Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bourbon and bags...

Out into the germ infested world ventured I, dragging myself about to three stores for prescriptions, groceries, and candles.  Finding candles was a bit of a boon to me, but only one store had them (I guess Christmas makes the candle supply low) and of the scents available, the only one I thought remotely pleasant had but three candles.  The good news is that I remembered to get everything on my list.  The bad news is that I forgot to finish making my list.

This cold has me not all that interested in eating, so I've consumed a lot of oatmeal, Nature Valley granola bars, and Honey Nut Cheerios.  It is the latter which I forgot to replenish my stock.  I care not to venture back out anytime soon, but I will be out of Cheerios soon.  SIGH.

The firework nutters here in Fort Wayne began their activities last night.  Thus far, this evening, there have been great big booms that have Amos and I jumping out of the GREEN chair.  I guess the long displays will start later.  I am grateful for days on which there are absolutely no reason to set of fireworks.

I thought I had checked the weather.  I guess I misread the forecast or something.  For the entire time I was out, I shivered from head to toe.  I kept trying to figure out why the 30s could be so cold.  It was in the teens.  And the wind chill was 3.  So, I came home, put away most of the groceries, and built up a ginormous fire.  I have been roasting myself before it for hours.

Whilst I was gone, Mr. UPS Man came and left me my box.  It was part of my bi-monthly subscribe and save order, as well as the heating pad.  So whilst there was no embarrassing outpouring of emotion over the heating pad, there was quite a struggle to get the box inside. I do so appreciate the steep savings I get on Amos' natural dog food, but I do wish a two month bag were not quite so heavy.  I also received my bi-monthly stash of Apple Cinnamon Nature Valley Granola bars and a six-month supply of pasta.  This was an order that had the natural honey from Colorado in it, so just about everything was heavy, heavy, and heavy.  Sadly, the toilet paper has not yet arrived.  I hope it comes soon.  As in Friday.

I bought cold medicine whilst I was out and promptly took the day-time version once I got back home.  I ate some food, fed Amos, and fell asleep.  I am not sure if it was the medicine or being more active than I have since this cold started.  My pharmacist said I looked awful.  How kind of her to notice my misery!  She had called to let me know that two of my prescriptions could be squeezed in at the catastrophic rate today.  I needed to go pick up the free one at the other store, so I was happy to pick up the two from Target.  Next month, picking up prescriptions is going to be a cardiac event again.  I shall miss the catastrophic pricing.

At Meijer, where they have the free statins, I finally remembered to see if they carry tostada shells. I found some online for a decent price, but I would have had to buy 15 double containers.  Happily, I discovered that Meijer had some and promptly bought six boxes.  Given that I go there monthly for the free prescription, I did not exactly need to buy six boxes. However, Walmart and Target both used to carry tostada shells and no longer do.  Neither does Kroger.

Becky tried to help me understand what bourbon is, but I confess it still does not make sense to me.  Given that I have honey whiskey, I considered trying the new recipe with that.  However, I am a firm believer that you shouldn't go mucking about with ingredients on untried recipes, or directions for that matter.  The only time this belief is broken in when someone clearly has a poor sense of culinary practice.  For example, there are surprisingly a whole host of folk out there who recommend roasting vegetables at 350.  That is not a roasting temperature.  So, I ignore such insensible directions and dial up the oven to at least 425.

Anyhow, despite not understanding the difference between bourbon and whiskey, I bought some bourbon for that recipe I wish to try.  And some chicken. I don't know what it is about me that invokes great panic whenever my milk or chicken supply is low.  I will not admit just how un-low my chicken supply was, but I do now have additional chicken in the house for things like new bourbon mustard recipes and grilling, aside from another batch or three of the Chipotle Chicken Chili.

I did really well at the grocery store, spending under $100.  I will have plenty of room for mid-month milk and cucumbers and whatever else might need fetching.  That total also included the bourbon and four long-use cleaning supplies (such as Comet and Oxiclean).  I have about decided that, since I am utterly unable to eat down more than half of the meals in the freezer, I will never really have a month where my grocery bill is practically non-existent.  I mean, into my cart leapt sour cream and cheese, even though I still have some in my refrigerator. I might possibly have gotten two gallons of milk when one could have done.  I guess I just have an odd classification of what should be deemed staples of whic to always have a surfeit on hand.

Speaking of the word "surfeit," the other day I read an article where the author used "surfeit" when clearly he was trying to say there was a "dearth." I meant to save the example of errant vocabulary, but I forgot. I gave the author brownie points for effort.  And I found the error humorous, given that the words are opposites.

I should clarify the candle status.  All three stores had a plethora of those ridiculously expensive ginormous jarred Yankee candles.  All three stores had small, scentless votives.  Two stores had flameless candles.  I cannot understand the point of the latter two types.  Just one store had scented votive candles to fit in the glass holder.

One final note:  I highly recommend that if you decide to toss your Taco Bell order into the oven on warm so that it will remain tasty whilst you put away your groceries, FIRST take it out of the plastic bag.  Plastic bags will melt if you place them in the oven.  Melted plastic bags will render moot any tastiness left in your food once you discover that plastic bags are not meant to be in the oven and hastily pull it from the oven.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Flickering light...

I am weary of being weary and weary of this blasted cold.  This merest bit of cold is felling me as if I had a ginormous case of the flu.  Amos, too, is weary of playing nursemaid.

Of course, the whole nursemaiding thing has gone both ways.

As much as I've talked about my sheepgoatcatratbastard puppy dog, my dear friend forgot about the goat part.  And I was too weak to deny Amos his new babies once he caught sight of them.  They are very inventive things, with squeakers in the head, crinkly paper in the middle, and rubber feet.  It's the latter that is a problem.  Amos knows no limits as to what can be consumed.

I saw the rubber feet and thought of donating the babies right away.  But Amos was already whimpering for his new beloveds.  I caved and have been cleaning up his vomit ever since.

Yesterday, I held a mass surgery of what was left of the eight limbs on his two new babies.  I am not sure who disliked the amputations more, Amos or I.  Hopefully, now, the stubs left will be enough to keep the stuffing inside but not enough to be chewed off, swallowed, and vomited up later.


I received this votive holder as a gift.  Who would have known what an utter blessing it would be!  Now, the few votives I had on hand are much smaller than the candle that came with it, but perhaps I will find some properly sized candles in the store when I fetch prescriptions tomorrow.

[I'm seriously considering wearing a mask and gloves to do so.  I'd also almost be willing to sign over the house if someone would go out into the germ-infested world for me to get those prescriptions and more cold medicine.]

The cut of the glass of the votive holder makes it so that, in the dark, the flickering light is very similar—albeit on a much smaller scale—of that of a fire.  With the warmer weather of late, I have enjoyed the soothing flickering on the table next to my chair in lieu of a fire.  I did, however, run through all three of my old votive candles.

So, tonight, I built a fire.  It is colder, after all.

I still have a sore throat that is only truly unbearable when I sneeze.  The latter makes my ears hurt, but only then.  I cough if I try to talk to others, so I've been holed up in solitude and silence.  I am still running a fever and am really, really, really weak.

The only good news is that, after months and months and months of trying to determine why it was that the lab where I've gotten my blood work done is now suddenly out of network, having failed both appeal processes, I received a call that the problem was discovered:  the lab's new billing company was using the wrong NIP code.  In the world of insurance, having a correct NIP code is worth your weight in gold.

Sadly, this news came literally minutes after I broke down and paid the three blood work bills, since the "final" notice from a collections agency came today.  Once my insurance has solved the lab's billing company's errant practices, I should be refunded my payment.  Should.  What are the odds that refund will happen in 2015? 2016??  SIGH.  I suppose it is a good thing that I have yet to spend any of my small amount of Christmas money, save for to have Becky send off a few spice packets for me as belated gifts.  The pressure to gift is overwhelming.

Still, the even better news is knowing that I can continue going to the lab that is about a minute down the road from my GP for any services I need.  Future billings should be done correctly.  

Oh, wait, I lied above. I did use some of the money to get a second heating pad for downstairs.  Bending over to plug and unplug the one I keep upstairs in my bed makes for fainting and near fainting.  Sunday was such a terrible innards writhing day that I broke down and ordered a second king-sized heating pad.  The heat helps with the pain and to also relax the abdominal muscles that tense up against the pain making the pain worse.  It's a vicious cycle.

