Friday, May 19, 2006

Did you see (or hear) me on "Wheel of Fortune"? 

Tonight, they aired one of the shows where I was in the audience. Ok, so you can't actually see me well enough to recognize me. Actually, you can't really see me at all. I was in the first row of the balcony, fourth from the left, center section. Maybe you could hear me, though. We were an extremely loud audience! The other one I attended airs tomorrow. Wooo hooo!

I finished de-cluttering the entire downstairs, if you don't count the garage. I'm not gonna bother with the garage as I don't think we have time, and most of the stuff in there only Dan knows if we need to keep. I started the master bedroom tonight. I want to get through everything if possible before the realtor comes by on Tuesday. Wish me luck.

Even though I felt better when I got up today and obediently did my stretches and eased into the day, the horrible stabbing back spasms returned. So I had to take two Baclofen tonight. If this entry suddenly becomes garbled, blame the meds, heh heh. I am NOT looking forward to an hour plus of physical therapy tomorrow.

Tomorrow night, we are having a goodbye party for Dan and all the co-workers who were laid off. It's at a downtown bar, interesting since I can no longer drink alcohol and sometimes have trouble tolerating cigarette smoke. Most of my former co-workers smoke. But I want to be there because I miss everyone. When I stopped working in January of last year, I thought I would be coming back, so I never got to say goodbye to anyone. It's gonna be weird not even seeing these people socially after tomorrow night because I've known them for 11 years and consider them to be my friends.

If we can find the time (and if I haven't completely collapsed from all this exertion), Dan and I would like to take a day trip to the mountains next week. Dan knows I am going to miss my mountains terribly and won't be able to drive myself up there after he leaves, so we want to squeeze in one last adventure. We're gonna try to go to a local national park and do some elk watching. I'll bring my camera of course.

I am in serious need of sleep. Later.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The whirlwind that is now my life.... 

Talked to a realtor this morning. She's coming by on Tuesday, and we'll get the paperwork done so that we can list as soon the house is ready to be shown. She will probably also give us advice on "staging" (which is very popular here).

Decided against the garage sale right now. There's simply not enough time before Dan leaves. So we're gonna take the stuff we wanna sell and put it in storage, and then sometime later, when it's more convenient and I can enlist some help, we'll retrieve it and maybe add stuff from other family members since that seems to attract more buyers.

I may be paying someone to clean for me. It would certainly save time. My stepbrother is looking into how much that would cost.

I'm already overdoing it apparently, and I've hardly done any anything yet. Last night, I developed serious back spasms, the kind where it feels like a dagger going through the muscles, the kind that are so excruciating that you can't breathe. I had to stop what I was doing, sit on the couch and instruct Dan on how I wanted artwork packed. Had to take two Baclofen and a Lunesta just to get a little bit of sleep.

Have most of the downstairs de-cluttered and maybe a third of the upstairs. The great room/dining room looks about three times larger with the area rugs removed. We got some larger U-Haul boxes yesterday (well, medium-sized actually, because our car is too small for the really big boxes) so that I can get started on cleaning out the closet in the book room. I have hundreds of negs and pix that haven't been placed in albums yet, memorabilia going back as far as junior high, Christmas decor and tons of receipts and records in there. I am hoping I can get enough cleared out to be able to fit my scrapbooking stuff in there. I have started on the command center, but haven't made much of a visible difference yet.

Dan and I took our next door neighbor/friend to dinner last night at an Indian restaurant that has a gluten free menu (great food, by the way). Our friend is going to take over walking Chip for Dan because I can't do it. She may also help me shop because I need help sometimes even with an electric cart.

We've looked at Sioux Falls properties online just to get an idea what's available. Turns out the house right across the street from Dan's best friend went on the market! It's a ranch style (main floor bedrooms and kitchen) in our price range and a good size; I just hope it's still available when we're ready to buy.

Need to return to the great de-cluttering adventure. Feel like I'm gonna need a clipboard and a megaphone, heh heh.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dan got the job!!! 

He got a phone call about 11am today from the company in Sioux Falls that makes brochures. He starts on June 1st, which is only two weeks and two days away. He will only be making two-thirds of what he has been earning at the newspapers, but we still should be able to buy a house there IF we are frugal and IF I have an SSDI award letter at the time we need to secure a loan. The job comes with medical insurance, which is essential because without continous medical coverage, I am pretty much uninsurable. One awesome thing is that there is a 401(K) with matching! So we should be able to get along ok as long as this house sells. Yayyyyyyyyy!!

So here's the plan: Dan is giving notice at his current job this afternoon. He is only gonna stay there through the end of this week. I know it is customary to stay for two weeks, but, hey, they wanted to lay him off so badly that they don't deserve politeness. He will get paid for two weeks of vacation he hasn't yet taken plus vacation he earned this year that would apply for 2007, so basically about the equivalent of three paychecks. He's gonna do the COBRA thing for the month of June just to make sure the medical coverage is continuous and to give me time to finish up with all my docs. The 401(K) at the new place doesn't kick in for a year, so he will see if Prudential will let him freeze his current account and then roll it into the new one (if not, he can always make an IRA out of it).

Next week, Dan will be doing as much as he can to pack, clean and otherwise get the house ready to sell. I have already booked storage crate delivery for Memorial Day weekend. The moving company will drop off five crates, and we will put all the stuff we have packed up into them, put our own locks on them, and then the company will pick up the crates the day after Memorial Day and put them into a climate controlled storage area for as long as we need. So then the house will officially be de-cluttered. I'm in the process of seeing if I can get some relatives over this weekend to help Dan move some furniture for a garage sale. I don't know if I have enough time to get an ad in the paper or not, but we'll see.

