Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Lupus Saga part 3

Oops.

Yeah, I meant to write a blog entry, but would put it off for "a day or so" until I got more information. Then after a week or two, I'd think, I ought to write a blog entry, but wait, there's an appointment next week, I'll do an entry right after... And then another couple of weeks would pass. So, I have no actual excuse.

As I said in my last entry, my kidney disease is in complete remission and the kidney doctor says my blood tests show my system is processing everything normally. I'll have to continue having follow-up check-ups, but I can stop worrying about kidneys now.

My main issue is the lupus, which has decided to attack my joints. The most pain is in my hands, which hurt all the time. My knees are sometimes in pain, and it's still difficult to get out of a regular chair (thank goodness and my wonderful sister for the lift chair!). Getting up and down the stairs has become slightly easier overall. I've also gotten at least five minutes on the exercise bike every single morning - even on bad days - since I last wrote. The other bad spot is my shoulders, which I cannot lift over my head most of the time.

The big news today is that I got the vaccine for the coronavirus. Eric and I got the Johnson & Johnson version at a local pharmacy this morning. We then wandered around the store for a few minutes (to make sure there wasn't any reactions) and then headed home. I'm actually feeling pretty delighted to have it done - there was a line forming in the store for the vaccine by the time we left.

I've seen some worries about how fast the vaccines were developed, but there are two big factors that helped complete these vaccines: 1) the tech behind them has been in development for about 60 years (look up mRNA vaccine development) and 2) because the disease was so widespread, trials were more comprehensive and easier to conduct than if the virus hadn't been endemic. Add in the fact that the vaccine development was accelerated during the SARS crisis in 2003, and anyone who is paying attention understands that these vaccines were not developed fast - just finished and approved fast.

I've mostly been spending my days streaming in the morning and reading or watching videos in the afternoon and evenings. I'm not healthy yet, but I'm healing and making progress. I have regular blood tests and doctor appointments, and five days of every week I feel pretty good. But it's those other days, the bad days, that keep me from celebrating. I will sometimes wake with so much pain I just don't want to do anything. I usually force myself to stream since that's my only socialization at the moment, but will stay off the camera and sometimes even off the microphone.

I guess one reason I haven't been writing is that I haven't got much to tell. I mean - it's all the same news. I'm in remission from kidney disease, the lupus is painful, I'm streaming on Twitch, the cat is cute, the hubby is wonderful. I don't get out much, so there's nothing new coming in for me to write about.

Ah well. At least life, overall, seems to be looking up.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Streaming Update - Birthday Stream!

This streaming stuff just keeps adding up.

For my birthday, I got actual paid subscribers to my Twitch channel. There are two ways people can subscribe - they can spend real money through their Twitch account or they can use the one free subscription through Amazon Prime. During my morning birthday stream, Sophie Fatal came in the room and subscribed (real money) and then bought six gift subscriptions just to make my day. Then two more friends subscribed over the course of the day, and two other friends used their Amazon Prime benefits to subcribe later on in the day.

When I posted about it on Facebook, I was asked how the Amazon thing works. This is what I wrote:

Follow one of my links to my Twitch channel. Sign up for an account if you want to. If you have Amazon Prime, you can link your account. Then... well, watch all the people creating content for each other. While it's mostly a community of gamers playing their games with commentary, there are artists and writers who share their efforts. There are people who just get on and chat. The appeal is that there's a chatbox next to the video, and people watching can comment while the person is broadcasting, and the person broadcasting can respond to the comments in real time if they want. So you can develop a close-knit community.

The DC Universe Online community has become a friendly bunch, most of us, and when we finish our streams we tend to raid (send everyone watching) other channels playing DCUO. It was after spending a lot of time in one Twitch stream, and getting a great deal of support from them during my illness, that I decided to try streaming myself. So far, three weeks in, I've really enjoyed it. If nothing else, it allows me to talk too much, like my online namesake Tegan.
Twitch Affiliates don't get a lot of money, but if I manage a few more subscriptions I can at least pay for the emotes. And I could unlock the other four possible emote slots. See, Twitch wants to make money, so the incentive is to get emote slots which are unlocked with "Sub Points". Sub points are earned by getting subscriptions, which makes money for both the affiliate and Twitch.
  • A Tier 1 or Amazon Prime subscription = 1 sub point = $4.99 or one free for every Amazon Prime subscription
  • A Tier 2 subscription = 2 sub points = $9.99
  • A Tier 3 subscription = 6 sub points = $24.99
The first additional emote opens up at 15 sub points. Then up to three more at 25, 35, and 50 sub points respectively - for a total of four extra emotes based on subscriptions. All the subscriptions giving points must be active at the same time - so it's not a matter of one person subbing over time - the total points of active subs must add up to 50 to unlock all emotes. Once an emote slot has been unlocked, it stays unlocked. So I only need to get 50 sub points once to get all slots.

As of this writing, I have 11 sub points, so I'm only four regular subs away from getting another emote slot. Being a bit aspie, I had to do the math. Please skip the rest of this paragraph. For one emote slot, I need four regular or two T2 or one T3 subs. For two emote slots, I need 14 regular, seven T2 or three T3 subs. For three slots, I need 24 regular, 12 T2, or four T3 subs. To open them all, I need 39 regular, 20 T2 or seven T3 subs. When I lay it out that way, it really seems incredibly unlikely that I'll ever make that final goal. Bummer.

I've continued to rank up a brand new stream only DC Universe Online character. The only offline stuff I've done with the character is rearranging stuff in his bank. As of today, I got the character to level 30, which is the maximum "level" in the game. From here on out, he will advance via gear improvements, which are called "CR levels" or Combat Rating levels of the best gear you have acquired. However, I haven't finished all the tutorial levels, so I'll probably complete those on stream. It took me 12 streams to get him to that level, with a lot of goofing around - I was not power leveling the character.

I've also finished my play through of The Room Two. I will soon start The Room Three, which I don't believe I managed to finish on my last attempt. I will probably start playing that on Monday. I still haven't decided what to do tomorrow. I have both the DC Legends mobile game and Among Us set up, as well as Doctor Who Infinity, but I'm not sure which one I'll be in the mood to do.

I set up some special audio channels on my PC, but I abandoned the effort when it became clear that Windows and various apps weren't going to respect the settings I put in. I was trying to route all my sound through a virtual mixer, but some apps ignored it entirely, others refused to use the correct input and Windows kept resetting the ones that worked until I rebooted the computer. The idea of having to reboot the computer before each stream was soul-crushing, so I scrapped the entire thing.

