My Big Step


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I want to keep this post short and sweet, so we’ll see how this goes.  Obviously, because I am a chronic pain patient, I have a large stake in what happens on a state and federal level with the so-called opioid crisis.  I am also quite opinionated about it, and have some very harsh words for those who are forgetting us in the national conversation.  Fortunately, there are other options for those of us brave (I’m not sure that’s the right word, but I’ll go with it for now) enough to step outside of our normal treatment boxes.  This is the point of this post today.

In light of some legislation that may be coming down the pike in Florida dealing with prescription pain medication, I’ve made some difficult choices.  Many folks have been suggesting to me that I try CBD oil to help control my moderate to severe Fibromyalgia pain.  I’ve been doing much research on the topic since my last visit to my pain specialist, who suggested that I might be severely affected by this new legislation (10 days supply of pain meds per 30 days, and that’s with a medical exception).  He’s all for it.

In the past, I’ve been vehemently opposed to medical marijuana legislation, and have voted against it.  And in 2014 during the midterm elections in Florida, the bill failed narrowly.  A prominent lawyer in mid-state got involved in re-writing the proposal for the 2016 election and medical pot passed and became law in Florida beginning in 2017.  The Florida state legislature has been working to make the law workable, but I use the term “workable” loosely.  They have made it wildly expensive.  There are approximately only 300 certified physicians who can prescribe statewide.  The first and follow up visits will cost anywhere from $99 to $199 each, and the annual renewal visit can cost as much as the first two, and even having a card (which will set you back $75) doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find a dispensary in your county.  As of June, 2017, eighty eight Florida cities have banned dispensaries with more voting on bans every month.  And the really awesome news is that not one insurance company that writes policies in Florida will pay for a penny of the process.

I’ve been doing my own bit of research on CBD oil since my last appointment with my pain specialist, as I stated above.  Then yesterday I hurt my back just by sitting down in my La-Z-boy chair, and not even my prescription pain medication took the edge off of it.  So, it didn’t take me long to make the decision to go ahead and try the oil.  We purchased, in full agreement, a small bottle of oil that should last 30 days if I remain the only user of it.  Because hubby suffers from primary progressive MS, he is interested to see if the oil will help him control his own chronic pain.  If this works, we may be able to stop all of the pain medication we are currently taking, and stop the nonsense we both have to endure with current opioid laws.  We are hanging a lot of hope on this little bottle of oil.

One more thought before I sign off on this article.  Insurance companies, well mine and other similar plans, greatly increased the co-pay on the medications that help me and others like me to have quality of life.  Lawmakers are hell bent on outlawing prescription pain medications for everyone, including chronic pain and cancer patients.  And with the stringent and cost-prohibitive restrictions on medical marijuana, it really seems that pain patients have been singled out for punishment for a crime we never committed.  I believe lawmakers in D.C. need to take pain patients into account in the national discussion, insurance companies need to buck up and decrease cost-sharing for these medications, and states that have medical MJ laws need to find a way to make the process affordable for those who have a legitimate need for it and want to try it.  It shouldn’t be allowed for these entities to force pain patients to suffer. It’s immoral and inhumane.

I’ll update after we’ve tried the oil, and give an assessment of how we feel it’s working.  Until then, stay pain free! (Oh, I’m working on a new recipe to post, so stay tuned!)


Ten Reasons Why Cats Are Better Than Children – A Case of Sour Grapes

This is a Top Ten list I wrote a few years ago and published on my Cat Blog. Enjoy!

Life With Cats

Okay, so I am an unashamed cat mama. That said, Hubby and I didn’t happen to become parents of real, hairless, human children. So the fur children are it for us. I’ve accepted this reality and I embrace it. For this reason, and because sour grapes, I present to you my “List of reasons cats are better than kids.”

  1. Cats can’t talk, so therefore they cannot give you attitude.   Our feline friends may be among the most amicable creatures on the planet. At most, they just laze around all day, sleeping. If they actually do develop an attitude, they are unable to sass you. They just snub you and walk away. And with their cute, whiskered faces, you just can’t stay mad at them for long.
  2. You never have to bring cats to the grocery store.  This is a HUGE bonus for me!  I never have to hear…

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What I Miss About The North

Happy New Year everyone!  We made it through the holidays relatively unscathed and are looking 2018 in the face.  In sunny central Florida, January brings temporary cold snaps, increased traffic from seasonal residents, also called “Snow birds” and flaring tempers from the locals.  We have a running joke down here in the fall.. You know it’s Autumn in Florida when the license plates start changing colors.  While I despise the heavier traffic, I am thankful for the increased tourism dollars.  I know small business owners in the area love this time of year, too.