I was screaming at one point, drowning in the throes of the worse spate of pain thus far.  Given that I have been battling nausea rather often of late, I was rather despairing there for a while.  What writhing has come since has been more bearable.  Perhaps even the thought of a heating pad in both my languishing locations has helped it be so.  The heating pad will be delivered tomorrow.  I shall have to endeavor not to fall weeping about the neck of Mr. UPS Man when he comes.

I no longer care that the autonomic malfunctioning that can make my skin (and body temperature) too cold means the use of a heating pad makes my skin look like a snake's body far more easily that the average person.  I'd rather a less painful grotesque looking abdomen than a normal looking one be my lot in life.  In case you are interested, the technical term for the problem is erythema ab igne and can lead to less-than-pleasant problems.  I've already received a few GP lectures over the matter, but since heat is the only thing that helps with the pain, I'm not giving it up.

Heated car seats can lead to the same problem.  Guess it is a good thing that I have an old car.  See, there are lots of ways to be creatively thankful in the midst of unthankful things.  SIGH.

If you pray, would you please pray for Michelle, the author of my most favorite and full of comfort dysautonomia blog?  She's gone silent.  That's never a good thing.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Being the grinch...

Yesterday was Christmas for all the folk I know, but for me, it really wasn't.  I mean, what makes Christmas Christmas?  If it is food and fellowship, well I had neither.  If it is the Word, I had not that either.  What I did have is both hours and hours and hours of unrelenting and overwhelming nausea and this wimpy cold that has me felled.

I'm fevered now.  SIGH.

I wish I had better words for the waves and waves and wave of nausea.  It is hard to explain that I cannot read or text or talk or watch or listen when they are ongoing.  All I can do is try to not be in the moment so that I can get to the next moment.

I wish I had better written words for it.  I wish I had better verbal words for it. I wish, when I try to speak of it, folk would stop making suggestions for help (since they simply do not get that this is an autonomic nerve malfunction thing) or to tell me to "get better soon."  I know that is a well-meaning sort of thing, but I am not going to get better.  I am only—baring some breakthrough in the practically non-existent research on dysautonomia—going to get worse.  The nausea battles ... they are not like a cold that you can get over ... recover from.

But, to be honest, I have long had conflicting thoughts about Christmas anyway.  I mean, I have great guilt because I do not look forward to the holiday like others.  My childhood holidays were not ... good.  No amount of presents and tasty food can compensate for alcoholic rages and encounters with abusive relatives.  In that wonderful presentation on Lamenting as Worship, Michael Card talks about his struggle with being a second-class Christian, one who never seemed to have the same spiritual experiences and encounters and successes as others.  My struggles with the two main "holidays" of the Christian church are laced with such guilt that I wouldn't even dare consider myself a third class Christian.

But, just as heavy, are my thoughts about Christmas itself.  I mean, in America it is this consumer-filled day.  Period.  Even amongst the Christian families I've known over the years, the primary focus, calculated by conversation and time and effort spent during the holiday season, is presents.  And that just doesn't make sense to me.

I am all about presents.  Being in the financial situation I am in now, I am even more liking of presents.  Mostly, I like them because others will give me something I'd feel too financially guilty about getting myself.  For example, those beloved Taco Bell gift cards.  Without them, I'd be living a (sad) existence devoid of Taco Bell.  Meals out are not even in the band when it comes to budgeting, much less playing second fiddle to groceries, for example.  So, I am very (and greedily) appreciative of receiving them.

I will admit, candidly, this is the first "gifting" time where I received just one.  Since my birthday is a long, long, long six months away, I will have to be far more judicious and miserly with deciding if I should pick up my beloved bean burrito (no onions, add sour cream) and crunchy taco supreme (no tomatoes) order.  In the past year, that order has risen from $2.79 to $3.33.  That means each Taco Bell gift card actually contains fewer visits.

I even like gifts with strings attached, such as the sewing machine.  I'll give you this IF....  I am a good little consumerist.  I just don't think that consumerism ought to be a part of Christmas.

Logically, since the example of gifting in Christmas was to (for) Jesus, would that not mean the best way to continue that tradition be to continue giving gifts to Jesus (to the church)?  Seriously, our wretched economy has devastated churches all across America.  How great it would be if the Christmas spending by Christians (at least) was to churches and pastors and missions and missionaries?  If all the giving was geared toward honoring and celebrating (and supporting) the Word of God??

A foolish dream, I know. Just like my thoughts that the best way to celebrate the Reformation would be a read aloud of the Augsburg Confession ... not just food and drink fetes.

I very, very, very much dislike how it is not uncommon—encouraged actually—for individuals and families to go into debt for Christmas.  To add to their debt.  To spend more instead of reducing their debt.  To cut their own achilles.  To hobble their own well-being.

It's just plain nuts.

I know I've written this before, but the wild and crazy celebrating by gifting would be just fine at birthdays and other milestones.  And, to me, the bestest gift is the totally unexpected gift, the gift that comes for no reason.  The I-just-wanted-you-to-know-I-was-thinking-of-you gift.

Think about it:  What kind of "gifts" are gold, frankincense, and myrrh? They are gifts representing the purpose for God putting on flesh, gifts of kingship and deity and death.  They are a celebration of a life born to be sacrificed.  How does spending your way into debt buying your kids the latest electronic gadgets honor that?  Memorialize that?  Pass on the tradition of that?

Like I said, to me, the mad and massive spending at Christmas, from gifts to parties to feasts, makes no blooming sense.  So, not only am I the termagant (curmudgeon).  I am also the grinch.  SIGH.

I did discover another financial website built to help folk start dealing with their financial messes.  It is ... plebian ... which seems to irritate some of the commenters on different bits of it.  Those haters don't seem to understand that the majority of Americans have no clue about financial literacy and need the basics given simply and in language that is common.

I think that Feed the Pig is a great compliment to Better Money Habits, which I have written about a few times.  I particularly liked the emphasis on tracking your spending, with a very specific plan for doing so.

There are two types of spending: essential and discretionary. Your essentials are costs you can't avoid, like food and shelter. Your weekly happy hour fix? Sorry, that's purely discretionary. 
To keep track of your money, you need to get a handle on where it's going in the first place. Here's how: 
  1. Record each and every penny, nickel and dime of your daily output for the entire month. Even parking meters. If tracking for a month sounds like a huge task, start out with a week and go from there.
  2. Categorize what you spend into essentials and discretionaries.
  3. Commit to shaving off at least $2 a day from your overall spending next month.
  4. Repeat each and every month until...
At the end of the year, you'll end up with at least $730 in cumulative savings, which you can contribute towards paying down debt, surrender to the wonder of compound interest or set aside for the goals that really get you out of bed, no caffeine necessary. 
Once you get in the tracking habit, you'll be amazed at how many opportunities you'll find to save moneyreduce debt and achieve your financial goals. Still not convinced? Check out all our  tips to Feed the Pig and save big.

A key point drilled at Better Money Habits is that one of the pillars of budgeting is prioritization.  Tracking your spending, admittedly tedious, is paramount to establishing that pillar so that your budgeting can be successful.  I really like the idea above since you will end up with savings at the end of the year just by the small goal set.

Anyone who knows anything about interest is that magical wonder of compounding.  Of course, to fully savor the wonder, you have to keep your money where it has a good rate.  Bottom line, no local or national bank or credit union is going to have it.  Online banks will give you eons better rates, even on checking.  That's why I went with ING Direct years ago and stayed when it got bought by Capital One and renamed Capital One 360.  Of course, being wretched with change, I still used the old domain to log onto my account(s) until it was finally pulled down, ignoring the 1,001 warnings to make a bookmark to the new domain.

I was skeptical that my beloved ING Direct would still serve me well being owned by a credit card company, even though I am a fan of that credit card company and regularly use my reward points for prescriptions.  However, the services offered got better after the takeover.  Ally is another online bank that offers stellar rates.  I personally think that ING Direct was a better choice and never looked back.  In any case, for example, a money market account might get you an annual rate of .03% (Bank of America's current rate), my interest checking rate is .75%!  Even though I stink at math and cannot tell you how many times more the online banking rate is than the traditional bank, I am certain the difference will peal out in comparison of those two numbers.

