Friday, September 29, 2006

Digging deeper into the shortcomings of my new insurance..... 

Dan's new health insurance has limitations beyond what I expected, at least in the realm of prescription med coverage. While I can go see any doctor on their list without a referral (which is a great relief considering how many specialists I need), when it comes to medications, they basically won't pay for anything that's not mainstream or dirt cheap. If only I could comply and be either completely healthy or not have anything but mainstream ailments.

I knew I might be in for some trouble when I acquired a short list of their formulary. I didn't expect everything I take to be on there as I have a grand total of 19 medications; 12 of them are taken on a regular basis and the other 7 on an as needed basis. And I figured they probably wouldn't cover the newest meds. But it was sort of a shock to not see several of the medications I've been taking for three or four years. I thought maybe these would be on the full length formulary. I attempted a few times to get a look at it on the website I was directed to, but I kept losing my internet connection before the page would load, so I ended up calling the insurance company instead.

I guess it would be best described as a wake up call. First, I asked them to go over their definition of maintenance medication. My previous insurance allowed me to fill anything I'd been prescribed at least a year at their mail order facility. I would order three months at a time and only have to come up with a co-pay for two of those months. Eight of my medications were handled this way. The new insurance unfortunately will only allow "life saving" long term meds to be filled at 90 day intervals, and you must pay the co-pay for each month all at once. Right now, only my Metformin, a diabetes med, qualifies. Thyroid medications are considered maintenance, but neither drug I take is on the formulary. They only cover Synthroid, which I tried years ago with no success. I take Armour thyroid and Cytomel. I was informed the only way these would be covered would be if my doctor sent them a letter of medical necessity stating that the drug on the formulary was not suitable for me and requesting that the insurance company make an exception in my case. If the meds are approved, I will be charged what is called a "third tier" co-pay, which is $15 higher per month than the name brand co-pay.

It got even more complicated when it came to Seasonale, an oral contraceptive I am using as estrogen therapy to treat adenomyosis. Their formulary says that they will only cover the generic equivalent. I said fine and had my gynecologist send the pharmacy a new script. But then I am told that because Dan's employer is in South Dakota, they don't cover oral contraceptives AT ALL. How barbaric is that? So now I need to get the doc to write a letter requesting an exception because I am treating a medical condition and am not taking the pills for birth control. If the insurance company doesn't approve an exception, I'll have to cough up full price for the generic. Luckily, the Premarin I have to take for extreme dryness associated with Sjogren's is covered, so at least I won't have to jump through any hoops for that.

Then there is Nexium, which is not covered at all. I have to take a generic form of either Prevacid or Prilosec, I forget which. And even the generic is only covered for 90 days. In order to get the insurance to pay for more than 90 days, I have to provide a letter from a gastroentereologist stating that I have a chronic medical condition on their list. I do have some of the digestive problems they list, so I qualify, but that makes doctor number three I have to get a letter from.

The meds I am taking for Sjogren's syndrome are less complicated. They do fully cover the generic form of Plaquenil, yay, but I will have to get it filled every month as it is not a maintenance med. They do not cover Evoxac at all, and in fact, the insurance rep had never heard of it. So I have to switch to Salagen, an older version of the med that is less effective with more side effects. Rats. As for the Mobic, I am told that there is a generic coming out, so I will have to switch once that becomes available. They will continue to cover Mobic ONLY if you have rheumatoid arthritis. I pointed out the Sjogren's syndrome is very closely related to RA but was told it doesn't count.

I am totally amazed that my Restasis is covered. It's new and trendy and very expensive. But there really is no other prescription med like it, so I guess the insurance compnay's hands are tied. I'm sure that as soon as a generic is on the market, I'll have to switch to it.

The Lunesta is a real thorn in my side. Not covered at all. The insurance company expects me to switch to Ambien, and not the controlled release version either, the old one. Problem is, Ambien is not designed for long term use, and Lunesta is, so how is a person with a permanent sleep disorder supposed handle this? You guess it: ANOTHER letter! Actually this makes no sense at all to me as Ambien actually costs about the same as Lunesta, so I don't understand why the insurance company is favoring it. I guess their members aren't allowed to have long-term sleep disorders.

Luckily, five of the meds I take on an as needed basis are covered: Erythromycin, Triamcinolone, Diazapam, Baclofen and Mometasone. The other two as needed meds, Skelaxin and Miralax, aren't listed, but I'll deal with those later if I have to. Right now, I'm just going to focus on what I need to function on a daily basis.

I did see my primary care doc yesterday as she is one of only two of my current docs covered by the new insurance. She is going to write the letters for Armour thyroid, Cytomel and Lunesta. My other covered doc, the rheumatologist, I can't get in to see until November, but I've got enough Sjogren's meds stockpiled to allow me to get by. I'll have him switch me to Salagen if he thinks it best and switch to the generic Mobic. That leaves me with two docs that are no longer covered, the gynecologist and the gastroenerologist, that I need to contact to ask for letters.

Even if I make all the required substitutions and/or obtain exceptions, what all this means in terms of dollars and cents is that I can pretty much expect my monthly med expenses to be double what they were under my old insurance. This really sucks as I had budgeted for much less. I'm hoping that I can make up the difference somewhere, like maybe by having cheaper car insurance or paying less for groceries or something. And those things won't be possible until after I move. Grumble.

One upside might be that I am eligible for Medicare next year. I can probably get cheaper meds for at least six months out of the year. Unfortunately, they have a pretty low ceiling for coverage, and most Medicare recipients max out on their prescription co-pays long before the end of the year, a phenomenon called the donut hole. But it would still be better than Dan's insurance alone.

How I miss the good old days, when I was so healthy that all I needed was a birth control pill and a daily multi-vitamin! I remember when the co-pay for generic birth control pills was only $3! How the hell did I get so high maintenance? And how the hell can people with no insurance even get by? This is insane.

Part of me wants to go on strike, to refuse to take any more meds. But I suppose becoming bedridden wouldn't do anyone any favors. Sigh.

Maybe I should start buying lottery tickets.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ghosts of April 1999 return..... 

Aerial views of long lines of children, their hands on their heads, filing toward waiting yellow buses. Frantic parents, their faces tear stained, mill around with cell phones tight against their ears, waiting. Tense but nearly silent SWAT team members take their positions to secure the perimeter of a building that looks all too familiar, a high school. And all I can think is, "Oh, God, not again!"

After I got home from aquacise this afternoon, instead of my usual nap or computer session, I for some reason decided to switch on the tv. The station I was tuned to was airing "Extra", but I wasn't paying much attention because I was brushing Chip. At least I wasn't paying attention until the "Breaking News" logo came on the screen and they cut away to the local newscaster. Since 1999, I've always caught my breath when this happens because there have been so many tragedies reported this way. This was no exception.

Around 11:30am, near a small mountain town in a county just to the west of the one where the Columbine shootings happened, a man is seen inside the school. He is mistaken for a student because he's wearing school colors including a hoodie and a back pack. He goes into a classroom and pulls out a gun and fires a warning shot. He personally calls 911 and tells them he has a bomb in the back pack. He takes six girls hostage.

The evacuation begins immediately, first the high school and then the middle school that is connected to it. This procedure is quite familiar to the kids as they've done several drills. After all, they are a fairly short distance from Littleton, Colorado, and everyone knows what happened there. The kids are taken by bus to a safe location, pretty much without incident.

The shooter engages in negotation with the authorities for over three hours. He releases five of the girls, but then stops talking to the negotiator. The SWAT team converges on the school, but the gunman is using the last hostage as a shield! He shoots at the police, then before anyone can act, he shoots the student and himself. The girl, who is only 16, is flown to Denver, but she cannot be saved. She dies an hour after she was shot.

As of the 10pm news, the shooter's body is still in the school while the authorities thoroughly comb the area for possible explosives. No one seems to know who the man was. The student who was murdered, however, was well known because the school only had 450 students and everyone knows everyone else in the neighboring town. Her identity is not being released yet because of the uproar it will cause.

This is not what Bailey, Colorado wants to be known for. It's a quiet mountain town where the biggest threat is generally a bear or a lion, not a lunatic with a gun. My cousin lives near there, although I think his kids are home schooled.

I thought I was past the point of being haunted by the images of machine guns pointed at a school building, past the nausea that accompanies the knowledge that a community considered safe is actually so vulnerable, past having my heart broken even though I have no children. I thought, especially after 9/11, that I was too jaded to have any innocence left to be assaulted.

