Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Raves of the Day for September 27, 2005: 

Yep, got multiple things to rave about. First, I went to the website of the photographer I met at the craft fair on Friday:

Jon Sheppard Photography

That led to a link for a filter website, which had links to all these great photography sites:

Daryl Benson

Mountain Light

Tony Sweet

George Lepp

Bob Krist

Art Wolfe

f-8 and be there

I spent entirely too much time on these sites, and am now up way too late. But it was worth it. Take some time to check out the galleries....you won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 26, 2005

It's all about me (except for the part that's about Dan).... 

Haven't reported on how I'm doing in quite a while. I've been in super avoidance mode. Also, we had company, so I spent quite a bit of time away from the computer while attempting to tidy the house before their arrival and then entertaining after their arrival. I feel semi-comatose tonight.

Dan was supposed to hear back last week about whether the ad agency in South Dakota wanted him for a second interview, but they didn't call, so he called them today. The person he needed to speak with was in a meeting, so he left a message. He didn't get a return call today, but since it was an afternoon meeting, that call might happen tomorrow. If it doesn't, I guess he can try again Wednesday.

I was invited to visit a friend in a few weeks, but I haven't been able to give an answer yet until I know whether Dan needs to fly for South Dakota for an interview. We don't have the funds for two plane trips in the same month, so either he gets to travel or I do. If I am going to do any traveling, I should probably do so now because both my income and my physcial ability in the future are too uncertain.

My illness continues to progress faster than I am comfortable with. I realize I can't stop this from happening, but I'd hoped that the decline would be slower now that I'm not working. I decided a week and a half ago that I would dust the house, something I'd been able to do a few months ago as long as I paced myself. I went verrrrrry slowwwly this time, working perhaps 15 minutes at a stretch and then resting. I limited myself to two rooms a day and let Dan handle the bathrooms since those require scrubbing. It took me four days to do the whole house. It wasn't that I was looking to impress company, but I realized that if Dan does get that job in South Dakota, we are gonna have to sell this house pronto, and it's gotta be clean for that to happen. As it is, if Dan gets hired right away, he ain't gonna be here to do all the tidying for me, and I'll likely have to bribe family members to scrub walls, apply touch up paint, etc. while I de-clutter enough so that a realtor can show the house. So I thought simple dusting was something I could handle.

Wrong! Oh, so VERY wrong! I developed back spasms, a stiff neck, a headache and other assorted pains the very first day, and the fibromyalgia moved in and cranked the agony up to 11. At one point, my back seized up to the point that I had trouble breathing, the pain was so intense. I tried muscle relaxants, my emergency pain med, Icy Hot patches...very little relief. And the pain level just won't come down much. I haven't touched a dust rag since Wednesday, and my neck is still stiff and sore, and I've still got headaches from it. In just the past two weeks, I've been tears from pain on four different days. I desperately need some strong pain medication, but none is to be had. So I've just been pushing on, trying to cope until I go to the massage therapist tomorrow morning. It has been a monumental chore to not let the pain cloud everything else in my life. May have something to do with my current zombie state, ya think?

Tried a new recipe so we'd have something to re-heat quickly while the in-laws were here. I made cabbage soup with very lean ground beef. Unfortunately, I was only able to cut up some onion and peppers before my hands gave out, so I had to get Dan to chop cabbage and carrots. He nearly succeed in decapitating his thumb. I also severely underestimated how much cabbage is contained in a head. I needed seven cups for the recipe, but I had no idea how many heads to buy, so I bought four. Two was plenty. So now I have two heads of cabbage in the fridge that I have no idea what to do with. I guess I should find a recipe for stir fry??

I also made barbeque turkey. That would have gone smoothly except for one thing: right before I was gonna start it, I dropped a half gallon bottle full of water on my foot. It only made a small bruise, but it hurt so damned bad I couldn't walk on it. So Dan and his mom both had to come to my rescue, cutting peppers, onions and turkey because I was too hysterically in pain to think straight. I would have liked to have made potato salad for a side dish, but I practically burn down the house when I try to do more than one complicated (meaning involving more than microwaving) dish per meal, so I just heated some frozen veggies instead.

I did manage to have fun while the in-laws were here. On Friday, we went to a craft fair. I rode in my trusty chariot (wheelchair) while Dan chaffeured. There was lots of really creative stuff to look at, and some of it was very tempting. I restrained myself, though, and only purchased one item: a hand-painted Russian horse Christmas ornament. I struck up a conversation with a photographer; we talked about the best places to get shots of wild horses, viewing wildlife in national parks, digital versus 35mm, etc. Turns out he used to also work as a photographer at a local tv station, so we talked a bit about working in the media too. He gave me a business card so I can check out his website. He even gave me a few tips, such as mounting a camera on a car window if I can't get out and hike around. He does books too and knows publishers and suggested I contact him should I ever become interested in putting together a book. That I may do as I would like to get involved in something of that nature once I get done with this SSDI and LTD bullshit.

