Thursday, April 30, 2015

25...


All that I really know about Dave Ramsey is that he is for debt-free living and has a good training course.  Until today, I didn't know his daughter followed in his footsteps with regard to advocating sound financial stewardship.  I was aimlessly clicking around the Internet and found her blog entry entitled 25 Things You Need to Know About Money Before You Turn 25.  Again, not knowing exactly what her father advocates, I was struck by No. 14:

You should only get one type of mortgage: a 15-year, fixed-rate. Your monthly payment should be no more than 25% of your take-home pay. Stay away from 30-year mortgages and ARMs no matter what!

When my sister's husband left her, she followed the rather sound advice of getting him off the mortgage and title to her house ASAP.  She refinanced the home and gave her now ex-husband his share of the equity in the house.  His $50,000 was gone in a flash.  My sister has gone on to pay copious amounts of extra money on her mortgage whenever possible because she wants her house paid off before something happens to her.  It is her fear, not being able to keep a home for her children, and yet it is her strength.  In just four years (I think), she has flipped her mortgage payment percentages to where she is monthly paying more toward her premium than toward her interest.  I know that others do not understand her fear, but I do.

Back in Alexandria, I had a wildly high mortgage for a teeny-tiny place because that's what you do in the DC Metro area.  When I knew I was losing my job (a bird whispered in my ear) the very first thing I did was to throw my house on the market and go looking for a place where housing was affordable no matter what job you worked.  I honestly thought I was going to be working longer.  And I knew that unemployment was not even 2/3rd of my mortgage payment.

Affordable housing is a real problem—the lack thereof—in a whole lot of places in this country.  And the poor economy has enticed landlords to charge exorbitant prices for rentals because the need for rentals has sky-rocketed.  But I believe the real problem in housing affordability is the debt-to-income ratio mortgage companies will approve for buyers.  I believe, but am not guaranteeing, that the highest debt-to-income ratio a buyer can have and still get a qualified mortgage is 48%.  That's just NUTS!

The two things that caught my eye about piece of advice No. 14 was the 25% as the max and the 15-year mortgage.  I wish I had known at least the latter when I bought my first home, if not for this one.  The point is moot, now, since I could not afford to carry a mortgage and pay for medications on disability and so drained my meager retirement by its majority to pay off this house.

The end of my career (teacher to professor to communications) was in the affordable housing industry.  So I know lots and lots and lots of facts and figures (or at least I used to know them) about the problem of affordable housing.  But few rarely address not the cost of housing but the folly of folks spending too much of their income on housing.  

That debt-to-income ratio that folk use to calculate just how much they can qualify for in a house doesn't factor in things like electricity, gas, water, sewage, and some sort of communication (landline or cell).  Utilities take a chuck of that 52% left over after you've maxed out your debt liability for buying a home.  Little is left for food and transportation and clothing and such.

And then there is the dirty little secret that folk will often be coached to pay down whatever they can or hold off buying even necessities until after closing to essentially fudge their true debt-to-income ratio.  Once you have the mortgage, you can have your debt-to-income ratio even be a negative one. Yes, you may eventually lose your home, but that cap on debt restriction only lasts as long as the ink on your paperwork dries (or maybe the 3-day waiting period passes).

If you look at a 30-year mortgage, it is a bit nauseating to see just how much you are actually paying for that home.  So, the 15-year mortgage is a good boundary.  As is the 25%.  Heck, with the problems in our economy and our medical system these days, I would go so far as to state that the 25% should include ALL fixed costs associated with homeownership, such as the utilities.

Of course, this is coming from someone who lost her head for a week or so and lost the firm grip she had on her budget once the (blessed) news of generic Celebrex came her way.  That caveat aside, I think it is actually criminal that folk are allowed to get themselves into such debt for housing ... that the allowable debt-to-income ratio can be so high.

My two spates of rather unexpected unemployment ingrained into me the fear of getting into debt.  Once I paid off the large (to me) debt I built up whilst being unemployed the first time (doing so by still working odd jobs after I got a full-time job), I worked on that emergency savings.  As a working person, I also always put something toward retirement, just not enough.  Certainly, not enough for becoming disabled at 43.  SIGH.

I know ... I'm being a money bore again.

But I received my last utility bill today, so I know exactly what my fixed expenses (including meds)  are for May and the total for Amos' needs, which leaves me what I have to work with for everything else, primarily the grocery/household amount for my credit card (payable in June) to stay on my budget.  Hopefully—and I do mean full of great hope—this will be the LAST time I will have to shave off food and utilities and household needs in order to pay a larger-than-normal expense (puppy dog exam, tests, vaccines, and 12 months of heart worm/flea/tick medication) since I now have 25% of my disability income being diverted into small savings accounts for those types of expenses.  The remaining monthly living is 50% towards medication and 25% toward everything else. I think (hope) that I've finally achieved a livable month-to-month balance going forward from now and on into 2016.

I will admit that I am a bit scared to go fetch the much needed milk I mentioned yesterday that is even more needed today, for all sorts of tastiness entices me when I am in a grocery store.  I think that is because the more hours in a given day I battle violent nausea, the more I want to be thinking about and buying and eating tasty food.  Odd, I know.  Probably a problem, too.

My list, for the first two weeks of the month is:  milk, lentils, broccoli, garlic, bell peppers, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, other veggies, napkins, Murphy's Oil soap, two more pairs of the higher compression stockings, Osmocote, systemic, and a bush for the spot on the other side of the back porch stairs that I did not replace when the rhododendron died in 2013.  Of course, I'd like to get more steak and sugar snap peas, too.  But they are not yet on my list.  

The bottom line is that despite having room enough for a fully budgeted grocery/household month still, I'm going to shoot for a thinner spending goal as a sort of penance for losing my head over the Celebrex news.  Plus, for June, I'd like to go out for a bonafide restaurant meal ... IF ... I can work up the social courage to go someplace by myself (obviously with my Kindle).

I could be misrepresenting the truth (do to my failing memory), but I believe that this July will mark two years since I've been to a real actual non-fast-food-ish restaurant (when my mother last visited and treated me).  That's just kind of sad, for someone who's so darned innards sick all the time.  Don't I deserve some wanton tastiness that I did not have to cook and then subsequently clean up after?  

I'm not sure where I would go, but I have been thinking about what I would like to eat.  Of course, those heavenly steaks at Baker's Street are high on my mental list.  However, I think I am leaning toward having Indian food, since I am fairly certain that is a type of food I will never learn to make anywhere near adequately.  Surely there has to be at least one Indian food restaurant in Fort Wayne.

Amos said he wants to go, too.  You know, he said that he's willing to pre-clean whatever dishes I dirty.  Poor puppy dog.  He's a bit deluded on that score.  I guess I am not the only Nutter living on Kinnaird Avenue!

I did sneak and take a photo of the baby robins, today, once I realized Mrs. Robin was taking worms to the nest.




I'm going to try really hard and not bother them with constant photo-taking.  Hard to imagine that in a mere 14 days these naked, bulbous-eyed wormkin thingies with be leaving the nest to fend for themselves!




I also thought I would show just how many fiddleheads are poking through the new mulch already, despite the fact that we've had cold weather for eons now.  Fern bliss will soon be coming my way!

Sunday.  Sunday will be the day that I believe I can finally at least put my hanging baskets back out on the porch, for Spring might finally be coming to Fort Wayne.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Amos report...


Mrs. Robin sure does not like it when I go out to check the mail.  I think she should be a bit more understanding since she is the one who chose my front porch for the location of her new nest.  I did a bit of Googling to see how long it will be before there are baby robins and found this video:




It almost makes we want to not try and get photos ... to leave the Robin family in peace.  Almost.

Amos about near had a nervous break down driving across town to his vet.  I about near had a breakdown trying to keep him off of my shoulders whilst driving across town to his vet.  We are both exhausted.

I am very happy to report that my chunky monkey has lost 1.6 pounds, since switching to Rachel Ray's Nutrish dog food.  His vet told me that several of her patients had made the switch to either the Nutrish or Just 6.  I think it is great that Rachel Ray is making dog food without fillers and such.  And, well, I really, really, really like that I get it on Amazon Subscribe & Save for far less than the ProPlan food was.  I was spending $19.24 a month on his food.  Now, it is approximately $16 every two months.  That savings covers his annual visit expenses, but not his heart worm/flea/tick meds.  All in all, one of the best things about moving here is how economical it is to have a white fluff ball, compared to living in the DC Metro area.