I was wrong.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 27, 2006: 

Most of you know of my affiliation with FibroHugs, a fibromyalgia support website, and how I've actually met various members as well as the webmaster in the US and Canada. Well, Ken finally got his due this past week with an article about him appearing on a major American chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia site....

Meet Ken Euteneier, Founder of FibroHugs

A link to FibroHugs appears on my Links list as well.

Oprah follows in MY footsteps.... 

Ok, so it was very indirectly. She aired segment two of her cross country road trip today. She and her friend Gayle (and a 16 member crew) drove from Santa Barbara to New York. Most of it has been quite hilarious, watching Oprah try to function in the real world (reading a map, pumping gas, finding a grocery store, pumping gas, checking herself into a motel).

Today's segment had her traveling through southern Colorado. Dan and I took a weeklong road trip through southern and western Colorado in September 2001 (we got home two days before 9/11). This was the last trip where I was still physically capable of hiking. Not walking around window shopping, actually hiking at high altitude and up inclines. I was sick then, and I paid dearly for these ventures, but I think I knew they would be my last of that nature, and I did them anyway. We hiked Wolf Creek Pass, hiked near Great Sand Dunes National Park to find a hidden waterfall, hiked to some Native American ruins, and hiked the mountains outside of Telluride. And I did solo hikes, at Mesa Verde, Hovenweep (more ancient Native American dwellings), and the Black Canyon. Fibromyalgia or no fibromyalgia, I was in good shape then. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Anyway, while Dan and I went east to west before heading north and then back home, Oprah was coming from Arizona, so she went west to east. Still, she visited some of the same places Dan and I did on our vacation. Her first stop was Durango. Good choice! Quaint town of about 6000 people; it has an Old West feel while still providing tourists all the comforts of home. We stayed overnight there as part of a package deal that included a day trip from Durango to Silverton and back via locomotive. We had the luxury car with complimentary champagne and unobstructed views. Gorgeous scenery with the aspens just starting to change color. Silverton is an old mining town that mainly exists for tourists, but it is fun to visit. Oprah did check out the train but didn't do the Silverton loop because they were on a schedule. She also went to the rec center to work out, which was a little weird, but then she toured the shops, hotels and restaurants a bit, which was cool because downtown Durango is awesome.

Oprah's next stop was Pagosa Springs, another place Dan and I stayed overnight. They have world famous hot springs there, located right over an old volcano next to a river. The waters contain healthful minerals that relieve tight muscles and promote healing. I went there in the evening after hiking Wolf Creek Pass. There are I think nine pools, each with a different temperature water ranging from 90-some degrees to the Lobster Pot, which is 109 degrees. The idea is to relax in the cooler pools and spend short periods detoxifying in the hotter water. And if you are really brave, after about five minutes in the Lobster Pot, you jump into the river, which is a scant 50 degrees! Invigorating! I spent about three hours total at the spa, and all my muscle cramps went away as well as a great deal of my pain. Probably the best healing experience I've ever had at a hot springs, and I've been to several. When Oprah visited, she just toured the hot springs and dipped her feet in. Either she or Gayle commented on the sulphur smell, which is common to most Colorado hot springs. Ah, well.

At one point, the crew stopped driving to get out and enjoy the scenery, I think at South Fork, which is funny because I have photos of me stopping at the same place. Of course, that's the sort of thing I used to do routinely, because I live in the second most photogenic state in the U.S. after Hawaii. That probably going to be the thing I miss most after I move, snapping pix of the mountains and their seasons and moods.

But when Oprah decided she just had to go to Dairy Queen, I started laughing and couldn't stop. I did the very same thing on this trip, although I can't remember what city it was in, so it probably wasn't the same exact one. At least I didn't get in trouble with my personal trainer for having a small single dip cone, heh heh. On the rare occasions I venture into a DQ, I get a small soft serve in a cup. Did you know their soft serve is gluten free? It's probably the only thing in there I can eat.

It looks like Oprah enjoyed most of her trek through Colorado, which is way cool. But it's even cooler that I was there first.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More reflections on the tube..... 

Since I'm not doing much more than watching tv these days (ok, and scrapbooking), that's what I'll commment on. The past few days have had some interesting new shows and season openers of existing shows.

Last night was ABC all the way. Their two hour season opener of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" started the set. This year, they're vowing to hit all 50 states (how are they gonna drive that bus to Hawaii??), starting with Alaska. They found a single mom with eight kids, her seriously ill brother and his three kids all living in a 900 square foot house that was literally falling apart! Not good when it's 50 below zero outside. They had their work cut out for them. The new place naturally was huge and lovely. They even had a classroom complete with computers so Mom could do her home schooling there. I've been a sucker for this show ever since Dan told be about it during their first season.

Then there was the Season 3 opener of "Desperate Housewives". It is set six months later, which I didn't care for. They didn't comment on whether Bree got in any trouble for her escape from the funny farm, whatever happened to Zach, Susan's daughter, Karl or Bree's kids. Bree's engaged to a psycho AGAIN and Susan is falling for someone AGAIN, and AGAIN someone (Orson's first wife) was murdered. I hope next week's episode gives us something new. One part I really did enjoy, though, was when Bree had an orgasm and didn't know what it was. She goes to the doctor fearing she'd had a stroke, heh heh.

And since the tv was already on, I watched most of the premiere of "Brothers and Sisters" (except for during the middle when I made supper). It had so many stars on it that I couldn't help but be intrigued. Calista Flockhart is a conservative radio talk show host who is considering a move to tv. This would require her to move back to California, where her family is. Her boyfriend proposes with the provision that they stay in New York. Sally Field plays Flockhart's liberal mom who harbors a grudge because she believes her daughter "sent" one of her sons to fight in Afghanistan after 9/11. That son, unable to cope with his war experience, is high most of the time now. The father, played by Tom Skerritt, may be involved in shady business dealings and possibly an affair? The dialogue and acting were excellent, and I was totally unprepared for the father having a heart attack during the very first episode. He falls into the family swimming pool in front of his granddaughter. I'm going to tune in next week and watch it all the way through.

Tonight, I switched to NBC. I saw the premiere of "Heroes". I figured it couldn't be as bad as "Jericho". It started out a bit like "Six Degrees": lots of characters and jumping around from place to place, getting me confused and starting to lose interest. But I kept watching because the Japanese fellow who could stop time cracked me up. He was totally obsessed with Star Trek. The cheerleader who could survive any sort of physical trauma was kinda gross. First, she jumps off a water tower and dislocates her shoulder, which she just pops back into place. Then, she walks into a multi-alarm fire and rescues a guy. That was interesting, but I kept thinking that even if she's invincible, her cheerleading uniform wouldn't be. It only caught fire on the sleeve. Dan would have liked the part (he's into gore) where she sticks her hand into the garbage disposal. Anyway, it got much more interesting when the main characters start to converge on New York, which was cool, and you find out that the artist who is painting scenes from the future painted the guy who thinks he can fly even though they hadn't met yet. And it was a real surprise when the flying dude's brother could fly too. And one of the "bad guys" is the cheerleader's dad. I'm gonna tune in next week because this could be fun.

I also watched "Studio 60". I skipped the debut last week because I don't like Matthew Perry, but my neighbor friend said she really enjoyed it, so I gave it a shot tonight. It's basically behind the scenes of "Saturday Night Live", a fact they do not disguise at all. It's more serious than I was expecting. There are some chuckles and smirks in there, but nothing fall-on-the-floor funny. I recognized one of the characters as the dude who played Jorge Garcia's imaginary friend on "Lost". The dialogue is pretty good. I'd be willing to watch it again.

I don't have a tv guide, so I'm just picking shows from previews. I wanted to see "Ugly Betty" since I like America Fererra, but it airs at the same time as "My Name Is Earl", and I don't have the ability to tape one show and watch another at the same time, so I'm going with "Earl" as I already know I like it.

I wonder if Dan and I will watch any of the same shows once we're in the same house again?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 24, 2006: 

Wanted to post the link to the blog of the lady who wrote the article I posted yesterday. I'm also going to add it to my Links list. Laurie not only writes well, she teaches writing and is in the process of getting a book published. All this while dealing with a rare lung disorder, celiac disease, thyroid and other health challenges.

A Chronic Dose

She also has an awesome hubby and a dog, which I can relate to. Way cool.

Grumbles and goodies..... 

