Archive for February, 2009

I love to watch home decorating shows.  I started out watching the British, BBC – Homes – TV and radio, Changing Rooms, and moved on to Trading Spaces. Design a Room : Trading Spaces : TLC


Both are off the air now, although they are probably seen in re-runs.  I have moved on to the Home Decorating reality game shows where one designer eventually wins their own television show. 



These reality shows are a bit more realistic in design than the “decorate your ex-friend’s room” shows are.  I used to watch them paint the floor in the switched room shows and think, “Yeah, right, that’s going to look like crap after a month.”  Did you ever seen paint stay on a floor. It seemed none of the things they did was for durability or even so you could enter your room a month later and still find pleasure in the decorating. 



They were continually finding out what their friends wanted first. “I hate pink, Mildred, do not paint these walls pink.”  Then, the decorator would listen and nod their head and show up with enough pink paint and accessories to make Barbie happy and the room owner cry.   



The absolute most memorable one for me was when they hung a section of a bedroom wall with moss.  The client entered, eyes closed, and said, “What IS that smell?”  I’m sure we all would love to live with moss on our walls.  



When I lived in Wyoming, my eternal decorating attempt was the downstairs kitchen.  It screamed, “The worse of trading spaces.”  We received tile free but not enough of any one color.  Husband decided to use two colors and make a diamond pattern in the middle of the floor.  It looked good on paper.  To make matters worse, we had to use cheap wood for the cabinets, so I painted them.  By the time we moved out, there had to be five or more layers of paint on the cabinets.  White, thankfully covered, the latest color scheme, which I lovingly referred to as our Easter Egg kitchen. 


I like to think that I have learned a lot from the decorating shows.  If I had the money, I would buy dark bamboo flooring and use muted browns and earthy colors for a minimal front room decor.  I would find a throw I loved and design around it.  I would get rid of clutter; which is everywhere in the 600 square foot upstairs of our house; not that it isn’t also cluttered in the 600 square foot finished walk-out basement; because it is.  I just do not have to look at it as often.   



For now, our decorating consists of Fireman “turn out” gear draped over a dining room chair and blankets and pillows permanently ensconced on two couches.  I think the carpeted doggy stairs going up to the couch add an elegant touch but nowhere near as charming as the hall’s wrappers and medicine bottles that litter husband’s chair area.  Not to be outdone, my area is now surrounded by piles of papers being sorted for tax time. 



Frontroom shelves are lined with books and DVD’s, as well as dead batteries and burned out bulbs waiting to be recycled.  The dog has her own rubbermaid shoe box of toys, and is the neatest person in the house.  Am I going to post a picture for you to see?  Heck, NO! 

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I pick on husband quite a lot in this blog.  But, this morning there will be no picking as he has received yet more dire news.  As if twenty years of COPD was not enough!


We were hiking, out east, when I came down with flu.  It mostly consisted of a bad headache and exhaustion, but it was enough to send us back home again.  I drove most of the way, from the eastern coast to Indiana, as I recovered and he had become ill. 


Round after round of doctors followed for years after, as one clinic/doctor after another eliminated diseases. It was not until we found Jacob Bitran, M.D., who was, at that time, with the University of Chicago, that Roy began to receive help.  Modern medicine has kept him alive since.


He smoked for one month total in his whole life, but his father was a smoker and he came into contact with so many chemicals, over a sixteen year period at LTV Steel, that the doctor at Mayo threw the list across the desk and said that there was no telling what caused the COPD as any number of the many chemicals he came into contract with could have done this to his lungs.


He tried to work for years, after he was diagnosed.  On the days he worked by the chrome line, he would miss two to three days of work after.  Some days, he would drive all the way to East Chicago, from our home between Griffith and Merrillville; he would get out of the car and walk to the guard shack, where he could rest; then he would walk back to the car, rest and come home again.   It finally got to the point where he felt he just could not do this to his co-workers any longer, as they were working harder to make up for work he could not do.  The mill was wonderful to him and allowed him to keep his job for much longer than any small business owner could have done.


