Thursday, March 28, 2013

Woodpecker!

Gila Woodpecker Photo

Today I think I saw this bird while I was walking!  It's a Gila Woodpecker.
Once again, I'm not an expert, but what I saw was a woodpecker and it had a laddered back like this.



I keep trying to upload some videos and here I go . . . trying again . . . and it looks like it FINALLY WORKED!!!  After three days of trying!


Thought you'd like to hear some lovely rumbles from Stephen!
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And here is some more information about the cute Verdin that live in our front Mesquite tree!
video

Happy Easter!  HE IS RISEN!




Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Parrots In The Park!

Bjarne sleeping in the warm morning sunshine

Today I will give you some sweet kitty pictures first!


Bjarne & Stephen watching birdies




One of Allistair's favorite stretches is one where he crosses his front paws over his sweet little face and squeezes -
it makes me want to kiss his cute little face

Allistair sniffing the air coming in through the open window

Bjarne lets Stephen snuggle him, but not Allistair


Juvy sleeping in her box outside - if you look closely, you can see her pretty pink tongue sticking out!
Now we know where Stephen gets that sticking-out-tongue thing!

Bjarne watching birdies while hanging off the cat stand like a monkey!

Our Elm trees in the back yard

Here is a little video for those of you stuck in the snow!  Spring is coming!
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A nest in one of the Elm trees!

Our front Mesquite tree is blossoming!  It's fragrant and pretty, but it also makes us sneeze.


But I love the Mesquite tree because cute little Verdin always build their nests in it!
A Verdin with nest-building materials in his mouth

I have some other videos I'd like to post today, but I keep trying and Blogger isn't uploading any of them properly, so I'm going to give up for today and try tomorrow.  Check back!

And now on to the reason for the title of this post . . . 
Yesterday while I was out walking, I saw three PARROTS in the park near my house!  I am not the most experienced of bird identifiers, but I know they were Parrots of some kind.  If I am correct, they looked like this:
image

And if they did look like that, they are Rosy-faced Lovebirds Agapornis roseicollis, which are indigenous to Africa, but which are popular pets, so they could have escaped.  They didn't seem quite as wild as the other birds in the vicinity; they were the last ones to fly away when I approached.  I will try to get photos next time I take that route!

UPDATE: Cindy told me that Lovebirds live wild in Arizona and California now, and that they are becoming more common.  When I described what I saw, she said I was RIGHT and they WERE Lovebirds!  Yay for me!

Enjoy this Wednesday!

P.S.  I just got over a cold, and these tissues were instrumental!
They have Vicks magically built in, which somehow loosened up more snot.
Highly recommended!




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dr H



Summary: It was a great appointment.  
He is a kind, experienced, and well-educated doctor.  
We have a good plan moving forward.
I feel encouraged.

I feel encouraged because #1:
Dr. H said the words, "There is no cure for endometriosis."

It probably seems strange to say that's encouraging, but it completely takes the burden of guilt away.  I felt guilty that I have been taking estrogen all these years and somehow guilty just for being ME because I am a person that has this chronic disease.  It feels every time I have gone back with symptoms again that the doctor is thinking "AGAIN?!?"  Knowing that it can't be cured (though it can be managed!) means that I haven't caused it to be worse through some horrible hidden character flaw!

I feel encouraged because #2:
Dr. H quoted LOTS of RECENT studies (in the last 5-10 years, which have all taken place AFTER my most recent surgery).  I quote lots of studies myself, and I love knowing that data (for those of you who are fans of the StrengthsFinder assessment, this is because of my strengths in the area of LEARNING and INPUT!).

First thing he checked: 82% of women with severe endometriosis have pain that is caused by other factors, as well.  One of the most common is muscle pain.  Current thought is that the endometriosis implants somehow affect the muscles near them, causing them to spasm.  If this is happening, even taking out the endometriosis surgically doesn't stop the pain.  So treating the muscle pain is more important in those cases than removing the endometriosis.  He did some tests - I am not among the 82%; I don't have muscle pain.

I feel encouraged because #3:
Endometriosis growth is not being shown to necessarily be related to exogenous (ingested) estrogen.  This means that I can take as much estrogen as I need to take (as much as makes me feel normal), and it doesn't mean I'm "poisoning" myself.  It has felt to me in the past as if I had to choose between feeling hormonally normal with pain or crazy insane and depressed without pain.  And in neither one of those situations do I have a great quality of life.  Dr H told me to take as much estrogen as I need to have a good quality of life.  The solution to endometriosis is a surgical one, and when the pain gets intolerable, we will schedule surgery.