I'm also still learning how to use OBS to stream. It's not complicated, but it's not intuitive or straightforward, either. So I'm learning, and that's keeping me happy and focused. Things I need. When I think about my mental and physical state only one year ago, I'm stunned that I survived and am doing something new. It's a surprise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Lupus Saga part 2: January 19, 2021

I am officially in complete remission from kidney disease.

My doctor gave me the good news in our virtual appointment last week, and I'm thrilled. It doesn't change everything, because I'm still suffering from lupus, but it does allow me to loosen up my diet restrictions slightly (I can reintroduce some forbidden foods as special treats!). I was cautioned not to go crazy, and I don't intend to, but it will be nice to have a piece of bacon again.

Now my biggest concern is the lupus, which continues to attack my joints. The rheumatologist noted swelling in some joints but said my lupus seems to be taking a fairly classical route, which means the usual treatments will hopefully help. Although a whole category of treatments is cut off due to my reactions to one of the medicines they tried during my kidney failure. Still, she said they would start to work on upping my dose of the latest new medicine, and if/when that happens it'll be another couple of months before we know if it's working.

I have good days and bad days. The bad days tend to be marked by horrible pain that makes it difficult to move at all, while the good days are marked by horrible pain that I'm able to fight through and move when I need to. Exercise always seems to help, but it is very difficult to start exercising when the pain is bad. I send prayers of thanks for my sister every time I get on the exercise bike she gave me or use the lift chair so my knees don't hurt so bad.

The doctors are pleased that I'm exercising daily, but I need to ramp up the amount of exercise I do. I'm trying to get on the exercise bike the moment I'm dressed first thing in the morning - and get at least five minutes in. I want to then start adding a couple more short sessions of exercise later in the day. And my doctors said I should start walking again, even if I have to use the cane. I also need to figure out some exercises for my upper body, as my shoulders are often very sore.

I've been streaming almost daily since the start of the year, although this past weekend I was in too much pain to get more than a few test streams in. I don't have a lot of viewers, which is fine, but I'm an affiliate so I have my own emotes. I can use them anywhere on Twitch, and anyone who subscribes to my channel can use at least one of them (all if they subscribe at the highest level). In the event I get some subscribers, I hope to make a few more emotes. But I have to get "subscriber points" to earn emote slots, so I don't expect that to happen any time soon.


My three Twitch emotes. Regular subscribers get access to "SUS".

The best thing about streaming, for me, is figuring out the tech and learning how to do neat new stuff. I have a good teacher at Sophie Fatal TV. Sophie's husband is a tech wizard who also runs online clinics on how to set up OBS (the software people use to stream) and make it do cool things. With his help I've been able to sort out some of the early issues I had and now am expanding into other things. Like a new opening and closing for my stream just in time for my January 20th birthday!

After someone asked me if I intended to put my Twitch videos on YouTube, I remembered that I have a YouTube channel. And so my streams are being archived at my YouTube Channel and I've got a playlist for DC Universe Online going, and a complete playlist for The Room as well as a playlist for The Room Two. I expect I will be terribly embarrassed by those vids as time goes on.

My mother is home from the hospital, but is in a halo brace. I urge you to not Google that if you don't know what it is, because the images will disturb you. My sister is sending the entire family regular updates with photos. I worry about my mom every night, but there's not a lot I can do from here.

Inkwell has finally decided that my lift chair is great, and now is willing to sleep in it. This means I have to evict him from my chair each morning - a chore made difficult by his general cuteness and the way he purrs loudly when I enter the room. But it is my chair, and I need it, so he always loses the battle in the end.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Streaming Update - Wha... Revenue?

I'm officially a Twitch Affiliate now, and have been having a fun time with the settings and stuff. No one has subscribed yet, which doesn't surprise me, but I did make some revenue - to my shock.

I have made four cents. Because at least two people watched ads.

I'm not sure how many ads that translates to, but I was actually shocked when the revenue showed up. I knew Twitch runs ads during streams, and I know I technically get some portion of it, but knowing and seeing are two different things. So, it I keep it up at this rate... er, um 13 streams equals 4 cents, minimum $100 in order to get a check, um, if I keep up a daily stream... it'll be 89 years before I see any money.

Well.

Okay, I guess I'll hope for some subscribers then, instead.

In the meantime, I'm still working on getting emotes. We'll just have to see how that turns out. When I get them, I will certainly post them here... and if you join my Twitch channel as a subscriber you can use them anywhere on Twitch.

Lastly, I'm posting my streams on YouTube as a sort of back-up. I posted my entire playthrough of The Room, and my ongoing playthrough of my new villain on DC Universe Online. I expect I'll be incredibly embarrassed by these in a couple of years. The streams go up on YouTube about a day after I've streamed them.

My birthday is January 20th, and I think I may have to figure out something special for that day on my stream. The whole world will also be celebrating, so that's good. But I gotta think of something fun for me to do. Maybe I'll try video for the first time? I'm not sure my system could handle it, but maybe... just that once...

Anyway, that's streaming life. I'll be posting a lupus update soon. I hope. I have two more doctor appointments this week, so I'm waiting on what news may come out.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Streaming Update - The Emote Challenge

Yesterday morning I got my Twitch Affiliate invite after my morning stream, and immediately started to fill out the paperwork. It'll be a few days while tax information is checked, but I anticipate it going forward nicely.

I made the mistake of mentioning on Twitter that I was going to need an artist for my emotes. I should have realized that digital artists have searches set up for just that sort of comment in the hopes of landing a gig. After getting 24 artists in a matter of a couple of hours contacting me, I decided I needed to get very serious about it and decide on my standards. The worst thing (or the best) is that every single artist who contacted me was GOOD. I mean, really good. Some of them stood out as excellent, but all of them were absolutely worth paying for work. But I can only afford to hire one. ACK. Torture.

Anyway, I expect three things from a potential artist. Since most of these folks are young and just starting out, some of them had none of the things. Part of me wants to help them by explaining exactly what a potential client wants, but I'm a creative type myself and I know such advice can be hard to take. Still, I figure if I post it here, and maybe drop them the link, there's a tiny chance they will follow and get my perspective. And maybe it will help them in the future?