While I do enjoy the mild winters that the tropical Florida offers, I find myself missing the change of seasons that comes every three months in other parts of the country.  I was making my coffee yesterday morning and thinking about all the things I’ve been missing in the almost 14 years we’ve been in Florida.  I’d like to share my thoughts on this with you.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the white, fluffy stuff that plagues the northern US in the winter, unless of course I can stay home until the roads are clear and dry (like April?) I grew up in southern New England, so I have seen more than my share of slush, ice and dirty, old snow piled up on the side of the roads.  But I find myself missing seeing the very first crocus peeping it’s purple head out from beneath a snowy garden, awakening from the winter slumber like a bear out of hibernation.  That first sign of Spring… the crocus.  Then as the snow melts away and gives way to green grass beneath it, the daffodils and tulips are soon to follow.  And that sure, tell-tale sign that spring is just around the corner?  A robin red breast, poking around in the garden looking for unsuspecting worms.  We’d have contests to see who could find the first one.  My mom almost always won, and the robin was her favorite sign of the impending seasonal change.

Springtime, a season of rebirth, regrowth and new life.  Trees form buds and leaves sprout forth, covering the branches in tender new life.  The dogwood tree on our front lawn blossomed every year with gorgeous pink and white flowers.  My dad took meticulous care of it, pruning the branches with the ease and skill of a professional.  And after we were married, my husband would buy me a rose bush, instead of a bouquet, for Valentine’s Day.  We’d go plant it in the garden and watch it produce the most delicate, fabulously red, velvety roses, year after year.  But my favorite flowers are lilies, star-gazers to be exact.  I had never planted flowers from bulbs before I moved to Oregon, but I found myself with the prettiest, biggest blooms on those bushes even in the first year.  And they kept just getting bigger and fuller.

I miss the smell of lilacs in the air, and seeing pussy willows growing in our backyard.  We had a raspberry bush by our 15 foot pool in the back yard for years that produced the sweetest raspberries I’d ever eaten.  Every Memorial Day, my dad would open our pool; no matter how cold it was, we’d swim in it until we were water-logged and tired.  Memorial Day was also the day he broke out the grill and used it for the first time since the winter settled in the year before. There is nothing like a hot dog (especially if it’s a Hummel’s hot dog) or burger cooked on a grill, with home-made baked beans and Mom’s potato salad.

June brings the first day of Summer, and the warmer weather that northerners claim to live for.  Trips to the beach, sand castles, dipping toes into the still chilly Long Island Sound, and eventually swimming to escape the summer temperatures.  In Oregon, we’d head to the river and swim in mountain snow run-off, which was a welcome respite from the dry heat of summer.  That water was easily 50 degrees, and about half an hour into the swim, you’d realize you were numb from the cold.  Oddly, I don’t remember my teeth chattering though.  Independence Day celebrations always included a trip to the beach for fireworks.  The adults would bring a cooler of Sangria, while they made sure we had kid-friendly drinks in the other cooler.  We had a favorite spot we’d sit every year, and it provided a perfect view of the fireworks.  They weren’t computerized, or synchronized to music.  They were just one shell at time, some with huge explosions that you could feel in the pit of your stomach.  The grand finale was always spectacular.

My mom had a clothes line in our backyard, and in the summer, she never used the clothes dryer.  In fact, for years we never had a working dryer.  Every morning, she would schlep into the basement and drag up at least two loads of wet laundry to hang on that clothes line.  When I was a kid, I’d go and sniff the sheets and towels as they dried, breathing in the clean, refreshing smell of summer.   No fabric softener or detergent can replicate that smell, the scent of fresh linen on a clothes line.  After we moved to Florida, Mom discovered that clothes don’t dry in the tropical humidity.  Apartment living for the past 28 years has all but erased the memory of that smell.  I miss it.

