Sunday, September 30, 2012

# 352 - C. diff Danger - Protect Yourself

I am a writer, a blogger, a simple woman. What is it that has been said of blogging? That it is the graffiti of writing? Well, I've probably put out some graffiti in this attempt at what I call "Reality Writing," and my opinions are personal opinions, but my sharing is always a heartfelt effort mingled with a desire to be informative. This week, I have been reading some of Peter Eisler's writings. He is an investigative journalist with USA TODAY, and the recognition he receives for his work is for good reason.

I look forward to reading more of his work, even if it makes my skin a good way. I often have to pause while reading his work because each sentence is a powerpunch to the has to be absorbed with a chill-wiggle before I proceed to the next sentence. You can bet that I'll be following his reports, and I suggest you do the same.

I'm passing this particular topic along because having a broad international readership provides a great spider-web opportunity to help spread information. One little thread of knowledge leads to another, around and round it goes.

Since many support boards and groups read this blog, I am hoping you can do your part to spread the word about this bacteria I have just learned about in one of Peter Eisler's articles. It's called, "C. diff" which is short for Clostridium difficile. This bacteria could be a danger to any of us, especially those of us with known chronic medical conditions. Understanding C. diff might be vital for each of us to have an added edge to avoid this bacteria and the complications it could invite into our body. I say, face the eye-popping truth revealed in the article that I am providing via an attached link. As for me, I cannot turn my back on potentially life-saving research; I must pass it along.

Since I have had my fair share of hospitalizations and have another one fast approaching in November, the information I've recently read on a hardy bacteria called "C. diff" has apparently awakened my brain to new dangers at many different kinds of medical facilities. Yet, it seems that many of these medical facilities do not want to fully address. C. diff as a sinister bacteria making an impact upon their controlled environments. It appears that many medical facilities are learning that C. diff is not so easy to shoo away with the squirt of standard anti-bacterial cleanser.

In Peter Eisler's article, he provides in-depth research to bring awareness about the seriousness of bacterial enemies, such as C. diff, and their wiliness to escape destruction. While reading Mr. Eisler's article, I could only imagine this bacteria to be the foundation for horror sci-fi movies, its ability to cling to the cracks and crannies of hospital equipment and beyond is terrifying. The way this bacteria manifests itself in the human body is no less unthinkable except that is is thinkable. C. diff exists and the realities of it being in a hospital near you is likely.

This bacteria has proven to have deadly consequences. Just as we carefully strive to be dutiful in locking our doors at night to protect ourselves and our families, it would be wise to know what is on the other side of that locked door. And who hasn't had to made an occasional trip to some kind of medical facility? Sooner or later, most of us have to make that trip, dreaded or not. Are you thinking that you are safe because of that hand-sanitizer you carry around? Think again. Do you believe all hospital-strength cleaners and hospital-strength hand-sanitizers installed every 3-5 feet will be your first-line of defense against this bacteria? Think again.

That mop that the maintenance crew is swiping down the hall might not be doing anything but tickling this bacteria.

For me, Peter Eisler had me thinking, first and foremost, about the disinfectants and cleaners used by many hospitals...once you learn about C. diff bacteria, it is quite amazing to discover many hospital disinfectants currently used are not able to kill this bacteria. Changes in cleaners is a simple administrative decision that could be the start in saving lives. However, for a change to occur, acknowledgement of a problem must first be admitted. Unfortunately, hospitals are like the rest of society after a problem is discovered...too many think that the problem won't hit their doorstep, so the foot-dragging toward change often results in disaster.

More than anything, Peter's investigative reporting demonstrates a direct link between awareness and resulting action.

I suppose there will be many hospitals who will avoid Mr. Eisler's investigative works as if it were the plague itself. Facing it might mean accountability. His article embraces hard-hitting information which would demand an end to blind-bliss that creates lethal ignorance. However, one nurse, one patient, one resident in town can do their part to pass along Mr. Eisler's article to promote change. If questions aren't asked, everyone keeps their mouth shut, cover-ups continue and denials remain in place.

Life has continual lessons, avoiding a problem or pretending it doesn't exist won't work. Only by educating ourselves, confronting the issue and following through with an evolving plan can the problem be erased or minimized.

And the C. diff problem is ALL of our problem because bacteria is not a selective enemy, especially when you look around and believe a medical facility appears sparkly clean. It's hard to imagine that deadly bacteria can still be hiding in the midst of a sterile environment, but C. diff proves that to be the case.

However, I urge my blog readers to digest this informative article while remembering that bacteria knows no boundaries, bacteria does not require a passport to travel. This bacteria is likely to impact whatever country you reside in, and it would be prudent to at least be aware so you can question your hospital about their protocol regarding this bacteria, especially if you are a health care worker.

Regardless, remember that most hospitals are run the same as large corporations with liability as their main concern, so the downplay of C. diff statistics is often conveniently shifted with pass-the-buck techniques in an attempt to keep the bacterial "source unknown" and this gives the excuse for patient stats linked to such bacteria the lack of a papertrail. Why would a hospital want to test their patients for C. diff and take accountability for their contamination when a patient may have just been transferred from another facility already infected? If the already-infected patient is counted as testing positive for such a bacteria as C. diff, then the hospital that did not originally cause the infection might be held to the fire. Of course, this blame game comes with a high price, often paid in full by unsuspecting patients who will become infected because of this contagious bacteria being swept under the rug, so to speak. Just remember, this bacteria will happily live under the rug, it can't be swept away so easily.

Blaming another source as a possible excuse for a patient being exposed to C. diff is an obvious ploy to keep distasteful record-keeping from sticking to name of a medical facility. However, this is one problem that proves that denial is not a viable option. C. diff causes deaths that are hard to explain.

Would it really matter where the original source of contamination came from if all medical facilities were required to keep their own records to reflect each and every patient that has tested positive for such bacteria infections? Perhaps strict record-keeping protocol would lead to a better understanding of which facilities have the bacteria invasion under control and which ones need to get a handle on such serious problems.