Kashi never needed his teeth cleaned, but I think that Amos will have his done next year, unless I can step up my teeth brushing game. I admit that I have been lax about that, since I also never had to brush Kashi's teeth.  That means my Amos (repair and maintenance) savings account will be put to good use then!  Good thing that I set it up, eh?  

I am cold as cold can be, given that Spring has not yet arrived here, but I turned off the heat during those few days we warm days we had at the end of March.  There are a few times I have wanted to give in, but I saved so much on both gas and electricity this year over last, that my over-reaction to finally having some breathing room in my budget has been mitigated.  And I am back on the straight and narrow.

I do need milk.  And, having discovered a recipe for roasted broccoli soup, I am in dire need of broccoli and a few other things. I also finally realized that I have not had regular lentils in eons, so I added those to my still rather meager shopping list.  I might go out on the morrow.  Or.  Or I might just keep on resting from my folly.

Firewood Man had words about my not waiting on him to move the concrete basin.
I'll not be repeating them.

On a more happy note, my redbud is trying its darnedest to bloom this year, after not having bloomed last year. I asked the city arborist to treat the tree, but as I have noted before, not only was the treat not treated, it somehow got slated for removal.  I fought that tooth and nail.  So, I admit I resented spending money on a good systemic and fertilizer for it since technically it is the city's tree and not mine, but it seems to be money well spent.  I think I will treat the tree again this year, after the scattered buds have finished opening to keep it on an upward trajectory of health.

And.
And.
And....

The fiddleheads are popping up in my fern bed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  As soon as we have any sort of sunshine around here, I shall be posting lovely fern photos.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My latest folly...


I had to so some serious napping today ... because of my foolishness.

The original basin for my fountain was a lovely ceramic glazed, wide clay basin.  Back when I was living in Alexandria, a visitor tried to be "helpful" by moving my fountain to another location that would get better light for the moss growing on it (it used to be covered).  Before I could stop the move, the visitor managed to drop and break basin.  The very expensive basin.  SIGH.

I found a concrete top to a bird bath that was on clearance because its base had been broken.  That is what I have been using for the fountain ever since.  However, it was immensely heavy, making moving it each time I cleaned the front porch nearly impossible.  And, more importantly, the basin was too shallow, so I kept burning out pumps.




VoilĂ !  I found a rather economical solution (yes, having that extra money from switching to generic Celebrex went to my head a bit) on eBay two weeks ago, and it finally arrived in the mail.  It is an antique enamelware basin ... which just happened to be GREEN!  

A couple of months ago, when I thought about setting up the fountain in the Spring, I went searching for another basin.  Over the years, I have done this periodically.  It was random wandering about eBay that led me to the idea of enamelware basins (some were mentioned for washing babies) and I kept an eye out for one large enough.  Many sell for lots and lots and lots of money, but this one had no bids on it.  I think, sometimes, on eBay you can stumble across a listing that just never got noticed.  I bid on it with 8 seconds to spare and got my basin on the cheap.  With free shipping, though, I had to wait a long time for it to arrive.

That sprouting moss on top is the bit of moss that Firewood Man saved for me when he spotted it.  I am hoping that with the now constant flow of water, it might grow in the fountain.  Plus, I am hoping moss will regrow on the rest of the fountain.  In Alexandria, it used to be almost completely covered.

I sure do love me some GREEN moss.

What about that concrete bird bath basin?  Well, that's where the exhausting myself came in.  Now, I tried to wait until Firewood Man came this week to mow, but the new/old enamelware basin has been boring into my very being ever since it arrived last Thursday.  The day after Tim left for his vacation.

So, today, I fetched the pump from its winter storage spot (the basement utility closet), used a flat rock to reshape the fountain a bit to better fit in its new basin, filled the fountain, turned it on, admire it immensely, and lugged the old concrete basin to the back yard.  I mean, I couldn't just leave it on the front porch could I???




Prior to the back porch repair, in the bed of my rock river I had a right-sized bird bath basin that had lots of avian visitors.  Unfortunately, neither Firewood Man nor I thought to move it out of the way before demolishing the old porch lattice walls.  Wood went flying.  The ceramic bird bath shattered.  SIGH.

Now, having lugged the concrete basin to serve as a replacement, the Interior Designer's Daughter in me acknowledges that it is altogether too large for this space.  And the other bird bath was far more attractive.  However, I thought I might be able to ignore the garishness of this whilst the birds are enjoying it until I find a new home for it.  Surely someone around here is fervently longing for a slightly used, algae-stained concrete bird bath basin without a base, right???

Mrs. Robin was not happy with me spending all that time on the front porch whilst working on the fountain and filling up the new basin.  At one point, she rather angrily glared at and chided me mercilessly whilst perching atop the head of one of my stone lions.  She wanted to get back to her nest and tending her babies.  I tried to explain that I have been avoiding the front porch just for that very reason, but she did not agree that getting the fountain going was a special circumstance.  The three trips to the outdoor faucet it took to fill up the basin were made a bit treacherous by her dive-bombing me.  Poor Birdie Momma.

Amos, too, was upset with me.  For a while, he was rather obediently sitting on the bench whilst I was working.  Then, I heard him bark.  Only it wasn't a near bark but a far away bark.  My Rat Bastard Fluff-Ball had the nerve to leave the front porch for the very first time so that he could protest someone walking on the street perpendicular to mine.  I nearly had a heart attack spotting him in my neighbor's yard.  But he came scrambling back as soon as I screamed COME!  That is is best word, thankfully.  Being all worried about him and about my ability to survive the upcoming move of the concrete basin, I banished Amos inside.

So, in short, I had Mrs. Robin upset with me, Amos upset with me, and myself upset with me (for being so foolish as to try and move the massive weight of the basin).  I didn't faint, thankfully, but I did upset my asthma something fierce and I was worried that this would be the time I had to go to the ER without being able to take the standard asthma attack treatment.  I grabbed a Dr Pepper for the caffeine and then spent a few hours working on calming my breathing down, waiting for the wheezing to stop.

Then I napped.
And napped some more
And still more.

I was foolish.  I need a lecture.  Maybe one whilst sitting on the front porch and enjoying my fountain once more.  [Hey, just how long is it going to take for those robin eggs to hatch???]  In my defense, I did awake, once again, in the early morning battling violent waves of nausea.  I needed something good to happen this day.  Getting the fountain set up in the GREEN basin was certainly good, in my opinion.

Amos is the ultimate winner of my folly.  On the morrow is his annual torture session at the vet.  Normally, I would spend the evening before cutting his nails, pulling the hair from inside his ears, detangling the curls on his ears, cutting all his curls, and giving him a bath.  I like to put his (my) best foot forward during his check-ups.  However, all I did was trim his nails, which once just cannot neglect.  Since Amos is not currently a stinky puppy dog, he's going to the vet as-is, longish, non-lavenedar-smelling curls and all.

He did ask if we could bring the weighted blanket with us tomorrow.  I sure am tempted to try and lug it along. I think, however, he's going to have to be satisfied with being smothered by it fore and aft of his appointment.  I doubt my exhaustion from today's folly will be anywhere near gone tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rainy days and Mondays...


Another cold, damp, and dreary day.  The forecast shows that we might actually have Spring temperatures starting Saturday.  I really miss being able to spend time out on the airing porch.

While still at the very beginning of what I want to capture, I did write up a post on automaticity and fluency on my new literacy notes blog.  This one, I was able to write off the top of my head, but I will admit that I have been worried because I could not find my notecards that I used back when I was a literacy professor.  Surely I did not downsize them!  Last night, I found it difficult to sleep thinking of what I wanted to capture and the loss of those notecards.




However, I found them when I started looking at office supplies in the basement!  I have the four main texts that I used as a professor, but I really, really, really need my notecards.

The disappointing part of my search for office supplies in the basement to donate is that I really do not want to give up the majority of what is left there.  You see, I have this secret, deep desire to get a color laser printer.  I want to be able to make things like I used to do so and help others out with their projects.  IF I got the color laser printer, then all the paper supplies I have for a color laser printer would come in handy.  It is like the books.  I feel like I should give them all up, but I wonder if I might still someday have a chance to be who I used to be ... be more than I am now.  If not light design work, then a workshop on literature or literacy.