As summer fades into the cooler temperatures of fall, the leaves start to change and the trees shed their foliage for the season.  Vibrant yellows, oranges and reds litter the landscape, bringing sightseers out to take in the scenery.  The air just smells different when leaves are changing, falling and settling on lawns.  Back in the day, ambitious teenagers were seen raking and bagging leaves, often for just $5 a house.  It was the very beginning of the work season for them, as they anticipated snow shoveling in the next month or two. Every September, we would go apple picking and bring home bushels of Macintosh apples and gallons of cider.  Mom made the best apple pies I’d ever had; even now, I’ve never found another one as good as hers.  And when the numbers on the thermometer got into the lower 40s, on any given day you could smell a wood fire in a nearby fireplace.   I miss walking and hearing the shuffle of leaves as you walk through them, taking in the smell of pine cones and even having to bundle up in a sweater.  After being outside, we’d come in with naturally rosy cheeks and red noses.  Hot cocoa tastes so much better when you’ve been outside in the chill.

I know I already said I am not a huge fan of snow, but there is something about the first snow of the year. I’m not talking about flurries that don’t stick around, I’m talking those big clumps of flakes that seem to plummet to the ground at terminal velocity.  The heavy, wet snow that makes awesome snowballs and snowmen, and sticks together for sculptures (one year, my brothers made a 3/4 size race car in the snow in our back yard.  It was awesome!)  Watching the snow falling, curled up inside by a fireplace with a book or a beloved pet… this is my bliss.  The first snow is always the best, as long as it doesn’t snow when I have to be somewhere.  Around January, and 30 inches of snow later, I’m tired of it and I’m waiting for March to see the crocuses again.

For now, we’re planted here in Florida, and we will be for a season.  But when that season comes to a close and we can make it back north, we won’t have to miss all the things we’ve been without for so long.  Don’t get me wrong, Florida is truly a tropical paradise, but it’s not for everyone.  I never realized how much I miss the change living north of the tropics brings, and I can’t wait to have that back.  Someday.

**Author’s note: Links included in this article are NOT affiliate links.  I do not receive compensation from the company listed in this article. 

The Opioid Crisis, A Pain Patient’s Perspective

I am a night owl, preferring the evening hours as my most productive, although my neighbors may not like it very well if I decide to whip out the Dyson for a midnight cleaning session. I’ve always been night-oriented, although as I get older I don’t venture out after dark much anymore. But last night was not really unlike any other night except for not feeling well when I finally decided to go to bed.

I got up from my computer, grabbed the cat’s bowls and headed to the kitchen to feed them. As a fibromyalgia sufferer, I am a little more prone to odd things… earlier in the day I was having a costochondritis flare up. Costo, which causes pain along the breastbone, is very easy to mistake for more sinister illnesses, such as a heart attack. The inflammation is easy for me to differentiate… if I can make the pain worse by pressing on the painful area, it is costochondritis. Oversimplified, perhaps, but it works for me.

When I got to our kitchen pass-through, I dropped off the cat bowls and brought my phone and other stuff back to the bedroom. Hubby was not quite asleep, despite him having gone to bed hours prior. I walked back to the kitchen to begin feeding the ‘kids’ their bedtime meal when I felt the chest pain start. But this time, it was accompanied by shortness of breath. Still, I wasn’t sure I needed to head out to the ER, but as the time progressed over the next few minutes my mind quickly changed.

I finished feeding the cats while hubby dragged his poor, tired self out of bed (bless his heart!!) and got dressed. I then consulted my online nemesis, WebMD, and finished thoroughly freaking myself out. Considering my family history, I tend not to mess around with chest pain, even if I suspect it’s nothing serious. Better to find out it’s nothing than to do nothing and find out too late I should have gone.

Upon arriving at the emergency room, there were few people waiting around, and since cases like mine usually take priority, I didn’t figure we’d be mingling in the “gen pop” very long. We approached the desk to check in, and I kid you not, the person behind the counter looked at both of us, hubby probably looking more like the sick one, asked us which one of us was sick, grabbed her things and said goodnight to the rent a cop sitting behind her. I looked at hubby… Really? I mouthed to him. He nudged me and told me to be patient. Ironically, I was the patient. Not what he meant, but okay.