On the outside, if you did not work by him or live with him, he looked perfectly normal.  That is unless you were wearing perfume or some such.  To this day, people will sometimes hint to me that there is nothing wrong with him and he is just lazy. They usually only do that one time, as I let them know what life is like for this fifty-seven year old man who now looks like he is nearing nintey.  Restaurants always seat him with my mother instead of me, and when we get the bill, they have given him a senior discount.


One problem is that his body produces too many histamines and he is allergic to just about everything: humidity, perfumes, chemicals, cleaning supplies, new carpeting, some plants, lacquers, make-ups, laundry soaps, shampoos.  You name it and he will shut down.  He will take one breath of air and it will be trapped, like a balloon with no opening/outlet.  His airways close up and there is no way to get the air out. 


He has had to leave restaurants, in the middle of meals and run out of theatres because of perfume. 


So, when he went to the doctor and received four more medications, the other day, because one lung was more congested than normal, it was ‘business as usual’ for us.  Yes, I watch the decline.  Do I know where that decline ends?  No.  It is not something I think about.  When he was diagnosed, the disease gave a person twenty years tops.  Medications have expanded that.  You just live each day.



I may get very frustrated, but I make sure he takes his medication and I make the doctor’s appointments, even when he does not want to go.  I watch the roof leak, and the pipes leak and the water heater that is failing and I do not harp or nag as, that is not my way.  As a caregiver of my mother and disabled husband,  I vent to you guys.  And, I thank you all for listening. 


There have just been too many days like this lately, and it’s hard for me to find a way to make this kind of news humorous.  Master’s Daughter would have you in stitches at this point. 


Another blow struck yesterday as the ophthalmologist told Roy he has Macular Degeneration.  One eye already has an expanding blurred spot, but both eyes have dead tissue in the Macular and in the one eye, the blood vessels are all straight, unlike the wavy lines they should have. There is no good prognosis here, only a slowing of the eventual blindness he will have.  Apparently, the premature aging of his body, due to the COPD, is damaging the blood vessels.  In six months the test will be repeated and we will have more of an idea how fast it is progressing.


On the plus side, it is not his hearing.  He has always said he would rather lose his sight than his hearing.  He loves music more than anything. 

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Now that I am back lifting weights, I am back to reading a fitness blog. Happily Ever After ? Cranky Fitness is my favorite and the blogged linked to here is a great blog about choosing your life’s partner.  I am not sure what that has to do with getting in shape — Oh, wait!  I know. 




It has to do with sitting around getting fat because your mate sits around, getting fat and you do not have the willpower to say no to pizza four times a week; and you do not want to do things while he can only sit.  It has to do with eating chocolate because it is illegal to strangle your husband to make him shut up for just ten lousy minutes, please!  It may even have to do with going to the refrigerator at 10:00 pm and eating because, well, just because. 



Since I was a child, my mother has said that I have to learn my lessons the hard way, by making mistakes, and I have made a lot of mistakes in my life.  Not the least of which was getting married at a young age. 


That is not to say that the the early marriage did not benefit me.  I have a wonderful, intelligent human being as a daughter, and another one who is very mixed up, but I would say that I walked away from it being on a good basis with my ex-husband, who was also very young when we married, and also being a better person than I was when we met.



I have made several more mistakes since then, okay, a lot more than several, but we are talking in relationships here.   Okay, a few of them were mistakes too.



But Cranky Fitness’ blog was based on a University of Iowa study that had men and women list, in order of importance, the characteristics they feel are important for a life partner. But, when it comes right down to it, it is not so much who they are; pretty, good provider, good housekeeper, etc, as it has to do with who you are when you are with them. 



If, and we hope this is true, you have been dating them for a while, can you look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am a better person now, than when we met.”  If not, keep looking.



Oh, and you should also affect them in a positive way so that they are a better person than when you met. 


For what that is worth!

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Husband has decided he is never going to the doctor again. 


He went to his GP yesterday morning so that he could get his ten medications renewed for the year and he walked out with fourteen prescriptions and pneumonia.   I told on him, that his cough was worse than normal and after listening to his chest, the doctor told him why—pneumonia.


Then, we picked up mom and took both of them to the Ophthalmologist.  (is that spelled right?  That’s what Word and WordPress says it is.)  Husband has lost his reading glasses, for good this time, and needed to get a new script as one eye is different from the other and WalMart does not carry reading glasses with each eye different. 