SIGH.

All I brought upstairs was a box of Avery postcards for the printer.  I'm not much interested in making postcards.  Tri-fold brochures, well, that's another story.  I'd like to make more of those.  And cut sheets.  And newsletters.  I put a box of mailing labels out and then put in back in storage.  Maybe I could take it out once more.  After all, anyone who wanted me to do mailing labels could buy their own. I certainly don't need mailing labels ... right?

Amos needs his ears detangled.  I cannot even speak the word "ears" anymore around him without him running to hide.  Wednesday is his "torture" session at the vet, so I thought I would hold off making him all sweet smelling and presentable until tomorrow night.

It is almost as if he knows.  Or, maybe, it is just that he is absolutely and utterly addicted to the weighted blanket Becky sent me.  Amos, by the way, rather strongly believes that she sent it to him.  If he's not up and about playing, Amos demands to be beneath the blanket.  He whimpers and whines and paws rather frenetically until I make a space for him beneath the blanket.

Right now, Amos is beneath a quilt, a wool throw, a chenille throw, and the weighted blanket.  Near suffocated, but absolutely content.  Silly puppy dog.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Literacy notes...


I did it.

Eight years ago, I created a blog (and bought the domain) to try and create a resource site for literacy.  Even though I was no longer teaching or even doing workshops, I wanted to share what I know.  Only one post in was the furtherest I got in that goal.

I was too tired.
I was struggling with cognitive decline.
My goal was too enormous.

When I was going through my antique secretary for office supplies to donate to SCAN, I collected the scraps of paper and notebooks that I had kept from my life as a literacy professor.  I was determined to follow through with my desire to capture what's left in my brain even if the result was a poor attempt.




I turned this into this:




And I used it on my first (really second, because I wrote this one first) entry on the Literacy Notes blog about reading comprehension.  I really, really, really hope that I can follow through with this enough to at least have some sort of helpful overview.

The domain is still active, but not linked. I am going to let it lapse this year ... silly of me to have paid for it all these years.  What I love most about Blogger is that, after I die, the blogs will remain.  So, whatever I can capture about literacy will still be there.  As well as this blog ... and the one that I started, but stepped away from, about the effects of sexual abuse.  I want very much to return to that blog.

I just wish I were not so tired.  And had my old brain still....

Friday, April 24, 2015

An ear for Amos...


Tuesday was a difficult day, but most of Wednesday found me curled in a ball.  It was a worse day.  At one point, I was weeping, my body wrapped around Amos, practically suffocating him.  It is very good that Amos prefers pressure.

There was this moment, this place where I found myself really, really, really weary of being ill.  A moment where the myriad battles I face daily with my body was just too much.  I wanted so desperately for someone to come and read psalms and pray.  I wanted so very deeply to be quit of the battle, if only for a while.  It was the first time that I couldn't fathom really living this life.  I don't know how to explain it.  Such darkness....

Tuesday to Wednesday was marked by having-a-chill and two migraines.  Try as I might, I could not get warm nor stop the pain in my head for any length of time.  Huddled in wretched misery, I could scarcely think or move or even exist.  However, Wednesday evening was the final chamber performance.  Surely, I would miss it.

My one thought about going was that I realized, in the wee hours of the morning, that I had just taken the last thyroid pill.  I had forgotten, once again, with the new prescription to ask for it to be put on auto refill.  A few hours later came a text about an auto-refill at Target.  A little bit later, another text came about the prescription at Meijer.  No matter how wretched I was feeling, I had to fetch the thyroid meds and it would only make sense to fetch all three prescriptions.  I thought I could go fetch them and then go on to the chamber performance.  I thought I had to go there.  I thought I must prove that I could go, despite my life.

Sitting through a chamber performance with a migraine is a strange experience.

In my beleaguered state, I will admit that I did feel that I was being punished, for the first half of the evening were two piano pieces.  The first with a trio of cellos and the second with a single violinist.  When I walked in and spotted the piano, I almost walked back out.  But I was, I suppose rather foolishly, trying to prove myself in myriad ways.

Pooper's Requiem for 3 Celli really didn't need the piano.  It felt like the piano playing was sporadic and a bit plunking.  I found myself trying to shut out the piano music and focus on just the cello music.  You know, how you can sit outside on a cold winter day and concentrate on the sun to take in its warmth despite the cold wrapped around you....

Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 3 was more to my liking, for something with a piano piece that is.  I did not recognize the violinist and, surprisingly, she was given flowers at the end.  So, I wonder if she was brought in for the performance.  I loved the violin portions of the composition and did not actually find the piano altogether too intrusive.  I realized that what I did not care for last Saturday night was when the pianist would run his fingers up and down the keys.  That seems ... cheap ... for orchestral music.

After intermission, the third and final piece was Beethoven's String Quartet, op. 131.  SIGH.  Myrtle music of the bestest sort.   I am too nauseous to go and fetch the program, so I cannot tell you if it was a cello, a violin, and two violas or a cello, two violins, and a viola.  In any case, I very much savored this composition, despite the migraine, and was sorry when it was over.  One of the bits I liked best was when the players seemed to be handing off a bit of melody from one to another.  Simply marvelous!

I think ... I'm not sure ... but I think that the increased dose of thyroid meds is messing with the theophylline.  I cut the theophylline in half and felt better after two days, but was fainting more.  Plus, without it, when I lay down my heart rate drops into the 40s.  I do not like that.  I started back with the full dose and am having wonky heart rhythms all the time.  What I cannot figure out is if I simply need to adjust to the change or if the theophylline needs to be decreased.  I emailed my doctor's office and asked for a theophylline check blood work form to be sent to me so that I can do it at the same time as the thyroid check the week before my appointment with the new GP.

In the mean while, I decided to move the two halves of my daily theophylline dose closer together.  One of the reasons I will really, really, really miss my doctor is that, after moving here, on my first visit with her, she switched my theophylline from a single 800 mg pill to two 400 mg pills and had me take them 12 hours apart so that, with the extended release medication, I would not have daily dips.  However, theophylline and thyroid medication do not get along.  Neither do hormones and theophylline.  Juggling taking all three medications is hard ... one more thing I have to daily think about.  Anyway, instead of taking them 12 hours apart, I am now taking them just six, to try and mitigate the interaction with the thyroid medication, which I am now taking at 3:00 in the morning.

SIGH.

What I am also wondering is if all this wretchedness is merely my wonky blood pressure.  Mostly I wonder this because I have been getting incredibly ill when my time to conduct "major business" nears and have been fainting whilst going daily.  Waves of nausea and sweating and weakness before, during, and aft.  I crawl back to my bed or the couch or the GREEN chair and wait for life to get better.

It never really does.

And my heart rate is lower, despite the wonky rhythms.  One way to test my theory would be to go eat that salad at Panera ... the one with so much sodium and protein it's like giving me a blood transfusion and a year's worth of vitamins all at once.  Maybe.  Just maybe I'll try that.

For me, this has been an eternally long week.

I was a bit discouraged to have the person who was going to take the books call me with a third reason for delay on picking them up.  Yesterday, I got the strong feeling that she didn't want them, which doesn't make sense.  Even for culled books from my collection, they are good books in excellent condition.

Discouraged and weary and wishing for something different in my life, I started Googling and remained so until I found another place.  I am hesitant to engage with the organization, for the work it does means too much for me.  I would give anything to volunteer, but I do not believe that I am strong enough, mentally and emotionally, to do so.  However, the books are now going to be picked up by SCAN, which advocates for and helps abused children.  There is a Read to Me program that takes in books and gives them out to children in many programs, up to two a month per child.  An interagency program.  Something I truly admire.

When talking to the head of HR, who oversees the book donations, we wandered into trigger-filled waters, but we also talked about office supplies.  Their marketing "department" is teeny-tiny and does a lot of in-house work.  All those Avery supplies and such that I have been desirous of being used instead of tossed will have a new home.  I also went through my desk office supplies in my antique secretary and reduced the four drawers worth down to two.  I mean, I didn't want to be rash and just get rid of all of them.  I might possibly one day be in need of binder clips again, right?