Speaking of the long-term disability company, they are blowing me off yet again. I get a phone call from the claim rep asking for addresses of docs I don't even go to anymore. The company wants to analyze my neuropsyche exam and my most recent sleep study before they decide if they're gonna approve me for benefits. And, naturally, they require ANOTHER 30 day extension to do this. So it looks like they're gonna drag out the approval process until at least December. Apparently, they can delay indefinitely as long as there exist medical records they haven't viewed yet. I know my case isn't that complicated and that they are just stalling to see how long they can get away without paying me. Bastards.

I have continued to acquire medical records for my SSDI claim. I have gotten the rest of the ones from my ENT, all of my primary care's, the ones from the rheumatologist I went to for a second opinion, and I'm in the process of getting them from my endocrinologist. I still haven't gotten any from the gastroenterologist despite two requests. Probably won't matter as I'm having new digestive issues and need to see her again anyway and can request them in person the next time I visit. Also will see my regular rheumatologist next week and will throw in the latest office notes. There are three other doctors I should probably get records from, but I haven't made up my mind yet whether I want to hassle with that. I plan to take all the ones I do get and present copies of them in person at my local Social Security office to be added to my file so I can get a receipt and have no doubt whether anyone got them.

Oooh, I think I'm gonna regret having typed this much. Guess I should post updates more often so they'll be shorter, eh?

Marched to the theatre to see the penguins.... 

I knew that I would like "March of the Penguins" before I ever viewed it. I mean, a National G. documentary on wildlife in an exotic location narrated by Morgan Freeman? What's not to like?

It was even better than I'd imagined it would be. I had no idea that the mating cycle of Antarctic penguins would actually form a cohesive story, greatly helped by Morgan Freeman's narrative. And I learned quite a bit about how harsh the conditions are, how hardy the penguins are, and how small the odds are of the successful raising of a chick.

The visuals are stunning: time lapse of the brief winter sun in the sky, extreme closeups of glossy feathers, masses of penguins huddled against an 80 below zero blizzard, chicks peeking out from the protective warmth above their parents' feet. Most surprising, though, were the underwater shots: diving, swimming, feeding, attempting to outrun a hungry leopard seal. I wonder how the photographers managed to get under the ice for those shots. I was thrilled with the sheer diversity of coverage, from overhead shots of seemingly endless lines of penguins trekking single file across the ice and snow to closer shots of pairs of mates to tight shots of chicks hatching.

I've seen more than my fair share of wildlife documentaries, most of which fall rather short of being fascinating. This film, though, actually contained drama. I found myself feeling pity for the penguins whose egg cracked and froze, admiration for the males going months on end without food while balancing an egg on their feet, intrigued about how the females were able to return and resume the parenting duties, sadness for the penguin who kept trying to revive her dead chick, and amusement as the hatchlings who survived took their first awkward steps.

Next time I think I have it rough, I'll remind myself that at least I'm not a penguin.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Redeeming TV: "Lost", Season 2, Episode 1 

After watching every single minute of material on the Season 1 DVD, I wondered if I'd gotten my expectations too high for Season 2. I was only let down a little, much to my relief. Of course, with the excellent ensemble cast, solid writing and engaging plot, I couldn't help but be pleased with Wednesday night's show.

Season 2 begins with a man whose face we cannot see. From the apparent age of the items around him, such as the turntable playing Cass Elliott, the primitive computer equipment, the old school exercise equipment, either this guy is stuck in the 1970's, or he IS in the 1970's. I'm thinking bio-sphere here, even though those may be vintage 1980's. Either that or one of those paranoid bomb shelter survivalists. Anyway, SOMEONE is living in the hatch.

Up at the hatch entrance, Kate, Locke and Jack ponder the wisdom of investigating a 50 foot metal shaft with a door that says "Quarantine" on the inside. Jack is ready to give up and go back to the beach and tell everyone there to chill. Locke naturally wants to find out what's inside, and Kate obviously is curious but stays out of the argument. Hurley is completely freaked because he saw his ill-fated lottery numbers on the side of the hatch and is convinced there is a curse attached. He tells Jack this and is given a disbelieving look.