Dan's parents will be driving out here with their large SUV to pick Dan up. That way, Dan can take more of his belongings with him than if he flew to Sioux Falls. If they can get here a few days early, they might be able to help with packing and cleaning (although I am concerned that his mom take it somewhat easy as she has herniated discs in her back). Dan will be moving into their house until I can get this one sold, and then we'll buy something of our own in Sioux Falls. Yes, it's massively inconvenient for all concerned, but we simply cannot buy another house without paying off this one. So Dan has to rely on me to take care of the selling process here, and I have to rely on him to take care of the buying process there. Cross your fingers this can happen quickly. I'm hoping it won't take more than two months.

IF YOU LIVE NEAR ME, PLEASE READ: I am accepting any and all offers of help once Dan has started his new job. I cannot do yard work or strenous cleaning, and most of my energy will probably have to go to organizing the sale of the house and taking good enough care of myself and Chip to ensure we will be healthy enough to make the move when the time comes. We will try to take care of as much as possible before Dan leaves, but two weeks is not long. I am willing to enlist professional help to get the process going if necessary, but if you are reading this and will have some free time to pack a box, wash a wall or pull some weeds, it would be appreciated mightily.

As for me, now is the time for me to engage in "panic packing". Luckily, I did at least get through part of the house and throw junk away. But the command center and the book room closet (where I store financial records, scrapbook stuff and other momentos) are pretty much going as they are. Dan's gonna swing by the U-Haul place and get some larger boxes so I can start dumping items into them without sorting them. I have already gotten a few cheap things from Wal-Mart to replace worn-out stuff once the cleaning is done, like new trashcans, new front door mat, a couple of towels, an area rug for the main bathroom. And I found a few large vases in the kitchen and bought new silk flowers to go in them to give the house that "homey" touch. So if I can keep myself out of a flare and not go into brain overload, I may be able to get the house on the market within a reasonable time frame.

And if you read this blog regularly, please do not get concerned if I "vanish" for awhile. I am going to be making phone calls, gathering medical records, lining up a realtor, throwing together a garage sale, arranging some repair work, etc, etc, etc. I may not have the energy for updates. But I will be back. And dammit, when I move to Sioux Falls, I am getting cable internet!!

So I will pop in when I can. Oh, and once again, yayyyyyyyyy!

Identity crisis.... 

Last night, I dreamed I had amnesia. I was in a large building, and at first, I thought I might be a student in a school, so I looked for my locker to see if there was a schedule in there so I could figure out what classroom I was supposed to be in. But then I saw what looked like a produce section, so I decided I must be in a grocery store and started looking for a cart. Before I could find one, though, I came across an office building elevator, so I got in, hoping that it would take me to wherever I was supposed to be working. Instead, it opened to a parking garage/bus depot. I didn't see a car that looked familiar, so I looked for a bus stop until I discovered I had no money or tokens. I ended up just standing around with no idea what to do, my purse growing heavier and heavier on my shoulder. I awakened when I found myself speaking aloud, "My god, I have no idea who I am anymore".

The dream may seem kinda silly on the surface, but I found it terribly upsetting because I really don't have a clue who the hell I'm supposed to be and what purpose I'm supposed to serve in my current condition. It's more than not being able to work; I've had to give up quite a bit more than a job. Being ill has affected pretty much every aspect of my life. It has made me less than an equal partner in my marriage, has distanced me from my relatives more than I like, has forced me to give up hobbies and social activities.

When I first got sick, it was 1997, the year my mom died. During my time of grief, I took a good hard look at myself and decided I wanted to change some things. First, I wanted to become more compassionate and do things to help others. Second, I wanted to become more in tune with my spirituality. And third, I wanted to be closer to my family. Ok, so the third thing was probably destined to fall through because my relatives are more comfortable with keeping their space. But the other two I was actually making some progress on until recently.

One thing I really disliked about myself was my selfishness. I was trying to become more other-centered. But the sicker I got, the more selfish I had to become with my time and energy just to get through a day. And now it seems I am so high maintenance that I have nothing left to spare.

I found the perfect church for me in 1998: open, accepting and willing to grow and change. I went to Bible studies and book discussion groups and benefitted greatly from these. I was just starting to do volunteer work when I discovered I simply didn't have the stamina to do both that and a full time job. When I had to quit work, I thought I would get some of my energy back so that I would be able to participate again. That never happened, and now I can't even get there regularly for services.

In 2002, Dan and I got the computer upon which I compose this blog. I joined Fibrohugs and discovered that I had a knack for online support and for advocating awareness of fibromyalgia. I also joined local support groups for fibromyalgia and Sjogren's and wrote to my elected officials about research funding. I was getting sicker, but I was ok with it for awhile because I still felt like I was helping others. I thought I could get more involved when I couldn't work anymore. Instead the opposite happened: I had to cut back on my computer time due to arthritis, neuropathy and edema. And even when I am able to spend some time online, I have a much harder time than I used to coming up with words of wisdom for someone newly diagnosed. I feel like I am wasting my potential as a human being. What's the point of being sick if I get completely stuck inside myself?

The worst part is that any emotional involvement is exhausting. I mean, I'm not about to stop loving my husband, but it's getting more and more difficult to make the honest effort needed to maintain friendships with phone calls, e-mails and simply getting together and doing things. I haven't stopped caring, but I no longer have the energy to get as involved in other people's lives as I'd like to. That's hard to admit because it seems very callous. I want to love life, I really do. Unfortunately, I'm not always up to it.

When I went to the cemetery yesterday, I brought with me my poetry journal. It sounds crazy, reading poems to my mother, but we were once in a poetry society together, and it kept me motivated to write so that I would have something new to read on each visit. But I realized yesterday I hadn't written anything new in a year. This isn't from lack of effort: I actually have two unfinished poems languishing on scraps of paper. Ironically, one is about the problems I'm having writing! I'm having trouble concentrating long enough to get a strong metaphor and ways to describe it. But tonight I half-finished a new poem, which I suppose I should consider a victory.

Dan is home.

Monday, May 15, 2006

An encouraging word?? 