Peter has shown that some hospitals do indeed record each and every patient diagnosed with such bacterial infections, regardless of the possible original source of contamination...simply keeping record of the number of infected individuals in their facility is giving power to the movement toward controlling contamination. It is refreshing to see some hospitals at least taking ownership for patient stats regarding this bacteria and others, while still acknowledging that the original exposure to the bacteria might have come from another facility.

Read the article and let me know what you think. I know some of you prefer to email, but just know that I am often slow to open my emails. I am very confident that Peter Eisler's work will make a positive difference in the world because his writing has brought focus to a bacteria that is apparently not as insignificant as liability-protecting entities would have us believe.

Far more could be done to stop the deadly bacteria C. diff
By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
Aug 15, 2012

Learn more about C. diff, spread the word, click on the link below and arm yourself with the power of knowledge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

# 351 - Paying Respects

This past weekend, I had the saddest day that I've had in a long time.

A sweet gal in her mid-thirties that had been such a joyful part of my family's world died in a tragic fire that made Houston's prime-time news.

apartment fire8
Here is Carrie's apartment - after the roaring fire had been battled.

apartment fire5

We all waited and waited, then the memorial was finally allowed to take place this past weekend at a local church. Carrie Jordan died because of that fire. Over the past few years, we had lost touch with Carrie. She's in the picture below, at my house, she's standing in white pants next to her date at the time. My sister is in the black shirt. Those two gals shared many laughs and tears together throughout the years.

I don't know if you can see by this picture, but Carrie had the most awesome smile you'd ever witness. She had a true smile decorated with the sweetest dimples!

Around 2004, my mother had been in a terrible car accident and needed surgery that would require her to live in a rehabilitation hospital for about six weeks. All of us rallied around my mother to help her recovery, but Carrie was having problems of her own, so she moved in with my parents and helped my mother, so unselfishly. Not only did she help my mother, she did it with love.

I'll always remember her generosity and her capacity to share such kindness.

Most devastating about this entire situation that took Carrie's life is that she'd just come home to her apartment in Houston with her newborn baby boy. Even though the fire ended up taking Carrie's life, her son lived and is healthy today.

There's no doubt that I mourn the loss of this beautiful, young woman and I mourn the fact that her son will never know his mother. I don't think they had time to take any pictures of them together other than the one immediately after his birth. There just wasn't time.

So, this past Sunday, my dad came to my house to pick me up and we drove to my sister's house to pick her up so we could all drive together to attend the memorial. Most of all, we wanted to support my Sissy as Carrie was really her friend. We all had our own relationships with Carrie, but Robin had a long friendship with her and so many regrets can be made over the loss of the friendship through the years, but that's how life goes. We constantly evolve.

Waiting for Robin to wrap up last minute things before leaving, my dad took this opportunity to smoke a cigarette as I sat in the car taking pictures of everything around me, including me!

Finally, Robin emerges from the depths of her beautiful shelter and we are all on our way to pay our respects to Carrie.

In the book of memories left for everyone to write in it...I wrote about Carrie being such a sweetheart and about how she had the willingness to help others in need.

Most of all, we've been graced by her smile...the smile that cannot be forgotten.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

# 349 - Dressing Room Fun!

Okay, I am bringing everyone along for my shopping trip to find a Mother-of-the-Bride dress for my daughter's wedding coming up on October 13th.

Normally, I am one of those women who dresses with great purpose, to hide my full shape. I am definitely full-figured, some parts are fuller than others, so it makes it a challenge for me to try on clothes.

My daughters and my sister are usually my helpers in a dressing room. For any woman who is naturally big-busted, you can sympathize with the awful problems that come with getting a dress over the bust area. Usually, taking the dress back off is the main problem. But, the experience comes with loads of laughter.

I usually have to get a dress one size larger just to accommodate this area of my body. That stinks.

Finding a dress that doesn't look frumpy is a challenge. Finding a dress that doesn't make me look like all bust is a challenge. Then, we won't even discuss my waist line.

As a regular woman, I have multiple challenges to find the right dress.

This dress was nice, but remember that I do not have the proper undergarments to smooth everything out, such as Spanks. Yes, I will require structure assistance from such miracle support-wear.

I decided that this dress has too much of me showing for it to be proper or for me to feel comfortable wearing for a full wedding day that will end with a reception of dining and dancing.

Need Spanks --- Badly --- Body Support Revolutionized!

My sister tries to tell me that a good support bra will change the look of the dress. She does her best to demonstrate as I go into hysterics.

My Sissy says, "With a good support bra, it will look
more like THIS," and she does some heavy lifting!

Having a sister is such a huge blessing, especially while trying on dresses in a department store.

There's my Sissy peeking around from behind me!

The final answer to the brown, busty dress was, "Ah...NO."

Then, I tried on a frumpy number that showed more lumps than I would have liked to admit belonged to me. The color was too bland and it kind of hung on me like drapes from the living room window. No thanks. The pleats running down over my stomach doesn't do much for my figure. Just say NO to straight line pleats!

Here is the "Paper Bag" dress!

I will have to post more later. I did find a dress that I loved, but I've been reminded of how much fun it is to try on dresses. I have got to start doing things that will give me more chances to wear a sexy dress and to feel a little glamorous while taking a break from the chickens.

As for THE dress. I do believe I found it. Actually, I came home with it and it is the perfect "compromise" dress. It shows my full figure, but without too much exposure at the bust-line, however, it does not completely hide the ba-bam woman side of me.

I don't want to post it because I can't show a picture of me wearing it until I have it on with the right undergarments. It's a dress made with beautiful, quality fabric, it has a nice liner sewn into the dress, shoulder pads that I will be removing because God gave me a great built-in set of my own, and the dress fits perfectly. I can tell you it had a hefty price tag that made me nearly choke, but this is a dress to wear to my daughter's wedding, it's okay for it to be of more value. This event has more value in my life than most others.