At the beach, Charlie is telling anyone who will listen that there are no "others", that the French woman made them up because she's a nut case. Say-id does not agree but keeps his mouth shut. Shannon and Say-id go into the jungle to look for Vincent, who has run off. Shannon is obviously grieving the loss of her brother and is emotionally crumbling, so when she sees Walt in the jungle, everyone else thinks SHE'S the nut job.

When Jack, Kate, Hurley and Locke get back to the beach, Jack makes a speech about how the hatch is not a good place to hide. Meanwhile, Locke grabs some cable to use as a pulley for going into the hatch and takes off again. Kate, who had promised Jack she would side with him, states that she can't leave Locke by himself in case something happens to him. She goes back to the hatch. Locke decides to lower Kate down first because she is smaller. As Kate descends down the hatch, a tree that is providing leverage for the cable snaps, and she drops quite a distance before Locke is able to secure the cable. As she is nearly at the bottom, a bright light shoots up the hatch into the night sky, and Kate disappears. So of course Locke wants to go down after her.

Jack reluctantly returns to the hatch because Kate went. When he gets there, both Kate and Locke are gone, so he descends. He finds himself in some sort of odd underground dome. He also manages to find Locke, who has a gun to his head. The gunman is actually someone Jack knows.

Now, next week, we are supposed to get some idea what became of the people on the raft (I was disappointed I didn't get to find out this week). But this week's episode did its job: I'm so intrigued about what I've seen so far that I don't dare miss future installments. The cliffhanger may be an ancient device, but it still works.

Wonder if we're gonna get to hear any more '70's music??

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rock Star: Anti-Climax 

Guess they'll be changing the band name to "J.D. Fortune and INXS".

First, they had each remaining performer pick any song that had been done during the course of the season and give it one more shot. Mig picked "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Marty did a reprise of "Wish You Were Here". I don't know what J.D. performed as I was distracted in the kitchen because I couldn't get a burner on the stove to work. From those performances, they eliminated Mig. I think he would have been the best choice, but oh well.

Then, the band actually went up on stage (up to this point, a house band had been accompanying the contestants). They had Marty and J.D. each perform one INXS song. Marty did "Don't Change", very well I might add. From those performances, they picked a winner.

I never liked J.D. and thought he was arrogant and a poser. But apparently, the band thinks he's great, because that's who they picked. So I will NOT be buying their next album or going to see them in concert. And I've had it with reality TV, even though I only watched one other show besides this one. And network music shows. Ugh.

There was one consolation in all this. They suggested allowing Marty, who took second, a shot at being the opening act on the world tour. And Dave Navarro volunteered to play guitar on anything Marty might record. I'd like to see that happen.

Other than that, it SUCKED.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Lost" and found.... 

Ok, I know I should stop making frivolous purchases, but, well, I did use some of my vacation money to buy the first season of "Lost" on DVD. Turned out to be a great investment as there are EIGHT discs in the set! There are 24 original episodes plus two discs' worth of bonus material.

At first, I thought I'd just watch an episode here and there, not really expecting to view them all prior to season 2 starting next Wednesday. But then the ending of one would be so compelling that I'd jump to the beginning of the next one, and before I knew it, I would be far enough into it that I would just sit back down and watch the rest, and then onto the next one. So I did manage to see all 24 plus about an hour of bonus stuff including audition tapes, set photos by Matthew Fox, a documentary on the making of the pilot, how they did certain stunts and effects, etc.

I will admit that part of the reason I camped out on the couch was to escape this business of filing for disability, figuring out a new monthly budget, attempting to tidy the house without injuring myself or going into a flare, etc. In other words, I seriously needed a break from reality. I felt a bit guilty at first because I promised Dan a month ago I was gonna figure out how much we could spend on what, and I've been avoiding it ever since. But then on Saturday, after a marathon viewing, I noticed that the daily edema in my left foot was completely gone due to elevating it instead of sitting at the computer making it swell up. So in my case, being lazy isn't all bad, heh heh.

I haven't enjoyed a television show this much since "Quantum Leap" aired. The pilot episode got me right away with its incredibly realistic set (they used a real plane on a real beach), intelligent characters and interesting plot. The acting is top notch, the script writers paid attention to details usually ignored in a television series, and of course it doesn't hurt that Oahu is one of the main characters.

Another device that makes the show stand out is the elaborate use of flashbacks. Each major character's past is hinted at or only partially explained, but we are given enough information to allow us to care about what happens to each of them. And in time, we see connections between characters that weren't obvious at first. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final picture will be.

I don't know if the second season can hold the suspense of the first as now the expectations are so high. But you can bet my eyes will be glued to the screen on Wednesday night. "Lost" is a real find.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rock Star: ACK! 