So. Three things important for an artist trying to sell their work:

  • One: A portfolio. This is just a set of sample images of your previous work, preferably showing the range of what you can do. Best practices is to have a website for the work with watermarked images (light watermark, but enough to prevent theft). Acceptable is to have files to send to potential clients. Most of the artists who contacted me had something, although I was a bit taken aback at the slapdash nature of some of them. It is worth investing a little time in making sure your portfolio is complete, accessible and accurately reflects your work.
  • Two: References. I want to know you can deliver the goods, and the best way to prove it is to have someone you've already done business with tell me that you can. Not one of the people I contacted to ask for references knew what I was talking about, which just tells me I'm old. But once I explained it, people quickly got back to me. In the case of Twitch emotes, a shout-out on Twitter from a streamer is just about the most perfect reference ever. Links to the streams of Twitch users of artwork are good, as well, but a direct mention is best. Unlike many business dealings, I don't need a letter with a glowing recommendation - just some proof that your work is out there.
    • A caveat: new artists are going to have a little problem with this, and the best way for them to get around it is to simply be honest. Admit to the client you haven't made your first sale. Surprisingly awesome things can happen when you are honest.
  • Three: A price chart. Yeah, I want to know what you charge for your work. And this is hard for both the artist and the client. But clients are going to want to know what they need to budget for your work, and that requires at the very least a range or a base price. So an artist who says they charge X dollars for a simple design with the price going up depending on complexity is far more likely to get my business than an artist who says they will "work with me." I honestly don't know what "work with me" means, and it doesn't inspire confidence. Give me a base price and THEN say you will work with me, and I will be more likely to move forward.

All of this doesn't help me with my present conundrum. I've got multiple excellent artists that I'm chatting with, and I can't make up my mind which one I want to go with. And I'm terrified that, once I've chosen one, the work won't be what I want and I'll feel some horrid regret. Worse, I've had to turn down several excellent artists that had work I loved, but didn't fit what I want. I tell myself that they contacted me, unsolicited, so I can't allow myself to feel too strongly for their feelings. This is the business, they know what they are in for. But they are all so GOOD. Like I said, torture.

Maybe Twitch will reject my application and spare me this decision?

Anyway, I don't want to waste any artist's time, so I'm going to try to put together very nice rejection letters to some of the artists, while keeping their information just in case. At this point, I don't know if I'll turn up an Ace on the first try, or end up giving several artists a shot before finding the perfect one. All I know is I want to be fair and I want to be kind and I want a kick-butt set of emotes that make me happy every time I see them on my stream.

Wish me luck and wisdom, for I will need both.


Update: Wow. I put together as nice a rejection letter as I could manage and sent it to some of the unlucky folks - all of whom I might consider going to in the future if the current options don't work out. Well, all of them except one now. One of them responded with accusations of wasting her time and leading her on. Because I asked for a portfolio and then - because I liked the work in that portfolio - asked for a little more information. In short, the artist made it past my first filter, and would have been high on my list of people to try if the current front-runners don't work out. But now she's off my list entirely because of her incredibly unprofessional and rude response.

In the same time period, two of the others I decided against got back to me with "no problem!" responses. Both of them are now on my list for potential artists in the future, and I'll be taking a second look at their portfolios, as well.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Streaming...

Wow.

Just. Wow.

So, I knew the DC Universe Online streaming community is strong and supportive. I didn't realize just HOW strong and supportive it is.

I started streaming, almost on a whim, on December 31st. On December 30th I had no intention of ever streaming and would have laughed at the thought of it. Me? Streaming? Yeah, right. So I was as shocked as anyone when I had a bad pain day and turned my attention to Twitch and the mechanics of streaming and decided to give it a whirl. Just to see.

My computer is decent, but I decided to not try to capture myself on video, since I wasn't sure it would have enough power to capture the game I was playing and my face at the same time. So my stream is an audio stream, mostly. I created a stream avatar that sits in the corner for some streams and responds to commands in the chat, so at least there's something there besides just the game. And suddenly four days had gone by and I was streaming a little every day...

Now I'm actually a streamer, having streamed for five days in a row (!!!) and gotten enough followers to qualify as an affiliate. I don't have all the other requirements yet, but I have the followers and that's half of the hardest part.*

Why does this matter? Well, if you become an affiliate, you can start to make a little money with Twitch (and I do mean little) and, more importantly, can make emotes for people to use in your channel and other channels. And I like emotes. There's one I very much want to make, and I think I will be able to find something that works. Heck, just look on Etsy for "Twitch Emotes" and you'll see a bazillion excellent artists offering custom work for decent prices. The very little money I make will no doubt pay for the few emotes I want.

Now I just have to keep it up. I will continue for a bit and see what happens, and if people continue to watch/listen I'll enjoy it. For my part, I'm now thinking of ways to keep the streams from becoming too confusing with me blathering about nothing for an hour. I'm also thinking of other games to play besides my morning DC Universe Online stream. I'll be playing DCUO at 10 am every morning for an hour, and then at 2 pm I'll play something else for an hour. I'm going to limit myself to an hour due to my health issues, but I think I can manage it.

Here's the link: Realtegan on Twitch. I don't expect anyone to watch or follow, but feel free to drop by if you want.

* To become an affiliate, you must (in the past 30 days) stream at least 8 hours on seven different days. You must have 50 followers and average at least 3 viewers.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Lupus Saga part 1

Time to start a new chapter in this book, eh?

A year ago I went in for blood tests after feeling unwell for a couple of months with what I wrongly believed were allergies. The next morning the doctor ordered me to the emergency room because she suspected my kidneys had failed. As it happened, my body had gone into kidney and heart failure due to lupus, which I may have been suffering from for a number of years without knowing it.

The kidney failure nearly killed me, and the cure had its own problems. The steroid that kept me alive gave me temporary diabetes as well as inflating my face to balloon-size. The first attempt at bringing my kidneys back to full function resulted in massive rashes and worse, forcing me into chemo. Luckily, the chemo worked, and I have been slowly recovering the past few months. Now the lupus has become my main issue.

Not a lot has happened as far as my health goes in the last month since I last updated. I kept thinking I would update when I had news - then I didn't have news. I still don't. My next appointment isn't for another week, and although I've had a blood test, the results - that I can understand - just show more improvement as expected and nothing dramatic.

I have good days and bad days. My hands hurt all the time, no matter what I'm doing. They are worse in the mornings. My legs are good at times and bad at other times, with my knees having the worst issues. Thankfully, my house has been made as friendly as possible to my condition, so I'm not having too many difficulties getting around and doing daily tasks like feeding myself. My long-suffering hubby, Eric, has also been able to help on those days I just cannot manage.