The dress I selected to wear to the wedding is designed by Ralph Lauren and was purchased from Macy's. My final choice allows for sexy sophistication. I feel the dress I brought home is more appropriate for the Mother-of-the-Bride who owns a lot of cleavage. More importantly, this dress hanging in my closet with a protective covering is also a neutral color with a bit of sparkle, but it is not a stark color, this dress will help me blend in during family wedding photos, especially because the wedding attire is champagne in color.

Speaking of dresses, my sister found a sassy, saphire number that captures evening fits her personality perfectly. I will post a photo of her in that dress very soon. She had more freedom with color and style since she is the young "Aunt" and not the Mother-of-the-Bride. Her off-the-shoulder dress with sheer, flowing fabric looked stunning on her. Of course, I feel as if my sister is one of the most beautiful women I've ever known, inside and out, she could even pull off the Paper Bag dress!.

My daughter didn't want anyone to wear anything too formal long dresses and no poofy dresses. However, she does want us to look our best with elegance being the key to our appearance. I think my dress selection hit that requirement right on the head. Heather was raised as a city girl, but she also has some country roots and a current country existence that needs to be honored. Additionally, her fiance is ALL country. Well, to be fair, he's been getting a big dose of city life since he and Heather have been together; Houston has become one of their favorite places to chase fun with their friends. But, the wedding is country-themed and will include bridesmaids who are wearing cowboy boots with their dresses, and yes, Heather will be wearing cowboy boots with her wedding dress.

I am so thrilled about the wedding! October 13th is DAYS away! My countdowns that had included months and months of time for preparations have disappeared, and we're down to about three weeks before the wedding. I think it's only 19-20 days before the wedding day! Soon, the wedding will be a memory.

Since I have now been hooked on looking for that perfect dress, I just might go back to the store to buy a few of those WOW dresses to have on hand for a special evening out on the town.

Friday, September 21, 2012

# 348 - Letters & Life

At 18 years old, I left America and moved to Germany to follow my husband who was serving in the military. Brave me. I left my home-country, good old U.S. of A., to live in a place I had no knowledge about and a place that spoke a language I didn't understand.

I suddenly became an "Americana."

An 18 year old sure can be brave, especially when they don't know enough to be scared.

Oh, there is a lot of joy to be seen in youthful exuberance and the lack of being worried about time running out or to not feel the depth of each decision with the heaviness that comes with age. As you get older, each decision becomes more critical, simply because there is less time in front of you to correct a wrong mistake, there is less time for folly.

Age brings with it the reality that there is less time for a do-over. When you are young, you feel as if time is on your side and time allows for far and wide concessions. On the other hand, with age comes the freedom of being more confident about your decisions. Life brings experience and a sense of direction that is often craved in youth, but not always within grasp. Age brings a sense of security that can make you like the skin you're living in and help you to appreciate the fact that you weren't born as royalty with all the trappings of a castle. The grand things of youth seem to dim as your inner-sight is increased by experience; things that had been of little importance begin to have magnified meaning. Things such as communication.

Back then, in 1986, as I flew without a companion on an American Airlines DC-10 jetliner to another country, I was still such a kid. Even with the struggles I'd known so far, I wholeheartedly believed in focusing on the beauty and joy in life. In every dirty situation, I searched for the unsullied spot.

A world away, in a quaint European village, I shared a little place on earth with the one person I knew in the midst of strangers. I volunteered for this mysterious life experience. It wasn't what I thought I would ever do in my whole 18 years of life, but I didn't shirk from my commitment to my marriage...a marriage that had started only 28 days after I legally became an adult. The unknown, the intimidating, the unfamiliar, it didn't scare me away...I simply worked harder to understand my new surroundings and to make new friends.

This experience taught me, at a very young age, that saying goodbye to one life and hello to another isn't always easy, but it is possible and can be enjoyable, depending on your outlook. In those days, adapting without the presence of my family and friends had not been easy, especially since there weren't any cell phones and there weren't computers in every household; I think government entities were the only ones really using computers, besides, using a computer meant you better know how to type in code

While living in Germany, calling home from a phone that clicked away with a timer equaled about $6.50 per minute. A five minute conversation cost over $30.00. That was probably a day's pay for us.

I don't know if today's kids can comprehend this level of separation. Today, even if a person isn't directly communicating, they still have the ability to be kept in the loop with one glance at Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or whatever is available for a life-peek.

In those days, as I sat in a weird looking apartment, in a town I could barely spell properly, I had the choice of one radio station on the AM frequency for American news and a bit of scratchy music, this station was the "Armed Forces Network." We also had one "American" television station ran by the same. Otherwise, it was all German and might as well have been Greek.

I remember, the highlights of my television day included Sesame Street, Larry King, and eventually, Married with Children which caused a mini-riot on the military base. Since all forms of communication were still minimalistic, that left few options and little contact with the outside world.

So, from Germany, if I wanted to spend quality time with my loved one, I wrote letters. I even kept what I called a "running letter" which is several pages of notebook paper kept handy, and over a period of days, I would sit and write accounts of our meager happenings in detail. By the time of mailing, I had written just enough to push the limits of normal postage costs for one letter.

Each week, I would make a trip by myself to the post office and stand in line to post my letters. Well, we checked our APO box every day, but it was mainly my job to stand in line to mail letters. After all, I was pretty much the only one doing the communicating with folks back home.

And as I remember all the letters I'd write weekly, I would think of all the people in my life who I wanted to remain connected to through the years I'd be so far away and through the long distance that threatened to create a gaping hole between us. And I had to write separate letters for each person in our lives, these were the glory days of communicating, the days when there were no mass e-mailings to de-personalize your message.

Writing letters gave me hope. It's strange now to realize that our words to each other did not travel through cyberspace, our words literally traveled through different countries, by land, by air, and would arrive in our mail boxes intact. The words themselves took the journey we could not.