Ok, I wasn't surprised that J.D., Suzie and Mig were in the bottom three since there were only four contestants left and Marty did such an outstanding job last night. I was, however, surprised at just how well Mig performed "What You Need". He was great, actually. I thought Suzie and J.D. did all right with their INXS songs but not as well as Mig. I've been hoping J.D. would be ousted for seven weeks now, but of course that did not happen. They dumped Suzie, which left me flabbergasted. So the finalists are Mig, J.D. and Marty. They each win a car, and next week, one of them will be declared the winner. If they pick J.D., I swear I will never watch another network music series.

One step closer to new job?? 

I think the interview probably went fine. Dan, however, isn't feeling too confident because after it was over, he thought of things he could have said. I told him that happens to everyone.

The company isn't interviewing very many people and will decide if they want Dan to do an in-person interview as soon as next week. They want to hire ASAP. If Dan does get hired, he'll stay at his parents' house in Sioux Falls initially and look for a house there while I stay in Colorado until our current house sells. Have already done some online house hunting just in case.

The one problem area might be pay. I know jobs in South Dakota pay a lot less than in Colorado because the cost of living is lower, but with my income declining by $30,000 per year due to being on disability, he can't take too huge a pay cut in a new job. I've tried to do some creative math to figure out what we can get by on so he can negotiate if he needs to. Of course, there is the chance that we may be pleasantly surprised.

Will post when I find out more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The finale approacheth.... 

Tonight was the last performance show of "Rock Star: INXS". After tonight's vote by the viewing audience, one more contestant will be eliminated tomorrow night. Then next Tuesday, the band will choose a winner from the three remaining.

Suzie, as the last woman standing, really outdid herself. The band chose two songs for each performer to do tonight, and for Suzie, they picked "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes and "Insterstate Love Song" by Stone Temple Pilots. She tore right into the STP song with such fervor that you'd think it was written for her. I do think she can sing just about anything if she really puts her mind to it. And she was a natural for "What's Up". She's a keeper, and I wouldn't be disappointed if she won.

J. D. was asked to do his "Pretty Vegas" yet again. I hope this doesn't mean he's gonna win. He was also asked to do "Money" by Pink Floyd, and I've gotta admit he wasn't bad. But I still don't like him.

Marty got to do an encore of his original song "Trees", which is clever and catchy. He did an acoustic version this time, but it was still good. Then he got to do Radiohead's "Creep", which of course was right up his alley. I was a bit surprised that INXS asked him to it. It's a very moody song, but Marty was more than up for it. Still don't know if his musical style matches the band's, but he's gotten this far, so I guess he's got a shot.

Mig was assigned some weird choices: "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones and "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal. It was cool to see him do some darker music, but in my opinion, he could have given it more of an edge. Not a bad performance, though, just not quite up to my hopes. But he did a great job with "Kiss From a Rose" that more than made up for whatever may have been lacking in the other song. I'm still rooting for him, and of course I LOVE it when he goes shirtless, heh heh.

I realllllly want J.D. thrown off because it's wayyyyyy overdue, but I have a feeling that's not gonna happen. If Mig makes it to the bottom three tomorrow night, I predict he's gonna be the one that goes. Not because he isn't great....he is, but I think the band's gonna decide he's too much of a balladeer to front INXS.

"Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so f-ing special
I wish I was special
But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here"
--from "Creep" by Radiohead

Dan the Man has the jitters..... 

Dan's job interview is tomorrow, and he is sooooo nervous! He has a stutter that makes him very self-conscious. I've told him to just pretend he's on the phone with a friend (it's a conference call with SEVEN managers).

We have gone over what he wants to ask the company and what he wants to say about himself. He wrote down what he wants to say. I think he'll be great if he can stay calm.

I think a lot of the reason he's so nervous is that he feels he must get this job because I can't work anymore. I've tried to convince him that the world won't end if he isn't hired, but he hasn't gotten a good night's sleep since he made the appointment for the interview. So I guess the best thing I can do is cross my fingers that he can relax tomorrow afternoon.

In other news, I found a local charity that still needs donations of clothing, so I gave them what I'd gathered. If I'm smart, I'll continue this business of organizing my possessions and move on to my other closets and cabinets. If I end up having to move soon, I'll be glad I did that.

I also solved the mystery of the missing paycheck. It was sent to my department instead of being mailed to me. Dan picked it up last night.

So now that I know for sure that I have my money, I can make a cash donation to hurricane Katrina relief. I found a local organization who is matching donations to the Red Cross dollar for dollar up to $1 million. So my money will go even further.