Last night, I decided to re-build my address book since the hard drive crash wiped it out again (by the way, if you haven't sent me an e-mail within the past month or so and want to make sure you're in my book, you might wanna contact me). Went to Dan's inbox to see if he had any addresses from his family there, and lo and behold, he has a new message from a potential employer! Basically, it said that he would be talking with Dan soon and would try to get him there by June! This is the place that makes brochures. In no way is Dan taking this to mean that he has the job, but it is encouraging that he is still being considered. It would really be awesome if Dan could find new employment before he gets laid off at the agency.

I also got motivated to do more de-cluttering. Since yesterday afternoon, I've packed four boxes of knickknacks and framed pix. I am slowly re-claiming the kitchen countertop. I may get it completely cleaned off tomorrow if Dan can find the original boxes to our Disney snow globes (that's why we don't have kids, so we can claim Snow White's castle and Lady and the Tramp for ourselves, heh heh). My entire back is screaming fairly loudly about the extra activity, even though I just took a shower hoping the hot water would calm the muscles. I haven't found a way yet to do any packing without straining some part of my back. If I put the box on the floor, the low back spasms; if I put it on a countertop, my mid back complains about me lifting my arms so high repetitiously. I figure the best thing I can do is stop packing each day before the pain gets so bad that it carries into the following day. Now if I could just find a way to stop the fatigue from carrying over.....

Yesterday, I got kinda grumpy with myself for having so much stuff in the house. I mean, it doesn't seem excessive until you cram most of it into one room and start calculating how many boxes you'll need to pack it away. But today was Mother's Day, and after I returned from visiting the cemetery, I realized that a lot of the momentos Dan and I have once belonged to relatives who are now deceased. We have items from all four of my grandparents, Dan's grandmother, his uncle, my great aunt and my mom. So I really can't consider it junk. But I definitely want to think at least twice before acquiring any more souvenirs.

Still having trouble with nerve pain in my teeth/face. Went to the massage therapist on Thursday, and he worked on my face and neck, which oddly enough made it temporarily WORSE. Thought I was gonna go crazy. But then it was much better on Friday. I'm still getting pain on the right side of my face, but I can finally tell which tooth is the troublemaker because the teeth on either side of it settled down some. Only thing is, I can't decide whether going back to the endodontist would be a waste of time. It's really embarrassing when something I find excruciating is actually a minor matter or maybe not even something worth treating. But if it does need treatment, I'd better get it taken care of while we know Dan still has dental insurance. Sigh.

Saw the physiatrist last week, and he says that while I have made improvement thanks to the osteopath and the physical therapy, I am still somewhat weak, especially when you compare the right side of my low back with the left. He recommends one more month of physical therapy, and I have to say I agree with him. He also cautioned me that because of my physical limitations from the arthritis and fibromyalgia, I will never fully regain my function or strength and will have to continue daily stretching because as soon as I stop, the problem in the SI joint will come right back. So I will get as fit as I can in the next month and then do the injections again if Dan is still in town then (it's outpatient, and I'll need someone to baby-sit me for 24 hours). I would be discouraged if I hadn't made measurable progress over the past two months. I am able to walk on a treadmill now for up to 15 minutes at approximately half a mile an hour (can't walk in an open area that far because I need hand rails), whereas previously I was unable to walk on a treadmill at all. And yesterday, I was FINALLY able to use my Gazelle for 20 minutes again, which is the amount of time I had been doing before that functional capacity exam kicked my ass in January. Yes, it took me three months to get my previous function back.

Um, my brain has gone blank, so I guess that means it's bedtime.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rave of the Day for May 13, 2006: 

Was reading the comments on sol's blog the other day (see Journal of SolemnDragon in my Links list) and someone mentioned a "Saturday Night Live" skit I hadn't seen before. Read the transcript and laughed my ass off! Enjoy....

Alternate ending to "It's a Wonderful Life"

Didn't know George Bailey had it in him, heh heh.

Re-learning how to spell "knickknacks" and other updates.... 

Am discovering more and more lately that I have forgotten how to spell certain words. This is a bit embarrassing for someone who competed in the Colorado/Wyoming state spelling as a child (I placed 26th) and who until last year earned a living proofreading. It does, however, come with the territory if one has fibromyalgia. We like to joke around about "fibro-fog", but the reality is that our mental processing speed and memory match someone 20 years older. Now, what I'm wondering is: would the average 62 year old know how to spell "knickknacks"? Because I completely forgot yesterday. I put the word in my blog entry, hesitated, almost looked it up in the dictionary, and then decided that it looked right spellled "knicknacks". Then, while putting items in a U-Haul dish pack box, I noticed that the derned word was on the side of the box! For the life of me, I could swear that it never contained two "k"s in a row, but I just looked it up in Webster's and confirmed it.

Yeah, I know it's a trivial thing, but it's just one example of mental processes that are slipping out of my grasp. I used to be able to pride myself on knowing that even on days when I didn't write well in terms of creativity, at least my grammar and spelling were correct. Now, if I go back and read old blog entries, chances are about 90 percent I will have misspelled something, left a word out, used improper grammar or even used the incorrect form of a word (like "their" when I mean "they're"). I do re-read what I've written before I post, but these days, I can look at a glaring error and my mind still thinks it's correct. Part of it is that my typing has become quite dyslexic. The other is that my brain is either on autopilot or at least partially shut down. Oh, I know the correct idea/word/whatever is in my head somewhere. I just can't always get at it in a convenient/timely fashion.

This may seem strange, but I do things like watch "Jeopardy" every day to try to keep exercising my brain. I figure that if the body becomes deconditioned from lack of use, so does the mind. So I try to answer before the contestants do. This used to be easy for me, but now the contestants are usually faster than I am. But every once in awhile, Dan will be watching with me, and I will blurt out a correct answer that no one else gets right, even if it's very obscure. Dan will look at gawk at me and ask where that came from. And I will usually have to admit that I no longer remember where I got the info. Oddly enough, it's these occasional hints of "genius" that reassure me that I'm not imagining that I was once intelligent and that motivate me to keep reading and learning and finding new ways to access what's hidden in my semi-functioning noggin.