In the old days, before the takeover, ING used to have a running total of your interest since opening an account.  That ticker is gone, but since 2001, I have earned several thousands of dollars in interest primarily by the practice of parking my paycheck in savings until it was time to pay bills.

The old Myrtle would gleefully look at interest earned as bonus spending money, as free money.  The now poor Myrtle doesn't give a single thought to withdrawing that interest.  [Okay, mostly doesn't think about withdrawing that interest.]  The now poor Myrtle, after selling off everything she could possibly sell to upgrade her technology last year, still opened up an interest free account to pay off that technology over 12 months, parking the money she saved into an interest bearing savings account, gleefully adding up the interest she made on the money she parked as the debt was paid down.

Man, does every penny count!

Of course, I do tend to think of unexpected interest as potential Taco Bell money.  But I do try to shove those tempestuous thoughts out of my mind as fast as they come.  I am weak, after all.

I did the same with the money I pulled out of retirement to cover the taxes incurred by pulling money out to pay off the mortgage as a means to try and live within the disability income by eliminating the interest payments on my mortgage.  Instead of sending it all to the government straight off, I set up the required quarterly installments and parked the money into an interest bearing account.  The interest paid year-to-date on that account is $42.53 as of yesterday.  Once the final installment is made, I will move the interest money to my main savings account.

That, really, is the joy of ING turned Capital One 360.  You can have unlimited savings accounts, all fee-free, with no real minimum balance.  With that loveliest of features, last January with all my financial shenanigans, I set up a small savings account for the car (automatically moving $25 a month into it) and for my real estate taxes (automatically moving $62 a month into it).  The fun part is that you can nickname them (long before other banks let you do that), so I can see discrete separations in my budgeting and planning, but still earn the same interest rate on all of it, despite the divisions amongst the accounts.

Bottom line, CDs and money-market accounts cannot come near the rates of online bank savings accounts.  That's important information to have when you are plumbing the depths of the joy of compound interest.  And when you are counting pennies.  And paying for ridiculously expensive medications.


With the steady increase in bouts of nausea, I have the sneaking suspicion that the efficacy of the erythromycin is falling off.  I'm almost at a year longer than the normal time for such to happen.  And I am torn about it.  I mean, I do NOT want to go back to the daily, near unbearable innards misery that I was in with the unaided battle of gastroparesis.  However, I would like to be free of the incredible financial burden that is the taking of erythromycin.

Despite my current nature, I am actively trying to be optimistic about it.  Yes, I am concerned that I have wild nausea after eating my first real meal of the day nearly every day, but I also am able to eat later without (mostly) additional bouts of nausea.  Plus, the other symptoms I am having point more toward my blood pressure than the contractions of my stomach.  By that I mean getting up in my mornings is so bloody hard and blood pressure plummets spark nausea (and clamminess and weakness and fadedness (faded is the best adjective for how I feel).  I am eating at the same time I am struggling to acclimate to being vertical.  And I am also, of late, working on trying to sit more than I recline, even though the former is ever so much harder than the latter.

In any case, I am a greedy, miserly, grinch, who currently is fevered and battles violent nausea nearly every day.

A last tempting thought:  Growing up, I learned that a good practice for children who receive cash gifts is to have them save at least half the money.  Teaching them financial discipline is literally a gift that keeps on giving.  Anyway, if I received a bit of cash, would it be ever so irresponsible if I spent half the money instead of adding all of it to my prescription donut hole account??  After all, I did apply the two Amazon gift cards I received directly to my bi-monthly subscribe-and-save order (toilet paper, dog food, breathe right strips, and two varying grocery items) instead of promptly buying the other two Michael Card gospel commentary albums.  Such discipline ought to count for something, eh?

[I'll give you one guess as to what I would buy.]

What a hypocrit I am.  Were I truly committed to a consumerless Christmas, I would not receive gifts, encouraging gift givers to have my gift be support of the Living Word.  But I did, happily, receive that Taco Bell gift card and some chocolate and some cash, and a few other things that I actually cannot even remember.

Amos, for the record, would like the world to know he does not share my opinion about gifts and is very thankful for the THREE babies he received, as well as the bag of dog treats.  He would, however, like for those who send dog treats to lecture me about how unfair it is that I break them into small pieces and dole them out over a long period of time instead of allowing him to enjoy the fullness of that sort of gift all at once.

I guess that makes me a grinch to my puppy dog as well.  SIGH.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Small things...

Small things.  Small things add up when you are me.

Today, I re-filled the soap dispenser by the kitchen sink, replaced the roll of paper towels beneath the sink, took out the recycling, and replaced the batteries in the remote, smoke detectors, scale, blood pressure monitor, and the pulse oximeter.  I also tried to replace the batteries in the door bell, but the batteries were not the problem.  Just 18 days after the warranty ran out, the door bell apparently died.  Now, I have just over $10 of batteries I most likely will not use.  And a broken door bell.  SIGH.

All those small things add up.  They add up in steps and moving and using my arms and all the things that make me exhausted.  It's the small things of living that are not small to one like me.  To those struggling with dysautonomia, amongst other things.  Heck, just getting out of bed in the morning, having been supine for such along time, is a huge battle.  Even if I do not faint, I have to fight near fainting and nausea and dizziness and weakness as I battle plummeting blood pressure and skyrocketing heart rate.

It is hard to simply get out of bed in the morning.
It is hard to get out of bed in the night to fetch fresh ice packs.
It is hard to get up whenever I've not been up.

Some coughing.  Some sneezing.  A slighting worse sore throat.  Chills.  Aches.  Nausea.  But those latter are part of my quotidian existence.  Still, I would definitely classify my current state of wretchedness as a second cold.

You know, if this is a fallen world, what function do you think germs were originally supposed to fulfill?  How could they have been good before?

My supply of lozenges is running low.  Milk, too.  And cucumbers.  If I am going to continue drinking water every day, I absolutely need another cucumber to mask the blah of water.  Maybe by Friday I will be able to garner enough verve to fetch the needful at the store.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pyromania satiation...

Firewood Man came today.

He completely filled up the firewood rack.  Last time, it was a tad shy, because he was not sure how much I needed.  Actually, he miscalculated by one wheelbarrow load, so he decided to tend to a need that I keep insisting I do not have.

He split and then made a pile of kindling for up on the porch.  Now, I still have kindling out in the garage, tucked rather neatly away in the vintage ammunition boxes that serve as shelving on one side of the garage.  But Tim has, for years, believed I should not have to trudge out to the garage to fetch kindling if there is a storm outside.  Given that I keep a bin of kindling inside and I have become a veritable master at starting fires, needing just one piece of wood kindling per fire, my inside stash is just fine.

Tim doesn't agree.  He also doesn't understand why I don't want a (messy) pile of kindling on the porch.  Firewood Men are not all that keen on visual rest.

To be fair, I wouldn't mind having a stash on the back porch. However, it would need to be contained somehow.  And that containment would need to fit with my ... style.

What I like about Firewood Man is that, having just filled to the brim my firewood rack, he spent about 30 minutes telling me about his plan to fell a few more trees before Christmas to add to "my" pile in his driveway.  He wants to be sure that I will have plenty of fuel at hand to feed my fireplace.  What a kind man he is.

Anyway, Firewood Man also completely filled the firewood carrier (and then some) so that I was left with a significant stash inside by the fire I had going when he arrived.  Tim sort of likes that I have embraced my inner pyromaniac.  He also liked that, when he arrived, I was still in my pajamas, braids, and breathe right strip ... most of that beneath a rather large blanket I've been wrapped up in all day.  And all yesterday.

I have a scratchy, sore throat.
I am a bit horse.
I have the chills.

In sum, I am near convinced that I picked up some germs fetching prescriptions and I am greatly discouraged about feeling so bloody exhausted.  I also have been trying to extend my small stash of throat lozenges since I have no desire or drive to go out and get some more, despite how much my throat is bothering me.  Though I doubt it will truly work, I have been assiduously applying fire therapy to my seemingly-catching-another-cold person, as well as nap therapy.  And puppy dog therapy.  I tried to apply pulled pork taco therapy, but I am not that interested in eating at the moment.