Am on day 3 of a migraine. Tried a WellPatch on the forehead, but it did nothing.....the Icy Hot ones are better. It improved some when I had a bit of caffeine today, but I can't seem to get rid of it completely. Need to check and see when my next massage therapy appointment is.

Saw the ENT today for a follow-up. The complicated anti-fungal regimen I've been on has been helpful in some ways: I get fewer mouth lesions, and that godawful yellow furry stripe on my tongue is finally gone. And the doc says my sinuses look dry but less infected than usual. However, my salivary glands are more swollen than they ever have been, worse on the left than the right just like the lymph nodes. Evidence that the Sjogren's syndrome is actually progressing and not just me imagining that I'm worse.

The in-laws will be visiting next week, so I really should clear a path in the house. Actually, the only part that's really bad is the command center. If I start slowly tonight and take lots and lots of breaks and make Dan do all the strenous stuff, I can probably get this place presentable by the time they are due to arrive.

That's all the news that's fit to print for now.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rave of the Day for September 12, 2005: 

My book review for But You Don't Look Sick is up. Here's the link:

"A Dog Year" and "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm"

Right now, I'm reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fibromyalgia" and will review it when I'm done. It's brand new.

Bad headache tonight.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


My husband has a job interview next week with an ad agency in South Dakota. It is going to be a conference call with SEVEN people at the agency! If they decide they want a second interview with him, he'll fly out there for that.

Got very frustrated when I didn't get a check in the mail today that my former employer has owed me for several weeks. But then Dan suggested that maybe the postal service is running slow again and that I should see what my account balance is (we have direct deposit). Sure enough, my checking account total reflects a deposit, so I can finally relax about that.

Talked with my long-term disability insurance company today. They have delayed approving me for benefits because they didn't get paperwork from all my doctors right away, but they should get the last of what they require early next week. They still want another month after that to process my claim, so the earliest I can get benefits is November, but it's better than nothing.

Went to see a cool movie last night, "Red Eye". It's a Wes Craven film, but it's suspense rather than horror. Good acting, interesting plot.

Finished the first Harry Potter book a few days ago. It's taking me longer than most people to read them, but I'll get through them all eventually. I'm thinking maybe I'll watch the movies too.

Indulged myself with a new music CD. Hadn't so much as downloaded anything on iTunes in three months. Found "Siren Sound of the Counter Culture" by Rise Against on sale for $4 off. I highly recommend this disc. Awesome lyrics.

"If we're the flagship of peace and prosperity
We're taking on water and about to f-ing sink
No one seems to notice, no one even blinks
The crew all left the passengers to die under the sea"
--from "State of the Union" by Rise Against, 2004

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Well, my predictions were right, to a point. On "Rock Star: INXS" last night, J.D.'s original song was praised, and he was asked to do the encore. I have to admit it's a good song even though it still sounds like he's trying to channel Michael Hutchence.

But he also managed to make the bottom three along with Suzie (why?) and Jordis. Perhaps the viewing audience is starting to finally grow annoyed with him? His perfomance of an INXS song, however, was just good enough to keep him hanging on at least another week.

Don't know why Suzie keeps getting picked on. Probably doesn't matter, though, because her INXS song kicked ass again. I'm actually thinking she would make a good lead singer.

Jordis, however, had lost all confidence, and it was painfully obvious. I knew she was gonna get yanked. She actually has a lot of talent, but maybe she's just too inexperienced to know how to fully use it. It still was a bummer to see her go.

So Suzie is the last woman standing. Marty and Mig also remain.

J.D., the bum, is still going strong. Ack. I guess there's always next week.

Rave of the Day for September 8, 2005: 

This blog contains a nice tribute to Bob Denver, and a lot of commentary about Katrina. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read it. Thanks to Robert for e-mailing me about it....

Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot

So many cool blogs, so little time to read them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Late addition to links.... 

Don't know how I missed adding this to my list. It's my friend Robert's blog. He writes articles about film, music and books. We've been friends since college. Not too difficult to fathom since we have such similar interests. Here be the link:

(mim-uh-zine) & other loss leaders

Robert also works in independent film and writes screenplays. Stuff I was always interested in, but I was too afraid of poverty to give up my cushy jobs and do something that required real creativity. So at least I get to learn about these things vicariously through my friends without giving up my ties to the mainstream. Sort of having my gluten free cake and eating it too, heh heh.

Come original: INXS 

This week, the remaining five contestants got to perform twice: once doing a song the viewers picked for them, and once doing an original song of their own. They did the two songs back to back, like a mini concert.

