer no one know when that is going to occur. But here we go, a stranger knows, so he directs me with a smile, and I head on my way. As I am washing my hands, I am thinking about options. Is there another way out and back where I need to go, so I do not have to go back by the security guard? Maybe it will be a crowd coming in and he will not see me. Well of course not, it is a small hospital, and it is 6:15am and of course no one is around to even have him distracted and he smiles at me as I come back by. He was probably remembering his own “thank God” I made it moments. Thankfully he did not ask me if everything came out ok. 

Back at registration, I was called up to be checked in and this person also shared with me about their colonoscopy experience. She thought drinking the prep drink was the worst part. I did not tell her what the worst part for me was because I was still afraid of the unknown. I am called to the back by a really nice girl (she was younger than me, so she is a girl), named Melanie. She asked a zillion questions and then gave me a gown, hospital socks, and asked if I needed to go to the bathroom. Of course, I did, and she laughed when I said, “Yep, I am not empty yet.” She said she would get me some warm blankets and come on out when I was ready. When I came out of the bathroom with my clothes and shoes in my arms, I saw that she had put down a clear plastic sheet in the middle of the bed and several warm towels beside the plastic area. I sat down on the plastic and thought, well I guess they think I may have an accident, so it was a smart thing to do, cover the area where your butt will lay, with plastic. I sat on the edge of the plastic, with my clothes still on my lap when she came in and said, your clothes for your bag is under you. Under me, I thought, and I must have looked puzzled because she said you are sitting on it. I started laughing and told her I thought it was plastic covering the bed, you know, “just in case.” We both got tickled laughing, as I stood up, and took the bag from under my bottom, put my clothes in it, and handed it to her. I did tell her that in my head I figured they would lay me out on a black trash bag because surely this was going to be a mess and I thought they should all have triple pay of anyone else, because of what their jobs entailed. Two other nice girls, Tonya and Tammy, came in assisted with various things, and headed me to the “procedure room.” I was wheeled, back, I told a poop joke, and the next thing you know I am told it is all over and asked how I feel because my blood pressure was low. I assured them I always have low blood pressure and I honestly felt fine. I was still in shock it was over because I know it had only been a few minutes since we were talking. I got dressed and she walked me to the truck where Chip was waiting with a Bojangles Chicken Biscuit. Bojangles Chicken Biscuits are not on my approved list of anti-inflammatory foods, but I had convinced myself, that this was an exception and enjoyed every bite of it. 

So, when I turned 50 a few years back, I did not think it was a big deal but knew the day would come that would make this aging thing be kind of crappy. But now that I have been through it, and I am no longer afraid of the unknown, my philosophy is everyone needs a good cleaning every now and then and it really was not that bad after all.

For as long as I can remember, my family and friends would tell me, that you are so full “of it” that your eyes are brown, but here I am all cleaned out, and my eyes are still brown, so I guess it is still true, I am full of it and always will be. 

My advice for others is to listen to other’s advice, and you will have to figure out what works for you. For me, if I have to do it again, the only thing I will do differently is not put my “stuff” in the refrigerator, and I will definitely pack a pair of clean underwear and an extra pair of pants, just in case.

Heading to the coast of the Outerbanks aka OBX Camping? here is a brief look at Oregon Inlet Campground

Oregon inlet campground is one of our favorite places to stay at the Outer Banks of North Carolina aka OBX. The campground address is Nags Head, but it is located south of the town of Nags Head on the well-known highway 12. It is right before you get to the new Bonner Bridge and is across the road from the Oregon Inlet Marina and Coast Guard Station.

Pictures courtesy of National Parks

Each of the loops in the campground has a bath house with flush toilets, potable water, and heated outdoor showers. Each campsite has a paved parking pad, picnic table, and charcoal grill. There are limited sites with RV hook-ups. The dump station is located directly across Highway 12 at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and is free of charge for campers. 

Map courtesy of National Parks

The campground has two loops that are available for RV’s and Tents and a tent only loop. Each loop has a bath house with 3-stalls and a separate shower house. They do have handicap stalls which are really nice because they are large and spacious.

The showers are unique in the fact that they are outside, but of course private. They are not fully enclosed, and you are going to feel the outside air both at the top and the bottom of the shower house, and by the way they do not have lights either so don’t plan to shower after dark or it may be quite a challenge. The water is hot, but it is a pull chain. The best way to use this type of shower is pulling the chain and get wet, soap up your hair and body, pull it again to rinse and you are all done. You better get dressed fast because the bugs love a good clean leg or arm.

The campground is very flat which is nice, until it rains a lot and then you may find yourself with waterfront property.

Water logged campsites from recent rains

The beach is within walking distance, but make sure you take all your gear with you the first time or you will find the walk gets longer and longer. We are fortunate enough to have a four-wheel drive truck and we drive out on the beach. You will need to get a beach driving permit, but they are easy to obtain and since we typically go out several times a season it is worth the expense for an annual pass for us. We enjoy the spacious beaches, as well as the seashell hunts.

