Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Power of Words

It has been three days and I am still pretty well glowing. Let me explain.

On November 23, 2017, I self-published a book that was written for the benefit of a small Christian niche that calls themselves Standers. A Beginner's Guide to Defy Divorce and Take a Stand for Your Marriage is a short book that took a number of months to complete because a large portion of it (more than half the book) is testimonies that I needed to collect. Still, I worked pretty hard to get the book out before the holidays because the holidays are a big time when this niche seems to have a lot of activity.

Because it did take so long to compile the book, I took time to accumulate a group of about 20 advance readers who promised to read and leave honest reviews of the book on Amazon to help me attract more readers. I also reached out to a few book bloggers. Of everyone who said yes, only one actually posted her review of it. She is a book blogger who greatly enjoyed another of my Christian books (and gave that one a nice review with a five star rating) but she gave the new one only 4 stars.

(Note: The other book bloggers have either messaged they will not be reviewing this book, after all, or they have not yet gotten to it in their reading cues.)

To me, four stars is on the positive side of mediocre so that was both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. At least the book blogger did not hate the book. She is also not a member of the niche to whom I had written. So her review was both helpful to boost Amazon ratings and not so helpful in regards to my gleaning niche-specific feedback.

A month and a half passed with no sales and no new reviews. I decided that maybe I would be better off blogging about cooking and DIY homemaking projects than writing to a group of people who do not even read what I write. I am pretty sure that repeatedly writing to be unread is part of the definition of, "waste of time." So I started a new blog and secured an accountability partner for it.

Funny thing: My accountability partner turns out to blog about marriage. She wound up joining a group that I belong to AND saw a post with my book cover in it. Because she knows who I am, she emailed her congratulations and a screen shot to me.

I was hugely surprised! I didn't even know that a sale had been made (not even ONE at this point) and yet someone had posted a photo of her hand holding my book. Instantly, I looked for the thread and liked it to bring it to the top of the group page, then I messaged a friend of mine to tell her about the thread and she also followed it.

Two questions were subsequently asked and answered by the lady who loves my book. The first question was if the book was good and where she got it. Her answer was:
It is awesome. Read 5 chapters in 1 night!!!! Barnes & Noble

This is when I began to glow. If you see a warm light coming from the direction of northeastern Wisconsin, DO NOT BE ALARMED. No nuclear weapon has struck. That is likely just me.

I'm sure the second question helped to pique interest. "Tell me about the book," was answered:
It talks about God's original design for marriage and standing for your covenant. Has testimonies too.




[In fact, it has 40 testimonies. Just saying.]

Several more people joined the thread after our questions were posed and, by the next day, my book was being read by 5 more! Today, I contacted the woman who made the original post to thank her and let her know that her positive comment had helped me to help at least 5 other people (4 e-book sales and one Kindle library borrow). She responded to my message and, not only did she agree to leave her review on the Bookseller's website, but her answer added serious brightness to the glow I am sure you must be seeing on your horizon. (If you cannot see it, it should be visible after nightfall.)

Here is the best part of this whole story. The woman said,
Your book has blessed me in my stand so much!!!! 

Now those words, my friends, make all the work I put into this book totally worth it. Yes, I mean it. My words made a difference for at least one hurting person and her few words of praise made a huge difference for the way I feel about the work I have done.

If there is one take-away from this story that I want you to have, it is this: 
Words make a difference, so consider yours and use them wisely. 

My words made a difference to that woman and her words made a difference to more than just me. "It is awesome. Read 5 chapters in one night," resulted in 5 more people reading my book AND encourages me to not close the door on writing more to that audience.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Don't Let This Happen to Your Dog, Too (Part 2 of 2)




In yesterday's post, I talked about the beginning and development of Snickers' symptoms, seeing two different veterinarians and our desperate final attempt to save his life through a veterinary treatment plan. Today, I will tell the results of the plan, my own diagnosis of what was ultimately really wrong with my dog and the simple steps pet-parents can take to protect their own 4-legged family members. Please remember that I am not a veterinary or medical professional of any sort.