J. D. was assigned "Come As You Are" by Nirvana. I didn't care for his interpretation of it at all: the lyrics just don't cater to it being done as a ballad. Ick. Have to admit, though, that as much as I dislike J.D. and want him booted from the show, his original song wasn't bad. I did think he strained too hard to sound like Michael Hutchence, though. The band liked his song enough that I bet he gets to stick around another week. Grumble.

Suzie was given "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. After last week's killer performance, this seemed kinda flat to me. Her original song, which Marty helped her write, was about Ty, who was elminated last week. The song was sweet and well written. Hope it's enough to keep her on the show.

Mig got to do "Hard to Handle", which went over extremely well. He was polished, energetic, and in good voice. His original song was awesome, but the band said it was too unlike their music because it was a very heartfelt ballad. Hope he doesn't get eliminated because of this.

When I found out Jordis was gonna do "We Are the Champions", I was excited because I knew she could really do it justice. But she seems oddly gun shy after the "Dream On" debacle and her performance lacked enthusiasm. Her original song wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. I think she's doomed. Bummer.

Marty was assigned "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters, and I figured he'd be back to his old theatrics because there's room for that in the song. Instead, he held back and sang it very very well. He was still dynamic, but not out of control like before. Amazing transformation. He has changed the most of any of the performers, has taken more risks and provided the most pleasant surprises. And this was the guy with the weakest voice of the contestants. As a bonus, his original song was great! Quirky, danceable beat, unusual lyrics, and he looked like a pro on the stage singing it. I think he's gonna hang on for at least one more week. Maybe he'll be the dark horse?

Just so long as J.D. doesn't win the whole shebang.

Riding in style.... 

Took my new wheelchair, aka my chariot, out for a spin today. Dan is off work all week, and we had planned to go to the mountains originally, but with gas shortages in our area, that was ill-advised, so we decided to go to the local zoo instead. I've been unable to go to the zoo for at least three years because I just couldn't walk that much, so it was pretty exciting having Dan push me all afternoon.

The zoo is one of my favorite places to go and take pictures, and I hadn't gotten to try my digital camera there yet. About five years ago, my sister gave me a year long membership to the zoo, so I went once a month with my 35mm camera. Got pretty good at photographing the animals.

Today, I discovered that some of the newer enclosures had fences that came up higher than my wheelchair, blocking my ability to get a good photo. But Dan likes to take pix too, so he got the shots that I couldn't. I tried taking digital photos of the animals that were behind glass with some pretty decent results....my 35mm camera's flash had caused too much glare for that in the past.

The weather was cloudy, which meant it wasn't too hot for comfort or too sunny for good photos. It did rain for a little while, but we hid in the indoor bird exhibit until it stopped. We came out right at feeding time for the penguins....we also caught feeding time for the sea lion.

Would you believe we were out for three hours? There was no way I could have gone without the wheelchair for even 30 minutes, so I was really grateful to see the entire zoo in one day. Wore Dan out so much that he had to take a nap after we got home....have to admit I'm rather wiped out myself.

Started editing today's photos, but my brain is too foggy to tell the good pix from the mediocre ones right now, so I'll wait until tomorrow to finish up.

It sure is nice to have a chariot of my own.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Awesome Katrina relief list.... 

Here is a list of 140 charities assisting all affected by hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Scroll a bit down the page to get to the full list. There is just about every kind of relief you can think of; pick your passion and help out. Thanks to sol's site for the link.....

Katrina charities

Hope the outpouring of support continues as long as it is needed.

Monday, September 05, 2005

What I've been up to... 

Am frustrated with having no money to donate to the Katrina relief fund, even though I know money is what they need the most. I STILL haven't been paid by my employer for the four weeks of vacation I earned. I was supposed to get it two and a half weeks ago. I called HR on Friday; apparently there was some mis-communication and my request never got processed. In other words, they "forgot".

So while I'm waiting for actual money to arrive, I've been thinking about what else I can contribute. I decided that getting together clothes, shoes, blankets and towels is better than nothing. Even though they're not needed right now, they might be useful locally a month from now. We had the first evacuees from New Orleans arrive in my hometown on Saturday. More may be coming after some of the overcrowding is sorted out in Texas (we're quite far from Louisiana, so the ones in the most immediate need were sent the shortest necessary distance). And if the stuff I donate doesn't go toward helping Katrina, it could go to another worthy cause; my church is always asking for contributions for local needs such as for the homeless. I wanted to feel like I was DOING something as right now I'm too ill to do much in the way of volunteering. I'm hoping that after I get approved for disability, I can focus on something else like volunteer work again.