One of the reasons we love Oregon Inlet is its location on the Outer Banks. You can explore around the town of Manteo which has a lot of neat stores and a waterfront boardwalk. It is close to the Nags Head area which of course has a lot to do and it is a beautiful drive down to the Hatteras area as well. When we go to the OBX in the fall, we prefer to stay in the Hatteras and Frisco area because we usually focus on fishing only during fall trips and want to be close to the best fishing areas. I will tell you all about those campgrounds in the fall.

 Everyone blogs about all the typical tourist attractions at the OBX such as Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brother Museum, Jockeys Ridge and such, which is enjoyable and beautiful, it can be very hot in the middle of the summer, so plan on going early in the morning before the day heats up.

A few of my pictures from Jockey’s Ridge 2020

A must-do, if you enter or exit the OBX via US Hwy 64, is make time to cut through the Murphy Peterson Wildlife Drive.


 There are a series of roads totaling approximately 15 miles, plus many additional roads are open to vehicles and provide access to thousands of acres of wildlands, but if it has rained I would not attempt the “off roads” as they may be impassible.

Don’t worry, we did not disturb the turtle, as she prepared to lay her eggs, right in the middle of the dirt road.

We love to see all the wildlife, but my favorite is to see bears. On our most recent trip, June 2020, we saw 15 bears.

I always get excited when I see these signs. We also look for signs of fresh bear activity, aka, bear poop, but I do not take pictures of this, but it does show bears are in the area, which is a plus. The wooden signs get more and more chewed away when we go back each trip.

Of course, I could not capture them well with my camera, but they were fun to see first-hand. I really do need one of those big fancy zoom lenses.

If you do not like commercialized activities, you should definitely make sure you make this as part of your trip if you enjoy wildlife viewing.

We have been fortunate enough to see bears at different times of the day, but the best time we have found is about an hour before sunset. Here are some pictures of this year’s June 2020 bear citings.

You have to know the story behind this picture to understand “why in the world would someone post a picture this blurry?” I was putting the camera away because we had come to the end of the road and was at the paved road, getting ready to get back onto Highway 64, when I glanced at the walking trail on my right, and right there, as big as day, was a huge bear, walking down the trail. I could not get my camera up fast enough and of course I was so excited I was shaking. So, no, the picture is awful, but it will help me remember to never put my camera away in Eastern North Carolina, because you never know when you will see a bear.

broken shells

I recently had an incredible experience while visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My husband had gone fishing for the day on a charter with friends, and he left me with the truck, to spend the day on the beach. I have ridden with him on the sandy beaches for 33 years, but I had never driven on the beach and was hesitant about it, though I did not want him to know, as I had assured him multiple times that I would be fine on my own for the day and to enjoy his day.

I had dropped him off before daylight and headed out to what we call south beach in Frisco, on my own. It was early when I drove out on the beach at the ramp entrance and only a few other trucks in sight. I knew I wanted to walk to what is known as “the point” so my goal was to drive to the area where vehicles could not go any further and I would walk along the beach the rest of the way. I had not gone far at all, when the sand was not as hard, the truck felt like it was sinking in the sand and my heart began to pound thinking “what if I get stuck.”  I stopped, literally right where I was. I was afraid to go any further and thought I will just walk. It was calling for rain, so I had on my rain jacket and the only bag in the truck, just in case I saw seashells along the way was one of those “give-away” bags you get at health fairs and such. I grabbed my bag and set off on my journey.

It was further than I realized to the area where vehicles were required to stop. I could see other people walking towards me from the direction of the point, with what was obviously full bags of shells, and even five-gallon buckets, filled to the brim with shells. Though my intention was to walk to the point, and just pick up a shell here and there, I did feel disappointment that there may be no shells left.

As I continued walking along, now with no one in sight, with the sun barely above the edge of the water, I was thinking about what an incredible God we have. The solitude of the beach, the sound of the waves gently breaking at the water’s edge, knowing he created all of this, gives you a lot to think about.


As I was walking along, I saw a large conch shell from a distant and thought, wow there is one someone missed, but as I got closer and picked it up, I could see that it was broken. It made me think about when my daughter was young, and how she would love to go with me looking for seashells. She would pick up random shells, scream in delight as she handed me shell after shell, usually broken, but to her they were beautiful. I thought about the shells that I was seeing and how at first glance, depending on how they were laying, they were beautiful and perfect. It made me think about life, and how we look at other peoples lives and at first glance their life does seem perfect, and how we are all like that, placing only what we want others to see, at an angle, where our life looks perfect, even though we too have “holes or imperfections” in our lives.  If only others viewed life with the eye of a child, that everything is good, even when it is not perfect.

 As I walked along I would pick up broken shells and think further about how I could turn them this way or that way and no one would know that it was broken.

