Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Morning By Princess

Hi again, it's me Princess! And I want to tell you about our fun morning.

Look at mommy! I wonder if she thinks it's Halloween already. She looks like she is going out to scare someone! That's what I thought this morning, but then I heard her talking to herself, saying: "Brrrr, it's only 18 degrees out there so I better dress real warm. I'm glad I found my mittens and winter hat." Mommy likes cold weather, just like me, but because she doesn't have any FUR, she has to dress real warm. I have DOUBLE FUR! That's how I stay warm.
We all had a lot of ENERGY and walked very far this morning. I spotted a rabbit and took off after it! You probably can't see me, but I was chasing it. I never catch any, but I love to chase them. They are very FAST!
Here I am coming back from my chase.
When we got home, mommy built a fire so we could all be warm and cozy.
I love a nice fire and I soon felt drowsy from my long walk and rabbit chase, so I laid down in my special corner and went to sleep. It was a very nice morning and I wanted to tell you all about it. See you soon again.....

Posted by me, Princess!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's That White Stuff On The Ground?

Imagine my surprise when I looked out the window this morning! Looks like snow, but was probably hail from the tail-end of yesterday's storm.

It's getting colder!

Took the dogs up to the barn to see what damage the storm did to the tumble weeds.

Some of them landed here, others in the barbed wire fences all around. Most of them were still in the ground, so there's work to be done here.

My car got really messed up in the storm. Lots of sand and dirt....the worst I've ever seen it.

I had to wash it, of course, but first I wanted to spray the engine with Critter Out to protect the wires from nibbling mice. Surprise! Look what I found when I opened the hood!

I've been looking for these, brand new, gardening gloves for over two weeks now and here they were all that time. And, yes, I have been driving the car so good they didn't fall out or into the engine.....

I must say, one of the joys of old age promises to be when you find an item you lost weeks ago, looked for everywhere, in all the sensible and probable places, and then you find it in the weirdest and most unexpected location. I got a good laugh out of it....what else can you do?

After I washed the car, I weeded some more, brushed Princess' coat, cut one of Soldier's toenails (he only lets me do one at a time, try for more and he squirms, and he can squirm his way out of most situations), washed some stuff and hung on the line and that was pretty much my morning. Hope you had a good one too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn Colors

Won't you come with me and enjoy the colors of the leaves on a beautiful autumn day in our town?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Diabetes Support Group Meeting

Fish Market, Old Town, Stockholm, Sweden - 2005

What Makes Us Eat?

This was the topic of yesterday's diabetes support group meeting. The answer may be that some people eat too much because it is addictive and the food industry is aware of this and plays into it big time.

This is a quote from the hand-out we received: 'Opioids are chemicals produced in the brain that have rewarding effects similar to morphine and heroin. Stimulating the opioid circuitry drives us to eat.'

We went over how all this works: From when we first put food in our mouths to how the sensory experience of taste travels through the midbrain reaching regions where the sensory signals of food are integrated. These signals are ultimately relayed to the nucleus accombens, an area of the brain that is the center of reward.

I won't cover all of it, but here are some points I found interesting:
  • The size of this pleasure center in the nucleus accumbens is the head of a pin.
  • When animals were given opioid antagonists, they ate less.
  • Dopamine drives desire and impels us toward food.
  • A cue triggers a dopamine-fueled urge--dopamine leads us to food--eating food leads to opioid release--production of both dopamine and opioids stimulate further eating.
  • Hyper-palatable foods, like those with sugars, fat, and salt continually stimulate the dopamine response. The brain continues to want the food that excites it, no matter how much of it you eat.
I found all this interesting, but I couldn't relate to it because I just can't eat that much. I love good food, don't get me wrong, but I seem to have some built-in portion controls in my brain. Eve said I may have a surplus of dopamine and don't need a lot of food to stimulate the response. That sounded fascinating to me and I would like to find out more. Of course, it could be in my gene pool too. Or, I could simply be blessed, as one of the participants in the group said. Amen to that, I say.

Then we moved on to the food industry. I find the damage they do to all of us who have to eat deplorable.

Quoting again: 'Modern food processing techniques allow us to eat faster by eliminating the need to chew so much. Refined food melts in the mouth, so calories eaten go in much faster.'

On this, a woman in the group told us that she had broken two front teeth in an accident and this took a long time to heal. Because of her pain, she had to chew very slowly and carefully on the sides of her mouth. The result: She lost 15 lbs in a relatively short period of time, without even trying.

We also found out that the food industry is looking increasingly to chemical flavoring to drive up consumer desire.

