Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The return of Dan the Man..... 

On Saturday, Dan will be home again! Yayyyy! I'm very excited but for some reason also nervous. Is it normal to be nervous if you haven't seen your husband in THREE MONTHS?

Haven't written much about his absence because frankly, I couldn't figure out what to say without getting myself too upset to cope. I chose instead to put on a brave front and just focus instead on getting the house sold. The challenge of keeping myself from getting sicker, of consoling my lonesome pup, of getting and keeping my home presentable was somewhat distracting. And I've been talking to Dan on the phone to the point of running up a $150 bill per month. But it in no way comes close to making up for being separated.

I guess some couples do just fine with some distance, especially if one of them has to travel a lot for their job, or if they have different employers and/or differing shifts and only see each other for a few hours a day. But Dan and I met at work, and once I moved into his apartment, we were literally together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At our job, we worked at desks directly across from one another and could see each other whenever we looked away from our computers. When you are in constant companionship, you never forget to mention something important because you can just say whatever pops into your head, knowing your spouse will hear it. You have no opportunity to lie because your spouse was there to see whatever it was that really happened. One of the reasons Dan, unlike many husbands, knows that I really am sick and not merely exaggerating is that he was there every day to witness my struggle to get through a work shift, to see me so exhausted that I couldn't get out bed, to take me to my doctors and various medical tests, to observe the change in my expression. Most people around me didn't even realize I was sick, but my smile never fooled Dan. He could see through it and could tell when I'd had enough and needed to go home.

One really cool thing about being together 24/7 is that it allowed enough time for us to get past talking "shop" like work issues, what appointments we had for the week, etc. and just chit chat like friends and goof around. After we were done talking about important stuff, we could just voice our opinions about the world, make really bad puns, flirt, speculate about this and that, sing to music in the car, make up songs about the dog. Things that people usually do when they're dating but seldom find time for after marriage.

And when you're together all the time, most decisions are joint ones with both parties present. Like when we bought the Saturns. And our house. And for the past 10 years, every one of my major clothing purchases was aided by Dan letting me try it on in the store and then telling me what he thought. We to went union meetings together and were both on the executive committee. Prior to each election, we would discuss each ballot issue so that we understood it and could make the choices each of us thought best (we'd compare notes afterward to see if we had voted alike, and often, we had). We were both there when we first saw Chip at the pound and adopted him.

When I became too ill to work last year, it was really weird not seeing Dan during his shift. But he could still come home after work and tell me about his day and gossip about his co-workers because they had been my co-workers too, so I didn't feel as out of touch as some might. And he was still taking me to all my appointments, and if there was someplace I wanted to go but couldn't handle all the walking, he was there to push my wheelchair. When I was too ill to do my own errands, Dan knew me well enough to shop for me, and when finances got complicated with me going on disability, I was the one who did the creative math to figure out how we could stay afloat. Not as satisfying as when we were together 24/7, but it was still working. We went through a lot of changes, but we went through them together.

And then Dan's employer decided to lay him off, and he had to find somewhere else to work, fast. He was offered a job in Sioux Falls, and from then on, everything has been different. We only had two weeks to get him packed up and ready to go and to get the house de-cluttered and the excess items put into storage. And there was a parade of family members and friends helping us move stuff and saying goodbye, so we didn't really have any alone time at the end. And suddenly, there I was, left with a semi-clean house to whip into sellable condition and one very upset dog that wouldn't eat.

At first, most of the phone calls were out of necessity, like when I couldn't find something and didn't know if Dan had put it into storage or not, or when Dan would ask me to send him something he'd forgotten to take with him. And of course we had to talk about the houses he was touring since Sioux Falls doesn't have virtual tours and I was having to judge whether or not I liked a house off of a couple of still photos. But I'm not actually going to get to see whatever house we buy, at least not until the day I close on it. And since Dan is living in his parents' basement for the time being, our conversations aren't quite as private as I'm used to. It reminds me of when I was dating as a teenager, calling a boy's house and asking his mom if I could talk to him. So we haven't had a truly intimate conversation in three months; I hadn't realized how much I had taken those for granted, heh heh.

What really sucks are the times in between the phone calls, when I suddenly think of something I want to tell Dan and realize that he's at work and not allowed to take personal calls. Or I just want to chat about nothing in particular, but it's 10pm here and Dan's probably already asleep. The worst is the no hugs. I get upset and am in pain, and there's no one to console me in person. And if Dan has a shitty day at work (which unfortunately is happening at his new job about as often as at the old one), I'm not there at the end of the day to hug him and try to cheer him up. Yeah, I may have the remote to myself and have as much space in the bed as I like, but there is something to be said for cuddling on the couch and watching a movie.

And we're making big changes in the absence of the other person. Dan started a brand new job, and I have never seen what he makes nor the building he works in; I haven't even met anyone he works with. He's on a day shift now, whereas I haven't been able to wean myself off my night owl status. I had to hire people to help me with the house and figure out how to do household necessities without injuring myself (and obviously not quite succeeding). Dan bought a car without any input from me, and he's having to manage his own finances for the first time in a decade. I'll be the one deciding if we accept any offer we get on the house; I've even got power of attorney to sign the paperwork without him present. And in the end, he'll be picking out our next home.

What if it's another three months before the house sells? Could we just pick up where we left off after half a year apart? How different from each other are we going to be? Even if the house sold tomorrow, the transition to a new locale is going to be awkward. New routines, new city, new neighbors. But then at least we'll be able to exist as a couple again, which should make it easier.

I think I'll probably just be relieved when it's all over. I just wish I knew when that would be.

In the meantime, I'm doing the happy dance (in my mind, heh heh), waiting just three days and seven hours to see my husband.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The schizophrenic Emmys..... 

I was both disappointed in and pleased with the Emmys this year. Maybe it's because I don't have cable and thus didn't get to see three-fourths of the shows that were nominated, but I just didn't understand who was nominated and why some of the best shows on TV were either shut out or not even considered. Compared to last year, the show seemed, well, off kilter.

At least the host was great. I never watch Conan O'Brien's late night show and thus am not that familiar with his work, but he was perfect for the Emmys. The opening bit was the funniest I've ever seen for an awards show. First they show him in an airplane that crashes. He ends up on the island from "Lost"! Jorge Garcia comes up to him, and when Conan finds a hatch and asks if he wants to go to the Emmys with him, he says, "Dude, we weren't even invited" (true, no nominations for the show or any of the cast). Then Conan jumps into the hatch, which turns out to be the ceiling to the set of "The Office"! He ends up visiting several shows, including "House", where Hugh Laurie attempts to diagnose him. Later on in the broadcast, he does a musical number about how bad NBC's programming sucks (which, except for "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office", is pretty much true). He seemed pretty much as ease as host, and I hope they use him again.

But I have to ask: where the hell was "Lost"?? Maybe I could understand no individual actor nominations as there is no single lead to the show. But why was it left out of Best Drama?? I've never seen "24", so I don't really know if that show is better, but I was offended that "Lost" wasn't even nominated.

And what about "My Name Is Earl"?? It's the funniest show on network TV, but it wasn't even nominated for Best Comedy. "The Office" won, which I don't mind so much, but I like "My Name Is Earl" a lot better. At least they got writing and directing awards (I thought the writer gave the best speech of the night, incidentally). Why wasn't Jason Lee nominated for Lead Actor? I think Megan Mellally got Best Supporting Actress Comedy because "Will and Grace" is over, so I hope Jaime Pressly gets Best Supporting Actress next year if she continues to be as hilarious as she was this year.

"Grey's Anatomy" was nominated for several awards, but it didn't win a single one. What a bummer. I have to admit I've become a devoted fan since they started airing it on both Sundays and Thursdays and I was able to get completely caught up on the story line.

I was also disappointed that none of the lead actresses in "Desperate Housewives" were nominated. Yes, the show did decline in quality during its second season, so I can see why it was ignored for Best Comedy Series (even though it's neither strictly comedy nor drama), but it was the writing that was sub-par this season, not the acting. Maybe next year??

And I've watched enough of "House" to be quite impressed with the disagreeable character played by Hugh Laurie. He is so good at playing an irritating but brilliant doc that you just want to wring his neck, heh heh. But of course he was not nominated for Best Actor.

And what's the deal with so many nominations for shows that have been cancelled or have ended? I think it's a sign that the networks aren't giving shows a fair chance. Like "Commander in Chief". ABC totally annihilated that excellent show. First, they fail to air it for two months and then move it to a different night, and then they wonder why the viewership is down and cancel it due to poor ratings. Well, duh! Who's gonna watch a show if they don't know when it's on? And now ABC is doing the same thing to "Lost". It hasn't aired in months. Are we gonna be even able to remember where we were in season 2 by the time the new season begins in October? Whatever happened to airing a series straight through the summer in re-runs to keep the momentum going for the new season opener? Are they just counting on all of us to buy the DVD when it comes out next week so we can get caught up again? Argh.

Awards I did agree with: "The Daily Show" winning for Best Variety, Comedy or Musical. That show has been hilarious from day one, and I'm glad to see it honored. They also got an award for writing, well earned.

Tribute awards: I was thrilled that Dick Clark got an award as he is pretty much the biggest TV icon of all time. I was surprised to see him on stage because of his stroke, and it made me cry to hear him struggle to speak. His melodic voice is still present even though it has a hard time forming words, and his sense of humor is of course still quite intact. And, not surprisingly, he still looks somewhat young for his age. There was also a tribute to the late Aaron Spelling, of whom I was less fond. I was surprised, though, to find out exactly how many shows he had a hand in. And the original Charlie's Angels appeared together for the first time in I don't know how long. Kate Jackson still looks perky, Farrah looks completely plastic, and Jaclyn Smith has aged extremely gracefully.

