Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow Days


I managed to get a few photos of the recent snow but didn't really put a lot of effort into it, to be honest.  I went out a few times to tend the chickens or stoke the wood stove in the basement, so that Jack wouldn't have to do it all, but every time I went out and came back inside I would be dripping sweat for half an hour or so from the effort.


It was very pretty though and we got a fair amount.  Some reports said the NE side of our town got 8 inches and our side got about 5-6 inches.  Some parts of Alabama just northwest of here got slightly over a foot, which is rather extraordinary for this part of the South.


It has remained fairly cold here the last couple of days so we still have a fair amount left on the ground but the roads are pretty much okay.


Chigger just loves, loves the snow and colder weather.  She does not have very long hair so it always seems to me she would be cold but she doesn't seem to mind.  In fact, when it starts to get warm here she just becomes slug-like.  I was able to play with her a little yesterday and she was going wild, racing through the snow like crazy.


The chickens were less than enthused.  When we let them out Wednesday morning it was a typical, cool winter day and they gathered up at the house to scavenge the bird feeder drops and graze in the yard.  As the snow began to fall though, they huddled closer to the house or under the trucks.  They will run around in the rain all day but oh no!...we are not getting our feet in that snow!  They steadfastly stuck to any bare ground protected from the falling snow but a few had sense enough to go on down to the coop.   As it eased on towards evening the snow had accumulated to about 4 inches and the rest of the girls were getting nervous.  It was time to go to the coop for bed but they were going to have to trudge across all that frozen stuff!  I finally went out and got a feed bucket to lure them out.  It was snowing rather hard at this point and I could only entice the older girls to hike home.  Zuzu was the only one unafraid and easily followed me down to the coop.  She just wanted her food!  The others clung to one another in a group but they eventually made it with my encouragement.  Big T was a disappointment in this one.  He would not help round them up at all and stayed up at the house by himself.  I think when he finally realized he was alone he got up the courage to run through the snow to the coop.  And my "northern bred" Ameracaunas that are supposed to be made for cold climates??  They were camped out under the trucks and steadfastly refused to come out.  No amount of bribing or threatening was going to get them to step in that snow.  I finally had to catch each one by hand and carry them down to the coop.


I was finally able to get a few decent shots of the feeder and we have been trying to keep it filled for the little birds.  I have been seeing what looks to me to be 2 goldfinches but have yet to be able to photograph them.  I wouldn't think they would be here this early in the year but what do I know?  The other day I went to Mama's and saw a huge group of robins, which I also thought was a bit early, but that's fine by me.  I'm ready for warm weather.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sick As a Dog

 What???

Unbelievably enough,  Jack and I still has this crud, head cold/ sinus infection...whatever it is.  I have felt like I was getting better a couple of times only to have it relapse and feel like crap again.  Well, it will eventually go away.  
I don't feel bad enough to lay in bed all day so boredom becomes a problem for me after a while.  Don't really want to spend much time in my studio because of all the dust and stuff there, when I already feel like my facial sinuses are going to explode.  So, I have been cleaning house!  Ha!  Sort of.  I've gone through all my clothes and sorted out a big bag to take to Goodwill and another big bag to recycle.  I redid my new address book, something that's needed doing for a long time.  I've been putting off my taxes but I need to do that soon.  I sorted through and cleaned my desk.  Got up a big pile of magazines and old catalogs to recycle also.  The weather has been very crappy for the most part while we have been sick, so that kinda lends it's self to staying in and cleaning up, sorting and purging.  I'm not done in that department by any means but have made some progress.


They had been talking for a while about us getting a big snow and they hit it pretty good this time.  Everybody was kinda wondering because the morning was kinda nice; not too cold, partly cloudy.  Then about noon it started clouding up and turning colder.  Sure enough, it wasn't much longer it was snowing like hell.  I think our area got some of the heavier amounts but it's still coming down as I write this so who knows.  At dark we had about 4 inches and will probably get another 2 or so tonight.  I know that's not squat compared to the northern states but to us that is a fair snow.  One day I'll have to scan some old photos I have of the one time it snowed about 18 inches here.  I had truly never seen anything like that.