So on that note, please excuse my typographical and other errors in this blog. Please also forgive me when I repeat the same info over and over. I honestly can't remember sometimes what I've only said in my head or have actually typed out. At least I know I don't have Alzheimer's. While I might not remember a certain word or even where I left something, I can still remember what an object is used for. I guess I should celebrate the little victories.

In other news, I did finally get the KNICKKNACK box packed yesterday. Most of the stuff that was upstairs that needed to be put away has been relocated. And I did pack up an entire box of framed pix/artwork today. But the knickknacks that were too large for the dish pack are scattered about on the kitchen countertop awaiting further instruction.

Dan's co-worker who took early retirement was grumbling about changing his mind, but he missed yesterday's deadline, so Dan's job is safe for a few months at least. It's quite a relief to cross that off the list of uncertainties. I think it will be easier for Dan to concentrate on job hunting now.

Oh, I did manage to do some fun things the past week. Dan and I went to the Outback last Saturday to celebrate my SSDI approval (and to spend the $50 I found in a drawer the previous day, heh heh). We don't eat there very often, so I was really surprised when the waitress remembered me and knew to leave the croutons off the salad and leave the vinegar and oil on the side. Dan and I split dessert, which was ice cream with hot fudge sauce on a flourless brownie. On Wednesday, we called a friend and went to an Indian restaurant that was supposed to have a gluten free menu. Unfortunately, we found out when we got there that it didn't open for another hour, so we went to my fave gluten free place instead (we'll try the Indian place another time). I had chicken alfredo, which was awesome. I'm probably going to try just about everything on that menu if possible.

On Tuesday night, Dan decided he wanted to see a movie at a brand new theatre that just opened up a few weeks ago. The theatre is located on the site of the city's previous airport. It is massive and has 18 screens! Dan had to drop me off in front because the parking was over a block away. There was a fountain in front and screens at the lobby and over each register of the concession stand. The only thing we were remotely interested in seeing was "Mission Impossible III". Luckily, it was showing at the area nearest the entrance; seriously, if I ever go again, I may have to consider bringing the wheelchair. Anyway, the movie was pretty good, despite the fact that I'm not a big action flick fan. J.J. Abrams, the guy who brought us "Lost", directed. One warning: if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to re-consider viewing this film. In the scenes in the helicopter and airplane, they went for realism, so the camera is jumping all over the place, and there were other scenes where there was quite a bit of camera motion. Tom Cruise is still fun to gaze upon, and one of his mission cohorts was stunning in a siren red dress at the Vatican. In fact, that woman was way cool during the whole movie. I don't know if they really shot it at the Vatican, but it looked quite convincing. The other locations were Shanghai and Germany. In Germany, there was a helicopter chase scene through a wind generator plant complete with guided missiles. Also, the bridge ambush scene was exciting. One of my fave shots was Tom Cruise running through a market in Shanghai. The camera followed his pace exactly so that it almost looked as though he were still with the market flying past him. And of course there were gadgets as you might expect from "Mission Impossible".

Ok, I've lost the internet connection several times while putting this together, so I'd better post before it disappears.

"It's like the feeling at the end of a page
When you realize
You don't know what you just read"....
--Missing Persons, "Words"

Friday, May 12, 2006

Playing catch-up.... 

Not to be confused with ketchup, heh heh. Haven't been posting very much about the homefront lately. Have been too distracted with packing and trying to get the computer back up to speed.

Ok, last Friday, one of Dan's co-workers decided at the very last minute to take an early retirement. Good news, except the dude has a week to change his mind, and if he does, Dan's job is no more. So far, so good, but it's still possible that Dan could go to work tonight, find out the co-worker changed his mind, and be told that Dan's last day of work is tomorrow! If Dan does get to stay, he goes on a new schedule, which will be 5pm-1am Thursday through Monday (meaning his days off will be Tuesday and Wednesday). And Dan will be the very first person to lose his job during the next round of layoffs, which could happen as soon as July. At least then he'd get a few more months to secure a new job.

Speaking of that, Dan still hasn't heard one way or the other from the Sioux Falls company that does brochures. They decided to run an ad in the paper for the job opening after all and are assessing the applicants for that right now. Also, the dude who's doing the hiring had to go to Miami for a week on business. Must be rough, heh heh. Anyway, Dan's not out of the running yet, but is getting very discouraged because he was pretty sure he had that job a month ago.

Dan did apply for a job with a Sioux Falls ad agency last weekend. This week, they requested portfolio samples from him, which is always a good sign. So we're hoping he can get an interview with them.

I think I may have saved my butt from getting dumped by my long-term disability insurance company, at least for the moment. When I talked to my benefits coordinator last Friday, she said they were just about to make a decision but were waiting for a response to my rheumatologist about something. I'm pretty sure she meant that they were asking him if he agreed with the bogus functional capacity and neuropsych exams they made me do. It was later that afternoon that I received the fully favorable SSDI decision in the mail. So on Monday, I left a message telling them about that. I got a call back requesting that I send them a copy, which I agreed to do. The next day, my April payment, which was more than a week overdue, mysteriously appeared in my account! It's utterly ridiculous that I got a decision from the federal government quicker than from a private company regarding whether or not I'm disabled, but as long as the LTD guys have to keep paying me, I'm not gonna protest too loudly. Now, I have read of cases where LTD companies have dumped a claimant as soon as they received SSDI back pay, so I'm a bit leery of that. I may try to see if my company will allow me to deduct the backpay from future payments so that they'll have to keep me. I'm not very confident they'll agree to it, though.

Right now, I'm sort of in limbo regarding SSDI as I have to wait and see if my file goes to quality review, where my favorable decision could be overturned. If it isn't reviewed, it should go straight to the payment center, where Social Security has 60 days during which to issue some sort of statement regarding benefit amounts. The document I need the most is the Award letter. Once I have that, I can submit a copy of it when I apply for my disability pension through my union. I will also need that letter should I need proof of income to get approval on a new home loan, or to cash in my IRA without a tax penalty, or probably various other things. So I will need to watch my mailbox closely.