Fashion notes: was extremely pleased to see lots of purple gowns. If only I had an occasion to wear something like that. Ellen Pompeo had a great gown, but I hated her slicked-back hair. Evangeline Lilly looked wonderful all around. Jaime Pressly looked quite elegant and so unlike the trailer trash character she plays that I was impressed. Katherine Heigl was stunning. There were a couple of white gowns that I didn't care for because they were on extremely pale women and they looked all washed out, namely Debra Messing. I hated Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her black and white gown, not because of the colors, but because the design was extremely unflattering on her. And one of the ladies who was wearing all white, I think it was Helen Mirren, tripped on her gown going up to accept an award and made a hilarious remark about going "ass over tit". By far the worst outfit, though, was on Candace Bergen: white top, dark skirt, with this HUGE belt that looked like it belonged on a rodeo rider. Made her look frumpy, lumpy and not at all the elegant woman she usually is.

I hope next year's awards are a little more representative of what the viewers actually like, and that they go to shows that are still airing. But please keep Conan.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 28, 2006: 

Before I forget, let me mention that I read the rest of the blog written by Ingrid, who described her CE for SSDI a little while back. It is quite well written, and I got her permission to add her blog to my Links list.


Please, if you read nothing else, check out her "History" page. On it, she posts a photograph from her past with the date it was taken. For each photo, she describes in great detail the circumstances that surround the photo or what memories the photo generates from that time period. It is something I wish I had thought to do, but even if I try something like that, remember that Ingrid thought of it first.

Short note: I did see the Emmys and want to comment on them, but it's too near my bedtime and I'm too fibro-fogged to do any sort of review right now, so it will have to wait.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 27, 2006: 

My latest review for But You Don't Look Sick has been posted. Here's the link:

Movie Review: "Catch Me If You Can"

You might be thinking, "Hey, didn't that come out a few years ago? Why's she reviewing it now?" Some people who visit the website can't go to movie theatres but maybe can buy or rent a DVD to watch at home.

Watched "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" on DVD tonight. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to review it. I mean, it wasn't good, but I guess it didn't suck either. Hmmmm.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 26, 2006: 

Here's a post on My Disability Blog specifically about getting approved for Social Security when one is disabled by Chonic Fatigue or Fibromyalga....

Social Security Disability SSI Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia

I am of the opinion that the majority of people approved for disability who have CFIDS or fibromyalgia won't be approved for either of those conditions if they have something that in addition to those that is more commonly thought to be disabling. I was approved for Sjogren's and other autoimmune conditions; my fibromyalgia wasn't even mentioned by the judge who approved my case. Does that mean the fact I have this ailment is unimportant? Not necessarily. It's just that it's easier to prove disability for the other diseases.

I suspect that when fibromyalgia is classified as a disease rather than a syndrome, meaning the cause is found, a listing for it will be developed for Social Security's Blue Book. Until then, fibromyalgia patients will continue to get approved for depression or autoimmune disease instead. Most won't complain as long as they are approved for something, but there's no doubt those with fibromyalgia and no concurrent ailment will be denied at a higher rate. It's not right, but it's just the way it is.

It seems morbid to be grateful to have multiple ailments in order to be approved for disability, but that's the ugly truth.

Rave of the Day for August 25, 2006: 

Here is an excellent account of what it is like to undergo a CE, or consultative exam, for Social Security. Thanks to My Disability Blog for the link:

My Trial in Bleak House or An Amerikan Carol

The confusion and doubt following such an exam is all too familiar. I hope hers results in her being approved for Social Security.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bowing deeply.... 

As you know, I read several blogs regularly (when possible). One recent entry in "Hidden Words" (on my Links list) really got me to thinking. Here's the actual entry:

Not A Bad Place To Be

I originally started blogging for four reasons: to exercise my brain, for therapy, to keep friends and relatives informed as to what's up with me, and to educate the general public about chronic illness. Not that I ever expected a large following, but I hoped someone besides me would find what I had to say interesting. And to my surprise, I have picked up readers from various countries and backgrounds, and most of them are quite articulate and have a great deal to teach me. So I have benefitted from this blog in ways I could never predict.

I do get comments from time to time. I regret to say that I don't usually reply to them, but I really do read them. And I do appreciate them. I sometimes mean to reply but simply forget, and by the time I do remember, several days may have passed, and my reply probably won't be seen. Other times, I can't think of anything to say in return, or I just don't have the energy for an extended conversation. So please don't be offended if your comment goes unanswered. I promise you that I did read it and am pleased you offered feedback.

And those of you who don't comment (which are most of you), that's cool too. I just want to say I'm grateful you find my words worth reading in the first place. There are times I get more interest, support, prayers and positive feedback online than I do in person. Now, to be fair, I don't get out the house much anymore, so opportunties to see people face to face are becoming fewer and fewer. But there are far more intelligent and wonderful people on the internet than I ever would have expected. Maybe I've just been really lucky to find them instead of the trash talkers, stalkers and molesters that we keep hearing about in the media. Maybe I just naturally gravitate toward creative, literate people. But then again, I do believe that there really is more good than evil in this world, if you are willing to look.

So to all my readers, thanks for browsing. Hope you'll visit again soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Latest in the LTD saga..... 

Got a call today from a lawyer I'd contacted about my long term disability insurance company's decision to limit my benefits to a maximum of 24 months. He's the partner of the guy who helped me win my SSDI case. Both lawyers are well-known locally and rarely if ever lose a case.

Anyway, he's pretty confident I can get the 24 month limit lifted, even if I have to sue the LTD company to do it. Either that, or get them to settle. The company in question has been in a lot of legal hot water lately for limiting legitimate claims and was forced recently to re-open some 200,000 claims.

Both the functional capacity exam and the neuropsych evaluation the LTD company made me undergo were performed by "independent" examiners who have been proven in the past to have given biased or even completely bogus reports on claimants. The functional capacity exam states that I was not exerting maximum effort, and from that statement, the LTD company decided I could do sedentary work. The neuropsych evaluator threw out my entire exam because she claimed I was not making an effort, and then added that I had somatoform disorder. The definition of somatoform disorder is illness in the absence of any physical cause. I have Sjogren's syndrome, which is a physical cause, so it's impossible for me to have somatoform disorder. Because both of these evaluations contain exaggerations and outright falsehoods, they do not constitute valid proof of my ability to work.

The clause that is the most problematic is the LTD company's policy of limiting claims to 24 months if the disabling condition is based upon "self reported symptoms" such as pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness, etc. California, I believe, has ruled that clause to be illegal, and it cannot be applied in that state. Here, unfortunately, there is no such protection. But how can a disease be considered self reported if a biopsy proves it's there? Obviously, I wouldn't get plugs in my eyelids if I just told the opthalmologist my eyes were dry and he didn't verify it. I wouldn't have extensive dental work if x-rays hadn't shown the decay. The gastroparesis and reflux were proven in multiple tests. And the x-rays show real arthritis, not just self reported joint problems. The neuropathy and carpal tunnel were demonstrated in my EMG. The edema is a visible, not self reported, problem. The thyroid disorder and diabetes were verified in blood work. And my sleep disorder is recorded in a lengthy study. Yes, I have fatigue, pain, headache, dizziness and other complaints, but so do most people who have real diseases. If the "self reported" clause were applied to every LTD claim, probably only one in ten would be approved past 24 months (I imagine some things they can't deny like loss of a limb).

So the first step is to send a letter of appeal to the LTD company's decision to limit my claim. Of course, by hiring the lawyer, I'm gonna have fees to deal with, but I don't know of anyone who has won a case against this LTD company without representation. And I have to be prepared for the LTD's inevitable rejection of the appeal. This is pretty much standard. In fact, I may go past the 24 month mark and have my benefits cut off before the matter is resolved. That is common. I may have to sue in court, which could take years, or the LTD company could decide to settle with me to get me off their backs. In any case, I may be in for a long, difficult and possibly expensive fight. But I think it's necessary.

It's not just the paltry amount they owe me each month. It's nickels and dimes to them. It's the idea that they can just sweep me under the rug and then keep doing this to other claimants who are disabled through no fault of their own. If I don't put up a fight, then the next guy will certainly be treated the same way, and that guy may decide that if no one else is standing up to the company, he won't either, which perpetuates an awful precedent. If I stand up for myself, I am also standing up for other disabled people who are being robbed by greedy and unscrupulous long term disability insurance companies. I'm not basing this on some heroic dream. The fact is that two people in my fibromyalgia/CFIDS support group had their benefits terminated on the basis of the very "independent" medical examiners I had. They both used the same lawyer I've hired. They both won. They are a big part of the reason my lawyer feels strongly that I can retain my benefits. Without their victories, my case would be much harder to prove.

We have to keep fighting LTD companies who use bogus termination clauses, who hire biased examiners, who kick the disabled when they're down. It's humiliating enough to lose your job, your friends, your independence due to disability. When dishonest LTD companies get into the mix, then you may lose your house and your ability to pay for medical care. Or worse.

It's a lot more than nickels and dimes to us.

Bonus Rave of the Day for August 23, 2006: 

Thought I'd post one of the inspirational messages I've gotten via e-mail. This is from Deb....


Sometimes we just need to be reminded!

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?"

Hands started going up.

He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you, but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill. He then asked, "Who still wants it?"

Still the hands were up in the air.

"Well", he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?"

Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20."

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.

We feel as though we are worthless.

But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you.

The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE and WHOSE WE ARE.

Sandwiches and celiac.... 

One of the most aggravating things about celiac disease is its inconvenience. You can't just buy whatever strikes your fancy at the grocery store, drive through a fast food joint of your choice, order take-out or have pizza delivered, or even just grab an ordinary sandwich. In fact, eating a sandwich at all is practically a miracle.