As much as I really enjoy and appreciate having a clean house all the time while it's for sale, I really miss my stuff that's out in storage, particularly my tunes. About three-fourths of my music CDs are packed away, and I've already listened to the 40 or so CDs I have remianing in the house multiple times. I tried downloading a couple of Snow Patrol songs on iTunes this week only to discover that I couldn't keep an internet connection long enough to accomplish this. I had thought that the downloading would pick up where it left off after I re-connected, but it actually starts from the beginning each time, so that's no good. I guess I'll go back to my original plan of writing up a wish list of songs from iTunes and downloading after I get moved and acquire some cable internet. In the meantime, at least there are good local radio stations to listen to.

Am not adjusting well to the fall weather. I think it's what's responsible to the recent increase in fatigue and pain. No snow yet, but a temperature drop of about 30 degrees was sufficient to remind me how much my arthritis dislikes the cold. My Raynaud's is not happy either, and my hands and feet have returned to being icy, and they ache like crazy. I feel like a wimp for having this much trouble when it hasn't even gotten below freezing yet. How am I gonna handle South Dakota winters? I'm gonna be like Scarlett O'Hara and think about that tomorrow.

I did cave in and fire up the furnace yesterday. I usually wait until the thermostat gets down to 65 degrees or so, but I want to keep the house comfortable for showings, so I set it at 70 degrees. I cringe when I think what the heating bill is gonna be, but maybe I'll luck out and get this place sold before winter takes hold. And because it has been raining with night time temperatures around 35 degrees, I have turned off the sprinkler system for the time being. We are supposed to hit 70 degrees again in a few days, so it's not time to shut down for the winter yet, but I'll only water during the day just to be safe. I'll probably have the system blown out in a few more weeks as we get closer to the first hard freeze.

My heel felt better when I got up today, and it didn't pop when I used the stairs, so I went ahead and did my usual Gazelle workout. It did hurt, but still not as bad as yesterday, so I think I'm on the mend. I am predicting that by Monday it will be back to normal. Yayyyy!

Got a letter and some pix from my aunt in Little Rock. Yayyyyy! She and her husband both have declining health as they are in their 80's, so her correspondence has been less frequent and her writing harder to read, but I'm always glad to get something from her. My next project after I finish my current photo album is to to an album of the pix she has sent me over the past few years. I need to make sure I write back right away before I put her letter in a drawer and forget to reply. My memory really sucks lately, and I hate having to keep everything so tidy because I need things where I can see them as visual reminders. I forget to take my meds, to test my glucose levels, to make appointments, all because I've got my reminders tucked away in the hutch or the pantry. As soon as the house sells, I'm putting my pills back on the countertop so I can tell whether I've taken them or not.

Guess who used up ANOTHER tape runner? I'm a scrap booking fool! I'm up to October 2005. I went to the hobby store to replace it this time since it is cheaper than the scrap book store, and they have Christmas stuff the other place didn't have. I did try to reasonably restrain myself, but it's like telling a wino to just take a couple of sips, heh heh. Besides more adhesive, I found a multi-pack of fonts (I've been looking for one all summer) and a Christmas-themed pack of background paper since I've already used up all the red and green paper I had. I did only buy one sheet of Christmas stickers, but I looked through all the others they had and made a mental note which ones I'd like to get if I make another trip there sometime.

Talked with Dan tonight. He tells me a house down the street from his parent just went on the market. It's had literally everything in it updated, has a privacy fence in the back, vinyl windows, storage shed, lots of other stuff. Only thing is, no photos of the interior on the internet, no square footage listed, and we don't know how old the house is. So Dan will have to take a tour to see if it's worthwhile or not. Also, Dan found a bunch of brand new houses for sale at the upper end of our price range. Only problem is, once we tack on finishing the basement, landscaping and putting up a fence, it will actually take us over our budget. It's frustrating because we probably could have gotten away with it if we'd hadn't had to drop the price on our current house. If I was getting my disability pension and wasn't facing having my LTD benefits cut, I'd go for it, but with my income so unreliable, we'd better error on the conservative side. So we're back to small new-ish houses or large old houses.

No showings on our house yet since we dropped the price, but more people are picking up brochures this weekend, so maybe there is hope. After all, to quote Ms. O'Hara, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 23, 2006: 

Came across this excellent article through Ricky Buchanan's journal. It's about how a person with chronic illness feels when someone complains about a minor problem. Part of you knows you should take the petty things seriously if they are important to that person, and part of you just doesn't have the energy to invest much emotion in it. Another dirty secret of chronic illness revealed.

When Illness and Empathy Clash

While you're there, take a peek at the other material on this site and her blog. Well-written, informative and interesting.

This, that and whatever.... 

Yesterday did not have a good start. Was profoundly exhausted and ended up sleeping 12 hours. When I'm in bed that long, my muscles get extremely stiff and painful, to the point where I can hardly walk after I get up. I did my usual stretches, which decreased the stiffness some, but it didn't do a great deal to get my pain level down. Wasn't able to head out to the health food store until late afternoon. I wish it wasn't halfway across town. I was gone nearly two hours. Very little of that was spent in the store as all I bought was vitamins, gluten free waffles and a couple of frozen dinners. On the way home, I had to stop for a train. Luckily, I had reading material in the car.

Had a good dream yesterday morning though. In it, I was meeting friends I hadn't seen in a long time and providing counseling to teenagers. Now, in real life, I'm extremely awkward around kids, but it was nice in the dream to be able to say things that others found helpful. My interpretation of the dream is that I am hoping someday to find a useful way to occupy my life. I don't know if I'll ever be able to have a regular job again, but maybe I'll be able to do a bit of volunteer work or perhaps a little writing here and there for pay. I guess everyone wants to feel like they have a purpose. Right now I have no idea what my purpose is.

Today, I had to get up early to take Chip in to get groomed. My neighbor friend actually had to go with me because I can't handle Chip on a leash as he pulls terribly and causes me a great deal of pain. Went back home and slept for three more hours. Got up and while on the stairs, I heard a huge POP! and the tendon in my right heel (where I had the surgery) just sort of jumped in my foot! I got a sharp pain going up the left side of the heel. Normally, this wears off after about 20 minutes, but this one was major. I couldn't use my Gazelle machine because it hurt too much. It doesn't appear swollen or anything, but it gets worse when I'm on the stairs and gets better when I stay off it. I suppose if it's still bugging me on Monday I could have a doc take a peek at it.

Had another "occupational" dream last night. In this one, I was a consultant on a movie set. It was based upon a book, perhaps written by me, sort of an American version of Harry Potter. This was about a guy who could only stay young if he stayed in the same geographic area and built amusement parks for kids. I got to supervise the special effects and the set design. I think I dreamed this because I've been watching too much behind the scenes material on the "Lost" DVDs, heh heh. I secretly want to write cool stuff and would love to be involved in film making. Whatever the dream really means, it cheered me up that I'm dreaming positive stuff about my future.

Watched some tv this week while working on my 2005 photo album. Tuesday, I finally watched a full episode of "House". It's well-written, the acting is good, but it is a bit gruesome. I'm not sure I needed to see an unconscious man get chewed on by a rat. I haven't decided if I will watch it regularly. It is definitely interesting enough to tune in from time to time though.

Other stuff I watched: the season opener of "Boston Legal", which was definitely worthwhile. Michael J. Fox continues his recurring role of a wealthy man dying of cancer. He proposes to the young blonde lawyer who had defended him in a case (I think the actress' name is Julie Bowen), and she accepts. Now he's in legal trouble again for trying to buy a healthy lung from a man who is dying from something else. Denny Crane (Shatner) gets caught having sex with a doll that looks exactly like Shirley (Candace Bergen). And Alan Shore (James Spader) convinces his friend with Asperger's Syndrome to try sexual surrogate therapy. This is disastrous when "Hands" and the surrogate get arrested for prostitution. I like this show because it is clever and I never quite know where it is going.

Wednesday night, I watched the premier of a show called "Jericho". I mainly watched it to avoid "Dancing with the Stars", heh heh. "Jericho" is set in Kansas, which is a good thing because my home town gets blown up by a nuclear bomb in the first ten minutes of the show. Apparently, Atlanta gets wiped off the map too. Anyway, the show is about a small rural town's reaction to the bombings and the knowledge that they might be cut off from the rest of the U.S. or even the world. There is a great deal of hysteria when the local school's kids don't come home from their field trip on time. Turns out that when the bomb went off, all the deer in the area went crazy and fled. Some ran in front of the bus and caused it to crash. The mayor's adult son, who was in another accident when someone staring at the distant mushroom cloud ran onto the wrong side of the road and into his car, saves the day by helping hurt kids and driving the bus back into town. The plot is interesting, but so far, it doesn't seem as well written or acted as, say, "Lost". Maybe I'm spoiled. Haven't decided yet whether I'm going to invest any more time in this. At least the soundtrack was good, featuring The Killers and Snow Patrol.