If you want a measure of just how poorly I feel, I have not taken a single fire photo yesterday or today.  SIGH.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Curtains, curtains, everywhere...

I am bloody exhausted by that unmentionable sewing machine.  However, my immediate task for earning the machine has been completed.

For these curtains, I had to go from the top.  The fabric was too fragile for me to pick out the hem, though I tried for a long while. I did not want to do extra math to figure out how to remake the curtain rod pocket whilst fitting the two curtains to the window.

These are the curtains I see the most upstairs, aside from the ones in my bedroom.  I am most happy that they finally are properly fitted.  Mostly.

All of the too long curtains in the solarium posed a problem.  I spent far too long trying to figure out which way would be easier.  Top or bottom??

I mean, there are 1,001 of these curtains, and looking at them, I saw how dirty the bottoms were.  I really wanted to figure out how to simply lop off the dirt in the process.  But my life is not that easy.

The best way was to cut away the top curtain rod pocket.  This is the pile of those old curtain rod pockets that Amos did not drag about the house as he played with them.

I think that by interior design standards, I should have made these a mere 1.5 inches off the floor.  But that would have meant picking out the hem to shorten them and the fabric would have had lots and lots and lots of pinholes left in it.  And I would still be working on them in March ... or April.

So, I am living with the height that resulted from cutting the top and recreating a two-inch curtain rod pocket.  Of course, I totally resented the curtains for making me wash, dry, and iron them all before hanging them back up.  The ones not pictured (between the far bed and the wall) might possibly be a tad less ironed since the bottom bits are hidden from the casual eye.  Most folk would not pull out the bed and look at the bottoms of the curtains.  Most.

I thought I would take a photo of my grandmother's pin cushion from when she was a girl and mine from 8th grade home economics.  I like my grandmother's better.  By the way, I somehow managed to break/bend several pins during the fitting of all the curtains.  I also had to rescue one from Amos' mouth.  SIGH.

Having downsized the majority of stuff from my life and my home, I have this rather firm policy that anything coming into the home must have a space readied for it or something must leave to make room.  Happily, the sewing machine fits into the deacon's bench.  That means that I do not need to lug it to and from either upstairs or the basement, which would have been the floors for likely storage spots.

Last fall, when I was selling anything and everything possible to pay for my technology upgrades, one of the things I rather reluctantly sold was my large-volume shop-vac with a pump on it.  The small shop vac that I had gotten for the wood floors and subsequently used during the kitchen construction had been in the deacon's bench.  But, when I had to replace the aged vacuum, I moved the mini-shop vac to the basement utility closet where the monster one used to be because the new Dyson works beautifully on the wood floors.  And I keep it on the main floor.

Also, during some upsettedness this past summer, I spent some time re-evalutating everything that I keep in the deacon's bench.  So, there was a good amount of room in there.  Whilst I am usually rather skilled at knowing what will fit in a space (a genetic gift from my interior designer mother), I was not sure the sewing machine would go in the deacon's bench.  In fact, I did not even consider that as a storage spot until I started breaking down all the sewing work stuff that had taken over my dining room and dreading hauling the machine about the house.  As I said, happily, the sewing machine fits upright in the deacon's bench with room to spare!  I also put in the table attachment (in its flat box), the power cord, the pedal, and the small basket of supplies.  Surprisingly, the deacon's bench is still not ... crowded ... if you open it up and look inside.

I am very, very, very exhausted, since my can't-let-it-go self plowed through fitting all those curtains. But I am also very, very, very thankful to finally have the garish and gauche curtain drapage and pooling and generally spilling over gone from my second floor.  Visual rest abounds in my home!!

My mother did point out that what is bothering me about the curtain on the airing porch door is that it is too wide for the rod, that the fabric is not one that ... bunches ... well.  She suggested that I either split the curtain and remove some fabric down the middle or cut it down one side.  Either way, the curtain(s) would then fit better with the rest of the room and on the rod.  I almost decided to try and tackle that, but the problem is that I would not know how to ... hem ... the cut portion of the curtain rod pocket if I cut it.  I like the idea of two panels that just fit the window and are kept pushed to either side.  However, I think that such an adventurous project should be for some sewing visitor who comes and has a desire to tackle a challenge.  After all, I now have a sewing machine handy.

My mother said that, once finished, if I wanted to sell the sewing machine she bought, it would not hurt her feelings.  She primarily wanted that garishness and gaucheness gone.  I am tempted.  After all, I bet I could get a fair price for a slightly used computerized sewing machine that threads its own needle (the only process I got in the first attempt).  Plus, I could offer to teach the person how to thread the bloody thing.  I mean, what else will I sew???  For now, I thought I would merely stow the machine and all its bits away so that I could have my dining room back.

I have missed my dining room.
Amos has missed me.

All throughout the sewing process, from time to time, Amos would come over and jump and jump and jump until I caught him and held him.  He would relax against me and start to fall asleep as he chastised me for neglecting him.  It was hard ... very hard ... to put him back down each time.  He really did not understand why I went to all that bother with the curtains.  I tried to explain, but sometimes my puppy-speak fails me.

I had a fire for most of the day, yesterday, to soothe me as I wrestled with the curtains.  I want one now that I am finished, but I think I am too tired to fetch the wood and build it.  The short journey to the back porch is a bit beyond me.  Sewing takes entirely too much standing, because it takes entirely too much ironing.

I loathe ironing.

In the space of a week or so, the batteries to my scale, door bell button, door bell, blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter, two smoke alarms, and the Roku remote all died.  I felt like there was this battery conspiracy going on.  It was ... nice ... to be able to buy a 1,001 replacement batteries without worrying about the added cost.  Being in catastrophic coverage for my medications is the least financially stressful time of the past four years.  I am sad that it ends December 31st, and I go back to near impossible budget math.

Thinking about medications, I decided to not upgrade my eyeballs just yet.  Whilst I would really like a new prescription, I have not been able to figure out just how much it is going to cost to take the erythromycin pills for the year.  By that I mean, I am going to enter the donut hole much sooner, thus facing the more-than-half-my-income prescription bill at Target much sooner.  What I cannot figure out is if I will enter the catastrophic coverage in October, just one month earlier, or in September.  And I cannot figure out what the annual cost of all the medication will be so that I can try to balance it out over all twelve months.  Thus, I decided to take the tiniest of cushions from the medication savings last month and this into the next year.  I definitely do not want to wait until the Fall to upgrade my eyeballs, but I think it would be prudent to wait until I see just how fast I fall into that blasted donut hole.  This year, it was June, I think.  I fear it might be as early as March.

Math stinks.
Medication math.
Sewing math.


At least the curtains are done, eh?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Not for the faint of heart...

Dysautonomia is not for the faint of heart.  Neither, probably, is this blog entry.

Yesterday was such a terrible day, one of those days in which you wished you lived in Florida so that there was a very real possibility of a sink hole swallowing you up and ending all your battles.  Incidentally, I have no clue why anyone would buy a house in Florida.

From 9:05 AM until 4:18 PM, I battled to get my Celebrex refilled.  And I very nearly lost my mind in the process.  Of course, maybe I already have lost my mind and just haven't realized it yet??

You see, I have worked and worked and worked to make my prescriptions less of a battle for me.  And yet it seems that no matter what I do, some part of them always are.  I have a 3-Part Plan for prescriptions now, not that it has helped me: 1) Bring my formulary to any doctor's visit to see if we can choose a medication that does not require an authorization.  Or, if one is needed, to get the authorization started before I leave the office and discover that I need one.  2) Before coming to an appointment, check with Target and my bathroom cabinet to see which prescriptions are in need of re-fills, since I now see my GP every 8 weeks.  3)  Start annual renewal of authorizations on January 2nd so that they are ready by the time I need my first re-fill in the new year.

I checked with Target.  I checked in my bathroom cabinet.  I made a list of refills and handed it to the nurse straight off, when I went to my appointment on the 5th.  The nurse told me that all were re-filled and my appointment summery reflected that.  When Target received the prescriptions, one of the pharmacists called me to say that in changing my theophylline level, the GP's staff sent over a prescription for the old brand ($1,000 capsules) instead of the new brand ($10 tablets).  The pharmacist sent over a fax of the proper prescription, and I sent over an email telling the staff why the prescription was necessary.