First, there's the whole issue of bread. Yes, I am aware that gluten free bread exists, but have you ever tasted it? It weighs a ton, crumbles at the slightest touch, and is about as yummy as, say, cardboard. There are mixes, but my hands are too arthritic to make me want to deal with it. I was never much of a bread eater, but I did relish the occasional visit to Subway when I was healthy. And I LOVED naan, tortillas and pitas.

Secondly, there's the sandwich meat problem. Unless you have access to a real deli (not common out West), the "deli" meat in the grocery store has nitrates and may contain caramel coloring, which may or may not come from wheat. Some might even have dextrin, which is another ingredient of dubious origins. Roast beef, which was one of my faves, has been off limits to me for three years now because I just can't be sure of its safety.

Luckily, a local bakery/restaurant came to the rescue with gluten free bread that is actually edible. Their Italian bread is tasty, but what I really like is their mock rye. Yes, it's heavy and crumbly, which can't be avoided, but it actually tastes like real rye bread. A few days ago, I got tired of looking at the three bottles of mustard Dan left behind and decided I would use at least some of it up by purchasing two loaves of mock rye, one for now, and one to freeze so I have something portable to eat when I move.

And I found the solution to the whole sandwich meat nightmare. Hormel now has natural deli style meat which is minus the nitrates, detrixn and coloring. They are even labeled gluten free! How cool is that? I bought some honey ham and some turkey. And I found reudced fat cheddar and Swiss cheese SLICES! I bought one pack of each.

So I've been having actual, honest-to-God sandwiches, just like healthy people. I consider this a major victory in my battle against inconvenience.

Sometimes it really is the little things that matter.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 23, 2006: 

 Needed some giggles. Got this from Joan quite some time ago, and it's just too funy to keep to myself....


Dear Abby,
A couple of women moved in across the hall from me. One is a middle-aged  gym teacher and the other is a social worker in her mid twenties. These two women go everywhere together and I've never seen a man go into or leave their apartment. Do you think they could be Lebanese?

Dear Abby,
What can I do about all the Sex, Nudity, Fowl Language and Violence On My VCR?

Dear Abby,
I have a man I can't trust. He cheats so much, I'm not even sure the baby I'm carrying is his.

Dear Abby,
I am a twenty-three year old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years. It's getting expensive and I think my boy friend should share half the cost, but I don't know him well enough to discuss money with him.

Dear Abby,
I've suspected that my husband has been fooling around, and when confronted with the evidence, he denied everything and said it would never happen again.

Dear Abby,
Our son writes that he is taking Judo. Why would a boy who was raised in a good Christian home turn against his own?

Dear Abby,
I joined the Navy to see the world. I seen it. Now how do I get out?

Dear Abby,
My forty year old son has been paying a psychiatrist $50.00 an hour every week for two and a half years. He must be crazy.

Dear Abby,
I was married to Bill for three months and I didn't know he drank until one night he came home sober.

Dear Abby,
My mother is mean and short tempered. I think she is going through mental pause.

Dear Abby,
You told some woman whose husband had lost all interest in sex to send him to a doctor. Well, my husband lost all interest in sex and he is a doctor.  Now what do I do?

"Life's a piece of sh**, when you look at it. Always look on the bright side of life".... 

Sorry, I couldn't resist that quote from "Life of Brian". The song in that movie always cracked me up. Hey, maybe after I move, if I get cable, it will have BBC on it, and I can watch Monty Python??

Anyway, I'm still ticked, but am determined to make things work out nevertheless. I am also determined to be myself, even if I have very little control over my life. That means I'm not always gonna be warm and cuddly.

But in the interest of balance, I have decided to mention here some things that are actually going well. Need to remind myself from time to time that not everything in my life sucks. And then maybe I'll dig up something amusing for a Rave of the Day.

Dan is coming home for Labor Day weekend! He arrives on Saturday the 2nd and leaves Tuesday the 5th. We're gonna have a special game day with my family on the 3rd to celebrate, some burgers and then whatever board games strike our fancy. We'll probably have lunch at P.F. Chang's one of the days he's here, and will chill the rest of the time.

My flexible spending account company finally got their, um, act together and reimbursed us for most of our expenses for June and July. Due to a brain fart of mine, though, they sent the check here, but I'll just have Dan endorse it when he's here. I still had a bit of a balance remaining, so I asked the dentist's office to send me a receipt for one of my payments on the crown I had done in July, and that should cover the rest. And then I won't have to deal with those inept FSA fools anymore, yay!

Had a scrapbooking "emergency", code for "my tape runner is empty again". I went to a different craft store than usual, hoping they would have some multi-packs of lettering that I've been looking for. They didn't, but I did find some nice individual lettering sheets in a medium-sized, easy to read font in white and in purple/blue. I got more adhesive, replaced my black medium point pen that had died, and in a truly admirable bit of restraint, only bought one sheet of stickers. They were penguins carrying Christmas packages, perfect for Dan's holiday pix. There was a ton of really awesome Hawaiian stickers, but I think I will wait and see if I already have enough before I get more. It's not like you can really use Hawaii-themed stickers on anything but pix of Hawaii, so you don't want leftovers. There was also some gorgeous background paper. They had packs where are are various shades of the same color, like 10 shades of blue. If I have a little more money sometime, I might get packs of red and green for Christmas-themed pages.

The house is completely clean and the entire yard has been mowed. It looks good enough to buy, heh heh. All the weeds are gone except dandilions in the grass, and I'll work on that if my back will allow it.

My neighbor up the street told me today that his house has sold! This is good news to me because then I'll be the only one on my side of the block with a house for sale. The neighbor's house went on the market a week before mine. So maybe mine will be next.

I saw a yellow swallow-tail butterfly today! They're supposed to be out of season by now. They always remind me of my mom and make me smile.

Speaking of out of season, two of my lilac bushes have blossomed! They're supposed to bloom in May, not August. But the poor bushes were heavily damaged by a blizzard last October, and it has taken them almost a year to recover. Good timing, because they make the yard look very nice.

My back has improved some. Actually have periods of time where it isn't in spasm. Am able to do all my stretches again.

And last but not least, I have 868 songs on iTunes, about half the amount that were on there before the big crash. Am listening to Janet Jackson at the moment.

Oh, and I get paid for SSDI tomorrow.

Always look on the bright side of life......

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mum's the word?? 

Ack! This is frustrating. I am very angry with some people, and I am afraid to go into details about it here because they may read this blog, and I'm not exactly tactful when I'm pissed. But I feel as though if I don't vent, I'll explode.

So I will mention other things that are annoying me right now in the hope that maybe if I get them out of my system, I can better deal with the main thing that has me upset. Does that make sense? Probably not. I should probably mention from the outset that I'm short on sleep, and that is probably contributing to the short temper and the general urge to rail at the world.

I've never thought of myself as a control freak, but there is a limit how many things I can leave to chance/my creator/the government/helpful friends and relatives without getting resentful. So much is out of my control right now that I'm very touchy. I feel as though I have very little independence at all. I have to rely on the government, inept pension managers and a corrupt long term disability insurance company for income. I have to hope some random person buys my house before I go bankrupt. I have to depend on neighbors and a cleaning service to keep my house in good enough shape to sell since I can't even pull a few weeds without putting my back out. If I try to shop, I have to hope there are handicapped parking spaces and electric carts available, or I have just wasted a car trip. I need relatives to help me move to a "new" house that I won't even get to see in person until I'm there. Yep, Dan will be picking out where I live for the rest of my days. All because I'm too ill to work and Dan had to take a lesser-paying job in another state. Don't get me wrong. I realize I am blessed for receiving all the help, but I wish I could contribute more myself and take less.

Oh, and let's not forget this stinkin' freakin' illness. Have been doing everything I can to get better, or at least not get any worse, and am not succeeding. That wouldn't be so bad except now that I have changed insurance and have no idea what sort of medical care I'll receive, whether I'll be able to stay on my current meds, whether I'll be able to maintain my current treatments. Don't know whether the South Dakota climate will make me a little worse or a lot worse (most of my docs on my previous insurance told me to brace myself for getting worse).

I wanna drum my heels into the floor like a two-year-old and scream, "It's not fair!" Except that I already know it's not fair, and that a tantrum will only cause me more physical pain (that doesn't always stop me, though). I'd like to OD on chocolate, even though I know that's counterproductive to improving my health (doesn't always stop me either). Most of all, I'd like my creator's plan to be made a little more obvious to me, because I'm just not gettin' it. I know that's an unreasonable demand, but that's how I feel.

That will have to do.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The pros and cons of my situation..... 

Have been thinking a lot over the past few months about how different my life might be when I finally move to Sioux Falls after the house sells. I have visited South Dakota before, but have only been to Sioux Falls twice, each time for just a few hours. Quite different from living there, so I expect I may experience a bit of culture shock once I move in. There are probably advantages and disadvantages to almost any situation, just as there are to this one. So I've compiled a list of what I will probably miss and not miss about my current home.

What I'll miss (in no particular order):
1. Mountains! For most of my life, I've been within a 45 minute drive of the Rocky Mountains. I can go to natural hot springs, watch the wildlife near a lake above timberline, shop for unique items in a historic downtown district, and get back home again in time for supper. And for most of my life, I've been within sight of my favorite mountain, Long's Peak. After I move, I will have to drive about five hours to see any mountains (the Black Hills). And I will have to re-learn how to cook for low elevation as I am not accustomed to living close to sea level.

2. Sermi-arid climate. I'm used to mostly moderate weather without major extremes in heat, cold or humidity. If it snows here, it will melt away the next day. If it's unbearably hot during the day, at night it will be pleasantly cool. Wind chill is not usually a big factor. And the air doesn't get all sticky during the summer. Rain showers are infrequent and usually brief, occurring about 4pm, and help cool off the heat of the day. In Sioux Falls, the summers will be hotter, the winters colder, the humidity much higher. So my arthritis will be worse in the cold and my heat intolerance worse in the summer. And I find the air very heavy and uncomfortable whenever I go someplace at low elevation, so this will take a quite a bit of an adjustment.