Being so exhausted, I have not yet gathered up all the supplies from the basement, such as the colored printer paper and the high-end color printer paper.  Or the post cards and note cards.  Or the still over-abundance of top loading sheet protectors.  And maybe a plethora of hanging files, too.  And binders....  You get the point.

I won't end up with empty shelves, mind you, because I like the look of the bankers' boxes on the shelves.  I guess they will be empty bankers' boxes.  Or maybe I will find a way to take the items on top of the shelves and put them in the boxes, so that the top is empty.  That would me less reaching above my head (and fainting/near-fainting) whenever I need to get into my mailing supplies box.

That would be good.

Amos did cheer me up by pointing out a funny video he spotted whilst looking over my shoulder.  As a thank you, I typed up his blog post about it.  My sweet little fluff-ball!

What do you think?  Should he get one, too?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Troubled waters...


I have been watching "Bones" since the beginning of the series.  Today, in season 5, it just occurred to me that the closing theme music is piano music with orchestral instruments.





So, perhaps is is not that I do not like the piano in a symphony performance, but that I have not heard the right piece yet.  For, you see, I really think that the initial piano playing and the instruments (strings and woodwinds???) blend beautifully together in the closing theme.

Too bad that I do not know a piano aficionado who could tell me just the right piece to hear.  As it is, I feel a bit like something is wrong with me that I cared not for the concerto on Saturday.

In an episode that I recently watched, one guy said that after careful consideration, he and another agency guy agreed that everyone's reports should be carefully worded, as in without words.  I laughed, but the idea had stuck in my head.  I think, because, as I read Michael Card's commentaries, I have thought about so many church services I sat through in the past that were Word-less ... and so many online writings about faith that are Gospel-less.  Carefully worded without the Word.

Thankfully, that is most certainly not the case with the commentaries!  Although ... I sure do wish my brain was the way it used to be.

I will note that, through practice, I am learning to identify patterns in John more quickly than I did in, say, Mark.  Of course, I should get better at that being on my fourth commentary.  For example, the theme of misunderstanding is patently clear.  Take Nicodemus.  He simply doesn't understand what Jesus is telling him, but Michael Card points out that as a member of the Sanhedrin and a Pharisee, ht spent his time studying Scripture.  The pronoun "you" in verse 10 of chapter 3 is singular.  You, Nicodemus ... Ezekiel 36:36 speaks of the radical new birth ... Nicodemus should have understood, but he didn't.

Jesus was misunderstood about being born of the Spirit.
Jesus was misunderstood about the temple being torn down and raised again in three days.
Jesus was misunderstood about being/giving living water.

The later was another great Michael Card title.  You do not read of the "Woman at the Well," but of "Misunderstood Water."  I really appreciate his fresh approach to titles of segments of Scriptures, once that focus more on Jesus.

But the whole water thing ... two bits I have been reading over and over and over, not quite grasping. If Mary were not utterly overwhelmed with her babies and all that is happening in her life, I would ask her to read the commentary and explain.  I really, really, really need a translation and Mary is ever so talented at sharing the Gospel in Myrtle Speak.

...Water is a spiritually charged term in John, with all sorts of connotations.  Baptism and birth are only two of them.  Water has healing associations (Jn 5:2; 9:7) as well as divine associations (Jn 6:19).  Jesus' first miracle involved water (Jn 2:7).  When Jesus is crucified, only John refers to the water that flows from the wound in his side (Jn 19:34).  Most often water in John's Gospel is connected wtith the identity of Jesus and the promise of new life through the Spirit. Of the twenty times John uses the word water, more than all the other Gospels combined, nine of those occur in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:1-26).  The most striking pronouncement in regard to water comes in John 7:37 when Jesus says if a person is thirsty to they must come to him and drink.  The water is a symbol of what Jesus promises to provide.  In his last long discussion with the disciples, Jesus will make it clear that this promised provision will be the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:1-16).

In this light, Jesus' statement about water and the Spirit is repetitive, like his "amen, amen."  A person must be born of the water that is the Spirit, the unique promise and provision of Jesus.... [emphasis mine]

So, I read this and think ... the Living Water is the Holy Spirit????????  I thought Jesus, Himself, was the Living Water?  I'm confused.

Then:

The "you" of verse 7 is plural.  Jesus is addressing Nicodemus and all of his powerful friends:  "you all should not be surprised."  What follows is a beautiful play on words that works both in Hebrew and Greek.  In Greek the word pneuma means both Spirit and wind.  The same is true of the Hebrew word ruah.  The Spirit, which is like water, is also like wind.  You can hear it and see its effects, but it remains invisible.  You cannot see where it is coming from or where it is going.

Okay ... uhm ... I am not quite clear.  I mean, you can see water, but not wind.  You cannot see the Holy Spirit (except for those few times when He first came upon folk).  But the Holy Spirit is the Living Water Jesus promises.

If you go back to the introduction and Michael Card's tale about discovering the depth and importance of when Jesus spoke up at the synagogue about come to Him when thirsty, the quenching He was speaking of was the Holy Spirit??

So, the misunderstood water with the Samaritan Woman was not Jesus giving Himself but her receiving the Holy Spirit??

And ... Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine ... could you not also say that His last miracle was, again, turning water into wine?  By that I mean, blood and water poured from His side on the cross, His bodily fluid sustaining life, and in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, once more water is turned into wine.

I don't know, maybe I am just talking in circles, making no sense.

I did so appreciate the "temple city contrast" in the commentary on John 3:10-21, demonstrating again what John's first audience might have heard and understood ... the profundity of the perfect testimony reclaiming false teaching to rightful truth.

John's Ephesian readers would have had a different image in their imaginations when they heard of the serpent on the pole.  In the heart of the city of Ephesus was the temple to Asclepius, the God of Healing.  His symbol was a staff with a serpent wrapped around it.  Live serpents were released in the temple at night while the sick were left sleeping on the floor.  In the morning they would report their dreams to the priest who would then prescribe a cure, which usually included a trip to one of the local bath houses.  Again we see the connection to water and healing.

John's first listeners would have understood once more that the power for true healing was being reclaimed exclusively by Jesus, even as he had robbed Dionysius of his power.




I've mentioned that I saved for many years and took Becky and myself to Italy.  This is a photo looking down on the Forum in Rome.  It is impossible, from here, to grasp just how massive the area is.




All along the road are the remains of government structures, shrines and temples.




Being down amongst them was too much to take in.



It was a massive place filled with massive structures and massive meaning.

I read a lot of fantasy books, some of which are low fantasy stories set in worlds with various belief systems, oft including may gods and goddesses.  It is a familiarity to me that breathes life into all Michael Card's commentary on Ephesus and the distinctions between how JOhn's first audience would have received his words, versus how we might now.  I am awed by the perfection and complexity of his testimony, made richer with the depth of time and experience of a life long lived, a pastoral life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the talk about water and Spirit is confusing to me, as if I am listening from a different or at least skewed belief system, but yet cannot actually put words to my confusion, to explain it.

In Madeleine L'Engle's book An Acceptable Time, the main character Polly finds herself time-slipped to a when 3,000 years ago.  Forgive the simplicity of a complex story in my observation, but as a reader of fantasy, I found it believable that Polly, a teenager, did not blame the indigenous folk when they thought to offer herself up as a sacrifice to ease their draught problems.  She would not condemn either their beliefs or their ignorance, because in that time and place what was happening was acceptable.

In L'Engle's book The Arm of the Starfish, Polly is livid ... hurt, angry, and confused, really ... that her father was willing to help the daughter of the man who caused the death of a dear friend.  Her father's response to her was that if you are going to care about the fall of the sparrow, you cannot pick or choose who the sparrow is going to be.

The Pharisees, with their oral tradition created to box in and make executable the Law, were choosing the sparrows.  The disciples, too, with their dismay that Jesus was talking to a woman and at the children who came to him.  Again, I think the single greatest "chewable" observation that I, personally made whilst reading the Gospels themselves, was this habit of naming certain folk as sinners, implying that not all people were.  And sinners were not sparrows about which Jesus should care.

Maybe—wending my way back—the problem is that I thought of water speak in the Bible as referring to baptism, not to the gift (and subsequent work) of the Holy Spirit.  I find it confusing and yet, oddly, fitting. I mean, the only way that we are quenched by Jesus is by the Holy Spirit working through the Word and through the Sacraments.