Last night and today, I went through my clothes closet, underdresser and linen closet. I had probably 25 pair of jeans or other pants that are too large for me. I haven't re-gained any of the weight I lost a year ago, so I feel pretty safe about getting rid of them. I also had lots of shorts I can no longer wear. There were fewer tops I was willing to part with since I tend to wear oversized shirts anyway, but there were some. And since my feet are a full size smaller now than when I was heavier, I had 8 pair of size 10 shoes to send along. I have a feeling there aren't many in that size donated. Also, my sister gave me a gift card for a local housewares store as a thank you for playing the music at the wedding, and I bought new towels. Then when I got them home, I realized I had more towels than would fit in the linen closet. So I took some out and added them to the donation pile along with some blankets.

I paid a bit of a price for all this sorting and re-organizing....back spasms from hell! Almost exactly like the flare I described in a recent post. So aggravating that just moving some clothes around caused head to toe agony. Had to take my emergency pain med before bed last night, and guess what? I still hurt too much to sleep! Could not get comfortable due to sharp pain in both shoulders and nearly constant spasms between the shoulders. Couldn't take my muscle relaxant until this afternoon when I had some food because it causes stomach upset and I was already nauseous. It helped some but not as much as it used to. I don't know what I'm going to do if neither my muscle relaxant or my emergency pain med are effective anymore. I don't have any alternatives that I can tolerate, at least none that a doc around here will prescribe.

One thing that does help a bit is my new massage chair cushion! A friend gave me the cushion and a brand new crockpot a few weeks ago as a surprise. The cushion has different zone and intensity of massage and has optional heat. Haven't tried the heat yet because it's still summer, but will in a few weeks when the weather cools off. I'm also going to test out the new crock pot soon by making some soup.

Another reason I'm frustrated about lack of money is that last week, I got a letter from my long-term disability company stating that they were delaying a decision on my claim for another month! Now the earliest I can get benefits is November! Their reason for the delay is that three of my doctors hadn't sent them requested paperwork. They only waited three weeks before deciding these docs were being uncooperative. Now it's my job to contact each doc and see what's up. I called all three on Friday. The primary care doc's office sent the paperwork the day before the letter was written. The other two offices were already closed for the Labor Day holiday. Grumble.

On the brighter side of things, I have my wheelchair now! My doc actually had it delivered to my house! I plan to break it in sometime this week. I'd like to have used it once or twice before my inlaws come to visit in a few weeks. That way if they want to go someplace, Dan and I will be used to the chair already.

I did get copies of my medical records from my primary care doc. I will send copies of them to Social Security to add them to my file if I can figure out where to send them. I haven't heard back from the other docs I requested from, but it's early yet. Oh, among the records I got were the results of my cholesterol test last week; my total cholesterol is down to 156! Yayyyyyyy! A few years ago, it was 256. My triglycerides are in the proper range finally, as are the LDL and HDL. Not bad for a person who eats whole eggs and real butter.

Got a nice surprise....my local comedy club drew my name again, so I've got tix to a show next Sunday. The comedian's name is Corey Holcomb....I've not heard of him, but the tix are free, so I'm willing to give it a shot. I still have to come up with enough for a two drink minimum, but since I don't drink alcohol, it won't be terribly expensive.

Finished editing the pix I took of my sister's wedding. Haven't put them on a web page yet; will get around to that after things settle down a bit here.

Dan has this entire week off work, so we'll try to do a few things together. We had wanted to do some day trips in the mountains, but we have gas shortages in our area, and the last thing we want to happen is to get stranded someplace, so we'll be staying in town. I think I got him interested in going to the zoo. We might also go see "Red Eye" at the theatre.

Did finish my review of the Jon Katz books for But You Don't Look Sick, but the webmistress hasn't been feeling very well, so they haven't been posted yet. Bummer that I wasn't able to do the whole review in one sitting; I decided to call it a night after the first half was done, and in the days that followed, I had a lot of brain fog, so there is a noticeable decline in writing quality in the second half of the article. But I've written other reviews during foggy times, so maybe the more poorly written articles are only noticeable to me. I suspect I'm too picky about my own work.

The joints in my hands are starting to creak, which is a sure sign I've typed too much. This is probably more than anyone wants to reading in one sitting anyway. Adieu for now.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bonus Rave of the Day for September 2, 2005: 

Got this link in an e-mail from my local Sjogren's support group. Please feel free to leave comments. I did.

Where is the help for New Orleans?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Rave of the Day for September 2, 2005: 

Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. Got this in an e-mail from Dr. Karen. Many thanks.....

Subject: Vacation is Over... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush
Date: Fri, 02 Sep 2005 05:18:40 -0400

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.


Michael Moore

P.S. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way ( http://bringthemhomenowtour.org/ ). Maybe you can catch up with them before they get to DC on September 21st.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

My heart hurts. 