3. Choices. I'm in a metropolitan area of 2 million people, so there are plenty of products and services to choose from. Specialty food is plentiful, much of it made locally, and I can even eat in a restaurant that is completely gluten free. If I don't like a certain doctor, I can go to another, and another, until I find what I need. Entertainment is not a problem as there are dozens of movie theatres. There is so much shopping available here that it's almost scary. And there are 24 hour stores all over the place. Sioux Falls has about 125,000 people I think, so naturally, there are fewer local products and services. There is only one grocery chain, so I may have trouble finding the food I'm accustomed to. The nutritional supplements I rely upon are generally not sold there that I know of. There are very few places i can eat out. Sioux Falls does have three hospitals, so I will have access to medical care, but I'm not going to be able to pick and choose a team of specialists that works best for me like I did here. I don't know yet if there are electric carts in the grocery store and Target/Wally World or something similar, but if there aren't, I will have to rely on Dan to do all my shopping there, which would really suck. I will still be able to find movies to see, but the obscure foreign and independent films probably won't make an appearance there.

4. LIberal religion. I belong to an extremely open-minded church that loves to interact with other faiths so we can learn from one another and see what we have in common. We accept people of differing races, sexual orientation, even former atheists like me. I've been able to go to interfaith peace prayers at a mosque, a synagogue, churches of many denominations. This opportunity will likely be absent in Sioux Falls if for no other reason that it is a much smaller city. There are a couple of churches there of the same denomination I belong to, and I'm hoping that at least one of them will be liberal enough to accept me.

5. Diversity. I currently live in a very diverse area. Many of my neighbors are mixed race couples, and a few are same sex couples. I am very comfortable here and feel like I fit in. If I end up moving to a primarily WASP neighborhood where mixed race couples are frowned upon and gays feel like they must stay in the closet, I must admit I'm going to feel like an outsider. But maybe Sioux Falls isn't like that. I hope.

6. Support groups. I belong to one for Sjogren's syndrome and one for fibromyalgia. I find spending time with others who have the same ailments I do to be very helpful. We can compare notes on doctors and treatments, learn the latest medical findings, commiserate with each other, give suggestions to the newly diagnosed. I haven't been able to find any support groups in Sioux Falls. Thank goodness for Sjogren's and fibromyalgia online message boards.

7. Radio. There are 42 radio stations here. I can listen to anything that suits my mood. We have modern/alternative, hard rock, classic/oldies, electronica, hip hop, country, Latino, jazz, classical, etc. There are also lots of talk and news stations. I have a feeling I'm not going to listen to the radio as much in Sioux Falls. At least I'll have my iTunes no matter where I live, and once I get a decent internet connection, I can listen to those stations.

8. My family and friends here. I'm not going to have the money or energy to come back here much to visit, and I doubt any of my relatives are going to drive 600 miles just to see me.

9. This house. We bought it from the builder, so we've lived in it since the day it was completed. We picked out the carpet, the countertops, the hardwood floors, the linoleum, all the appliances. We opted for the extra room where the command center resides, double sinks in the master bedroom, had some of the rooms wired for ceiling fans, nice small low maintenance yard. It was OUR house, dammit. Now we're gonna have to live in someone else's house, probably a ranch style at least 20 years old. I'll have to put up with someone else's taste in decor and amenities, at least until I have the time, money and energy to change it. Even then, it probably won't ever feel like my house. It's kinda like my red Saturn. Because I only had the money to buy used, I had to by a seven year old vehicle, and it happened to be my least favorite car color. I've noticed an unfortunate trend in the Sioux Falls houses Dan's been touring: many have yellow or green bedrooms with burgundy in the living areas with brown or beige carpeting. Ewwwwww!

10. The most gorgeous state capitol in the U.S. I wonder how high the tallest building in Sioux Falls is?

What I won't miss:
1. Photosensitivity. Because of the high elevation where I live, the sunshine can be quite intense. I used to love this, but after I got sick, I became photosensitive, and all of a sudden, I found myself getting rashes and sunburn from just a few minutes outdoors or even just riding in the car. Sioux Falls is much closer to sea level, so I expect to have fewer problems with sun sensitivity.

2. Horribly dry skin. Sjogren's syndrome dries me out from head to toe, literally. The winters here are so dry that I have to run a humidifier in my bedroom at night so I don't get nosebleeds in my sleep. Even with shea butter soaps and lotions, my skin flakes and itches. The higher humidity in Sioux Falls should alleviate some of those problems.

3. Expensive services and housing. Internet, cable TV, satellite all cost more here. And naturally, there's a huge difference in the cost of housing, which is the main reason we're moving. Homes in Sioux Falls are cheaper by about a third. When we manage to sell this place, we'll be able to pay off our first and second mortgages, put 10 percent down on something in Sioux Falls, pay probably 2 points on a new mortgage, and get a house payment probably $200 less than our current one with no second at all (even though interest rates have climbed dramatically), AND maybe even pay off our credit cards. In Sioux Falls, car insurance and auto registration are also cheaper. I believe food costs less too.

4. State taxes. Did you know South Dakota does not charge a state tax? Isn't that awesome? That will save us a lot of money.

5. Traffic! Rush "hour" here actually lasts from 6am-9am in the mornings and 3pm-6pm in the evenings. The roads are congested, drivers are competitive and rude, and everything is so spread out that you can drive 40 miles and still not have left the metropolitan area. We have more SUVs per capita than any other city, which sucks when you're one of the few driving a little bitty car because everyone else thinks it's okay to cut you off. And we've had a massive influx of transplants from California, where they haven't a clue how to drive in snow or rain. So now the whole freakin' city gridlocks during inclement weather. And heaven forbid there should be an accident on the highway. Everyone has to slow down and look. Sioux Falls is considerably smaller, so I probably won't have to do nearly as much driving, and it probably won't take me an hour to go only 20 miles.

6. Air pollution. Unfortunately, because of the high elevation, the air is thinner here, so it takes very little to cause visible pollution. Also, because we're next to the mountains, we get something called a temperature inversion. On warm winter days, the colder air becomes trapped, causing a brown cloud that is quite ugly. Sioux Falls will undoubtedly have more fresh air.

7. Parking fees and union dues. When Dan and I were working here, it cost us $75 a month just to park in our employer's garage, and that was the CHEAP rate for the night shift! It was $180 and up for the day shift. And we paid up to $80 a month apiece for union dues. Dan's current job has free parking and no union fees.

8. Not being able to park anywhere near your destination. I've had to either stop going to a lot of places or have Dan take me with the wheelchair because even with a handicapped space, I still couldn't get within a city block of where I was going. Seriously, I had to start using valet parking at some of my doctor's offices because the nearest handicapped spot was two blocks away. I'm hoping Sioux Falls doesn't have that sort of problem.

9. No real seasons. We don't have much of a spring or fall here. We pretty much go from heat to snow and then back again. Last year, in fact, we got a blizzard in April and another in October that heavily damaged our tree out front and the bushes out back. So we don't get those in-between seasons with lots of blooming flowers or trees changing pretty colors. If you want fall colors, you pretty much have to go up to the mountains the first couple weeks of September. If you like flowers, you need to go to the botanical gardens. I'm hoping Sioux Falls will have actual spring and fall seasons.

10. Rude people in a hurry. This has become a real problem here since so many have moved here from California and New York. They cut me off in traffic, rush past my electric cart in the grocery store to get in the checkout line ahead of me, honk their horns if it takes me too long to cross in front of them in the parking lot. Granted, it isn't the majority of the people, but the number does seem to be increasing each year. Maybe Sioux Falls will be a bit more laid back?

Now, If someone will just buy this house.....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 19, 2006: 

Most of you know that when I receive an e-mail that I believe may be misleading or flat-out false, I check the Snopes site to verify it. But did you know that this site also contains a wealth of JOKES? Apparently, many people have no sense of humor and forward jokes to Snopes to inquire about their authenticity. The folks at Snopes have been kind enough to collect several of them on the following pages.....

Jest in Time

Jest in Time II

JHumor (Jes' Plain Jokes)

I don't know which is funnier, the jokes themselves, the idiots that think they might be real, or the staff at Snopes who patiently explain the origin and meaning of these jokes. I guess they don't believe in the phrase, "F- them if they can't take a joke".

Heh heh!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Getting my back back..... 

Hobbled into the chiropractor's/massage therapist's office today (they work together). Did moist heat packs and the TENS unit first to get the muscles to loosen a bit. Then I got a one-hour massage. It was quite painful, but afterward, my hips were no longer all locked up, which made the chiropractic adjustment easier. I left there still in some pain, but able to walk more normally, which was quite an improvement.

Like every time I have messed up my back, this is gonna take some time to heal. I can't walk around with a mis-aligned lower back for four days and expect to have it fully resolved in one afternoon, at least I can't with this derned fibromyalgia. I still have sharp pain just above and to the right of my tailbone, and I'm still getting nasty spasms in the right hip, but it is no longer radiating upward into my mid-back, off to the left, or down my right leg. I'm going to do moist heat packs, Baclofen and stretching for as long as necessary. I have to get functional again before the house sells because I've got to be able to pack.

Now, no more crises before I move.

Rave of the Day for August 17, 2006: 

My first weekly contribution to But You Don't Look Sick has been posted. If this review gives you a sense of deja vu, it's because it's a variation of what I originally wrote for this blog last month. But I'm including it here for those of you who might have missed it the first time around....

Movie Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

I have already finished a review of the "Catch Me If You Can" 2 disc DVD set. I will probably also re-write a few of my blog reviews of DVDs I saw recently. I've got some ideas for product reviews and possibly a recipe or two since those are getting very popular on the site.

I really like doing the movie reviews because it gives me a chance to be a couch potato in the name of "research", heh heh.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Still breathing..... 