He, husband—not the doctor, developed a swelling on the back of his eye years ago.  When the swelling went down, the ‘cones’ did not sink right and so he has a blurred spot; that’s what he had been told in the past.  Now, the spot is changing and there is a broken vessel.  The doctor asked what husband had done for a living.  Since he had been a millright and around welding, the doctor thought that might have damaged his eye, however, that was years before.


New story but they will tie in at the end.  EMT has been drooling over the S10 truck for some time but it does not work.  He has a friend, through the volunteer fire department who has an S10 in his back yard and loves to work on cars, so this morning he was to drive it over to the guys house and they were going to work on it.  


I went out to be in the Voyager to jump the battery on the S10.   Having owned only one new car in my life, I am well versed in jumping car batteries.  However, I have never been in the charger car before when the door locks automatically locked and the speedometer went crazy when the dead battery car tried to start.  It never did start, but I had an epiphany.


Third and final story:  Husband’s energy level is very low so when husband and I were rehabbing our house for sale, he would get up early, while he had a little energy and work.  I have to say that rehabbing a house like this takes forever, no one week flip for us.  I usually wake up at the same time every morning, but this one morning I slept a bit late.  I got up, dressed and went out to get the mail.  I came back in and heard a faint cry, “Sheryl.” 


It came from the crawl space, and under my feet.   “Sheryl, shut off the electricity.”


Yup, husband had crawled into a very wet dirt crawl space and hooked himself up to the electricity and I’m thinking that maybe it acted like a lightning strike on his eye.  I don’t know if that did it but it was shortly after that when he noticed the blurred spot for the first time.


He’s still griping about going to the doctor.

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It seems, sometimes, that the world just likes to taser us with a jolt of adrenalin.  Mine, as I have written about lately, usually comes in the mail as a highly inflated bill.  I shared some stories this week about my own personal “really high” bills, so I thought I would let you know the outcome of the latest one; the power/propane bill.


I never, ever, ever, in my life want to open a bill and see that I owe $1,200 ever again.  But, I have to tell you that this shows me how kind the world can be.  We phoned for energy assistance, expecting to be told, as we so often are, that we make just a smidgen too much to qualify.  At the best I would have been delighted to come out of it with $200 help for this bill.  Instead, we received a monthly stipend for the coming months and a large amount of help for this month.


In the lifetime of my family, father to daughters, I could count on one hand the assistance we have received.  My father’s mill was on strike once when my two daughters and I lived with my parents.  It was difficult for him to do but he applied for, and got some food stamps.  He would never have done it for just himself and my mom, but he wasn’t going to see these little girls without milk.


I have worked most of my life and supported my children, on my own, for much of it.  I’m not used to getting help and it was a hard thing to do.  When my husband became disabled, it was tough, even applying for reduced lunches for the boys was tough, but, it is so nice to know that there is help out there for you when times are tough.  You really feel a little less alone in the world.


The woman at the assistance office has referred us to another agency, and told us to call back at the end of March for their office, for assistance in upgrading this windy house.  The other night, I taped up the back door with (please don’t tell the post office) with Priority mail tape.  I could feel the wind blow through so bad from upstairs.  Of course, the dog then spent some time barking on the stairs because she thought someone, with the shape of an x on their face was trying to break in.  I had put an x on the window to warn EMT that the door was taped shut. 


Gee, is their assistance to get the dog glasses?

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Sunday, I watched “The Visitor.” With that title, and all the movies that seem to be playing right now, I avoided it the first time it was on.  Ithought it was a horror movie. But, it was a wonderful movie.  The Visitor (2008) – Moviefone  has it listed as one of the 50 best movies of 2008.  I’m sure I would rank it much higher and I am putting it on my DVD want list.

It is amazing what a great movie they can make with a very simple plot, excellent casting, acting, and directing. There were no special affects, no bombs, no blood, no action too fast to watch and too loud to hear, just a lot of emotion. It’s on Starz this month and I hate to give away too much, so I will try to be careful.