The massive de-cluttering project isn't going so well. I probably shouldn't have started with the kitchen because it required the most work, and I got discouraged and ran out of energy. I know what needs to be done, but the motivation isn't there to do it because packing makes me hurt, even when I am careful. Also, we don't even know when we might need to put the house on the market. It could be next week, next month, end of summer, never?? So right now, the kitchen countertops are covered with knicknacks that need to be packed. I decided to use a box and packing system intended for glassware for my various collectables, but this requires that I match up each item with the appropriate size space in the box and carry all the stuff from upstairs to downstairs since half of it is upstairs, which will take several trips. I suppose I will get to it at some point soon because the last thing I want to do is have to resort to panic packing. You know, when you suddenly realize it's only a week until moving day, and instead of sorting carefully through the house and deciding what you need to keep and what you need to throw out, you panic and throw everything right into boxes without even looking at them? I have to admit to doing a lot of panic packing in my life, which may account at least in part for why I have so doggone much junk; I just keep throwing it all into boxes. I am now starting to fully comprehend the usefulness of spring cleaning; this project wouldn't be nearly so massive had I been throwing out things on an annual basis. Instead, I'm finding receipts for things I paid for with cash in 1998, warranties for things I no longer own, and birthday presents I didn't know I had because Dan "helpfully" tidied up for me, put them away and forgot to tell me about them. I found a gift card to a book store buried in a pile of stuff in my bedroom closet. It had been expired for a year, which really ticked me off. On the bonus side, I found $50 in cash, so not everything about cleaning is a bummer. I think when I get past the kitchen, I will be seeing signs of progress and may become more motivated to continue. The last area that is going to be quite time consuming is the command center, so maybe I should save it for last? That way, if I get discouraged, I can look around at the rest of my de-cluttered house to inspire me to keep going.

The computer is STILL not completely where it was prior to the first crash in March. I never was able to recover my Quicken backups, so I had to start over with the financial info. I just did 2006, but even that took me two days. I need the full calendar year in Quicken so I can use it when I file taxes, so I had to dig up all my registers and credit union statements and enter it by hand. I had to take extra time to customize the categories of checks so that the tax deductible stuff will come up in reports and set up from scratch all my automatic withdrawals. And I STILL can't keep an internet connection for longer than 20 minutes! I tried e-mailing Earthlink about it, but got a message stating that this particular problem can't be handled in e-mail! Ack! Why did they have me fill out a form for it then? So I have to call them at some point and try to figure out what the hell the problem is. Rather inconvenient that I have to turn the computer off to call them to ask a question about the computer. Without a decent internet connection, I still can't download software updates or tunes at all. Grumble. There are some other files I need to re-create before we put the house on the market, which I suppose I will get to eventually. Oh, and I owe TWO articles to But You Don't Look Sick. Sigh.

Ack. Even though I took breaks typing this, I'm still getting hand cramps. Later.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rave of the Day for May 11, 2006: 

This message is actually meant for tomorrow, but I'm afraid if I wait until then, I'll forget about it. It's a message from Fibrohugs that they are requesting we send to various media outlets. I haven't got the energy to contact my local media, but I figure a cut and paste into this blog couldn't hurt....

Dear Editor,

Friday, May 12, is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. The theme this year is very appropriate: "But You Don't Look Sick" -- The Invisible Pain of Fibromyalgia.

Unfortunately, that is what so many of us hear... that we don't look sick, we are told to learn to live with it, we are overly emotional, or that aches and pains are just part of growing old... try telling that to a twelve year old that has just been diagnosed after months of being told it was all in his head! Until you walk in our shoes, feel our pain, and the pain of our families as they try to understand and comfort us, you will never fully understand what we live with every day.

The Awareness Day is to promote education and to inform the many people who may have symptoms that have not been diagnosed, that they need to gather information and see that they are seeing the right doctor to help them. It is also to make the public aware that this disease does exist, and that we and our families exist in a world unknown to many others.

Fibromyalgia syndrome is not easily diagnosed, and compounded with chronic fatigue syndrome, migraine headaches, TMJ, carpal tunnel, you have a person who has pain that affects the muscles, ligaments, and tendons all over their body, with known "trigger points", where the pain may be the most intense. Most of us have sleep disorders, numbness and tingling in our hands and feet, and have trouble concentrating (often referred to as fibro-fog) or have short-term memory loss, and experience severe pain that "travels" to other parts of the body, and it is very often adversely affected by weather conditions, sleep patterns, activity levels, and stress.

It is very important that anyone that has fibromyalgia stay active--walk, swim, exercise, and stretch the muscles, ligaments, and tendons involved. We have to get plenty of "restorative" sleep, and avoid stressful situations... we haven't found a way to control the weather yet... it's going to rain somewhere every day. I walk about two miles every day, and stay active out of necessity... I have to work extra jobs, even though I am "retired" from the state.

Since first diagnosed, I made a vow to myself that I may have fibromyalgia, but fibromyalgia will never have me. It has helped me cope, and has given me the incentive to keep on being a responsible, productive parent, wife, daughter, friend, and worker. Please remember that just because I have been able to do this, that I am lucky...not everyone is. Too many of us suffer unbearable pain that is disabling and misunderstood.

Each person is an individual, and each of us with fibromyalgia can probably tell you a different story about how we developed it (mine came from traumatic stress), others will say that theirs may have come from an accident, an operation, physical or mental stress, or they simply developed it over time.... there is really no definitive cause, and there's no cure. Simply put, Fibromyalgia won't kill you, but you will die with it.

An estimated ten million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It doesn't favor anyone... it affects men, women, and children of all ages and races. We live every day, hoping for a cure, praying our families can cope with having to help us if we need them. If you know someone who has this disease, please try to understand they need your support, that you are trying to understand, and most importantly, let them know that you care.