I continued to walk along the beach, in complete awe of all the shells I was finding along my walk. I have a friend that I was texting pictures to, as she like me loves to look for seashells. She was as excited as I was, and she was not even there. But as I continued to walk, filling my bag with shells, my bag became very heavy. Like life, sometimes our burdens, become more than we can carry. I was determined to make it to the “point” and I could see so many conch shells lining the beach ahead. I cannot stop now I though, just a little further, just a few more shells. I had not looked back to see how far I had gone, only ahead and how much further to reach my destination. But as I continued to walk, I would tell myself just a little further, just a few more shells, feeling somewhat greedy that I could not stop myself from “getting them all.” It was not until I saw a family with children walking toward me, picking up shells, that I stopped, so they could share in the excitement. As I stopped to turn around and head back, one of the children ran to me with excitement to show me her shell she had found. It was beautiful and I had never seen one so beautiful. The picture does not capture the beauty and uniqueness of the shell. I told her not to miss all the conch shells she had passed by running toward me, and she said she wouldn’t and headed back up the beach.

As I made the turn heading back, I realized how far I had walked. I could not see my truck at all and could barely see the trucks parked along the beach where foot traffic only began. How did I go this far, what was I thinking? My bag was so heavy, and I realized how tired I truly was.  It was times like this that I get frustrated with my disease of rheumatoid arthritis because my arms, hands, and even my shoulder was hurting so bad, that I had tears in my eyes and was choking back sobs. But I kept going and at times dragging my bag until I could not go any further. I knew this was impossible and I was going to have to leave some shells behind. I reluctantly I can assure you, dug through my bag, to the bottom, where I had picked up some of the first shells I had seen, shells with holes, and laid them on the beach, with sadness. I even texted my friend who like me, could not believe I was going to walk off and leave the shells behind. I did think how sad, that here I was not looking at the holes like I did earlier, the beauty of the “rest of the shell” and just like that I was quick to leave those shells behind because they were not perfect. It made me think, thank God, that our God does not leave us behind because we are not perfect.

I continued along with my shell bag, though lighter, still too heavy for me to carry much further. I had tried every position I could carry, and even thought about how I could use my raincoat to make a second bag to lighten the load on one side. I stood along the edge of the beach, looking at my bag, and at the distance ahead and I could see my footprints in the sand I had left earlier, and I thought about the popular print we have all seen, “Footprints in the Sand” where the author talks about though we only see one set of footprints, and thinking God is not with us, that in fact it is God that is carrying us, and his footprints are what we see.

In the good times he walks right beside us and in the bad he carries us. We are never left alone in this world. We may be in it but we are definitely not of it. John 15:19

I felt foolish to pray to God to help me make it back, and I knew all I had to do was put the shells down and I would be fine, but like burdens we carry, we often don’t put them down. We pray to God to help us and we do not have the faith to give the situation to God and not take it back. I had given up a “few shells” but was not willing to give it all up, like we do with our burdens.

 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

I finally realized I really was not going to make it back to the truck with my load and gave in. Lucky for me it was a short walk to a vehicle where a young man was fishing. I asked him if I could leave my bag, that I could not go any further and he said “of course.” I can only imagine what he was thinking because trust me by now I was quite disheveled looking.  I explained to him that I may not be back because I was afraid to drive that far on the sand and he told me if I got stuck, to come to get him and he would pull me out. Like life, when we get stuck, God is there to pull us out, if we only allow him.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9  

I did make it to my truck, where I sat for a few minutes thinking about how bad I had been hurting earlier, but how once I put my bag down and walked away the pain and discomfort was left behind as well.  It made me think about life and how we really do have to walk away from what is causing us pain, whether emotionally or physically and with God’s help, we can. 

At more than one point on my walk, I had tears streaming down my cheeks, from the pain of the bags, as well as the pain in my heart, knowing we all carry burdens, and that we carry, and we need to trust God, and give it, whatever “it” is to him, and trust he will carry us through.

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22 

So, yes I did drive the rest of the way on the sand, thanked the young man for his encouragement, and keeping my shells of course, and headed back to the camper, where I reflected on my morning.

As I am at home now, and enjoying the beautiful shells I found, I will never forget my experience and wanted to share it with others, so maybe you too can remember to:

  • See the beauty in what God has made daily.
  • Look at life with the innocence of a child, finding beauty in everything, even when broken.
  • Be willing to trust God and give him our burdens, all of them, and know when we do, that he will not leave us behind, but will carry us when we can no longer do it on our own.

Just like our children look to us to protect them, our God will protect us, when we accept him as our Savior and give our life to him. We are his children, and we need to have faith that he will protect us “like a parent.”

I know this and though I did not know all the scripture I have posted above by heart, like many do, though I wish I did, I am reminded daily that though I am not perfect, I am at peace walking daily with God by my side and when needed carrying me along this journey called life.