Dr H suggested that I wait as long as possible before surgery, because the chronic nature of aggressive endometriosis means I will probably need to have regular surgeries throughout my lifetime when the pain gets bad again.  The desire is to limit the number of surgeries in my lifetime.  I last had surgery 10 years ago, so if I have surgery now, let's say I would need another one in 10 additional years.  But if I can hold off for another six months or another year or two, that gives me maybe 12 years between surgeries.  That means fewer surgeries and less scar tissue.  At some point, we can hope that perhaps somehow I might just start having less problems with it as I age.  I don't know if that is likely, but I can hope!

I asked if waiting longer would endanger me or make the endometriosis more difficult to remove when it was time for surgery.  He said he doesn't believe so.  Since I have some growing close to my bowel, I will have a colonoscopy soon to ensure that nothing important is being perforated.  When I do end up having surgery, he will remove my appendix, as well, which is convenient; I was in the emergency room once many years ago because I thought I was having appendicitis, but it was endometriosis acting up.  He said I'm not the only one, and after that, I won't have to wonder which thing is hurting; I will know it's not my appendix!

Additional interesting new knowledge from recent studies:

*  New studies are showing that the cause of endometriosis is at the genetic level - women who get it don't have the ability to process progesterone appropriately, so there's nothing to balance the estrogen, which causes the endometrial tissue to grow where it shouldn't be growing.  No amount of added progesterone could fix this problem.  This is probably why progsterone cream didn't help me at all.  Once again, this disease doesn't have to do with my behavior or my personality.  

10 years ago, there were lots of theories floating around about why certain women get endometriosis.  One was that it was exacerbated by stress and therefore was more frequent in "type A" women, a term which might come up from some doctors in relation to me, especially considering I was diagnosed during a stressful and busy graduate program.  But I didn't cause this and I didn't make it worse.  God allowed it all to happen to me; I didn't choose it, but I can choose how to respond.

* Hysterectomy with removal of ovaries is not the "cure" for endometriosis it was once thought to be.  I don't remember all the statistics from the study he quoted on this issue, but he said around 70% of women who have laparoscopic resection (removal) of endometriosis need further treatment.  Fewer women who had a hysterctomy while keeping their ovaries had ongoing treatment (something like 50% of women).  And 4-10% of women who have uterus and ovaries removed need ongoing treatment after that.  So for most women, the surgeries do help somewhat.

*  When I asked why some women seem cured after having their uterus and ovaries removed, he told me that 4% of women with endometriosis have an aggressive form that is essentially different in its genetic make-up.  This aggressive form creates its own estrogen and can carry on growing no matter what (it's like an evil parasite!)  Since my case has proven extra difficult to eradicate, it's likely that I have this vicious variant.

All of the studies he mentioned are ones I have heard about as I've been reading up on recent developments in endometriosis.  They also just make sense.  And they relieve me.  If I get super bad pain that I can't control anymore by rest and heating pad, then I call the doctor.

Until then, I can just be the lower-energy, resting often person I have been created to be, doing what I can do and enjoying it (slowly, if necessary!)  

THANK YOU for your prayers and well-wishes.  I will sleep well tonight.  Hope you do, too.

with love,

-Christie

Monday, March 18, 2013

Leafing Trees!



The Chinese Elm trees are leafing out!  It's amazing how quickly they get fully leafed.  This is just two days after the first little baby leaves appeared!

Soon our whole backyard will be shaded by these beautiful trees and we will feel as if we live in the middle of a lovely forest.  They cast the prettiest shadows through the windows during the afternoons!
Close-up of baby Chinese Elm tree leaves

The backyard with cacti and cat (look in the chair - Juvy blends in with the shadows!  Though she likes letting her leg & tail hang off.)

She likes to sit on the table and look pretty next to the succulent pot

 

Allistair and Stephen have taken to dragging their fishy stick toy with them when they're going to take a nap! They bring it up on the bed (this was on laundry day, so there were clothes drying all over the bed, which they love to sleep on!) and sleep near it.  

Or ON it!

Silly babies! 

Here is some more jumping fun . . . I tried to find a way to get them to entertain themselves with the fishy stick by hooking it on the towel rod.
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Health Update:  
The specialist doctor's office called me today to let me know that he had an unexpected opening THIS WEDNESDAY!  So I will be seeing him almost a full month before I expected to.  

The only problem is related to medical records again. You would think we had this all sorted out, but we ran into a snag: our home server crashed over the weekend, and we can't access any of the data on it.  That server was our back-up; it copied everything from our personal computers every night and stored it.  Normally, that would mean that we didn't lose anything, but in this case, we saved the scans of all my medical documents to that server rather than to either of our personal computers.  Boo hiss!

We found a brilliant solution, though: Dr. C (whom I saw last month) has copies of the documents I need because I took them with me when I saw her, and I can go get copies of them from her!  So that's my day tomorrow.