Last night, the season openers of "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" aired. On "Earl", his ex-wife steals a department store truck in retaliation for the store not accepting a return on a big screen TV. She talks Earl into helping her figure out to do with the truck and the guy she accidentally locked in there. Good start to the season. On "The Office", the big romance cliffhanger fizzles. Steve Carrell's character gets into hot water when he makes a joke about a subordinate being "faggy", not realizing the guy was really gay and inadvertently outing him. Pretty amusing.

"Grey's Anatomy" season opener was last night too. Izzie spends most of the episode lying on the bathroom floor in shock over her fiance's death. George and McDreamy are exposed to the plague and are quarantined. Bailey has to break the news to a quarantined patient that his wife has died. Alex and Addison treat a baby found in a high school trash can and have to figure out who the mother is in order to save the baby's life. The chief is confronted by his wife, who wants him to retire. Christina realizes how close she came to losing Burke when he was shot. Meredith realizes she's gonna have to choose between a married boss and a widowed vet. I'd pick Chris O'Donnell hands down over Dr. McGuilty, but we all know she'll go back to the wrong guy at least briefly. They did a great job carrying the momentum of the cliffhanger into the new season, and I imagine I'll be glued to the tv.

The premier of "Six Degrees" was ALSO last night. It's set in New York and is about whether or not the people we meet are by chance or by design. At first, the parade of random characters was confusing and not terribly interesting. Then about halfway through, they reveal that the depressed woman who's always watching the news is actually watching a tape of her husband's last report as a journalist before he died. Then, the connections happen very quickly, some for the better, some for the worse. I think I'll tune in next week and see if they can maintain my interest throughout the episode.

Tonight, I watched "Men In Trees" because there was nothing else on that I liked. The premier was last week, but I missed it. I was skeptical because the premise sounded like a re-run of "Northern Exposure": New Yorker ends up in Alaska, a fish out of water amongst quirky residents. The show has a pilot, a one person radio station, a bar. But this New Yorker is a woman (played by Anne Heche), a relationship expert who writes self-help books and is stood up at her own wedding. On tonight's show, she gets a check in the mail for half the expenses of the wedding that never happened. She can't bear to keep it, so she spends all of it at a bachelor auction. Instead of a date, she has her "purchase" re-arrange her furniture, do handyman stuff around the house, and fix her truck. The poor man gets accidentally run over for his pains. But nature has its revenge when she gets sprayed by a skunk. I found the show suprisingly funny and endearing. I'll probably tune in when I have nothing else going on.

Have tried my best to keep up on the yard work, but I've been hampered by weather and insects. Either it has rained or has been very cold when I was going to go out and pull weeds, or I've been chased out of the yard by wasps. Apparently, when I had them sprayed at my house, they just went next store, and then when my neighbor sprayed them, they came back to my yard. I no longer have any nests that I can see, but they swarm all around my tree and bushes. I'd put out traps if I weren't trying to sell the house. I'm afraid a potential buyer seeing visible evidence of a bug problem might discourage them from buying. So I'm hoping the wasps will die off soon as we'll probably get temperatures down to freezing in another week or two. I still have some dandilions to pull out of the grass and some gravel and patio areas that need to be re-sprayed with weed killer. I did at least replace a burned-out garage light and clean the outside windows on the lower level and hose down all the dead worms in the driveway (ewwww!).

Wish the damned house would sell so I could quit fussing over every little speck of dirt and blade of grass. Feels like my whole life is on hold. At least I've got the old boob tube to keep me company.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Housing news..... 

Checked my realtor's website this morning, and she has already updated the price on my house to $5000 lower than the original price. She also put in the language about paying $3000 toward closing. I should be getting new brochures shortly. Keep your fingers crossed that this works!

Also went to the Sioux Falls property listings and found to my dismay that three of the six houses we were interested in have SOLD! One really promising one had dropped its price $10,000 so I shouldn't be surprised it's gone, but I am rather bummed. That leaves one newish house slightly smaller than ours on the outskirts of town, one very large 50 year old house near where Dan's parents live, and one 25 year old house slightly larger than ours over by where some of our friends live. The house built in 2000 has dropped its price $1000, and the 25 year old house has dropped its price $4000, so we may miss out on those if our current house doesn't sell soon. I guess I should double check to see if Sioux Falls has any new listings I may have missed. I just hope there are some good choices left when we finally get to buy.

I guess it's not really worthwhile to really get my heart set on one particular house yet as I have no control over when we can make an offer. And maybe it's fortunate that we haven't yet found the perfect house for us, so I haven't gotten overly attached. But every time Dan tours something that might work for us, I try to picture myself there and decide whether I can be comfortable there, so a certain amount of emotion is always invested. I must admit that I really am fond of the huge 50 year old house. Maybe it's because it has a '50's memorabilia room with a statue of Elvis, a guitar and some other stuff i can relate to. Maybe it's the built-in bookcases. Maybe it's because it's so large that storage would no longer be a problem. I realize it's probably the least practical because it would cost more to heat and would need more upkeep, but I still like it.

I just wish we could make a commitment to SOMETHING. This waiting game really sucks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 20, 2006: 

My latest contribution to But You Don't Look Sick has been posted. It's a recipe: short, sweet AND edible. What more could you want?

Recipe: Macaroni Salad

I think I'm going to do another DVD review next. I have started reading "Gluten Free Living for Dummies" and am on Chapter 2 or 3, so it will be awhile before I can review it.

Wish I could have some of that salad right now.

The trials of acquiring potential money..... 

Ok, I've officially lowered the price on my house. Talked with the realtor yesterday, and she told me that NONE of her properties got any showings over the weekend, and that the market is as bad as she's ever seen. She has been in the business 20 years.

She called me this afternoon after doing some research on my neighborhood. There are 38 properties currently for sale priced within $10,000 of my home. In the past six months, 35 properties in my price range have sold. What's really a shock is that 30 of them paid the buyer's closing costs! And two properties that are identical to mine for sale are listed for $5000 less than what I'm asking. So we agreed to both drop my price $5000 AND offer to pay up to $3000 on closing costs.

I found out that, contrary to what I had thought, the seller does NOT have to come up with any extra cash when they pay a buyer's closing costs. That actually just comes out of the profit the seller would have gotten. So financially, it's exactly the same to the seller as if they had dropped their price. The advantage is that a first-time home buyer who might be stuck in an overpriced apartment with no chance to save up any cash could still buy my house as long as their loan was approved. I hadn't thought of it that way. I'm hoping that the combo of lower price and money toward closing will do the trick. I need to get the hell out of here before my savings account shrivels up and blows away.

FINALLY got a hold of my LTD lawyer yesterday after weeks of trying. I got him to explain the very complicated fee system on the contract I was to sign. The fee system is government mandated because my LTD insurance company falls under ERISA juridsiction. It's still contingency, thank goodness, but because LTD insurance companies can offer a settlement at any point, the percentage of the settlement that goes to the lawyer varies according to how much work they had to put into my case. In other words, if the LTD insurance company decides to settle prior to my case going to court, the percentage that I owe the lawyer will be far less than if it went before a judge. So I signed the contract and a medical release form and have made an appointment with him for a week from Wednesday so we can figure out a strategy.

At this point, I am still receiving LTD benefits, but the insurance company has informed me that they will stop payment next year as they claim I have a mental rather than a physical illness that disables me, and my policy limits coverage for mental illness. What I am attempting to do is get the company to lift the benefit limitation as the tests they used to determine my disability were completely bogus. The only mental illness I have is depression about not being able to work.

The lawyer found out a few weeks ago that the company that did my functional capacity exam is using non-qualified individuals to conduct the tests. Some of this company's staff aren't physical therapists and have no degree at all! The physical therapist I had been told would be doing the testing did only a brief neurological exam, and someone else did the rest of the testing. As for the neuropsych exam, that was a joke because the evaluator dismissed the results as invalid, claiming lack of effort on my part. I was trying as hard as I could, but I was so exhausted that I fell asleep during the tests! The evaluator claims I have somatoform disorder, which is defined as symptoms of a physical ailment caused by mental illness in the absence of any actual disease. Because I have Sjogren's syndrome, a known autoimmune disorder, I cannot therefore have somatoform disorder.