A half hour later, we were in a room in the back. My first EKG was looking normal, a preliminary good sign. The nurse set up a Roto-Rooter in my left arm, choosing a vein that is deceptively awful for doing IVs. After getting samples from that port, she quickly decided, after my painful protesting, that she’d try a new spot for the IV. Next was a chest X-ray followed by a healthy dose of waiting.

About 90 minutes into this ordeal, there was a near panic among the medical staff about a patient outside. My first thought was, Oh great… this is going to delay us getting out of here any time soon. However, it quickly became clear they were dealing with a drug overdose, as the nurses rushed the man, gasping for air on the gurney, toward the trauma unit, and another nurse yelling for Narcan. Suddenly my piddly problems seemed so minute as this unknown person struggled for life a few rooms away. Thank God, the Narcan worked like it was supposed to, and saved another life from ending too soon to an epidemic that touches every family somewhere in this country.

Long story short (and since I finally reached my true topic at hand), after blood tests, a CT angiography, nitroglycerin pills, a morphine shot that I thought was actually going to kill me, half a bag of IV fluid and a GI cocktail, I was released after nearly 10 hours of being poked, prodded and fussed about. They ruled out every sinister cause of my pain, leaving me to believe it is reflux pain with a little costochondritis thrown in for good measure. I did come away from the night’s activities with a few thoughts on which I’d like to opine.

As a chronic pain patient, I keep very close eyes on what is happening around the country with the opioid problem. First are the vapid promises from politicians who are all too eager to pass sweeping legislation that will do next to nothing to solve the problems and ends up affecting (either intentionally or unintentionally) those the legislation is intended to protect. Next, and inevitably, the demonization that chases every man and woman that legitimately needs this type of medication to have any quality of life. We pain patients tend to be overlooked, fall through the cracks and painted with the same broad brush as the abusers who make our lives a living hell. For every one of me, there seems to be at least 5 people hopelessly addicted to either prescription pain medication or worse. I guess, with how this crisis is reported, it’s easy to feel forgotten, overlooked and just plain screwed (pardon the expression).

That something needs to be done is painfully obvious. But the tricky answer to this problem is…. What, exactly? The POTUS’ newest declaration of war on opioid is troubling. We can’t just marginalize chronic pain sufferers, but it is totally unacceptable that we lose another life to this national embarrassment. And speaking for the millions of fellow pain sufferers, a general ban on the “worst” drug (whatever that happens to be at any given moment) is not the answer. Street drugs like heroin are already illegal, so it seems pretty clear that the illegality of these drugs isnt making an impact. I wish I had the fix for this broken system, but I don’t.

Because people become addicted to legal pain prescriptions, I am already subjected to random urine drug screen tests several times a year, administered by a pain specialist that fortunately cares enough to pursue adequate pain treatment options. I also understand and appreciate the risk he takes to prescribe these medications to me. He always makes sure I understand the risk involved, and because I have a healthy respect (maybe even fear) for these medications, I take them exactly as prescribed. Not one pill more, but not one less than is needed to control my pain enough for me to live my life. It is a delicate balance, and looking back, a road I wish I had never taken.

I also know that, taken exactly as prescribed, the likelihood of addiction is low for chronic pain patients. That isn’t to say it doesn’t or hasn’t happened, but we are, as a demographic, less likely to abuse our pain medications. That should count for something when it comes to consideration in legislation. All we ask is to not be minimalized and forgotten in the national debate. We need someone to sit at that table on our behalf. Who will step up and speak for us?

The author is a fibromyalgia and chronic pain patient since 1999. Having exhausted all other treatment options, opioids are the treatment of last resort for many chronic pain sufferers. These patients become physically dependent on, not addicted to, these medications. There is a vast difference between dependency and addiction. It would do society and our lawmakers well to learn the difference, so that these patients can be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

It’s Time To Get Real!

I’ve been immersing myself in documentaries since I began this juicing journey. The first one, maybe not so obviously, was “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll sum it up quickly. This flick documents the juicing journey of one Joe Cross, an Aussie who came to America to embark on a 60 day fast, which he called a “reboot.” He suffered from a chronic, autoimmune disorder called Urticaria, which from what I understand is chronic hives with itching and pain. Sounds awful. Over the course of his 60 day reboot and over 3500 miles of driving across the USA he lost over 70 pounds and got himself off all medications that he took to manage his urticaria. Amazing, isn’t it?