My biggest difficulty is keeping myself busy both mentally and physically. I've been playing a lot of video games, which isn't ideal, but does keep my mind going. I use an exercise bike for physical movement, but I feel like I need more. I haven't been out walking because of the virus, as well as the general difficulty getting out and just walking.

I'm still waiting for the new medication to have its desired effect, although I think it's beginning to work. I have had a few more good days in the last week than bad days. And the goal is for my lupus to stop attacking my joints, which is what happens on a good day. It's still too soon to be sure, though. Another few weeks is when the studies I read said it would become obvious. I would cross my fingers, but that hurts.

In other news, Inkwell has his own merchandise. Mark Monlux created RedBubble shops for his line of people's cats, and Inkwell is on it (with my permission). I haven't been able to buy any of it yet, but my sister purchased a couple and has been amusing me with photos of Inkwell merch around the house. The real cat, meanwhile, has continued to make my legs his favorite daytime cat bed.

CBS News made a short video tribute to PBS, and hubby-Eric actually appears in it! He's about 90 seconds into the piece, sitting at a phone bank while our friend William talks to Dalek Rainier.


As our Centurylink internet service has been degrading ever since Centurylink took over and bought the original company we signed up with, we finally made the hard decision to move to another service. I don't like moving internet providers for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was needing new hardware to go from DSL to Cable internet. I ended up buying a new coax cable and a new router, but frankly the advantages are truly worth it. The new internet, from Spectrum, is on average about 15 times faster than the old. But most importantly for Eric's teaching job, it doesn't keep dropping the connection. Centurylink had gotten so bad as to drop our service a couple of times a day. And while most of the outages were in the evening when Eric wasn't teaching, not all of them were. Since signing up with Spectrum, I haven't noticed any disconnects.

The decision to upgrade our internet has had another unforeseen effect. I'd been being encouraged by Sophie Fatal to try streaming with Twitch, but knew our internet couldn't handle it. Heck, there were days I couldn't *watch* Twitch because of outages and the incredibly slow speed. But with a fast internet, I started to think about streaming seriously. On December 31st, I woke up in such pain that I couldn't do my usual stuff online, or even play my game. What I could do was read online, so I read about how to get started streaming on Twitch. And before the end of the year I managed to stream three very short test streams, and one longer stream. I deleted the test streams and left the longer one up. Then on the first day of 2021, I streamed my favorite game, DC Universe Online, for a bit over 30 minutes. So. I guess I can call myself a streamer now.

Another thing that fast internet did was finish my online backup. It was due to finish in February with the old internet. It finished with the new internet in less than a week. My entire hard drive backed up online. Nice.

In other news, I found a couple of cat-related mods in Fallout 4. One, called Craftable Cats, allows you to make cats for your post-apocalyptic settlements. Naturally I went a little nuts on them and made a few too many. This didn't last, of course. I had to go back to an earlier save because having that many cats just KILLS the framerate on the computer. But it was fun anyway. The other mod is Immortal Cats for those of us that cannot, for whatever reason, bear the sight of a dead cat even in a game. Despite the description in the mod's notes, this did lead to an amusing incident when a robot started attacking cats that were weaving around its feet.

In family news, while I started the year in the hospital, my mother ended the year in the hospital. No, she didn't get COVID (at least I hope not), but instead somehow managed to break her back. I've questioned my siblings, but we aren't sure which one of us stepped on a crack. While she's putting up a good show, I know she's in a lot of pain. I hope she's able to get home soon.


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Kidney Saga part 126

I really am a lucky person.

I mean, when I basically collapsed with kidney and heart failure in January and then nearly died in March from a diabetic coma, you probably wouldn't think of me as lucky. But I didn't die. I didn't even have a lot of pain, compared to other people. And falling so ill just *before* a global pandemic hit was also lucky, in a sense. No one actually expects me to leave my house and be sociable during a pandemic.

I'm also extremely lucky to have Eric, who is amazing and has managed to hold up well, despite unreal pressure being put on him as a caregiver. I'm stubborn and sometimes extremely annoying to get along with, but he's managed to keep me alive and well-fed and taking my medicine all along. I also have a fuzzy lap-warmer named Inkwell who has purred me to sleep more than once.

And I have an extended support network, including family and on-line friends. I haven't felt the sting of being alone because I can "talk" to other folks on the internet, via Twitch and Twitter and Facebook. Just watching Twitch and chatting with folks has given me all the social activity I felt I needed. Thank goodness for the internet! I even got to see most of my family on Thanksgiving via Discord and Zoom.



So... an update on my health. I had another virtual visit with my kidney doctor last week, and he confirmed the results of my last blood test: I'm in stage 2 kidney disease now, a very good improvement from stage 3. This means the threat/danger of dialysis is basically gone as long as I'm careful, but I still have damage so I need to stay the course and continue to eat low-sodium, low-potassium and low-phosphate foods. It may be upwards of a year before my body can handle normal levels of sodium again, if ever. Processed food is still too dangerous for me to have regularly, although I'm allowed a little wiggle room now.

The new medication will take at least 12 weeks from my starting it to show improvement, according to the studies I read after my doctor prescribed it. I've been taking it about three weeks now. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that my immune system is attacking my organs and my joints. The really simplistic explanation of my treatment goes like this: we're turning off my immune system to try to reboot it. The first attempt didn't work, but the second attempt with Cytoxin did. That resulted in my kidneys getting better. Now we have to convince my immune system to stop attacking my joints. The new medication is used for people who had transplants to prevent rejection, as well as for severe arthritis, like mine. In about 12 weeks it should shut down my immune system again, and we'll see at that point whether or not my joint pain goes away. If it does, then the doctors will decide how long to keep my immune system suppressed before letting it come back and seeing if it's been properly rebooted. The doctor said it could be a year or two before I can stop the medication.

The on/off method even works for the human body, apparently.

The biggest problem with the new medicine is that I'm supposed to take it after meals - about 30 minutes after meals. Which means there is an even chance I'll forget to take it. And so it was - I *think* I forgot to take it one night. However, I wasn't certain I had really forgotten and that I hadn't just forgotten that I'd taken it. The confusion and uncertainty was distressing. So I turned to my cell phone, which is always with me, for help.

A search for a simple medication reminder app resulted in a lot of options, and after viewing a number of them, I finally settled on one called MyTherapy Pill Reminder & Medication Tracker. It has ways to track blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and exercise along with a basic pill reminder that even includes a pill inventory so you can get a reminder when you need to refill a prescription. The default weight unit was in kg, and I had to write to support to figure out how to change it to lbs (it wasn't hard, just not obvious). I've only been using it for a week or so, but I am finding it very useful already.

