Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Intermission: Irresponsible Pet Owners

When I started this blog, my intent was to keep it completely focused on fibromyalgia. That is still my intention, but I must take a side trip to talk about something that really gets my ire up--irresponsible pet owners.

About three weeks ago, on a cold rainy day, my neighbor called. "Laurie are you missing a cat?"

I looked around the room, "No, both of mine are comfortably dry in their armchairs."

"Smart cats. I have a very friendly tiger cat here at the barn. Do you know who it might belong to?

"I really don't. I'm afraid someone dropped off another cat."

I heard nothing more from Clair. Then two weeks later, about 4 am, there was a violent thunderstorm. I heard a cat meowing very loudly. I thought, "Emma, you silly cat, come in out of the rain."

After all my pets have a dog door. Being the prima donna that she is, Emma continued to meow loudly. Finally, I got up, opened the door, and voiced my thought. No response.

Fine! I went back to bed. A few minutes later, I heard "Mrrow, mrrow, mrrow," repeated very insistently.

Grumpily, I got up again, "Emma! Get in here!"

A little tiger-striped cat crawled out from under the car. It ran towards my out-stretched hand and started rubbing its head furiously. I picked it up, tooked it in, gave it some food, and went back to bed. I dreamt about finding a cat.

When I awoke, I thought, "Did I really bring a cat in last night." I walked into the kitchen, the food dish was where I left it, but no cat. I started looking around, and found it curled up on an armchair in the living room. I went down and said, "Hello."

It turned out to be a he, and he was a purring machine. He just wanted to be stroked. I fed all my animals breakfast. Put a litterbox near him, introduced him to it, and started baking. "I can't afford another cat," I mused.

He stayed on that chair all day. He must have been exhausted. Clair came by to cut the grass, and I said "Come here. I think someone you know came to visit." I was right, it was the same cat. He had been leaving food at the barn for him.

So if someone was feeding him, and he had shelter, why did he travel across the road and through the woods to my house? I have two spayed females. Although they are spayed, they still seem to attract the males. Last summer I had two large feral-toms hanging around. Where are they now? Most likely dead. Cats don't last long in the wild. This year I have another feral-tom, and this obviously non-feral tom trying to woo my two females. They aren't interested.

Obviously, the one I took in the other night was dropped off, "Here you go boy, fields to roam, lots of mice, a nice barn to sleep in. Have a good life."

What are people thinking? Most of the feral cats I see in the summer, do not reappear the next summer. Why? They get hit by cars, eaten by coyotes, or perish from disease, starvation, or parasites. Nice long life - one year, maybe two or three, if they're lucky.

My other cat Sophie is also a drop-off. She appeared one fall day. She had no intention of living outdoors. She wanted a home badly. I looked for an owner, but she has been here now almost two years. At least she was spayed.

The problem with the new guy, who I am now calling Spike, is that he is not neutered. He is a young cat with raging hormones. He left the chair after a day and headed out. The dogs make him nervous, but he's lovesick, and especially trails after Emma, bleating his little heart out.

He comes sporadically. He knows he'll get fed and petted, but he doesn't trust Sophie and the dogs. I have quite a few scratches from trying to lure him in as my dogs dart out to see what's going on. I know he's lurking around, but I can't get him to come consistently. He needs to be neutered, before his hormones kill him. Neither Clair or I think he hunts. He doesn't leave remains around like my other cats do. He is not street savvy. Cars scare him to death. All-in-all, he's a nervous little thing who needs a home.

He's welcome here, although the cost of upkeep will be difficult for me. I don't know if I can get him to stay. It is difficult integrating new animals into a family. Emma still hisses at Sophie.

Be responsible. If you can't keep an animal, for whatever reason, find it a home or take it to a shelter. Even if there's a chance the animal might be euthanized, at least it won't end up as roadkill or food for coyotes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New York's Finger Lakes

A few weeks ago I wrote about my trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where three of my interview subjects reside. I happen to live in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. This is where most of the subjects for my book reside, so I thought I'd give the area equal time.

The Finger Lakes are a series of long narrow deep lakes in the west-central section of Upstate, New York. Not being a native New Yorker, I find it interesting that anything that is not New York City, or a suburb thereof, is considered Upstate New York. Basically, Upstate New York seems to consist of 90% (just a guess) of the state.