Words on paper would bring me love and cheer in the distance between us that equalled thousands of miles. The words of our hundreds of letters didn't care that we were oceans apart or on different continents, the letters made their mindless travels so that they could reach us and spring to life.

I remember getting a letter at the post office box and to never, ever be willing to open it while in public. I had to go home and sit down, prepare myself for what could be inside that envelope. I clung to every letter I received. I carefully read each word, then re-read them again, just as carefully as the first ten times. Anything sent with the letter, such as a newspaper clipping was extremely appreciated.

The best part was to look at the cursive writing of my mother and to pay attention to whether or not her writing was extra large, which meant she was in a hurry to send the letter or to be thrilled to get the pages that had smaller print, which meant she took her time and would share more details that I craved to receive. Of course, my mom was still raising two kids. Her job as a busy mom was far from over.

I understood this more than ever because while in Germany, I became a mom myself.


Upon my decision to fly around the world and set up house in a place that had given birth to and embraced Nazism only a few decades previously, I left behind a 14 year old brother and an 11 year old sister. Leaving home was actually easy, except for the part about leaving my siblings. We were all so close. My brother went into a tail-spin after I left with a severe rebellion that I had always felt guilty about causing. The two of us had always supported each other through difficult times, and I felt like I had left him behind to deal with a bunch of crap on his own. Essentially, I did.

I tried to write him and to reach out, but he had such a difficult time. I know he was angry and hurt that I left. My sister seemed to be numb. She'd write me the most precious letters that you could ever receive from an 11 year old sister. I'd always taken such a direct role in caring for my sister, especially because our mother was physically handicapped from Polio, but she no longer needed eagle-eye supervision or diaper changing and she didn't even need as much help with meal preparations.

Regardless, I wanted to know everything that was happening back home. It would take at least 7-12 days to receive a letter at our APO address in Germany and it would take just as long for one of my letters mailed from the base post office to reach Texas. I always mourned the fact that by the time the letter had been received, it was kind of old news. By the time my mom would receive a letter about any of my hardships or heartaches, I knew that it would likely be over. Still, I shared.

Over the first few months in my first home-away-from-home in this foreign land of harsh sounding people and a harsher, freezing environment, I realized that my mother had not been paying close attention to my letters because I had been writing specific questions in my letters to her; she would write me, but not ever answer any of my questions. It bothered me greatly. If we couldn't have a direct conversation, we could attempt to communicate, but this meant that our writing had to be taken to a higher level. I didn't want just plain letter writing, I wanted interactive letter writing.

After reading a letter from my mother, I would sit at the table and write her a letter with her letter next to me for reference, making sure I answered her every question. Finally, I wrote to her and told her how important it was to me that she answer the questions in my letters to her because I write them in the hopes of getting a response. From then onward, my mother did her best to answer my questions and I promised to do the same for her.

It was important to me, so she made it a priority. It went beyond letter etiquette, it proved that our relationship was solid enough to bring value to our scribblings.

So, early on, I learned to write with a focus that was sharp and thoughtful. Maybe that is one of the reasons I love to write and to read. Maybe it's one of the reason I greatly admire people who can convey their feelings and their stories in writing.

These days, it seems that people again are too self-consumed to answer the questions. At least I lived in a time when the questions and answers merited attention.

My age has brought with it an appreciation of what it means to have a pen and paper in hand. I have a strong knowledge in knowing the meaning of being separated from your family...I saw them once in three years. I learned to appreciate and love my family more than ever; I longed to never again have such distance between my mother and me because I happened to love my mom. The older I got, the more we wanted to be together. We became great friends. And all those years of writing to each other taught us more about one another.

These days, I guess so much of my communicating will involving typing and hitting "send." My efforts to communicate with family will involved my fingertips flying across the keyboard instead of my entire body flying to another continent. It sure is easier to contact everyone nowadays, but is the quality of our communication any better?

I'm worried that today is too rushed, too brief, too detached, too shallow, and too convenient. Perhaps a little less convenience would bring back a bit more appreciation and more effort to get to know the ones you love, to stay in contact with them, and less convenience might prod us to ask others more meaningful questions.

At least I have a few boxes of old letters. I tell electronic folder full of emails just isn't the same as having a box of letters from family and friends, with their penmanship marking each least I'm just another step closer to having of piece of them with me always.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

# 347 - Baby Comprehension

The days are passing by, as if they rush too fast, with the increasing Fall winds! October 13th is the day that is fast's the day of my oldest daughter's wedding. Heather will soon carry a new label, as a wife.

But, to me, she'll always remain my daughter. My beautiful first-born child, and I am so damn proud of her!

She does not have any plans for a baby at the moment, but this coming year will likely find her ready to grow her little family. And one day, when she has her own children to be busy raising, to fuss over, to worry about...she will join me in the biggest sorority ever created for women, and that is motherhood. It's a strange thing because mothers and daughters actually enter into a sort of sisterhood once the daughter has children of her own.

Mother has already experienced being both mother and daughter, but once the daughter is no longer only a daughter, but also a mother, the connection deepens and words are not even necessary any longer for the daughter to understand the depths of her mother's love. This happened to me when I gave birth to Heather. Even though I lived thousands of miles away from my mom as I gave birth to my first child, I suddenly faced that fact that my own mother and I had a common bond beyond our blood-bond with a deepening of our body-nurturing connection. We were both daughters, and now, we were both mothers. In that moment, I understood.

My whole life, I had been expecting my mother to understand me...the daughter. But, in the moment I entered parenthood for the first time, I truly felt that knowing-link go into reverse as I began to understand my mother. Up to that point, why had it been such a challenge and heartache to simply try to understand my mother? I guess it takes us being in the shoes, so to speak, to get to the same destination.