Who’s The Mama

So a lot of people have asked what my surgery was back in May, and I have been super busy and just getting around to this post. This is what I had done, a Left Wrist Arthrodesis with Distal Ulna Excision and Possible Distal Radial Ulnar Joint Interpositional Arthroplasty and Open Carpal Tunnel Release and Extensor Retinacular Reconstruction with Auto Illiac Crest Bone Graft, wow that is a mouthful isn’t it. Yep, that’s what I thought too. 

For the past couple of years, maybe longer, I have had a lot of pain in my left wrist, but continued to push through the pain, sometimes on my own and sometimes with a cortisone injection. But it seemed crazy to take medication for one pain that would be alleviated through a simple procedure, or so I thought. I had the right wrist done many years ago and it really was a simple procedure, with the removal of a painful thingamajig that sticks out on the outside of your wrist. But unfortunately, because I had waited so long on this one, there was a lot more damage and therefore a lot more that needed to be repaired. But I was still optimistic and ready to be pain-free. I asked my boss off for a Thursday and Friday and would be back at work on Monday.

Thursday came, and due to COVID, I was on my own once Chip kissed me bye at the door. The waiting room was set up for social distancing and I was sporting my required hospital mask. I entertained myself in the waiting room sending Chip pictures.

It was my first surgery since being married that he did not see me wheeled off from pre-op and waiting for me post-op. I had some problems post-op my last surgery, so I kept thinking what if…….and there I would be all alone with no family. But then a sweet, beautiful inside and out friend, Dana, who is a nurse, walked into my room, and I knew if anything happened she would be there and I would not be alone. Not having Chip in the room when I woke up after surgery was a hard pill to swallow, especially when I needed help getting my clothes on after surgery and had to allow someone else to help me. But it sure was nice to see Chip’s smile when I arrived back to the pick-up area, outside of course. 

I was reminded to stay ahead of the pain because the nerve block would eventually wear off. I was extremely fortunate as the nerve block did not actually wear off until Friday, and because I did like I was instructed, my pain was not as bad as it could have been. The pain was excruciating at times and ice packs barely helped with the swelling, but I pushed through. I took pain medication through Saturday and had to sleep in the recliner for positioning. I then stopped everything except Tylenol and Ibuprofen on Sunday morning so I would be ready to go back to work on Monday.

This will be the only time you hear me say I was thankful for COVID but it was to my advantage that I was able to work from home. I could have done my job even if I had not been at home, but if I would have had to stay overnight, which I often did, then I would have had a huge problem being one-handed. Who would have fixed my hair? That would have been my biggest problem, as being one-handed, I could not figure out how to get a ponytail up. 

Some things were easy and my surgeon had allowed me to type with my left hand, but I was in a very heavy cast which killed my shoulder and I had to use a sling, and I could not get the cast wet, therefore showers and washing my hair was a challenge, as well as a lot of other things too. I had my right elbow replaced many years ago and was one-handed for far too long, but I had forgotten how hard it was, which is probably a good thing.

So now my story begins about “who’s the mama now” as Bailey and I truly did have to change roles as I recovered from my surgery. Though she has been around during previous surgeries, she was either too young or away at college and not truly there to be “my left hand.”

If only I could have videotaped our many episodes, you would be laughing. She helped me get a shower and wash my hair using a shower chair and hand-held shower in her bathroom. I guess I was making various grunts and grimaces because she kept stopping and asking me what was wrong. She was about as wet as I was by the end and said I would be washing my hair in the kitchen sink from now on.

So, that is what we did the next time my hair needed washing. She literally had me lay, all 5’6 of me on the counter, and put my head in the sink. Getting up there was funny, as we do not have chairs, but bar height stools even for the table, so she had to pick me up and sit me on the counter. When getting my head washed I am ticklish if you get water on my forehead and once again I guess I was making noises and she was constantly asking me what was wrong, in a motherly tone, as if I had no reason to be acting the way I was. 

I had my surgery on 05/28/20 and on 06/08/20, was so glad to have the cast that was up above my elbow removed. I knew life could only get better. I know it sounds crazy but I was getting very claustrophobic in the cast and begged for a splint, which he obliged, and I promised I would not take it off unless I was sitting down and in a safe situation. I kept my promise but continued to be one-handed as I was not to use the hand at all, not even to scratch my nose. 

Life was incredibly challenging being one-handed and I cannot even imagine if I had to live that way forever and admire those that have accomplished this every day of their life. 

There were funny times, like wetting my pants because I could not get my pants down fast enough with one-hand. We decided dresses were the best attire for me, and even then sometimes pulling my dress up to bite the hem in my mouth to hold it, while then pulling down the drawers, did not always go so smoothly, and off to change clothes, once again I would go. At least I did laugh at myself as my family shook their heads. 

There were also a lot of tears because I cannot stand being dependent on anyone, yet there were things I could not figure out how to do myself. Bailey consoled me and told me it would be alright, and at least I had her and Chip because there were people that had no one. 