The treatment plan was to begin with antibiotics plus three consecutive days of pumping extra water into Snickers to try to flush his kidneys. On the fourth day, more blood would be drawn to see our progress and discuss the results. Snickers did appear to feel better after being injected with antibiotics and pumped full of water and he got very quickly comfortable with his daily veterinary visits as a result of feeling better for them, but his appetite did not improve at all. All he would do was lick our dinner plates clean and sniff at the various foods we offered him.

On the third day of treatment he did not even lick our dinner plates. Then on the night of the third day, Snickers finally displayed the other two symptoms of the condition I now believe claimed his life: vomiting and stool changes (diarrhea in Snickers' case). The fourth day, blood tests revealed that the Pancreatitis was way worse than the kidney disease (a reversal) and the numbers on the kidney disease had more than doubled!

I miss my Snickers and am so sorry I did 
not have the knowledge to protect him.
Hope for recovery was completely lost and we did not want him to needlessly suffer. It was such a hard thing to let go, not only because of his relatively young age but also because he did not act sick. We could tell that his mind was active and working healthily. His body just didn't agree with his mind's opinion and was going to give out no matter what we did to try to keep it going. So we said some tearful goodbyes and put our Snickers to rest 13 days before his 11th birthday.

The kidneys' function is to filter blood. The pancreas creates digestive enzymes and insulin. On the drive home from our final visit with the vet, my mind was still working and spinning, trying to figure out what could possibly have caused Snickers' kidney disease and pancreatitis to worsen so quickly when we had been flushing his body with water and he wasn't even eating any food. It just didn't make sense! So I started thinking back to the beginning of all his problems, going through everything in an attempt to figure out what I might have missed.

I thought about the skunk spray and then the skunk. It was the only skunk who has ever visited my yard when the dog was outside and I wondered why it might have ventured into the yard. I remembered the at that time, the long sump pump hose that usually carried water to the back of my yard (where Snickers could not reach the water) had been removed from the back of my house by construction workers and so, for a short time, the water made a gradually deeper hole and periodic puddle of water in the dog run.

Ah, the sump pump must have just gone off and the skunk was coming for a drink, I concluded. Suddenly, the switch clicked in my mind as I remembered trying to look into my sump well with a flashlight to change the pump last summer. (Oh, the joys of household maintenance.) The well water had been so cloudy that I could not see anything through it! At the time, I deduced the well was full of mold from when I first bought the house, but I did not connect the mold last summer with my dog's condition that began two summers ago.

As soon as I pulled into my driveway, I went and looked up the symptoms of mold poisoning. There are several for inhaled mold, but only three for ingested mold: LOSS OF APPETITE, vomiting and diarrhea. Eureka! Suddenly, it all made sense. The garlic having helped him to eat better made sense because garlic is an natural anti-fungal "medicine."

The switching from food to food made sense since many ingredients (such as wheat flour) that we normally include in dog foods make mold toxicity worse. Besides, if the garlic originally made him feel better, it makes sense that he would have been searching for another food to do the same thing. His blood work getting WORSE when he was on antibiotics but eating nothing also made sense because the kidneys filter blood and, "Antibiotics create a fungus-friendly intestinal environment" (Mercola.com). Most doctors (and I assume vets) are unfamiliar with the symptoms of mold poisoning so it also makes sense that neither of the vets we saw recognized the symptoms.

All the pieces suddenly just fit together -- only a few hours too late to save Snickers' life.

If you have a pet in your life whom you love or if you know people with pets they love, please share our story. Pass it along so that others might know to take steps to prevent and watch for the signs of mold poisoning in their pets. Don't let lack of information about this dangerous condition to claim the life of another beloved companion. Please help our story to serve as a caution that encourages people to keep their pets safe.

Mold poisoning is more common in pets than one might think. Keep everything he comes in contact with inside your home clean and dry. Outdoors, ensure he doesn't ingest or lick any item or surface that could have mold growth (including puddles of moldy sump water).