I looked at my baby in my arms and laughed while knowing it would take many, many long years for her to reach the comprehension that I had finally been gifted to understand.

One day soon, my daughter and future son-in-law hope to start a family of their own. When she does, all the hopes and dreams and love and affection she feels to her own child will be the spark that lights her own understanding about how she had been held by a young mother who felt all those same emotional whirlings. Even though my daughter and I now share a beautiful bond, things will be difference once she takes life a step further and becomes a mom.

Her inner vision will change that day, as if a beautiful canvas had the vibrant color red hidden and suddenly it bursts into view, yet has been there all wonder how you have never been able to see it. Life is like that sometimes. She will become part of that vibrancy that will remain partial secret until her own day of revelation is upon her.

I will be thrilled for the day when she holds her own baby and feels that amazing awestruck motherish bubbling inside of her, then she will know I have always felt the same for her and it will be incredible.

Sometimes, to fully understand you have been well loved, you have to love well...babies really give us the chance to love well beyond anything we have ever loved before.

And no, not all mothers are loving and supportive, that's a hard truth in this world. Some are cold, uncaring and detached because they were incapable of ever forming a bond with any child. For the children of such parents, I am sorry, but there is something healing about holding your own child and seeing that the love that has been possible is not still out of reach. That's the beautiful part about life. We are given multiple chances to love and to be loved. It is up to us to take advantage of those chances instead of pushing them away.

As for me, my days of mothering were the most beautiful days I can remember; however, I know more are to come. The days of being a grandparent has got to be amazing. If I LOVED being a mother and being present and nurturing to my children throughout their growing years, I can only imagine that I'll be a puddle of mush for the grandbabies with a few dollars in my purse ready to give out and a jar of M&M's on the counter. I will work hard to maintain my softness so it will be ready as a comforting body cushion while I read a few good books that will give me a chance to bellow various character voices.

As a mom, I rejoice in the beautiful moments we have together, I stomp my feet in the frustrating times and get snarky when I feel a good tongue-lashing should have been in order. But, having a daughter who is almost 25 is a different story. The snarky moments now lead to laughter because my "baby" is indeed a grown woman that I admire. And frankly, I love the freedom that has given me as a woman, to know Heather's decisions are of her own making. There's a freedom in knowing you've raised your children to make the best choices for themselves.

Then, you get to sit back and enjoy the show.

You get to smile at their own ups and downs while knowing they'll make it through it because you've already been there, probably a few times already.

You get to watch the cycle of life repeat itself and to be assured that the same old obstacles will always get in the way, but you hope your children are smarter in removing them or avoiding them or barreling through them or you can simply sympathize as those old obstacles cause the same pains you had once endured.

October 13th will be a day when my "baby" will still be my "baby." That will never change. The difference is, she will be closer to knowing in her soul what it means to have a baby and to realize you will feel the same about them, even when they hit fifty years old.

My mother is gone now, but I will always be her baby, whether she is here or not. These days, I have my father constantly reminding me that I am forever his baby...yes dad...I do understand. I love being your baby. I know this and it is beautiful.

The big day is fast approaching. I am going to savor that day for all it is worth. I am going to celebrate the start of a new marriage that will enlarge our own family. To me, that is beyond exciting and makes my heart go a bit faster.

On that wedding day, I am going to be sending up my blessings to God as he watches the joining of two of HIS babies, and then I'll sit back a bit more, relax a little deeper, and keep enjoying the seconds, minutes, and days of my time left here on earth. Life itself is a great show. Enjoy it! All of it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

# 346 - Old Age Anticipation

Purple was her favorite color. My mother loved purple. Even her van was purple, so we called it the "Purple People Eater." But, in the last couple years of her life, she chartered her own Red Hatter group and did some funny things to spice up the remainder of her life. In the midst of her most fruitless battle, she tried to live it up to the fullest.

Since she had been battling cancer, she indulged in hats and head coverings of all sorts, the Red Hatter group gave her an excellent opportunity to wear the most outrageous ones of all.

My sister and I groaned and moaned about it, but we joined the group. However, since we were under a certain age, under the "Red Hatter" age of 50 I think, we could not wear red. We had to wear pink hats. Outrageous hats. My hat had a pink boa around the edge with huge plastic flowers glued to it.

But today, I look on one of my shelves and see my mom's favorite red hat made of felt. It is such a beautiful design, it looked great on her.

And I remember my mother's favorite poem because it explained how she was going to be when she reached old age, but she never got the chance to wear purple while in old age. Dying at 57 is not exactly considered dying "old." It is older, but not young, yet still, it is not an age considered to be of old age.

I wish she had gotten to chance to live out her poem, maybe I will be able to do it for her. After all, it has become my own favorite poem for me to focus on as I face each passing day.

I hope you enjoy the poem titled "Warning" by Jenny Joseph" which was published in 1960 as much as I do...maybe we all, man or woman, can relate to the days of wearing purple in our old age.


~ Warning ~
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
-Jenny Joseph ~

Sunday, September 16, 2012

# 345 - Lawyers and Chickens

This past week, I have been dealing with high stress matters. Isn't that the way life goes? For me, this is a season of whirlwinds. Part of it stems from a hurricane that hit us in 2008, but it seems the hurricane still hovers over my house.

In 2008, our house was destroyed by Hurricane Ike and we had difficulty getting our insurance company to pay on the claim. We had a great policy, but the people behind the policy were dragging their feet, so we hired a public adjuster...thinking they would work on our behalf to expedite our claim and to get us the most possible for our structure claim. Little did we know, the P.A. would adversely impact our desperate situation.

Sadly, the public adjuster (P.A.) did not do their job because they were too lazy, too passive, too prone to make blatant mistakes in writing, and to top it off, they could not do simple math associated with policy numbers and insurance claim payments. This was the type of representation that made me realize that I should have kept doing the claims process on my own because I still had to continually direct the P.A.'s attention to their repeated mistakes. All that hiring a P.A. did was to allow a third party to enter the scene and for them to create more work for me to handle. I had mistakenly been led to believe the Public Adjuster would take a load off my shoulders, not pile an unbearable load on my head.