Little things like opening a pill bottle, or even hooking my bra, were major challenges. Simple tasks became major struggles. I could not put earring backs on with one hand, as the earring would fall back out. Trust me I tried to figure this one out but stuck to wearing earrings that did not have backs, but even then there were times I could not get them off one-handed and had to ask for help. Childproof lighters, well that was very frustrating, but I was bound and determined to light a candle one day, and with much frustration, I finally accomplished being able to one-handed light a flame stick. I had to ask for help to put eye drops in my eyes, which I have to do a lot because of dry eyes. A year ago it took two hands to even hold my eye open to insert the drops and was usually quite comical. The entire time Chip would be telling me to open my eyes not my mouth and I would respond with “I am trying.” Eyes seem to have a mind of their own. Get near my eyes and eyes close and the mouth opens. I had finally learned to do eye drops by myself, but this task was definitely a two-handed job, one to hold the eye open and one to squeeze the eye drops. I could open a lot of things by placing them between my knees or under my arm and using my good hand to open, even though I often spilled some of the contents on me, but a lot of things I simply could not do, no matter how hard I tried. I used my teeth to open some things, like my eye drops, just to prove to myself I could. That was infuriating to Bailey as she would constantly ask why I had to prove anything to anyone, and I should just allow them to help. It was usually in a motherly tone, a frustrated motherly tone that is. 

I tried to continue to do what I could but was often scolded by Bailey, you know the mama now. I was perfectly capable of putting clothes in the washer and into the dryer, but I admit folding clothes was a challenging chore and very time consuming with only one hand, so I reluctantly allowed others to take on that task.

I eventually was released on 07/06/20 to be able to pull up my pants, as long as they were not tight, he said, too late for that thanks to COVID. I could push a door closed, but no lifting or pulling of anything more than a few pounds. I could use my hand to hold my hair in place while using the other to secure it in a ponytail holder. By then I had managed doing most things one-handed and could out type a lot of people with one hand. 

On 08/03/20, I could start doing as much as I tolerated with my left hand with a restriction of no more than 5-pounds and do not rotate the arm. 

On 09/14/20, I was told I was doing remarkably well and would not need to return unless I needed to and had no restrictions, or at least that is what I remember.

I still find myself occasionally doing things one-handed and remind myself that I am no longer restricted and how beyond blessed I am that I had a great surgeon and wonderful family and friends who were with me on this journey.

The scars are barely noticeable, the memory of the pain and discomfort has faded, but the memories made by my daughter being my mother will always warm my heart. 

My Rheumatologist

When I thought of this blog, I thought of a lot of different titles, Why the Tears, When Life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, and the list goes on, but I decided on simplicity and therefore this is all about my journey with my Rheumatologist past and present. I only know how perfect my Rheumatologist is and over the years, have talked about him to so many people and was surprised when people would not have positive experiences with their Rheumatologist. Even now with social media, I am on several group pages for people with auto-immune diseases, and time after time see people post terrible experiences with their Rheumatologist and I thank God time and time again for the wonderful Rheumatologist I was blessed with at a very young age.

When I think about my Rheumatologist over this past year, I cannot do so without tears. See, I have seen my Rheumatologist since I was 15-years old. That is 38 years give or take about right now, I think. He has been my lifeline for my Rheumatoid Arthritis for a very long time. He saw me through my high school years, and graduation, attend college, get married, college graduation, all my various employments (he always showed a generous interest in my personal life), the birth of my daughter, too many surgeries to name, and too many hospitalizations due to flare-ups than I care to remember. I knew he was always just a phone call away and his right hand, Dawn, was the familiar voice I remember always hearing when I needed him. I saw him in my hometown at a local orthopedic office, Dr. Ogden, who was awesome as well. Then when I went moved away, I traveled to Duke for visits. When I returned to the Danville area, I was able to see him in a local clinic. But then the day came, where like many offices, the one he practiced in was bought out and he was no longer seeing patients in Danville. I know I am not the only one who felt the loss, but it was a huge loss for me. But on the bright side, he was willing to see me in the clinic at Duke, where he would be working with fellows in the Rheumatology program. He would pop his head in for a visit, and that gave me comfort as I knew he was still there if I ever needed anything. I may have seen a “Fellow,” but he was my Doctor and in mind always would be. That is until I received my last bill, and it was so high I had to do a double-take. I called my insurance company and discovered it was the way it was billed, something to the effect of being hospital-based and a lot of other insurance jargon. I then called the hospital clinic to see if it could be billed differently and they said it could not. With sympathy for my situation, they at least did alter the bill for that visit and encouraged me to find another doctor to see as they would not be able to alter another bill. So I decided I just wouldn’t see anyone because all I needed was prescriptions to be renewed every now and then and I knew “my” Rheumatologist would do that for me even if I was not seeing him in the clinic, or at least I thought he would. I did reach out to him to let him know I would not be able to see him because of the cost and he understood and recommended seeing a Rheumatologist where I was currently going for a hand/wrist surgery. I also found out he would be retiring in July 2021 so eventually, I would need to see someone new anyway. I asked someone, I can’t say who, as they probably should not have given me their opinion, but I asked “if I was your Mother, who would you refer me to?” and they named a female physician. I went on the company’s webpage and read all about her and knew she had been trained at Duke, and knowing my current Duke Rheumatologist knew her and recommended her, I decided it was a good choice. But even then, I just did not want to see anyone else. It was complicated to get an appointment, they insisted they needed my Duke record. I asked the young man in appointments was that absolutely necessary as my record was most likely larger than a set of encyclopedias. Yes, I know things are now digital, but I recalled many years ago going to Duke for an appointment and the lady checking me in said she could not find my folder as she glanced around the desk. There was a folder, that was at least, 6-inches thick, if not 8, sitting in the rack, and when she pulled it out, she looked at it and looked at me and said, “wow, you are too young for a record this thick, I didn’t think this would be yours.” Yes, I, unfortunately, had a lot of visits and hospitalizations, way too young for someone my age at that time, but thank God, I had a wonderful rheumatologist. I was defeated when I tried multiple times to try to get my medical record and gave up on a new rheumatologist. I did figure out through trial and error how to at least print out my last 2 visit notes and took them with me on a follow-up appointment with my hand surgeon. I explained my dilemma to him, and he assisted me with making an appointment and here we are today.