Luckily, I have been keeping a log of phone calls made to the LTD insurance company since July 2005. I also typed up detailed accounts of my functional capacity exam and the neuropsych exam which state what truly occurred. I will be giving these to the lawyer. I think these plus the testimony of my doctors that I am indeed disabled should be sufficient to convince the LTD company to reconsider their benefit limitation, or if necessary, perhaps it will be sufficient to convince a judge. I have been warned that these cases are usually long and drag out over multiple years, so I need to dig in my heels and be prepared for a fight.

Believe it or not, the disability pension I was supposed to start receiving this month has STILL not materialized, despite me being eligible for it since May. The plan administrator is grossly incompetent, and that's actually an understatement. I first called her in late May or early June when I had some questions about the request for benefits form. At that time, I made it clear I was applying for a disability pension and that I had a notice of award from Social Security (required in order for me to be eligible for the pension). She told me that form was outdated and said she'd send me a new one. It took over a month and a few reminder calls from me before I got the new form. What I received was Part 1, where I request a calculation of benefits. It has a place to state whether you are requesting a disability pension, which I checked. It also requires you to choose a date for the pension to start which must be at least 30 days after the date you received the form and on the first day of the following month. I got the form on July 2nd, which meant the earliest I could start getting the pension would be September 1st. Part 1 states that as soon as the benefits are calculated, you will be sent Part 2, which has to be filled out prior to any benefits being paid. I got the benefit calculation the third week of July, but I never got the Part 2 form. I called the administrator a few times and left messages, and each time I emphasized that I was applying for a disability pension. I finally got a message on my voicemail on September 1st from the administrator. She said she had no idea that I was trying to get a disability pension, that she had missed where I'd checked that section of the Part 1 form! And she wanted to know whether I'd ever gotten a Notice of Award from Social Security! Uh, HELLO? I can't apply for the pension without it! So I left a message that afternoon saying that I did have the notice and the date I was found disabled. I've heard nothing back since.

By yesterday, I'd decided that I wasn't gonna get anything productive out of the pension administrator on my own, so I called the union headquarters to tell the president to light a fire under her butt. Well, the voice mail connected to someone I didn't know, and a recording said the mailbox was full and that I couldn't leave a message! So I guess the union must have voted out the president they had this summer? And the new guy doesn't even check voice mail? I was then gonna call my old department to see if they had a home number for the new president, but then I remembered that the whole company moved into a new building a month ago, and I have no idea how to reach them. So I guess I will go back to bugging the pension administrator until she either sends me the proper form or tells me what the hell is taking so long. Hmph.

My life was soooooo much easier when I was able to work for a living.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 18, 2006: 

I have all kinds of funnies to post, but I never seem to remember to. Here's one sent to me by Joan. WARNING: those of you easily offended, turn back NOW, heh heh.

Confucius Say:

1. Woman who goes to man's apartment for snack, gets titbit.

2. Man who lay woman on ground, get peace on earth.

3. Man who gets kicked in testicles, left holding the bag.

4. Man who kisses girl's behind, gets crack in face.

5. Passionate kiss like spider web--lead to undoing of fly.

6. Man with holes in pockets, feels cocky all day.

7. Man who fight with wife all day, get no piece at night.

8. Virginity like balloon--one prick, all gone.

9. Girl who rides bicycle, peddles ass all over town.

10. He who farts in church, sits in own pew.

11. Baseball all wrong--man with four balls can't walk.

12. Man who live in glass house, dress in basement.

13. Kotex not best thing on earth, but next to best thing.

14. Man with penis in peanut butter jar is fucking nuts.

15. Man who walk through airport door sideways is going to Bangkok.

16. Man who drop watch in toilet, bound to have shitty time.

17. Man who take lady on camping trip, have one intent.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A weighty matter.... 

I've been gaining weight since Dan left. Not tons, exactly, but six pounds since May. Not enough to be worrisome, but enough to make me grumble a bit.

I'm not completely sure why it's happening. Part of it may be that since I packed up my food scales when I de-cluttered the house, I no longer weigh my meals, and perhaps my portion size has crept up a bit. I haven't been checking my blood sugar, either; I just keep forgetting. And maybe I've been eating a few too many carbs; I still have chocolate in the house. Also, I've been eating more convenience food than usual so I can keep the kitchen clean for showings. And maybe some of this is just stress?? I have read that stress alone can add a few pounds to a person.

So how bad is it? Actually, my docs would probably be happy if I lost 5-10 pounds, and I'd be happy if I lost a few more than that. Doesn't sound like much, but it is harder to lose weight when one can barely exercise. But don't worry, I am no longer obsessed with a ridiculously low weight like I was before I got sick. The numbers I'm aiming for are the HIGH end of what is considered a normal weight for my frame. I am more concerned with health than appearance. I am 5 feet 6 inches tall with a slender frame, and any excess weight goes right around the middle, which studies have shown contributes to poor health.

I must admit there is also a practical consideration for maintaining a reasonable size. I got rid of all my larger clothes over a year ago. If I can no longer fit into my size 10 stuff, well, then, I am really in trouble because I don't have the money to buy bigger apparel. Hey, I think I have just come up with a marketing scheme! How about "The Poverty Diet"? Somehow, I doubt it will catch on, heh heh.

I have decided one thing, though: I am not going to embark upon any ambitious weight loss plan until AFTER I move. I am just too stressed right now to add to it by modifying anything else. Once I get into my new place, I will test my glucose levels more frequently, tweak whatever I'm doing that's excessive, and see if that helps. If it doesn't, well, at least I'll be sure I'm taking care of my health.

Although it might be kinda entertaining to promote "The Poverty Diet".

The times they are a-changin' (but not very much).... 

Friday night was the grand re-opening of my high school. It had originally opened for 9th through 12th grade in 1950, then was closed in 1988, the year after my sister graduated, and the students moved and merged with another high school. This was a disaster as my school had been high achieving and the other school was low achieving, and putting them together made them accommodate the lowest common denominator. About five years ago, my high school's building was converted for use as a K-12 charter school. Then this year, the district was completely revamped and divided into 17 small schools for all grades. Six of these are high schools, each with a different educational design. The idea is to have choices as not all kids learn the same way. So now my old high school building houses both an early learning school AND a small new design 9-12 grade school with focus on college prep.

We got there a bit late because I had fallen asleep on the couch and wasn't ready to go when my sister and her husband came to pick me up, and it took awhile to get the wheelchair packed and then set up at the school. My brother-in-law pushed the chair for me. We did get there in time to hear a bit from the alumni band, most of the presentation and the ribbon cutting ceremony. There were people in the audience from nearly every graduating class from the 1950's to the '80's. It was interesting looking up onto the theatre stage where the presentation was and remembering all the times I had performed on that stage.

Then we all migrated into the main gymnasium where there were displays from old yearbooks, a slide show, music, snacks, and a place for alumni to register. I must admit it helped me recognize more people when they put on some name tags, heh heh. We hung around the gym for awhile to mingle. I didn't see anyone I graduated with, but my sister ran into several from her class who had brothers and sisters I knew, and there were several who had graduated a year or two behind me. I also got to meet spouses and kids, which was nice. We mostly talked about what we remembered from when we attended. I think people had a slightly more difficult time recognizing me because the wheelchair threw them off (I've only been using it for a year). At one point, little girl about three years old approached me, staring at the wheelchair and asking me if I had a boo boo and where it was. I said no boo boo, that I was sick. That made no sense to her.

We took the grand tour of the school. It was almost shocking how much it had NOT changed. Same painted brick, same linoleum floors, same lockers. Band and choir still a major focus of the school. The science classroom still smells faintly of formaldehyde. No more geometric formations of individual desks, though. The kids sit at large tables, and they use laptop computers. And the chalkboards have been replaced with dry erase boards. One thing really cracked me up: on a poster for "Spirit Week", one of the designated events was "Old School Day", where the kids were supposed to dress in clothes from the '70's and '80's. So I suppose now it's safe to refer to me as old school, heh heh.