I think ... I fear ... that I have mostly written nonsense.  But, I will finish by noting one of the bits of Michael Card's commentary that resonates so strongly with me that I took it in without thought or hesitation.  In speaking of healing the official's son in chapter 4, he noted:

"The miracle is not the point; it never is. The harvest is all that matters [to Jesus].

Moses' miracles were ... a bit ... flashy.  Jesus' were not.  I really like Michael Card's moniker of them:  unmiraculous miracles.  For the most part, folk were not waving and pointing and shouting in awe when Jesus performed a miracle.  Consider the two feedings of the great crowds.  Both were miracles that virtually went unnoticed.  Jesus Himself was not flashy either, often merely speaking a word or two and that was that.  No wild gestures.  No grandstanding.  His word was enough, and, quite often, His word was not even a command, but merely a pronouncement.  

I think about Jerusalem, which is prominent in John as opposed to the other Gospels, being a temple city devoted to God.  In a way, however, the oral tradition had made it a Word-less city.  Ephesus, another temple city, devoted to many gods and goddesses, was also Word-less.  Opposites and yet the same.  And, in both, the audiences were confused, were facing a world turned upside down.

My waters are troubled about Living Water.  Were they not so, I might try to write out the ... well ... what I think I am learning about Jesus being the Bread of Life.  For that I am worried about getting to certain parts of John, I will admit that I am genuinely surprised by how much I am learning that I thought I knew and understood and yet did not.

Again, I do wish, dearly, that my brain were what it once was, that I might hold in it all of what I have learned about Mark and Matthew and Luke.  Perhaps, then, I might be less confused ... or not.  I do finally understand what was meant that John's testimony is so very different than that of the other Gospel writers.  His "onlys" are greater than all the rest, and yet His testimony is still the same.

Jesus, come for man, who understood Him not, with a plan and a purpose far and above mere healing of body and mind or being a good teacher.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Beached whale syndrome...


At 2:33 AM, I realized that I was not, at that moment, nauseous.  However, what had started was the writhing, what I call beached whale syndrome because my abdomen swells and I lie on my side trying to find relief from the pain.  I also have to try and keep anything from touching my abdomen from my sternum to just below my hip bones.

I did not fall asleep until after 6:30 AM and did not sleep much between then and 12:30 PM when I crawled out of bed.  My goal, which I accomplished, was to have Amos tend to his needs, dress, drive over to Goodwill and drop off the 5 garbage bags of clothing and the other odds and ends I downsized (like my African thorn carving set from when I was a missionary and my shadow boxes full of miniatures), and then mail the suit someone offered to pay for shipping if she could have.

My reward:  Taco Bell.

Now, a couple of hours later, I am inordinately uncomfortable and nauseous, but not battling the violent waves of nausea.  No, this time is it the problems that I have with stool passing by my vegus nerve and am battling a rising tide of weakness, clamminess, nausea, and pain.  SIGH.

A short while ago, Michelle wrote this rather pointed blog post about one of the difficult sides of living with chronic illness that inescapable, given that our bodies malfunctions with dysautonomia are processes that must take place for life.  I was saddened with her struggle, but find her very brave for being so utterly blunt:


How the other half live.

Lying on my side I could feel the hard tiles under my shoulder and hip. Poor absorption of food for years on end has left me with little padding on the tender bones that poke out. I could take out an eye with the knob of bone sticking sharply from my elbow or the pointy bit of sternum that sticks out just above the ever present pulse that spasms and bounces. And here I was again, communing with the short and curlies, dust, and ever present Freyja hair on my grey terry toweling bath mat. At least this time it wasn't through collapsing limbs or plummeting blood pressure. Though when I say "At least" what I really mean is a long line of expletives stretching off into the distance, far beyond the dusty underside of my bed, that I can see through the doorway of the ensuite.

I try to find a more comfortable position but no matter how I brace my body it all hurts. The green and white box in front of me has two delightfully demented yoga positions to choose from. Bum up or on my side. Put one leg here, another over there. Bend this bit and that. I wonder if I simply adopt Child's pose, can I cry "Mummy!" Physical comfort is further pushed down as I contemplate the process ahead. If I had any muscle strength left my nether regions would be bracing right about now.

Delay. Delay. Double check the box. Close my eyes and think happy thoughts. But no amount of puppies and kittens is going to help. No happy place is to be found. But the pain in my abdomen begs "Do it. Please just do it." A desperate rock hard abdomen is hard to argue with. So I don the gloves, lube up the applicator and resign myself to the inevitable.

I lie on the tiles as I wait for the contents of the bottle to work. It's been over a week since I last went. I have taken a laundry list of medications to get things moving. I employed all the maneuvers given by the local continence nurses. I watched the videos and studied the leaflets. I "moo" like a cow while bent in two, feet up on an overturned basket. And still nothing. Things go in but they never come out. My gut the Bermuda Triangle. And so I had to cry uncle and go from softeners and suppositories to the big guns, the enema. Stories of people so impacted they vomit up poo a good incentive to forego any last remnants of dignity.

1 in 2 people live with chronic illness. In disorders like Dysautonomia continence is a hidden issue. An unpalatable issue, but a common one all the same. When I hear people say all I need is a positive attitude I wonder if they could be all Pollyanna as they stick a tube up their bum and squeeze fluid up into the dark recesses of their body. Or when they have to explain the intimate details of their bowel and bladder habits to strangers. Or when they have to see a physiotherapist to learn how to poo again. Or when they have to consider more medications and stimulators and flushing and......all so they can do the most basic of bodily functions.

The nausea, the pain, the worries about malnutrition. They are part of life now. But it is hidden from sight. I went for bloods and the nurse said I looked great. Then she looked at my sour face and mumbled that she guessed I didn't come in when I was really unwell. And that's the problem. So much is hidden from public view. And so many don't want to know.

You see chronic illness isn't something you simply positive your way out of. It's not a question of attitude. It is learning to manage sometimes incredibly confronting and unpalatable symptoms and their equally confronting and unpalatable solutions, or partial solutions as the case may be. If reading this makes you feel uncomfortable, imagine what it is like to live with it every day. To have use suppositories and enemas because there is no alternative. A reader can stop reading. They can turn away and forget. For those of us living with chronic illness there is no choice. We must live with the unpalatable. We don't have the luxury to turn away and pretend it's not happening.

"I could never do that!"

Actually you can. You do what you have to do. You do things you never thought you could. Because there is no choice. It is simply life.

Those of us that live with complex chronic illness and disability are well aware of just what we have to do. What we can do. We do it and we get on with life.

And today I up my dose as it all starts to slow once more. And I talk to my nurse and I break out the gloves. And contemplate another day spent lying on the tiles.

Michelle

At a neurology appointment a couple of years ago, I met a woman whose teenage daughter has dysautomia.  She was desperate for information and asked me lots of questions.  Her daughter was, then (I hope not now), suicidal because she simply could not cope with the mess and indignity that happens when you vomit and or faint because you are pooping.  Her mother begged me for any kind of help with that. 

There is none.
You simply have to endure it.

I really liked this bit in Michelle's post:

"I could never do that!"

Actually you can. You do what you have to do. You do things you never thought you could. Because there is no choice. It is simply life.

It is hard to explain, sometimes, just how much you endure because there is no other choice.  Sometimes, during Beached Whale Syndrome, in my darkest moments, I fantasize about going to the emergency room.  But there is nothing to be done.  No deflating.  No easing of pain.  For the former, the swelling will pass when the digestive processes have progressed.  For the latter, all non OTC pain medication stills my large intestines.  A single dose of prescription pain killer that might help me endure the pain can leave my large intestines still for 3-4 days.  It is not that I am constipated, then simply are still.  Nothing moves.  And eating, which one needs to do for life, makes the overall digestive problems worse.  I think you would have to put a gun to my head to make me take Percocet or morphine or any such drug at this point.

Two days ago, I had someone tell me that her friend with ALS started the Paleo diet and has no more symptoms.  Frankly, I doubt that.  However, I gave myself credit for not slugging her in the face for suggesting that if I follow the same diet I will be well.