For more information on mold poisoning in pets, visit https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2017/06/09/pets-toxic-mold-exposure.aspx

P. S. I promise that my next post on the Penny Pinching Project Lady will be less distressing. Perhaps we should make some yummy Mexican food?

Links for your convenience

Neutrogenics (The book on homemade dog food that I intended to buy - affiliate link)
Recipe for homemade kidney-safe dog food
Snickers' Final Expense Relief Fund (Go-fund-me link)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Don't Let This Happen to Your Dog, Too (Part 1 of 2)

Originally posted at https://pennypinchingprojectlady.blogspot.com/2017/12/dont-let-this-happen-to-your-dog-too.html



My heart is breaking as I write this post, but I very much want to help other dog-parents avoid the pain my family and I experienced over this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If our situation can help someone avoid this same agony, then perhaps some good can come from our tragedy.

[Please note that I am not a vet, nor am I any kind of medical professional. I am just a dog-mom who greatly loved and now greatly misses a furbaby who might have been saved if I'd just had the information I needed when I needed it. My hope is that our story will help some other dog-family to figure out and save the health of their beloved companion so that Snickers' difficult demise was not completely in vain.]

Our story begins about two years ago when my Snickers, a healthy, 8 year-old, rat terrier, got sprayed by a skunk in our back yard. At the time, we had a wireless fence to keep Snickers in the yard but a wireless fence does not keep out any critters. So Snickers got a snout full of skunk spray when he heard a noise on the far side of our house and ran to investigate it.

NOTE: The skunk spray is NOT the cause of the trouble to follow. However, looking back, I believe the skunk's presence in my yard was something that could have helped me to figure out the actual problem.

I should mention here that I am not a country girl. I am a suburbian. Every now and again, I have lived within the city limits of a small city but mostly I have lived in the suburbs of large ones. I know nothing about wild animals except to stay away from them, but I have a friend who was raised in the country and she directed me to the "shampoo" recipe for de-skunking my dog.
Snickers insisted upon sitting "in" our laps

Shortly after the skunk incident, Snickers' appetite suddenly decreased. A healthy dog, he was normally somewhat of a canine vacuum cleaner. It was very unlike him to stop eating his food, so I was quite worried and sought the help of a local veterinarian.

NOTE: Decreased appetite was my dog's ONLY noticeable symptom until the very end.

At the time, Snickers had visited a pet clinic a couple of times and the doctors there were good but I did not feel he had his own vet. So I called my local animal shelter and asked for the name of their veterinarian. When I called, I was happy to be able to get Snickers in to see him right away and my opinion of this new vet went up a notch before I even met him.

Blood work was done, symptoms were asked, temperature was taken and the diagnosis was a bacterial infection. The vet began Snickers' antibiotics with a shot and then I continued with oral medication at home. Three days later, there was no change in eating behavior so I called the vet again. We decided to try a different antibiotic and I picked it up that morning. The vet said it would be okay to give Snickers his first dose of the second medicine right away even though I had already dosed him with his original medicine, so that is what I did and he started to eat better that very afternoon.

I breathed a sigh of relief that he had begun eating more normally but my relief did not last because Snickers' appetite declined again the next morning. By the second day on the new medicine, his appetite was still awful so I called the vet back to ask if I could maybe give Snickers both medicines together. I was given the go ahead and that is what I did but it did not help the situation. His appetite did not return. At his follow-up veterinary visit, though, Snickers' bacterial infection was gone and the vet dismissed his loss of appetite to advancing age. (Remember that Snickers was 8. Life expectancy for his breed is between 16-19 years so 8 is really just middle age.)

Completely perplexed as to why my dog was not eating, I called to talk about him to the smartest people I know -- my parents. (Side note: It is really nice to be able to consult a rocket scientist whenever I have a problem I can't solve on my own.) After some discussion, we decided to get Snickers' teeth cleaned. My dad paid for the procedure with the condition that the vet was to remove NO teeth. My new vet agreed to that condition and I took Snickers in for the cleaning.