These lakes were formed about two million years ago by southward moving glaciers that accentuated the existing terrain. When they receded, the lakes were left. The eleven Finger Lakes from east to west are: Otisco LakeSkaneateles LakeOwasco LakeCayuga LakeSeneca LakeKeuka LakeCanandaigua LakeHoneoye LakeCanadice LakeHemlock LakeConesus Lake. My home overlooks Canadaigua Lake.

View of Canandaigua Lake from my home
Although Syracuse and Rochester are both slightly north of the Finger Lakes. They are the closest cities. Syracuse is the easternmost city and Rochester, the westernmost. Both cities are short drives to many of the lakes.

The beauty of the Finger Lakes is that athough it is a major tourist destination, it is relatively untouched. Unlike Lake George, NY in the northeast or Wisconsin's Dells, the area is not packed with congested traffic, tourist traps, amusement parks, and housing piled on top of one another. The area is still rural, primarily agricultural, and splendidly breathtaking.

The Finger Lakes are New Yorks largest wine making area. The gentle hills and warmth from the lakes, creates an ideal climate for growing grapes. Naples, NY, which is my postal address, is just a few miles south of South Bristol where I live. It is famous for it's Grape Pies and annual grape festival in the fall. Daily from the end of August until the frost takes the last of the grapes, tractors pulling crates of grapes and tall, triangular, grape harvesters drive pass my home. If you take time to smell the "roses," you'll realize the air is heavily perfumed by the grapes.

Winters are long, cold, and snowy. Temperatures can be quite cold, sometimes hovering in the teens for weeks on end in January and February. Although we occasionally have an indian summer or early spring, winter often comes too early and lingers too long.

If it's not snowing around here, it is raining. Sunshine can be a rare commodity, and summer can be too short. That is why the residents of this region relish summers. I have lived in a number of places, and I have never seen one with so many events of all shapes and sizes.

From a fibromyalgia perspective, although the winters here are not as brutally cold as Michigan's U.P. and are usually a bit shorter, they are still hard. The constant weather changes wreak havoc on the body. The humidity and winds that come with the pressure changes can be brutal. I know I savor the few warm, dry moderate days we have.

My interview subjects from this area range geographically from Seneca Lake in the east, up to the western side of Rochester. I have already included some of their interview excerpts in previous blogs. I am buried in baking and property management at the moment, so the writing has slowed down considerably, but there will be more excerpts from both the Michigan and New York people in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Weather

Summer teased us for a few days, but today it didn't get above 50 degrees until after 2 pm. Saturday evening rain and a cold front moved in. By Sunday it was cold and damp. I was exhausted and my limbs were very heavy. I didn't blame it on my fibro immediately. I had an extremely busy week. I could just be tired from all the activity.

By Monday I perked up. Although the temperatures remained in the 60s, the sun made an appearance. I felt pretty good. Rain came back that evening. During the night, I slept badly. I couldn't get comfortable, and my nerves were sending out all kinds of crazy signals. One minute my skin would ripple in various spots as though something were crawling on me, then I would get intense itching jumping from spot to spot--my neck, my arm, my chest. My whole nervous system seemed to be experiencing a short-circuit.

I was exhausted when I got up, but today was one of my market days. I needed to make five pies and pack for the farmers market. It was cold and rainy outside and the temperature was barely 50 early in the morning. I had things to do though and couldn't be dwelling on my fatigue, so I baked, then I sat down to work on a portrait I need to complete by next week.

After an hour, I noticed my upper back was aching. The fatigue was reminding me forcefully that it was still there. I was starting to feel nauseous from the discomfort. I had time for a brief nap, but it didn't really help. I just didn't feel good. No time to fret about it though, I needed to walk the dogs and head to the market.

Needless to say, I was a bit cranky when I got there. Although the sky was starting to clear, the wind was gusting. My brand new canopy, blew over my car. A number of vendors had to help me chase it down and set it back up. For awhile there, a warning rating was needed to let parents know that there might be adult language in my vicinity. Then the sun came out, the air warmed, and the wind settled, I started feeling much better.

A few weeks ago I discussed being a human barometer. This is a feeling that many people with fibromyalgia share. I start wondering what the health experts had to say on this subject. I couldn't find a lot of material, but interestingly enough, what I did find supported my feelings of being a human barometer.