The west wing of the school is where the little kids attend. It's really kinda cute to look into the classrooms where I studied English and did college prep and see the tiny chairs that have replaced the young adult-sized desks. The halls have individual coat racks low to the ground, each assigned to a student whose photo is featured on a little cut-out of a penguin. The small gymnasium contains a lot of mats and half-height basketball hoops. One of the old locker rooms has been converted into storage. I guess both groups share the cafeteria? Part of it has been converted into a student union, and part is an art room containing very small easels.

There were a few indications of changing times: the cafeteria no longer holds a jukebox (very popular when I attended) or pop machines. But surprisingly, there WERE vending machines for water, juice, ice cream and snack foods. There's no longer a pay phone in front of the main office, as I suppose kids use cell phones now. The building still doesn't have a way to get upstairs in a wheelchair; I suppose they still have all the wheelchair-bound kids' classes on the main level like they did when I attended. My sister took a quick tour of the second floor for me and reported back. The classrooms were still very much the same except for where we learned typing; no need for those dinosaur-era manual typewriters anymore, heh heh. The big shock is that the library where I spent the majority of my time is GONE. It is now a giant music classroom. At first, I couldn't figure out why on earth a school would get rid of their library. Then I remembered that now kids can look up anything they need on computers. DUH!

I took pix throughout my visit, although most of them were too dark. I probably won't get to go to any of my reunions once I move, so this was my last chance to reminisce in person. It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I went.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 17, 2006: 

Yayyy! My review of the "LOST" DVDs has been posted on But You Don't Look Sick!

LOST: Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD

I'm getting impatient for the opener of Season 3! Still two and a half weeks away!

Crime spree in my neighborhood.... 

Thursday night, I went to bed at 1am (my goal is supposed to be midnight, but I never seem to make it). About 15 minutes later, Chip started barking like crazy, not his "I want to play" bark, but the ferocious bark that makes him sound as large as a a Doberman (he's a springer). I took off my eye pillow and went to the window as I heard my neighbor friend's car alarm going off. I didn't see anything amiss except the light in her car flashing on and off. I went downstairs and looked outside again but saw nothing out of place. I went to the hutch where I keep the phone numbers so I could call her and see if everything was ok, but just then, the alarm stopped, so I figured it had been a false alarm and that she had switched it off herself.

Friday morning, my neighbor friend called me to tell me that indeed her car had been broken into. Apparently, someone had pried open a window, grabbed a bag just as the alarm went off, and ran like hell. Unfortunately, that bag had contained her driver's license, materials she needed for work, a paycheck stub, her cell phone, and a an iPod. Luckily, the alarm must have scared the thief off before they found her checkbook, which was also in the car. She did call the police, but they just told her to file a report in the morning.

So the first thing to do was take my friend to the DMV so she could replace her license because she couldn't really go anywhere else by herself without it. As I backed out of the driveway, I saw that the truck belonging to the neighbor on the other side of me had its back window open. My friend went to our other neighbor's house but got no response when she knocked on the door.

I'd heard on the news that there had been big staff cuts at the DMV causing long customer waits but thought the problem had been resolved when they started allowing license renewals by mail. I was wrong. We got there at 10am, and the line was already out the door on the sidewalk. No way I could stand that long, so my friend had me drop her off.

I picked up a few things at the grocery store since it was sill fairly early in the day and there was an electric cart available. As I came home and pulled into the driveway, I saw my neighbor who owned the truck out front on her cell phone. I came up and asked her if anything in the truck had been taken. She didn't even realize it had been broken into, but when we took a good look, we could see where someone had climbed into the bed of the truck, pried open the window, and then climbed through the window. They must have left the truck from the door, because it was unlocked, and she had locked it the previous night. Nothing was missing, but things had been re-arranged like someone had rummaged around in there. She called her brother, who owned the truck, and then she went to file a police report.

So best I can figure, someone waited for me to turn my light off to go to bed, broke into the truck right afterward, broke into my friend's car next, and then fled when the alarm went off. No one bothered anything at my house as my Saturn is locked in the garage every night and my house has a security system. Even if my car had been parked out front, I doubt anyone would have bothered breaking in as I don't keep anything in there worth stealing, the stereo doesn't work if removed from the dash, and the car can't be driven if it is hot wired. Still, it is infuriating to think of some asshole on a treasure hunt in my neighborhood like that.

Oh, and my friend called from the DMV after two and a half hours to say they had only served 8 customers and that there were still 36 people ahead of her! Ridiculous.

So I guess the moral of the story is: never leave your driver's license in your vehicle, even if you have an alarm.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I've been using the art of distraction to try to keep myself from getting distressed about the fact that the house isn't selling. Haven't had a showing since Dan was here. Not very people are picking up brochures anymore either. I've pretty much decided that it is time to drop the price. I'm gonna wait one more weekend to see if anything happens, and then I will be calling the realtor on Monday.

Have been watching my "Lost" Season 2 DVD collection. After I viewed the one episode I hadn't seen during the season, I went through all the bonus material so I could review it for But You Don't Look Sick. The review hasn't posted yet, but I will provide a link when it's up. Now, I'm watching all the original episodes in order. I am two-thirds of the way through. I will probably watch the season finale at least a couple of times before the new season begins airing in October. So much happened during those last two hours that it's difficult to keep it all sorted out in my head.

As a result of watching all the "Lost", I haven't been viewing much network prime time, and frankly, I haven't missed much. I had no interest in viewing the so-called docu-drama "The Path to 9/11". When I'm ready for a fictionalized account of those events, I will rent "United 93" and "World Trade Center". And "Dancing with the Stars" is on AGAIN? I hate that crap! The new season will be getting going full swing in the next few weeks, so I can look forward to some decent programming again. But I am hesitant to commit to more than a couple of shows because after I move, Dan and I will need to sort out what we're going to watch. Until this summer, Dan had been working nights since 1995, so he has no idea what's on. For now, I've told him I want to see the new "Lost" episodes on Wednesday nights and "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday nights and that we'll negotiate on the rest. I'd like to watch "My Name Is Earl" if it doesn't conflict with "Grey's Anatomy" and maybe "The Office", at least the season opener. And I'm pretty sure Dan will agree to watch "Desperate Housewives" this year again with me. There are a few new shows I'm curious about, like "Ugly Betty" and maybe "Six Degrees", but we'll see. One thing I need to keep in mind is that we may be getting cable after we move, so that will bring a whole new aspect to things. I haven't had access to any alternative programming in a few years, and I don't know what airs when. I would like to check out "30 Days" and "Mythbusters". I won't be surprised, though, if I find myself watching entirely too much VH1, Animal Planet and TV Land, heh heh.

I'm slowly getting more caught up on my scrapbooks. I have completely finished 2004 and have begun 2005. Earlier in the week, I went to Archiver's for some more page covers, and, naturally, some more goodies. I had run pretty much completely out of Christmas stuff, and I wanted some stickers to go with my pix of my trip to my college's Maple Leaf Festival. I also got some winter-themed background paper, some sparkly stars to go with my StarFest convention pix (not very original, I know) and some cute glitter-covered letters for pages with pix of my nieces. And I got some wedding-themed stickers because I have I think six pages worth of pix from my sister's wedding.

Unexpectedly went to lunch yesterday. What happened was that one of the ladies from my aquacise class announced that it was her birthday and invited me and another classmate to lunch. I had to sheepishly admit I had no money on me (I only bring my gym bag for the class), and she offered to pay. We ended up at Chili's. I haven't been there since I went gluten free, so I had no idea what was safe for me to eat. Luckily, the chain now provides a computer printout of guidelines for people with allergies/sensitivities, including gluten. So I discovered that I could have their Margarita Chicken as long as they left off the tortilla strips that normally come with it. I didn't miss the tortilla strips at all as I had plenty of carbs from the black beans, rice and salsa that accompany the chicken. It was surprisingly good. I wasn't able to participate in dessert, a birthday sundae, but the entree was plenty for me. So at some point I need to return the favor and take this nice lady out to eat, which of course is ok by me, heh heh. And the waiter let me keep the gluten free printout, so if I ever find myself at Chili's again, I'll know what to order.

Got my copy of "Gluten Free Living for Dummies" today. I put down the James Herriot I was reading for the time being and will pick it up again after I've read the Dummies book and reviewed it for But You Don't Look Sick, which shouldn't take very long. The book was just published this year, so it has all the latest medical info in it. It also contains recipes, a few of which intrigue me enough to perhaps try them. And even though I consider myself to be well-read on the subject of celiac disease, I hope to maybe learn a few things.

Not a whole lot else going on right now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dreams and my impending new reality..... 