NOTE: I now know from research during Snickers' final days that regularly giving my dog raw bones to chew would have helped to keep his teeth naturally clean. I also know that adding a few drops of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to his water dish would have helped to both clean tartar off of his teeth and introduce beneficial enzymes into his gut. If I had known to do those two small things, my dog's teeth would likely have never needed a veterinary cleaning and he would not have lost many of them. If he had clean teeth, dental disease would never have been considered a potential diagnosis of the problem.

He was normally somewhat of
a canine vacuum cleaner.
I picked Snickers up from his dental cleaning on a Friday and that same weekend was when I got one of my biggest clues as to what was causing him to not eat. Unfortunately, I did not understand the clue.

This was back when I was learning a little about herbal medicines (for humans) and I had determined to try to like eating raw garlic. I was sitting in the living room, eating pieces of french bread smeared with raw garlic butter (made with softened real butter and freshly chopped raw garlic), when it occurred to me to ask if Snickers might like to taste. He DID want to taste and he ate quite a few bits of my snack. The next day, Sunday, he was still not eating his dog food but he ate more raw garlic-butter on bread.

On Monday morning, I was delighted when my boy ate some of his dog food. I was sure he was on the mend and I attributed his healing to the dental cleaning.

Still, I called and went to see the vet about the unapproved tooth extraction. Before I left, I asked about Snickers' appetite still not being as good as it should be. The vet dismissed my dog's continued, sole symptom. He told me that older dogs often have diminished appetites and he was not concerned by Snickers not eating as much as was usual.

That same night, very late, I heard Snickers wake up, come downstairs and walk around the kitchen as if he wanted to go out. So I got up and came down to open the door to the back yard for him. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I slipped in something and fell on my kitchen floor, almost knocking over my ironing board and bringing the iron crashing down right by my head. (Lesson learned: I now always put away my ironing board immediately after I am done using it and let my iron cool down in my kitchen sink.)

When I turned on my kitchen light to see what I had slipped in and clean it up, I saw loose  stools mixed with quite a bit of blood. Snickers and I went back to bed after that and I called the vet in the morning. The vet told me that he was unconcerned by a single incident of bloody stools.

Despite the vet's unconcern, I had been thinking about it and thought maybe eating raw garlic was the cause. Snickers had been eating quite a bit of it and I thought it might have irritated his stomach lining.

[NOTE to the wise: Raw garlic is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, so I really do WISH I had looked up the correct amount of it to feed him as a natural remedy because it might have saved his life.]

Again, I asked about Snickers' decreased appetite and the vet told me that he was satisfied that nothing more was wrong with my dog but if I wanted to pursue the matter, I could take him to a veterinary internal medicine specialist. The nearest specialist, he told me, was about 100 miles away.

Snickers loved his sister.
Because of the expense involved with driving 200 miles for each internal medicine visit, because the vet said he was comfortable there was not a medical problem and because Snickers' appetite seemed to be getting better, I did not seek out the help of the veterinary specialist. I feel in retrospect that this was one of my biggest failures. However, it was not my biggest failure.

Over the next year and a half, I tried all sorts of different foods with Snickers and he would eat for a few days, but then stop eating until I gave him a different food. His appetite would decrease and then it would get better again for no apparent reason. He did still lick our dishes after meals and we thought he was just being stubborn about wanting more dietary variety and wanting to eat human food. I did notice that his appetite picked up a little during my yogurt-eating phase, but I did not think much of it. As we needed to coax him to eat, often needed to spoon-feed him and he displayed no other symptoms, we really did think he was just acting spoiled.

Right before Thanksgiving this year, Snickers was eating about 1/3 can of dog food at dinner every night. He would wait to eat until we had finished our meals, lick our plates and then eat his own food. He generally ate table scraps for lunch... in the living room and on a people plate, of course, and sometimes also ate some canned dog food out of his dog bowl. It was not optimal eating behavior for a dog but I decided I could live with needing to spoil my stubborn pet to get him to eat.