This morning, I tried to get to get in to see someone to fix my back. None of my former doctor's offices would even let me make an appointment because my new insurance wouldn't cover them! i thought at least they would allow me in if I paid out of pocket. It really angers that after three months of working with them on my back, all of a sudden I can't get treatment. So I made an appointment for tomorrow with my massage therapist and chiropractor. I've always paid out of pocket to see them. I think the osteopath would be better for me, but I guess I can't be picky anymore.

I went to my regular aquacise today. I iced my back and took a Skelaxin (a non-sedating muscle relaxant) first. It hurt like hell to do the stretches, but I just went slow, and eventually some of my muscles did loosen up. I ran one errand: I went to Wally World for more Icy Hot patches. Other than that, I've been on the couch most of the day, putting ice on my back every few hours. I'm able to walk around a little better now, but I'm still getting very sudden violent spasms that take my breath away. I'm hoping that the massage and chiropractic adjustment tomorrow is all I need.

Makes me wonder, with so much agony from a little bitty dislocation of a joint, how the hell do people with ruptured disks, broken bones, or any major injury stand it? This actually hurts worse than my week-long migraine did, I think because at least with the migraine, I could still walk around. This hurts worse than the infected tooth that needed the root canal, hurts worse than my post-surgeries, and is right up there with the gall bladder that needed emergency surgery. Thank God I opted not to have kids. Childbirth probably would have driven me stark raving mad.

Just call me the wondrous wimp woman.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A pain I can't tune out..... 

Have you ever hurt so bad that you sweat uncontrollably? Hurt so bad that you have to remind yourself to breathe? Hurt so bad that you literally scream when touched? That is where I am right now, and have been since yesterday morning. Have been typing blog entries to try to distract myself, but it's about as effective as ignoring the elephant in the room when he's standing on your foot.

Best as my primary care doc can figure out, what must have happened is that I overdid it with the yard and home maintenance. She thinks that perhaps on Sunday, when I was pulling weeds, instead of reaching straight forward while doing it, I may have been turned at an angle while tugging on something. That alone would be sufficient to knock my already fragile right SI joint back out of alignment. She says it's possible for a slight dislocation to not be noticeable until the next day. So that would explain why it was on Monday morning right before aquacise when I got a very sudden huge spasm in my lower back.

Now, I get muscle spasms all the time and know they can be helped by gentle stretching, so I proceeded with my class as usual. It seemed to help for a bit, and then I started getting worse toward the end. Shortly after I got out of the pool, I started getting knife-like pain in my right hip to accompany the "dagger" just above and to the right of my tailbone. And it just went downhill from there.

I tried resting on the couch with my feet elevated and my knees pulled up to release the pressure on my back. I tried Icy Hot. I tried Valium. I took extra fish oil capsules. I took a long hot shower. Nothing even made a dent in the pain. By 10pm, I was in tears, wishing in vain that I could tolerate narcotics so I could go to the ER and maybe get an injection to stop the spasms. Somehow, Lunesta combined with the Valium did enable me to sleep for awhile.

I awoke this morning feeling much better. And then I moved, and the spasms came flooding back, even worse than before. The pain was traveling down the sciatic nerve, all the way down to the foot. And it traveled to my left side, I guess so it wouldn't feel negelected. And it began traveling up my back for good measure. That fibromyalgia's specialty, to greatly enhance any ouchie.

Desperate to loosen the muscles, I did the stretches I learned in PT when I was rehabbing the SI joint. I found that I physically couldn't move my legs in a certain direction, not so much because of pain but because they seemed to get stuck. That's when I realized that my back was no longer aligned properly.

I had to get a friend to drive me to the primary care doc's office because I was too busy crying and sweating and trying not to scream. Unfortunately, all the doc could do was to recommend ice packs and Baclofen and urge me to get to the osteopath. So I will make an appointment tomorrow, even though it will not be covered by my new insurance.

I've iced my back a few times, and it helps a tiny bit. And I've taken two Baclofen, which normally would knock me out to the point of being incoherent, but tonight it barely takes the edge off enough for me to be able to type this. I'm hoping I'm not looking at weeks of more therapy, especially since I'm no longer covered for it (I will be once I move to South Dakota).

The most frustrating part is that I still have a house to sell here. Dan is 600 miles away and can't help me. I have to be able to function well enough to organize a move once someone makes an offer on the house. That offer may come tomorrow, or it might come sometime around Christmas since it's taking an average of four to six months to sell in my area.

In the meantime, I guess all I can do is breathe in, breathe out.

Bonus Rave of the Day for August 15, 2006: 

Hooray! Here's another movie parody performed by bunnies in 30 seconds. Link courtesy of Ducky....

Office Space

My Links list also contains the rest of 30 Second Bunny Theatre. Enjoy!

Rave of the Day for August 15, 2006: 

Never expected to find a story about my former school in "Business Week"! My sister sent this to me. Apparently, my old school district is trying a new system of allowing students (well, their parents, probably) a choice of what school they want to attend.

A School Makeover in Mapleton

During the year I graduated, 1982, the district was composed mostly of large Italian and Latino families with high achievement rates. Everything fell apart when they merged my high school with another during the late 1980's to form the Skyview High School mentioned in the article. Glad to see the district is attempting a comeback.

I just realized that 2007 will be 25 years since I graduated! Yet I don't act a day over 24, heh heh.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A few (ok, several) words from Ms. Crankybutt, my alter ego: 

As everyone is probably aware, there was another potential disaster averted in our "friendly" skies this past week. This time, the plan was to bring explosives onto commercial airplanes in ordinary-looking containers such as sport drink bottles and ignite them once the flight was nearing its destination. The targets were flights leaving from London and arriving in the US.

Following this discovery, there of course was the expected panic as emergency measures were taken. Many British flights were cancelled, and in the US, passengers were not allowed any carry-ons containing liquids or gels, such as drinking water, toothpaste, makeup, etc. All of this is perfectly understandable given the situation. But what about the future of security screening?

The pattern that is occurring is obvious: every time terrorists succeed or even attempt a new method of destruction a commercial airline, the response is to punish all passengers with new rules and searches rather than implement improved technology for screenings, technology which already exists but is not being widely used. We've had FIVE YEARS to implement proper security measures since the bombings in New York and at the Pentagon. Yet we'd still rather freak out about someone forgetting to put their nail scissors into their checked bag than put together a unified list of known terrorists. The attempted shoe bombing was also a few years ago, yet we're still being asked to remove our shoes, especially if they have gel inserts. Dan and I needed to fly somepleace when Dan was in a walking cast with a broken foot awaiting surgery. He was required to remove the cast, have it run through the x-ray machine, then walk through the scanner on a broken foot! And now we cannot take a factory sealed bottle of drinking water through security. This doesn't bode well for people like me with ailments that dehydrate them and require not only drinking water at all times, but also over the counter eye drops and a personal humidifier aboard the plane (you have to put water in the humidfier for it to work). And heaven forbid you should have to travel in a wheelchair. At times, I've been made to get out of the chair so it could be thoroughly searched by hand. Luckily, I was healthy enough to do so. But what about passengers who haven't the strength to get out of their chair?

At the rate we are going, terrorists are going to find a way to bomb a plane with ordinary clothing, prompting dress codes and/or searches requiring passengers to disrobe. I swear, TSA ain't gonna be happy until we all get strip searches prior to boarding a plane. Why not throw in free anal probes for good measure? I know, that was in poor taste, but I am fed up with the ineptitude of the agencies that are supposedly protecting us.

There are ways to individually screen each passenger without them having to remove a single item of clothing. I've seen demonstrations of the "puffer" devices that electronically scan a person for explosives. Very efficient. Yet there are fewer than forty of them in actual use. Why? The excuse is that they are expensive. There are also hand-held monitors that can scan the contents of anything containing liquid; these can tell the screener if a bottle of water actually holds water or something else. The fact is, the idea of using a liquid explosive on board a plane is at least TEN years old, yet the screening devices to detect these liquids are still in the testing phase.

I personally would be more than willing to pay, say, an extra ten bucks each time I fly to pay for the "puffer" scanners and the liquid ID monitors to be installed at all US airports. And I think most Americans would do the same. If each plane ticket cost ten bucks more, it would easily cover the cost of this technology. We're still paying "9/11" fees; why not go ahead and upgrade?

Yeah, I know my anger should be directed at the terrorists, but in a way, we're letting them win. I'm tired of being punished for it.

Rave of the Day for August 14, 2006: 

Don't know if you caught it in the "comments" section or not, but I was informed that Geri Jewell, who has cerebal palsy, was a stand-up comic long before Josh Blue won "Last Comic Standing". Apparently, she also had a recurring role on "The Facts of Life" (which I admit I never watched) and is now on "Deadwood" (which I have not seen because I don't have access to HBO). Here are a couple of articles about her sent to me by my friend Robert....

The HUMOR project

Jewell in the rough: Salon

Also, he pointed me to a site with some very handy information:

TV shows on DVD

I've bookmarked that last link because I think it would be fun to find out what awful shows from my youth can be found on DVD. I admit I am also curious about the shows that were actually good. Plus, it may give me ideas for shows I can review for But You Don't Look Sick.

Guess I've led a sheltered life.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Local readers, take note! 

This may be of interest to those of you within an easy drive of Estes Park, or who have the freedom to do an impromptu long-distance road trip. I really wish I could go.....

Netflix Rolling Road Show

The Captain's Blog author is going to the one for "Field of Dreams". Sounds like a good time to me.

The long, slow summer continues..... 