When I called before leaving to fetch my prescriptions yesterday morning, I learned the Celebrex had never been sent over.  The pharmacist sent a fax to the GP's staff. I sent an email.  The staff declined it, saying I still had re-fills on my old prescription and therefore did not need one.  I could give you the blow-by-blow, but HOURS of back and forth finally forced the GP's staff to notice that the last prescription was written for pills not days, which made it 3 months short of what they thought it was.  A new prescription was sent to the pharmacy.  But the battle was not over at that point.

The insurance company would not fill it.  My authorization is valid through the 31st, through the end of the year.  The pharmacist called my insurance company, then the authorization department, then my GP's office, which was now "gone" for the day (meaning no more answering of phones so as to finish up their work).  I called the insurance company. I called the authorization department.  Then, I called the pharmacy management company for my insurance, finally remembering that Envision RX is who you have to deal with on problems, not the insurance company.  The bottom line, Celebrex just went generic, so my insurance company automatically requires that it be filled generic, but the generic is not on the formulary so I cannot have the prescription filled.  At 4:18 PM, the pharmacist finally got a code to override the order and it was filled.

I drove to Target.  I discovered that my small zippered pouch with all my cards was not in my purse. I drove home.  I discovered that my pouch with all my cards was not on the counter where I thought I left it when I got it out to call the insurance company, but was actually in my pocket where I had obviously stuck it as I passed the counter walking out the door.  I had actually had it with me the first time I drove to Target.  I drove back to Target.  At 5:35 I finally arrived home with prescriptions I should have been able to fetch over eight hours earlier.

You see, even though I told the staff I needed re-fills, they did not believe me.  This has been an on-going problem with my GPs new office staff.  They do not believe me, there are errors in the electronic records that keep going un-corrected, wrong prescriptions are sent, and I constantly have to call and email with regard to prescriptions.  I get lectured about using my appointment time for prescriptions instead of the appointment times of others, but no one acknowledges that I am actually doing the former.  The errors are not on my part.

Yesterday, at one point, two of the staff gave scathing lectures on how people in my condition need and usually have someone to manage their prescriptions and help with their care (one written lecture, one verbal).  I wanted to scream and shout and maybe even punch someone in the face. I wanted to jump off a bridge. I wanted to never take another pill or go to another appointment again.  I DO NOT HAVE ANYONE TO HELP.  AND IF I HIRE SOMEONE TO HELP THEN I WON'T BE ABLE TO PAY FOR MY PRESCRIPTIONS AND MEDICAL CARE.  Why should I be punished for that??

I try.  I talk with the pharmacy staff. I talk with the GP staff. I plan and schedule and ask for what would help each.  I have notes and reminders and alarms and checklists, but the battle remains.  The problems remain.  And I am viewed/received as/criticized as a problem, as one who always makes more work than need be.

For the record, I repeat:  Obamacare has made my medical life far, far, far more difficult with all the regulations my GP has to deal with regarding electronic records.  And, with regard tot those regulations, the patients are the ones who bear the fall-out for the headaches and battles the staff have to face in trying to follow them.

Give me a bloody paper prescription and I could at least compare it to a written list and check that everything is right before I leave the office.  But, no, electronic is somehow better.  Of course, now that the anxiety medication is a controlled substance, I have to take the paper prescription to the pharmacy in person, hand over my driver's license for it to be entered, and then hand over my driver's license again each and every time I pick it up, both times so that two pharmacy staff can verify who I am.  SIGH.

I asked the insurance company, the authorization department, and the pharmacy management company how I am supposed to continue to get Celebrex if the formulary is not going to change until 2016 for the generic.  I mean, Celebrex is on my formulary. I should be able to pick it up regardless of the generic.  No one had an answer to the problem: default settings in the computers for my insurance plan ... settings that do not accommodate changes mid-year.  SIGH.

I wept so much yesterday that I actually moved beyond tears into this weird state of dispassionate euphoria.  I think I could have walked into a burning building to rescue Amos without any feelings or worries or ... thoughts.  I mean, at that point, all I could think was that worse was always going to be around the corner so fight the inevitable.

During that prescription battle, I was also engaged in fierce combat with the sewing machine.  It took me FIVE BLOODY HOURS just to thread the stupid thing.  Winding a bobbin took an hour because one of the steps was left off the video and the directions.  You cannot wrap the thread around the bobbin and then around the cutter and then move the bobbin against the spinner and expect the thread to not come unwound UNLESS you press down on the bobbin to trap the thread that you have wound before you cut it and move the bobbin against the spinner.

That was bad enough and I thought the worst was behind me, but the battle to get the machine threaded was enough to make me want to chuck it off a bridge.  Or myself. Or us both.

There are five steps in the video and on the machine to follow.  Threading the machine, however, takes six steps.  I watched and watched and watched the video and then many others, trying to see what that sixth step was.  It had/has something to do with a tiny little guide actually on the needle holder contraption thingy that is NOT numbered like every other step on the machine, but behind which the thread must be placed.

Using the automatic needle threader was a mere twenty minutes of a learning curve by comparison.

For twenty-five minutes, I kept trying to force the finger power button to be the needle up button because I could not figure out the symbols.  The finger power button does not work when the foot power pedal is attached, so all you get are errors.  And the needle up button does not work if the sewing foot is lowered.  Practically the entire day went by before I could even start my attempt to actually sew something.

I seriously do not know why anyone in the world would actually want to use a sewing machine.

Remember those scraps I have?  Well, apparently I down-sized them.  I had absolutely nothing to use for practice.  So, I decided to use the curtains in my bedroom that I had "hemmed" with stitch witchery.  Because I had done so, I could not wash them.  By actually sewing them (after much trial and error) I was able to pop them in the washing machine.  I also washed the curtains from the guest suite just in case, being all cotton, they were going to draw up when washed in the future.

Yes, that means I have never washed those during all the times I gathered up the curtains around the house to clean the dust from them.  I am rarely ever in the guest suite so as to keep it pristine (including the vacuum patterns on the carpet) for next use.

Washing all cotton curtains means that you have to dry them and then iron them before you can try to work out the math to short them.  While they were cleaning, I worked on hemming the airing porch door window curtain.

See that nice, three-inch hem?

I wasn't able to replicate it because my measuring was first too long, then still too long, then still too long, then two short.  Four cuts later, I only had enough for a two-inch hem.  All the other curtains in the solarium are pushed to the side to frame all the windows and let in the light. I would rather this one be split and pushed to either side, but I don't know how to do that and sew where I cut on the curtain pocket.  I think it looks better than the whole curtain looped over the rod, but not all that much better.

When I washed, dried, and ironed the curtains in the guest suite, I discovered that they were old and fragile and had little holes here and there.  I handled them, thus, with kid gloves.

I had decided that I wanted to have the little gather up top, instead of a straight hang, so I worked a very long time to figure out the math for that.  Finally, I decided that adding a half inch to accommodate the change would be enough.  It was not.  SIGH.

The opening is 56 inches.  I thought 56.5 inches of length to the curtain would be enough since it is a thin curtain rod. I was—as I usually am when it comes to measuring—wrong. So, my error in math means they are a bit short for the opening.  After much internal debate, I ended up making the other curtain the same height as this one so that they looked the same in both window openings, instead of one being a tad short and one being right.

I do think that this curtain-fixing-job is far better than my first attempt (the airing porch door window).  However, clearly, I cannot cut straight if my life depended on it.

Not even the use of my grandmother's sewing measuring tape helped overcome my utter inability to measure things correctly.  The latter is a distressing lack of skill that has long plagued me as a home-improvement DIY gal.

Amos did not like being away from me all day, and many times jumped up and down in front of me until I stopped and held him for a while.  He also went and fetched the blanket I keep in the kitchen to wrap around myself whilst waiting on him to do his business and a few of his babies and created this resting place for himself right near the ironing board where I was standing a lot.  He did not make it by the sewing machine, I suspect, because of the cords.  Amos is afraid of cords of any kind.

[You can see that during Gorilla Baby's many surgeries, I had to amputate the majority of both his lower legs.  But he is still much loved.]