So, I'll be back soon with snow pictures and such.  I have to admit I'm not real enthused about this snow.  Normally we are; ya'll know Jack and I love to play in the snow.  He even bought us new sleds, but being sick takes all the fun out of it.  I just want warm weather.  Chigger was really wanting to play this afternoon too and she just couldn't understand why I didn't want to.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Don't Feel Like Dancing


Or doing much of anything else really.  Jack and I both are on Day 3 of having the crud.  Not sure if we picked it up when we went to UM, as any school is a breeding ground for viruses, or if I picked up going to the gym.  At any rate it doesn't matter.   We got the crap now.  I'm starting to feel just a tad better but poor Jack has been running a semi-high fever today and feeling quite poorly.

So, we've both been stating inside except for when chores make one of us go out, like bringing up more firewood, tending the chickens and so on.  I admit Jack does most of this but I've been trying to do a bit more since I've been feeling a tiny bit better.  A great deal of that is also to relieve boredom!  I hate being sick and stuck inside, although it has been SO cold here the past few days I have not really cared that much this time.  Let me stay inside with the warmth and a hot cup of something.

When I felt it coming on I went ahead and made a big pot of chili because I knew I would not feel much like cooking and that has helped out a lot.  And I've passed some of the time by watching the birds and chickens through the windows and attempting to get some halfway decent photos of either, but that hasn't gone so well!  The day before we got sick, one of the girls cut her foot really bad and we needed to doctor it so I was attempting to catch her for this.  Of course, she screams bloody murder when I grab her and this upset Big T, so here he comes running to save the day!  I was very proud that he valiantly attempted to rescue his woman from me, so I tried to not take it personally when he jumped up and kicked the crap out of me, not once but twice!  Right beside my knee cap too.  I've even got bruises from it!  But he was doing his job and I was able to talk him down and assure him that I was not going to hurt her.  He scolded me pretty good but walked off to check on the other girls.  I think he's going to be a pretty good feller.  He seems to keep a pretty good eye on things.  I raised my little boy right!!  Haha!


So, in good news though, I have continued to take the iron supplements and within 5 days all of my anxiety and leg pain has gone.  I was able to get in 2 good workouts at the gym before this crap hit and had no bad effects from it.  I even went two days right in a row to see if I could prompt something but I felt fine.  Now, I will acknowledge that this could just be a great coincidence and there could be some other reason for my anxiety and pain to have left.  But I can't think of what.  I have tried everything I could think of for the past 2 1/2 months and it always came back early the next morning and often lingered well into the day.  I can't tell if it has helped the shortness of breath and heart beat because I haven't felt well enough to do more exercising but I'm thinking that will be improved too.  So I am very excited about that. 
In the past 7-8 years I have had unexplained problems with anxiety, leg pain, shortness of breath, etc. but could never figure out what was going on.  I always figured it was hormones!  Even went to the doctors for it but no results there either.  Now, some of them did test me for anemia but, like I said, I found out through reading that you can often be very low on iron and still not be anemic.  I also take into account that I have been craving steak something fierce for the past 2-3 months and I have found it is to your advantage to pay attention to any food cravings you might have.  Your body knows what you need; it just has trouble telling you sometimes.  I also read that raw oysters are a great source for iron, better even than steak, so that gives me a great excuse to indulge in some soon!!  If I can afford them that is! 

So, that's all I feel like writing tonight.  Hopefully I'll be over this junk soon and will have some kind of project or something to show.  I hope you folks up in the northern areas, where it's really cold!, are doing okay and staying warm.!  Have any of you gotten any record snowfall amounts?