Am I the only one disappointed in "Lost" tonight?? 

This wasn't one of the best episodes going in, but I was willing to give it a 7 or maybe even an 8 out of 10, UNTIL they killed off Libby! I ended up giving it a 4, my lowest rating ever for a "Lost" episode and the only one I can honestly say I disliked. They wasted so much potential killing her off this soon. The shock value didn't even redeem it for me.

I wanted to see Michael really squirm knowing Libby might rat on him, and maybe he would try to sneak her an overdose of heroin in an attempt to silence her?? I wanted at least one more conversation between her and Hurley, even if it was to say goodbye. I wanted a Libby flashback....I really feel robbed of that. I'm not saying she didn't have to die, but the way it was done sucked.

And "Henry" completely vanished?? What's up with that? I was sorta hoping for a confrontation.

The discovery of the command center hatch was interesting but basically confirmed what we already knew. I noticed they had a videotape machine instead of a film projector, so they had the "high tech" stuff there, heh heh. It was kinda funny that Eko asked if they should watch the tape again.

Eko is cool and all that, and I was intrigued by the dream sequences and flashbacks, but his decision to continue to push the button seems very pointless. Locke's loss of faith is quite understandable, and I do really want to see what direction his character goes. I wonder....do you suppose Michael's antics in the hatch may have been recorded, and will he get busted?

So, yes, I will continue to watch, but tonight I feel cheated. The only thing that could redeem tonight's show is if Libby experiences a miracle, like the girl in Australia who woke up during the autopsy? Do you suppose there's any chance of that?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Holy guacamole! 

I was totally shocked yesterday to get a notice from Social Security yesterday that a judge made a fully favorable on the record decision for my case! This means I do NOT have to wait a year and a half for a hearing! I think it still may be subject to quality review, but I should know whether or not that happens during the next 60 days. I read that seven out of every 10 approvals go to quality review, but not many are overturned. Still, because some approvals ARE overturned, I'm being cautiously optimistic. If my case is not overturned in quality review, it goes to the payment center, where it may languish another 60 days, but it does eventually result in a monthly benefit check after the lawyer is paid (he gets 25 percent of whatever you've earned up to that point). Your backpay comes later in a lump sum, again after the lawyer is paid. Because I've been getting reservation of rights benefits from my long-term disability insurance company, all but one month of my back pay will go to them. So I will get just 75 percent of one month of benefits as back pay.

I was so surprised to get this letter so soon that my hands shook and I cried as I read it. The Office of Hearings and Appeals got my file the last week of March, and I'd been told it would probably be four months before I heard anything. But I was approved in just five weeks! Thank goodness there is an administrative law judge assistant someplace who is on the ball and plucking the "slam dunk" files out of the enormous backlog to get quick approvals from the judge!! That helps me, helps the judge, and certainly helps speed up the process for those waiting for a hearing.

I believe the things that helped my case the most were: plentiful medical evidence from qualified specialsts, a local lawyer who is well known for never losing a disability case, carefully filling out the Activities of Daily Living form with detailed but precise information, a consultative exam doc who testified that I could not work, and LUCK. I suspect the luck was the biggest factor, heh heh. I had only a 20 to 30 percent chance of getting an on the record decision, but by golly, it WORKED!

Officially, I was approved for: "a complex multisystem illness of unknown etiology, including autoimmune disease with Sjogren's syndrome, endocrine disease with diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism, and neurological disease with neuropathy and limb movement disorder". No mention was made of my fibromyalgia or gastroparesis. I did not completely meet any of the Social Security Blue Book listings of disabling conditions, but the judge considered the sum total of my major ailments to be disabling. That works for me.

One thing I really appreciated is that the judge totally discounted my initial denial. He said that compared to my medical evidence and my credible account of how my ailments diable me, the state agency medical consultant is "unpersuasive". I also find it interesting that the one of the very doctors used to "prove" on my neuropsych exam that I was not ill was also used by this judge to prove that my claim was credible. The neuropsych exam focused on the fact that we don't know why I have neurological problems, while the judge focused on the EMG that showed peripheral neuropathy.

I won't fully relax until I have my first check in my account, but at least now I won't have to worry about getting my file sent to another state should I have to move. I'm also a little sad about being "officially" disabled, but I guess that's normal. Mostly, I'm relieved that the worst may be over.

I'm gonna go watch "Saturday Night Live" and rest my hands.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Yesterday full of surprises..... 

First of all, when I went to aquacise yesterday morning, I was pleased to discover a former classmate had returned. She'd been gone for several months while she was treated for colon cancer, and I didn't think I was gonna get to see her again because she's 87 years old. She underwent some pretty extensive surgery, but didn't have to have chemo because of her age. The way she put it was: "At this point, if it's my time to go, it's my time to go". She looks a lot less tired now than she was before the cancer was discovered, and is in good spirits. I wonder if I'd be able to survive colon cancer at age 87??

Yesterday afternoon, Dan announced he was gonna stop by Wendy's on the way to work. He didn't mention which one (we live in a major metropolitan area with Wendy's restaurants every few miles). About 20 minutes after Dan's shift started, I was watching the news and saw that there had been a shooting at a Wendy's near our house! I guessed he had gone to that one because it was brand new and he likes to try places he's never been to before. So I called to see if he was at work. He was. But he had gone to the very Wendy's that was on the news; apparently, the shooting must have occurred a few minutes after he had left. Close call! I told him that no matter how crappy things seem to be right now, there must be someone looking out for him.