There was more than once that I questioned if I was making the right decision, maybe I should just see a different rheumatologist at Duke, at least my record was there and I didn’t have to completely start over, but I kept going back to how nice everyone was that I had met at what was once Triangle Orthopedics, now known as EmergeOrtho, and my heart just kept telling me it was the right decision.

So today was the day that I made the drive to Durham to meet my new Rheumatologist. I was not committed and if I did not like her, I would just not go back, simple as that. As I drove down, I prayed I had made the right decision and as I sat in the waiting room, I was second-guessing myself, you know 5-minutes in the waiting room seems like 30. I was then called back and the lady who looked vaguely familiar, said I am Joyce. It was not until she pulled her mask down and smiled, that I realized no wonder she looked familiar, it was “my Joyce.” We went to high school; had sleepovers and she even sang at my wedding. A sigh of relief came over me as this was a sign, I had made the right decision, as I immediately felt at ease, even though I sure hated she had to know my weight. But the icing on the cake was when I met my new Rheumatologist. She handed me a tissue as I shed tears telling her the story of why I had to change rheumatologist, she was sincere, asked about my journey, laughed at my jokes, and though stricter in her expectations of me than my Rheumatologist, I could tell beyond a reasonable doubt I had made the right decision. I will miss “my” Dr. Caldwell and even as think about this, the tears flow again, but I know I am in great hands with my care, for years to come.

If you don’t have the perfect Rheumatologist, don’t give up, pray about it and ask for recommendations from others as I can assure you they are out there, I have been truly blessed, and I pray you will be too!

Picture Contest

Vote for our picture to win a contest with Harvest Host-just click on the picture and it will take you to the voting page. Check out other interesting articles in my blog. Thank you for dropping by.

Campfire without smoke, a dream come true

We have all heard the saying smoke follows beauty as the wind direction changes and everyone shuffles to move out of the way of the smoke billowing from the fire pit. If you camp, as we do, you enjoy sitting outside at night enjoying the glow from the fire, as you strive to toast the perfect marshmallow, only to find you wrench of smoke at bedtime.

What if I told you I have found a product that will change the way you feel about having a fire outside. After a lot of research, and I mean a lot of research, Chip purchased a Solo Stove for us to take on our camping trips. He had a lot of criteria he was looking at, but for me I just had to be able to roast a marshmallow over it. Even though we had read the reviews, we were still apprehensive if the Solo Stove worked as well as presented. Well I can tell you without a doubt, it was well worth the cost, so much so that we purchased one to replace our chiminea on our patio.

There have been a lot of times we really wanted to have a fire at our home at family gatherings, but we knew my mom would not be able to tolerate the smoke, as she has a lot of breathing problems. We have found that once you get the Solo Stove good and hot, there is no smell of smoke. When you first start a fire in the Solo Stove it will have a little bit of smoke, but it does not smell like your typical wood fire. I know that sounds crazy, but it really does not to me. I have not smelled like smoke after sitting by our Solo Stove for hours.

There are a lot of things we really liked about the Solo Stove on our camping trip and I will share some of those with you.

  1. The stove was exceptionally light weight, and easily packed on the back of our truck camper.
  2. We were able to keep it fed with dead wood we found around the campground.
  3. Because of the way the Solo Stove is constructed, it was easier to keep the fire going because it was not affected by the wind. (None of the other campers could have fires it was so windy).
  4. I personally loved how when the wood burned down and the coals were glowing, producing heat on a cool night was nice, but the perfect marshmallow, was the grand prize.
  5. The wood burned down to a very scant amount of ashes that were easily poured out before packing it up for the road trip home.

You can have the same wonderful experience with your own Solo Stove, whether you take it with you camping, tailgating, on your patio, or even on your boat dock, the possibilities are limitless.