For example, I have been recording my exercise daily, and it even provides me with a chart to show my progress.



My tech world has been very busy of late. In addition to my new reminder app, I also got some smart plugs for various lights around the house. I also plugged my room heater into one so I can turn it on and off remotely. Very nice! My feline paralysis makes it difficult to turn things on and off manually. The plugs have timers, so I replaced the mechanical timers on two of our lights with the smart plugs, and now I have them on a schedule AND can turn them on and off from my phone. I am even able to signal Eric (when he's downstairs) that I need his help by blinking one of the lights - which saves me from shouting across the house - although that's not something I want or intend to make a habit of doing.

My poor computer is running smoothly again, although I've still had no luck recovering my four months of lost data from the old drive. I have the old drive in an enclosure now, and keep hoping it might just decide to work one day. Sometimes computer stuff does that just to annoy people. I've managed to get it to show up a couple of times, but the recovery software "loses" it almost immediately, and the drive vanishes again. I am continuing a nightly local backup of my new drive and working on a cloud backup, although my data upload rate is so slow it'll be a couple of months before everything is fully backed up to the cloud. Once it is backed up, however, nightly backups should be fairly quick and easy.

The after-Thanksgiving sales allowed me to upgrade my memory on my computer from 8GB to 32GB, which has improved my gaming experience quite a bit. I also indulged in the Autumn Steam Sale and got Fallout 4 with all the DLCs. It was only about $20, and I suspect I will have a great time with the game despite its many faults. And vaults. I've already started playing it. I started out with a God Mode mod - and still somehow nearly managed to die. This one will take me a while to learn. The variety of mods available makes the game much larger than its base game, so I'm hoping to get some fun out of it when I tire of killing pixels as a superhero in DC Universe Online. The Fallout franchise is the spiritual successor to Wasteland, which I played on the C64 as a teenager and loved. I didn't actually finish Wasteland until I played it on an emulator as an adult. I don't know if I'll finish the main storyline in Fallout 4, but I suspect I'll enjoy it regardless.

I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, in addition to podcasts. So far I've mostly stuck with books I've already read. Listening to them is a different experience and I've been surprised to find that I react differently when I listen as opposed to reading. I suppose the emphasis is different due to the narrator. It feels like adding a new dimension to the books, and I've enjoyed the experience immensely.

I made a couple of purchases on Etsy recently. I got two more catnip eyeballs for Inkwell from Scarywhitegirl and more lavender shower bombs from Frakking Bombs. Along with my lavender shower bombs, she threw in extra shower bombs in new scents, and a rubber ducky.



And so, life is not bad. My hands hurt all the time, and my shoulders, elbows and knees hurt most of the time. I can't lift heavy things, and I have trouble opening containers of all types because of the weakness in my hands. I have to go slowly up and down the stairs to avoid falling. But I feel good despite the pain, or maybe with the exception of the pain. My mood is certainly fine - I haven't fallen into a bad depression in quite some time (knock wood). And my boys are keeping me content, one by cuddling on my legs and purring and the other by cuddling me, feeding me, and generally being my everything.

Life is pretty good despite it all.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Kidney Saga part 125

I meant to write sooner, but things kept happening in real life.

Let's see... late October my wonderful sister bought me a Christmas/Birthday present: a new lift chair! It's a recliner, although it doesn't go fully flat. Inkwell the cat has found that he can rest on my lower legs while I'm playing on my computer, and likes to stretch out and sleep on me when I'm napping in the chair. Getting up has become much easier. I no longer feel the agony in my knees as I stand after a long writing/gaming session. This has made it easier in general to move around, which has made my life in general better.



The hospital system updated its policy on lab test results. Instead of waiting for a doctor to screen the results, they are immediately released to the electronic chart, accessible via a website. So when I got labs done at 11am, the results were already up by 1pm that same afternoon. Reading through them without a doctor's advice is a bit sketchy, but I knew enough of which items to look out for, so I was able to tell before my doctor appointment that I was still heading in the right direction. Some of the numbers that used to be way out of whack are now almost normal or within normal range. Don't get me wrong, my estimated GFR still puts me in Stage 3 kidney disease, but even that has improved dramatically since the beginning of this year.

A week after the tests, I saw my kidney doctor via Zoom. He confirmed my analysis, telling me I was definitely showing improvement. Except for the pain in my joints, I'm doing very well. Unfortunately, the pain in my joints is a classic lupus symptom. So he added a new medication that has been shown in clinical trials to have a good effect on people who took the treatment route I did - including the cytoxin chemo therapy. It's still too soon to see if it's having the desired effect, but I can say the medicine makes me miserable for about an hour or so after I've taken it. Not pain, just discomfort and stomach ache.

I've continued to manage a few minutes on the exercise bike most days. I have missed a few days due to pain or other things happening (when I installed my new light switch, it took enough out of me that I didn't try to exercise). I still have hope that I can get up to 30 minutes a day at least five days a week by the end of 2020, although I'm not going to push it when it comes down to it. I only do as much as I can tolerate without real pain.

In my tech world, some big things happened that helped to delay me writing this. My storage hard drive on my computer died. As I was only running my operating system and a single game from the boot drive, this meant that I lost EVERYTHING else. Fortunately, I had a back-up. Unfortunately, it was four months old. D'oh! So I lost four months of photos, writing, and other projects. Which is painful, but not so horrible that I feel like I need to go to a data retrieval company to try to recover the stuff on the drive. Instead, I purchased a new drive, installed it, restored the back-up to it, and am getting on with life as best I can. I now have a nightly back-up to an external drive *and* a cloud back-up going. I hope to not lose everything again.

In addition to the lift chair, I installed a nice "smart switch" for my room. The light levels in my room change frequently during the day depending on the location of the sun and whether or not we have weather outside. It's not a big thing to get up and turn the light on or off, but I often have severe feline paralysis when I want to change the light. Also, I have to wait for the lift chair to push me up. So a smart switch, which allows me to turn the light on or off from my phone, seemed like an interesting project. And so it was. I've done a little bit of DIY wiring before, and this was not a difficult thing to install. The worst part about it is that my hands, wrists and arms are still very weak - even pushing the wiring back into the box was harder than it should have been. I managed it anyway, which made me extremely happy on multiple levels. Being able to accomplish a small home improvement task is amazingly gratifying.