Then we discussed how to beat overeating, how to deal with urges, and food rehab. I don't have room for all the suggestions here and I think everyone who is working on their overeating problems know them pretty well. If I had to, I think I would focus on these solutions:
  • Limit exposure:  Don't dwell on the menu with the pretty pictures. Don't buy calorie rich food, and so on.
  • Remember the stakes:  Our health is very important.
  • Exercise:  Exercise generates the same kind of chemical rewards in the brain that food does.
  • For food rehab:  I would eat food that satisfies: Lean protein, whole grains, beans, fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Well, I would probably eat some starchy ones too. And some chocolates for rewards.
To conclude, I just had to stick in some pictures of this very healthy bread.

In the old days in Sweden, they baked this bread and hung it on poles below the farm house ceiling, hence the hole in the middle. This is the prototype for the Wasa Rye Crisps and all the other crisp breads we eat today.

This is how it looks packaged. This bread has few calories and contains little more than rye flour and water. And it tastes absolutely wonderful. It is one kind of bread the Swedes of old found satisfying -- dopamine or not -- and I'm sure they still do over there.

Yesterday's meeting was primarily geared to people with Type 2 diabetes and weight issues, but I enjoyed is because, as always, I learned something new. And I enjoy breaking away from my hermit ways and do a bit of socializing every now and then.

I remain in awe of Eve and the fact that, thanks to her, our small town has something this informative and helpful to offer its citizens with diabetes.

Thank you Eve.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canyon Living and Some Good Books

Yesterday was a bright and cheerful day in the canyon and after walking the dogs, I started weeding on the north side of the house. There used to be grass here, but it dried out before we moved in. With the draught we are experiencing in California, I'm more interested in preserving water than in growing grass, but the area still needs to be cleaned up and weeded. I set out to cut down two dead bushes, remove all those clumps of weeds, very tough weeds, and also rake so it would look nicer.

I knew it would take time, so I did what I could before the sun made working uncomfortable for me. This is what I accomplished.

Coming back to the house, I encountered this little fence lizard. Since Soldier has killed several lately, I tried to encourage it to go on the other side of the fence, without success. I also wonder, with winter around the corner, why are there so many tiny ones around?

This morning presented an entirely different view of the sky. And it was much colder.....a perfect day for yard work, but I was tired and decided to stay inside and do paperwork instead.

But first I wanted to pick up some more wood so I took the wheelbarrow up to the woodpile and loaded it up again. As always, Princess came with me; here she sits and waits, while contemplating a tiny rabbitbrush.

The wood is in the house, sort of messy looking, but it's OK for country life.

I also baked two salmon steaks this morning. I use a lot of butter (maybe too much), sprinkle garlic salt and Far East Sesame and Ginger Blend on top and finish it off with sprigs of rosemary from our garden. I'm a morning person, so I usually cook in the mornings and heat it up for dinner. It works as long as I'm here alone.

After that, I remembered that a friend asked if I had read any good books lately. Ask me about books and you will not get a short answer, I just can't do it. Books I recently read are pictured below:

Of these, I recommend The Daily Coyote. Loved it, the photos alone are amazing and the story will touch you. Admission is about the admission process at Princeton University, a place I'm familiar with from long ago, when I lived in town for 10 years and was associated with the University for part of that time. I found some parts of the book interesting. Right now, I'm reading a library book: The Lighthouse by P. D. James. It must be 15 years since I last read one of her books. As I'm reading this book, I'm struck by all the words she uses that I don't understand! That hardly ever happens to me, so by now, half-way through, I'm writing them down and will look them all up later. I'm in awe of her beautiful sentences; the words she uses to string a sentence together are a joy.

Finally, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire are the two latest Swedish mystery novels that have stirred up some interest in the US. I thought they were astoundingly good and imaginative, but maybe not for everyone. While the books are pretty brutal in parts, I feel the author's ability to imagine such creative story lines and plot twists, not to mention the amazing Girl, herself, by far makes up for anything over the top. The fact that some of the action takes place on my beloved South Side of Stockholm doesn't hurt either. While they may not be for everyone, I loved them. The author, Stieg Larsson, wrote three books, turned them into his publisher, and soon thereafter died of a heart attack. As strange a twist of real life as any taking place in his novels. I can't wait for the third and last book to be published in the US.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Two Special People -- One Special Place

Congratulations Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary!

The sanctuary is the recipient of the ASPCA's Henry Bergh Award, one of 10 Humane Awards for 2009, this one named after the founder of the ASPCA. I was so happy to find out about this because Rolling Dog Ranch has always seemed to be the kindest of sanctuaries. It's awesome that they are now getting the recognition and support they so well deserve.