It was this call to action that drew me in. Come regain your health!  Come lose extra weight!  I have vested interest in both. I am quite overweight, and together with the Fibromyalgia I admit I was sucked in. This isn’t a bad thing. We bought a juicer after Christmas and we started this journey on February 1st. We’ve both been moderately successful so far, but the fasting is only the beginning of a lifestyle change.

Back to my original point. It’s time to get real. I have been watching, on the advice of others who have been similarly impassioned by other food-related documentaries, these movies about “Big Food,” and government conspiracies to keep the populace sick and fat. While I have a deep distrust of government, laying the blame for an overweight and obese society solely on the shoulders of government is a bit disingenuous.

At some point, the individual has to take responsibility for what goes into his or her mouth.

At no point in my life did a government official point a loaded pistol to my head and make me eat unhealthy food. It may be true that lobbyists are very powerful in government… probably more powerful than they should be. But I am more than capable of reading a “Nutrition Facts” label, and scanning the ingredients for nefarious items on said list.

One documentary in particular goes as far as to say, “It’s not your fault that you’re obese.” Really? …..Really??  Food companies make it difficult sometimes to ascertain what is actually in their products, but to lay the blame on a whole industry?  Where is personal accountability in this whole equation?

I’ve been told my whole life I’m lazy. Maybe to some extent that may be true. I’m not exactly what I’d call motivated, and sometimes I’d rather just sit and surf the Internet for an hour than do housework. But no one has really come out and told me that my weight has been the result of my own poor food choices. Not even my doctor (though, oddly enough my eye doctor suggested that I look into weight loss surgery. I wanted to ask his qualifications for making that assessment, but I held back) has come close to saying, “You’re fat. Stop eating fattening foods!” Everyone pussyfoots around this problem.

It’s time to get real.

If your doctor won’t say it, and society at large will not say it, then I will. You are fat because you make poor food choices!  I know this is a very non-PC thing to say, but someone has to be the beacon of truth.  The good news, and there is good news, is that if it’s your fault you are obese, then you have the power to change it!  In fact, you are the only one who can change this. That isn’t to say this is an easy thing to accomplish.  In fact, the diet food industry makes sure that your weight loss journey isn’t easy.  If they made it terribly easy, then they’d lose all those billions of dollars every year.  But this is where personal accountability really kicks in.  Because it is your responsibility to make sure you understand food labels and how to read them!

You can bet that if a food product says, “low fat,” that is code for “we added a crap ton of sugar to make up for the lower fat content.”  As a rule, full fat products contain less added sugar and chemicals than their lower fat counterparts.  This is especially true when it comes to dairy products, like sour cream and yogurt.  A quick glance at the ingredients label will show this to be true.  And besides, your body needs dietary fats.  And not all fats are made the same.  Avocado and olives are both considered to be fatty fruits.  However, olive oil is one of the healthiest oils available, and avocados have monounsaturated fats, which are heart healthy compared to saturated fats from red meats and other animal products.  In addition, cholesterol comes solely from animal proteins.  If you consume a vegetarian/ vegan diet, you will not be consuming dietary cholesterol!

A healthy diet should steer clear away from foods that are heavily processed.  Look for foods as close to their natural state as possible, with nothing added or taken away. Have you ever seen Hot Pockets growing on trees?  When was the last time you saw a hot dog walking around a pasture?  You haven’t.  Foods like that are so laden with chemicals that if you truly read what was in it and understood the ramifications of putting stuff like that into your body, you’d never eat it again.  Choose grass fed, free range beef and vegetarian-fed, cage free poultry and eggs, and wild caught fish (or better yet, stay away from animal proteins altogether.)

I make no apologies for the statements I’ve made in this article, because they are truth, as disturbing as it may be for some to hear.  This has been a realization for me in the past three months, too, since watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” for the first time.  Because I have been told repeatedly that my weight and health isn’t my fault, and there isn’t much I can do to change my weight because I can’t exercise how I need to for a drastic weight change (by the way, the “calories in/calories burned” equation is another lie.  It is nearly impossible for an average, busy person to burn off more calories than they take in per day!  Think about it.) This is my fault.  But this is good, because it means I have the power to change.