FOOD IS NOT THE PROBLEM.  MY NERVES ARE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to scream and shout, but, these days, I hardly ever bother to explain.  Think about it.  With all the gazillions of dollars that has been put into spinal cord research, nothing can repair/regrow the severed nerve.  We are in the dark ages, still, when it comes to much neurological research.  Heck, HIV and AIDS are no longer a death sentence.  We can give the deaf sound.  And promising research has shown we are headed in the same direction with blindness, to a certain degree.  But once a paraplegic/quadriplegic, always a paraplegic/quadriplegic.  Adaptive devices, such as exoskeletons can help folk walk again, but nothing can help a severed spine.

There is very, very, very little research dollars going into dysautonomia.  There is no treatment and no cure.  The best there is, the absolute best, is a doctor willing to work with you to find off-label medication use to help with symptoms, such as how theophylline raises my heart rate and, thus, helps me faint less when orthostatic hypotension rears its ugly head.  

Because digestion is not all that easy for me, I have radically changed my diet (except for Taco Bell). Most everything I eat I have made myself, to lessen all the "unpronounceables" in my food.  I eat smaller portions, mostly, and often.  I am acutely aware when food is lagging in my stomach and try to keep to liquids until its moved along so as not to compound the issue.  But is it not about gluten or meats or legumes or casein or dairy or whatever type of food one wants to declare bad or dangerous or unhealthy.  It is about nerves that do not do their job when it comes to the autonomic functions of my body.

Like circulating blood.
Like digesting food.
Like maintaining body temperature.

Michelle and her blog visitors have commented on how difficult it is to get medical care given that doctors are reluctant to have patients whom they cannot really help, whose condition is not all that measurable on standard tests, and whose care often means a fight with insurance companies as to why a medication might be necessary.  

I get that.  
I live that.  
And I am still overwhelmed by the loss of my GP.

I am grateful for the cessation of this overly long and draining battle with violent nausea has ended.  I hope the Beach Whale Syndrome passes quickly.  And I am learning to be more ... prosaic ... about the illness that overcomes me when I need to expel waste from my body.

Could you?  Could you live with nausea, sweating, shaking, vomiting, and/or fainting just because you will so be or are pooping?  Day in and day out, a battle of some kind for that never ending bodily function?  Before dyautonomia became my constant companion, I would have most definitely had said that I would not be able to face a fraction of the pain and illness I do.  But I do.  Because I have no choice.

My dear friend Becky might be able to come for a visit this summer. I very much want her to come.  But I also fear her coming.  I mean, so many parts of the day I am lying on the floor of the bathroom or am curled in a ball or am drowning out symptoms with loud music/television, just waiting for something to pass, to ease, to end.  I wonder ... I fear, really ... what her visit will be like since I am less and less able to pretend that I am better than I am.

The other day my realtor stopped by when I was at a peak of the waves of violent nausea.  I just couldn't do much by way of conversation, though I showed her the weeping cherry.  Mostly, whilst she talked, I huddled in my mind and tried to at least look like part of my attention was with her.  It was obvious to me that she was uncomfortable with my wretched state.  When Electrician Man was here, I was Chatty Kathy, barely letting him get a word in edgewise so that I could hold at bay how wretched I felt.  I managed to hide my wretchedness from him and, thus, stave off any discomfort on his part over not knowing what to do or say to help, but I also exhausted him in the process.  Good thing that he is a merciful man.  

Both were relatively brief visits.  But Becky would be here for several days at least. I really want her here ... but I dread her not wanting to be here because my "here" is not all that pleasant or engaging or entertaining.  After all, who in their right minds would want to visit a beached whale???????

SIGH.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Those darned closets...


I am tired of being nauseous, so I thought I would distract myself by trying to be firm about downsizing my clothing.  After several hours, texting with my brother and then talking with my sister and dozens of rather firm conversations with myself, I collected the following for donation:

  • 2 skirts
  • 3 slacks
  • 7 jackets
  • 16 shirts
  • 3 suits
  • 1 dress winter coat

The problem is ... I still have far more clothes that I actually need.  For example, I kept two suits.  Will I ever wear a suit again?  I kept my holiday party outfit.  Will I ever go to a holiday party again? I kept seven nice/work outfits.  Will I ever be wearing nice/work clothing anymore?  I could go on, but you get the point.  Mostly, I think that all I need are my flowy skirts, lounge pants, and hoodies.  It would be nice if I could find some tops (other than hoodies) to wear with my flowy skirts.  I do have that one white jacket....

I worked at real jobs from 16 to 44.  I built up a substantial wardrobe over that time and kept all my clothing in really good condition.  Most of what I am donating is Chico's clothing and much of it silk.  SIGH.  I shall miss the clothing even though not one bit of it has been on my body in the past four years.

I kept my red leather jacket.
Not that I need a red leather jacket.
Do I?

For my one meal today, I made the Beef with Sugar Snap Peas again.  In doing so, I realized I had forgotten one ingredient and put the wrong amount for another ingredient.  So, I updated the recipe.  I had looked for other recipes that use sugar snap peas, since I originally bought two bags, but ended up just buying another piece of sirloin last night when I was at Meijer.  Since I now know that the recipe freezes well, I put all three of the other servings in the freezer.  Last time, I also ate it plain, because I was too tired to make rice.  But this afternoon I made Jasmine rice and enjoyed how it soaked up the stir-fry sauce.

Amos did, too.

I will note that making stir-fry destroys my kitchen far worse than any other recipe.  There are piles and piles and piles of dishes and utensils and miles and miles and miles of dirty counter.  The stove ... I don't even want to think about it.  I might just take a nap before tackling the kitchen.

As in take a nap now..........

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day five...


SIGH.

The nausea is most definitely worse in the first part of the day than in the latter, but that's probably because I have not had Zofran whilst sleeping.  I need a patch or IV or something of that stuff.

Yesterday, Amos crawled beneath the weighted blanket that Becky sent to me.  He happily stayed there for several hours.  Tonight, Amos spent quite a bit of time (unsuccessfully), trying to get the weighted blanket off the walnut bench beneath the living room window.  I was laughing so hard that I did not even try to help him.  Right now, he's under it again.

Ever since the pit bull attack, Amos has been squeezing himself in tight places ... between my body and the side of the GREEN chair, behind my back, beneath my person (whilst laying down).  After his baths, I swaddle him completely, even so far as to put the corner of the towel over his head, and he will remain that way for hours.  So, in sending me the weighted blanket, my dearest friend actually helped two of God's creatures, not just one.

Last night Amos and I spent hours and hours on the airing porch.




He napped.





I enjoyed the night clouds and a few episodes of "Bones."

Before we left, the clouds had all gone and the sky was full of stars.  I think that I saw the Big Dipper.  Back in the dark ages, I used to know lots of stars.  I have forgotten almost all of them.




These are my flowy skirt and boots at the symphony tonight.  Around mid-afternoon, I was so very nauseous and trembly and weak that I just couldn't see myself going, but I did.  I actually think I made myself go.  And, well, I felt a bit ... hounded ... because the second piece of the first half was a piano concerto.

I don't hate the piano, but I just don't think it fits in with an orchestra.

The rest of the audience went HOG WILD, starting just before the final notes were played.  Many ovations and much shouting.  I swear ... I just don't get what all the fuss was about.  I, myself, would have gone hog wild over the Berlioz piece that came first, but I was too puky to properly express my appreciation to the instrumentalists.

The second half was comprised of two pieces, not one.  The first was actually two short works that were played with the youth orchestra side-by-side, some sort of waltz, I think.  Again, there was much clapping.  The house was FULL, so I think a lot of friends and family of the young players were there.

The final piece was by someone whose name I did not recognize or could figure out how to pronounce.  It started with a D and had an o and v and a k ... I think.  What I found interesting about the piece was not that I fell in love with the composer, but that I thought it was the epitome of what a Myrtle-friendly composition should be.  It had soft parts and swash-buckling parts and shock-and-awe parts.  There were haunting notes and music swirling all around.  For the strong parts, the music was so filling that there was no room for any other sound in the performance hall.  However, it was not like I wanted to go home and track down the composer and find an MP3 file or two.  I just enjoyed the piece.

However, the performance was overly long, and when I tried to stand, my legs gave way and my skirt flew up all around me.  I kept trying to get up, but there was too much skirt and not enough strength.   Plus, the previous dose of Zofran had most decidedly worn off.  SIGH.

