Kickin back with Nola

Kickin back with Nola

Just me and Nola kicking back on Sunday night on the couch.

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Restlessness…oh, and Flowers!

I find myself sleepless tonight; restless and irritated from within for some reason.  Perhaps it’s my new schedule from just getting back to work 4 days a week.  My mind just seems full of things that are needing to be done, and I feel the list just growing.  Generally I can re-settle myself when I awake in the middle of the night, but tonight I just cannot seem to find that peace that precedes the passage into a nice slumber.  When I did sleep earlier, I dreamed of being lost and not having my cell phone and not understanding which direction to go in to get back to where I needed to be….I understand the meaning of the dream, and it’s true…I am pushing myself to get back to where I need to be; to find that inner peace again and to have love within arms reach.  Funny how dreams can do that kind of stuff with your sub-conscious thoughts.  

Being back in the working world is feeling really good.  My spirits are higher, and I look forward to getting out each morning, then getting home in the mid-afternoon hours.  I’m only working a 4 hour shift, but after so long being idle; without work, I am having an adjustment period.  The drives to and from work are the best part, I love seeing all of the Spring growth, the flowers blooming and trees budding. And it’s fun to pass all of the landmarks, the parks, various businesses, new businesses that I hadn’t noticed before, and just to be driving through the world with a destination.  

When I return home little Nola about turns herself inside out with complete and utter joy of seeing me.  It’s like I had been gone for a week after only 5 hours!  She wiggles and yips, with a mouthful of one of her stuffed toys, which she offers to whoever comes in the door as a sort of welcoming gift – although you cannot TOUCH the gift, you must just admire it and pet the dog!  Oh..and thank her for it of course!  She’s so sweet, and so devoted to me.  I just don’t know what I would ever do without the little bugger.  She brings such peace and joy to my heart.  And she epitomizes the very meaning of “unconditional love” for me.  

So I am sure I will settle into a routine here with work and my home projects and chores.  I just have to be patient with myself and the world, and let things ease into a regular pattern.  AT this point I rise at about 6:30am generally, and get Jared at 6:50am from his house two doors down.  He comes here in the mornings when his sisters go to school, we have breakfast, him cereal and me coffee.  Then we watch Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George morning shows on MPBN and NHPTV networks.  At 7:55am we put on our shoes, coats when needed, and head down to the bus stop at the back entrance to our neighborhood.  Nola LOVES to go with us, and is often the best alarm as to when it’s time to go.  She will begin to prance around and yap, like “hey, it’s time for a walk! The bus is coming soon!”  The three of us have a nice 5 minute walk to the bus stop and await the arrival of the big yellow school bus to whisk Jared off to his Kindergarten classroom.  Yes, it’s pretty regimented every morning Monday through Friday.  I then walk home with Nola and we have some more coffee, Nola eats her breakfast and I watch the morning news and weather while puttering around the house doing mundane – but necessary – house chores.  At 9am I shower and dress, pull my stuff together and kiss Nola good-bye as she glares at me from the back of the couch.  She doesn’t like that part – me leaving that is!  But she’s good and she seems to know that I am leaving and she can’t go along on those trips out.  Yes, we will settle into a routine, I am sure of it.

I am anxious to do more work on my yard and gardens.  Hopefully the Mantis tiller I dropped off to Evan at the machine shop will be repaired and ready for this weekend.  It would just be so much easier to use that than to kill myself doing it by hand!  I mounted 3 more railing boxes along the porch railings, in the best spots for mostly sun all day, this afternoon after work.  Now i just need to fill them with potting soil and get some pretty flowering plants to fill them with this weekend.  I also picked up 3 more large round pots today from Mom and may use those to plant some of the morning glories in, then set them in between the railing bays of the porch and train the plants to trail along the lattice work of the porch.  I love gardening.  I may not be an expert at it, but I give it one hell of a college try.  I read, research, study and think about every thing I am planing and doing out there.  Right now I am anxiously awaiting the sprouting of the grass seed that I planted 2 weeks ago during the drought.  It rained 4.79 inches on Monday…thus the ground is now very saturated and I am expecting with a little more sunshine and warm weather that the seed will germinate and if I carefully fertilize and care for it then I should have a nice lawn by later this summer.  The dirt I am working with to plant in is pretty gravelly and sandy, but I’m trying to make the best of it and have used a good Scott’s Starter Fertilizer already along with the seed.  Hell, the dandelions are coming in prolifically!  THOSE must GO.  I am going to pull alot of them with the weed puller – it’s important to get the whole long root on those or they just re-grow, and I am also going to get some weed killer for them.  I would like a nice lush carpet of GRASS, not just a green spot of various weeds!  

I also picked up a cute little old wooden wheel barrow that I am going to make into a planter for the front lawn.  It’s going to be very cute when finished!  Perhaps this weekend I will have the money for the plants for that as well.  Getting started with your gardens, lawns, and planters is the expensive part!  I try to pick a lot of perennial plants, so they will come up year after year and cut the cost in the future.  I’ve also got Nasturtium seeds and Morning Glory seeds germinating under wet paper towels in the house that will go into some of the planters I mentioned earlier.  Both will re-seed themselves to a large degree.

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Doctor’s Visit – The Results

So today was the sort of “final” visit  – at least for a few months – that i had to make to the doctor.  This was the visit to discuss my blood work results from last Friday and how I was doing on the four new HIV medications.  