The realtor called me back yesterday. Said that there still is someone interested in the house, but this person is still working on the financing before making an offer. So, no progress really from a week and a half ago. I have not had a showing in over a week, the first time since the house went on the market. I would think with school starting in a few weeks that this would be the time people with children would make offers. My house is only two blocks from an elementary school, so a lot of people with kids have been looking. I think if people stop picking up brochures and I don't get at least one showing next week that maybe it's time to look at dropping the price. Not that I want less money, especially since the house is already priced $20,000 below its real value and $6000 below the taxable value, but I don't want to still be stuck here by myself when the holidays come around. Interest in house hunting starts declining in the fall, and drops to almost zero in November and December. I'm not looking forward to living in South Dakota, but financially speaking, I'd better get a move on if I don't want to go bankrupt.

Because we seem to be at a lull as far as selling the house goes, i told Dan to just go ahead and book a flight here for Labor Day weekend. It's only three weeks away, and there's no telling how long it will be before I get to see him again if he doesn't take advantage of having the holiday off work. So Dan the Man will be home! Yayyyyyyy! Chip will absolutely go nuts. We talked about what we would do while he was here. As nice as it would be to go to the mountains, everyone else in town will be doing the same thing, and I don't want to waste a day sitting on the highway when I want to be out taking pix of the fall colors (fall comes early at high elevation). There is an outdoor festival going on downtown, but it's a real pain to navigate it in a wheelchair. So we might go to a movie if there's anything playing that we really want to see. And we will go out to eat at P.F. Chang's. It's the only Asian restaurant I know of that has a clue about gluten free food, and they don't have the chain in Sioux Falls, so I'd better get my fill while I'm still here, heh heh. The rest of the time will probably be spent hanging around the house, playing with the pup. Can you believe it has been three months since I've seen my husband?

My sister and her husband came by last night and took me to the Outback for dinner. It was really nice to be out of the house for something besides a showing, aquacise or grocery shopping. It's the first time I remember getting together for no particular reason since my mom died nine years ago. My family just basically meets with me for holidays, weddings, birthdays, funerals and help with moving heavy objects. But I think my sister is one of the few who is actually sad about the fact that once I leave, I won't be back, or at least she is the only relative who has expressed this aloud. And the timing of me moving is really a bummer, because she just got married last year, and I won't be here when she and her husband start their family. I'll just be this distant aunt who doesn't get to spend time with her nieces and nephews. It's upsetting to think about missing out on that. But we had a good time at dinner last night.

Talked to the account rep for the storage company who was trying for the third month in a row to overcharge me. She said they are in the midst of switching to a new computer system, and it has double-billed EVERYONE. So I confirmed the amount I really need to pay this month to make sure i won't be getting any past due notices on amounts that I never did owe. Don't ya love technology?

Almost done with the layouts for the 2004 photo album. I'm getting excited about this one because it will probably be the best one I've ever done. I mean, I've got pix of dolphins, palm trees and an adorable niece, so how can I go wrong? I'm trying to focus on it to distract me from being burned out and depressed about how long it's taking to sell the house.

I did submit my first weekly review for But You Don't Look Sick last night. I took my recent blog post about "Pirates" 2 and modified it. Actually, the more I think about how many movies I've been watching, the more I realize I really might be able to accomplish weekly reviews. And the practice would be good for me in case I do get healthy enough to start freelancing for pay sometime in the future. So I will give it a shot, at least until the house sells and I have to start packing. All the writing experts say that if you want to be a writer for a living, you need to write every day, whether you feel inspired or not. And that's part of the reason for this blog, writing to exercise my brain.

And now that my brain has been properly stretched, I must go see about feeding it.

Rave of the Day for August 11, 2006: 

I've received the poem in e-mails several times, but this is the first time I've seen it set to music and photographs. Thanks to Joan for this.....

The Dash

In printer's terms, there are different types of dashes. The "em" dash is the longest. I hope I get one of those.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hooray for Josh Blue! 

He WON the "Last Comic Standing" competition tonight! i guess the next time he performs at my local comedy club, he'll be the headliner. He was the opening act for a couple of years, and I saw him perform several times, so I already knew how good he was. I'm just pleased as hell that the rest of the country got to find out too. Part of his prize is that he gets his own standup special on Bravo. Guess I'd better get cable before it airs, heh heh.

I think all the exposure is going to have the added bonus of making cerebal palsy more known to the general public, which will be a good thing, because people will be less intimidated by it. By watching Josh Blue onstage, they could easily see that here was an intelligent man who just happened to have a body (in his case, his right arm was most visibly affected) that was less than cooperative or predictable. I know that when I was a teen, I initially made the mistake of thinking that my classmate with cerebal palsy was not intelligent because I could not understand anything he said (his speech was greatly affected). But then I saw some things he had written and realized how smart and funny he really was. And I developed respect for him because he wouldn't take any shit from anyone. If someone was rude to him, he would pop a wheelie in his wheelchair and land it right on the offender's foot! Josh Blue reminds me of my classmate because he too has made peace with his condition and encourages us to laugh with him when something is truly funny. Laughter is therapeutic for us all.

There are very few celebrities with either visible or invisible disabilities, and I think that gives the false impression that you have to look perfect or have perfect health to be entertaining. I know a lot of brilliant disabled people who feel forgotten by the world. I remember reading Michael J. Fox's autobiography and thinking how sad it was that he initially felt he had to hide his Parkinson's because it would end his career. And Montel Williams had the same mindset when first diagnosed with MS. The fact is, talent is talent. As long as your choice of career doesn't worsen your disability, I say go for it. You may encounter a lot of resistance, but you may pave the way for others who are too inimidated to shine.

Yayyyyyyy, Josh!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More ramblings on a meltdown..... 

On Monday, I went to the massage therapist and chiropractor. I was still getting pain down the left side of my neck and into my shoulder from that fender bender two months ago, so I asked the massage therapist to just focus on my neck and tops of my shoulders for the entire hour. The scalene muscles seemed to be the main culprit, and it definitely was not an easy fix. Every time she would resolve one trigger point, she'd find another one right under or next to it. And they were nasty knots! There were a few that when she pressed on them, I would get intense pain shooting throughout the shoulder and down the arm. It was a massive challenge to endure the agony until the knots released, but I knew it had to be done, or my neck would never get better. When she was done, I was kinda dizzy, which usually happens when I have major myofascial therapy done. I think it's caused by the toxins that are released from the muscles. And my shoulders felt like they were sitting about five inches lower than usual, which made me really clumsy for a few hours. I had no idea my neck muscles had tightened up my shoulders that much! I made sure I drank a lot of water the rest of the day and put moist heat on my neck at bedtime. The scalene muscles are incredibly sore now and actually feel bruised, but I'm not getting pain referring into my shoulder or arm anymore, so I think it was worth it. I put an Icy Hot patch on my neck last night, which did help. And aquacise this morning was good because we always do gentle neck and shoulder stretching in the nice warm pool. I think I may be on my way to full recovery from the accident, finally.

The claims rep for the insurance company of the lady who hit me called yesterday and started asking if I had any pre-existing conditions. I admitted to the fibromyalgia. This will probably result in the company refusing to pay my medical bills, but what am I supposed to do, lie? I did make it clear to her, though, that I did NOT have have this particular sharp pain on the left side of my neck and shoulder prior to the accident, which is the absolute truth. I hate fibromyalgia, because you can blame just about anything on it.

Is it just me, or has this been one long ass summer? And too freakin' hot, at least it was today and yesterday. My neighbor/friend went with me to the grocery store yesterday because I needed bottled water, and it's too heavy for me to buy more than a couple of days' worth at once without help. But when we got there, all the electric carts (all two of them) were in use, so my friend had to shop for me while I waited in the car. Even with the A/C on, I got too overheated in the car and pretty much wiped myself out. I had planned to pull some weeds in the evening, but I could hardly move my butt off the couch after I got home except to eat and pee. Yuck. I only had my friend buy the absolutely vital stuff (water, seltzer water, eggs and braunschweiger to hide the dog's pills in), so I will still need to go another time to get the rest. Maybe tomorrow.

I have now put all the page covers on my 2002/2003 photo album, so it is ready to be viewed by the public. I always put covers on the pages to protect them from fingerprints and to keep the photos and other items on the pages from snagging. I have also done layouts for half of my 2004 pix. It occurs to me that I'm really going to be glad I bought the solid colored paper because I have some really busy background sheets for my Hawaii pix with pineapples and palm trees on them. If I just put the pix directly on the background paper, they won't really stand out much. But if I put a small frame around each photo of a solid color, it will help separate the photo from the pattern and should look much nicer. I may try to finish the layouts tonight if my brain isn't too fried. I'd like to start actually assembling the 2004 album this weekend.

Have been steadily going through my CD boxed sets and adding songs to my (new) iTunes collection. Actually, I'm nearly done; after the Bob Dylan set I'm listening to now, the only one that remains is the Led Zeppelin set (saving the best for last, ya know). I've got over 800 songs in iTunes now, pretty impressive since I have at least a couple hundred CDs in storage that haven't had any songs copied yet. I think after I finish the boxed sets, I may visit the iTunes music store and compile a "wish list" of songs I'm going to download when I get a proper internet connection. There will be many songs from 2006, and then I think I'll return to my old project of making pop music playlists by decade. Before the hard drive crashed, I had gotten all the way through the '90's and was nearly finished with the '80's. So I'll embark upon the '70's and go backward from there. I think the Billboard lists on iTunes go all the way through the 1950's and may even cover the late 1940's. But I'm not terribly familiar with material that was recorded prior to the rock era, so my playlists may not go back that far. Believe it or not, I developed a fondness for big band music when I had to air it on a radio station in Topeka during the 1980's. Problem is, I don't remember much about who recorded what.

Have been going onto my old fibromyalgia website the past few weeks and updating some stuff, removing dead links, etc. I had taken all the links to my photo pages and my pre-diagnosis journals off of there while I was applying for disability, but now I'm ready to put them back on. And I'd like to tie my old book reviews to the stuff I've done for But You Don't Look Sick, and add other current material. But I only have so much online time during a day, so the progress is slow going. I want to eventually add a significant amount of material to my spiritual website as well. And I will be making more current photo pages when I get a proper internet connection, and I'd like to make a page for my old poetry. All In good time, I suppose.