For those of you going through a nightmare for an insurance claim, beware of Public Adjusters. I would suggest hiring a solid contractor who is accustomed to dealing with insurance claim paperwork and that is not thinking that his billing methods are adjustable for him to take extra funds to line his pocket. If he is billing your insurance company for $45,000 worth of work, you better get your money's worth. Some contractors will want to do $30,000 worth of work and pocket the extra $15,000 from your policy amount because they know how to alter the paperwork to make it look like they are doing more. To protect yourself, get a line-item bids from three different contractors, check their references and do not even discuss your policy limits with them. All the contractor should be concerned with is preparing sufficient documentation to show detailed repair itemization for the damages to be handled.

Regardless, when an insurance policy is involved and a contractor is necessary, it is strictly their job is to provide goods or services within your budget and this is the reason for getting bids. A good contractor will make sure all the bases are covered for necessary repairs. But, it is a home-owners responsibility to not let a contractor pump up charges just because they feel an insurance policy is their ticket to pocketing money. So, you have to be very careful. Our neighbor had a contractor who would do work on their house and never give them a breakdown of the costs involved because he was had full access to their policy information and he had been submitting paperwork to the insurance company for work that far exceeded an appropriate charge. All that did was eat away at the policy limits they had for structure repairs and leave them with less funds and less work done on their house. Not a good combination.

In our situation, due to the negligence and deceptive trade practices of the P.A., we had to obtain the services of an attorney to get the insurance company to pay on our claim and we won our case against the insurance company. As for the Public Adjuster, we were willing to let bygones be bygones and to not call attention to them being the reason for our claim problems. However, the P.A. got a case of the greedy-guts because of our judicial award, and I found myself amazed, again, at the sense of entitlement that some people seem to embrace.

After we had to go through hell and back to get our claims resolved, the Public Adjuster had the audacity to feel entitled to our legal reward. The legal reward that did not include extra "fun" funds, we only received enough to put our house back together. As for the P.A. and their philosophy...Isn't that a great way to make money? To not represent the client, then when the client is forced to go the legal route to get paid...the P.A. continues to sit back, see the claims process finally resolved through the court system, then file a suit to see if by chance it will benefit their own bank account. Seems like so many people think it's easier to make money by suing rather than by working for it. If the P.A. had worked for their money and adjusted our claim and helped us to obtain a settlement, we would have been thrilled to pay 10% of the adjusted funds to them. But, the P.A. dropped the ball, leaving us with no option other than to hire an attorney.

Since this worthless public adjuster sued me, I was forced to counter-sue. Not exactly a merry-go-round experience, but it is necessary. Therefore, over the past year, I have been spending a major amount of time sifting through old emails, documents, notes and making sure the attorneys have everything in their hands. It doesn't get into those hands unless I put it there and it's been a tedious process. Between my photographs and HUNDREDS of documents that have been provided, I am tucked out.

Trying to remember the details of happenings from 2008 is not always easy. But, I keep working at it because I have no choice. And this past week, my attorney several bombshells that had me fuming to the core. It turns out that the company we hired did not even have a public adjuster license at the time of signing our contract. Two of their people had their licenses, but I would never have signed to have them represent us because I was told that the "company" was a public adjusting company and had a team of experts on their behalf. Turns out, that was not exactly the truth. For public adjusters, the individuals must be licensed, but the company itself can be licensed as well. In my situation, the company that I thought I was hiring did not even have a current license of its own.

About a week ago, I had given my attorney a copy of licensing information I discovered online for the Texas Board of Insurance...she took it further and did find out the company was in the midst of a lapse. Just another disclosure the company kept from me at the time I signed to have them represent us for our claim. Even though my attorney does not magically have the information needed to move forward with this lawsuit, I am more than willing to work hard to give them all the ammunition I can provide. Good thing I did not forget to share that little "simple" piece of research I had conducted with my attorney. That little detail has blossomed into a big issue. All those details add up and better help the attorney put an overall picture together so they can put their dukes up for a solid fight.

As for me, I will not shirk in my duties to defend myself in this lawsuit. I will prepare in every way necessary. Things do not simply get accomplished on their own or because we have high wishes, God gave us appendages, a brain, to ears, a mouth, and the ability to put it all to work in preparation for a good cause. The efforts will be worthwhile.

As Abraham Lincoln said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."

So, I am being diligent in my preparation. It's always easier when someone else does the preparing, but I am not taking the easy way out...I confront it with knowing that I am taking the precious time needed to sharpen my axe.

During the week, to decompress, I go outside and spend some time with my chickens. This past week we got a lot of needed rain, so the girls were pitter-pattering around in a couple of mud puddles and loving it.

Beaker, my girl with the top beak missing, is the happiest of all. Every morning she flies up into my arms and I am ready to greet her with a smile.

Beaker always looks as if she has a little pouting expression.
Since her upper beak is missing, her food must be in a high pile for her to be able to get a few morsels into her mouth. The pecking action is not the same without a top beak. Here, she has eaten her little pile until nothing is left,, so I will pour another little pile of her own. She never gives up.

Her lower beak at least helps her to still do chicken-like pecking. But, it's much more difficult for her to eat than it is for the other birds.

And she is laying eggs. The egg on the bottom right is one of Beaker's eggs. I was delighted to find her sitting in the chicken coop, snuggled into a spot and ready to lay an egg! Finally, there are more eggs to be found everyday.

Even with the mud and the muck, this old girl is looking pretty good. She's keeping an eye on me as I take a few pictures.

Just so everyone remembers, she makes it clear that she is the "A" bird around here.

Now that it's on the record, she can strut her stuff in the opposite direction, but she is still watching me closely.