Ah-choo!  (x 3 in a row!!!) - oh yes, I also am in the midst of a fierce cold.  Sneezing and red Rudolph nose and watering eyes and everything.  Strangely, I am in quite a good mood and I feel very happy.  This happens to me often when I have a cold.  Does that happen to any of you?  Maybe my brain really likes fighting something off?

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Backyard




As the weather is warming up (today it's supposed to hit 85 degrees!), I want to be comfier outside.  I have the compulsion twice per year to retidy the outside (I'm not a gardener - yard work usually isn't my thing, which means it's convenient that I live in the desert, because there's only so much that a person needs to do to raise cacti!)  Yesterday I had that compulsion, so I went to Home Depot and bought some beautiful new succulents and desert plants.  Our cactus garden has a drip line and the plants get some water a few times per week - succulents can't handle the full heat of this area with only natural water in the deep summer.  We try to keep it minimal.  But we water our Chinese Elm trees more.  They shade our house from the evil afternoon sun in the summer with their lovely umbrella-like expanse of beautiful little green fluttering leaves.  We love them.  (Thanks, Dad & Mom, for the idea to plant them - they must save us a ton on a/c bills, too!)

First purchase: a lovely collection of succulents for the patio table!


Second purchase, Kangaroo/Joey Paws.  I haven't heard of these before, but I saw them at the store and fell in love with their soft pink little buds.  They are a perfect blend of spiky desert and pretty girliness.


 I bought two Kangaroo Paw plants and two African Iris plants (right now they just look like tallish wide marsh grass) to add some height to the perimeter around the cactus garden like a border.


My Partridge Breast succulent has grown its spring stalk!


The  base of the Partridge Breast - I think its name comes from the speckling on the leaves

Greg and I are passing on some of the stuff we've had on the patio to make it more pleasant to enjoy our backyard.  Here in Arizona, most houses don't have basements or attics, so garages and patios often get used for storage.  We are slowly working to sort through stuff and keep only what we need, but it's a terrible process!  Anyway, I'm thinking of moving the eating table & chairs to the left (looking from the house to the yard) and putting some more comfy lounge-y seating on the right.  Maybe this?  With a little table for drinks? 
(click here for link)
AMMERÖ Sofa combination IKEA

On Friday, we had a THUNDERSTORM!  With lightning and rumbles (Allistair was freaked out and ran away to hide at the first big one!) and everything!  Quite a bit of rain, too.  We've had a lot of rain this winter, which makes all my plants very happy.   

The storm rolling in


When I was driving home from Target that afternoon, one lane of our main road was closed because a big branch had broken off a Palo Verde tree along the road due to a gust of ferocious wind and the workmen were there safely removing it and grinding it up.  

Later, I discovered that a bird nest had blown out of one of our Chinese Elm trees in the backyard.  But the babies are all grown up, so it's okay!


Bjarne let Allistair cuddle up to him!  Typically Bjarne only lets Stephen cuddle him.

Allistair all upside-down in the cat basket.  Love that widdle tummy!

Stephen with his favorite toy (he does NOT love to be tangled up in it, as you can see!)

Mesquite tree in our front yard is budding!

New front door mat for spring

If you haven't tried this jam yet, you MUST!  I love the raspberry and cranberry together.
I have almost eaten the whole jar up already.  Yum!

I have some fun videos for you!
While I was editing the videos of the fish stick toy, Stephen AND Allistair both got up on the desk to look for the toy because they heard the bell ringing in the videos!

Amazing Motocross-style kittens!
video

They make me laugh a LOT when they go flying across the screen with the greatest of ease!
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Greg likes to play, too!
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And Allistair has taken to drinking from the bathroom sink!
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I think his little pink tongue is adorable.
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Have you ever tried to put clean sheets on a bed when there are two kittens longing to play?
Well, here is what it's like!
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And sometimes I just play along - is it more important to get the sheets on the bed, or play with these sweet little kittens?  I think you know the answer!
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Stephen coughed up his first hairball the other day, and he found it quite surprising!
Allistiar hasn't coughed one up, but he does the coughing part.  It's really cute, unlike the typical hacking, juicy hairball thing.  I captured a little of it.  And then he got embarrassed and laid down on Stephen.
video

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Goats

Saw this online and I truly laughed so hard while watching it that I cried.  Tears rolling down the face cried.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Blooms!


It's spring!  Cacti are blooming in our backyard!
Aloe Vera beginning to grow its blossom stalk!

Bark on our Chinese Elm tree

Greg and I went out with Greg's Mom and Step-Dad for a special meal (it was Greg's Mom's birthday), and I ate a very small meal so I could indulge in this deliciousness:
Gluten-Free Chocolate Dome Desert from P.F. Chang's BEFORE 

 And still I shared it with Greg!  Not big, but RICH and lovely and gooey.
Chocolate Dome AFTER!