Then last night, I watched "Lost". I have been completely removed from all the spoilers, so most of what was shown was a total shock to me. I knew from previews that Ana Lucia was gonna be attacked by "Henry" (and a former cop should know better than to get right in the face of a prisoner!), but had no idea she'd stoop so low as to seduce Sawyer just to get a gun. And I was quite amused that Sawyer fell for it....I guess sex is his Achilles heel, heh heh. But the last few minutes of the show completely blind-sided me. When Michael has the gun in his hand and says, "I'm sorry", I thought he was gonna admit he couldn't shoot anyone either. But then he blows Ana Lucia away! And then, while I'm trying to decide whether I like that or not (really couldn't stand Ana Lucia or the actress that played her), Libby startles Michael and gets shot TWICE! That's the first time I've ever shouted, "NOOOOOOOO!" at a television. And while I'm trying to comprehend that, Michael opens up the vault where "Henry" is and shoots HIMSELF in the arm! WTF?? Amazing cliffhanger, and there are still three episodes left in the season! But I wasn't the only one surprised....just seconds after Michael shot himself, my friend calls and yells, "OH MY GOD! DID YOU SEE THAT??" Just when I thought the show couldn't live up to the first season, it does. Those writers are clever sons of guns, so to speak.

Today has been considerably more predictable so far.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bonus Rave of the Day for May 2, 2006: 

Meant to post this a few weeks ago but couldn't get my messed up computer to cooperate. Found a link to it while perusing the blog of a former Disability Determination Services examiner (who was nice enough to read and comment on my blog). This is an excellent article about whether one person is really more disabled than another....

A Letter to My Children: a Tough Disability Question

Something to think about the next time you see someone who looks well parking in a handicapped space.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rave of the Day for May 2, 2006: 

Was wandering cyberspace (actually, reading a blog linked to a friend's blog) and found this quiz. The results were mildly amusing:

Your results:
You are Deanna Troi

Deanna Troi
Jean-Luc Picard
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Will Riker
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Geordi LaForge
Mr. Scott
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Mr. Sulu
Beverly Crusher
You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

Stuff about stuff..... 

Forgot to mention that the "Wheel of Fortune" shows that were taped in my hometown in March are airing now! The shows I got to be in the audience for will be on the air May 18th and 19th. Check them out!

STILL don't know if Dan's getting laid off this week or not. The union tried to negotiate with the agency on Friday, but the agency was "not prepared" to make a decision on the union's offer, which is really aggravating since the deadline for this decision was Friday at 5pm. One person near retirement may or may not be taking a buyout; this is important since if this does happen, Dan's job will be spared, at least until the next layoff, which will probably be this summer. Another person may be switching to a different department, but it is unclear whether the agency will allow any subject to layoff to be spared if this happens. The union is considering whether they can legally have those who haven't been paying their dues to be laid off in the place of those who are all paid up. There were also more last-minute negotiations yesterday; the union president is supposed to discuss the outcome on tonight's night shift. So Dan will call me if he learns anything.

Also don't know whether Dan will get that job in South Dakota. The guy that was supposed to call last week didn't, so Dan called him. Turns out that company just placed an ad for that position in the newspaper, and the guy who's doing the hiring is going to be away on business for a week. So the suspense continues there too.

And I have no idea whether there's gonna be an end to the nerve pain in my teeth that were filled in March. I waited a month to see if it would go away, but it has instead gotten worse. I went to an endodontist today, but unfortunately, we were unable to determine which tooth was the culprit because three of them hurt (they're right next to each other). I suspect it's the one in the middle, but the pain travels every time I trigger it, so even I am not sure. I was hoping to get this taken care of because the pain is getting worse every day, and if Dan gets laid off on Friday, he may not have dental insurance after that. So I guess I wait until I am sure which tooth is the problem, or maybe just put up with it???

Am making very slow progress in getting the house de-cluttered. Actually, right now, I have more of a mess than when I started, so it's very discouraging. So far, I have managed to clean out the bathroom cabinets, the bedroom closet, the coat closet and the pantry; have taken down most of the photos; have packed away most of the DVDs, videos and music CDs; and am in the middle of packing away about a third of the kitchen stuff so that I can re-distribute the remainder to make the cabinets look more organized. The garage is already filling up fast with packed boxes; I imagine at some point, we will have to rent a storage unit. I must admit the walls that have had the photos removed look much more spacious, which is one of the goals of this massive project. The house actually is fairly large, but it looks tiny because we have so much stuff in it. So the plan is to de-clutter each room and cabinet that comes with the house first, then clean what's left. We also need to get some touch-up work done on the chips in the sinks and the discoloration on the hardwood floor (fading from sunshine), get the two stove burners that don't work fixed, get the carpet steam cleaned and maybe paint the inside. I keep going back and forth about painting because while it would get rid of various scratches and nail holes, it would also be a tremendous pain in the ass to move all the furniture that is up against the walls, particularly the behemoth command center. Dan is currently working on the yard and has put down fresh cedar bedding, pulled weeds and thatched. At some point, he'll have to fertilize the front yard, do some edging and weather-proof the cedar fence.

And yes, believe it or not, I have been throwing some things away, although probably not nearly as much as I should. It is quite difficult for me to do this as I always seem to be able to think of at least five things an item could be used for. And there must be a garage sale at some point; we need to get rid of two recliners, a loveseat, a television, some books and stuffed animals.

It is truly weird, doing all this stuff without knowing what's gonna happen with Dan's job. And having no idea whether the house will even sell. I've looked up the other houses for sale in my neighborhood and have been disappointed to discover that there are at least a dozen for sale of the exact same model I have with an asking price of at least $15,000 cheaper than I was planning on asking. And I imagine some of them are in better shape than mine because they were planning on selling and kept up with their homes' appearance. Our house contains the features and colors Dan and I like, which is not necessarily what is trendy or has great re-sale value. I did not go with neutral colors, which I think are ugly, or with popular shades of cranberry or forest green, which make me cringe. Our entire house is done in black, white and blue. Most of the wood in the house is oak. We opted for an extra room instead of those energy-wasting vaulted ceilings. I did not put in crown moldings or borders or sponge-paint the walls, instead leaving them plain white so the focus would be on all the photographs, many of them pix I took myself. Maybe we'll luck out and find someone who likes slate blue carpeting, low-maintenance xeriscaping (needs very little water), ceiling fans, double sinks in the master bath and a bonus room for an office.