Had a dream last night/this morning. In it, I was in love with a model. She and I had gone to a fancy shopping district because I had lost a shoe and no longer had a matching pair, and so I needed to buy new shoes. We were in front of an exclusive store, and we had an argument. The argument ended with the model storming off and slipping through a special side entrance to the store for models only. When I reached the door, it was locked. There was no easily accessible front entrance to the store. I had to search and search for a way in. When I finally made it inside, I couldn't find the model, and when I got to the shoes, I realized right away that I was not going to be able to afford any of them. The salesperson said with great disdain that I would have to go to the discount section. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to get there, a slightly nicer salesperson said that he liked my purse, even if I was wearing it the wrong way, a sort of left-handed compliment. After climbing down several hidden staircases at the back of the store, I still hadn't found the discount section, and I decided I would just have to wear mismatched shoes. But I was still very upset about my fight with the model, and was concerned that our relationship was over. I decided to win her back by purchasing a gift certificate to the store in a huge dollar amount, even though it would probably bankrupt me.

My interpretation of the dream is this: the model represents my healthy self, and the fancy store is the world of healthy people. At least that's how it felt to me. Although it may seem at first to be completely superficial, the notion that I need to buy the love of a perfect woman, there was a lot more to it than that. What I was in fact trying to do was reconcile with the healthy world and the notion that I no longer fit in with healthy people. I lost my connection with the outside world when the model walked through that door and out of my life. Yes, some of this is indeed monetary, as I am aware that my illness has robbed me of a lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. But while it is about money, it is also about more than money. I know consciously that money can't buy happiness. But whether Americans want to admit it or not, money DOES buy social status and freedom. That high end store represented a social status I can no longer attain. I am willing to make do with less, as shown by my decision in the dream to wear mismatched shoes. But I do resent the loss of ability to travel (both physically and my ability to pay for a vacation), the possible loss of owning my own home if I can't get my current one sold, and the loss of access to quality medical care. And that's what I was trying to buy with that gift certificate....I was desperate to do whatever it took to get my health back.

The fact that someone tried to give me a compliment in the dream says to me that I am not completely invisible, at least not yet. And perhaps it also means that I still appear healthy to a point. But the level of difficulty I had in reaching even the bargain basement of the store says that I have become so isolated and homebound that I can no longer find much in common with the outside world. I am going to the re-opening ceremony of my old high school on Friday, the first public event I will be attending in my wheelchair where it is likely I will see people I know. I am not embarrassed to be seen in a wheelchair because I know that it will enable me to physically cover more ground and keep the exhaustion factor to a more manageable level. But I do wonder: if I should see an old classmate, what will we chitchat about? Most people at any sort of reunion talk about their jobs, their kids, their accomplishments, their vacations, their possessions. But I cannot work, have no children, cannot volunteer or do any significant community service, rarely leave the house, and will be completely broke soon if the house doesn't sell. That's not really fun stuff to discuss with semi-strangers. It is this sort of thing that makes me feel like I'm on the outside of the display window, wondering how to get inside. I guess my best strategy is to ask a lot of questions of the other person and listen intently and only bring up my situation if and/or when I am asked. Maybe I'll make some sort of joke about taking extremely early retirement, heh heh.

Certain relatives of mine have been critical of my association with so many other chronically ill people, telling me that I am wallowing in my own illness and am keeping myself sick because that's all I focus on. But my various attempts to ignore my illness and focus only on the positive to make myself healthy again have failed, and they will continue to fail because the sickness is more than psychological. If surrounding myself only with healthy, successful, positive individuals would cure me, wouldn't I naturally be doing that? Yes, I do gravitate toward the elderly and the sick, mostly because I have so much in common with them, and at least in part because I feel like I have something to offer them. But now I am also starting to see that the reverse is also true, especially since I have been so housebound the past year and a half. I am losing my commonality with the healthy world. I'm not gonna crawl under a rock and hide from the general public, but it would only be fair to acknowledge that I am becoming socially awkward, whether that is intentional or not. I just want to make it clear that this is a consequence of chronic illness that is usually ignored, and that maybe it should be mentioned a little more often.

Oh, one part of my dream WAS completely literal: I really do love (and miss) new shoes.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 9, 2006: 

Got this in an e-mail today. One of the books mentioned in the article, "Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired: Living With invisible Chronic Illness", is an excellent publication and is part of my personal library. Check out the statistics page mentioned at the end: the facts are real eye openers....

September 11-17: 96% Of Illness Is Invisible, Reports National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week Sponsors

One in two people look good but feel terrible.

For Immediate Release

SAN DIEGO/EWORLDWIRE/Sep 5, 2006 --- As National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week 2006 kicks off, organizers are working to publicize staggering statistics: nearly one in two Americans has a chronic condition, and 96 percent of them live with an illness that is invisible. These people do no use a cane or any assistive device and may look perfectly healthy. Sixty percent are between the ages of 18 and 64.

The theme "My Illness Is Invisible But My Hope Shines Through" is a major public awareness campaign sponsored by HopeKeepers Magazine, a consumer magazine that offers spiritual encouragement for those who live with chronic illness or pain.

Paul J. Donoghue and Mary Siegel are co-sponsors of the week and authors of "Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired: Living With Invisible Chronic Illness." Siegel says, "Invisible chronic illnesses (ICI) have symptoms that are difficult to see and impossible to measure such as pain and fatigue. So those with ICI frequently encounter not compassion and support but impatience and skepticism from physicians and loved ones."

"Living with an illness that is invisible to those around us can often have a more devastating affect on our emotional health than the physical pain," explains Lisa Copen, 37, editor of HopeKeepers Magazine who lives with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. "Each day we must choose to have hope, despite how medications and alternative treatments may help or hinder us."

Copen is the author of a book, "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend." "Part of our campaign is to encourage people to care enough to be informed," says Copen. "Just because someone isn't using a wheelchair doesn"t mean that she doesn't have a disability. Friends and family of those with chronic illness care a great deal about what their loved ones are going through, but oftentimes the invisibility of the illness sets up an environment for misunderstandings and even doubt about the validity of the illness. We hope to increase awareness of how many people look great but are hurting deeply."

Outreach includes various events: the distribution of free literature such as a 5.5 x 8.5 card with multiple ways to encourage a chronically ill friend. Other resources include "You Look So Good: A Guide to Understanding and Encouraging People With Chronic, Debilitating Illness and Pain."

Fifteen online seminars will be held during the week featuring chronic illness coaches, authors, nutritionists and other professionals. Promotional items like t-shirts, bumper stickers and bracelets are available.

For a complete list of events and resources, visit http://www.invisibleillness.com or call 888-751-7378.

"The feeling of knowing that one's illness and pain is acknowledged can have a great impact on how a person copes with living with illness," says Copen.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Dashed hopes..... 

Got a call from my realtor last night while I was out in the yard pulling weeds (and getting attacked by a wasp). She left a message saying that she had something she needed to discuss with me. She said she'd call again either that night after she got done teaching a class or in the morning. I thought maybe this would be it, that FINALLY someone was gonna make an offer, that FINALLY we could get the ball rolling and get moved before the snow flies. I tried to keep my excitement down to a dull roar but was barely able to manage it.

Well, I stuck by the phone the rest of the evening, but no call. The phone did ring this morning while I was asleep. The realtor told me that she had been contacted by another realtor for some people who were supposedly interested in my house but did not have good credit and might have trouble getting a loan. These people had never even toured the house in person, but they wanted ME to pay 6 percent, which would be about $12,000! I realize it's a buyer's market and that I'm desperate to get out and everything, but I'm NOT crazy! I'm pretty sure these people were just fishing for someone to help them out financially. No way could I agree to an arrangement as dicey as this. I'm pretty sure they would bail before closing. So I told my realtor no.

I guess this sort of crap is common nowadays. My neighbor up the street had a very similar offer, and he held out for a more reliable buyer. Luckily, he got one. A lot of sellers are paying the buyer's closing costs, which I personally think is ridiculous, but if that's the only way I can get a sale, I may have to agree to do it as well. Thing is, I don't HAVE a couple of grand sitting around. If I did, I wouldn't need to sell the house. Most of my assets are tied up in the house. To pay someone else's closing, I would actually have to borrow from a credit card or something and then pay it off after the house sold, which makes no sense to me. If I wasn't prepared to pay closing costs on my own purchase, then maybe I shouldn't be buying a house just yet. But what if I can't get a sale on my own terms? My savings is gonna run out in another month or two as it is.