Installing the smart switch led to me installing some more apps on my cell phone, including figuring out how to install a new launcher on Android. I wanted to customize the icon for my light switch, and that's easiest with a launcher. Which is something I hadn't explored yet. But it will probably keep me fascinated for a bit, as it has a lot of options that techie-Laura loves. Ah, more toys to fool around with!

For once I'm also looking forward to my birthday, January 20th. Inauguration Day. Twice in my life, my birthday has been devastating. Hopefully this next one will be as wonderful as the one in 2009, which has probably been the best inauguration day b-day I've had. We just have to get through the two months leading up to it. Fingers crossed it won't be too bad.

No promises on my next update, but I'll try to keep updating regularly here as well as on Facebook.


Thursday, November 05, 2020

Newbery Winners: The Trumpeter of Krakow

Hi, Eric here again with one of my rare posts here. Yes, I'm still trying to read all of the Newbery Medal winners in order, and with The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly, we wrap up the 1920s with an exciting adventure of intrigue and mystery and all that stuff that makes for a pretty good story. Kelly had spent time in Poland not long after it was established following the Great War, and grew to love and appreciate the country and its people, which really shows in the book. He really brings medieval Krakow to life. Which is good, because the book's protagonist, Joseph Charnetski, has to learn about it, as his family have had to flee their village. His father hopes to stay with a cousin in the city, but he has been murdered and his estate seized, so the Chartenskis have no friends or resources to help them. But they save the life of a kindly alchemist who offers to help them, and finds not only a place to live, but also work, as the trumpeter who plays "the broken hymn", the Heynal, at the Church of Our Lady St. Mary every hour. While the job is primarily his father's, Joseph helps out and learns the Heynal himself, which becomes useful when those who are seeking out the Charnutski family and the incredible secret they are hiding come to Krakow. Through a secret code in his playing of the Heynal, Joseph is able to alert his friend, the alchemist's niece, who raises the alarm and helps save the family. It is not enough to stop the Great Fire of Krakow, but all ends up working out well in the end. It's an exciting, well-paced historical novel, and worth the effort to track it down. Yes, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a copy of the book to read was a bit of an adventure. Our local library was completely shut down, so I couldn't borrow their copy. I ordered an inexpensive used copy online, but the sent the wrong book! No problem, it was a book I wonted to read anyway, and they refunded my money, but I was still without the book to read. But by this time, the library was open again, at least for no-contact deliveries of reserved books, so I finally got the chance to read it. But interlibrary loan is still curtailed, and since they don't have the 1930 winner in their system, I may have to venture into the used book market again. Ah, but that will just have to wait for my next entry on this blog, most likely.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Masks

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Kidney Saga part 124

Movement is medicine.

My cardiologist was very happy to learn that I've got an exercise bike and have been using it almost every day. I also mentioned my goal to start walking daily to the nearest Pokestop - and she admitted she hadn't realized Pokemon Go encourages exercise.

Well, last Friday was the first time I missed a day of exercise since I got the bike, mostly due to pain. The pain - in turn - causes fatigue. And sometimes it's just too much to overcome. Mostly I've been able to carry on despite the hurt and exhaustion, but some days you just have to stop and rest. Last Friday was one of those days for me.

Fortunately, I was able to get back in the saddle and ride again - and have kept up at least five minutes a day since then.

I went to the cardiologist on Monday with my new "2020 Scariest Costume Ever" mask. I was mildly disappointed that no one commented on it, but by now lots of people have seen lots of masks, so I shouldn't be surprised. I suspect the etiquette of mask compliments is still not set.

The results of my echocardiogram were in, and are very good. In January when I first went into the hospital my "ejection fraction" was under 50%. Normal range is 50 to 70%. My echo showed I am now at a solid and healthy 58%. It's not enough to dump my medications, but as far as my heart is concerned I'm out of the woods. Whew!

The result is that I don't need to see the cardiologist until January unless I relapse. In the meantime, I have strict instructions to continue avoiding salt, to continue exercising, and to continue restricting my liquid intake. I also get to taper off the diuretic and see if I develop edema again.

Because the appointment was in Richland, about 40 miles away, hubby-Eric drove me. But as we came back I commented that my vision is fine again and I feel fairly strong, so maybe my next medical visit - to get x-rays - I should try to do alone. Eric was reluctant, but agreed if I thought I could do it I should give it a try.

I didn't have the energy on Tuesday, but on Wednesday I headed out to the Prosser hospital - about 15 miles - alone. It was odd driving again. I've driven exactly once in 2020 - to the dentist less than a mile from home. I made it to the hospital just fine, and went in with my newest mask. I was shepherded into the x-ray room where a duo of goofy techs helped me with my "photoshoot". I got x-rays of both feet, both knees and both hands. I also got asked how to pronounce my last name, to which I first replied "very carefully," which got a good laugh.

The drive home was slightly less fun. I felt a wave of exhaustion hit about halfway back and considered pulling over. In the end, I decided it would take as much effort to get off the freeway and find a safe place to stop as it would to continue all the way home. So I continued, and made it home safely.

I got the results back from the x-rays today - everything is within normal parameters and no immediate action needs to be taken. The only result that showed up in my online chart so far was for my left foot, and noted the heel spur that has been a slight bother for many years now.

My next appointment will be virtual again, yay! I need to visit Prosser hospital before then for a blood draw. All the standard tests need to be done. Hopefully I'll have made even more progress since my last tests and maybe, if I'm extremely lucky, I'll hear that my kidneys are healthy? Hey, a girl can dream!

Sadly, I know the lupus is here to stay. The pain is mostly in my hands and knees. My hands hurt all the time, waking or sleeping. It hasn't woken me up, but I dream about my hands in pain. The worst pain is always just after I've woken up, since they've been still for so long. Typing or playing the video games tends to make them hurt less - movement helps.

My knees hurt maybe three quarters of the day. The worst moments are still getting up from low chairs. My sister, being a wonderful person who loves me very much, decided to help out with that problem. She's ordered me a lift recliner which should arrive in the next few days. It will effectively remove the worst of the "getting up" pain if it works as advertised.

I've been keeping my kidney wish list up-to-date although I'm no longer in any desperate need of anything on the list. It's so nice to be able to say that!

I am continuing to use the lavender shower bombs as aromatherapy, and they continue to apparently work to reduce the intensity of my hot flashes.

The weather has finally turned enough that we switched from AC to heat. Inkwell has been extremely cuddly recently, clearly seeking out the human cat bed for my warmth. I mostly don't mind, although he doesn't really take a hint when I'm trying to play my game or type. I end up with cat butt in my face entirely too often.