What fun or comforting indoor activity do you enjoy when you're down sick?  I've been watching movies but I'm not much on that for several days in a row.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My (Our) Old School

 One of the first things I remember learning about Jack, back when he was coming around here under the pretense of learning how I built my house, was that he also had gone to the University of Montevallo, which is where I graduated from.  I have always thought it was pretty cool we both went there, albeit years apart, both traveled around so much and then ended up meeting.
I think if you ever meet anyone that did attend the U of M you will find also, that almost 100% has exceptionally strong and dear memories of the place.  It's kinda hard to describe but Montevallo is one of those magical places that stays with you the rest of your life.  It is a public, liberal arts college and is consistently rated in the Top 50 of all the U.S. universities.  It has, in my opinion, one of the very top undergraduate art programs anywhere.


As long as Jack and I have been together we have talked about going back one day to visit our old school and this year we finally did just that.  I regularly participate in the yearly alumni art auction (to raise money to repair all the crap we tore up when we were there, lol!) and they were also dedicating the long awaited, new art building on campus.  The art department has doubled in size since I was there and they were sorely needing this.  We missed the actual dedication ceremony but did get to tour the building anyway.



One of my nieces is attending Montevallo (her first year), so she met us for lunch and then walked around campus with us for a while to show us all the new stuff.  It had probably been 8 or 9 years since I had been there and more like 35 for Jack, so there was lots to see.
My sister also graduated form Montevallo, so it has quite the following in my family.  I am one of the few Alabamians you'll meet that does not root for the Tide or Tigers.  I root for the Falcons, thank you very much. And no, UM does not have a football program.  They actually like to emphasize getting a real education.


This post is going to have a LOT of photos (thanks to Jack) but I'll try not to bore you too badly.
Th photo above is part of the new clay studios.  Absolutely fantastic.


This is just a small part of the sculpture studios which includes just about any type of welding you can imagine.  In fact, Montevallo is where I first learned to weld and then continued my education and certification after being in construction.


One thing Jack and I had in common at UM was we were both damn poor back when we attended and we both worked for the school to help get by.  I worked for the art department as a shop assistant and one day the sculpture professor gave me the task of labeling the only restroom as unisex, as we tore one out to make more room for work.  Over 24 years later my sign is still there on the door.  I really couldn't believe it. lol!


 Some of the concrete work in the new building left a bit to be desired, especially this wall over on the far right, but overall it is a fantastic new space.  This is the bronze casting area and UM is one of the very few schools in the US that offers such to their undergraduates.  The yellowish-brown thing with the warning sign on it is the foundry where the bronze is melted and the pit in front is where the investments (molds) are buried for pouring.  They bury them in case they burst during the pour.  That way the molten bronze is somewhat contained by the hard tamped sand and does not flow out on the concrete floor, which would be very dangerous.


These are scenes from around the rest of campus.  The old tower that I'm really not sure what it used to be.  Parts of UM date back to the Civil War and this may be something of that era.  I guess I should find out.  Now it houses some offices and the campus chimes.


UM is also fondly remembered for it's cobblestone roads and walkways.  I was pleased to see they had repaired a lot of them because when I was there the quaintness was beginning to be overshadowed by the clunks you heard from your vehicle every time you drove over certain areas!


Me with one of my favorite professors!  He taught printmaking, which was something I really, really sucked at but Professor Stephens has always been one of my biggest fans and owns a fair collection of my work by now.
The professors here are world class, literally, and they demanded the absolute best from every student.  They are not afraid to tell you like it is too and I saw more than one student leave an evaluation or critique in tears.  A lot of people like to joke about art classes being easy; you know, the old "basket-weaving" thing.  I learned real quick that was not the case here.  But we left knowing what it would take to survive as a working artist.




If you know much about UM, you'll know that it is also one of the most haunted places in Alabama, with the King House being at the top of that list.  They used to let visiting scholars stay here but I think one too many nighttime incidences stopped that.  They now put visitors up elsewhere. 
There are many, many websites that offer information about the hauntings of UM and THIS is one I found that had a lot of good history and pretty accurate information, at least as far as what I learned when I was there. 


This is actually a bike rack designed and build by the art department.  I'm not sure that the other students know that and use it!