The "free" valet parking lost some of its staff, so there was only one person to go fetch the cars.  I very carefully explained that my brain was no longer fully functioning and I struggle to recognize my vehicle of 11 years and asked that the driver pull it up to the very front (where there was some nice empty space) just before a window with a bench for me to sit upon whilst I waited for the vehicle fetching.  Of course, the driver parked my Highlander at the opposite end of the curved driveway and so the evening was even longer for me than need be.

Is it strange that I struggle to recognize my vehicle now?

Even though she's up in the Poconos with her beloved and cherubs, I called Becky to drive home with me.  One, because I wanted her to make a decision for me and two, because I had this strange epiphany when I was at the symphony.

The decision was whether or not to stop at Meijer on the way home.  I will run out of my probiotics on Thursday.  Every week for the past three, I have checked to see if the buy-one-get-one-half-off sale had returned.  It did not.  The boxes are $39.99.  Tomorrow is another sale.  Today, there was a one-day sale that was $10 off of a purchase of $75, plus 10% off all health items.  Do I take the lesser sale today that was known or hope that tomorrow's weekly ads finally had the larger sale once more?  Becky suggested that I might could ask a staff person if she/he knew what would be on sale this coming week.  So, I went on the way home, having checked before leaving that the store was still open.

I ended up saving $32 on my purchases, with a receipt so convoluted that I cannot really read it.  Earlier today, I set up an mPerks account and downloaded the app.  I "clipped" those special coupons from the app that I wanted and added the regular sale items I wanted to the shopping list on my account.  So, when I checked out, I put in my number and started scanning, hoping things would turn out well.  Basically, all the groceries I selected were "free," given the discounts and coupons.  By that I mean, had I bought the two boxes of probiotics at full price, the total would have been slightly more than what I paid for everything in my cart.

One of those "things" was another sirloin steak because I have a second package of sugar snap peas in my refrigerator.  If I were not so exhausted, I would have tried to find another flank steak.  Straight protein and Cheerios are the only things that are really palatable to me just now.  However, when I am staring at a large display of like (similar) items, I become visually overwhelmed and struggle to find things.  [I hate what my brain has become!]  So, I went on to the milk and cheese and other items that I had picked from the coupon listings and sale listings.

I honestly was a bit surprised when the total came up.  Clearly, I couldn't follow the math.

What I need to remember to do is to check the price of the probiotics whenever I fetch the free prescription there (something I already do) and then buy two boxes if the sale is on that trip.  A $20 discount on the probiotics is really helpful in the budget department.  Especially since my GP helped me figure out just the right combination of psyllium husk and probiotics to help the motility in my lower intestines more often than not.

I was mighty tired when I finally got home, however I had to take care of one final task.  The (not very nice) recycling crew did not take the large, flat, cardboard box from the chairs that I had set out yesterday.  Very reluctantly—but doing so because city code states that trash/recycling cannot be put out earlier than the night before the next pick-up (which for recycling is in two weeks)—I worked on slicing up the ginormous box so that it would fit in the recycling bin.  It took me 42 minutes, one fainting, three near faintings, and one sliced finger to finish the job, even using THE BEST BOXCUTTER IN THE WORLD.  However, that ginormous box is now in a million small pieces carefully placed in my bin so as to allow room for the rest of my recycling over the next two weeks.

Amos whimpered the entire time.
He wanted some puppy-momma-snuggling time.
So did I.

I'm too tired (and nauseous) to write about the next bit of the commentary on John.
I'm too tired (and nauseous) to think about the next bit of the commentary on John.
I am not, however, too tired (and nauseous) to mention, once again, how thankful am I for the commentary on John.

PS  I thought Berlioz was a bear. Or an Italian artist. Or something other than a composer.  I don't have the program, but Google helped me figure out this was what I heard tonight as the first piece of the evening:




Friday, April 17, 2015

Day four...


Day Four of violent nausea really stinks.  I hate my body.  SIGH.

Electrician Man came today, cleaning and servicing my air-conditioner so that it will be all ready for when I start using it.  I would, today, except for the fact that it is still too cold overnight to run it.  When the days are in the 70s, though, my bedroom gets awfully warm by day's end.  Warm temperatures make me ill and sleeping in a warm bedroom is difficult.

I had another one of those kicking-myself-in-the-head budgeting moments because I have yet to set up or account for in automatic savings, the bi-annual servicing of my HVAC unit, which also includes the purchase of two HEPA filters and a filter for my humidifier that runs in the winter.  Idiot Myrtle! 

So, after I wrote out the check for Ben, grousing once again how unbelievably expensive the month of April is, I logged onto my bank account and set up another automatic savings transfer.  First, I renamed the account that was for the taxes over the past two years I needed for the purchase of the house to Household.  It has the interest that I earned over the time the money sat in there until I had to pay the IRS (quarterly payments), which is just over $48.  I was going to sneak that interest money off for something fun, but instead it is now the seed money for my Household savings, which will fund Electrician Man's two visits.  I added up what I pay him, then put in some extra money in case something happened elsewhere in the house.  I have done ever so much restoration on this old house that I have doubted the need for savings for repairs, but since I will be saving for Ben's visits, I padded the bill, so to speak.  Now, $25 a month will go to that account.

Then, because I do get so easily confused these days, I renamed the House savings account, which was for the real estate taxes and now has extra padding for the property tax on my vehicle, to a more appropriate name:  Taxes.

Finally, I made the name changes in my electronic register.  I entered the data for the monthly transfers starting on the 25th.  And I updated my Over/Under chart for my budget.  Again, while this change did not help with today's expense, come next fall, when Ben services the heating part of the HVAC, I shall be able to simply pay myself back out of the Household account when I write that check.

I really, really, really wish that I had someone who could sit down with me and go through all the spending throughout the year and tell me if there is ANYTHING else that I have forgotten that I should be saving for monthly to off-set the one-time (or twice) larger expense.  How?  How, in all my planning and thinking and number crunching, could I have FORGOTTEN about Electrician Man?  SIGH.

When Ben comes to work here, he always times his visits to include lunch.  He did this even before I started cooking tasty freezer meals.  It is his way of giving me a bit of company.  I texted him the freezer meal options earlier in the week, and he chose the Thai Honey Peanut Chicken.  I am far, far too puky to eat, so I only took another dose of Zofran and then zapped his lunch.  [In case you were wondering, he chose Double Chocolate Dr Pepper Cake for dessert.]  Then ... then we went up on the airing porch to eat!




The chairs are still ever so slightly tacky, but not enough that we couldn't sit in them for a small bit.  Ben was amazed at the porch and liked being up there as much as I did.  I wanted to be able to eat with my first guest, but I am near giddy that the table is just large enough for two people without taking up too much room.  The chairs are also solid and comfortable.  If I were less nauseous, I would have "staged" the photo with the cushion on the steamer lounger, but it was all I could do to set it back up before Ben got here.

One of the best parts of the airing porch, if I have not "remembered" it here yet, is that the roof overhangs the porch by about two feet.  I left the steamer lounger out all winter, folded up and leaning against the house.  It barely had any snow on it, despite our copious accumulations this winter.  All the airing porch furniture can be folded up and set against the house beneath the roof overhang, so I am not hauling it in and out.  Though, I do have room for it all in the servants' room closet.

Last night, when I was carrying the chairs upstairs, I fell down the stairs with one of them.  The chair didn't break and I didn't break, but I did realize that I should have waited to have someone else do that particular task.  I shouldn't be carrying things up and down the stairs anymore.  Really, I ought to get over my worry about clothes being caught in the laundry chute and start using it.  At least I have stopped carrying Amos up and down the stairs when he begs to be held.  So, I am not totally stupid yet.

When I am really feeling wretched, and someone is here, I talk non-stop.  Poor Ben.  However, he did ask about the books piled in the dining room and I got to explain about donating them.  I am torn ... truly ... over whether or not to donate all my children's books (at least the ones I do not regularly re-read myself).  Mary helped me to understand that what I torn about is what is the right thing to do:  keep books I do not really need but like, since they represent my past work and my Ph. D., or give them away so that they can be read.  Mary told me that there is no right or wrong in this.  I did comfort myself with the knowledge that, now, when I die, I have a designated place for all my books.