I stopped battling the stupid sewing machine around 11:00 PM, gave Amos a bath since I used my bedding to make up the rest of the load to wash the curtains), and held my sweet-smelling, swaddled, snoring puppy dog for a couple of hours before heading up to bed.

I really did hope that someone would break into my house and steal the sewing machine whilst I slept.  Sadly, that did not happen.  I am girding my loins to try and tackle the curtains from the servant's quarters.

Early this morning, I battled one of the many "joys" of dysautonomia.  I awoke in great pain and nausea.  I knew immediately that I would be up for a while.  You see, my blood pressure was tanking, my heart rate climbing, and the nausea crashing over me because something in my intestines was pressing on that damn mal-functioning vegus nerve.  Plus, this was going to be one of those days where I would also battle the pain of something pressing the wrong way on the scar tissue I have from my childhood.

It is hard, very hard, not to fall into the abyss of despair being so ill and in such pain, knowing that there is nothing you can do but endure.  You have to endure the passing by—from build-up, to height of symptoms, to their falling off—knowing that the same will come again shortly when you actually are ready to go to the bathroom.  A half hour, an hour, two or three.  It is random, or rather it merely depends on how close to the end of your intestine the offending bulk first irritated your Rat Bastard of a vegus nerve.  And, if you endured my childhood, the second part not only has the "joy" of the blood pressure plummet and ensuing heart rate skyrocket that is bodily functions dysautonomia style, but also the searing tearing of flesh that is a result of internal damage from sexual abuse.

Damage that may or may not be correctable.
Damage that even your surgeon hesitates to tackle.
Damage that most likely will remain un-corrected because your neurological disease causes your body to struggle mightily with sedation.

Amos is such the soldier, rudely awoken from his own slumber by my weeping and writhing, and yet remaining at my side the entire time of both battles sparked by the failings of my body ... and mind ... and spirit.

Michelle, being Australian, when talking about battling illness and fainting whilst engaging in bodily functions, always references "the loo."  I think that term is better than "toilet."  "The loo is my arch enemy" sounds ever so much better than "the toilet is my arch enemy."  "Spent hours on end with my best friend the loo."  "You know where to find me if looking:  plastered to the floor by the loo."  Really, is that not better?

After both battles, I managed to fall back asleep before Amos suggested that we both get out of bed so he could tend his needs.  We did. I ate lunch. Amos cleaned my bowl.  I built a fire.  And, whilst I would rather the distraction of sewing math than the thoughts in my head, Amos and I are ensconced in the GREEN chair.

These are going to be hard (there are two curtains on the rod since the fabric is so sheer).  The hem line is just below the window ledge.  So, I either have to figure out how to rip out the existing hem stitches on this very fragile lace or how to do the math to shorten the curtains from the top by making a new curtain pocket.

I would like to do all that thinking instead of facing the thoughts in my head.  Thoughts about all the losses from dysautonomia.  Thoughts about the loneliness of having no one to help with this journey of chronic illness.  Thoughts about the embarrassing and devastating effects of the neurological disease that I have to face nearly every single day, since the bodily function of expelling waste is not something you can avoid.  Thoughts about the physical wounds that are a constant, brutal reminder of sexual abuse that I can never escape.  Thoughts about how there is no one to share that journey either.

On her blog, Michelle has written about how dysautonomia strips away the bits and pieces of your life and your identity, remaking you into something difficult to face.  It is a disease not for the faint of heart.  And it is an isolating one, because so many of its facets are ones that either incomprehensible unless lived or too uncomfortable for others to bear.  Plus, its passivity makes for difficulty in relationships, for you are oft unable to do things with others and others are unable to do things for you.  Well, they cannot fix you.  And the doing that is helpful is not seen as helpful by others.

Isn't that the weirdest thing?  The truth is that if someone else doesn't believe a thing is helpful for you, he/she is most likely not to do it ... most likely not to help.

When giving Amos a bath, my broken eyes were close enough to the tub to see that it is in dire need of being scrubbed.  Having fainted enough for one day, I do not plan to scrub it.  But I want to remember the need so as to try on the morrow ... or the day after.  Five minutes with a sponge and comet for the average person is but a moment of less-than-desirable labor.  For me, it is labor I'll count the cost for the whole day or even longer.

I'm still paying the piper for the internal (both literal and figurative) battle from this morning.  Being the wimp, I'm not willing to take on anything else.

Funny.  Dysautonmia is most definitely not for the faint of heart.  How ironic is it, then, that such a weak and broken one as I must face it.

I did have one bright spot yesterday:  the arrival of my new "memory system" for feeding Amos.  It grieves me to admit that I have been struggling to get him fed twice a day.  The magnet will both help me remember that he needs two meals and whether or not I have already fed him.  I can forget the latter in mere moments.  The odd thing is that whilst Amos gives no indication, upon receiving what is most likely to be a second meal, neither does he note that he's missed a meal.  I'm fairly certain that my little piglet has lost weight.  A pound or three would be good, since he's a ginormous version of the bichon poo, but regular meals are as important to him as to me.

I'd be lost if my inability to remember the feeding of my beloved fluff ball meant that I could no longer keep him.  The fear of that has been weighing on me lately, nearly making me insensible in the best of times.  Seriously, where would I be without the one created being on earth that is willing to walk this difficult journey with me?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

in the dark...

It started around 3:00 this morning and has yet to end.  Unrelenting waves of nausea. Nausea filling my entire being with misery. Nausea that fells me ever so completely.

It crossed my mind that I struggle more with the felling in the dark. My fear is greater. My despair harder to manage.  My thoughts more insensible. As the clock wound round, the nausea did not change, but I did.  In the light of day, my misery was more bearable.

Darkness has fallen once again.
The nausea a foe I cannot shake.
The magnitude of the battle once more overwhelming.

I do not remember it ever going on so long without respite. I have been downing Zofran without effect. Sipping Gingerale. Nibbling saltines. And generally trying to find a position for my body that makes the misery more bearable.

Amos, too, has tried to find a way to be with me without hurting me. It's been hard. He's persistent. I want him with me, but sometimes the nausea is so bad that I do not want to be touched.  It's a terrible dilemma for us both.

I do wonder ... why is the nausea so much harder to face in the dark?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Being sensible with a bit of help...

Two things that I have been thankful for about the Fitbit.  First, it sent me an email telling me that my battery was low and it was nearing time for a charge.  Such a helpful thing for the cognitively challenged.  Second, it is forgiving if you forget to put it in sleep monitoring mode.  Yes, I forgot.

Last night, I fell asleep just after eight on the couch.  I awoke long enough to take Amos out and to take my last medication dose and then made my way upstairs.  Around two in the morning, when fetching fresh icepacks, I realized I never set it to sleep mode.  So, I did.  This morning, when I got up, I clicked on the app to see how my sleep was and discovered that I could change the time period.  When I set it back to as near as when I thought I had fallen asleep, the deep blue of being zonked out appeared and the whole of my sleeping was visually displayed for me.

It is a good thing to be forgiven your mistakes.
To be have it acknowledged that you can make mistakes.
Even by technology.

I have been a bit surprised at how helpful I have found the Fitbit to be.  I mean, I am a slug after all.  However, I am not a fan of water and so struggle with drinking enough.  With dysautonomia and its vagaries upon your blood pressure, drinking enough water is vital.  I log every 8 ounces and have this odd sure of peer pressure from the app when it is later in the day and I am no where near 48 ounces (my minimalist goal for water).  Since using the Fitbit, I have become much more consistent in reaching that goal.

Plus, it really is a bit of a boost to will power. I mean, I set up a custom food entry for four Rolos (a "serving" is 7).  I think four is a sufficient number of Rolos if you eat them slowly and savor the sweetness.  Now, if you are just plowing your way through them, the square of that number could be the result.  Entering all the food I am eating in the app means that I have to admit to myself (and ultimately my GP, who asked to be able to go through the data) any time I lean more toward plowing than restraint when it comes to the consumption of Rolos.  In short, I am now a veritable model of restraint.

Another aid has been looking at my steps.  You see, when I go too much over my goal of 5,000, I feel worse and have more roller coaster moments.  By that I mean that I have done too much for me that day, been vertical too much.  So, I decided that errand running and housework days were not days to go for my (torturous) walk.  And I find myself trying to pace what I do throughout the day so as to spread out my labor more evenly during the time I am awake.  Because, really, I like to pretend that I am still the same Energizer Bunny when it comes to taking care of things and doing projects as I used to be.  However, I am not.