I am trying very hard not to be too disappointed, but am not succeeding. I can't help but be upset. I wonder how many so-called buyers are out there preying upon desperate and perhaps naive sellers? Because it would be me left holding the bag if the closing fell through.

How long is this nightmare going to go on?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Alone again already..... 

Just got off the phone with Dan, who called to let me know he'd gotten back to Sioux Falls safely. This living 600 miles apart is a wretched thing. It would be easier to handle if I knew when we'd be seeing each other again.

Picked Dan up at the airport about 7:30 Saturday morning, which is earlier than I'm used to getting up. So when we got back home and Chip had had a chance to sufficiently dance around the house with joy, we celebrated his homecoming by taking a nap. Got up about 11am. Dan then mowed the seriously overgrown lawn, and since I had someone at home with the dog, I decided to go get a long overdue haircut. I brought my cell phone with me and told Dan to call me if the realtor requested a showing. Well, I no sooner got in the parking lot of the hair salon than the cell phone goes off! So I turned back around and came home. Dan helped me do a bit of tidying and drove Chip and me to the park during the time the showing was supposed to happen. We came home and sorted through the mail, and I was just about to start making something to eat when there's a ring at the doorbell. It a realtor and prospective buyers, over a half hour past when the showing was supposed to end! They had gotten lost. So I asked if we could have five minutes to grab the keys and the dog and leave again. Thus Dan got his crash course in home showings.

After the showing, Dan generously drove me across town to Tower Records. It's pretty much the only remaining music store with listen stations; Dan says he hasn't found any place in Sioux Falls that has them. So I got to preview several CDs; I wrote down the names so I can either buy or download them at some point. I liked Nelly Furtado, Fort Minor, The Raconteurs, Red Hot Chili Peppers "Stadium Arcadium", Gnarls Barkley and Paul Simon's latest. I did buy one: "How To Save a Life" by The Fray, a local band. I hurt so badly from standing too long that I could barely get back to the car, but it was worth it. We had Qdoba (California-style Mexican fast food) for supper.

On Sunday, we went to my dad's for a cookout. My sister and her husband had planned to be there, but a soldier from my brother-in-law's troop was killed in Iraq recently, and they needed to attend the funeral in Nebraska, so we didn't get to see them. But my stepbrother, his wife and their daughter were there with my dad and stepmother. We had grilled burgers (I ate mine without the bun, of course), baked beans (one of the few brands that are gluten free), homemade potato salad and a few things I couldn't eat. For dessert, I couldn't have the angel food cake or shortcake, but I did have some fresh strawberries with whipped cream, which was just about as good. After we ate, we played a marathon game of Rummi-kub while my niece wore herself out running and climbing all over the house (she's about a year and a half old). It was hilarious when she started dozing off while eating macaroni and cheese. We left shortly after that because we were running out of steam too. We came home and watched the first half of the season finale of "Desperate Housewives" since I had missed it the first time it aired. Then Dan went on the computer while I watched "Grey's Anatomy". Afterward, we went through a Sioux Falls phone book his parents had given us. It has a map of the city in it; Dan used it to show me where he worked, where the houses are that we're interested in, where the hospitals and shopping are, etc.

Yesterday, we went to lunch at P.F. Chang's. We got the lettuce wrap appetizer, and I had shrimp with lobster sauce for the main course. This is the only Asian restaurant I've been to that uses no MSG, serves brown rice, AND has a gluten free menu available. I will really miss it after I move. After we ate, Dan took me to a book store so I could look for a new book on celiac disease. They didn't have it, so I guess I will have to order it online. I also popped into the scrapbook store for yet another tape runner. Naturally, while I was there, I snagged a few other things, heh heh. I bought several designs of pink background paper to go with photos of my nieces. I also got two sheets of lettering, one of which uses the Papyrus font and looks hand-painted. When we got home, we called our neighbor friend and invited her over to our house to play Rummi-kub. I think I lost again, but unlike the night before, at least the scores were really close.

This morning, Dan went out and got me the second season DVD of "Lost". He also ran some errands for me, like buying several bottles of seltzer water because they're too heavy for me to purchase more than one at a time when I'm alone. After the cleaning ladies had come to the house and worked their magic, Dan and I had lunch at the Outback. After we got home, we watched the only episode of "Lost" we had missed during the regular season, the one about Bernard and Rose, and we watched the one about Hurley and his imaginary friend. Then it was time to head to the airport. Chip started sniffing Dan's suitcase and got very upset. Have you ever heard a dog yell at a person? That's what Chip was doing to Dan.

So now I'm by myself again. I guess this is Part 2 in the great house sale saga. I just hope it goes quicker than Part 1 did.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rave of the Day for September 4, 2006: 

My latest contribution to But You Don't Look Sick has been posted. Believe it or not, I submitted a recipe for one of the new sections on the site. I hope those of you who know how much I hate to cook aren't snickering too hard....

Rainbow Rotini Salad

I'm probably gonna do another movie review next. I had fun with the first one I did. Movie reviews are easy to do because I can watch a film and write my thoughts on it in a single afternoon, while it can take me months to finish reading a book I want to review.

Dan's already halfway through his stay here. It's going by way too fast. Wish I knew how to freeze time.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Unpleasant surprises..... 

Have had a summer-long battle with ants around the house that required professional spraying on three different occasions. The stuff from the store just wasn't effective. We had at least three different kinds of ants, but the most recent treatment about two weeks ago seemed to do the trick, so I relaxed. Not so fast.

My neighbor and I were looking at my storm-damaged tree last week to see if it might hold up at least until the house was sold. That was when we noticed a swarm of flying insects all over the tree! Well, I don't know a bee from a wasp from a hornet from a yellowjacket, but I could tell that this probably wasn't a good sign. Sure enough, after watching them for awhile, I noticed they were also coming up to the house and disappearing into a gap between the post that held up the porch and the overhang. Couldn't see well enough to be able to tell if there was a nest or not, but I didn't like the way they were hanging around my front door and decided not to take any chances. So I had to call the pest control guys again. Somebody came by yesterday. He said they were wasps. He got out the spray and pumped it into the top of both posts on my porch. Suddenly, the air was FILLED with angry wasps! Turns out there were at least two nests, and had I waited, I would have had a real mess on my hands.

Later on yesterday, I went to the pharmacy to pick up a refill for Lunesta, my prescription sleep aid. Was not thrilled to discover that my new insurance doesn't cover it AT ALL. Not only that, the price of a month of pills was $126! Not much I could do except pay it because I absolutely cannot sleep without it, and if I go without sleep, I'll get sicker, which would be a very bad idea right now. After I move and get new docs, I can try to get one of them to appeal to the insurance company that I need this med, that none of the other sleep aids are as effective for me. But for now, I guess I'll just have to pay up. I just hope there aren't too many of my other meds that aren't covered, or I'm gonna go broke much faster than anticipated.

STILL have not gotten my disability pension sorted out. I was eligible in May, but was told then that the paperwork I'd been given was outdated. Finally got part one of the application process, a request to calculate the benefit, in July, which I returned promptly. On it, I was to select a date for the pension to begin. I chose the earliest date allowed, September 1st. I got the benefit calculation a few weeks later and was supposed to get part two of the application after that. It never arrived. i have called the office twice. The contact person is never there, and I have been leaving messages. So, here it is September 1st, and no pension. I think what I will do is call the president of the union next week and see if he can light a fire under the butt of the woman who is supposed to be handling my paperwork.

Have had just ONE showing on the house in the past month. I think next week, after Dan has gone back to Sioux Falls, if I have not gotten any more showings, I am going to contact the realtor and offer to drop the price on the house. I can't sit here all fall and winter waiting for a miracle. I need to get people in here looking at my house. The longer I go without showings, the harder it's gonna be to sell because people are gonna wonder what's wrong with the house if it has been on the market for several months. I am prepared to drop the price $4000. I should still be able to pay off both mortgages and put a decent down payment and pay closing costs on a house in Sioux Falls. But that window of opportunity gets smaller with each passing week.

Should mention that I have no idea whether or not I'll be updating my blog while Dan's here. I probably won't be on the computer at all during the day. But he's converted to a different sleep schedule than I have, so if I'm up for a few hours after he goes to bed, I might sneak on here since it's not likely to keep him awake (as long as I don't play my iTunes too loudly, heh heh).

I am soooo ready for this house to sell.

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