I hope you think about what I’ve written here today, and take it to heart.  I know since giving up the standard American diet of junk and processed foods and changing to whole, clean foods I feel better.  My head is clearer, I sleep better, I have much more energy and less pain.  All I did was juice for 23 days, and continue a vegetarian diet afterwards.  You can do it, too.  I have faith in you!  But you need to take the first steps towards change, and commit to it.  For your loved ones. For your health!  For you.

It’s time to get real.

I Need To Rant A Bit…

Since my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia I have become increasingly sensitive to a variety of different things. I really won’t go so far as to say I have allergies because that would imply some sort of drastic reaction to the substance. For example, I can no longer eat iceberg lettuce because it does not like me. I will spare you the details of how it does not “like” me, so you’ll have to take my word for it. I would call that a sensitivity rather than a true allergy. And in the same manner, I have this increased sensitivity to many foods and external products.

A few years ago after watching a documentary called, “Sweet Poison,” I gave up the artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame potassium (or acesulfame K) and sucralose. Soon after those chemicals were purged from my body, I noticed a significant decrease in my pain level. It was enough to make the sacrifice worth it, and though I had no intention of resuming any consumption of these sweeteners, I vowed anew to keep them out of my diet permanently. Now, if I happen to have a product with any of these sweeteners in it, I can tell immediately. The artificial taste gives this stuff away, and I usually just spit it out and go about my day.

Recently, I have noticed these products, specifically sucralose, being hidden into more and more everyday products, even those that are not listed as being low sugar or low calorie. My first experience with this was Swiss Miss hot cocoa. After we bought our first Keurig coffee machine, we had a few samples of coffees and other hot drinks that came with it. One of these was a K Cup of Swiss Miss hot cocoa. I thought the idea was wonderful, as there was just enough hot water in one small cup to make a perfect, steamy cup of cocoa.  But the first (and last) sip revealed that telltale taste of sucralose. I was puzzled because the cocoa was not marketed as low sugar or sugar free. This was their regular cocoa. The very next time I shopped, I checked the ingredient label on every variety of their regular cocoa, and sure enough every one of them, except for their natural variety, has sucralose in the list. Luckily, I found a brand that does not use any artificial sweeteners in their mix, and I buy it exclusively now.

Because of this revelation I have to check every single item I purchase before I buy it. Sucralose does not have a warning on the label like its predecessor, aspartame, has under the ingredients. It is not as simple to tell without reading the entire label if the item contains sucralose. And it appears in things you would never suspect. Mouthwash, toothpaste, regular chewing gum, some presweetened drinks (like PepsiCo’s Lipton Brisk bottled teas,) canned fruit, even if it is not labeled sugar free or low sugar, juice drinks, cereals, flavored oatmeal, the list is endless. It is very difficult for me to find mint candies or chewing gum that is safe. It is frustrating and unnecessary that these, “crap sugars,” as I call them, are in a huge percentage of commercially prepared and sold products.

The latest discovery was really maddening, however. One of my favorite soda pop flavors is Mountain Dew’s Game Fuel*, cherry citrus flavor. It has a limited production and availability, usually coinciding with the release of a highly anticipated video game. And I found a bottle in my grocery’s cooler while shopping yesterday and I picked up a bottle, excited about finding it again. My first sip was an immediate mixture of pleasure and disgust, because I tasted the sucralose in the first mouthful. Why, oh why do these companies feel the need to put this stuff in every freaking product they make??? Either they don’t realize that people in the general population are trying to cut this artificial crud out of our bodies for a whole host of reasons, or they are yielding to the public outcry against high fructose corn syrup. If they want to use that stuff in their products, fine and dandy, but they should be required to disclose the use of sucralose and acesulfame K on the front of their packaging. I am so tired of being unpleasantly surprised, especially when it appears in a product I would have never guessed.

I am surprised that so many things have these artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes in a society where people are steering away from processed food and more toward organic, whole food items.  These chemicals are not safe, but somehow the demonization of artificial sweeteners was localized to aspartame. Somehow, sucralose and acesulfame K were spared the scrutiny and appear in even more items than did their predecessor. But I don’t believe that either of those two are any safer than aspartame and someday will be proven so.