Things to watch out for are the subliminal messages, in the background. Things like how we welcome everyone to our humble shores, as we used to,  and how we are a land made up of all nationalities, as we are.

And, as wtih all good plots, the main ingredient is the character development.

Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is a jubilant, love-of-life musician who is driven to hatred by bureaucracy. 

Walter (Richard Jenkins) shows the world how good of an actor he is as he plays a man going through the motions of life, when he is randomly thrown into close contact with Tarek and his girlfriend.  Tarek shows Walter what a wonderful thing life can be, and Walter begins to live.

The ending of this movie left me silently praying for any other outcome.  But, it is a movie that is true-to-life.

We can all get in ruts and may need to be shown how to enjoy life again, and to be open to accept others into our life.  Life is too short, not to experience it. Check out, “The Visitor”  and do not be afraid to try new things in your life.

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JRock attended the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) Solo and Ensemble event today and took  Silver in the Solo Division. (He was one point from a gold.)

For those of you who wish to hear him sing, while the ticket prices are low (where’s a smilie when you need one?), he sits in on a set the first and third Friday’s of the month, at the Muddy Boots Cafe, in Nashville, Indiana.

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I vent – Part 2

I have come to hate opening the mail. It is not just that bills come in the mail; it is that bills come in the mail that are obscenely higher than they should be.

In the month after my open heart surgery, I opened the AT&T land line bill (normally $30) to find they had charged me $51 for the privilege of having a party line every time it rains. They seem to think it is a perk. It happens every time it rains and the company, who owned our phone lines prior to AT&T buying it, was working on fixing it. They never charged me $51 to come out and say, “Duh, I don’t hear it, because I came out four days after the rain and the lines are dry.” Even though they heard it when they tested the line.

That same month, Cingular cell phone company had a bunch of charges on our bill for features that I had specifically told them to make sure were shut off, so I would not open the bill and have a heart attack. They wrote these off our bill; bless their little heart.

And, finally, that same month, I opened up our DirecTV bill to find an additional $500 tacked on for certain movies. Not a thing that someone who has just had open heart surgery wants to see, trust me. The next month, as I fought the first bill, they charged me an additional $300, for more movies.

Okay, I have a husband and three grandsons in the house. I understand that they like to look at girls and I’m sure that girls sans clothing would be even more attractive. But, none of them are stupid enough to purchase six movies at one time (for which we were charged), nor to watch the movies for a month, in a room that everyone walks through and can see, nor to spend $800 on movies of any kind.

During the time of the purchases, we had company for Thanksgiving and we were gone for Christmas, and some of the movies were bought while the boys were in school. And, yet, DirecTV told me they must have watched these movies, because that is what boys and men do, and we must have had someone come into our house and watch during the time we were gone.

Well, what I do, in these situations, is turn to the internet and find out how many other people have the same problem. LOTS!! In fact, I found class action law suits against DirecTv for the same charges. I found a person who did not even subscribe to DirecTV and was still billed for watching movies “men like to watch.”

I also found out that you cannot find the address of the CEO of DirecTV. I am sure there is a way, but I have no idea what it is. I fought this for six months. I had automatic debit to pay that bill, as I used to do when a bill is the same amount every month and I cancelled that, and will never trust them again with my card.

During the fight, I had at least three operators tell me that the movies were watched in a pattern that people do when they steal your signal and information. And, how do they do that? They do that by the phone line that DirecTV tells you to have it plugged in. Did you know that you do not have to have it plugged into a phone line? None of our receivers are now. That was the only receiver plugged into the phone line and all movies were supposedly watched on that unit, despite the fact that one other unit is in a bedroom, where you can shut the door and have privacy.

The end of the story is that I fought long and hard enough that, while they refused to refund the money (Thank goodness our mortgage payment did not bounce.) they did give us a credit on the money and so we were paid up for about ten months of DirecTv bills. I think they made us promise to keep the service for another year too.

And, after this was settled, they sent us a very nice (sic) letter, informing us that, while they were crediting us for this bill, they, in no way were admitting that the service was stolen from our unit, we must have watched $800 in movies in, what amounted to, a one month period.

The lesson is. No direct billing for DirecTV. Do NOT hook your phone line into their receivers. And, put a password on your account.