Today is a bit different, because it is raining.  And, frankly, after doing it twice, I have decided that I am not a walk-in-the-rain sort of person.  Neither is Amos.  In fact, he feels rather strongly about not walking when it is raining.  So, cooking the last of my planned freezer meals was good in that it had me up and moving.  However, I will not be near the goal of 5,000 steps today because of the rain.  I briefly considered trying to walk in circles on the first floor, but decided that was not such a good idea. I trip on my floor a lot.  And there is no stop light myopically pulling me to the half-way point or the thought of the GREEN chair pulling me home.

In any case, I have data that shows the overall caloric consistency in what I consume, my sleep quantity and quality, my water consumption, and my level of activity.  The latter, I think, is the most important because sometimes I get these ... lectures ... about not being active when I can.  I keep trying to tell my doctors that, with a three level house, it is impossible to not be active if you are single, the only one to do everything that living takes.  And cooking almost everything that you consume takes a lot of work, especially if your freezer is in the basement!

Mostly, the Fitbit is a good companion for the chronically ill hermit.  If left up to Amos, he and I would spend all our waking hours curled up together (with a baby or three) in the GREEN chair.  And it is a really great companion for the chronically ill hermit with ever increasing memory problems.

That cream I was thawing out for the Pasta alla Vodka?  It was actually buttermilk!  Actually, I don't mind it being thawed, because I divided the amount and put it back in the freezer.  I had two portions in one, portions meaning the standard amount I've been using in recipes.  I had a container of new cream in the refrigerator, so I used that instead.  Only five servings went into my freezer, because I also forgot to take out a main meal for today from the freezer last night.

After calling myself all kinds of silly, I did open the sewing machine box and put it on my dining room table.  I then watched some of the videos.  That is, until I got to this one:

This just got me all despairing and discombobulated even though several times the woman said there would be a close-up video later.  I mean, the pace is entirely too quick for this lame brain.  And the pressure of all that following of directions as you move the thread this way and that just crushed me.  All thoughts of winding a bobbin as my goal for the day went flying out the window.

I did appreciate that, in two of the videos, she stressed the need to use the plastic version of the class 15 bobbin.  She pointed out that a lot of folk like the metal ones, but that the metal ones weigh more.  This is a computerized sewing machine that was crafted and calibrated for plastic bobbins.  Just because you have a preference for something else, doesn't mean that using it would be good.  There's a sort of life lesson in that.

After reading how many people suggested the use of the metal bobbins, those are the kind I bought when I fetched thread.  So, a return trip is in order for me.  It is good that the machine comes with four bobbins to start.  I mean, if ever I stop quivering over this single video I can at least get the machine threaded.

For now, at least, the new normal for me is giving into the call of sleep.  I think I would rather, if going to be sleeping 12 hours or so, have it from 2:00 to 2:00 instead of the more recent 8:00 to 8:00.  The latter makes for long, lonely days.  However, I have gotten to enjoy the rainbows in the living room cast by the sun filtering through the beveled glass windows.  You have to be an early riser to see them.  Usually, I am not.

I do wish the plague of exhaustion would end.  But at least the freezer has been replenished.  And all the 2015 checking account register data entered.  And ... and the sewing machine unpacked.

I'm off to give into the inevitable in a sensible manner.  Pajamas.  Ice packs.  My bed.  Falling asleep whilst essentially sitting up on the couch makes for a sore body.  I'd rather limit my aches and ails wherever I can.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I didn't have to use the chains...

Ever since my front yard was marked to show the underground utilities the week of Thanksgiving I have been rather worried about the redbud in the park strip.  I know that it is not my tree, but the city's.  However, somehow it got slated for removal and I have been trying to get the city arborist to stop the process.

Yes, last spring, when it did not bud and looked "dead" to me, I called the arborist.  After two weeks, he finally returned my fourth call and said he would come out and look at it.  He never did.

Well, the warm weather finally arrived and the redbud leafed out, albeit rather late.  Firewood Man looked at the tree and cut into a branch and told me that it seemed fine.  Since my beloved weeping cherry did not bloom either, I realized the redbud tree must have been just as sensitive to the extended winter we had with warm days followed by further cold weather.  It was a confusing time for all of God's creation in Fort Wayne.

I treated all of my trees and bushes with a fertilizer and systemic and put extended release nitrogen spikes at the base of all of my trees.  The redbud looked better and better all summer.  However, unbeknownst to me, it was put on the city's list for removal, and a contractor arranged to have my utilities marked.

It took three calls to 811 to find out why my yard was marked and then five calls to 311 to finally get someone to come to my house.  The funny thing is ... the city guy and the tree removal guy happened to come at the same time.

During my last 311 call, I learned the city arborist is on vacation until January 26th and so there was not much anyone could do because he directs all the tree planning for Fort Wayne.  Essentially, I kept hearing that no one at 311 could change the arborist's instructions.  Finally, I got transferred to the voice mail of the arborist's emergency contact.  I left a rather frantic message with his emergency contact about the need to stop the madness of removing a healthy tree.

Calling the contractor directly (after getting the 811 folk to cough up the company name), did not help.  The contractor said he had to follow his paperwork for the city.  I cannot remember who, but someone quipped that I could always chain myself to the tree.

Tears worked just as well.
I guess.

Anyway, after my fifth 311 call at the end of last week, I have been so worried I would sleep through the tree removal that I have been unable to go back to sleep in the mornings.  Today, I was up far too early once more.  However, that ended up being a good thing because I was up to notice both the contractor truck circling my block and then the truck with the city logo on the side.  Despite my disheveled, pajama-ed appearance, I promptly went outside to talk to the city guy.

[Yes, I forgot I still had on my breath right strip.]

He said that he checked the city computer before coming out here and the redbud at this address was not scheduled for replacement.  [He checked the listing of curb markings for tree removals.]  When I mentioned the name of the contracting company, the man who had been circling the block and who was listening to us walked up and showed his paperwork to the city guy.  The paperwork that he received from the city clearly said that the tree was to be removed and replaced.

Now, the utilities marking showed just how close the gas and water lines are the to the tree.  So, even if it was dead, I would not welcome much digging there.  However, the tree is alive!

I was able to scroll through my phone to one of my rain videos to show the city guy that the tree was leafy and looking well.  He finally agreed to go back to the office and figure out where the removal order was and re-send the information to the contractor so he did not have my address on his list.

Bureaucracy at its finest.

Call me silly, but this has been a true weight on my shoulders.  The first marking was atop the leaves, so I was relieved when they were finally removed during the make-up week for the city leaf collection program.  I took the liberty of recycling all the flags.  Last Thursday, however, the yard was marked again.  Big THICK spray-paint markings, with lots and lots of flags.  Yes, I was tempted to try and mow away the markings and remove the flags.  But I talked myself ... barely ... out of doing so.

Once both men left, I was practically giddy in relief.  And I was even more exhausted.  It was as if I've been holding my breath for weeks.  You know ... if something is "on the list" there is not much a citizen can do to keep that government list from being followed.  SIGH.

So, I worked out my angst by making Black Bean Soup with Roasted Bell Peppers and Thai Honey Peanut Chicken (a double batch).  I had planned to make Pasta alla Vodka, too, to balance out the meal options in my freezer, but I forgot to thaw the cream.  I have it sitting out right now, but I am sort of fading fast.

Doesn't that look ever so tasty??  I managed to remember to turn down the heat after adding the rice, so there were no cooking disasters.  Making a double batch of rice, though, was a bit tricky with the timing.  I let it go for two and a half minutes extra.

The fun part about this recipe is that you can be a bit cavalier about your measuring. I mean, I take the "two heaping tablespoons of peanut butter" to mean that really you just end up with almost three tablespoons.  It was hard to put all eight servings in the jars and pop them into the freezer.  But I did have pulled pork tacos thawed out to eat for today.

I had Beef Stew with Beer yesterday.
Try not to be jealous.