The new gymnasium and athletic department.  UM does have one helluva baseball team.


This is part of the campus lake.  We used to come down here some for picnics and just hanging out and it is within walking distance of campus.


 Me with one of the large sculptures on campus.  This was done by our very well known sculpture professor, Ted Metz, and some of the sculpture students.  I think it took about 3 years to complete.  I was not involved in the making but, since I was in heavy construction, me and Allen went down and set the foundation and later the hands.  The large limestone blocks we set during a very heavy thunderstorm, complete with lightning!  The crane was there with the truck and we really had no choice.  The dollars were ticking on both so we just had to grin and bear it.  It worked out fine though.


Here's Jack in front of his old dorm.  Thank God I was able to live in an apartment the whole time I attended.


This is the road leading up to Flower Hill, the home of the President.  In the spring it lives up to it's name and it really beautiful.



A better view of the hands.



More cobblestone.  The weather was fantastic that day; sunny and about 60F.  We walked everywhere. 


And, lastly, the art auction that ended the day.  All my contributions went for a decent amount (about what they normally retail for or a bit more) so I was happy.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Draggin'

Well, I haven't meant to be away from the blog so much lately but I haven't had a whole lot going on.  Or at least, not much that I thought would be of interest.  I scraped out another load of pottery for the stores and got that delivered.  And we've been piddling around the house with a few more things but not much.  Jack's mainly been harvesting more fallen firewood for next year and I've continued to work on the counter tops for the kitchen. 
Here you can see that I did get around to forming and pouring one of the bar counter tops.  I was not really going to be able to form this one in place so opted to pour it in the basement, so that I would not be constrained by the weather in any way.  After it has cured for a week or two I'll move it outside on a nice day and grind a nice finish on it.  I did hard trowel it but did not put near as much effort into slicking it off as I did the one in the kitchen, since I knew I could finish it better with the diamond pads.  I may even seal it outside and then just set it once it's completely finished.  I'll do a good post when it comes to all that so ya'll can see just how fantastic those wet-use, diamond finishing pads are.


So, I haven't been posting a lot lately because I've had a little bit of a set back on feeling better also, and have been really, really tired.  I've also been struggling every day with anxiety and that's not something I've talked much about.  I still believe that it all started with those damn steroids but I've been off those long enough that I think it's something else causing it now.  I've even had to kinda suspend my gym workouts because I was getting so tired and sore I just couldn't go.  And, oddly enough, the workouts seemed to be making the anxiety worse instead of better, as exercise is supposed to do.
I finally just sat down and started doing a lot of research and reading any information I could find on fatigue, anxiety, exercise and anything related.  I know a lot of you would be saying, just go back to the doctor but I've kinda got to the point I can't really afford to go any more unless it's really needed and I thought I might could figure this one out myself.  My insurance has stopped covering a number of blood tests and I just now paid off a bunch from last year that took me by surprise when they didn't cover them.  Not doing that again.

Anyway, it seemed to me that I was building up a lot of lactic acid in my system and muscles from the workouts (which is normal) but it was not dispersing like normal.  (Excessive lactic acid can cause anxiety even in people not prone to such).  I tried all kinds of stuff like upping my water intake etc. but it still didn't help.  Then I finally came on some information that indicated my iron might be low.  Had many, many of the symptoms; irregular heartbeat, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, leg pain and cramps etc.  I also noticed after taking a few days off from working out that I felt better but that didn't cut it.  I'm not that old and out of shape!  Some yes, but not that bad.  I should be able to do a reasonable workout for an hour.  Got so bad I was getting sore and out of breath just walking up from the chicken house!  Since you need iron to carry oxygen through your blood to all your muscles and tissues, thus relieving the lactic acid and fatigue, it seemed logical that I might be a tad short.  And I found out you can be low in iron but still not be considered anemic.  Also, people who have RA or other types of arthritis-like conditions (like me), who use nsaids for pain and who also use Tums or similar products because the nsaids tear your stomach up! (like me) are more likely to be low of iron or not able to absorb iron as readily through your food.