Check out the Solo Stove using this link, and if you decide to purchase one, please use this link as well, as I will get a small token of appreciation from Solo Stove with each purchase made by my friends. Please let me know if you purchased one and what you think of it. If you know me, you know I would never promote something that I do not totally believe in and use for myself. If you live close by and would like for us to demonstrate our Solo Stove for you, just drop me a note and we would be glad to fire the Solo Stove up!

COVID 19 and Me

Who would have ever thought we would have ever experienced anything like this in our lifetime? For some, there seem to be no worries, and for others, they are stressed to the point of fear. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I am worried, not only for myself and my family but for everyone. I know we are all going to die at some point, but I hate when there is a disease such as this that is quickly taking people all around us, young and old and in-between. Some are more at risk than others, like me, and does that worry me more? I know it should be it does not. When God calls me home, I am ready, I just pray it is no time soon and I will do all I can to take care of myself until then.

I do have a triple whammy as I have an auto-immune disease, I take an immunosuppressant medication as well as a chemotherapy medication and I have asthma. Wow, I think the only thing I am missing is heart disease and diabetes from the high-risk categories. I am taking the same precautions I would whether I was at high risk or not. But what has really frustrated me is the media. Imagine that. But really, every time someone dies from this virus, and they point out, “they had an underlying condition”, “their immune system was compromised”, “they were old.”Really, does that make them any less of a person? Does that make it less of a concern because of what? They were a person, and they had a family, there are people that are broken-hearted because they died. I am sure there have been some media who have talked about people who were not high risk, but I personally have not seen it. I do not watch a lot of news, typically I watch the news before I get out of the bed in the am, and then I may catch a glimpse of it one evening a week.

I know I personally love living and enjoying life but work hard to try to live longer. I know my medications and my disease will attempt to cut my life short, but I am determined to outlive any predictions that have been set for people like me who are “compromised.” I eat healthily, I avoid food that causes me pain, I walk, I try to get a good night’s rest, though I rarely sleep more than four hours. I try not to stress over things and have a Polly Anna attitude about life, always trying to find the best in every situation. So, what can I find positive in the media always making to me what makes it seem less important than someone died because they had an underlying condition? Maybe they think they will lessen everyone’s fears. But have they really, over half of my family, cousins, aunts, mother, siblings, children, etc., have underlying conditions that make us more at risk whether it be diabetes, heart disease, asthma, have taken chemotherapy and beat cancer, and auto-immune diseases and every time they remind us that the person that died was “compromised” does nothing but add fear to those who are in the high risk categories.

So enough about my frustrations with the media as I refuse to allow them to bring me down, I will continue to shake my head when they point out the “underlying reasons” the people are dying and will continue to say a prayer for all of those who have lost a loved one through this pandemic. Because no matter what the reason was that contributed to their death, they deserve nothing but honoring the person that they were.

So, for my family, we are practicing social distancing. We do have family and friends that have come to our home, but not inside. We even moved our car off the carport to be able to place chairs apart, where we can visit safely. We have gone into town to pick up things that are needed, but I usually sit in the car and Chip, who is the healthiest in the family, goes in to get what we need, and no more, and comes back to the car and sanitizes, sanitizes and sanitizes some more.

I feel we have plenty of food, it may not be what we would choose to eat, but I can assure you we will not go hungry. Thank goodness both Chip and Bailey shot a deer this year as we are well stocked on venison. We probably do not have as much canned food as we should, but we will make do. I always have had Clorox wipes in every bathroom in the house as well as extras here and there. We buy our paper products from Sam’s club and had just recently stocked on that as well. I worry more about running out of toilet paper than I do food, for real.

Social distancing has definitely changed some of our plans. We were going on our first ever truck camper rally with D&H Campers. It was a camping event specifically for truck campers.


We had been planning on this trip for months and even had Rebekah and Bailey make us some cool shirts to wear on our adventure. Kind of nerdy to dress alike right? I think so too, but we were going to do it anyway. You will have to wait to see our beautiful, creative, shirts. So the truck rally was cancelled, and we were disappointed. I am so ready to go camping that my next post may be a staycation in my front yard. Maybe we will wear our matching shirts.

I have been using so much hand sanitizer that I was afraid I was going to ruin my rings, so I took them off and have placed them in the safe until all this is over. I have always used a lot of hand sanitizer. For my work I even kept a container of hand sanitizer clipped to my name badge and used it a lot. I always washed my hands often and used hand sanitizer but not to the point that I am doing so now. I read an article years ago when I taught about germs and hand washing that was about the research showing that bacterial colonization was much greater on ringed than bare hands. A lot of infection control nurses discourage staff to wear anything but a wedding band. This is because rings can’t be thoroughly cleaned by even diligent hand hygiene, nor can the skin beneath them, especially rings with a lot of nooks and crannies. So right now, with this virus I felt it was a good idea to keep my hands as clean as possible, plus I did not want to ruin my rings.