According to the site, Fibromyalgia Symptoms, "Many fibromyalgia patients claim that changes in the weather directly affect many of their symptoms. In fact, many fibromyalgia sufferers claim that their symptoms vary according to temperature changes, changes in air pressure, and changes in precipitation in their part of their world." It goes on to state that five major weather conditions appear to affect fibromyalgia symptoms: temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, preciptitation, and wind.

Recently Joanie Hall of FARNY posted a link about the affects of sunshine on fibromyalgia, Sun Therapy for Fibro. In another of my posts, I claimed that sunshine makes me feel better. This article supports my claim. "The sun can soothe sore muscles and induces relaxation, but that's not all. A new study shows UV rays may also reduce fibromyalgia pain by triggering your skin cells to make more vitamin D." So although the weather can hurt, it can also heal.

I decided to see if anyone had researched the best places to live with fibromyalgia. This was inconclusive. It appears that many others wonder the same thing, but I couldn't find any research that studied the affects of region on fibromyalgia. I will be waiting eagerly for the conclusions if someone does study this.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Traveling With Fibromyalgia

I love to travel. I love going to new places and seeing new things. I even enjoy driving to the destination, because I can enjoy the countryside and take whatever I like along. The problem with travel is my fibromyalgia. I am a very high functioning, energetic person for someone with fibro, but I have to compensate for it.

I like to drive, but my trouble spots are the spot between my shoulder blades and my lower back. Driving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan required 14 hours in a car, one way, for a total of 28 hours of driving round trip. I made very good time on the trip, but sitting for that long causes a flare-up of pain in my problem spots. My back tightens up, the pain radiates down my arms and up my neck. Sciatica flares in my legs, especially my right one, and the disruption of my normal routine can set off my IBS.

Knowing that these problems are likely, it is probably difficult to understand why I like to travel, but I do and I plan for it. First, I made sure I had enough muscle relaxer, Ambien, and Tylenol for the trip. I tend to use these drugs sparingly, but they are invaluable for combating the onset of a flare. Next, I made sure I carried foods I normally eat, so that my diet wasn't too disrupted. During the drive, I stopped briefly every two hours or so, just to get out and walk around. This helped alleviate the muscle stiffness.

Finally, I made sure I got adequate sleep. On the outward trip, I took both the Ambien and the muscle relaxer the first night, to give my body adequate rest after the drive. I woke up the first day in Michigan feeling quite good. I even got a nice bike ride in that day. My mistake that night was not taking a muscle relaxer after the bike ride. My arms went numb, and my second night of sleep was not as good as the first. I still managed to fit in two days of hiking as well as three interviews. I was doing pretty well.

Things started to fall apart at the end of the trip. My last day in Michigan, we spent a day traveling around the UP. I wasn't doing the driving, but being in a car for a whole day, aggravated the upper back.
The pain radiated up my neck into my jaw. I could feel the muscles spasms in my jaw. Throughout the day, I performed the isometric exercises I learned in physical therapy to settle the spasms. They helped a bit, but I could still feel the tension in my jaw. I couldn't afford to take a muscle relaxer that night because I had to get up very early the next morning to embark on my return trip. Muscle relaxers effects can linger and make you groggy. I settled on half an Ambien to ensure that I at least slept.

I was wide-awake for the entire drive back, but my back, neck, and jaw were knotted in pain by the time I reached Canada. My TMJ (temporal mandibular jaw syndrome) was the worse I had seen it in years. My head was throbbing so badly in Canada, I had to take some Tylenol. That dulled the pain, but didn't erase it.

If you watched me on the last leg of the journey, you would have seen me doing all sorts of gyrations trying to stretch out the tension in my neck and jaw. I made it home, and again I took the Ambien, more Tylenol, and my muscle relaxer. Miracle of miracles, I woke up the next morning pain-free. The muscle relaxer and a good night's sleep had done their work. The spasms had subsided. 

By planning for the worst, I managed to avoid a major flare, I avoided the fatigue of fibromyalgia, and I enjoyed the trip immensely. Yes, I had a few set backs, but back when I assiduously avoided drugs, the effects of travel were a lot worse. I would often be extremely fatigued, and it would take weeks to recover from IBS.

For some tips on planning for travel, google traveling with Fibromyalgia. I have included a link here to some tips: Ten Tips for Travel.