Money is very tight for me so on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when I came across a brand of canned dog food at my local dollar store that would have helped me cut my dog food costs almost in half, I felt hopeful. I picked up one can and tried it out on Snickers that evening. I was not alarmed when he turned his nose up at the new food. I was disappointed. Remember, I thought he was being picky because he was spoiled. (Not the case at all, it turns out.)

On Wednesday night, the first night of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (when all my local vet offices were closed), Snickers also turned up his nose at his favorite flavor of his normal brand of dog food. This concerned me but I was not yet truly alarmed because of the eating habits he had been displaying over the past year and a half.

My daughter and I did as we normally did when he stopped eating and proceeded to offer him multiple different kinds of people foods to get him to start eating again. We tried all sorts of foods with very little success. He would eat just one or two bites of whatever he tasted and would then stop. I think the most he ate all weekend was a serving of stuffing from when I accidentally dropped my Thanksgiving plate on the kitchen floor. (Arthritis can be a real bummer!)

Snickers loved his big brother.
We were very worried by the end of the long weekend. After 5 days of eating almost nothing, Snickers had lost so much weight that he was having trouble walking down the stairs. The first thing I did on Monday morning was call the veterinary clinic I had originally ditched in favor of a local vet. I got an appointment right away and took Snickers in. Snickers weighed in at 22.8 pounds. He had lost 1/5 of his body weight! (His normal weight was just shy of 28 pounds.)

We saw Dr. Kurtis Hallgren and I have to say that I am well impressed with him. He was very patient with me, answered my questions, fed me information and gave me guidance on what to do to try to help my dog. He diagnosed Snickers with stage 1 kidney failure and slightly less prominent Pancreatitis (still not the original cause of the appetite loss). Faced with the expense of the proposed treatment plan, many low-income people like me would have chosen to put their dogs to sleep, but we could not bear the thought of that. We began a treatment plan right then and the vet even gave me a recipe for homemade dog food that is both kidney safe and pancreas friendly.

The vet's dog food recipe was the same recipe that I already used for my homemade dog food except that it gave me some variation options. So even though Snickers would not longer eat my normal homemade food, I made up a modified new batch for him to try out. He refused to even taste it. I looked online for dog food recipes and found a book on Amazon called Neutrogenics that I determined to buy and try out IF we could get Snickers on the road to recovery.

This is a long post but I have gone into this much detail to show our confusion and frustration, the distress and failed attempts to diagnose the original cause of the appetite loss that eventually caused the loss of our 4-legged family member.

Please come back tomorrow to read the conclusion of this story and learn what you can do to protect your own pet from the primary problem I have come to believe Snickers really suffered.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Podcast Over, Medical Test Scheduled

After 8 regularly produced episodes that took many hours to prepare, the purchase of a microphone, a microphone stand and a splatter guard, the podcast is not collecting any listeners or sponsors. I had hoped for at least some regular listeners by now.

I guess this means I am meant write instead of podcast. That is confusing, though, because if I am meant to write, then why is my right hand not getting any better? I can barely use it! Unfortunately, the "pain management" doctor I saw last Thursday who originally thought I have carpal tunnel syndrome changed his mind when he saw the results of the EMG he just took.

Because of the conflicting test results (the original, "manual" test in the doctor's office that indicated carpal tunnel and the EMG which did not), we are not scheduling surgery. Instead, we have scheduled an "injection" on the 30th for diagnostic purposes. If that works to relieve this discomfort and restore some function to my hand, we will know that we are at least fumbling around in the correct area.

Oh, how nice it would be to get rid of this constant tingling and use my fingers again! Please pray with me that we find the solution so that I can return to writing. Podcasting is clearly not for me.

*** UPDATE ***
The injection was interesting because the needle actually kinda hurt going into my carpal tunnel. In fact, I jumped when it was inserted, which is uncommon for me. I also felt the fluid being injected, also a new experience. It made my hand feel "puffy" and sore for several days, even more difficult to use and the tingling did not go away at all. I am calling the test a *FAIL*.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Listen to My NEW Podcast!