I have not had any problems with my hands drying out even though I am constantly washing my hands and using hand sanitize because every winter Chip and I both had been experiencing dry cracked hands and we started using Mary Kay Satin Hands and are a firm believer how well it works. If you have not tried it you are in luck, Bailey is a Mary Kay Consultant and if you send me a message and mention this blog she will give you a 25% off discount.

On a bright note, I hope that all this social distancing is good for my hair. I know that sounds crazy but think about it. When we work or even go out in public, we typically have done something to our hair. Mousse, hair spray and even some shampoos and conditioners leave a residue on our hair that builds up over time. The residue can weigh your hair down and dry it out, making your hair more susceptible to breakage. Heat we know can damage hair, especially if you are using a hair dryer and then a high heat straightener, which I do because it is hard to straighten my hair. So, for the past 3 weeks, I have done nothing to my hair but wash it. I have allowed it do dry naturally and have used no heat source at all. Now in saying that I will admit it is a hot mess. But that’s okay as I am not trying to impress anyone, and I avoid looking in the mirrors anyway. My favorite hat is “Camping Hair, Don’t Care” so you may see me sporting around town when I do go out in that hat.

“Camping Hair Don’t Care” check it out here without leaving home

We had a friend make us each a face mask, just in case we go out. Chip worked on making liners for the face masks to give it an extra layer of protection using 3-M’s household filters.

Check out your filter options here without leaving home..3-M Filters

I loved how Hobby Lobby was working to make shopping a safe trip for everyone. I do not understand why they closed as this seem to be working well. I had gone in search of elastic, and though they did not have any, the lady showed me a good alternative that worked for our masks. Now our town is very limited on supplies to make masks so you may have to order something creative like we used because even elastic is on short supply when ordering. I would share with you a link on how you could order what we used, but honestly I have looked at Amazon and Hobby Lobby and every brand is out of stock.

Like everyone has been posting on Facebook, Easter is not cancelled. Our faith remains that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Christ has and will continue to be with us in our homes, along the journey of our lives and will always be with us during this greatest challenge of our life, COVID 19. But, with that being said, I am bummed about the Easter get-together that our family has had for as long as I have been alive. Our entire family, aunts, cousins, siblings, in-laws, and friends get together at my grandfather’s home place. When we were young it was so much fun to see your cousins and play in the yard, hiding eggs over and over again, and showing off your Easter dress that your mom had made. Today it is just as much fun hiding the eggs for all the children that have come along over the years, catch up with family and friends, and of course, eat. This year there will be none of that on Easter Sunday but at some point, we will all get together and will be blessed to do so and I pray no one will have had to go through any suffering with the coronavirus other than financially which is inevitable.

We like so many of our friends are enjoying family time, playing board games our favorite go to games are

Yahtzee and Cardinal Mexican Train Domino Game with Aluminum Case. We keep the Yahtzee game in our truck camper for rainy days.

We have enjoyed long walks, a lot of patio talks, and less television than I would have ever expected. We have reenacted other quarantine posts from Facebook and laughed until our sides hurt.

I personally have enjoyed sending snap chats to my family and friends and hope they laughed as much as I did. I would be laughing so hard I could not even finish my message many times and would have to start over. Chip usually knows what I am doing and is shaking is head reminding me that I am “not right.” Laughter is good medicine, so maybe that is why I am doing so well.

My favorite are the voice changers, but here are a few funnies as well.

We have watched a movie on Friday or Saturday night with me usually dozing off about halfway through. My husband recently commented that I had never watched an entire movie and he is correct, for as long as I can remember anyway. I remembered years ago taking my daughter and some of her cousins to see Shark Tales and I must have dozed off as I heard them giggling and discussing me being asleep. I told them I was just resting my eyes. I told my preacher once that if he saw me with my eyes closed, I was not sleeping, that I hear better with my eyes closed. I do not think he believed me. On that note, it is time for me to close my eyes and get my usual four hours sleep, and then watch old episodes of Chicago PD or Law and Order. Luckily for me, though I have seen many of them before, I never remember the outcome, so it is like watching it for the first time. That CRS disease is for real, “can’t remember stuff.”

Our dogs have loved having us home all the time. Ginger has loved being under my desk as I work from home.

Ginger in her favorite place under my desk

All the dogs have enjoyed the evenings spent sitting on the carport, and they have been practicing social distancing as well.

But not always as they seem to enjoying drinking together…..I prefer to not drink alone either, but that is another story.

We have all enjoyed our long walks. We are truly blessed to live out in the country and have amazing trails to walk on our own land. No dog leashes and no picking up poop.

The only downfall of walking trails is the end result when you return home after a rainy day. I guess I should have worn my old shoes. I would rather walk ten miles on a muddy trail than one mile on a treadmill any day.

Stay home as much as you can, wash your hands often, and your hair not so much, be safe and continue to pray for everyone who has been affected by this pandemic.

Happy Easter from this Krazy Bunny!