I have become such a slug when it comes to cooking.  All those things in my freezer are so tasty that when I start to run low on them, rather than try a new recipe I just replace my stash.  Four jars from now, I'll be making another pot of that heavenly Chipotle Chicken Chili.  I will try the new chicken recipe I found ... if I can figure out how to pick out bourbon at the store.

When I checked my email, I had even more good news with the auto policy.  I received another discount because I completed all the paperwork online and set up (again) electronic payments.  This means that the policy is actually $16 less than the quote.  Every little bit helps.

Armed with the monthly payment information, I decided that, while the cream is thawing, I would start entering all the transactions for 2015 into my register program.  I did that for 2014 and it helped with trying to keep my expenses down ... or at least stay on track with what I budgeted and immediately see the long-term impact when my medication expenses leapt up with the cost of the pill version of erythromycin.  For the utilities, I put in guestimates and then update them each month when the bills come.  I admit I get a bit giddy whenever the bill is less than I predicted.  Given that I charge everything I can and have a budgeted number for Capital One, I can basically tell you how much money I will have at any point in the coming year.  Or, at least, how much money I hope I will have at any point in the coming year.  I do have to watch out for those pesky, unplanned medical expenses.

I was in March, with my data entry, when a certain box arrived.  I have not yet girded my loins enough to open it, but I did stop and watch this for the third time:

How many times should I watch it before I open my own box??  If you go to You Tube, you will see that this very, very, very cheerful person made a video for each and every page (function) of the instruction book.  I take comfort in knowing that I have videos to watch, but I am not quite brave enough to open the box.

After all, I have data to enter.
And pasta to cook.
And a lonely puppy dog to cuddle.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Curtains and baby surgery...

Watching another one of those financial videos inspired me to ask about my auto insurance yet again.  This time, this year, I had very specific questions regarding low mileage policy options, line item changes, and eligibility to be re-rated (a new policy written).  The person in the office with whom I have worked for the past four years is leaving, but her replacement treated me far better than in my last two years of my asking how to lower my insurance.

Bottom line, my coverage is being increased to more a comprehensive level (I had dropped below recommended levels to save money in previous years), my deductibles have been lowered from $500 to $250, and my policy price dropped $166!!!

It is far too easy to take the path of least resistance, to not go through the effort to call about all of your policies and all of your plans on a regular basis to check to see you are getting the best rate or paying for only what is needful.  I think this is especially true when you have tried in years past and not gotten anywhere.  But I think it is important to be a good steward of the resources you have.

[And to forgive yourself when you are not ... like buying really impractical (unbelievably tasty) cheddar cheese because it was sitting out for tasting when you went to get your natural sea salt at the specialty food store.]

On another positive financial note, I am getting a sewing machine!  [I still fear I won't be able to figure it out.]  You see, I called my interior designer mother because I determined that I would first have a round of Amos' baby surgery and start tackling those curtains.  I measured the windows and then called.  I called because I wanted to know what length I should make the curtain on the door to the airing porch.

[Is not the whole draping extra fabric thing just aesthetically horrid??]

You see, in the solarium, the curtains in there all spill to the floor. I do not care for that, but knowing that they are serviceable, not unattractive curtains, I have never had a single thought of replacing them.  However, I did want to properly size the curtain on the door window.  I just did not know if I should make the curtain for the door window longish or have at the bottom of the window, as I did on the back door and basement entrance door.

My mother, somehow, knew about my thoughts about the sewing machine (I don't remember telling her them) and asked if I was going to get it.  I said that I decided against spending the money and was going to try and sew the five curtains by hand.

Five?  What about all the long curtains in the solarium.
Uhm, nope.  I'm fine with them.
But I loathe how they look in the lovely home you've made.
Me, too, but that's like another twelve curtains to sew.
What if I buy you the sewing machine?

So, if I promise to shorten all the solarium curtains to just off the floor and promise to fit the curtains in the guest "suite" windows first (more unattractive drapage seen in the photo above), my mother will happily fund a sewing machine.  I just need to go buy bobbins and thread.  And learn how to use it.

[Ah, how hard temptation struck at that moment, thinking about having a small table and chairs out on the airing porch!!]

The too-long curtains in the servants' quarters bother me the most, because I see them more.  However, I made the promise.

When I moved here, other than in the solarium, every single window in the house had a different curtain, even windows in the same room.  It was as if the seller went to a rummage sale and grabbed a bunch of curtains out of a bin for $1.  They were all externally mounted, too, for which I also care not unless you have a true drapery accent to a window.

My attitude toward curtains is less-is-more.  So, I've had the same collection of lace shears since college.  All of them originally were full-length panels.  Over the years, many have been shortened to fit the windows of places where I have lived.  Any time a long panel was shortened, I kept the piece cut off to use on another potential window.  Sorting through all my lace shears after I moved here, I was able to find enough for all the windows except for the guest suite and then promptly went out and bought additional tension rods so I could hang them all.  [If you need any external mount curtain rods, I still have a few dozen in the basement.]

For the basement windows, remnant pieces of panels were pinned to the rod for over two years.  Last year, I sewed rod pockets for them by hand.  UGH.  And I ignored the rest of the un-fitted curtains.  All but one are regular fabric.  [Lace shears are great for hiding crooked hand stitches.]  Now.  Now!  My interior designer mother, who has surprisingly held her tongue about the sad state of the upstairs windows, will be happy.  Me, too.

Once the sewing machine arrives.
And I figure out how to use it.

Despite all the down-sizing I have done, I saved most of those horrid curtains to use as drop cloths for painting.  A few were tossed after said use, but I still have some folded in a box on the basement shelving.  How convenient is it that I have plenty of free practice material??

After discovering that presentation, I watched it many, many, many times and made that page of notes in case others want to watch it, too.  If you noticed the timestamp of the post, I essentially lost myself in the study of lamenting as worship all night long.  So, yesterday, I was rather tuckered out.

I did fetch milk.  Then, since Joann Fabric is conveniently next door to Walmart, I ventured in there to learn all about thread and bobbins.  The two saleswomen were very patient and a cadre of old biddies who were listening to all my many fears of failure gave copious amounts of advice on learning to sew.  Obviously, I will not remember what they said.  But two offered coupons to me so that I could also get the scissors that I did not know I needed.  The saleswomen picked them out for me.  Apparently, pretty scissors help with sewing.  Free pretty scissors.  All those women really were kind and supportive.

Bleary eyed, after coming back home and starting some laundry, I did little else before falling asleep late afternoon.  Amos was rather accommodating about staying in bed from then until this morning, save for trips to tend to bodily needs and fetch fresh ice packs.

I find it ... odd ... that I have to parts of my body that begin to seriously malfunction when I am over-exhausted.  The muscles (I think they are the culprit) in my right leg begin to fail and my right knee becomes ... loose.  My upper and lower leg bits do not always move in sync and there is great, great pain.  Now, my knee is not the only signal that I am in trouble.  My right thumb begins to hurt, at the base of it on the top.  The pain was so bad that I was astounded at the difference between morning and evening.  Now that I slept 12 hours and napped three, my thumb and knee are back to normal.

Weird, eh?

Having caught up on the missed sleep, today I girded my loins, got out my grandmother's sewing box, and took care of all the babies that I had relegated to the top of the bookcase in the living room to keep them safe from further harm.

This past week, Leslie bought Amos a new baby for his birthday.  I cannot figure out if it is Elf Baby or Christmas Tree Baby or some combination thereof.

Amos has kept his new baby close, dragging it about the house and tucking that monstrosity beneath him.  Despite having such comfort close to him, my beloved fluff ball hounded me every single second I sewed on his other babies.

It is very, very, very difficult to replace squeakers and sew up holes when you have a puppy dog nosing and licking and generally trying to rescue his baby the entire time you are working on it.  After repair work that took twice as long as it should, Amos now has his beloved Gorilla Baby, Heart Baby, Goblin Baby, Reindeer Baby, Raccoon Baby, and Bumblebee Baby back in his loving care.

Oh, the things puppy mommas do for their fluff balls!

On a completely un-related note, I found a chicken recipe I am just dying to try.  However, it requires bourbon.  Despite all the different types of alcohol I have purchased for recipes, I still do not have bourbon in my bottle collection.  What is bourbon?  How do you go about selecting a brand???

Chicken with bourbon mustard sauce ... doesn't the thought of that just make your mouth water???