First, I weighed in and had gained 5 lbs in the past month…I knew it cuz I could see and feel it!  Yikes!  I once again have broken 130 lbs.  I need to now just maintain, stay right where I am just get more physically fit.  I feel good at this weight, healthier and stronger, so I am really hoping to be smart, watch my diet, exercise, work and maintain!  I tend to snack on some seriously caloric snacks sometimes, guess I need to watch that a bit closer.  

Secondly, and most importantly, I have been tolerating the new drugs very well.  Two weeks of sickness from them and I seem to have made peace, settled in to a routine and got it down.  Thus, my viral burden (also called viral load) has dropped from 344, 310 on 2/22/12 to 190 on 4/13/12…which is a DIRECT result of the medications stopping the replication of the virus in my system.  Yay!  That on top of the increase in T-cells to 400 is kinda the perfect picture of my body fighting the virus, with the help of medications, and getting healthier.  

The doctor was very pleased with my progress and is also psyched that I have decided to try to return to work.  

So I have been poked, prodded, scanned, and tested from head to toe and I am pretty damned healthy once again!  I return in 3 months for follow up blood panels, rechecking the T’s and VL, and a check in with her.  Hopefully, I will be at a ZERO viral burden/load by then!  

Thanks to all who have supported me, encouraged me and pushed me on during the trying few previous months of me being so sick and down.  Special Thanks goes to my parents, they have been an incredible source of love and encouragement through all of this. 

T-Cells

I got the results of last Friday’s (4/13/12) blood draw via phone today.  It seems that my T-cells have almost doubled in the last month!  I was at just under 240 and am now over 400.  I will see the actual results in writing tomorrow, along with the results for the viral load / viral burden testing that was done that same day. That test will tell me how much of the HIV is active in my blood stream; how much infection is still there trying to attack my good blood!  The T-cell count is the count of the “helper” cells that are in charge of your body’s immune system.  Normal individual women generally have between 500 and 1000 of these per ml of blood.  I once tested at 1286!  Which is more in the normal range for a man, which is 800-1500 generally.  The T-‘s tend to bounce a bit from day to day, but I usually have the test done every 3 months, trying to stay with the same time of day for each test.  Somehow this also gives a slightly more accurate picture of what’s going on.  So I usually go before 11am each time, thus I am not worn down from a day of activity before the count is checked.

I have been on a “cocktail” of drugs to combat my HIV infection.  Issentress, Prezista, Norvir, and Viread are the current names of the drugs in the cocktail.  I take 3 of them once a day and the Issentress I have to take twice daily.  It’s not a big deal anymore.  Years ago, back in the 90’s when I first tested positive the drugs were few and far between, and as we did get more ammo in the munitions pile toward the end of that decade the drugs left us with horrific side-effects, sometimes intolerable, and you had to swallow fist fulls of pills sometimes up to 6 times a day!  I recall that at one point I was taking 28 pills a day!  A huge difference compared to today’s 5 pills.  And I must say the side-effects are no where near as bad now, they’ve honed the dosages and compositions of the drugs, and made them much more tolerable and manageable today.

I am feeling the good effects of the cocktail working inside of me.  My energy level has DEFINITELY returned to somewhere closer to “normal”, especially in the last 2 weeks.  And my mood, anxiety and overall attitude has definitely improved.  I have been working outside in my gardens quite a bit, getting things done that have been waiting for my energy to return for months, and generally just making it happen!  I have taken on a much more positive attitude and I know this is probably responsible for some of these changes, but the energy level alone was being squashed hard by the virus itself.  So with less virus, more T-cells and less stress I have managed to re-find that positive attitude within myself to make the rest happen accordingly.  

I realize that I am one of the lucky ones that has managed to survive 20 years of living with HIV in my life.  I still mourn those friends that I lost in the early 90’s to AIDS and suicides cause by AIDS and the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  I still strive to educate others, support others and as well as those who love ME through all of this; despite it.  I continue to refuse to let HIV be my death sentence, or to run my life. And I allow it to live within my blood, as long as it allows ME to live on this planet.  It’s a deal I made long ago.  And it holds true to this day.  A done deal.

Party, Pig Roast and Spring Cleaning

I attended my youngest brother’s 40th surprise birthday party yesterday, and it was a traditional Maine pig roast – not the most appealing way to view your food, but interesting and gross enough so that I stuck to the sweedish meatballs that did not resemble in any way the animal from which they came.  I just don’t like seeing the food in it’s “raw” form.  And the children loved seeing the roasting pig, but when it came time to eat this delicacy, they wanted no part what-so-ever.  Hot dogs were the children’s main course.  

It was a great gathering of my core family, which is always nice.  And my brother seemed to enjoy that we had gone to the trouble of trying to make his day the best it could be. The celebration of his turning 40 means that we (all the siblings) are not kids anymore, we’ve moved into that chapter of life that looks forward to the futures of our prodigy; the kids and their kids.  Funny how that works, you think life is all about “you” and what you’ll do in the world, how great your life will be, then you move past fantasy, thru those middle years and it becomes about the kids, what they will do and who they will become.  

I spent the day doing that deep Spring cleaning on my home.  Cleaning out closets and those spaces that gather the junk all winter, in dark silence, until Spring comes and we decide to rid ourselves of the clutter and re-organize the spaces to receive more things later on.  It was a great time of discovery, finding things I had put “away” months ago for this reason or that, and finding new places for them in the house.  Decorations got put up, things got thrown into the “yard sale” pile, and junk was thrown away.  It felt freeing and good to lighten up the load and see the more organized, pretty end product of a nice clean and well put together household.  I am going to work on the outdoor area more today, and what a beautiful day of weather I have to work with!  Image