My chickens are a lot of fun. I look forward to the day when I am living on my acreage and able to watch some chicks join us the old-fashioned way instead of purchasing them through a store's check-out.

The yard is thankful for the drenching rains. The chickens have pecked the garden clean of anything they find tasty. Gardens and chickens do NOT mix. Chickens have halted all my gardening activities because all of it will be wasted energy. The chickens rule the yard. But, I will eventually have a garden design on my acreage that will cater to my need to grow vegetables on a manageable scale while enjoying the chickens in an area that is far from my home-grown goodness.

All six girls are happy and very accustomed to me hanging out with them. They are good at striking a pose on cue.

As for this chicken in the picture below...I still do not have enough chicken knowledge to determine whether or not this is a Jack or Jill. If this is a rooster, he's sweet enough. I don't believe there are any spurs to be seen. It's hard to tell if this is a rooster because this chicken is healthier than its buddy because this bird has both beaks intact; I cannot mistake the larger size for any sign that it is a rooster because Beaker would probably be the same size if she had her upper beak. I guess time will tell. This bird is about five months old.

I can tell you is more fun being with my chickens than sitting with attorneys. On that note, at least my attorneys are not chickens.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

# 344 - Cary Grant Kept His Britches

Old movies on the Turner Classic Movie channel are great to have available to watch. I love to see how things looked in these days...the clothes, the homes, the furnishings...the art of conversation and entertaining.

One of the old movies I watched this past week starred Cary Grant, filmed around 1952. This movie, "People Will Talk" is about cutting edge material of the day, a man wanting to marry a woman that he knows is pregnant by another man.

Interesting topic for rigid thinking in the 50's, to be sure.

I froze my DVR for some pictures and since I have sited the source, I hope I will not end up in jail for crossing Ted Turner. After all, who can resist a woman drooling over a Cary Grant moment?

The photo below is of an awesome country front porch with an area that curves outward for more visiting space. Good idea. The porch is surrounded by bamboo screens, the same kind my mother always used. Today, you can get those at IKEA. Back in Cary Grant's time, I have no idea where they found them.

Oh, heart, be still!

I'm trying to stay focused...

This old-fashioned barn is amazing. I can only imagine the vibrant color it displayed. But, even with its black and white presentation, its grandness is evident.

Finally, I get to watch Cary try to open this fence, which seems to be the most sturdy I've seen, ever. The corner posts are massive. In this scene, the farm dog comes running out barking at him, so Grant high-tails it back to his car. I found it humorous. Run Cary, run! If it had been my dog Howdy chasing him, he would not have had time to make it back to his car without some damage to his britches.

I would be glad to move into this farm house that the poor pregnant girl could not wait to leave behind. Of course, she was following Cary Grant, so I guess the farm was not so important any longer.

I wonder...are there anymore Cary Grants in the world?

Well, as far as I am concerned, at least there are Cary Grants for the span of a movie and that is enough for me, then I can go back to doing boring things such as scanning more documents or back to cleaning baseboards.

Tomorrow, it's Jimmy Stewart day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

# 343 - A Heart's Treasure

Getting to spend some precious time with my 83 year old grandmother is so important. I miss my mom and she misses her daughter, but we have each other.

My grandmother is like a best-friend. If we had been friends, in the same generation, we probably would have torn the place up. We always have too much fun together.

The two of us spent Friday night together...talking, laughing, and catching up. I made dinner for both of us and we enjoyed sharing a meal, like old times.

Taken September 14, 2012

I hope God grants me the ability to live into old age and to be as wise and good-humored as she is, especially after all of the rough times she's been through in life. She reminds me that we make our own place in this world; it's up to us how we want it to look. How we set up our environment is going to reflect much of how we feel, day by day. This woman knows how to surround herself with beautiful things that have wonderful memories tied to them.

Even on the hard days, I am so happy to have special people in my life.

I realize, with gratitude, that I came into this world well loved and I will die well loved. What more can a person ask for beyond that simple, yet powerful blessing?

Monday, September 10, 2012

# 342 - My Goldilocks Chair

All the chairs in my house are nice, but they are designed for taller people. Most people are taller than I am, so it is rare to be able to sit in a chair that feels right for my body. I have longed to have a chair that would give me a Goldilocks moment, a chair that is not too big and not too small, but just right. This weekend, by unlikely chance, I found my chair.

Sunday, I had several errands to make and as I passed by the local Goodwill store, I decided to stop in and take a look around. As for Goodwill, if anyone ever has a donation to make, I firmly believe it should be made to Goodwill, founded by a good-hearted minister nearly 100 years ago. If you see someone working behind the counter at Goodwill, it just might be a woman who is living in a homeless shelter, trying to rebuild her life. Over the years, I have taken several car-loads and truck-loads of items to Goodwill for donating. This organization will continue to be my first choice for donated items.

This weekend, the store was filled with the Sunday church crowd. People were scurrying about, having a good look at things on the shelves, on the racks and in the back of the shop. So many items have a good solid structure, but simply need a face-lift, such as the lamps. Some of those lamps had to have cost a fortunate when they were first purchased, but the paint had worn away and the shades were missing. Still, many lamps had a sturdy foundation with great styling. There were two awesome lamps I wished to have been able to bring home to be renewed, but alas, they were left at the store.

As I walked around, I found this toy aisle with a large play horse laying on its side. After picking it up and taking a good look at it, I could not believe that such an old toy with deep character had been sent to Goodwill.

I put it in the basket. Little did I know the horsey would make such great friends with my four-legged furry friends at home.

All the while, I walked around the store and kept my eye open for a bookshelf to put upstairs in my spare bedroom. There were plenty of bookshelves, but they were the assemble-yourself variety and that God-awful cheap quality still shined through, time making them look worse off instead of richer through the passing of ownership.

In the back of the store, I spied this table. It had been mostly hidden because an old-style television was sitting on it. Closer, still, I ask a young gentleman nearby if he would mind moving the tv to the next table. He beamed and got to show off his muscles. And there it awesome little side table. After some research, I've learned this furniture maker crafted these tables either from teak or walnut, but it is solid wood.