On top of everything else, I'm trying to get the computer back up to speed again. I've got all the software installed, which is cool, and I've managed to bookmark friends' blogs again, but I'm still running into some problems. One is that I still can't keep an internet connection for more than 20 minutes. I think I will contact Earthlink to see if the problem is on their end since I now know it's not my hard drive or my modem. Until I can maintain a reliable connection, I cannot do any software updates, access all my backup material or download any tunes. Also, even though I copied all my files before I got the computer repaired, I still lost some info due to the hard drive being messed up. My backup files for Quicken won't load, so I may have permanently lost four years' worth of financial info. If so, I'll probably only re-create my information for this year as even that will take hours (cross your fingers my checkbook register is reliable!). I also discovered today that I am missing Quark documents I created such as a checklist for what we want in a new house and a fact sheet for our current house. What a pain in the ass.

Here it is, the beginning of May, and I still haven't gotten word from my long-term disability insurance company as to whether or not they have approved my claim. I'm a bit hesitant to call them as I fear they're gonna tell me they have denied me and that the denial letter is on its way. But then again, if they still haven't decided, they owe me payment under reservation of rights for the month of April. I am sick of this second-guessing and wondering and hoping game. Seems like every major aspect of my life falls in that category right now.

At least the computer hasn't crashed since we brought it home. And "Wheel of Fortune" is airing my hometown episodes. And de-cluttering has enabled me to find items I thought were lost.

But, dammit, I want some answers.

Monday, May 01, 2006

How old are you REALLY? 

Oprah had a show today with some very useful information (unlike last week's on finding the perfect pair of jeans, where they revealed that most people get theirs TAILORED!). She had Dr. Oz talking about dietary and other lifestyle do's and don'ts. They featured a woman my age who ate the typical American diet and did the typical no exercise. She was given a rather extensive physical to determine her body's age (as opposed to her chronological age). Turns out that even though she was 42 years old, she had the body of a 57 year old! Scary!

What made the show good, though, was that Dr. Oz and a colleague went to this woman's kitchen and explained to her what foods in her house were healthy and which ones weren't. I was surprised how clueless this woman was, but then, I've had to focus on my health a lot more than most, so maybe she really was typical. First, she drank no water at all, but literally gallons of diet pop every day. She also had juice and tea, thinking they were healthy, but not realizing the brands she bought contained high fructose corn syrup. I don't think the woman had ever read a label in her life. Most of the foods in her kitchen were highly processed and contained lots of sugar and/or enriched white flour. She had no vegetables except canned ones. And she had margarine, thinking it healthier than butter. Luckily, Dr. Oz is an enlightened man and explained that the body can handle butter easier than it can handle stuff containing hydrogenated vegetable oil.

But the doctors didn't stop with the raid on her fridge. They put her on a 90 day program to upgrade her diet and begin an exercise program. One of the docs came back to her house and showed her how to cook; she was amazed to find out she liked salmon and other healthy foods. She did follow the program faithfully, walking at least 30 minutes a day, drinking water instead of pop and making nutritious meals. As a result, she lost something like 40 pounds, she is less fatigued and has fewer aches and pains. And she looks quite a bit younger! So it is never too late to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The biggest eye-opener on the show, though, was when they filmed an actual heart bypass to show what a lifetime of smoking, no exercise and poor diet actually does to your body. The patient was a 60 year old woman. The camera showed a close-up of her heart, which was covered in excess fat and hardly recognizable. It was in such a bad shape that it wouldn't restart after the procedure! It took several tries with electrodes and finally a pacemaker to get the heart beating again. Wow.

The most helpful part of the show was when Oprah and Dr. Oz discussed specific things to avoid in one's diet and what foods to include. With my poor memory, I really appreciate when they simplify things and give you a chance to write them down. In fact, Oprah was instructing her viewers to write down the good foods list, which I did.

In the avoidance category, sugar shouldn't be the first ingredient in most foods you eat. In fact, it's better if it's no higher than fifth. Dr. Oz showed what high fructose corn syrup looks like and explained how it can trick you into eating more than you should. So avoiding it can actually help you keep your portion sizes reasonable. They also warned that enriched white flour contains very little nutrition at all and said you're much better off with whole grain. They cautioned against excess saturated fat, which comes from animals, and against trans fats, which come from hydrogenated oils. Oils should be liquid at room temperature, not solid.

In the foods to include category, garlic is the first one. The second is tomatoes, and not just fresh ones, but also tomato paste. Third is uncooked olive oil. Dr. Oz said to keep it either in the fridge or in a dark place so it won't go bad, which I had never heard before. Next is spinach, which actually has more beta carotene than carrots, something else I didn't know. And Dr. Oz finally cleared up the controversy over nuts. People think they're unhealthy because they contain so much fat, but actually, plain almonds, walnuts and other nuts contain healthy oils. It's when the nuts are roasted that the oils become unhealthy. So eat unroasted nuts (like the ones in the baking aisle at the grocery store). And finally, pomegranates, which came as a surprise to me.

The only bummer about watching today's show was the realization that I can't eat some of the recommended stuff because of digestion problems and can't exercise at a healthy rate. But I do what I can. I put Splenda on my cream of rice instead of sugar most of the time. I drink Boost, which contains corn syrup, but I limit myself to one a day. I can't eat many whole grains, but I try to sneak in stuff made from brown rice once in awhile. I unfortunately can't eat nuts like I used to, so I probably eat more cheese than I should because I need the protein. I do put garlic in my rice spaghetti, eat tomato sauce in one form or another pretty much every day, and make my own olive oil dressing a few days a week. I can only eat canned or pureed spinach, but I figure it's better than none at all. I have no idea about pomegranates; maybe I'll look into that at some point.

Wonder how old my body is? I'll ponder that as I eat my scrambled egg and cream of rice.

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