So!  I've been carefully trying a low dose iron supplement to see if there is any improvement.  I know if the BFD is reading this he is probably cursing me for trying to diagnose myself, and I guess you really shouldn't, but I figure what the hell and all of the above mentioned reasons.  I'm trying it anyways.  I felt a fair bit better today and had no pain in my legs after doing some moderate walking around here but we'll see.  If the anxiety goes away then I think I'll know for sure.

Jack and I have a big, fun trip planned for tomorrow and I'll tell ya'll all about it later and hopefully have lots of photos!  It's our one last warm day before Snowmageddon starts Sunday night!!


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon


My computer is giving me quite a lot of trouble with typing right now...so this post will mainly be photos.


The weather the past couple of days has been very lovely.  Highs in the upper 50s and 60s(F).  Light winds and mostly sunny.


Still enough greenery here and there for the girls to graze on.


Always curious.


The earth is becoming impatient for spring also.


Just a lazy Sunday.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Lighten Up


The weather around here has just been all over the place lately, much like my thought patterns.  I have managed to get it together enough today though, to scribble out some kind of post.  Actually, I have some updates on some things I thought some of you might be interested in.
As far as the weather though, one day it's a nice sunny day near 60F and the next, like today, the temps are falling to near freezing and were got a few snow flurries.  Can't complain though.  This winter has been rather mild so far with a number of sunny days.
The girls certainly enjoy and take advantage of the nice days.  I think I took these photos Saturday when they were all out having a good time bathing and grazing.


In one news, over a week ago I went to my appointment at the UAB Pain Clinic to see if they could offer me any other alternatives to steroids for my SI joint.  The BFD got me into see these people and I'll admit, I didn't have a lot of hope going in.  However, I was glad I went anyway and it just goes to show that you never know unless you go! or ask!  At first, it didn't look too good after talking to the first doctor (who turned out to be a resident actually).  He said he only knew about the steroid procedure but did admit he could understand why I did not want to continue that.  Second doctor came in later though and had some very interesting information.  He also understood why I was refusing the steroids and admitted they often put some patients on Valium to get them through the initial treatment.  I just can't do that.  Anyway, he recommended physical therapy for 5 weeks and then if no improvement was made they would consider doing a nerve ablation.  Basically they fry the nerves going to my SI joint and you have almost instant pain relief for 5-6 months.  Of course, there are varying degrees of success with this but that is what they consider a best case scenario.


There is no guarantee it would work that well for me but I think it's worth a try if the PT doesn't work.  I think it would at least offer me a way to go on extended road trips like Jack and I like to do.  Even if I only had it done once a year we would have 5-6 months we could go places and I can handle it here the rest of the time.  So, I've been doing the PT for about 10 days now and I can't see really any improvement but I wouldn't really expect to so soon.  I am however, very sore from the therapy! so maybe it is an indication that those tendons are so tight and bound up it could be causing some pain.  At first I didn't really understand how PT could help but when you see how much tendons and ligaments hold our bones together it makes a bit more sense.  So, hopefully something good will come from this.


I have also continued my workouts at the gym and around here and that is going really well.  So far, I have lost at least 15 pounds, maybe more!  I'm very excited about that.  I hope to lose about 15-20 more and really lighten my load!  My feet still hurt... but maybe not quite as much.  All of these things are contributing to me being able to do a few more things around here lately.  If nothing else, the consistent exercise really does seem to help my mood and that makes you more eager to work on stuff.


So, in other news the girls are laying more and more.  We are getting 3,4-6 eggs a day.  They all seem to be doing well. 

Big T continues to learn about roostering and he's doing a pretty good job.  I had to laugh though, when the other day, two of the hens got into a real knock-down-drag-out.  T ran over and jumps right in the middle to break it up, flapping and scolding them thoroughly.  To which they promptly jumped all over him!  He did however, stop the two hens from fighting each other.