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I do try to keep things light on this blog, but this past thirty days just sucks a big one, so I vent.

We are lucky, we have a roof (albeit a leaky one) over our heads. We have a home (although this may be the last month we have heat). Our home has water leaks, air leaks, no insulation and is small. But, it is not a cardboard box or a car. All but one person, in our house has health insurance and he just happens to be the healthiest of us, so that is good.

My husband’s twenty year battle with COPD is tearing up his body. He has been ill for three weeks, and sleeps a lot. Every time, I debate just selling my art supplies and becoming a greeter at WalMart, something happens, that tells me I am needed here at home. My mother ends up in the hospital, my husband is up for an hour a day and there are boys to pick up after school, bills to pay, a house to give up keeping clean, etc. He is adamant about me not working, and I know this is because he cannot keep up with the job I do here, although, at this point, a chimpanzee could keep up with my house cleaning. I have never lived in such a dirty house.

We live at 125% of the poverty level; now that my art income is dried up. The youngest boy does receive his own social security income, which is counted for some programs and not for others, but helps with his part of life. He is going through new testing next week for his disabilities.

And, I HATE opening the mail. I literally groan when the boys bring it in. This week was particularly scary.

It was not until the 19 year old, a year or so ago, when he had a job, was spending over $40 a month in long distance phone cards, that we all sat down and figured, he would put that $40 in cell phone service and we would get cell phones. It worked out well, until this week. I opened our bill, which is normally $100 for four cell phones, and that bill, this month, was $459.52.

They picked me up off the floor, and I ascertained that I was too far in shock to break into a quivering mass of tears, I phoned AT&T to find out what the boys did wrong, so it can be avoided in the future; after I give them back custody of their phone. At the end of finding out what all was going on with it, they offered to change my plan and write off the excess of the bill. It was one of the highlights of my year so far.

I cannot tell you how much this meant to us. When we first got AT&T, there was a misunderstanding and we were charged for things that were supposed to be shut off. AT&T wrote that off too. I cannot say enough about this company. The cellular part of it. I am not so fond of the landline part.

My relief was short lived though, as the next day I opened the South Central Indiana REMC electric and propane bill and it was $ 1,123.86. $$675.18 was for one month of propane to heat this crapy, leaky house.

I’ll let you know how that goes, after I am recovered enough to call and see what we can do with it.

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I was perusing my ClustR Map and the bottom country, along with many other countries with one viewer each, was Macedonia. I was never a whiz at Geography. I think it had something to do with teachers whose sole function was to point to the next student in the row and say, you read the next three paragraphs.

I did have a history/geography teacher who did this. I think he was reading spy novels behind his copy of the text, because no sane human being could just sit there, day after day, for twenty years and listen to the same bored students taking turns reading from the same history/geography book text day after day after day. I barely got through one year of it. So, he had to be going stir crazy.

Digression over!  So, not knowing right off where Macedonia was, I googled “Macedonia,”  and, right there, two finds under Wikipedia, was CIA – The World Factbook — Macedonia.  I was going to copy the flag and country graphic, but there is something that makes me uncomfortable about copying off a CIA site. 

Did I ever tell you about the time, I was attending University of Illinois, Chicago-Circle and I needed research facts for a paper I was writing and I sent a letter to a Marijuana organization (Yes, there are things like that.)  and I received the letter returned to me, all ripped open, obviously read and badly taped back together.  ‘THEY’ might as well have written on the outside, “We know who you are.  We know where you live.  We are watching you.”   So, I do not copy off a CIA site

Second digression over!  (I wonder what the record is for digressions?)  SO, this site tells you everything you could ever imagine wanting to know about a country, including: political pressure groups, International organization participation, sex disbursement, HIV, birth statistics, national holidays,  (By the way,  Happy Ilinden Uprising Day, on 2 August (1903); note – also known as Saint Elijah’s Day, just in case I forget in August.), their electricity consumption and oil production, how many cellular phones they have and how much in reserve of foreign exchange.

There is absolutely no point in me telling you this.  I just thought you should know.  What a great resource if a student has a paper to do.  And, they have 685,000 internet users and I’m hoping for one more of them to read this blog.

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