Juvy was sitting on my lap and I took this picture 

She is a cutesy!

And she LOVES getting her ear scratched!

Stephen (he looks A LOT like his Grandma Juvy!) likes to dribble over the edge of things and ooze off onto the floor.
He's like a slithery snake.  Even super hard to pick up because he hangs there limp!

Bjarne
We took Bjarne to the vet and they said he's hyperthyroid, so they prescribed  an anti-thyroid medication, but after about two weeks of a low dose, he got a terrible bloody raw rash around his eyes and under his chin!  Took him back in and they said it's an allergy to the medication.  They said the next treatment option was zapping his thyroid with radioactivity, but we decided against it.  Bjarne is 16 years old and the procedure is very expensive.  So he's not on the medication anymore, and his rashes are getting better.  We did put him on some special food that supports healthy thyroid function, which, happily, he seems to like.

Red shoes!
Great thing #1: $16.99 at Ross!
Great thing #2:  The insides are made from super-squishy flip-flop material and have built-in arch support!
Great thing #3: The outer part and sole are made from  jute, so they'll be nicely breathable in the summer!
Great thing #4: Perfectly shaped toe!
Usually I don't love flats because I have very high arches and like the extra support of shoes with higher heels/wedges, but I'm happy to give these a try! Nicer looking and more professional than flip-flops.

I appreciate your prayers and encouragement at the moment.  It is a little tough right now for me health- and emotions-wise.  I have to rest a LOT due to fatigue and achiness, and it's hard to not be able to be as active and productive as I would like to be.  I'm working on remembering that I am valuable to God and the people who love me whether I accomplish a little or a lot.  Thanks to those of you who remind me of that regularly!  Since I now am taking only half the estrogen I had been taking (for the last 10 years or so), I am having some low points mood-wise.  I am FIGHTING them and speaking God's Truth to myself, but sometimes they get me.  Hormones are odd - it's amazing how many areas of life they affect!

Today the clouds are expected to roll in, and then we're expecting RAIN and CHILLY weather tomorrow (high of 62)!  I'm excited.  I wasn't quite ready for the 80s yet (though I guess it IS March . . . that's when it typically warms up here).

I'm off to edit some illustrations for the next Chirp Lesson!  Happy Thursday!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ocotillo Blooms

What's making me happy today?


#1.  The DESERT!

I have shown you Ocotillo before, but never in BLOOM!  I know it's a little difficult to see the orange flowers because of how sunny it was when I took this photo, but it was the best of the bunch.  I will keep trying!

I went hiking again on Thursday at the San Tan Mountain Regional Park (alone) and enjoyed it immensely.  I  ended up walking about 4.5 miles (up and down over some mild hills), and it was too far for me in this condition.  I have been exhausted since then!  But I have had a great week.

More photos from the hike:
A family of Cholla cacti

Beautiful desert.
You can see Four Peaks between the two big Saguaros,
and right in front of it, you can see the Flat Iron, which is in the Lost Dutchman State Park.
It's the lower flat part.
 Last January, I climbed it all by myself!
It doesn't even really have a trail to get up there.
It's rated "difficult".  I was very proud!

Ettiquette for meeting rattlesnakes (not that I ever have!)

Tall Saguaro with sun.

Something most people don't think of: sunscreen for your lips!
Many skin cancers end up on lips - don't let it happen to you!


Pretty little yellow flowers in the protection of the cactus's spikes.
"No one will eat me here!"


Part One of the Vulture Adventure!
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Part Two of the Vulture Adventure!
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And right at the beginning of my hike, I heard this beautiful birdsong:
video

I came home and looked up that song in my "Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song," book, which has an attached player so I can dial up the bird in question and see what his song sounds like! I found out that the bird in the video above is a Sage Thrasher (to the best of my ability to tell, anyway!) 

#2:  New TOYS for the kittens!

First, here is Allistair with his NEW fetch-able MOUSIE!!!
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And here are some silly videos of the new toy-on-a-stick we got!
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Stephen wasn't sure at first whether he LOVED it or HATED it - he wanted the puff-ball fishy part at the end, but he didn't want the stick trailing him wherever he went.
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But as time went on, he got a little more used to it.
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He even let Allistair play a little bit.  
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Cute little Baltazar


Fancy little crossed paws

#3:  Shrimp Fried Rice!

I made it yesterday for the first time.

First, fry the shrimp in oil.

Then, fry the rice and add some eggs.

Then, add vegetables and shimp.  Add vinegar, spices.  Stir and heat. 

MMMmmmmmm!!!

Happy Saturday!!!