Left a message for my realtor asking whether or not the person who was interested in my house has made any progress getting financing or if there is any additional interest. After I hear back from her, Dan and I can decide whether or not he should fly out here for Labor Day weekend. I have a feeling that since I haven't heard anything for a week and a half, I am probably not any closer to selling the house. I really hate the waiting and the not knowing.

Got a call from my sister tonight asking if I wanted to go out to dinner tomorrow night. I said sure, because I haven't been to a sit down restaurant since my brother-in-law's birthday in June. We're gonna do the Outback. Mmmmmm, steak.

Hope I hear from the realtor tomorrow, and that she has some good news.

This is your brain on meltdown.... 

If this post rambles more than usual, please forgive me. I'm exhausted, my brain is fried, and I'm not sleeping well. When I do sleep, I have nightmares about plane crashes, going bankrupt because the house didn't sell, etc. I must be stressed, ya think?

Got an e-mail from the webmistress of But You Don't Look Sick yesterday requesting weekly submissions of articles. I originally volunteered to be contributing writer a year and a half ago because she only asked for monthy contributions, which I felt I could handle. But committing to weekly....um, wouldn't that be similar to having a job? If I was confident I could write well every week, I would look into freelancing for pay instead of being on SSDI. But to be fair, I do put something in this blog almost every day, and no one's paying me for that. And there is a new section on the site for TV/movie reviews, which is something I already do right here. So maybe I'll just copy some of my blog entries and submit them as reviews for But You Don't Look Sick. I mean, I am already the cut and paste queen. Many of my posts here are actually reprints of e-mails I have sent to friends and family, or else I compose the entry during the day when I have to be offline and post it at night when I can be online. A lot of that stems not from laziness, but from limited use of my hands to type and limited time I can sit at a computer desk. So maybe it wouldn't be such a stretch to just spread my words around a little more. Let the whole world know what I thought of "Pirates of the Caribbean" instead of limiting it to readers of this blog. It's just the committment part that makes me hesitate. I would rather seem callous and not commit than make a promise that there's a chance I can't keep.

Found the form I needed to get reimbursement for my flexible spending account expenses I incurred in June and July. Problem is, even though the required documentation is here with me, the form must be signed by Dan! So I filled out eight forms (one for each provider of service) except for the required signature, attached the necessary receipts, and mailed them to Dan so he can in turn mail them to the flexible spending account company after he's signed off on them. A rather pain in the ass way to get back $900, but sometimes, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

But I will admit that the knowledge of money (eventually) coming my way can be dangerous. I managed to rationalize a trip to Archiver's, the local scrapbooking store. Now, I DID need page covers for my recently completed album, and I DID have a 25 percent off coupon, but just setting foot in that store is akin to handing a stoner a joint and asking them not to inhale. When I was working, I could go in there and spend $100 and not bat an eyelash. So there I am surrounded by adorable stickers, beautiful background paper, themed album packs....you get the idea. I made a beeline for the page covers, but couldn't bring myself to just tiptoe to the cash register with them, not yet. The clearance bins were beckoning. I managed to escape temptation there. But then I saw a whole rack of new kinds of adhesives, and I found myself browsing and making the circuit around the store. I oooh'd and aaaah'd over the purple background paper with butterflies on it, almost talked myself into buying a wedding themed packet (for my sister's wedding photos last year), then saw stickers for announcing a baby girl. I decided I did need the stickers for my niece's birth announcement. Then I found a really enticing packet of all occasion background paper, stickers and lettering, but I made myself put it away. I realized that a simple packet of non-patterned paper would be both cheaper and would have many more uses, especially since I had almost no non-patterned paper left at home. I picked that up and was distracted by something else, but then I started getting really awful back spasms and realized I had probably been in that store for half an hour! I marched myself over to the checkout so there would still be a chance of me being able to get back to the car without collapsing. With the coupon, I spent less than $20 total for the cover sheets, stickers and background paper. Just buying a single album costs more than that. So I'm vacillating between feeling guilty that I went and proud that I spent so little.

Thought I had my problems solved with the company that is storing my belongings, but apparently not. In June, I was charged for five storage units when I was only using two. Through a major brain fart on my part, perhaps thinking I was paying for multiple months of service, I paid the full bill. Then when I got the bill for July for five units, I realized they were expecting me to pay two and a half times the proper amount every month. I called the billing office, which was in Texas, and they didn't have a clue, but they connnected me to someone local, and she apologized for the error and said she would credit my account for what I had overpaid. Then this month, not only did I get a bill for two storage units when I should have credit for half this month's bill already, I got ANOTHER statement saying I was overdue on the previous month! So, in essence, they are STILL charging me for the amount five units would have cost, when all I owe them is half the monthly charge for August. I don't think it's the local lady's fault; I'm pretty sure it's the Texas billing office that doesn't have its shit together.

Have more to say, but my hands and exhausted body insist that it's bedtime.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 7, 2006: 

Got this from Ricky Buchanan's journal. The author does quote Ricky's "Not Done Living!" website and excerpts from her journal. This gives a good overview of how CFS/ME is viewed outside the US and just how serious it can be.....

Cruelty of chronic fatigue

Yes, people actually do die from complications of CFS/ME. Yet, this ailment is still commonly thought of a laziness or some sort of mental failing on the part of the patient. Last I checked, laziness wasn't fatal.

I hope to see more articles along these lines, because the more awareness about CFS/ME there is, the better.

Well, so much for the prednisone..... 

The improvement in mobility and lessening of neuropathy was all too brief. By Friday, I was back to that awful awkward stiff-legged walk, heaviness in my chest, and those nasty random sharp pains in my lower legs and feet that feel like being struck by lightning. And the fatigue is as a bad as ever. I could not get out of bed until 1:30 yesterday! Thank goodness there hadn't been a showing scheduled for the afternoon. I'm only halfway through the summer, but I'm going to have to find some way to endure the rest of it, and perhaps even longer depending on when this house sells.

The right SI joint is growing more and more painful despite doing my exercise faithfully. I really wish I'd been able to get those injections in June. By the time I get moved, I'll probably have to start the PT, osteopath and physiatrist stuff all over again (assuming Sioux Falls has such specialists). Argh.

Well, at least I did have showings on Wednesday and Thursday. Have not heard back yet on whether the person who was trying to get financing obtained it or not. I think I will call the realtor on Monday. Still trying to decide whether we should fly Dan back out here Labor Day weekend. The practical part of me says to save the money in case we still have a long wait until the house sells. The selfish part of me says screw the money, this is my marriage we're talking about, and it has been entirely too long since I've seen Dan.

Still waging the battle of the weeds in the yard! If only I had the stamina to just go out there and spend a whole day back there, I could get it all done and relax. But since I can only pull weeds for a half hour or so per day, I never really get caught up. At the moment, I've got the grass pretty much weed free and am working on the areas around the bushes where the cedar mulch is. The gravel and patio areas have been sprayed with weed killer, which has been probably 75 percent effective. I'm gonna have to go around again sometime soon to get the stragglers. And yesterday, I decided to clip off the neighbors plants that have been growing through the fence into my yard. I don't understand why they planted bushes and trees right up against the fence anyway. The front actually looks good since I fertilized it. I'm using a different brand of weed killer (it's not pet-friendly) in the front gravel areas and driveway, and it works very well. The only real eyesore out front is the damaged tree, but I don't have the cash to replace it, so it will just have to do.

Ok, I have tried the new Boost nutritional drinks made for diabetics, and I just don't like the taste as well as their high protein formula. So I will drink the remaining boxes of the diabetic formula and not buy any more. Besides, I tend to use a High Protein Boost as a full meal replacement whereas the Diabetic Boost only has enough carbs to make it a snack. I could see, though, where the diabetic formula would be handy to keep around for those times where you need just enough to bring your energy level back up, like, say, after a workout. I will say that all the formulas of Boost are pretty damned pricey, and really, the most practical thing would be to just eat a healthy diet. If only that were possible for me. Between the gluten free products, the supplements, the organic food and the Boost, I'm one expensive woman.

Speaking of expensive food, Friday I went to the health food store. My friend was nice enough to drive because I was pretty wiped out. I did buy what I went for, but also took a detour to the bulk foods section. Found some dried papaya there. I really miss the fresh papaya I had in Hawaii, and I knew this would not be nearly the same, but I was curious as to whether it would settle my stomach like the fresh stuff does. I bought a small bag and split it with my friend. It tastes pretty decent, so I might have have some for dessert from time to time and see if it has any effect on my tummy.

Watched a couple of movies with my friend Friday night: the original "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn and "The Truth About Cats and Dogs". I've seen both several times, but that was a good thing because my brain was too fried to comprehend any complicated plots. It's a bit of an odd combination to see them back to back, but one could do worse. Last night I watched "Insomnia". I thought it was very good but not great. I found myself wishing they had gone a little deeper into Al Pacino's character's psyche and made Robin Williams a little less innocuous in person. He was plenty creepy on the phone, and that was cool. I would watch it again, but probably not several times.

Did finally hear back from the COBRA administrator, and she has gotten things straightened out with our flexible spending account company. So now I can start submitting the $900 worth of qualified medical expenses I incurred during June and July. That is, if I can find the proper forms. I'll be glad when I am done dealing with these FSA guys. They have been a major pain in the ass the past few years we've had them. Dan will qualify for FSA benefits with his new employer next year, but it will be with a different company, one I hope will be easier to deal with.