I can't pass on solid wood, not with those clean lines and the styling of the table's edges that are cast downward at every corner. Plus, who can beat $13.00 for a solid wood table?

Since I could not find a bookshelf, I decide to head out. I have found two interesting buys, a horse sporting a saddle and a Texas tribute-flag and a nice, sturdy solid wood side table.

Howdy is already trying to protect his new little friend.

Passing by the other furniture, I see people standing around looking at a couple of chairs. One of the chairs looks exactly like a chair that my great-grandmother would sit in while reading me books when I was about five years old. It sat there without a sitter and had just been unloaded to the floor for sale. I could not believe my eyes.

Like a magnet, the chair pulled me toward it, and in the midst of everyone looking and scratching their heads, and tapping their chins, I sat in the chair. Lo and behold, it held together like a dream, plus it rocked! The cushions had been cared for so tenderly that they appeared brand new. It was obvious that this chair had been well-cared for throughout the years.

Best of all, as I sat there, I felt relief from the near-constant back pain I endure. In 2009, I had a broken neck that required reconstructive surgery, so I'm held together by man-made engineering, which is never as good as the original plan. But, the comfort I felt while sitting in this chair is hard for me to find these days. My short legs fully reached the ground and this lessened the pull on my back, and I felt as if this chair had been built to my specific measurements. I closed my eyes for a second, enjoying the chair of perfection, only to open them to see more people wanting their turn at the seat.

As I stood up, my mind had been settled. I took a quick look at the underside, the backside and at other parts of the chair, blocking the chair from another sitter --- hey ---- it's still my turn and the inspection continues. Then I glanced at the pricing/inventory tagged on the upper cushion, it had been taped to the fabric. As a few other people began to push on the cushion and to tap the legs of the chair with their stubby shoe, I suddenly reached in between everyone, ripped the tag off the cushion and immediately "walked" to checkout.

Unbelievably, on my way to checkout, racing there, I had FIVE people either stop me, block me or tap me on the shoulder to ask if I was really going to buy that horse. Every person asked with such a sparkle in their eye, I wondered why everyone had been drawn to it. One lady said she had intended to go back for it, but she did not have a basket on her and wanted to see what the rest of the store had to offer. I smiled, while thinking, "...tsk, tsk, if you had truly wanted it, you would have taken it, laid claim to it, and not let another person get a chance to buy it."

I actually told her, "It's a beauty; I'm sure it will provide hours of fun for the kids in my family."

As I reached check-out, another person was behind me, asking about the chair. I was in line to check-out, I held up the tag for the chair and said said to the clerk, "I already have the tag and am buying the chair."

The clerk smiled and said to the woman, "That's how it works, the person with the tag is the one buying it."

I must say, the great  humorous thing about shopping at Goodwill is that you find one-of-a-kind deals in the store. If you find a good thing, there will not be a shelf lined with duplicates. If you see something you like, you better make up your mind and claim it. The next fun part is to get through check-out without someone wanting your chosen item as their own. There is something about watching another person with that beautiful vase heading out the door.

The next funny part was to get all the items home. Even though my purchases were of minimal value, I am not one to spend money. The budget for my leisure and recreation activities is rock-bottom. Plus, I spend very little gas because I am a home-body and proud of it!

I put the table, the horse and the chair cushions inside the truck and a young man loaded the chair into the truck bed for me. Driving home, in my rearview mirror, I could see the chair rocking and could not help but smile from ear to ear.

Finally, I pulled into the driveway at home and wondered how I was to get my goods inside the house.

I am not the kind of person who would hide a purchase, but the things I bought on this Sunday were kind of funny.

I make my first trip inside with the horse as my house-mate stood there ironing his uniform and watching a football game. I marched straight upstairs with the sizable horse and left her in the playroom. Then, back the stairs I went and out the door to get the table out of the truck's backseat. Back inside the house, up the stairs I climbed to my room and I set down the table. Whew, that solid wood table might be little, but it sure is hefty. Back down the stairs, out the front door, to the truck I go and I grab the chair's cushions. First, I give them a good beating to dislodge any potential dust, then I haul them back inside the house, through the foyer, past the man ironing clothes, and up I go around the curved staircase. Out of breath now, I take a moment to breathe --- in --- out ---- in ---- out --- and off I go downstairs again.

This time, I have a chair frame to manage. How will this be possible? Outside, I pull the chair to the end of the truck bed, attempt to lift it this way and that, then I find a good holding position and OFF I GO with the bulky chair in my arms. I get to the front door, manage to use part of the chair to catch the front door knob, open the door, and since I was on a roll and feeling incredible, I kept going...up, up, up, up the stairs I went with that chair until I reached the gameroom and down she went with great care.

What a trip!

I took a moment to look at the old-fashioned techniques used to construct this piece of furniture and wondered how old the chair might be. It's definitely an antique, and I know that some of the furniture building methods can help date a piece of furniture, so I will look into it.

But, the seat is not made of that flimsy crude we see today, the seat cushion is held firm by straps.

The wood pieces are doweled together, The rocking mechanism is made of metal springs.

I believe the wood is maple.

I cleaned it up. Vacuumed the cushions. Put it in my cozy room upstairs, along with the table, and I now have the most awesome reading chair I have ever owned.

Last night, after I watched a movie from the overstuffed leather chair in the gameroom, a chair that is comfortable enough, I retired to my room and sat in my chair for about an hour to read my book. Slowly rocking back and forth while reading, I began to fall asleep. I wondered who had owned this chair. What had she been like? Who gave her this chair? And I could not help but wonder, "Why was the original owner no longer able to sit in it?"

I said outloud, "You must be onto bigger and better things, but I promise you that I will take care of your chair and will enjoy it for a long time to come."

And I will.