No, Samson isn't back! But he is just so darned cute......I couldn't help myself but had to add him to this story. He could perhaps represent one end of the spectrum of a dog's life. A happy and healthy puppy, who will be loved and well cared for in life. Many animals are not so fortunate, many are blind, deaf, have diabetes or are afflicted with many other types of disabilities. We all know what happens to most of them: abandoned, left to fend for themselves or euthanized.

A while back, I read a story of a little dog, named Blind Teddy. He truly touched my heart and I didn't forget him. He was not only blind, but suffered from severe diabetes that had never been treated, he had been starved, and was just let go to fend for himself. He was such a tiny dog, just a little dog! How human beings can be so cruel is beyond me. But this little dog was one of the lucky ones; he found a home at the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Montana. He lived a happy life at the sanctuary, where he liked to curl up in the owner's lap in the evenings. Unfortunately, as I just found out, little Blind Teddy passed away from complications of his diabetes soon after his story was published. His stay at the ranch was short, but I'm convinced he knew that he had found a wonderful home, caring persons, and LOVE at long last.

A friend of mine at UCLA told me about Rolling Dog Ranch several years ago. Co-founders Alayne and Steve left city life behind to start a sanctuary that would provide for disabled animals. I read that there are about 70 animals, nearly 2/3rds of them blind, living at the ranch right now: dogs, cats, and horses; maybe others as well. I know it can be difficult to take care of our healthy puppy and our three other more or less healhty dogs, so I know how hard Steve and Alayne must work every day. And times are tough now everywhere. So I just wanted to acknowledge them in my blog. Letting everyone know how much I admire them and how wonderful it is to know that there is a place for special needs animals where they can get the love and care they so badly need.

I added their blog to the list of My Favorite Blogs (see sidebar to the right). If you are interested, you can check them out from there.

But it is not over yet! Another wonderful thing is happening to these deserving people and their animals: The Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary is Number ONE in the country right now in the Vote for Your Favorite Sanctuary contest. You know the one where you click to vote every day. Or as often as you remember. If they win, they will receive a $20,000 donation. Imagine how much that would help their little blind beagles, their other dogs, cats, and the many blind horses that reside at the ranch.

If you want to help with a simple click, you can open their blog and click from there. Or you can click on the purple Animal Rescue Site button in the sidebar to the right. If you click there, you must first click on the lavender Click Free to Give button (boy, I feel like I'm back at UCLA writing software manuals, sorry about that!!). In the new window that opens after that, you'll find the Vote Today button at top center. Just follow their directions and Vote. Note: Select MT for Montana in the list of states.

Again, I'm so happy that these animal caregivers are being recognized for what they do and for how much they care. They truly deserve all the good things that are happening to them.

Samson Says: I agree with this 100 percent!! (What's a percent, mommy?)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Diabetes and Me

I woke up this morning feeling fine, but then I checked my blood glucose and the result was 278! Normal fasting bg should be around 80. Once I saw the result, I didn't feel so well any more. But I got up, fixed breakfast, let the insulin pump figure out the correct amount of insulin, based on the carbs I planned to eat and a correction for the high sugars. It was around five in the morning and still dark outside. Daylight brought a wonderful surprise....fog!

I went outside and took a picture of the first tree to lose its leaves this fall.

Since it was so lovely outside, I decided to forget about not feeling well and take my dogs for their walks.

I love the fall color of this plant.

As we walked back home, I couldn't ignore the fact that I felt really bad and when I reached the house, I checked my sugars. Now, less than two hours later, they were 72! What a drop! I felt nauseous and decided this may not be the morning to go to town as planned. Just stay home and rest for a while. But first I had to eat something. One of the lesser joys of having diabetes: You must sometimes eat when that's the last thing in the world you want to do. But I did and then I made a cup of chamomile tea to help me calm down and stop feeling frustrated about not being able to move on with my day.

Here is a rabbitbrush we saw on our walk.

Then I came in here and opened the computer. And got a message that told me there was something seriously wrong. Then Windows gave me a Corrupted Error Report. Not a very good morning so far. But I'm mushing on and the computer is so far cooperating.

By now I think it may be time for me to post my diabetes list. I follow a diabetes blog by a young woman named Kerri who has a good sense of humor and is a cat lover. She also has Type 1. Kerri recently listed 30 things about her diabetes and her feelings about it. She encouraged her followers to do the same.