Did finally finish reading the entire "Chronicles of Narnia". Excellent stuff, particularly "The Last Battle" with its surprise ending. What I don't really get are the freaked-out parents banning their children from the Harry Potter material, stating that it is somehow the work of the devil because it features magic and mythical creatures. Of course, if these parents had actually read the books or seen the movies, they would know how absurd that belief is. This is merely the stuff of good story-telling, plain and simple. Yet children are encouraged to read "Narnia" and/or watch "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". Yes, I realize that Aslan is a thinly disguised Jesus, but there are still plenty of mythical creatures and magical occurrences to compare to "Harry Potter". I hope than when my nieces are old enough to read them, they will enjoy both "Narnia" and "Potter".

So now I have a gap in my summer reading. I have medical texts I should be perusing with a review for But You Don't Look Sick in mind, but I am too stressed to get much out of anything complicated right now. So I looked through some of the books that used to belong to Dan's uncle and picked up James Herriot's "Dog Stories". Fifty canine short stories; I think that's more my speed right now. I may also read the other four Herriot books in my bookcase after this.

Talked to Dan today; he has toured a few more homes. One that we thought had real possibility was a disappointment. It had photographed well, but when he saw it in person, he noticed there were dents in the walls that needed patching, lots of stains on the carpet, and the kitchen was at least 30 years old and nothing had been updated. He thought it would work as a fixer-upper only, and we're trying to avoid those. He's gonna go to a few open houses today and let me know if he sees anything worthwhile. He was also happy to report that he found out that the local grocery DOES carry gluten free products, but you have to know where to look. Apparently, they're in a certain section cut off from everything else. And there aren't a lot of choices, but it's better than no choices at all. What I could do is get whatever I can from the regular grocery, and if they are missing anything vital, I can pop into the health food store once a month for the rest, which is pretty much what I do now. Dan says he's hardly seeing any supplements, though, so I may have to mail order those.

Good news: I FINALLY finished the 2002/2003 photo album! Yayyyy! Now I can get to work on the 2004 pix, which will easily take up an entire album. I already have all the photos printed out and have determined which ones will go on which page and have written titles and captions. I still need to do layouts. Basically, when I'm scrapbooking, that amounts to figuring out what background paper, stickers or other items will go with the photos on each page. After I've done layouts for each page, then I finally start putting the pages together in chronological order. So maybe the next time I see my mother-in-law, I can actually show her the stuff from our trip to Hawaii.

Have had more than enough typing, even with lots of breaks. Gonna go see what Chip D. Dog is up to.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 5, 2006: 

Yet another blog I've found via My Disability Blog. This one is written by a lawyer, and covers everything Social Security, from A to Z.

Social Security News

I have to admit that some of the information is over my head, but I have found some very useful news here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 4, 2006: 

To celebrate the impending "dog days of summer" (or are we in them already?), thought I'd post these links about dogs and whether they laugh and/or have a sense of humor. Got them from the Petcentric newsletter. See if these don't put a smile on your face....

Do dogs have a sense of humor?

Does your dog have a sense of humor?

A sense of humor?

Laughing dogs caught in the act

Do dogs laugh?

I don't know if Chip can tell a joke, exactly, but he definitely knows when to be silly and when to be serious. When I tell him that he's silly, he prances around and makes a sound very similar to that described as a laugh. Of course, you'd almost have to be nutty to live in my household, heh heh.

Oh, and for good measure, I'm gonna put "The Dog Daily" and "WOOF! Dog Stories" on my links list.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Rave of the Day for August 2, 2006: 

Came across this in Earthlink's monthly newsletter. There are lots of tips, and if you're not into taking pix yourself, you can just enjoy the photographs on the site.

Digital Photography School

I'll be adding this one to my Links list.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chiming in on the Mel Gibson debacle..... 

I don't often comment in this blog about celebrities, and I was just gonna let this whole thing blow over, but Mr. Gibson keeps bringing up the incident himself, and now people are encouraging boycotts of his films, so I have been thinking about it more than a little. I have not exactly taken sides, but I do have some opinions to express. And it occurs to me that perhaps my readers would like something more from me than complaints about headaches, heh heh.

Anyway, in case you've been offline or in a power outage or in a cave, it would appear Mr. Gibson got drunk recently, a bit over the legal limit in California, and attempted to drive while intoxicated. He took offense at being detained and subsequently arrested. That in itself would be embarrassing to be sure. But he was so furious that he said some rather inflammatory things. Yeah, that happens to a lot of people who are arrested while drunk. They take out their indignation on the cops. But he wasn't just calling the arresting officer an asshole or whatever. He both threatened the police and went off about how he hated Jews. Here is a link to an article that tells the tale better than I do:

Gibson's Anti-Semitic Tirade -- Alleged Cover-Up

I will start off by saying that I'm very liberal and do a poor job at being politically correct. So I will admit that when I read that Mel Gibson called a female cop "sugar tits", I laughed. Yes, it's a sexist term, and I should be offended or whatever, but I really do find it funny. I have myself been called much worse by someone who was drunk and have just pointedly ignored the comment. If that's all Mel said and did, he could have said later that he was joking at the time and now realizes it was a jest in poor taste. Some people would still be offended, of course, because America has more than its share of self-righteous, overly sensitive people, but the majority would have just made light of it, and eventually Mr. Gibson would be able to go back to his self-proclaimed ownership of Malibu.

But I will admit I found the other things he said and did to be much less amusing. He did not appear to be joking when he said he hated Jews and wanted to know if the arresting officer was Jewish. Nor did his threats to ruin lives and bring down the police department appear to be in jest, even in the absence of any such power. And that is the part that had me thinking: is Mel Gibson really anti-Semitic? I believe the answer to be yes.

Ok, so he was drunk when he said it. But I have spent enough time in bars and around drunk individuals to know that bigotry doesn't exist in a vacuum. What is said by an intoxicated individual is often a gross exaggeration of what they really feel, but somewhere in their subconscious, there is a tiny kernel of truth to what they say. When a person is put under hypnosis, they will say things they are normally too inhibited to say, but they will not outright lie or ever do things that they haven't the slightest inclination to do. You can't force a person under hypnosis to commit murder if they are 100 percent opposed to the idea. Alcohol also removes inhibitions. But it doesn't create bigotry where none existed. Now, Mr. Gibson may not have consciously been anti-Semitic, but subconsciously, it was there all along, and the righteous indignation that accompanies too much alcohol caused him to speak what may have been hiding within. I also suspect Mel isn't the only anti-Semitic celebrity. It's just that the rest of them have up to this point been wise enough (and sober enough) to keep their mouths shut in public.

It occurs to me that perhaps Mr. Gibson was upset about the goings-on in Israel and Lebanon. I'm upset about the violence too. But never in a million years would I decide that because I don't agree with Israel's tactics that all Jews are to blame or are even necessarily in support of what is going on there. Maybe Mel Gibson made that misguided leap in judgement, though. Or perhaps I'm wrong and he really dislikes Jewish people all the time. Either way, it's a damned shame that he is so narrow-minded.

Some of my readers are going to think I'm cutting him too much slack. Maybe. But I don't think anyone could say with 100 percent certainty that they have no bias. Bias is part of being human. One would hope that the majority of people do see the harm in making blanket judgments about entire races, religions or sexual orientation. I do try to avoid this kind of judgement myself. But I have relatives that are racist, homophobic and intolerant of other religions. I will not name names here, and to be fair, the family members that were the worst offenders are now deceased. I do not hate my bigoted family members. I still love them, but I DO hate their bigotry. How do I deal with my hatred of their intolerance? I avoid all conversation about it. Yes, that's the chicken shit way out. I'm not proud of it. But I keep my mouth shut to keep the peace. It does occur to me, quite often in fact, that I am indirectly harming minorities, gays and other cultures by not standing up for them and telling my relatives how I really feel. But were I to do so, I would permanently harm my relationship with my family, and I expect certain relatives would never speak to me again. While at times I am tempted to be honest and take the risk and relieve the guilt of my silence, I have not yet found the courage to do so. I wonder if my creator is disappointed in me? I know I am disappointed in myself.

So, will I boycott Mel Gibson's films? Truth is, I haven't made up my mind about that. I'll probably still watch the ones I have in my home. Lord knows I listen to a lot of music by artists who had addictions or did unsavory things (I'm listening to "The End" by The Doors at the moment). And I still watch movies starring actors who have made complete asses of themselves at some point in their lives. I tend to separate the private person from their product. But will I see his films differently now that a darker side of him has been revealed? Probably only one.

I was taken to see "The Passion of the Christ" by my in-laws, both of whom are pastors. They felt I needed to see it. I was curious about it, so I did not object. I was not sorry I saw it, but it did occur to me while viewing it that it seemed very narrow-minded. There was a tunnel vision to it that seemed almost sinister. Now, I have seen many controversial movies, and I figure film-makers are entitled to their own opinions, so I took this movie as Mel Gibson's viewpoint. I was not offended, but I felt no desire to see it again. Once was enough for me. On the way home, my in-laws wanted to discuss the movie, the importance and the truth of it. I refused to talk about it because I knew I would offend them if I told them what I really thought, which that it was just one interpretation of the last days of Jesus and not one I agreed with. Did I agree with the allegations at that time that Mel Gibson was anti-Semitic? Not exactly, but I could see where the criticism was coming from. Now I realize the critics were perhaps onto something.

Am I going to forgive Mel Gibson? I admit that him going into rehab and getting some help is a step in the right direction. But I would have a lot more respect for him if he would just quit trying to put a spin on the situation and be honest. I could respect someone that said, "Hey, I have an anger problem and am going to psychological counseling to find out why and how to resolve it". I do hope he does get proper psychological help in rehab. Even if he kicks the booze habit, the underlying hatred will remain unless it is addressed. So until I hear that he has completed proper counseling, I will consider him to be a bigot. A bigot whose movies I like for the most part, but a bigot nevertheless.

I'm still gonna chuckle at the "sugar tits" comment, though.

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