I decided about a week ago that I should start a podcast. There is a story as to why, of course, but I think I will save the story for later. (It will make good podcast material!) A large part of it is that I am having issues with my hand that make it SUPER-hard for me to type, and I am not yet finished sharing stories from my life to help strengthen the faith-life of others. (More on the hand issue after I visit a doctor.) 

With the idea of podcasting in mind, I went to Fiverr and commissioned an iTunes cover to be made for my cast and then I got to writing my first episode. I also purchased a cheap desktop microphone because my USB headset makes my voice sound "tinny." I know. I should not be spending money on equipment for a podcast I am giving away for free. But hopefully people will like my content and want to help me out with a buck or two a month to help keep me going. At least, that is my hope!

Before I continue, let me show you the iTunes cover I got back from my Fiverr purchase. It is really good! I am so pleased with it!! (Feel free to forward to your friends.)

 Click to visit!

Listen to the episodes at http://www.patreon.com/bethdurkee or subscribe/follow free on iTunes.
(Only the free episodes will be available on iTunes.)


What do you think? Nice, huh? Yeah, that is what I think, too.

I call episode 1 "Ask According to His Will." It will air tomorrow for everyone, both my sponsors (that I don't yet have) and all the as-yet non-existent subscribers to/followers of my free iTunes channel. After the first episode, though, I intend to post on the 2nd and 16th of the month. (Of course, my sponsors will get to listen a day early as a benefit for their pledges. I think that is only fair. Don't you?)

For you, though, my faithful blog readers for so many years, I have a special sneak peek of a portion of episode 1. I do hope you will find it interesting enough to listen to the episode and subscribe. In it, I tell a short story from my youth, which I then support by Scripture, followed by an answer to a question I received that I share anonymously with listeners.

I guess that is all for today, so until my podcast tomorrow morning, I shall bid you adieu.

[excerpt]

My neighborhood was NOT safe for little girls to be walking alone.

But the Lord loves children and He must really have been watching over me while I was seeking Him because little 6th grade me, I was walking 2 miles by myself each way to and from church every single morning along a busy road in the suburbs of Chicago during the era of John Wayne Gacy – and I stayed safe all summer long.

But that’s not what this story is about.


What I’m trying to get to is a prayer that I made. It was on one of these walks to and from church during that summer. I was alone except for the Holy Spirit who was clearly watching over me, and for some reason – I don’t know, maybe because of the sermon I’d just heard, but I really don’t remember. For some reason, I reflected that if there was one thing I wanted for my life it was to leave people better for having known me....

Monday, November 28, 2016

I've Got This

Today is my 24th wedding anniversary but those who do not know me may easily be unaware that I have been without the affections of my husband since a few weeks before our 15th. Since then I have steeped myself in prayer awaiting restoration.

This morning was just like any other Monday morning and as I noted the date, I was a little surprised to discover it was THE day. With great relief, I was pleased to feel nothing about it. I proceeded through my morning routine, marveling from time to time at my utter lack of emotion about the day. I was, however, strangely hungry for a particular menu item at an old favorite restaurant in Texas (where I no longer reside), Pancho's Mexican Buffet.

For a brief moment, I considered driving the hour to my nearest city for

Monday, April 4, 2016

A New Addiction

I think I am addicted to cream cheese. Is that possible? Whenever I start eating it, I cannot stop until either I am gorged or it is finished. That is the sign of an addict. Right?

Before I took my Christmas vacation, I bought two bricks of cream cheese (they were on sale) and put them in the door of my fridge. So they were sitting there unopened when I got back home. Not a problem. As long as I don't open the cream cheese, I am fine. But, like an unconfessed addict, I made the mistake of thinking I could keep my addiction under control if I made just one brick of cream cheese dip. Cream cheese, after all, is grain-free. It fits into my diet plan... sort of.

Big mistake. I now have NO cream cheese in the door of my fridge. There is not one tablespoon of cream cheese in my fridge anywhere. It has all made its way to my hips and belly. What's worse is that