My one thought about keeping the books I still have was that I could give them away when folk with children come over here.  So, I chose a book for Ben, since he just had a new baby and has mostly young children.  It was a book for young children about hugs.

I also asked if he knew anyone who'd like the rest of the Lutheran theology books that I culled (my pastor who took another call and taken the first batch several months ago).  His church has sent three guys to seminary recently, so he took the bag of those books that I had set aside.  I also showed him my penny-collection books that I used to do when I was younger.  My father would get $10 worth of pennies when we were little and visiting for the weekend (after the divorce and before his remarriage) and we would look for pennies to fill our books.  Ben said he and his father collected nickels when he was young, so he liked the idea of starting to collect pennies with his children.

Lest you think I am this generous person, the best part about giving him the books and the penny collection was the down-sizing it was for me, not the gifts they were for him and the seminary students.  I am a sinner, after all.

Ben tried the Maple Chili sunflower seeds (I do not have pumpkin seeds roasted at the moment) and really liked them, even though he is not a sunflower seed person.  His wife is, however, and so I sent a snack bag of them home with him for her.  I like to send stuff to his wife because I have been so blessed by Ben's meticulous and caring electrical work in this home.  Truly, more than anyone else, he has rendered it safe for me.  If ever you wanted to study the execution of vocation, I think studying Ben and the choices he makes in his business would be the perfect lesson.  He truly treats each place his works at as his own, trying to ensure that he always serves his customers to the best of his ability and to the glory and honor of God.

Plus, well, he loves my old house as much as I do ... the stained glass windows and French doors and woodwork and all.  Maybe it is silly, but I really do savor having someone to share my awe of this house with from time to time.

Amos is honked out on the couch, so deeply asleep that folk have walked past the house without eliciting a single bark of canine protestation.  He exhausts himself, whenever Electrician Man his here, following Ben all over the house and yard and jumping up repeatedly to be held.  Amos has known Ben the longest and Ben even has a nickname for him "Little Pupper."

My "happy" news is that my robins returned to my house, even though we had to take down their nest when doing all the work on the back porch.  Mr and Mrs. Robin decided that the front porch was a better option and rebuilt the nest there!




I took this photo through the dirty glass of both the front door and the screen door, because I did not want to disturb Mrs. Robin.  But ... once those babies are born ... I plan to stand on the capstone railing and take me some bird babies photos!  I am so happy that they stayed with my house.  Plus, this location is better than the one out back because I can see it ever so much easier and more completely!




Finally, I thought I should post a more fully bloomed, sun-shiny photo of the weeping cherry.  It is blurry because I am shaky (and nauseous and short of breath) today, but it still is, to me, a glorious photo!  Plus, the weeping cherry is a veritable hive of honey bees at the moment.  I think that seeing the honey bees was Ben's favorite part of his visit.  He did stop to deeply admire both the magnolia and the weeping cherry.  What a cool electrician, eh?

There is this window of lesser nausea in between Zofran doses, about two hours in, that makes eating more palatable in thought.  So, I am going to try and eat something substantial.  I am also struggling with a constant headache, so I am fervently hoping this wretchedness is more due to a spate of especially low blood pressure (I keep forgetting to check when I am near the monitor) and not the end of the efficacy of the erythromycin on the gastroparesis.  Therapeutically, the window of its efficacy is reported to be just 3-6 months. I think, I'm on month 21.

I try not to think about it too much, but I do dread the day when erythromycin no longer works for me.  Thankfully, even then, I will still have Zofran can get it in even higher doses if need be.

Wretched Dysautonomia!  SIGH.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A few blooms...


I think I might be a cave woman, living a time-slipped life.  Think about it: I'm clearly a carnivore and I've become a true hermit.




Also, where most folk I know will happily chow down on cold leftover pizza, I crave cold leftover steak!  Even cold, the flank steak practically melted in my mouth.  And I have changed my mind about the Chili Spiced Steak.  The marinade is quite good when cold.

I'm on Day Three of battling waves of violent nausea.  I awoke abruptly at 4:30 this morning, nauseous and writhing in pain.  I have yet to eat anything today aside from judiciously sipping Ginger Ale.  I hate Dysautonomia.  SIGH.

Yesterday, I battled through to slap two coats of sealer on the chairs for the table for the airing porch. Yes, I caved financially. I let all that savings of Celebrex go to my head and caught up on all my little needs I had deferred and then plunked down the funds for my major want.




These are actually the fourth attempt at buying chairs.  Shoppers Beware:  Shipped goods do not always match the photos posted.

I bought the chairs and table separate, because it was more economical that way.  Since the steamer lounger and the table and chairs are all made of the same material, they generally have the same look.   I absolutely cannot wait until I can eat out on the airing porch.

After my GREAT WEAKNESS OF 2105, I vowed to go back to my penurious ways, which is quite a good thing, because I finally found someone to translate the periodic prescription summaries that I receive from Medicare.  If read correctly, switching to generic Celebrex will save me money on that drug, but will mean that I will not reach catastrophic coverage.  So, I will be saddled with the high percentage price of Erythromycin for the rest of the year, instead of reaching catastrophic coverage in November and having Erythromycin drop from $436 to approximately $40-ish dollars.  In 2016, I might delay the expensive donut hole until April or even May and, thus, have a bit more savings.  I will have to wait to see.




Today, I am in too much pain for Amos to be atop me, but yesterday he helped me battle the nausea by snoring loudly in my lap.  Happiness is a white fluff-ball who snores in your lap.

Last night, even though I felt horrible, I had to bath his canine self.  You see, the entire time I was sealing the chairs, Amos frolicked about the brick edging of the yard, watering and re-watering every single growing thing in my beds.  He was the stinkiest he's ever been.

Mostly, when in need of a bath, Amos just smells a bit like dirt. I think that is because his curls get all dusty.  But on rare occasions, he smells like my old elementary students did when they came in from recess. Weird.  Anyway, I gave him a haircut and a bath and spent lots of time recovering back in the GREEN chair.




Though grey and dreary today, I wanted to show that the ornamental magnolia tree has reached its peak bloom.




One of the reasons I adore this tree is that even full darkness does not take away from the light of the blooms.  It as if they are the embodiment of John 1:5.  I always feel safer at night, outside, when the magnolia tree is in bloom.  Safer.  More at peace.




After the GREAT BONTANICAL BETRAYAL OF 2014, I am giddy to report that the weeping cherry tree is blooming!




So take that, Winter!  All that snow and cold and the weeping cherry did right by me this year!




The Forsythia is also blooming!




I have spent the first three years trying to shape it into a proper bush, but last year gave up and went for more of a tree shape, with the goal of getting the canopy up above the fence, so my pruning will only be the small bits that grow on the "trunks."  This year's major cut was to a branch that was primarily leaning over the fence, blocking my neighbor's walkway.  I would have to cut it back all summer, so I decided to lop it off from the bottom and hope that the hole created in the right center from its removal will eventually be fill in by branches from the other main trunks.  Looking at the photo, I think I might need to remove at least part of that one last branch hanging over the fence.




The first of the bulbs beneath the magnolia tree has bloomed.  I remain disappointed that the blooms are so tiny that I can barely see them, but this is the third year for the bulbs so they are resilient.  $2.99 well spent.  And Amos doesn't crush them by laying atop them the way he does the tulips.  SIGH.




This is my first tulip.  The rest are all of the taller varieties that take longer to bloom.  Amos has been quite faithful about "watering" it ever since it opened.

Despite my best efforts to relocate all the tulips from the lily bed to the tulip bed, I have three more outliers growing in amongst the day lilies, the leaves of the latter are now about a foot tall.  My Easter lilies have just started to peak above the mulch.  They typically get around to blooming in mid summer.  I suppose they do not understand that Easter has already come and gone.

Anyway, despite the grey day and the great innards misery, I did enjoy snapping a few photos of the beauty taking place in my yard.

I am not sure I am up for enduring a Day Four of violent nausea.  Besides, on the morrow, the electrician is coming to do the spring service of my air-conditioner.  I have to be able to put on some clothing for his visit.  Right now, my abdomen is too tender for anything to touch it.

Did I mention that Dysautonomia is a wretched, wretched, wretched neurological disease/condition/illness/existence?

SIGH.