I've been watching the coverage of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I'm incredulous that such a situation is occurring within the United States. We may end up with more dying after the storm than during it.

I can understand that there was no way to protect the Gulf coast of Mississippi. Very little will withstand sustained winds of 150mph. The areas hardest hit were simply leveled by the storm, and there's no escaping that. New Orleans should have received the funding to strengthen the levees years ago, but I'm not even certain that fortified levees could have held up in this situation. So the flooding was inevitable. Sad, yes, but inevitable.

And I greatly admire the efforts of the search and rescue teams, risking their own lives to fly amongst downed power lines and hacking through unstable rooftops to get to those who needed help. And the medical staff who stayed behind to take care of critical patients without electricity or running water and now are running out of generators. And the two men, residents of New Orleans I saw on the news going door to door in their neighborhood with a boat to transport the elderly and ill. And the woman frantically searching for food or juice for diabetics.

What I cannot understand, however, is 20,000 people stranded outside a convention center with no supplies, no transportation and no leadership. Stranded for THREE DAYS. During the news coverage, two dead bodies were discovered amidst the crowd, and one of the woman they interviewed said she seen five people die waiting for help. And one woman went into diabetic shock on camera because she had no insulin. Or the critically ill patients who had been taken to a hospital rooftop in wheelchairs and beds to await rescue helicopters that never came. One died during the news coverage, and others were on the verge of death.

Yes, I know it's difficult to get to those stranded in flooded homes, but where are the buses to transport the people at the convention center? Three days is enough time to get them relief. Where is the help promised the hospitals? The medical staff cannot hold out much longer. And, most important, WHERE IS THE LEADERSHIP??? Why is no one organizing the hysterical, desperate masses who just want to know what they should do? It would go a long way toward alleviating the panic that has set in. Of course there is looting. The help promised has not come, and there is danger of people actually dying of dehydration if they don't locate nourishment someplace.

Our president says there should be zero tolerance for looting. Is he insane?? How can anyone with a conscience fault a mom with hungry kids for trying to find food for them? Or someone with bleeding feet for trying to find some sturdy shoes? Yes, I know some people are resorting to lawlessness of the worst kind with no genuine need as motivation, and I hope they can be dissuaded, but let's not start shooting people who are only trying to survive.

I am hearing that racism is at work here, that the powers that be are dragging their feet because the majority of those stranded are poor African Americans. Deep down I feared a situation like this but dismissed it thinking that surely the US government was above acting that way. But I cannot help but wonder as I see thousands and thousands of people crying for help, and most of them are indeed African American. So many in wheelchairs or trying to push a walker through deep water, elderly people so very weak in the hot sun, babies crying from hunger. I don't give a damn about their ethnicity. They are humans needing help.

The American public at least has not been stingy: $93 million has been donated toward the relief effort in just the past three days. The local colleges are accepting students from Mississippi and Louisiana and are offering them free tuition until their home state colleges are up and running again. Local families have taken in indefinitely friends and relatives who managed to evacuate. The Dave Matthews Band and our local concert promotion company have announced a fundraising concert to take place in a few weeks with all proceeds to go to the relief effort. And the local news has shown the national guard troops, the FEMA crews, and civilians who wanted to help. Most left by Tuesday and are hard at work already assisting where they can.

I visited New Orleans and Mississippi as a teenager. My dad had friends in Biloxi. I remember being amazed at how beautiful it was, but I was also a little unnerved about how close to the water everything in southern Louisiana seemed to be. I couldn't help wondering what protection they had from hurricanes and waves. It breaks my heart that 80 to 90 percent of that beautiful area is gone and/or uninhabitable.

The saddest part of all is that those who had the least to start with are the ones most likely to pay with their lives. Most of the people stranded had no transportation with which to evacuate, or they were disabled and couldn't leave their homes. Chronically ill people probably not so different from me except that they are now cut off from their valuable meds, who cannot withstand more than a day or two without food or water. People with young children, desperate to help them. And so many babies. I can't get over how many babies.

My heart hurts. And now my head does too.


Well, I'm mystified by the outcome of tonight's elmination round on "Rock Star: INXS". J.D. finally made it to the bottom three where he belonged and did a dismal performance of an INXS song that showcased his lack of range and showmanship. So I thought he would finally get his due. But the band picked Ty for elimination instead. Granted, his performance was sub-par as well, but he certainly sings better than J.D. even on his worst nights. But to be honest, I expected Ty to get eliminated eventually as I think his voice would be better suited to a solo endeavor.

So now it's down to five. Too bad only four are worth watching.

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