I listen to Eric teaching each day. His teacher voice really carries - I only hope it gets through to his students. He's still learning how to be an effective online teacher, but he seems to be doing great.

I'll try to continue to update weekly as I move into a new phase of sickness. Living with lupus is going to be strange, I guess. Hopefully I can stay on track.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Vote!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Kidney Saga part 123

I went to the rheumatologist last Thursday for a follow-up/check-up on my new medication and pain. She ordered X-rays on my hands, knees and feet so we can get a baseline - and to see if the lupus is already causing damage.

She also decided to keep my HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) dosage the same for now, and discussed some options for future treatment. Due to my body's rejection of the first drug we tried for kidney failure, some treatment options are denied to me.

When I mentioned my fatigue, she noted that going off the Prednisone after being on it for nearly nine months would be tough on my body, and I could expect some rough patches. I've had some very down days and some days when I felt almost normal. And some days when I thought I was fine until I tried to do something. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm still sick and stop trying to overdo it. I gotta walk before I can run.

While at the doctor's office I also had a blood draw and got a flu shot. Lots of stuff going on.

I got an echocardiogram on Monday to check how my heart is progressing. The last one I had was in an emergency room when I was barely conscious, so this one was interesting. For most of the procedure I could see the monitor and therefore was looking into my own body. The valves were so vivid - I was surprised at how clear the image was. I don't know what it found yet, but I actually enjoyed seeing it.

I got risers for my chair and for the couch, and both have helped immensely in getting up. My knees still hurt quite a bit when I get up from my chair, but nothing short of a lifting chair/cushion will stop that, I think, due to the nature of the chair. Lifting the chair two inches still helped a lot even if it still hurts. And getting up from the couch is almost painless, although I still need to brace myself and push up with my arms.

The lavender treatment has dramatically decreased the annoyance of my hot flashes. I'm down to maybe one or two a night instead of a dozen or so, and they aren't nearly as severe. I'm going to keep getting lavender shower bombs and leaving them near my computer before I use them in the shower. The scent is clearly helping.

I'm still using the exercise bike, and to my surprise I haven't missed a day since I got it. I know I eventually will have a day that I'm just too tuckered out to ride it for even five minutes, but so far that day has not come.

Inkwell and hubby-Eric continue to survive, as well. Inkwell has been getting more cuddly as the days get cooler, so I'm turning into a glorified cat bed more often. And Eric is teaching heartily and keeping in touch with his students. My waking hours are spent mostly playing DC Universe Online and writing on various projects.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Who Is That Masked...

Now that I have my excellent Dick's Drive In mask, I'm looking at my wish list of other masks I'd like to get.



First up would be a toss-up between the Aquaman themed mask and the Doctor Who themed mask from TeeFury:



TeeFury also has a couple of EXTREMELY timely masks that I wouldn't mind getting just for the collectible/memory value:



The Museum of Flight has a good one that I would like to get:



And after all the protests, who wouldn't want a postcard from Anarchist Seattle on their face?



But I guess the best one of all is one that we should all keep in mind during this whole pandemic thing:

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Kidney Saga part 122

I want to thank people.

I want to thank people, but I don't have the words to thank them enough. I want to thank the folks who supported us financially, and the folks like Anna and Elayne who sent socks and other needed objects. The person who, very early in my sickness, sent me a $50 Amazon gift card that literally kept me clothed. The folks who bought a humidifier, and the bidet. The folks who contributed to my GoFundMe, including the streamers on Sophie's channel. My sister-in-law, who not only gave me stuff to help but also provided advice and calming information.

I want to give you all the hugs and kisses and praise and happiness.

You helped us. You helped us a lot, during times that were really bad. Life has improved dramatically for us, with Eric now employed and my health slowly improving. I don't have enough thanks to give to everyone who deserves thanks. I hope I am past the worst of it, and can just concentrate on healing now. But I wouldn't have made it this far without all the support I got from other people.

Right. Health update time.

I'm off the Prednisone now, and we're watching to see if I relapse at all. I have a rheumatology appointment next week, and we'll see what adjustments need to be made to the HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine). My hands and knees both hurt a lot frequently, so I hope there's some solution that will help make life a little more tolerable. I've been using a combination of Tylenol and compression gloves to keep the pain at bay, but neither are perfect.

My hair has gone curly. Not as curly as some folks, but far more curly than I'm used to. I find it terribly annoying, but there's not a lot I can do about it right now. If not for the pandemic, I'd find someone who can style my hair and get a cut that would minimize the annoyance. But as it is I have only two real options: cut it short or let it grow. At this point I'm going to let it grow a bit and see if it starts to behave. If not, I may go ahead and chop it.

Still no issues with the diabetes. My blood sugar levels are extremely stable and normal. It's actually kind of surreal in some ways. I got used to worrying about making sure I took insulin, now I'm still testing my levels but not jamming a needle in my stomach before each meal.

My hot flashes are still an issue, but I read a study that said the scent of lavender actually helps reduce the intensity of hot flashes. So I ordered some lavender shower bombs and when they arrived left them next to my computer chair, filling the air with lavender scent. I don't know if it was the placebo effect, but my hot flashes that night were both less intense and far fewer in number. If my house smells like lavender for the next few years, you know why.

My biggest discomfort at the moment is getting up from my chair or the couch. Both are just a little too low, and my knees hurt fiercely when I stand. I'm looking into options for raising the chair a few inches (it's an Ikea Poang Chair). I could probably easily raise the couch with some store-bought risers, as well. It's just a matter of getting the risers for the couch and figuring out how to get or make risers for the chair.

I've been doing very well with my short daily exercise session on the recumbent bike. I've gotten up to 15 minutes a day. I'm not allowing myself to push it too much, with my daily hard goal set at 5 minutes and my hopeful goal at 15. I've also told myself that I can take a day off each week if needed. So far, keeping the goals easy has helped me reach the higher goals.

Inkwell is healthy again, and is restless and wants to play or cuddle all the time. I indulge him as much as I'm able.

Hubby-Eric is still settling into his new teaching job, but it appears online teaching really fits him. He spends a LOT of time doing research and prepping, and I can listen to his classes sometimes (he still has a classroom teacher voice that carries throughout the house). I have heard him calling students individually and he has conferences with fellow teachers on a regular basis. Assuming a child is suited to online learning, it appears this company is a pretty good outfit to be taught by. I know Eric is putting in as much work as he did when he had a physical classroom, and seems as interested and concerned about his students around the state as he was with his local students. If only we could get faster internet out here, it would be perfect.