I will continue to keep these chemicals out of my body, because I tend to be sensitive to their effects. Consumed in large amounts, these sweeteners (at least for me) cause symptoms similar to those caused by MSG, including migraine headache and muscle aches.

Thank you, kind reader(s), for allowing my rant. Sometimes, these things need to be said only if for no other reason but to vent a frustration.  I’ll be back soon with a more uplifting post!

*Disclaimer: These statements are based upon my personal experiences with these chemicals.  There is no malice or libel intended on any specific company.  I am simply stating factual information that is readily and publicly available on the labels of the products listed here.  People who are sensitive to artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes (a whole different subject for discussion) have a right and a need to know that these substances are being used in common, everyday products.

And Kitten Makes Five!

I am, admittedly, a HUGE cat freak.  Well, I’m huge anyway (1/4 Italian) but that’s besides the point.  What I mean is, I love my cats.  My husband and I weren’t fortunate enough to have human children, and cats are probably the neediest, closest comparison to real children that I could handle.  I told a friend the other day that we wanted human kids, but cats were all we could handle.  I think I got that down just right.  Truth bomb, coming up.

I usually save all of my cat-related stuff and stories for my cat blog, Life With Cats, but this blog has been neglected as of late.  Not because I’ve been terribly busy (I have been) but because I don’t think about it as much as I did when the blog was new.  And, for my (two?) readers to get a better sense of who I am and what makes me tick, there’s no better way then to introduce the part of my life that makes me a better caregiver: cat guardianship.

I’ve been “cat mom” to seven wonderful creatures over the past 22 years, two of which we still have today.  Sassy is our now sixteen year old Ragdoll cat.  In kitty years, that puts her at approximately 78-80 years old.  She’s slowing down and starting to show her age, but she looks overall like a much younger cat.  We’ve had her since she was approximately 10 weeks old, so she’s a “lifer.”  Pixel, our boy and resident tabby, is just about 10 1/2 years old.  He’s still playful and lazy at the same time.  If you knew Pixel, you could see how he could pull off this veritable oxymoron with great ease.  Pixel has recently accomplished a significant weight loss, from a hefty 23 pounds down to an almost finished goal of 18 pounds.  He has much more energy than he used to have, but is still one of the laziest cats I’ve ever had.  Needless to say, we love them both immensely.

Last week, while shopping at PetSmart for some new toys for my boy, I stopped at the PetSmart Charities adoption center to do my usual kitten/cat ogling.  I had lost interest in adopting another cat since the devastating loss of my Persian tortoiseshell, Tika, back in 2010.  But I do enjoy stopping at the shelter or places like PetSmart to “ooh and aah” and talk to the kitties.  But that day, something was different, and it was something I hadn’t felt since the day we found Tika at the shelter in 1998.  That was the day we first met Mercy (then named “Stitch,”) a one-eyed grey tabby kitten.  It wasn’t so much the fact that she was a kitten, but that she was profoundly disabled that we were drawn to her.  Disabled or special needs kittens and cats are much less likely to be adopted than normally-abled cats, and that cute little face just drew us in like flies to butter (is that a Southern saying?  Where did that come from?!)


Take me home with you please!!

From that instant, we knew we were meant to be Mercy’s guardians.  We were told that she was rescued from a large TNR (trap, neuter, release) feral colony in the next town over, and that she had an infection in her eye that necessitated its removal.  She was approximately 11 weeks old, but looked so tiny that I thought the age estimate was probably wrong.  Of the three kittens that were rescued, she was the last to become ready for adoption, and not a moment too soon.

So, last Saturday, June 25th, Mercy became an official member of the family. She has been adapting rather well and has shed the cage from where she saw the world, or at least the inside of PetSmart. It has been a long time since we’ve had charge of a 12 week old kitten, and I’m not as young as I used to be.  I’ve forgotten how much work goes into maintaining two different schedules for two sets of cats.  I would imagine that this is but a microcosm of what bringing a baby home would be like.  Except I don’t have to get up at all  hours of the night to feed and change a kitten.  Could you imagine?  No thanks. Not at the tender age of 47 (that would be MY age, in real human years.)

Welcome to your new forever home, little Mercy monster. I’m so blessed to be called your “mama.”


Let’s play, Mom!!