I did my own list, but never posted it. While Kerri has a diabetes blog and many interested followers, I don't. But this morning, I changed my mind and will post my list here, actually my two lists.

Some Benefits of Diabetes
  1. I stopped smoking 16 years ago.
  2. My diet has greatly improved and so has my general health.
  3. I walk and/or hike with my dogs almost every day. I doubt I would push myself as hard to exercise if I didn't have diabetes.
  4. I'm no longer a hypochondriac. I used to worry about every little ache and pain, cancer, this and that. Diabetes keeps me so busy I have no time to worry about any other illnesses that my be lurking out there.
  5. I like my doctors and my support group meetings. Technological advances interest me. I don't mind most of the little day-to-day things, like checking my sugars and counting carbs, involved in managing this illness.
Having My Say
  1. What I don't like about diabetes:  Type 1 diabetes is relentless and does not give you a break. Not ever. You can never let up your vigilance and being spontaneous is practically impossible.
  2. What I wish people would understand:  Type 1 diabetes is very different from Type 2. When people talk about diabetes, they usually refer to Type 2. That's what about 90% of diabetics have, so it's understandable, but it is not what I have.
  3. What's weird:  As your sugars get more normal, there is always the risk of them going too low. Passing out from low blood sugars could have dire consequences, especially for someone who lives alone.
  4. What I'm afraid of:  Having low blood sugars in the night, while alone.
  5. Something else I don't like about diabetes:  Low blood sugars are an invisible and dangerous consequence of this illness. So are high blood sugars. While all that goes on inside of you, there you are, looking just fine. So normal expectations are being placed on you. While you can't be normal just then.
  6. What bothers me:  When well-meaning people tell me that I won't get complications because I take such good care of myself. This seems to imply that those who get complications or die from this illness didn't take care of themselves. I really want people to know that only in recent years, thanks to better tools and better insulin, has it become easier to gain control. But it is still difficult. And the internal, invisible, damage is cumulative.
  7. What diabetes has taught me:  I can make it through the night.
  8. What is most difficult:  To not take my low blood sugar drama/trauma out on my dogs or my husband.
  9. What else have I learned:  I can't expect anyone to understand what this is like. 
  10. What I can't live without:  My glucose meter and test strips.
  11. What I would do if I didn't have diabetes for one day:  Walk barefoot in dewy green grass (if I could find some).
If you made it through all the way to here, thank you so much for listening. I feel better now and may just go on that trip to town.

Our field. I love having a field of my very own. A city girl's dream, I guess.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Stormy Day In The Canyon

Yesterday, as storm clouds gathered around the mountains and my husband and Samson went back to the city, I took the trash to the dump and the recycle stuff to the recycle center.

When I got home, I went to get some firewood. This is left-over wood from last spring. It won't last long, but we have a lot more in the city that we need to bring up here.

I really like my new old one was a rusty mess, left behind by previous owners.

Organizing the wood with Soldier looking on...that's his feet...sorry, paws.

Today brought some fog, mist, a little rain, and a fierce wind storm.

 Soldier seemed to say: "What, no walk today?"

But once I got the fire going, he was feeling cozy and

sat down to watch the rain while Angel slept.

Pippi Birdie was a bit concerned about all that fire so close to his house, but he too soon was enjoying the warmth and relaxed on his perch.

 We all enjoyed resting today after all the weekend activities. We also agreed that after you reach a certain age, while puppy love is wonderful, puppies can make you real tired.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Fun Weekend

My husband and Samson, our three-month old Samoyed puppy, finally came home to the ranch on Friday morning. We spent a very full and fun weekend together and with family: Hiking with the dogs every morning, a birthday party in town, a wonderful Sunday brunch at our niece's house, and shopping at K-Mart and the Home Depot. It wouldn't be a weekend together without some good food, prepared by my husband, and this time it looked like this:

On our way to town on Saturday evening, a large bobcat crossed the road in front of our car. My director at UCLA once taught me the key to taking a good photo: Have your camera with you! Of course, I didn't this time. This was the largest bobcat we have seen so far and his markings were very dark, compared to the ones that come around our house.

But this weekend belonged to Samson! He is a very lively little fellow and a budding alpha male for sure. He is totally unafraid, messing with large dogs, biting their tails, paws and ears; learning to jump on furniture; exploring everything; and loving the doggie pool.

Meeting Angel.

Snuggling with Soldier.

Looking for the ball with Princess.

Hanging with the big guys!

Investigating with the pack.

Let's rest before we have to climb down this hill.

This is a lot of fun!

Oophs! I guess I got a little muddy!

Time for a nap.


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