So I am going to go and count my blessings again. And send good vibes and thanks to everyone who has helped me the past nine months of this nightmarish year.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Kidney Saga part 121

Every day a little stronger.

It gets a little easier to go up and down the stairs each day. The exercise bike feels less of a strain each day. I can get up out of my chair a little easier each day.

Oh, the evenings are difficult, as the exhaustion and pain take their toll. But I can feel the improvement each day in the mornings.

The diabetes seems to be gone. Going off the insulin didn't change my blood sugar test results. I'm still on the long-lasting insulin and will still need to test for a few more weeks, but the results have been spectacularly good so far. I even allowed myself to have a cream soda the other day to celebrate.

My biggest problem right now is the lupus arthritis pain. Most of the pain is in my hands, but I also have some in my knees and ankles. The compression gloves I ordered to help with the pain in my hands have not arrived, and seem to be stuck in some sort of post office limbo.

I was playing with Inkwell the cat yesterday on the landing, and sat down on the floor to play a little more intensely. I wasn't able to get up from the floor directly, I had to scoot over to the stairs and use the railing to pull myself up. I was disappointed, because I'd hoped I had enough strength now... but it'll come in time, I hope.

The hot flashes continue to be annoying but not intolerable. They always strike in the evening, and have kept me awake a couple of nights. I don't know how long they will last, but they do add an interesting sensation to my already full life. Again, I think I'm getting off easy with them. I know they could be a lot worse.

The windows are open this morning, with a light breeze clearing out the stuffiness of the house. Inkwell has been jumping from window to window to sniff and listen to the outside. I'm trying my best to forget about the rest of the world for a few hours and simply enjoy being alive.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Kidney Saga part 120

My diabetes is either gone or going away.

I talked to my doctor today about the tests I had the day after Labor Day, and the indicator for diabetes is dramatically normal. She said she's never seen someone go from where I was the last time she checked (around 8%) to where I am now (about 5%). The normal range is 4.8-5.6%, prediabetes is 5.7-6.4% and diabetes is more than 6.4%. She said most of the time she sees people drop to somewhere in the 6% range first, then drop down to normal range after a few months. But we still have to be careful. So I'm going off the fast-acting insulin as of now, but staying on the long-acting insulin for a bit longer. I will need to continue to do blood tests twice a day and watch carefully for either high or low blood sugar. I'm to report any oddness, and take insulin if needed. If everything stays happy, I'll check back in a couple of weeks to determine if I can go off the long-acting insulin.

That translates to three less needles a day, but the most annoying bits (the finger prick tests) are still necessary. Oh well. I guess you can't win 'em all.

Still, I'm delighted. Even though I was told there was a good chance the diabetes would go away once I was off or mostly off the Prednisone, I was prepared to live with it for the rest of my life. If I can keep my weight down, there's a chance I'll never have to deal with it again. I have a serious motivation to avoid it in the future now that I've lived with it for several months. On the other hand, I'm no longer frightened by it.

My dietary restrictions are a bit less onerous now. I don't have to count carbs, though I'll probably try to stay within the guidelines. I still have to avoid sodium and phosphates, and keep a close eye on how much potassium I get (although it's less of a concern due to the way water pills work). I will be able to eat when I want to instead of having to keep a careful schedule due to the insulin shots, which will be nice. Not dramatically different, but nice.

I also talked with the nephrologist via video on Monday. He didn't change any of my medications, which surprised me a little. His main concern was making sure I'm tapering off the Prednisone correctly (I am) and that the Hydroxychloroquine isn't having any massive side effects (it isn't). My blood tests are showing continued improvement, in line with the timeline from my chemo treatment. He wants to see me again after I'm off the Prednisone for awhile to make sure I don't regress. In short, all is well on the kidney front.

My hands continue to hurt, usually worse right after I wake up in the morning and late in the evening. I've ordered some compression gloves that are supposed to help with arthritis pain, so should (in theory) help me. In addition to hand pain, I feel minor pains in other joints, particularly my knees.

In fact, it has been hard to get out of my chair lately. I keep wishing for a new chair, but the downsides are a pain. I would want one that has a higher seat so it's easier to get out of it, but I still need to be able to elevate my feet. The sheer logistics of finding the right chair at the moment would be difficult. And then I'd have to get it upstairs and in my room. So I'm just trying to deal with the pain and make sure I'm careful about getting up.

To combat the pain, I've been exercising. My sister brought a recumbent exercise bike she's stopped using, and I've managed to get at least five minutes on it every day since she visited on Labor Day. Between it and going up and down the stairs for every meal, I'm very tired. But each day it all gets a little easier and I feel a little less exhausted, so I'm building up my energy again. It feels good when I think about being able to do normal things without collapsing. Movement is medicine, and one with only a few side effects.

The other new exciting medical issue I'm experiencing is hot flashes. Yup. I'm that old, and going through THAT. My hot flashes tend to happen every evening. Each one lasts a few minutes, and there's usually five or six of them in a row. I think I'm getting off easy, despite the annoyance. When I told my doctor, she was a bit concerned I was going to ask for hormone treatment or something. I basically said I'm on too many medications right now as it is, and I wouldn't even DARE to add another unless the hot flashes become intolerable. Right now they are annoying - mostly because of the sweat that gets into my eyes every time I have one - but not impossible to deal with. It's just one more thing to pay attention to, though.

Inkwell got sick last Thursday, throwing up and refusing to eat. He also became lethargic, to the point where he didn't even attack my hand when I touched his belly. We took him to the vet, but his blood tests came back normal. He only had some inflammation in his intestines. So we waited it out, and he slowly got back to eating and moving and being himself. But for awhile it was scary, and I checked on him every hour or so to make sure he was still breathing.

In addition to a sick cat, the smoke from all the wildfires in three states settled in across Washington and northern Oregon, turning the sky a filthy shade of yellow and causing local agencies to discourage people from going outside. I was given strict orders by my nephrologist to stay inside, as the smoke could definitely cause me serious problems. I have no problem with those orders. I'm just glad we have an air purifier. Both the nephrologist and my regular doctor said they are waiting for air purifiers, expressing some regret that they hadn't already gotten one.

Eric has been teaching on-line, and seems to be doing fine. I haven't really bothered him much, but he has cheerful little anecdotes about his students, and it's easy to read between the lines that he likes them and is already bonding with some of them. He's had some minor successes with the technology, as well. If we only had a faster internet connection, the job would be absolutely perfect.